New York had been in the thick of the 1904 AL Pennant race right up until a fluttering knuckleball from 41-game winner Jack Chesbro got past catcher Red Kleinow permitting the winning run to score during the team’s next-to-the-last game of that season. Hopes were high that the team’s starting rotation, led by Chesbro, Al Orth and Red Powell would lead the Highlanders to the league crown in ’05. Joining that trio for the new season would be a young right-hander named William “Buffalo Bill” Hogg.
Hogg was born in Michigan in 1881 but grew up in Pueblo, Colorado. New York signed him after he won a total of 33 games for two different minor league clubs in 1904. At six feet tall and weighing 200 pounds, he was considered a “big” guy for his time and developed a reputation for being mean and nasty on the mound.
He pitched decently for New York during his 1905 rookie season but with Chesbro winning 23 fewer games, the Highlanders fell to sixth place. He had his best season in ’06 posting a career high 14 victories as New York improved to a second-place finish. After one more winning season in ’07, Hogg had an illness filled final year in New York and was released. He was trying to regain his health and pitch his way back to the big leagues when he died suddenly,while on a winter barnstorming tour in New Orleans. The cause of death was Brights Disease. Hogg was just 28-years-old at the time.
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Blog celebrant is the New York Yankee outfielder, Roger Maris, born in Hibbing Minnesota, in 1934. I can say without a doubt that the home run race between Maris and his teammate Mickey Mantle during the 1961 season is the reason I am such a huge Yankee fan today. Their competition to break Ruth’s single season home run record dominated the sports pages and back then, when their were only three TV stations on the air, even network news anchors like Walter Cronkite and NBC’s Huntley & Brinkley would report how many home runs each of the M&M boys currently had. It seemed as if everyone everywhere was focused on the exploits of this dynamic duo and of course you had to choose sides.
Most of us wanted Mantle to be the one. The Mick had been a Yankee all his career and he was the epitome of a slugger. Every time he swung his bat from either side of the plate he swung as hard as he possibly could and many of his home runs would travel epic distances. 1961 was only Roger’s second season in pinstripes. He had a very smooth and graceful left-handed swing that was perfectly suited for Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch. Up until they became teammates, Mantle had a pretty lousy public demeanor and nobody paid any attention to Maris. When Roger came to New York from Kansas City and started challenging Mantle for MVP Awards and home run titles, New York’s rabid baseball press had someone else to assault in the Yankee locker room and while he helped get reporters off of Mickey’s back, Maris simply hated all of the superfluous attention. All of a sudden, the title of “toughest interview in the Yankee locker room” was passed from Mantle to Maris and Mickey’s public image got a huge boost as a result.
Another reason I probably rooted for Mickey back then was that my older brother was rooting for Maris. At the time, Big J was my tormentor. This is the guy who when he wasn’t performing what were supposed to be fake pro wrestling maneuvers on me would poke darts through the eyeballs of my collection of 5″ x 8″ glossy photos of the Yankee players. For quite a while, he was the owner of our family’s only transistor radio and when I would sit next to him on the front porch so I could listen to a radio broadcast of the Yankee game, he’d plug-in the earplug and stick the sounds of my favorite team inside his ear. So if Big J liked Maris back then it was all the more reason for me to root for Mantle.
That season-long home run derby remains one of the greatest events in both Yankee and Major League Baseball history. But as all Yankee fans have since learned, Maris was much more than home runs. He was an outstanding defensive outfielder with a shotgun arm. He was an incredibly good base runner and he could do all of the little things both at bat and in the field that helped produce and prevent runs. He appeared in seven World Series and had three championship rings when he retired after the 1968 season.
With the steroid controversy that consumed the achievements of Mark McGuire and Barry Bonds, respect and admiration have grown for Maris in recent years. He was a small town boy who unlike Mantle could never be comfortable with a celebrity’s life in the Big Apple. Maris died in 1985 after a two-year struggle with cancer.
