September 2013

September 21 – Happy Birthday Cecil Fielder

If you’re a Yankee fan who is at least twenty years old, you probably remember Cecil Fielder well. He was born on today’s date in 1963, in Los Angeles. The Yankees acquired the slugging first baseman from Detroit during the 1996 season in a move designed to get some right-handed power on their bench. Fielder filled that role perfectly, blasting 13 home runs and driving in 68 in just 98 games.

When starting first baseman, Tino Martinez slumped in the AL playoffs and New York fell behind 2-0 in the ’96 World Series against the Braves, Joe Torre started Fielder at first in the DH-less games in Atlanta and benched Martinez. Cecil responded with an overall .391 average in that Series and because Tino ended up hitting just .091 against Atlanta, many Big Apple sports pundits predicted Fielder would see a lot more action at first base for New York, in ’97. That rumor gained even more traction during the off-season, when the Yankee front-office let it be known that they were considering offering the big guy a three-year contract extension.

That’s when Fielder and his agent over-played their hand and started making some hefty demands involving dollars. The Yankees backed off and New York fans responded to Fielder’s whining by turning on the huge slugger when the 97 season got underway. Fielder’s Yankee fate was sealed when he broke his thumb that July while Martinez was simultaneously in the process of putting together the season of his life, hitting 44 homers and driving in 141 runs. The Yankees’ released Cecil following their playoff loss that year to the Indians.

Since that time, published reports alleging Fielder had severe gambling problems certainly help explain why Fielder seemed to behave so greedily during that 1996 off-season negotiation. We also have since learned that Cecil’s look-alike son Prince, now a big league slugger in his own right, had pretty much disowned the elder Fielder years ago, disgusted with his Father’s gambling habits and resulting money problems. I read one article that claimed Cecil took half of Prince’s bonus money when his son signed with the Brewers.

Too bad for the Fielders and too bad for Major League Baseball. After all, these two guys are the only father and son combination to both hit fifty home runs in a big league season. They should be doing commercials together. Cecil earned close to $50 million playing the game and Prince will probably quadruple that amount by the end of his own career. Ordinary fans struggling to pay their property taxes, health insurance premiums and grocery bills have a real difficult time comprehending how money ever gets to be a divisive issue with athletes who have so God darn much of it, especially when those athletes are father and son.

In any event, the Yankees might not have won that 1996 World Championship without Cecil Fielder.  I hope he gets his priorities and his problems straightened out and finds some peace in the years ahead.

Fielder shares his September 21st birthday with another former big league star who got traded to the Yankees late in his career and who also had to do battle with a debilitating personal demon. This long-ago Yankee outfielder was also born on this date.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1996 NYY 53 228 200 30 52 8 0 13 37 0 24 48 .260 .342 .495 .837
1997 NYY 98 425 361 40 94 15 0 13 61 0 51 87 .260 .358 .410 .768
13 Yrs 1470 5939 5157 744 1313 200 7 319 1008 2 693 1316 .255 .345 .482 .827
DET (7 yrs) 982 4252 3674 558 947 141 4 245 758 2 519 926 .258 .351 .498 .849
TOR (4 yrs) 220 558 506 67 123 19 2 31 84 0 46 144 .243 .308 .472 .781
NYY (2 yrs) 151 653 561 70 146 23 0 26 98 0 75 135 .260 .352 .440 .793
CLE (1 yr) 14 37 35 1 5 1 0 0 0 0 1 13 .143 .189 .171 .361
ANA (1 yr) 103 439 381 48 92 16 1 17 68 0 52 98 .241 .335 .423 .757
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/21/2013.

September 20 – Happy Birthday Tom Tresh

I was seven years old when I heard the news that Tony Kubek was not going to be able to play for the Yankees during the 1962 baseball season because he had to report for National Guard duty. Having just started following the Yankees in 1960, this represented the first time ever that I was about to experience one of my favorite team’s regular players leave the lineup. Up until Kubek’s military call-up, I probably thought only death could separate Skowren from Richardson, from Kubek, from Boyer, from Howard, from Mantle from Maris from Berra, etc.

