November 2013

November 30 – Happy Birthday Matt Lawton

LawtonMarcus was the first of the two Lawton brothers to make it to the big leagues but it was younger brother Matt who became an All Star. Marcus Lawton made his ten-game Major League debut as a Yankee during the 1989 season and then never played another game in the big leagues. What he did too was spend lots of time with his younger sibling teaching him everything he knew about the game. The lessons paid off.

Matt Lawton enjoyed a solid twelve season career, with his best years coming  with the Twins and the Indians. He was an AL All Star with Minnesota in 2000 and again with Cleveland in 2004. The Yankees got him in a late August trade with the Cubs in 2005, just a few days after Hurricane Katrina demolished Lawton’s hometown of Gulfport,Mississippi and did severe damage to the outfielder’s home. He got off to a horribly slow start with New York but on September 21 of that season, he hit a huge 2-run home run that beat the Orioles and propelled the Yankees into first place.

During Lawton’s short time as a Yankee he tested positive for steroids and immediately admitted he took the drug and apologized. The Yanks released him in late October  He then signed with Seattle and after serving a ten-game suspension at the beginning of the 2006 season, he lasted just two months with  the Mariners, before hanging up his glove for good.

Lawton shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher and this former Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2005 NYY 21 57 48 6 6 0 0 2 4 1 7 8 .125 .263 .250 .513
12 Yrs 1334 5570 4763 756 1273 267 17 138 631 165 681 613 .267 .368 .417 .785
MIN (7 yrs) 771 3150 2672 423 739 163 13 72 384 96 408 335 .277 .379 .428 .808
CLE (3 yrs) 363 1593 1381 237 355 63 2 50 180 41 180 165 .257 .352 .414 .767
NYM (1 yr) 48 213 183 24 45 11 1 3 13 10 22 34 .246 .352 .366 .718
PIT (1 yr) 101 445 374 53 102 28 1 10 44 16 58 61 .273 .380 .433 .813
CHC (1 yr) 19 83 78 8 19 2 0 1 5 1 4 8 .244 .289 .308 .597
SEA (1 yr) 11 29 27 5 7 0 0 0 1 0 2 2 .259 .310 .259 .570
NYY (1 yr) 21 57 48 6 6 0 0 2 4 1 7 8 .125 .263 .250 .513
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/30/2013.

November 29 – Happy Birthday Mariano Rivera

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The best closer ever. Those really are the only four words you need to describe “Mo’s” career with the Yankees. In my fifty-plus years of being an avid Major League baseball fan, I’ve seen nobody end games as successfully as this guy did for the past nineteen seasons. And the amazing thing is that he did it with one pitch, a cut fastball. Yankee fans watched Rivera’s cutter break a remarkable number of big league bats over the years. The pitch had such late and significant movement that it was almost impossible for even the most skilled big league hitters to get the meaty part of their bat on the ball. I heard Jim Kaat try to explain it years ago during one Yankee broadcast by telling viewers that Mariano had very long fingers, which helped him get more spin on the cutter than most other pitchers who threw it. Add in his flawless mechanics which enabled him to precisely replicate his elegant delivery pitch after pitch and you have the formula for closing perfection that danced to the tune of “Enter Sandman.”

When I think of Mariano I will remember his postseason brilliance which included 42 saves, an 8-1 record  and an ERA of 0.70. I will remember him setting the MLB career saves record during the 2011 season. I will remember how he returned from an ACL tear at the age of 43 and went on to save 44 games during the final year of his Hall of Fame career. But most of all, I will remember how secure every Yankee lead seemed to be at the end of the eighth inning for almost two straight decades and how comforting it was as a Yankee fan to see that bullpen door swing open and see number 42 trot in to that elevated circular spot in the middle of the infield from where he performed his magic.

Thank you Mariano Rivera. Yankee fans will never ever forget just how magnificent you were.