Maris shares his September 10th birthday with another Yankee superstar trade acquisition who could never warm up to the big Apple press. This former Yankee utility infielder was also born on September 10th.
|NYY (7 yrs)||850||3475||3007||520||797||110||17||203||547||7||413||417||.265||.356||.515||.872|
|STL (2 yrs)||225||812||720||89||186||36||9||14||100||0||76||99||.258||.330||.392||.721|
|KCA (2 yrs)||221||934||834||130||217||35||10||35||125||2||86||105||.260||.331||.452||.783|
|CLE (2 yrs)||167||626||540||87||125||14||6||23||78||12||77||112||.231||.326||.407||.733|
Todd Zeile had a very impressive first game as a Yankee. The Bronx Bombers had signed this native of Van Nuys, California in December of 2002, when he was a 37-year-old, fourteen-year veteran coming off a strong year with the Colorado Rockies. New York intended to use him as a back-up to Robin Ventura at third base. Ventura had done better than any body expected during his first season in the Bronx, smashing 27 home runs and driving in 93, but he too was getting up there in years. Having the right-hand hitting Zeile spell him against the occasional southpaw seemed like a great idea at the time.
He made his first start for New York in Game 3 of that 2003 season against the Blue Jays in Toronto. He homered against the huge left-hander Mark Hendrickson, in his first-ever pinstriped at bat. He also hit two doubles and drove in three runs that night. That debut performance turned out to be the highlight of his single-season Yankee career. When the Yankees released him that August, he was hitting just .210, with 6 home runs and 23 RBI’s in 66 games. Worse yet was the fact that Ventura also had stopped hitting that season, leaving the Yankees scrambling to come up with offense from the third base position. They solved that problem at the trading deadline when they acquired Aaron Boone from the Reds. The rest of course is Yankee history.
Zeile was picked up by the Expos and then finished his big league career the following year in a Mets’ uniform. He shares his September 9th birthday with this Hall of Fame pitcher, this Hall of Fame manager and this former Yankee center fielder.
|STL (7 yrs)||757||3087||2694||356||719||149||13||75||394||33||346||410||.267||.349||.415||.764|
|NYM (3 yrs)||441||1631||1423||163||368||77||4||41||176||4||191||270||.259||.348||.405||.753|
|TEX (2 yrs)||208||869||768||106||219||55||2||30||126||2||84||126||.285||.355||.479||.834|
|LAD (2 yrs)||200||842||733||111||194||23||1||38||117||9||95||136||.265||.352||.454||.806|
|COL (1 yr)||144||580||506||61||138||23||0||18||87||1||66||92||.273||.353||.425||.778|
|PHI (1 yr)||134||572||500||61||134||24||0||20||80||1||67||88||.268||.353||.436||.789|
|MON (1 yr)||34||127||113||11||29||2||2||5||19||1||10||18||.257||.331||.442||.773|
|CHC (1 yr)||79||325||299||34||68||16||0||9||30||0||16||53||.227||.271||.371||.642|
|NYY (1 yr)||66||214||186||29||39||8||0||6||23||0||24||36||.210||.294||.349||.644|
|FLA (1 yr)||66||270||234||37||68||12||1||6||39||2||31||34||.291||.374||.427||.801|
|BAL (1 yr)||29||132||117||17||28||8||0||5||19||0||15||16||.239||.326||.436||.762|
The only member of the New York Yankee all-time roster to celebrate a birthday on September 8th is this Asheville, NC native who won 29 games over two seasons for the Yankee’s Triple A teams in the late seventies. McCall could not replicate that success at the big league level, appearing in only a total of seven games in pinstripes over the course of the 1977 and 78 seasons. He won his only Yankee decision during the 1978 regular season. I guess you could say that without that victory, the Yankees would not have tied Boston for that season’s Eastern Division Pennant. Without that tie, Bucky Dent’s home run never would have happened. So thank you Larry.
After the 1978 postseason, McCall was included as part of the package the Yankees traded to Texas to obtain Dave Righetti. By 1980, McCall was out of the big leagues for good and began a long career as a Minor League pitching coach in the Orioles’ organization. In 2006, he served as Baltimore’s big league bullpen coach.
So how many Yankees have their been on the team’s all-time roster who have a last name that begins with the moniker prefix “Mc?” Including McCall, I counted 39. Four of them are in the Hall of Fame but two of those four, John McGraw and Joe “Iron Man” McGinnity played or managed for the franchise before it was relocated to the Big Apple from Baltimore in 1903. Another “Mc” enshrined in Cooperstown was named Bill McKechnie, a utility second baseman on the 1913 Yankee team who would go onto become a two-time World Series winning manager. The fourth was of course the legendary Yankee manager, Joe McCarthy. Gil McDougald was the best McYankee player of all time. He is the all-time leader in Yankee McHomers with 112. Others you might remember include pitchers Sam McDowell, Mike McCormick, “Black Jack” McDowell and the wily reliever, Lindy McDaniel. Who was the biggest Yanke McDud? Remember Rich McKinney? He’s the third baseman the Yankees got for 1968 AL Rookie of the Year pitcher, Stan Bahnsen in a 1972 trade with the White Sox. McKinney would hit just .215 during his one year with New York while Bahnsen was winning 21 games for Chicago that same season. There have been four Yankee “McDonalds,” including Darnell, who played some games in the outfield for the 2012 Yankees. The most recent McYankee was Casey McGeHee.