So who was going to play shortstop for New York? The Yankees answered that question by bringing up Tom Tresh from their Richmond minor league team. Born on September 20, 1937 in Detroit, Tresh was a switch hitter, just like my boyhood hero, Mickey Mantle and his dad Mike had been a catcher for the White Sox in the late thirties and early forties. The Yankees batted Tresh second in the lineup, just like Kubek, and he was having a great year. He had more power than Kubek, hitting 20 home runs in 1962 and he also drove in 93. He wasn’t as good a shortstop as Kubek but not many were. When I learned Kubek would be back in a Yankee uniform in August of that season, I was torn. I liked Tony but this new guy had grown on me. When I heard the Yankees were going to instead use Tresh as their regular left-fielder when Kubek returned, I was an ecstatic young man.

The Yankees ended up winning the 1962 pennant and another World Series and Tresh made the All Star team and was voted the AL Rookie of the Year. I was sure Mantle, Maris and Tresh would be the best outfield in baseball for a long time. Unfortunately, as it turned out, injuries to both Mantle and Maris prevented that from happening. Tresh made the defensive transition to his new position seamlessly, even winning a Gold Glove in 1965. But he never again put together as good an offensive year as he had during his rookie season. Though New York won Pennants in 1963 and ’64, their core group of starting position players got old fast and by 1965, most of their skills had deserted them.  Even the much younger Tresh stopped hitting. His highest single season batting average after 1965 was just .233.

I was shocked back in October of 2008 when a headline at NYTimes.com reported Tom Tresh had died. I was probably more shocked to find out that he was seventy years old at the time. Where have all those Yankee baseball summers gone?

Tresh shares his birthday with another one-time Yankee shortstop prospect.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1961 NYY 9 8 8 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500
1962 NYY 157 712 622 94 178 26 5 20 93 4 67 74 .286 .359 .441 .800
1963 NYY 145 614 520 91 140 28 5 25 71 3 83 79 .269 .371 .487 .857
1964 NYY 153 621 533 75 131 25 5 16 73 13 73 110 .246 .342 .402 .743
1965 NYY 156 668 602 94 168 29 6 26 74 5 59 92 .279 .348 .477 .825
1966 NYY 151 637 537 76 125 12 4 27 68 5 86 89 .233 .341 .421 .762
1967 NYY 130 509 448 45 98 23 3 14 53 1 50 86 .219 .301 .377 .678
1968 NYY 152 590 507 60 99 18 3 11 52 10 76 97 .195 .304 .308 .612
1969 NYY 45 161 143 13 26 5 2 1 9 2 17 23 .182 .269 .266 .534
9 Yrs 1192 4897 4251 595 1041 179 34 153 530 45 550 698 .245 .335 .411 .746
NYY (9 yrs) 1098 4520 3920 549 967 166 33 140 493 43 511 651 .247 .337 .413 .750
DET (1 yr) 94 377 331 46 74 13 1 13 37 2 39 47 .224 .305 .387 .692
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/21/2013.

September 19 – Happy Birthday Hersh Martin

MartinHershHersh Martin serves as a good example of the type of players the Yankees employed during the WWII years, when so many of the guys who constituted Major League Baseball’s regular line-ups were called to service in the military. Martin was New York’s starting left fielder in 1944 and ’45.

A native of Birmingham, Alabama, he had originally been signed by the Cardinal organization in 1932, at the age of 22. He played the next the next five years in the St Louis farm system and then made his big league debut with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1937. The Philly team he joined was not very good and the switch-hitting Martin became their regular center-fielder. He led that team in runs scored with 102 and hit a solid .283 in his rookie season. He then averaged .298 in 1938 and made the NL All Star team.

In June of 1940, the Phillies sold Martin to the New York Giants and he was sent back to the minors, where he spent the next four years. The Yankees then purchased his contract in June of 1944 and manager Joe McCarthy immediately inserted him into the line-up as New York’s starting left fielder. He was 34-years-old by then. He hit .302 during the second half of that season and then followed that up by hitting .268 in 1945.

