Marcus 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.
|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|
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.
His 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.
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.
|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|
Born in Kingston, NY and raised in nearby Newburgh, Bill Short was a five foot nine inch southpaw signed by the Yankees right out of high school in 1955. He spent the next five years climbing up the alphabetized ladder of New York’s farm system. At triple A Richmond in 1959, he became a genuine top prospect when he put together a 17-6 record, a 2.48 ERA and captured the league’s pitcher of the year honors.
By the time the Yankees 1960 spring training camp opened, Casey Stengel was ready for Short to prove he had good enough stuff to crack the parent club’s starting rotation. Short pitched well enough to make the team and after his first four regular season starts, he had a 2-1 record and despite an alarming number of bases on balls, a sparkling ERA of just 2.25. But he couldn’t keep it up.
Ironically as his walks went down his ERA went up and he lost his next three starts. He also lost his spot in both the rotation and on the Yankee roster, getting sent back down to the minors to try and get it back together. He spent the rest of his only Yankee season bouncing back and forth between Richmond and the Bronx and he was left off New York’s 1960 World Series roster.
Short then spent the entire 1961 season in Richmond and when the Yankees did not protect him, Baltimore claimed him in the Rule 5 Draft. He did get back to the big leagues, first with the Orioles and later with the Red Sox, Pirates, Mets and Reds, making his final big league appearance in 1969. Never a star at the top-level, Short won 120 games in the minors and is a member of the International League Hall of Fame.
|BAL (2 yrs)||2||3||.400||4.10||11||6||1||1||1||0||41.2||42||22||19||2||16||30||1.392|
|NYM (1 yr)||0||3||.000||4.85||34||0||13||0||0||1||29.2||24||17||16||0||14||24||1.281|
|PIT (1 yr)||0||0||3.86||6||0||1||0||0||1||2.1||1||1||1||0||1||1||0.857|
|BOS (1 yr)||0||0||4.32||8||0||0||0||0||0||8.1||10||6||4||1||2||2||1.440|
|CIN (1 yr)||0||0||15.43||4||0||1||0||0||0||2.1||4||4||4||0||1||0||2.143|
|NYY (1 yr)||3||5||.375||4.79||10||10||0||2||0||0||47.0||49||25||25||5||30||14||1.681|
By 1992, even the most loyal and optimistic Yankee fans were wondering if our favorite baseball team would ever be winners again. George Steinbrenner had gotten himself suspended for life but not before he presided over the disembowelment of his ball club. The Stump Merrill era had just ended and somebody named Buck Showalter was now skippering the club.
Melido Perez was the ace of Buck’s pitching staff that year,which should tell you just how bad that staff was. It was clear to me that if the Yankees were ever going to be contenders again, the team had to find some special arms.
That’s why we all got pretty excited when today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant showed up in the Bronx during the dog days of August that year. A native of Tampa, Sam Militello was a tall fireballing right-hander who had just won two consecutive pitcher of the year awards in the Yankee farm system. When he won his first three big league decisions the immediate reaction of Yankee Universe was not just joy but also “where the hell have they been hiding this kid and why?”
Unfortunately, Militello’s brilliance did not last. He lost his next three decisions and was then shelved for the remainder of the ’92 season with a tired arm. He bounced back with a strong spring training performance and the Yanks brought him north to start the ’93 season. After his first three regular season appearances however, his ERA was near seven and he couldn’t get the ball over the plate. The Yanks sent him down at the end of April. It was his inability to throw strikes and a series of arm injuries that prevented Militello from ever again throwing a pitch in the big leagues.
“Hard Hittin” Mark Whiten had his career year in 1993. On the final day of spring training that season, this then, 25-year-old, switch-hitting native of Pensacola, FL was traded by the Cleveland Indians to the Cardinals. He joined a starting outfield in St.Louis that included Bernard Gilkey and Ray Lankford and he led that team with 25 home runs and 99 RBIs. On September 7, 1993 he made baseball history by smashing 4 home runs and driving in 12 runs in a single game.
The Players Strike disrupted Whiten’s second season with the Cards and there would be no third. He was traded to Boston at the start of the ’95 season, which began an odyssey that would put the outfielder in six different big league uniforms over the next four years. The fifth of those uniforms was pinstriped. The Yankees signed Whiten as a free agent in January of 1997. In New York, he was reunited with Joe Torre, the same guy who managed him during his career year with the Cardinals.
Torre began the season by platooning Whiten and Darryl Strawberry in left field. Big Mark got off to a great start at the plate and was still hitting over .300 the first week of June. But when Strawberry went down with a bad knee, it would be Tim Raines who took over as the team’s starter in left. Whiten was left to battle Chad Curtis for the fourth outfielder’s slot and when Curtis won that battle, the Yanks released Whiten that August. He then signed on with Cleveland and appeared in his last big league game as an Indian in 2000.
|CLE (5 yrs)||320||1167||1024||142||265||49||8||23||103||22||126||218||.259||.343||.390||.732|
|PHI (2 yrs)||120||461||394||71||100||18||1||18||58||20||64||125||.254||.361||.442||.802|
|STL (2 yrs)||244||1000||896||138||240||31||6||39||152||25||95||185||.268||.338||.446||.784|
|TOR (2 yrs)||79||260||237||24||57||5||4||4||26||2||18||49||.241||.292||.346||.638|
|ATL (1 yr)||36||107||90||12||23||5||1||3||17||2||16||25||.256||.364||.433||.798|
|BOS (1 yr)||32||117||108||13||20||3||0||1||10||1||8||23||.185||.239||.241||.480|
|NYY (1 yr)||69||248||215||34||57||11||0||5||24||4||30||47||.265||.360||.386||.746|
|SEA (1 yr)||40||163||140||31||42||7||0||12||33||2||21||40||.300||.399||.607||1.006|
Yankee teams don’t win World Championships without good solid starting catchers. I’ve been a Bronx Bomber fan for over 50 years and during that time its been names like Berra, Howard, Munson, Girardi and Posada, who have been behind the plate when my favorite team won a ring. Most of these guys could hit, most of them were strong defensively as well and each and everyone of them were tough, strong leaders who weren’t afraid to take control of their pitching staffs.
Russell Martin was that type of player for the Yankees. Certainly not a superstar but most definitely a leader behind the plate and a guy who craved at bats with the game on the line. He had no fear and the Yankees could have got to a World Series with him as their starting catcher, which is why it distressed me, when they let him walk away to Pittsburgh last offseason and decided they’d try instead to go cheap by staffing such a critical position with Cervelli, Stewart, and eventually Austin Romine. It was that single front office decision that convinced me that this current Yankee brain trust actually believed they could be clever money-ball practitioners when I knew they were not. More importantly, I knew that trying to win with less money took away the franchise’s biggest advantage over its competition, which is HAVING MORE MONEY to spend!
We all saw the results. The offensive performance of the Yankee catching staff was as bad as I knew it would be last season and the co-catcher model hurt the stability of the pitching staff. There were also more empty seats in Yankee Stadium and fewer viewers watching those commercials on the YES Network.
Brian McCann had to be signed by New York, this offseason. He’s exactly the kind of catcher the Yankees must have to get back to Fall Ball. He’s also the signal I needed to see that this Yankee brain trust fully realizes the error of their penny-pinching ways last winter. I’m now officially excited about Opening Day!
Strangely, Bob Friend almost helped the Yankees win the 1960 World Series. I use the word strangely because Friend did not become a Yankee until 1965. At the time of the ’60 Fall Classic he was still the ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ staff, who had won 18 games during that regular season and would end up winning 192 decisions before being traded by the Bucs to New York for reliever Pete Mikkelsen. The veteran right-hander, who was nicknamed “The Warrior,” started the second and sixth games of the Series and was plastered by the very talented Yankee lineup. Friend pitched a total of just six innings in those two appearances, surrendering thirteen hits and nine earned runs in the process. He would never again pitch in the postseason. When he started his one and only season in pinstripes losing four of his first five decisions, the Yankees sold him to the Mets. The Lafayette, IN native finished that season with a 5-8 record for the Amazin’s and then retired.
|PIT (15 yrs)||191||218||.467||3.55||568||477||46||161||35||10||3480.1||3610||1575||1372||273||869||1682||1.287|
|NYM (1 yr)||5||8||.385||4.40||22||12||8||2||1||1||86.0||101||52||42||11||16||30||1.360|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||4||.200||4.84||12||8||2||0||0||0||44.2||61||25||24||2||9||22||1.567|
Born in Richmond, CA, Dale Sveum was the Milwaukee Brewers’ first round draft choice in 1982 and considered to be the heir apparent to the great Robin Yount. By 1987, in just his second year in the big leagues, the 23-year-old switch hitter blasted 25 home runs and drove in 95 as Milwaukee’s starting shortstop. He would continue playing through 1999 and never again come close to matching either of those numbers.
