September 2013

September 25 – Happy Birthday David Weathers

weathersDavid Weathers made his big league debut in 1991 as a 20-year-old Toronto Blue Jay right-hander. The native of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee started out as a reliever, switched to starting when he was traded to the Marlins in 1993 and then went back to the bullpen permanently after he pitched poorly in his first four starts with the Yankees three seasons later.

In fact, he pitched pretty horribly for New York during both of the regular seasons he wore the pinstripes but he stepped up big time during the 1996 postseason. He got wins in both the ALDS and ALCS that year and pitched a total of eight innings of scoreless ball between the two. Joe Torre then used Weathers in Games 1, 4 and 6 of that year’s World Series against the Braves and he gave up only a single run. Given the fact that Yankee owner George Steinbrenner had publicly criticized the reliever after his poor start in the regular season that year, there’s no doubt Weathers’ fall ball heroics were the only reason he remained in the Yankees’ bullpen plans for 1997. Unfortunately, he got off to an even worse start that year and this time Steinbrenner got his wish. Weathers was traded to the Indians in early June of 1997 for outfielder Chad Curtis.

After leaving the Bronx, Weathers just kept pitching and pitching and pitching, going from Cleveland to Cincinnati, to Milwaukee, to the Cubs, back to New York with the Mets, and then return trips to the Reds and Marlins. In all he pitched in over 900 games before his career ended in 2009 and in 2007, his stick-to-it-ness paid off when he was made the Reds closer and saved 33 games.

Weathers was born on the very same day as this Hall-of-Fame Yankee shortstop, this former Yankee reliever/pitching coach and also with Robinson Cano’s predecessor as Yankee starting second baseman.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1996 NYY 0 2 .000 9.35 11 4 1 0 0 0 17.1 23 19 18 1 14 13 2.135
1997 NYY 0 1 .000 10.00 10 0 3 0 0 0 9.0 15 10 10 1 7 4 2.444
19 Yrs 73 88 .453 4.25 964 69 304 0 0 75 1376.1 1432 711 650 133 604 976 1.479
CIN (6 yrs) 22 27 .449 3.97 341 9 157 0 0 61 398.2 388 188 176 39 164 283 1.385
FLA (5 yrs) 17 22 .436 5.16 105 55 11 0 0 0 359.0 425 227 206 33 159 216 1.627
MIL (5 yrs) 18 17 .514 3.53 237 0 71 0 0 7 298.2 282 129 117 30 120 223 1.346
NYM (3 yrs) 12 12 .500 3.22 180 0 42 0 0 7 198.2 197 82 71 17 91 161 1.450
NYY (2 yrs) 0 3 .000 9.57 21 4 4 0 0 0 26.1 38 29 28 2 21 17 2.241
TOR (2 yrs) 1 0 1.000 5.50 17 0 4 0 0 0 18.0 20 12 11 2 19 16 2.167
CLE (1 yr) 1 2 .333 7.56 9 1 2 0 0 0 16.2 23 14 14 2 8 14 1.860
CHC (1 yr) 1 1 .500 3.18 28 0 4 0 0 0 28.1 28 10 10 3 9 20 1.306
HOU (1 yr) 1 4 .200 4.78 26 0 9 0 0 0 32.0 31 20 17 5 13 26 1.375
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/25/2013.

September 24 – Happy Birthday Dixie Walker

What I love about writing this Blog are the things I learn about Yankee history that I didn’t know. Today’s post offers an excellent example of that. If not for a collision at home plate and some bad knees, Joe DiMaggio might never have been a Yankee and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Dixie “The People’s Cherce” Walker would probably have been the guy who replaced him.

The collision at home plate took place between Dixie and a Chicago White Sox catcher named Charley Berry during Walker’s 1933 rookie season with the Yankees. Earlier that year, Walker had been knocked down twice in the same game by a Chicago pitcher. After he got up from the ground after the second brushback, Walker told Berry he’d be coming in hard at home the next chance he got. Sure enough, later that same year Dixie found himself rounding third and bearing down on Berry. There were three problems for Dixie with this scenario. Berry outweighed Dixie by ten pounds, he was wearing protective catcher’s gear, and he knew Walker was coming to get him. With the element of surprise gone, Berry braced himself for what was a violent collision at the plate. Not only did Berry hold onto the ball but it was Dixie who ended up getting injured on the play, suffering a separated shoulder that would keep getting dislocated for the rest of the outfielder’s years in the Yankee organization.

Fred Walker was born in Villa Rica, Georgia on September 24, 1910. His Dad had been a pitcher with the Senators who went 25-31 during his four years in the big leagues. His Father, who’s real first name had been Ewart, had thankfully been given the nickname Dixie and the son inherited it. The Walker family had baseball in its blood. Dixie Sr.’s brother Ernie had been an outfielder with the Browns and Dixie’s own kid brother, Harry, would one day win an NL Batting title and later become one of the great hitting instructors in the history of the game.

The Yankees had purchased Dixie Walker’s contract from a minor league team in 1930. For the next three years, he tore up minor league pitching at every level and the Yankees front office took notice. With Babe Ruth growing older and ornery, New York needed to groom his replacement and by 1933, the prime candidate for that role had become Walker. He was given his first real chance to show what he could do at the big league level in 1933. Yankee Manager Joe McCarthy played his rookie in center field and often batted him lead-off. Walker was just 22-years-old at the time and responded with a strong season. In 98 games of action, he hit .274 and proved his left-handed swing was well-suited for Yankee Stadium by drilling 15 home runs and driving in 51. But he also tore up that shoulder and McCarthy had little respect or use for players who would not play hurt. Knowing that, Walker tried to play through his injury, which only exasperated his condition. He could no longer throw the ball and if you played center field for a big league club you had to be able to throw the ball.