Though he was a big guy, at six feet two inches tall and weighing close to two hundred pounds, Martin did not have much power. He also was not noted for his speed. The truth of the matter is that he probably would not have got the opportunity to start or maybe even sub for the New York Yankees under normal circumstances. But WWII was not a normal circumstance, and career minor leaguers like Martin, who had some Major League experience on their resumes, did an admirable job keeping our national pastime functioning at a time when our armed forces and those serving the war effort at home, desperately needed something to cheer about.

Martin returned to minor league ball after the 1945 season and continued playing regularly at that level until 1953. When he finally hung up his spikes he had 2,299 career base hits as a minor leaguer. He then got into scouting and later worked seventeen years in that capacity for the Mets. He passed away in 1980 at the age of 71.

He shares his birthday with this former Cy Young Award winner, this author of a Yankee no-hitter, this oft-injured former Yankee and this teammate of Martin’s on the WWII era Bronx Bombers.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1944 NYY 85 368 328 49 99 12 4 9 47 5 34 26 .302 .371 .445 .816
1945 NYY 117 479 408 53 109 18 6 7 53 4 65 31 .267 .368 .392 .760
6 Yrs 607 2547 2257 331 643 135 29 28 215 33 253 207 .285 .359 .408 .766
PHI (4 yrs) 405 1700 1521 229 435 105 19 12 115 24 154 150 .286 .354 .404 .757
NYY (2 yrs) 202 847 736 102 208 30 10 16 100 9 99 57 .283 .369 .416 .785
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/21/2013.

September 18 – Happy Birthday Brent Lillibridge

lillibridgeA few years from now, today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant will certainly be one of the more difficult-to-remember answers to the trivia question; “Can you name someone who played third base for the Yankees during the 2013 regular season?” Brent Lillibridge’s first day in pinstripes was a sad one in Yankee Universe. He was called up from Scranton/Wilkes Barre to take the place of Derek Jeter in July, after the Yankee Captain’s first attempt to play in 2013 ended with a strained quad and a return trip to the DL.

Unfortunately for Lillibridge, he hit just .171 during his 11-game sojourn at the Yankees’ hot-corner position and quickly lost the job. Ironically, Lillibridge was one of the White Sox players traded to Boston in 2012 for Kevin Youklis, who was supposed to be the Yankees’ starting third baseman in 2013 until A-Rod returned from his offseason hip surgery.

Don’t feel too sorry for this native of Everett, Washington who turns 30 years old today. Despite the fact that the Yankees were the sixth team he’s played for during his six seasons in the big leagues and despite the fact that as of today his lifetime average in the Majors is just .205, the guy has earned over $2 million in salary during that time. That’s about double what the Yankees paid Hall-of-Famer, Mickey Mantle for his eighteen years of service in pinstripes.

He shares his birthday with this long-ago Yankee pitcher and this more current one too.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2013 NYY 11 37 35 2 6 1 0 0 3 1 1 8 .171 .194 .200 .394
6 Yrs 358 784 708 102 145 25 4 19 71 37 49 235 .205 .267 .332 .599
CHW (4 yrs) 256 499 442 76 96 13 3 15 50 28 38 150 .217 .291 .362 .653
ATL (1 yr) 29 85 80 9 16 6 1 1 8 2 3 23 .200 .238 .338 .576
BOS (1 yr) 10 16 16 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 .125 .125 .125 .250
CHC (1 yr) 9 24 24 0 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 9 .042 .042 .042 .083
CLE (1 yr) 43 123 111 15 24 5 0 3 8 6 7 40 .216 .276 .342 .619
NYY (1 yr) 11 37 35 2 6 1 0 0 3 1 1 8 .171 .194 .200 .394
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/20/2013.

September 17 – Happy Birthday Al Gettel

gettelIt took Al Gettel ten years to climb the rungs of the Yankees’ farm system ladder and make it to the Bronx. A big, good-looking farm boy from Kempsville, Virginia, he had been signed by New York in 1936, out of high school. That was right about the time Joe McCarthy had put together an outstanding Yankee pitching staff that would end up leading the Bronx Bombers to four straight World Championships. That great pitching at the big league level created a bottleneck for the organization’s good pitchers in the minors and Gettel found himself right in the middle of it.