|NYY (2 yrs)||1||2||.333||6.14||7||1||3||0||0||0||22.0||32||17||15||3||7||7||1.773|
|TEX (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||2.16||2||1||1||0||0||0||8.1||7||2||2||0||3||3||1.200|
The first player to do it was pitcher Bob Friend, back in 1966. The last guy to do it was infielder, Angel Berroa, who accomplished it during the 2009 season. In between them, sixteen other guys who at one time played baseball for a Big Apple team have done it during their Major League careers including today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant, Darren Bragg. Bragg was born in Waterbury, CT, on September 7, 1969 and is the only member of the Yankee’s all-time roster to celebrate his birthday on this date. He broke into the big leagues with Seattle, in 1994. The Red Sox acquired him from the Mariners in 1996 and he was a starter in the Boston outfield for the next two-and-a-half seasons. In all, he played for nine teams during his 11 year career in the Majors, including the Yankees, in 2001. The Yankees released him before the end of that season. So the question remains, what feat did Friend, Berroa, Bragg and fifteen other players accomplish during their Major League careers? Each of them appeared in games for both the Yankees and Mets during the same regular season.
Bragg shares his September 7th birthday with this first woman play-by-play announcer in Yankee broadcast history.
|BOS (3 yrs)||340||1315||1144||154||302||78||6||20||136||21||139||240||.264||.346||.395||.741|
|SEA (3 yrs)||129||426||359||60||90||18||2||10||39||17||53||77||.251||.351||.396||.747|
|ATL (2 yrs)||213||421||374||55||96||20||3||3||24||7||37||90||.257||.329||.350||.680|
|NYM (1 yr)||18||63||57||4||15||6||0||0||5||3||4||23||.263||.323||.368||.691|
|COL (1 yr)||71||169||149||16||33||7||1||3||21||4||17||41||.221||.296||.342||.638|
|STL (1 yr)||93||325||273||38||71||12||1||6||26||3||44||67||.260||.369||.377||.746|
|SDP (1 yr)||9||9||7||2||1||0||0||0||0||0||2||2||.143||.333||.143||.476|
|CIN (1 yr)||38||103||94||11||18||3||1||4||9||1||8||29||.191||.255||.372||.627|
|NYY (1 yr)||5||4||4||1||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.250||.250||.500||.750|
If you ask Joe Girardi, Jorge Posada or Jason Varitek who was the best catching instructor they ever had, each highly respected veteran receiver would answer, “Gary Tuck.” Gary was a classmate of mine in high school back in Amsterdam, NY, in the early seventies. He was the quarterback of our school’s varsity football team and the catcher on our baseball team and the thing I remember most about him in both roles was his almost flawless technique. At the time, there were better athletes available to play both positions but Tuck was smarter and worked harder than everybody else. He was a keen student of both games even way back then and he is now considered one of Major League Baseball’s most gifted catching mentors. He won four World Series rings as a Yankee coach and currently serves as the Red Sox bullpen coach, where he has won a fifth ring. I’m hoping that some day, he gets a shot at managing in the big leagues. His hometown is very proud of him and all that he has accomplished.
Watching CC Sabathia pitch during most of the 2013 season has not always been fun. I’m a huge fan of the Yankee ace but it looks as if the elbow surgery he underwent last year or maybe the pounds he took off during the offseason has had a negative impact on the velocity of his fastball. As a result, he’s learning how to pitch without a 95 mph heater in his arsenal and at times during the process, he’s been forced to learn some hard-hit lessons.
I wish I could have Sabathia talk to today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Al Orth, who in addition to being known as “Smiling Al” was also called “the Curveless Wonder” during his long-ago big league pitching career that began with the Phillies in 1895. Orth was considered to be one of the “softest throwing” pitchers in baseball history.
Hitters who faced the brawny right-hander did not worry about striking out. Orth fanned just two hitters per game during his 15-season career. Instead, opposing batsman fought impatience and attention deficit disorder as they watched and waited for Orth’s soft-tossed but well-aimed offerings to finally get close enough to the plate to swing at them.