As Walker tried to play through his shoulder problems in the Minors, the Yankee front office began taking notice of this DiMaggio kid playing out in San Francisco. He had put together a 61-game hitting streak in the Pacific Coast League but most big league teams were leery of him because he had suffered some knee injuries and the rumor was, he could not stay healthy. The Yankee’s minor league development guy was the tight-fisted genius, George Weiss. With few other suitors to compete against, Weiss was able to purchase the future Yankee Clipper’s contract for just $25,000 and as soon as he did, Walker was no longer the chosen one to replace Ruth as the next Yankee franchise outfielder.

The Yankees then traded Dixie to the White Sox where he once again dislocated that bum shoulder. That’s when it was determined that surgery was Walker’s only option and in what was a pretty experimental procedure back then, a bone graft was done to rebuild a chip in his shoulder and from that point on in his career, it never dislocated again. He hit .302 for the White Sox in 1937. He got traded to Detroit the following season and hit .308 in MoTown. But he hurt his knee while playing for the Tigers and when Detroit’s front office told him he needed another operation, Walker refused and was sold to the Dodgers.

Dixie would spend the next nine seasons becoming the star outfielder for “Dem Bums.” He would average .311 during that time and win the 1944 NL Batting title in the process. Dodger fans adored him until he threatened to not play if Jackie Robinson was made his Brooklyn teammate. His prejudice got him banished to Pittsburgh, where he played out his career and retired after the 1949 season.

Walker shares his September 24th birthday with former Yankee pitcher Jeff Karstens and former Yankee DH, Erik Soderholm.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1931 NYY 2 10 10 1 3 2 0 0 1 0 0 4 .300 .300 .500 .800
1933 NYY 98 359 328 68 90 15 7 15 51 2 26 28 .274 .330 .500 .830
1934 NYY 17 19 17 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 .118 .167 .118 .284
1935 NYY 8 13 13 1 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 .154 .154 .231 .385
1936 NYY 6 21 20 3 7 0 2 1 5 1 1 3 .350 .381 .700 1.081
18 Yrs 1905 7670 6740 1037 2064 376 96 105 1023 59 817 325 .306 .383 .437 .820
BRO (9 yrs) 1207 5094 4492 666 1395 274 56 67 725 44 539 185 .311 .386 .441 .827
NYY (5 yrs) 131 422 388 75 104 18 9 16 58 3 28 39 .268 .319 .485 .803
PIT (2 yrs) 217 677 589 65 180 23 4 3 72 1 78 29 .306 .387 .374 .760
DET (2 yrs) 170 704 608 114 187 31 11 10 62 9 80 40 .308 .389 .444 .833
CHW (2 yrs) 180 773 663 117 198 30 16 9 106 2 92 32 .299 .385 .433 .818
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/24/2013.

September 23 -Happy Birthday Woody Woodward

woodwardHis full name is William Frederick Woodward and he was born in Miami, Florida on this date in 1942. After playing two years of college ball at Florida State he was drafted by the then Milwaukee Braves in 1963 and made his Major League debut that same September. He would spend the next eight seasons as mostly a utility middle infielder, first with the Braves and then, after a June 1968 trade, with Cincinnati. He was pretty much one of those good-fielding, weak-hitting guys who used to regularly play the positions between first and third for most Major League clubs back then. His lifetime batting average was .236 and he hit just a single home run during his playing days, a two-run shot off his ex-Atlanta teammate, Ron Reed, while he was playing for the Reds in 1970. As it turned out, that home run would not be the biggest shock of his career. That happened in 1971, during a game in LA against the Dodgers, when a 10 pound bag of flour dropped out of the sky and landed just a few feet away from where Woodward was standing at shortstop.

After hanging up his spikes, Woodward eventually became head coach of Florida State, where he oversaw four very successful seasons of Seminole baseball. He then accepted the assistant GM position with the Reds in 1981 and in 1985, George Steinbrenner hired him to serve as an assistant to then Yankee GM, Clyde King. Those were the days Steinbrenner was firing his GMs more frequently than the Kardashian girls use a mirror. In 1987, it became Woodward’s turn to take the job. He lasted in it for about a year. During his tenure, Lou Piniella was the Yankee field manager and he’d often meet with Woodward to discuss the team’s personnel needs. One day, Sweet Lou asked Woody if George Steinbrenner was as rough on Yankee GMs as he was on his managers. In response, Woodward opened his desk drawer to show Piniella it was filled with prescription drugs and antacids.  There were probably times during his days working for “the Boss” that old Woody wished that bag of flour that fell from the heavens sixteen years earlier had hit him square in the head.

During his single year in the job, his trades brought Rick Rhoden, Pat Clements, Cecilio Guante, Ron Romanick, Alan Mills, Randy Velarde, Mark Slas and Bill Gullickson to the Bronx and his most notable draft choice was the outfielder, Gerald Williams. Steinbrenner then replaced him with Lou Piniella and a few years later, Woodward became GM of the Mariners, where he traded for Randy Johnson, drafted Alex Rodriguez, Brett Boone, and Raul Ibanez, hired his buddy Lou Piniella as manager and made Seattle one of the better teams in baseball. He  still works for the Mariner organization as a part time scout.

Woody shares his birthday with this Yankee pitcher.