He finally got called up in 1945 and McCarthy used him regularly as both a starter and reliever. He went 9-8 in his rookie season with 3 saves and a 3.90 ERA. He actually pitched better in his sophomore season for New York, lowering his ERA below three and hurling his first two big league shutouts. That was the same year the Yankees were sold to the triumvirate of Dan Topping, Del Webb and the unpredictable Lee MacPhail. McCarthy hated MacPhail and quit as Yankee skipper. Anxious to put his personal stamp on his new team, MacPhail was eager to make trades and Gettel’s lackluster 6-7 record in the just completed 1946 season had put a target on the pitcher’s back. A few weeks before Christmas that year, MacPhail completed a five player transaction that sent Gettel to Cleveland.

The six-foot-three-inch, two-hundred-pound right-hander then had the best season of his Major League career, going 11-10 for the Tribe in ’47 with a 3.20 ERA and two more shutouts. After a horrible start the following season, he was traded to the White Sox but did little to distinguish himself during the balance of his days in the big leagues.

He did, however become a star in the Pacific Coast League, where he continied to pitch until 1956. He also became a movie actor, scoring several minor roles in Hollywood westerns, thanks to his good looks and ability to ride a horse. It was during his movie days as a cowboy that he picked up the nickname of “Two Gun.” Gettel also made headlines in 2001 when he told a Wall Street Journal reporter that the 1951 New York Giants had concocted an elaborate scheme to steal the pitching signs of opposing teams. He had pitched out of the bullpen for that Giant team until he had been sold to the Oakland Oaks in the PCL in July of that ’51 season.  Gettel lived until 2005, passing away at the age of 87.

He shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee outfielder and this one-time Yankee first base prospect.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1945 NYY 9 8 .529 3.90 27 17 7 9 0 3 154.2 141 70 67 11 53 67 1.254
1946 NYY 6 7 .462 2.97 26 11 8 5 2 0 103.0 89 40 34 6 40 54 1.252
7 Yrs 38 45 .458 4.28 184 79 52 31 5 6 734.1 711 382 349 72 310 310 1.390
CLE (2 yrs) 11 11 .500 3.91 36 23 6 9 2 0 156.2 137 69 68 14 72 68 1.334
NYY (2 yrs) 15 15 .500 3.53 53 28 15 14 2 3 257.2 230 110 101 17 93 121 1.254
CHW (2 yrs) 10 15 .400 4.73 41 26 8 8 1 2 211.0 223 124 111 19 86 71 1.464
WSH (1 yr) 0 2 .000 5.45 16 1 8 0 0 1 34.2 43 24 21 4 24 7 1.933
NYG (1 yr) 1 2 .333 4.87 30 1 11 0 0 0 57.1 52 37 31 12 25 36 1.343
STL (1 yr) 1 0 1.000 9.00 8 0 4 0 0 0 17.0 26 18 17 6 10 7 2.118
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/20/2013.

September 16 – Happy Birthday Tim Raines

In an interview I came across over a year ago, Derek Jeter confirmed that Tim Raines was one of his favorite all-time teammates. “Rock” spent three years as a Yankee, from 1996 through 1998 and was an extremely valuable utility outfielder, DH and pinch hitter in each of those seasons. Jeter loved the fact that Raines was always smiling and always looking on the bright side of every situation.

Raines’ baseball life however, had not always been so rosy. The speedy outfielder shocked all of baseball in his 1981 rookie season with the Expos, when he led the National League in stolen bases by compiling an amazing 71 thefts in just 88 games. He won the next three NL stolen base crowns as well, setting a personal season high of 90, in 1983. His lifetime total of 808 places Raines fifth on the All-Time stolen bases list and the thing that separated him from most other big base stealers was his efficiency. Percentage-wise, Rock was thrown out attempting to steal less than any player in history with 300 or more steals.

Raines  shocked the baseball world a second time in a different way when it was revealed that he had played the first part of his career addicted to cocaine. I still remember reading his revelation that he would make head first slides on stolen base attempts so that he would not break the vials of cocaine he regularly carried in his uniform back pocket during Expos’ games. He credits his Montreal teammate, Andre Dawson, with getting him into rehab and swears he’s been off the stuff since. But cocaine wasn’t the only thing that hurt Raines career.