The native of Sedalia, Missouri jumped to the newly formed American League in 1902 and pitched two-plus seasons for the Washington Senators before getting traded to the Yankees during the 1904 season, who were then still known as the Highlanders. In New York, he was united with “Happy” Jack Chesbro and introduced to Chesbro’s signature pitch, the spitball.
Experimenting with the juiced baseball, Orth found immediate success. He went 11-6 during his first partial season with the club and by 1906, he was throwing the wet one well enough to lead the AL in wins with 27. But Father Time and about nine-hundred innings of work the previous three seasons caught up to the veteran hurler. He turned 34-years-old in 1907 and when he lost 21 games that year, he became the first pitcher in history to lead the league in wins one season and in losses the next. When he lost 13 of his 15 decisions in ’08, the Yankees didn’t want him pitching any more but they did still want him on the team. Why?
In addition to being pretty good on the mound, Al Orth was one of the best hitting pitchers in baseball history. When he retired in 1909, he had a lifetime batting average of .273 and 184 career RBI’s. So in addition to having him talk to CC, if Orth was still around today, I might have him chat with Vernon Wells and Chris Stewart too. When he finally did quit playing, Orth became a big league umpire for a while. He died in 1948 at the age of 76.
|PHI (7 yrs)||100||72||.581||3.49||193||173||20||149||14||4||1504.2||1687||816||584||31||314||359||1.330|
|NYY (6 yrs)||72||73||.497||2.72||163||145||16||102||14||0||1172.2||1096||484||355||16||230||402||1.131|
|WSH (3 yrs)||32||44||.421||4.21||84||76||8||73||3||2||677.1||781||404||317||28||117||187||1.326|
Doyle Alexander would never win a Mr Cogeniality contest. He had two tours of duty as a Yankee starter and made few friends in either. His first stay in the Bronx did however, reap significant dividends for both team and player. It began during the 1976 season, when Doyle was part of a ten-player deal between New York and Baltimore. He went 10-5 after putting on the pinstripes that year, playing a huge role in helping New York capture the 1976 AL Pennant. He then got hammered in his only postseason start against the Reds in the ’76 World Series and I believe it was that shaky appearance and the fact that nobody in the Yankee organization was a big fan of Alexander’s prickly personality, that permitted the Texas Rangers to swoop in and sign the big right-hander to a free agent deal.
By 1982, this native of Cordova, Alabama was pitching for San Francisco and the Yankees traded for him a second time. Alexander was not so great during his encore appearance in pinstripes. In fact, when Steinbrenner insulted the pitcher by telling reporters he got hit so hard the Yankee infielders were afraid to play behind him, wise-guy Graig Nettles rubbed a bit more salt in the wound by adding that he would even avoid sitting in the bleachers when Alexander was on the mound. He won just one of nine decisions during his repeat stay in the Bronx and New York released him early on in the 1983 season. He went on to become a 17-game winner for the Blue Jays in each of the next two seasons. Born on this date in 1950, Alexander retired after the 1989 season with a Big League record of 194-174.
|BAL (5 yrs)||35||37||.486||3.41||137||64||43||19||4||3||593.0||559||260||225||41||196||215||1.273|
|TOR (4 yrs)||46||26||.639||3.56||106||103||2||25||3||0||750.0||752||315||297||81||172||392||1.232|
|ATL (3 yrs)||25||27||.481||4.09||68||68||0||12||1||0||466.2||477||235||212||50||118||252||1.275|
|TEX (3 yrs)||31||28||.525||3.89||88||80||6||19||2||0||541.1||533||252||234||45||222||213||1.395|
|NYY (3 yrs)||11||14||.440||4.47||43||35||5||5||2||0||231.2||226||127||115||29||60||84||1.235|
|DET (3 yrs)||29||29||.500||3.91||78||78||0||13||5||0||540.1||568||256||235||61||148||265||1.325|
|SFG (1 yr)||11||7||.611||2.89||24||24||0||1||1||0||152.1||156||51||49||11||44||77||1.313|
|LAD (1 yr)||6||6||.500||3.80||17||12||0||4||0||0||92.1||105||45||39||6||18||30||1.332|
What do David Adams, Luis Cruz, Alberto Gonzalez, Brent Lillibridge, Jayson Nix, Eduardo Nunez, Mark Reynolds, Alex Rodriguez, Vernon Wells, Kevin Youklis and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant have in common? They all played third base for the Yankees during the 2013 regular season.
Chris Nelson was the .300-hitting starting third baseman of the Colorado Rockies during the 2012 season. That same job was his to lose on Opening Day of 2013 and he ended up losing it to Rockie rookie Nelson Aranado. When Kevin Youklis’s back did not hold up during the first month of the season, the Yankees acquired Nelson from Colorado on May 1, 2013. New York skipper, Joe Grardi then started the native of Escondido, California at the hot corner for ten straight games. Defensively, he did fine but his .222 batting average and 2 RBI’s convinced the Yankee brass he wasn’t the answer long-term and he ended up on waivers. The Angels then picked him up and on August 1. He started playing third base regularly for his third big league team this season, when LA-Anaheim’s starter at that position, Alberto Callaspo went on the DL. On August 15th, Nelson got some revenge on the Yankees when he drove in five runs against his former team to prevent New York from an important series sweep.
On August 29th, the injury bug hit Nelson too. While running to first he pulled a hamstring pretty badly and it sounds like he’s done for the season. Nelson shares a birthday with this former Yankee reliever.
|COL (4 yrs)||212||664||616||78||172||33||6||13||73||6||39||142||.279||.322||.416||.738|
|LAA (1 yr)||33||119||109||10||24||1||2||3||18||2||8||36||.220||.277||.349||.626|
|NYY (1 yr)||10||37||36||3||8||2||0||0||2||0||1||11||.222||.243||.278||.521|
I always liked Rex Hudler, despite the fact that he never turned into the all star big league player the Yankee front office promised fans he would when he was selected as the team’s first round draft choice in 1978. Bronx Bomber fans are used to first round picks not fulfilling their potential. Remember Steve Chilcott; Dave Cheadle; Doug Heinhold; Dennis Sherrill; Jim McDonald; Steve Taylor; Todd Demeter; Steve Madden; Tim Birtsas; Jeffrey Pries; Rick Balabon; Brien Taylor; Matt Drews;Brian Buchanan; Shea Morenz; Scott Bradley; Tyler Godwin; Andy Brown, Dave Walling; Dave Parrish; Jon Skaggs; Bronson Sardinha; Eric Duncan; Jon Peterson; should I keep going? These are the names of Yankee number 1 draft picks most of you have never heard of. Though he never made it big as a Yankee, at least today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant ended up playing in the big leagues for over a decade.
“Wonderdog” was a great high school athlete in Fresno, California who turned down Division 1 football scholarship offers to play baseball for the Yankees. It became pretty clear, pretty quick that Hudler was not superstar material when he struggled to hit the pitching he faced at the lowest minor league levels. But the guy never quit. He gave 150% on every play he was involved in and just kept battling his way up New York’s alphabet ladder of farm teams until he got his first chance to play in pinstripes during September of the 1984 season. He struck out in his first big league at bat but doubled off of Boston’s Al Nipper in his second.
He got into a total of nine Yankee games during that 1984 season and 24 more the following year, never getting his big league average above .157. That December, he was traded to the Orioles. For the next ten seasons he was employed by five different big league teams playing every position except pitcher and catcher. He also spent a year (1993) playing in Japan.
When he hung up his spikes for good after the 1998 season he went into broadcasting as a color commentator for the Angels. He now announces for the Royals. Rex Hudler was a great teammate. He was always upbeat and also sort of crazy. Once, while sitting in the Cardinal dugout, Hudler captured a june bug that had landed his cap. When his St. Louis teammates dared him to eat it he started bidding up the challenge. By the time he popped the big ugly flying insect in his mouth and swallowed it, he had earned $800.
Hudler and his wife are the parents of a child with Down Syndrome and have both worked tirelessly on efforts to raise funding, awareness, and support for Down Syndrome children and their families.
|STL (3 yrs)||251||558||522||68||132||25||4||11||42||32||24||83||.253||.288||.379||.667|
|CAL (3 yrs)||232||694||649||107||190||44||3||30||87||29||25||130||.293||.325||.508||.834|
|MON (3 yrs)||173||395||374||60||98||21||2||10||27||44||16||58||.262||.293||.409||.702|
|PHI (2 yrs)||75||175||163||19||32||5||0||5||12||1||10||40||.196||.247||.319||.566|
|NYY (2 yrs)||29||66||58||6||9||1||1||0||1||0||2||14||.155||.197||.207||.404|
|BAL (1 yr)||14||1||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||.000||.000||.000||.000|