October 2013

October 31 – Happy Birthday Paul Zuvella

ZuevellaRemember when Ken Griffey Jr. was in his prime and told everyone that he would never play for the Yankees? That’s because “The Kid’s” father, Ken Griffey Sr. felt the same way. Of course, by the time the elder Griffey had figured that out, he had already been wearing Yankee pinstripes for a year and then had spent the next three and a half seasons with the team begging to be traded.

He would finally get his wish on the last day of June, during the 1986 season when the Yanks sent the unhappy outfielder to the Braves in exchange for Claudell Washington and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. Press reports describing the trade at the time indicated the Yankees expected to start Claudell Washington in left field and Paul Zuvella at short.

I was one of those faithful Yankee fans who really hoped Griffey would be a star in New York and since that hadn’t happened, I wasn’t sorry to see him go. I knew Washington would be an adequate starting outfielder for that Yankee team but I also knew Paul Zuvella had no shot at becoming the team’s starting shortstop.

The shortstop position had been an anomaly for New York since Bucky Dent had been traded in 1983. Lou Piniella was the manager of that ’86 team and he wasn’t exactly known for being patient with his players, especially with an even more impatient owner like George Steinbrenner watching over his shoulder and breathing down his neck.

Zuvella had played his college ball for Stanford and had a good run with the 1978 version of Team USA. That got him drafted by Atlanta and he made his big league debut with the Braves in 1982. It took him four seasons to earn just the utility infielder’s job there and then he lost even that at midseason and spent the second half of 1985 back in the minors.

He started his first season in New York with an 0 – for – 25 slump and and at the end of his first month with the team the guy was hitting .083. Piniella, Steinbrenner and Yankee fans had seen enough and Zuvella was banished to Columbus for the rest of the season. He reappeared at the Yankees 1987 spring training camp and found himself in a battle with Bobby Meacham for the Yankee’s utility infielder slot. Though Meacham outplayed him in every facet of the game that spring, it was Zuvella who headed north with the team for Opening Day. Why? Because George Steinbrenner did not like Bobby Meacham, so the Yankee owner ordered Piniella to demote him and keep Zuvella.

The native of San Mateo, California was able to double his average during his second abbreviated season in the Bronx but that still meant he hit just .176. Zuvella’s Yankee career was over. He was released that October and spent the next couple of seasons with Cleveland. He eventually became a minor league manager in the Rockies’ organization. His claim to pinstriped fame? His name appears at the very end of an alphabetized version of the Yankees’ all-time roster.

Zuvella shares his birthday with this former Yankee outfielder, this former Yankee catcher and this other former yankee infielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1986 NYY 21 57 48 2 4 1 0 0 2 0 5 4 .083 .170 .104 .274
1987 NYY 14 36 34 2 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 .176 .176 .176 .353
9 Yrs 209 545 491 41 109 17 2 2 20 2 34 50 .222 .275 .277 .552
ATL (4 yrs) 97 246 221 18 53 9 1 0 5 2 20 18 .240 .306 .290 .595
CLE (2 yrs) 75 206 188 19 46 7 1 2 13 0 9 24 .245 .283 .324 .607
NYY (2 yrs) 35 93 82 4 10 1 0 0 2 0 5 8 .122 .172 .134 .307
KCR (1 yr) 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/31/2013.

October 30 – Happy Birthday Marty McHale

marty mchaleI’m sure you never heard of former Yankee pitcher Marty McHale. Heck, he only pitched for New York for just three seasons, compiled a pretty horrible 11-27 record doing so and his pinstriped career began 100 years ago, so why would you? But the right-handed McHale was anything but just an ex Yankee pitcher nobody ever heard of.

For starters, he was actually very talented on the mound. He was known for his spitball but he also threw a real good curve and a pretty good fastball. At the University of Maine, he was a three-sport star and when he threw three consecutive no-hitters for the Black Bears’ baseball team, several major league clubs came calling. A native of Stoneham, Massachusetts, which is a suburb of Boston, McHale accepted a $2,000 bonus to sign with the Red Sox. He then spent the next three seasons bouncing back and forth between the minors and Beantown, trying to stick to the team’s big league roster.