Back in the eighties, MLB owners began to privately rebel against free agency. They had grown tired of the system’s bidding wars and dealing with players’ agents and decided among themselves that they were not going to play anymore. As a result, upper tier players like Raines and Dawson, who entered free agency in the late eighties found no demand for their services. The owners collectively simply stopped bidding for stars from other teams and Raines, who had been expecting a huge payday, was forced to re-sign with the Expos for what he felt was a token raise. The courts eventually ruled in the players’ favor and owner collusion ended. Raines finally got the opportunity to shop his talents after the 1990 season and left the tight-fisted Montreal organization to sign a five-year $20 million dollar deal with the White Sox. He did not have his greatest statistical years during his time in the Windy City but his performance was solid and he had a great influence on young White Sox players like Frank Thomas and Robin Ventura. Raines’ Chicago teams won many more games than they lost.

His base-stealing days were behind him by the time he joined New York but he could still handle a bat and get on base, averaging .299 with an on base percentage of close to .400 during his stint in Pinstripes. Like Jeter described in the interview, whenever a television camera panned Raines sitting in the Yankee dugout, he always had a huge smile on his face. Why not? This was a guy who battled cocaine and collusion and was now getting the opportunity in the twilight of his career to win three World Series rings as a member of a great team. His bat, base running and outfield defense were all important parts of that Yankee team’s winning formula and his veteran leadership had a huge influence in that Yankee clubhouse.

Raines was born on September 16, 1959 in Seminole, FL.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1996 NYY 59 240 201 45 57 10 0 9 33 10 34 29 .284 .383 .468 .851
1997 NYY 74 318 271 56 87 20 2 4 38 8 41 34 .321 .403 .454 .856
1998 NYY 109 382 321 53 93 13 1 5 47 8 55 49 .290 .395 .383 .778
23 Yrs 2502 10359 8872 1571 2605 430 113 170 980 808 1330 966 .294 .385 .425 .810
MON (13 yrs) 1452 6256 5383 947 1622 281 82 96 556 635 793 569 .301 .391 .437 .829
CHW (5 yrs) 648 2873 2461 440 697 98 28 50 277 143 359 246 .283 .375 .407 .781
NYY (3 yrs) 242 940 793 154 237 43 3 18 118 26 130 112 .299 .395 .429 .823
OAK (1 yr) 58 164 135 20 29 5 0 4 17 4 26 17 .215 .337 .341 .678
FLA (1 yr) 98 114 89 9 17 3 0 1 7 0 22 19 .191 .351 .258 .609
BAL (1 yr) 4 12 11 1 3 0 0 1 5 0 0 3 .273 .250 .545 .795
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/19/2013.

September 15 – Happy Birthday Slow Joe Doyle

joe doyleOnly eleven pitchers have started their big league careers with two consecutive shutouts in their first two starts since the 20th century began and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is one of them. His real name was Judd Doyle but he became universally known as “Slow Joe” because when he was on the mound it took him forever to throw a pitch. When he finally got around to it, the results appeared to be pretty good, especially at the beginning stages of his Yankee career.

He made his impressive big league debut in late August of 1906 and finished his one-month-long first season in New York with a 2-1 record. The best year of his career was his second, when he became a member of the team’s starting rotation and went 11-11 with a solid 2.65 ERA. He continued to show flashes of brilliance on the mound. Jack Chesbro even called Doyle “…one of the greatest pitchers there is!”  That probably explains why the Yankees never hired “Happy Jack” as a scout when his playing days were over.

Like Chesbro, Doyle’s best pitch was a spit ball but the only way Slow Joe would have ever had a shot at matching his more famous teammate’s record-breaking 41 wins in a season would be if that season was about 400 games long. That’s because Doyle liked to rest about ten days before each start, which would drive his first New York manager, Clark Griffith crazy.

He lost his spot in the rotation in 1908 and then got it back the following year. But when he got off to a slow start during the 1910 season, New York sold the right-handed native of Clay Center, Kansas to Cincinnati.

Doyle shares his birthday with this Hall of Fame pitcher and this former Yankee third baseman.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1906 NYY 2 1 .667 2.38 9 6 3 3 2 0 45.1 34 15 12 1 13 28 1.037
1907 NYY 11 11 .500 2.65 29 23 5 15 1 1 193.2 169 86 57 2 67 94 1.219
1908 NYY 1 1 .500 2.63 12 4 5 2 1 0 48.0 42 24 14 1 14 20 1.167
1909 NYY 8 6 .571 2.58 17 15 2 8 3 0 125.2 103 49 36 3 37 57 1.114
1910 NYY 0 2 .000 8.03 3 2 1 1 0 0 12.1 19 13 11 0 5 6 1.946
5 Yrs 22 21 .512 2.85 75 50 21 29 7 1 436.1 383 206 138 7 147 209 1.215
NYY (5 yrs) 22 21 .512 2.75 70 50 16 29 7 1 425.0 367 187 130 7 136 205 1.184
CIN (1 yr) 0 0 6.35 5 0 5 0 0 0 11.1 16 19 8 0 11 4 2.382
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/19/2013.

September 14 – Happy Birthday Stan Williams

Stan Williams was the first Yankee player I can remember disliking. The guy did absolutely nothing to deserve my animosity except get traded to the Yankees for one of my favorite Bronx Bombers, Bill “Moose” Skowron. The deal took place after the 1962 World Series and even though I was just eight years old at the time I remember wondering why after winning their second straight championship the Yankees would break up the infield that helped get them those two rings. Part of the answer of course was that New York had a young and extremely talented first baseman named Joe Pepitone sitting on the bench and even though the Moose was just 32 years old, he had suffered for years from a chronic bad back.

The other reason the Yankees made the deal was to add some much needed depth to their starting rotation. In 1962 only Whitey Ford, Ralph Terry and Bill Stafford pitched in that rotation the entire season. At the time, Williams was a prized 26-year-old right-hander who had won 44 games over the previous three seasons for LA. At 6’5″ tall and 230 pounds, the guy they called “Big Daddy” posed an intimidating figure on a pitching mound. The Yankee front office was certain Williams would be a big winner for years in the Bronx and give young Yankee pitching prospects like Jim Bouton and Al Downing time to mature into big league starters. Well that didn’t happen.

Williams achilles heel when he was with the Dodgers was his lack of control and he seemed to have an even more difficult time throwing strikes when he put on the pinstripes. Even though he had a good spring training in 1963 and an impressive five hit victory in his regular season debut, Williams was consistently erratic for New York, walking hitters at an alarming rate. In one three game stretch of starts he didn’t make it past the third inning.

Instead of being able to bring Bouton and Downing along cautiously, Williams’ wildness and an injury to Stafford forced Houk to depend heavily on both their young arms. The 24-year-old Bouton had a gem of a season going 21-7 while the 22-year-old Downing was almost as impressive going 13-5. That’s why New York was able to make it to their fifth straight World Series despite the fact that Williams finished the year with a disappointing 9-8 record.

Williams did not even make Houk’s World Series starting rotation against his old team, the Dodgers. In one of the most dominating cumulative pitching performances in World Series history, Los Angeles swept New York in four games. Houk did give Williams the ball after Whitey Ford fell behind Sandy Koufax, 5-0 in Game 1. Big Stan came in and delivered three solid innings of scoreless, one-hit relief, striking out five of the ten batters he faced without giving up a single base-on-balls. That would prove to be Williams’ finest moment in pinstripes. In the mean time, Skowron took advantage of the Series matchup to feed the Yankee front office some crow by hitting .385 and homering against his old teammates. In 1964 Williams hurt his arm and finished his second and final Yankee season with a horrible 1-5 record. The Yankees sold him to Cleveland just before the start of the 1965 regular season.

He would spend much of his first three seasons with the Indians pitching his arm back into shape in their Minor League system.  In the process he turned himself into a very effective starter/reliever winning 29 games while saving 36 more over a three-year period. That included a superb 10-1, 15-save, 1.99 ERA season for the Twins in 1970. He retired after the 1975 season with a lifetime record of 109-94 and 43 career saves.

As it turned out, the Yankees traded Skowron at just the right time and Pepitone was physically ready to take over first base when he did. But whenever I think of Williams or see his name, I’m reminded of the first Yankee deal I did not like and the moment in history when the Yankee dynasty began showing the first signs of cracking.

Williams shares his September 14th birthday with this former Yankee infielder and Hall of Fame announcer.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1963 NYY 9 8 .529 3.21 29 21 5 6 1 0 146.0 137 59 52 7 57 98 1.329
1964 NYY 1 5 .167 3.84 21 10 5 1 0 0 82.0 76 39 35 7 38 54 1.390
14 Yrs 109 94 .537 3.48 482 208 139 42 11 43 1764.1 1527 785 682 160 748 1305 1.289
LAD (5 yrs) 57 46 .553 3.83 181 129 24 24 7 2 872.0 760 424 371 85 429 657 1.364
CLE (4 yrs) 25 29 .463 3.12 124 47 46 11 3 22 456.0 388 180 158 46 145 362 1.169
MIN (2 yrs) 14 6 .700 2.87 114 1 54 0 0 19 191.1 148 78 61 15 76 123 1.171
NYY (2 yrs) 10 13 .435 3.43 50 31 10 7 1 0 228.0 213 98 87 14 95 152 1.351
STL (1 yr) 3 0 1.000 1.42 10 0 4 0 0 0 12.2 13 2 2 0 2 8 1.184
BOS (1 yr) 0 0 6.23 3 0 1 0 0 0 4.1 5 3 3 0 1 3 1.385
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/19/2013.

September 13 – Happy Birthday Pat Collins

pat.collinsLearned something interesting when researching for stuff I could use to write a post about today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. The Yankees first started spending more money on player acquisition than any other team in baseball, back when Jacob Ruppert owned the team and employed Ed Barrow as the team’s de facto GM and Miller Huggins as field skipper.

Red Sox owner Harry Frazee became the first beneficiary (or should I say “victim”) of New York’s generosity, when he accepted lot’s of Yankee dollars for most of Boston’s starting pitching rotation, including a soon-to-be-ex-pitcher by the name of Ruth. Another team that saw a lot of Ruppert’s money come their way was the Saint Paul Saints, an American Association minor league team based in Minnesota’s capital city.

The two most notable players the Yankees got from the Saints were shortstop Mark Koenig and today’s birthday celebrant, catcher Pat Collins. A native of Sweet Springs, Missouri, Collins had been a big league backup catcher for the St. Louis Browns from 1919 through 1924, when he was released and signed with the Saints. He was not a good defensive receiver and was an exceptionally slow runner but his pretty decent hitting had kept him on the Browns roster for all that time.

Collins feasted on minor league pitching during the 1925 season, smacking 19 home runs and averaging .316. Meanwhile, during that same year, the Yankees had tried to replace their veteran backstop, Wally Schang with 26-year-old Benny Bengough. Neither Huggins or Barrow were pleased with Bengough’s offense so the Yankee GM gave the Saints $15,000 for Collins.

He did provide the offensive boost the Yankees hoped for during his two seasons as New York’s starting catcher, averaging right around .280 with an excellent on-base percentage. His problem remained defense and it was his poor overall glove work that convinced New York they needed to find his replacement. They gave Johnny Grabowski a shot at the job in 1928 and when he was injured in an off-season home fire, they went with a youngster named Bill Dickey who would remain a fixture behind the plate in Yankee Stadium for the next sixteen years.

Collins got sold to the Braves in December of 1928 and after appearing in just 11 games for Boston during the 1929 season, his big league career was over. He and his wife later operated a bar outside Kansas City and became owners of a minor league team. He was also convicted for evading about $4,000 worth of federal income tax in 1952. He died in 1960 at the age of 63.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention the “something interesting” thing I learned when doing my research on Pat Collins. Ed Barrow would end up spending more than $300,000 purchasing players from that Saint Paul Saints minor league team and among them all, only Koenig and to a lesser extent, Collins ever made any significant contributions to the Yankees. The fact that the keen-eyed New York scouting organization could be so right about most of its signings and acquisitions and so frequently wrong when it came to deals made with the Saints sort of defied explanation. Or did it? Come to find out, one of the co-owners of that Saints franchise, who made lot’s of money from those transactions was none other than Yankee manager, Miller Huggins.