The Brewers gave up on him after the 1991 season and traded him to the Phillies. During the next five years he played for five different teams. The Yankees signed him as a free agent in November of 1997 and the following April, he was on the Opening Day roster of a Yankee team that was about to win more regular season games than any team in franchise history. Sveum spelled Tino Martinez at first base plus saw some occasional time at the hot corner. What he didn’t do was hit. At the All Star break his average was just .155 and the Yanks gave him his walking papers.
After an unsuccessful comeback try with the Pirates the following year, his big league career was over. He got into coaching and in 2008, he became the interim manager of the Brewers for the last 12 games of the season. In 2012, Theo Epstein hired Sveum to manage the Chicago Cubs. Epstein himself had just been hired as the team’s president and given free reign to rebuild the organization from the bottom up. He had chosen Sveum as the new skipper because his plan was to bring Chicago’s best prospects up and play them. That required a manager who could communicate with and develop young talent and Epstein felt those were Sveum’s greatest strengths. Unfortunately, after two years of putting this plan in action, the performances of the Cub prospects had regressed. When Epstein fired Sveum the day after the 2013 regular season ended, he absolved his departing skipper for the failure of those prospects to develop, inferring that the organization may have simply overestimated their abilities.
|MIL (5 yrs)||511||1878||1702||210||413||80||10||46||236||9||137||426||.243||.299||.382||.681|
|PIT (3 yrs)||187||459||411||46||107||30||2||16||65||0||40||115||.260||.324||.460||.784|
|PHI (1 yr)||54||153||135||13||24||4||0||2||16||0||16||39||.178||.261||.252||.513|
|OAK (1 yr)||30||96||79||12||14||2||1||2||6||0||16||21||.177||.316||.304||.620|
|NYY (1 yr)||30||64||58||6||9||0||0||0||3||0||4||16||.155||.203||.155||.358|
|SEA (1 yr)||10||29||27||3||5||0||0||1||2||0||2||10||.185||.241||.296||.538|
|CHW (1 yr)||40||131||114||15||25||9||0||2||12||1||12||29||.219||.287||.351||.638|
Though the transaction took place over four decades ago, I know I screamed in anguish when I heard about the trade. Three weeks before Christmas in 1971, the Yankees sent their 1968 Rookie-of-the-Year-winning right-hander, Stan Bahnsen to the Chicago White Sox. They took a guy who had won the impressive total of 55 games for some mediocre New York teams during the previous four seasons and sent him to the Windy City in exchange for a 25-year-old utility infielder named Rich McKinney.
I knew what Yankee skipper Ralph Houk and the team’s GM, Lee MacPhail were thinking when they pulled the trigger on that one. New York desperately needed a good starting third baseman. They hadn’t had one since they traded Clete Boyer to the Braves in 1966.
McKinney, a native of Piqua, OH, had been in the big leagues for just two seasons and was coming off a decent year in which he had averaged .271 in 114 games as Chicago’s primary utility infielder. There was nothing in his resume that indicated he was going to be anything special, but after trying to win with guys like Charley Smith and Jerry Kenney at the hot corner, Houk and MacPhail figured this kid was worth a shot. But he wasn’t worth Stan Bahnsen!
The veteran right-hander took his “Bahnsen Burner” to Comiskey Park and won 21 games in 1972. Meanwhile, McKinney was a complete bust in the Bronx. He started out slow and never got better. By June he was playing down in Syracuse and the Yanks were using the infamous Celerino Sanchez as their starter at third. That November, McKinney’s Yankee career ended, when he was traded to Oakland in the deal that brought Matty Alou to New York.
|OAK (4 yrs)||147||306||277||22||53||10||0||7||30||0||24||49||.191||.252||.303||.556|
|CHW (2 yrs)||157||546||488||47||120||16||2||12||63||3||46||62||.246||.312||.361||.672|
|NYY (1 yr)||37||128||121||10||26||2||0||1||7||1||7||13||.215||.258||.256||.514|