October 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.

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: