October 7 – Happy Birthday Russ Derry
The Yankees signed this Princeton, Missouri native when he was 21-years-old in 1937 and assigned him to their Class C team in Joplin. During his second year with that ball club he popped 24 home runs and got promoted to the Yanks’ Norfolk, Virginia affiliate in the Class B Piedmont League. That’s when and where Derry really raised some eyebrows by belting 40 home runs during the ’39 season.
Normally, when an organization’s young prospect hits 40 homers at any level it gets him on a pretty fast track to a Major League trial. Unfortunately for this young outfielder, the Yankee team he was trying to make was anything but normal, especially in the outfield. The only outfield problem NY manager Joe McCarthy had to solve each and every game was figuring out who was not going to play. If you got Joe DiMaggio, Charley Selkirk, Tommy Henrich and George Selkirk on your roster, as McCarthy did when Derry hit those 40 homers in the Piedmont league, you’re not going to be too concerned with what your team’s minor league outfielders are doing. So while that 1939 Yankee team led by its glut of All Star outfielders was winning its fourth straight World Series, all Derry’s 40 home run season got him was a ticket to Class A.
It would take seven years and a World War to get Derry his shot at the Yankee outfield. By then he was 27-years-old. By 1944, DiMaggio, Keller, Henrich and Selkirk were all doing hitches in the military and Derry became the parent club’s fourth outfielder that season. He saw his most big league action the following season when he got into 78 games for New York and hit a career high 13 home runs. But he averaged just .225 that year against the second tier of pitching talent that took over the big league mounds during WWII. When the war ended and all the Yankees returned from military service the following year, Derry was sold to the A’s. He hit just .207 for Philadelphia and after one more brief shot with the Cardinals, finished out his playing career in the minors.
|NYY (2 yrs)||116||421||367||51||86||9||2||17||59||2||51||68||.234||.329||.409||.738|
|STL (1 yr)||2||2||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|PHA (1 yr)||69||214||184||17||38||8||5||0||14||0||27||54||.207||.311||.304||.616|