Collins shares his birthday with this former Yankee center-fielder, another former Yankee back-up catcher and this one-time Yankee starting pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1926 NYY 102 373 290 41 83 11 3 7 35 3 2 73 57 .286 .433 .417 .850
1927 NYY 92 311 251 38 69 9 3 7 36 0 1 54 24 .275 .407 .418 .825
1928 NYY 70 174 136 18 30 5 0 6 14 0 0 35 16 .221 .380 .390 .770
1929 BSN 7 11 5 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 3 1 .000 .375 .000 .375
10 Yrs 543 1474 1204 146 306 46 6 33 168 4 5 235 202 .254 .378 .385 .762
SLB (6 yrs) 272 605 522 48 124 21 0 13 81 1 2 70 104 .238 .328 .352 .680
NYY (3 yrs) 264 858 677 97 182 25 6 20 85 3 3 162 97 .269 .413 .412 .825
BSN (1 yr) 7 11 5 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 3 1 .000 .375 .000 .375
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/19/2013.

September 12 – Happy Birthday Spud Chandler

This Commerce, Georgia native, who was born in 1907, didn’t throw his first pitch in a Major League baseball game until he was almost thirty years old. Some may think it was the name his parents gave him that delayed his arrival in the big leagues. Imagine you were the person in the Yankee front office who was responsible for notifying the team’s minor league players  that they were being called up to the parent club. Someone hands you a message that reads “Call Spurgeon Chandler and tell him to report immediately.” You’d probably start laughing so hard you wouldn’t be able to pick up the phone.

The truth is, however, that Spud was one of those rare future Major League baseball players who attended college during the years of the Great Depression. After he graduated from the University of Georgia, where he was also a star football player, it took Spud five more seasons to work his way up to the Bronx. Even then, an assortment of nagging injuries cut down on his starts during the first half of his ten-year career in Pinstripes.

That all changed in 1942, when Chandler went 16-5 and then in 1943 he had one the greatest seasons of any Yankee right-hander before or since. Spud went 20-4 that year with a microscopic 1.64 ERA and won the AL MVP Award, leading the Yankees to their third straight AL Pennant. He went on to pitch two complete game victories over the Cardinals in that year’s Fall Classic, giving up just one earned run in the process.

Spud made just five starts during the next two seasons but it was service in WWII and not injuries or school that prevented him from playing full seasons. When he returned from service in 1946 he put together his second twenty-victory season. By 1947, however, he was approaching forty years of age and his body could not do it anymore. Chandler retired with a regular season career record of 109-43. Who knows? He’d probably be in Cooperstown today if he’d skipped college and didn’t serve his country in a war.

This late great Yankee outfielder shares Chandler’s September 12th birthday.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1937 NYY 7 4 .636 2.84 12 10 0 6 2 0 82.1 79 31 26 8 20 31 1.202
1938 NYY 14 5 .737 4.03 23 23 0 14 2 0 172.0 183 86 77 7 47 36 1.337
1939 NYY 3 0 1.000 2.84 11 0 5 0 0 0 19.0 26 7 6 0 9 4 1.842
1940 NYY 8 7 .533 4.60 27 24 2 6 1 0 172.0 184 100 88 12 60 56 1.419
1941 NYY 10 4 .714 3.19 28 20 5 11 4 4 163.2 146 68 58 5 60 60 1.259
1942 NYY 16 5 .762 2.38 24 24 0 17 3 0 200.2 176 64 53 13 74 74 1.246
1943 NYY 20 4 .833 1.64 30 30 0 20 5 0 253.0 197 62 46 5 54 134 0.992
1944 NYY 0 0 4.50 1 1 0 0 0 0 6.0 6 3 3 1 1 1 1.167
1945 NYY 2 1 .667 4.65 4 4 0 2 1 0 31.0 30 16 16 2 7 12 1.194
1946 NYY 20 8 .714 2.10 34 32 2 20 6 2 257.1 200 71 60 7 90 138 1.127
1947 NYY 9 5 .643 2.46 17 16 0 13 2 0 128.0 100 41 35 4 41 68 1.102
11 Yrs 109 43 .717 2.84 211 184 14 109 26 6 1485.0 1327 549 468 64 463 614 1.205
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/18/2013.