This former Yankee outfielder, this former Yankee DH and this one-time Yankee phee-nom share Rivera’s November 29th birthday.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1995 NYY 5 3 .625 5.51 19 10 2 0 0 0 67.0 71 43 41 11 30 51 1.507
1996 NYY 8 3 .727 2.09 61 0 14 0 0 5 107.2 73 25 25 1 34 130 0.994
1997 NYY 6 4 .600 1.88 66 0 56 0 0 43 71.2 65 17 15 5 20 68 1.186
1998 NYY 3 0 1.000 1.91 54 0 49 0 0 36 61.1 48 13 13 3 17 36 1.060
1999 NYY 4 3 .571 1.83 66 0 63 0 0 45 69.0 43 15 14 2 18 52 0.884
2000 NYY 7 4 .636 2.85 66 0 61 0 0 36 75.2 58 26 24 4 25 58 1.097
2001 NYY 4 6 .400 2.34 71 0 66 0 0 50 80.2 61 24 21 5 12 83 0.905
2002 NYY 1 4 .200 2.74 45 0 37 0 0 28 46.0 35 16 14 3 11 41 1.000
2003 NYY 5 2 .714 1.66 64 0 57 0 0 40 70.2 61 15 13 3 10 63 1.005
2004 NYY 4 2 .667 1.94 74 0 69 0 0 53 78.2 65 17 17 3 20 66 1.081
2005 NYY 7 4 .636 1.38 71 0 67 0 0 43 78.1 50 18 12 2 18 80 0.868
2006 NYY 5 5 .500 1.80 63 0 59 0 0 34 75.0 61 16 15 3 11 55 0.960
2007 NYY 3 4 .429 3.15 67 0 59 0 0 30 71.1 68 25 25 4 12 74 1.121
2008 NYY 6 5 .545 1.40 64 0 60 0 0 39 70.2 41 11 11 4 6 77 0.665
2009 NYY 3 3 .500 1.76 66 0 55 0 0 44 66.1 48 14 13 7 12 72 0.905
2010 NYY 3 3 .500 1.80 61 0 55 0 0 33 60.0 39 14 12 2 11 45 0.833
2011 NYY 1 2 .333 1.91 64 0 54 0 0 44 61.1 47 13 13 3 8 60 0.897
2012 NYY 1 1 .500 2.16 9 0 9 0 0 5 8.1 6 2 2 0 2 8 0.960
2013 NYY 6 2 .750 2.11 64 0 60 0 0 44 64.0 58 16 15 6 9 54 1.047
19 Yrs 82 60 .577 2.21 1115 10 952 0 0 652 1283.2 998 340 315 71 286 1173 1.000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/28/2013.

November 28 – Happy Birthday Roxey Roach

Roach2His real name was Wilbur Roach, but he eventually became known better by the nickname “Roxey.” A native Pennsylvanian, Roach seems to have also been a pretty astute businessman and before Ted Williams came along, perhaps the the best fly-fishing ball player ever born.

He started playing minor league ball in 1906, when he was already 23-years-old. He made his big league debut with the 1910 New York Highlanders, a surprisingly good team that would finish 25 games over five hundred that season. That was only good enough for second place, far behind the powerful A’s of Connie Mack.

George Stallings was the skipper of that Highlander ball club and he might have thought Roach had a decent shot at unseating New York’s starting shortstop at the time, the light-hitting John Knight. Roxey appeared in 70 games that year but hit just .214. Mean whiile, Knight had an offensive epiphany, finishing the 1910 season with a .312 batting average, which was about 100 points higher than his lifetime average had been up to that point.

Getting outplayed by Knight was not the only disruption that occurred in Roach’s career that year. George Stallings had suspected that New York’s starting first baseman, Hal Chase was involved with professional gamblers and was throwing games. When he became convinced his suspicions were true, he went to both the League President and the Highlanders’ ownership and demanded Chase be banned. Instead, the team’s owners, who happened to be big gamblers themselves, not only sided with Chase, they fired Stallings and made the first baseman the team’s new manager.

After appearing in just 13 games for New York in 1911, Roach’s contract was sold to a minor league team. Since he owned both a pool hall and a bowling alley back home in Pennsylvania, Roach didn’t need his baseball salary to survive but he kept playing minor league ball and in 1915 signed a contract to play for the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs. At midseason, however, the Buffalo franchise of the upstart Federal League offered him $1,000 more than the Leafs were paying him and he jumped the team to take the raise.

Roxey's Gray Squirrel Tail

Roxey’s Gray Squirrel Tail

When the Federal League folded, Roach continued playing minor league ball, this time in Louisville. He also continued pursuing his favorite sports, which were fly fishing and hunting. Earlier in his career, he had purchased some land in Michigan to serve as his private fish and game preserve. He moved up there, opened a Ford dealership and pursued his passions. It seems that he was also one of the great fly tiers of all time. Known as “patterns” in the sport, Roxey’s Fox Squirrel Tail and Gray Squirrel Tail fly patterns have become famous worldwide among fly fisherman and are still replicated today.

Roxey was also proficient in another area as well. He fathered 14 children. He suffered a fatal heart attack the day after Christmas in 1947.

Roxey shares his birthday with this former Yankee closer and this one-time Yankee phee-nom.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1910 NYY 70 260 220 27 47 9 2 0 20 15 29 34 .214 .313 .273 .586
1911 NYY 13 48 40 4 10 2 1 0 2 0 6 5 .250 .348 .350 .698
4 Yrs 177 680 608 67 151 31 6 3 54 26 52 73 .248 .311 .334 .645
NYY (2 yrs) 83 308 260 31 57 11 3 0 22 15 35 39 .219 .319 .285 .603
WSH (1 yr) 2 2 2 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 .500 .500 2.000 2.500
BUF (1 yr) 92 370 346 35 93 20 3 2 31 11 17 34 .269 .303 .361 .664
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/28/2013.