He never did win a game for the Red Sox but he did establish a singing career. The guy was an incredible Irish tenor. Babe Ruth, who was famous for never remembering the face or the name of a teammate had no problem remembering McHale, telling reporters the pitcher had the best singing voice he ever heard. During his days with Boston, the pitcher became part of a singing group called the Red Sox quartet that became a very popular act around town. After joining the Yankees, McHale teamed up with the New York Giants Mike Donlin to form a very popular vaudeville act. The venerable Variety Magazine, thought enough of McHale’s vocal ability to dub him “Baseball’s Caruso.”

In any event, the Yankees purchased McHale’s contract in August of the 1913 regular season and Frank Chance, the New York skipper at the time, fell in love with the guy. He got seven starts in the next two months and though he was just 2-4 in those starts, his ERA was a very respectable 2.96.

The singing pitcher was good enough to earn the Opening Day pitching assignments for New York in both the 1914 and ’15 seasons and he won both games. But the Yankee ball clubs he pitched for were some of the worst in franchise history and McHale had a tough time earning winning decisions. He went 6-16 during his second year with the team and just 3-7 in 1915.

The Yankees then released him and he ended up pitching one more year in the big leagues before hanging up his glove for good after the 1916 season. He was 29 years-old with a wife and two boys at home. He probably realized careers in both baseball and show business were not conducive to a stable family life so he started a third career as a New York stockbroker. He retired from M. J. McHale Securities 52 years later. Baseball’s Caruso had conquered Wall Street too.

McHale shares his birthday with this former Yankee DHthis former Yankee third baseman, and this former Yankee reliever with a hard-to-pronounce last name.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1913 NYY 2 4 .333 2.96 7 6 1 4 1 0 48.2 49 21 16 1 10 11 1.212
1914 NYY 6 16 .273 2.97 31 23 6 12 0 1 191.0 195 82 63 3 33 75 1.194
1915 NYY 3 7 .300 4.25 13 11 1 6 0 0 78.1 86 45 37 1 19 25 1.340
6 Yrs 11 30 .268 3.57 64 44 13 23 1 1 358.1 381 182 142 7 81 131 1.289
BOS (3 yrs) 0 3 .000 5.90 8 4 3 1 0 0 29.0 41 27 19 1 13 18 1.862
NYY (3 yrs) 11 27 .289 3.28 51 40 8 22 1 1 318.0 330 148 116 5 62 111 1.233
CLE (1 yr) 0 0 5.56 5 0 2 0 0 0 11.1 10 7 7 1 6 2 1.412
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/30/2013.

October 29 – Happy Birthday Karim Garcia

When I saw that today was Karim Garcia’s birthday it brought back memories of the Yankee’s classic 2003 ALCS series against Boston. I watched and enjoyed every single inning of all seven games in that series and I will never forget the Game Three confrontations that all began when the great but sometimes too emotional Pedro Martinez hit Garcia in the back with one of his fastballs. That started a chain reaction of reactions that included the threatening hand signal communication between Martinez and Posada, Garcia’s hard slide into second, Manny Ramirez ducking away from a Roger Clemens pitch that was nowhere near him followed by a bench clearing scuffle during which Pedro pulled his famous matador move on the bull-rushing “Popye” Zimmer, who had forgotten for a moment that he was 72-years old. Then later on, Garcia and Jeff Nelson got into a surreal fight with a Red Sox groundskeeper in the Yankee bullpen. What tends to be forgotten about that series was how competitive it was. Four of the last five games were decided by a single run and the seventh contest was one of the most dramatic extra inning affairs in big league history, ending with Aaron Boone’s majestic blast off of Tim Wakefield.

Garcia made that postseason roster by hitting .305 for Joe Torre in 52 games of action during the regular season. Torre had made Garcia his starting right-fielder for the remainder of that season, replacing Raul Mondesi, who was traded to Arizona just before the 2003 trading deadline. During the Yankees 2004 spring training, Garcia again paired up with a Yankee teammate in a tussle with a non-baseball player. This time his tag-team partner was Shane Spencer and their opponent was a pizza delivery guy. Shortly after that incident, Garcia was released by the Yankees and he signed with the Mets. He finished his decade-long big league career in 2004 with 66 lifetime home runs and a .241 batting average.

This Yankee outfielder, who came to New York in a 1989 trade for Al Leiter, also celebrates his birthday on today’s date. This former Yankee shortstop also shares Garcia’s birthday.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2002 NYY 2 5 5 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .200 .200 .200 .400
2003 NYY 52 161 151 17 46 5 0 6 21 0 9 32 .305 .342 .457 .799
10 Yrs 488 1561 1463 180 352 44 13 66 212 10 81 330 .241 .279 .424 .703
LAD (3 yrs) 29 67 60 6 9 0 0 1 8 0 6 19 .150 .224 .200 .424
CLE (3 yrs) 95 356 335 45 91 12 0 26 75 0 14 73 .272 .301 .540 .841
NYY (2 yrs) 54 166 156 18 47 5 0 6 21 0 9 33 .301 .337 .449 .786
BAL (2 yrs) 31 89 82 9 14 0 0 3 11 0 4 21 .171 .202 .280 .483
DET (2 yrs) 104 327 305 39 72 10 3 14 32 2 20 71 .236 .282 .426 .708
ARI (1 yr) 113 354 333 39 74 10 8 9 43 5 18 78 .222 .260 .381 .641
NYM (1 yr) 62 202 192 24 45 7 2 7 22 3 10 35 .234 .272 .401 .673
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/29/2013.

October 28 – Happy Birthday Johnny Neun

neunThe late George Steinbrenner probably felt he had much more in common with Jake Ruppert than any other team owner in Yankee franchise history. After all, both were sons of wealthy German-American businessmen who purchased the Yankee team when it wasn’t winning and were able to restore the franchise to glory with bunches of additional World Championships and get a magnificent new Stadium built for their team. And since Rupert got elected to the Hall of Fame in 2012, you know the Boss would have loved following his lead by also getting inducted into Cooperstown.

But Georgie-boy was actually a much more meddling owner than old Jake Ruppert ever thought to be. Simply put, Ruppert kept hiring the best GMs and field managers he could find and let them make their own decisions and though Steinbrenner’s reign started the same way, he quickly morphed into a micro-managing, you-do-what-I-say type of owner. That’s why instead of Ruppert, he reminds me much more of another former Yankee team owner who is also in the Hall of Fame. His name was Larry MacPhail Sr. and he’s the guy who made today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant the manager and ex-manager of the New York Yankees.

Remember when Steinbrenner promised Yankee catching legend Yogi Berra that he would be New York’s skipper during the entire 1985 season and then replaced him with Billy Martin just 16 games into that season? In 1946, MacPhail was brought in as an ownership partner by Dan Topping and Del Webb when they purchased the Bronx Bombers from Ruppert’s estate. The fiery but highly innovative ex-Red and Dodgers exec was made the team’s de-facto GM. Long-time Yankee skipper, Joe McCarthy couldn’t stomach working for MacPhail and quit just 35 games into the season. MacPhail then made Bill Dickey the team’s manager but instead of giving him some job security with a longer-term contract, the new owner also hired former Senators’ “Boy Wonder” manager, Bucky Harris as a special consultant. With Harris looking over his shoulder at every move he made on the field, its easy to understand why Dickey began feeling insecure in his new role and started asking the Yankee front-office for a longer-term deal. When it became apparent that MacPhail had no intention of granting Dickey an extension during the 1946 season, the future Hall-of-Fame catcher quit with 14 games remaining on the schedule and went home to Arkansas.

The Yanks then turned to one of Dickey’s coaches, Johnny Neun to finish the season as New York’s field boss. Neun had been a big league first baseman for both the Tigers and the Braves back in the 1920′s and early thirties. A switch-hitter with little power, he was never more than a back-up during his six years in the Majors but he did become famous for becoming the seventh big leaguer in history to pull off an unassisted triple play. It happened during the 1927 season and his feat was made even more memorable by the fact that one day earlier, Chicago Cubs infielder, Jimmy Cooney had also done it.

After Neun retired as a player in 1934, he got a job managing in the Yankees’ farm system and soon became one of the organization’s top minor league skippers. He led both Newark and Kansas City, New York’s top minor league affiliates to league titles and was rewarded with a job on Joe McCarthy’s coaching staff, joining Dickey, Art Fletcher and Johnny Schulte.

MacPhail made it clear that Neun’s hiring was on an interim basis and no one expected him to be considered a candidate for the job the next season. Neun led the Yankees to an 8-6 finish and the Baltimore native then accepted the manager’s job with the Cincinnati Reds. He spent a season and two-thirds skippering the Reds. His record when he was fired 117-137. He later became a long-time scout for the Milwaukee Braves.

As expected, MacPhail ended up hiring Harris to manage the Yanks in 1947 and he did a good job, leading New York to the 1947 World Championship. But during the World Series victory celebration, an intoxicated MacPhail became so belligerent, Topping and Webb decided they needed to force him out of their partnership. With his mentor gone, Harris managed in the Bronx for one more season before being replaced by Casey Stengel.

Neun shares his birthday with this former Yankee reliever.

Rk Year Age Tm Lg W L W-L% G Finish
1 1946 45 New York Yankees AL 3rd of 3 8 6 .571 14 3
New York Yankees 1 year 8 6 .571 14 3.0
Cincinnati Reds 2 years 117 137 .461 254 6.0
3 years 125 143 .466 268 5.0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/28/2013.

October 27 – Happy Birthday Tom Nieto

nietoSlim pickings when it comes to October 27th Yankee birthdays. Tom Nieto was a big league backup catcher for seven seasons during the 1980s, who succeeded my high school classmate, Gary Tuck as Yankee catching coach in 2000. A native of California, Nieto caught for the Cards, Expos, Twins and Phillies during his playing days, but his lifetime .205 batting average kept him out of the starting lineups on all those ball clubs.

He got his start with the Yankees in 1995, when he was hired as the organization’s minor league catching instructor. Two years later, he was given the managers’ job with the Yankees old South Atlantic League affiliate in Greensboro, NC. After two winning seasons there, he was promoted to the skipper’s job for the Tampa Yankees. After two seasons there, he replaced Tuck as the Yankees catching mentor.

The Yanks let him go after the 2001 season and he went back to managing in the minors for the Cardinals’ organization. Then in 2004, when Willie Randolph got the Mets’ manager’s job, he made Nieto his bench coach. He’s now back with the Yankee organization, managing their Gulf Coast League affiliate, down in Florida.

The only other Yankee born on this date was this long-ago outfielder.

October 26 – Happy Birthday Steve Adkins

adkinsBy the time the Yankees were ready to give today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant his first big league start, the team’s season was already over. It was early September of 1990, the Yanks were mired in last place in the AL East Divison standings with an atrocious 58-84 record and with Stump Merrill now calling the shots in New York’s dugout, the organization’s future looked anything but bright.

So all Yankee starting pitcher Steve Adkins does in his big league debut is take the mound against a pretty good Texas Ranger lineup and pitch hitless baseball. So how come you and I don’t remember Steve Adkins, since he remains the only pitcher in the last 28 years to give up no hits in his first big league start?

Well for one thing, the Yankees lost the game. Texas ended up beating them 5-4 that evening. Perhaps another reason we don’t remember Adkins’ no-hit debut was the fact that he issued eight walks that game. But the real reason this six foot six inch southpaw’s inaugural appearance as a Yankee pitcher is not seared into our memories is because it didn’t last very long, just one-and-a-third innings to be exact.

He was able to get out of the first inning without surrendering a run despite three walks with the help of a double play. But when he gave six straight batters free passes to first base in the second inning, Merrill had seen enough and he yanked the then twenty-five-year-old native of Chicago. He had thrown fifty pitches, surrendered three earned runs and became the first pitcher in half a century to give up no-hits and lose his big-league debut.

Adkins got four more chances to start that September and was actually progressing to the point where he was able to get his first win of the season with an eight-inning stint against the Brewers on September 28th. But then Merrill chose him to start the Yankees final game of the 1990 season against Detroit and four innings later he had given up seven hits, seven earned runs, and four more of those dreaded walks. He never pitched another game at the big league level.

Adkins shares his birthday with this former Yankee second baseman and this former Yankee shortstop.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1990 NYY 1 2 .333 6.38 5 5 0 0 0 0 24.0 19 18 17 4 29 14 2.000
1 Yr 1 2 .333 6.38 5 5 0 0 0 0 24.0 19 18 17 4 29 14 2.000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/26/2013.

October 25 – Happy Birthday Lee MacPhail Jr.

Lee MacPhail2Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is the only member of the Baseball Hall of Fame who’s father is also a member. Lee MacPhail’s dad Larry was one of baseball’s most legendary executives, running both the Cincinnati Reds and Brooklyn Dodger organizations before becoming a part owner of the Yankees in 1946. Lee had a much quieter demeanor than his hard-living and combative father and was generally considered one of the kindest and most liked executives in baseball during his career.

That career got its real start in 1949, when the younger MacPhail took over as director of the Yankees’ minor league system. That system had been built by geniuses like Ed Barrow and George Weiss, so there was a lot of pressure on the new guy to maintain its excellence as a breeding ground for future pennant winners. Many baseball people thought MacPhail had only got the job because of his last name, but he proved those detractors wrong by operating brilliantly in that capacity. New York’s farm system produced an unprecedented flow of quality big league players all throughout the decade of the 1950′s.

In 1959, MacPhail became General Manager of the Baltimore Orioles. When he left that job in 1965 to become an assistant to Baseball Commissioner, William Eckert, he left an Orioles’ team poised to win a World Championship in 1966 and a thriving minor league system that would keep the O’s near or at the top of the AL East standings for the next decade.

He returned to the Yankees in 1967 to take over as GM from Ralph Houk, who had returned to the dugout to skipper the team after Johnny Keane had failed miserably in that role. It was an unsuccessful era in the organization’s history, notable because for the first and only time in franchise history, the Yankees were owned by a corporation and not wealthy individuals. Suddenly the team’s performance was being judged by profits and loss instead of wins and losses, making MacPhail’s job especially difficult. He did however make progress. He traded for Sparky Lyle, drafted Thurman Munson, and negotiated the deals that brought both Graig Nettles and Lou Piniella to New York.

Things got hairy for MacPhail in New York when George Steinbrenner took over the team in 1973 and brought Gabe Paul with him. It soon became apparent to the beleaguered GM that neither “the Boss” or Paul respected his opinions on much of anything, so he got out of the Bronx when the getting was good and took over as AL President from the retiring Joe Cronin. He served in that capacity for the next decade and is credited for leading the negotiations that ended the 1981 Players strike. He also got some revenge on Steinbrenner, when he overruled the umpires decision to negate George Brett’s home run in the famous “Pine Tar” game between the Yankees and Royals in 1983.

MacPhail was selected to join his father in Cooperstown in 1998 and he lived to the age of 95, passing away at his home in Florida in November of 2012. He lived to see both his son Andy and grandson Lee MacPhail IV extend the family’s involvement in MLB front offices to a fourth generation.

MacPhail shares his birthday with another AL President with Yankee roots, this former Yankee reliever, this one-time Yankee shortstop and the team’s current bullpen coach.

October 24 – Happy Birthday Chris Bootcheck

bootcheckIt was on my birthday this year, June 14th, that I settled down to watch a Yankee game. It was a Friday night, and the Yanks were on a west coast road trip. The surprising Bronx Bombers had been in second place when that trip had started, just a game and a half behind the even more surprising Red Sox. Their first stop had been in Seattle, where they took three out of four from the hapless Mariners. But then they went to Oakland and dropped three straight to the A’s. It was the results of that series that brought my doubts about the patched together Yankee lineup back to the surface. Since their night games started late on the east coast whenever the Yanks played alongside the Pacific, I had not watched any of the contests that had been played on that trip thus far. Even though I had celebrated my birthday with a couple of bourbons, I was determined to stay awake long enough see if that night’s starting pitcher, Andy Pettitte was back in the smooth-pitching groove he had been in at the beginning of the year.

Remember, Pettitte had started the 2013 season with three straight wins and an ERA of 2.01. Then his back began stiffening up on him and the Yankee offense went into a slump and Andy lost three of his next four decisions before finally going on the DL in the middle of May. That night he would be making his second start since returning from the DL. He had won the third game of the Mariners’ series and I was anxious to see if he really was back in the groove. I had my doubts after watching him give up three hits and a run in the opening inning but then he got the next six hitters out and David Adams two run single in the top of the fourth gave New York its first and only lead. The Halos evened the score in the bottom half of the inning, took the lead in the sixth and then scored their fourth and final run off Pettitte in the seventh.

That was it for the Yankees’ veteran left-hander. He had struggled the whole game giving up 11 hits but he had also battled his way through plenty of jams. He left the game with his team down by two. That’s when it became very clear to me just how short the Yankees’ minor league pitching talent was. I remember that when whichever Yankee announcer announced “Chris Bootcheck will be making his Yankee debut to start the eighth inning” my initial reaction was “Chris who check?”

