October 2013

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.

October 22 – Happy Birthday Myles Thomas

thomasThe article appeared in the New York Times on December 17, 1925. It started out like this; “Good news for Yankee fans. Miller Huggins announced yesterday the purchase of one the best minor league pitchers in the country, a young man named Myles Thomas…” The article went on to say that the purchase had forced Jake Ruppert, the Yankee owner then, to “remove several layers from his bankroll to get this lad” because there were several big league teams interested in the right-hander from College Station, Pennsylvania. The reason for all the attention on Myles Thomas was the 28-8 record he had put together during the 1925 season, while pitching for the double A International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs.

Ironically, Huggins had been given a chance to sign this same guy in 1921, when he was fresh out of Pennsylvania State Teachers College. The Yankee skipper passed on that first opportunity and Thomas had then spent the next six seasons pitching in the minors. So he was already 28 years-old when he made his big-league debut with the 1926 Yankees, but he couldn’t have picked a better time to come to the Bronx. During his three full seasons on the team, the Yankees won three straight AL Pennants and both the 1927 and ’28 World Series.

Thomas’s best season in pinstripes was his second, when he went 7-4 for the Murderers’ Row team that went 110-44 and swept the Pirates in the ’27 World Series. But Huggins gradually lost faith in him as time went on. The pitcher’s starts and appearances out of the bullpen decreased in each of his successive seasons with New York until he was finally put on waivers and sold to the Senators in late June of 1929.

He pitched a couple of seasons in Washington before going back to the minors, where after hanging up his glove, he eventually became a coach with the Toledo Mud Hens. I can picture Thomas, perhaps wearing one of the World Series rings he won with the Yankees, out in the Mud Hens bullpen during a game, surrounded by a bunch of wide-eyed big-leaguer wannabe’s, regaling them with his memories of pitching for one of the greatest teams in big league history. I wonder if he told those kids that Babe Ruth himself had given Thomas the nickname of “Duck Eye.” Of course, the Bambino gave just about every teammate he ever played with a nickname because he was too self-absorbed to bother remembering their real names. In fact, in 1928, after Thomas had been Ruth’s teammate for more than two years. Yankee second baseman Tony Lazzeri introduced him to Ruth in a Boston hotel lobby as “the new pitcher from Yale the Yanks had just signed.” Ruth stuck out his hand and said “Hi ya keed.”

Thomas shares his birthday with baseball’s best all-around second baseman and a player who has a decent chance of becoming the first Japanese-born member of the Hall-of-Fame.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1926 NYY 6 6 .500 4.23 33 13 7 3 0 0 140.1 140 79 66 6 65 38 1.461
1927 NYY 7 4 .636 4.87 21 9 8 1 0 0 88.2 111 58 48 4 43 25 1.737
1928 NYY 1 0 1.000 3.41 12 1 6 0 0 0 31.2 33 19 12 3 9 10 1.326
1929 NYY 0 2 .000 10.80 5 1 1 0 0 0 15.0 27 21 18 0 9 3 2.400
5 Yrs 23 22 .511 4.64 105 40 33 11 0 2 434.2 499 284 224 19 189 121 1.583
NYY (4 yrs) 14 12 .538 4.70 71 24 22 4 0 0 275.2 311 177 144 13 126 76 1.585
WSH (2 yrs) 9 10 .474 4.53 34 16 11 7 0 2 159.0 188 107 80 6 63 45 1.579
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/22/2013.

October 21 – Happy Birthday John Flaherty

Flash.FlahertyFlash turns 46 years old today. Before he joined the YES Network as an analyst for Yankee games and as a commentator on the Post Game shows, Flaherty was a big league catcher for fourteen seasons with five different teams. Born in the Big Apple, he ended that playing career in his hometown, with three seasons as Jorge Posada’s backup from 2003 until 2005. During lulls in the action, when he is in the booth for Yankee games, viewers often hear Michael Kay or Kenny Singleton tease Flaherty about the lucrative contract he signed with Tampa Bay, back in 1998. He pocketed about $12 million of Devil Ray money during his five season stay for catching about 90 games per year and averaging .252. He hit just .226 during his 134-game career in pinstripes but he’s doing a much better job for New York in his broadcasting role.

In 2011, Flaherty became an owner of a professional baseball team, when he founded the Rockland Boulders, a member of the unaffiliated Canadian-American League. The team is based in Rockland County, NY.

Like Flaherty, this Yankee was born in New York City and celebrates his birthday on this date. He did a bit better than John did while playing in New York and now has a plaque in Cooperstown. Also born on October 21st is this former Yankee pitcher who flirted with World Series history in 1947.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2003 NYY 40 116 105 16 28 8 0 4 14 0 4 19 .267 .297 .457 .754
2004 NYY 47 135 127 11 32 9 0 6 16 0 5 25 .252 .286 .465 .750
2005 NYY 47 138 127 10 21 5 0 2 11 0 6 26 .165 .206 .252 .458
14 Yrs 1047 3640 3372 319 849 176 3 80 395 10 175 514 .252 .290 .377 .667
TBD (5 yrs) 471 1802 1673 157 422 82 1 35 196 3 86 250 .252 .289 .365 .654
NYY (3 yrs) 134 389 359 37 81 22 0 12 41 0 15 70 .226 .261 .387 .648
DET (3 yrs) 193 594 546 59 130 35 1 15 67 1 27 83 .238 .277 .388 .665
BOS (2 yrs) 48 100 91 6 16 4 0 0 4 0 5 13 .176 .224 .220 .444
SDP (2 yrs) 201 755 703 60 200 33 1 18 87 6 42 98 .284 .324 .411 .736
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/21/2013.