This very tall right hander, wearing uniform number 34 then appears on my big screen throwing warm-up pitches. At first, I jogged my memory, trying to remember if this was one of those “three B’s” Brian Cashman had been so crazy about a few years earlier but then one of the guys in the Yankee booth said he was 34 years old and was making a homecoming of sorts. He had been a number 1 pick of the Angels in the 2000 draft and had pitched for them as a reliever from 2005 through 2008.

The Yankees had signed Bootcheck during the 2013 spring training season and sent him to Scranton/Wilkes Barre, where he had been turned back into a starter and had become the RailRiders’s best pitcher. In a strange move, indicative of just how stretched the Yankee pitching staff had become, New York had sent Adam Warren to Scranton after he had pitched six scoreless innings of relief against the A’s on that same road trip. They knew Warren wouldn’t be able to pitch again for a while so they sent him down and brought Bootcheck up.

I watched Bootcheck walk the first Angel he faced in the bottom of the eighth and since by then it had to be well past midnight and no longer my birthday, I turned off the TV and went to bad a year older and wiser enough to know that it would take a miracle for this 2013 Yankee team to reach the postseason if they had to depend on their pitching to get them there. No disrespect to Bootcheck but if he was the best pitcher they had on their top farm club, I knew my favorite team did not have the pitching talent it would need to reach the 2013 postseason.

Bootcheck is a native of LaPorte, Indiana, who was born on this date in 1978. He finished the 2013 season in Scranton, going 10-7 with a 3.69 ERA. He was one of 24 different Yankee pitchers to appear in a game for New York during the 2013 regular season. He shares a birthday with this former Yankee outfielder and this one too.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2013 NYY 0 0 9.00 1 0 1 0 0 0 1.0 2 1 1 0 2 1 4.000
7 Yrs 3 7 .300 6.55 91 3 33 0 0 1 148.1 180 112 108 19 66 106 1.658
LAA (5 yrs) 3 7 .300 6.04 77 3 29 0 0 1 132.2 162 93 89 18 55 92 1.636
PIT (1 yr) 0 0 11.05 13 0 3 0 0 0 14.2 16 18 18 1 9 13 1.705
NYY (1 yr) 0 0 9.00 1 0 1 0 0 0 1.0 2 1 1 0 2 1 4.000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/24/2013.

Yankee Connections to the Teams in the 109th World Series

The last time the Red Sox and Cardinals faced each other in a World Series was in 2004 and I didn’t watch a single pitch of Boston’s 4-game sweep of St. Louis that year. Why? I’m a Yankee fan and I still haven’t completely gotten over Boston coming back from a 3-0 deficit in that year’s ALCS. It took me the entire offseason to recover enough from that debacle to again watch a baseball game.

You have to then go back all the way to the 1967 World Series to find the next most recent Fall Classic that matched these two teams. I was just 13 at the time, suffering through my third straight Yankee-less postseason but unlike the 2004 matchup of these two teams, I remember watching just about every inning of that Series.

495609As I do with all things having to do with baseball, I cover events based on their relevance to Yankee history. For example, the 1967 Cardinal team that beat Boston in seven games that year had ex-Yankee slugger, Roger Maris starting in right field that season. No longer a power threat, the man who broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record six years earlier, hit just 9 home runs for that ’67 St. Louis ball club, but he was born again that fall, when he led the Cards with 7 RBIs against Boston and posted a .385 batting average.

The only other St. Louis player who would one day have a pinstriped connection was their great catcher, Tim McCarver, who would become part of the Yankee broadcasting team for three seasons, beginning in 1999.

1968+Elston+Howard+(f)The 1967 Boston Red Sox team on the other hand had quite a few past and future Yankees on their roster. The most notable former Yankee was the great catcher, Elston Howard, who had come over to Boston in early August of that season to provide veteran behind-the-plate leadership to a young and evolving Red Sox pitching staff. Ellie was well past his offensive prime by then as his .111 Series batting average against St. Louis attests. Another former Yankee playing for Boston was their skilled pinch-hitter, Norm Siebern. Ironically, Siebern was a native of St. Louis who had come up with the Yankees as a promising outfielder in the late fifties and won a Gold Glove, only to be traded to Kansas City for Maris after the ’59 season.

Future Yankees who saw action for Boston in that same Fall Classic included first baseman George “Boomer” Scott and relievers John Wyatt and Gary Waslewski. The most famous future Yankee, Red Sox closer Sparky Lyle had been forced off the Series roster with an injury that year. The “Count” was replaced by a 19-year-old southpaw named Ken Brett, who in addition to being one of Boston’s best pitchers in that Series, would also one day become a Yankee.

The other Yankee-related thing I think about as it relates to the two teams playing in this year’s Series are all time lineups of Yankees who were also Cardinals during their careers and Red Sox who also wore pinstripes. Here they are:

All-Time Yankee/Cardinals lineup:
All-Time Yankees/Red Sox lineup:

October 23 – Happy Birthday Ben Francisco

ben-franciscoDuring the 53 years I’ve been a Yankee fan, I’ve sort of behaved by two rules. The first is that I do not disrespect Yankee players for failing to live up to expectations. Each and every one of them has been skilled and talented enough to accomplish something I know I never could and that is to reach the Major Leagues as a professional ballplayer. Mistakes, slumps and errors are part of the game and as upset as I get when individual Yankees  don’t perform well, I don’t hold it against them and I have never boo’d a Yankee player in my lifetime. The second rule is that despite how “against” I might have been about a transaction that brings a player to the Yankees, once he puts on a Yankee uniform, I root like crazy for the guy.

Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is a perfect example of how I apply these rules in real-life. When I heard Brian Cashman was going to sign Ben Francisco as a right handed DH and spare outfielder, I screamed in anguish. I absolutely knew this native of Santa Ana, California was not the right guy for the slot the Yankees expected him to fill. When I first read reports that Cashman was going after him, I remember yelling out loud. “Go get Alphonso Soriano from the Cubs instead.” But since I was in my home’s basement office at the time, about 1,300 miles north of Cashman’s office in Tampa, the Yankee GM couldn’t hear my suggestion and he signed Francisco.

So I became an instant Ben Francisco fan, hoping with every fiber in my being that I was wrong about the guy and he would evolve into this year’s version of Raul Ibanez. Unfortunately, I seemed to be in a minority of those Yankee fans who were willing to be patient with him.  It didn’t help matters that so many Yankee regulars were physically unable to play on Opening Day of the 2013 season and the pressure on back-up guys like Francisco to perform was abnormally high as a result.

In his first five games,he got a total of eight at bats and failed to get a hit but judging by the boo birds at the Stadium and the vitriol of Yankee bloggers, you’d of thought he went 0-for-80 instead. His first Yankee hit against Arizona, started a three-run come-from-behind rally in a game New York would eventually win. But by the end of April, his average was just .103.

On May 1, Francisco hit his one and only home run as a Bronx Bomber in a 5-4 Yankee victory over the Astros. On June 4th, with his batting average at .114, Francisco was released by New York. A couple weeks later, he was signed by the Padres and spent the remainder of the 2013 season playing for San Diego’s Pacific Coast League affiliate in Tucson.

He was originally a fifth round draft choice of the Cleveland Indians in 2002. After a solid rookie season with the Tribe in 2008, Francisco’s name got thrown into the Cliff Lee trade negotiations and he ended up accompanying the pitcher to Philadelphia in return for four Phillies’ prospects at the 2009 trading deadline. The deal led to Francisco’s first and thus far only World Series appearance that fall against the Yankees (He went hitless in 7 at-bats.) But the outfielder struggled during his entire two-and-a-half season tenure in the City of Brotherly Love. He seemed much more comfortable playing in Cleveland.

Francisco shares his birthday with this former Yankee pitcher and this long-ago New York outfielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2013 NYY 21 50 44 4 5 0 0 1 1 0 5 11 .114 .220 .182 .402
7 Yrs 563 1771 1579 199 400 104 3 50 190 30 146 325 .253 .323 .418 .741
CLE (3 yrs) 235 920 817 123 213 58 1 28 99 17 76 164 .261 .332 .437 .768
PHI (3 yrs) 225 594 526 58 136 32 1 17 75 13 52 101 .259 .332 .420 .752
TBR (1 yr) 24 63 57 4 13 5 0 2 8 0 4 16 .228 .270 .421 .691
NYY (1 yr) 21 50 44 4 5 0 0 1 1 0 5 11 .114 .220 .182 .402
HOU (1 yr) 31 90 85 5 21 4 0 2 5 0 5 23 .247 .289 .365 .654
TOR (1 yr) 27 54 50 5 12 5 1 0 2 0 4 10 .240 .296 .380 .676
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/23/2013.