Only seven Major League Baseball players have been born in Italy and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is the only former Yankee on that list. Of course, Rinaldo “Rugger” Ardizoia did not get much of a chance to wear his pinstriped uniform. The right-handed pitcher’s entire Bronx Bomber and big league career consisted of just a single two-inning appearance against the Browns, on April 30, 1947.
The Yanks were getting pasted at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis that afternoon and were already behind 13-4, when Manager Bucky Harris inserted this native of Oleggio, Italy into the game to start the seventh inning. He surrendered four hits and two runs in his two innings of work. Though New York would rebound to win the 1947 AL Pennant and World Series, the team struggled early in the season and after going 2-4 on that late April road trip, Harris reacted by shaking up the Yankee batting order and releasing two pitchers, one of whom was Ardizoia.
He had originally been signed by New York in 1941 and after two seasons in their farm system, he did three years of military service during WWII. He kept pitching in the Pacific Coast League after being released, until1950. Born on November 20, 1919, he turns 94 today, making him the oldest living ex-Yankee.
Joe Glenn took the Yankees second string catcher’s job away from longtime Bill Dickey understudy, Arndt Jorgens in 1937, by being much more aggressive than his Norwegian-born predecessor both behind and at the plate. Though the Dickson City, PA native had little power, he was a tough bird who was known for not backing down from any pitcher or opposing base runner.
His Yankee career started with two brief call-ups from the minors in 1932 and 33. He was then called up to stay in 1935 and gave Manager Joe McCarthy three solid seasons as Dickey’s backup. He was also Lou Gehrig’s frequent roommate on Yankee road trips and he holds the unusual distinction of catching the last games pitched by both Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.
After their 1938 World Series victory, New York traded Glenn and outfielder Myril Hoag to the Browns for pitcher Oral Hildebrand and outfielder Buster Mills. Nicknamed Gabby, Glenn spent a year with the Browns and one final big league season with the Red Sox in 1940, before becoming a minor league manager in the Cubs organization.
He shares his birthday with this long-ago Yankee shortstop.
|NYY (6 yrs)||138||435||385||45||97||20||4||1||56||2||45||44||.252||.333||.332||.666|
|BOS (1 yr)||22||53||47||3||6||1||0||0||4||0||5||7||.128||.212||.149||.360|
|SLB (1 yr)||88||320||286||29||78||13||1||4||29||4||31||40||.273||.344||.367||.711|
Clay Bellinger was an all-around utility man for the Yankees from the time he was first called up to the Bronx in April of 1999 until he was released by New York right after the 2001 postseason. During those three years, he played every position on the field for manager Joe Torre, except catcher and pitcher, but he hit just .194 in the 311 at bats he got while doing so.
Born in Oneonta, NY on November 18, 1968, this six feet three inch right-handed hitter played his collegiate baseball for Rollins College in Winter Park, Fl. He was good enough to get selected in the second round of the 1989 MLB amateur draft by San Francisco. He spent the next decade playing his way upwards in the farm systems of three different big league organizations. He was a decent fielder at every position but third base and his career highlight play as a Yankee was appropriately one he made with his glove and not his bat.
Inserted as a late-inning defensive replacement for David Justice in Game 2 of the 2000 World Series, Bellinger leapt in front of Yankee Stadium’s left field wall to rob the Mets’ Todd Zeile of a go-ahead two-run home run in the ninth inning of a 6-5 Yankee victory. He then took his two Yankee World Series rings and signed with the Angels in 2002 but couldn’t stay on their big league roster. He later became a pitching teacher at a Queens, NY baseball school and coached his son Cody in the 2007 Little League World Series.
|NYY (3 yrs)||181||343||310||57||60||11||3||12||35||7||22||81||.194||.258||.365||.623|
|ANA (1 yr)||2||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.000||.000||.000||.000|
Originally the very first genuine “Amazin” Met, today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant almost single-handedly turned Shea Stadium’s tenants from a running joke into a bonafide professional baseball team. Then, beginning in 1975, Met President M. Donald Grant committed three of the dumbest mistakes in Major League front office history.
First he enraged Tom Seaver by penny pinching him during the Mets last pre-free-agent era negotiation with their Ace in 1975. Then when baseball’s age of free agency began the following year, Grant refused to go after any of the newly available superstars who could have rejuvenated a Mets’ roster that had grown very mediocre.
Grants final error, the biggest of them all, was trading Seaver to the Reds in the first half of the 1977 regular season for four pretty ordinary big league players. Seaver would go on to win 20 games that year and the NL Cy Young Award. He would continue to pitch for another decade and on August 4, 1985, while pitching for the White Sox against the Yankees on Phil Rizzuto Day at Yankee Stadium, Tom Terrific won his 300th big league game.
The Yankee crowd that day adored Seaver and Yankee boss George Steinbrenner noticed. He would spend the next year trying to put the future Hall of Famer in pinstripes but could never quite reach an agreement with Chicago. At first, the Boss refused to give up any of his young stud pitchers for the aging right-hander and then it was Chicago GM Ken Harrelson’s turn to balk when Steinbrenner offered him disgruntled Yankee DH Don Baylor for Seaver.
So Seaver went to the Red Sox instead and finished his playing career in Beantown with a 5-7 record during the 1986 season. Two years later, Steinbrenner finally brought the Fresno, California native to Yankee Stadium as Phil Rizzuto’s broadcasting partner. He and the former Yankee shortstop remained a pair for the next five seasons and Yankee fans who were around to witness how extremely well these two Big Apple baseball legends got along in the booth, loved them.
In 1990, just as Steinbrenner was about to begin serving his “Howie Spira induced” lifetime ban from the game, the Boss was considering removing Seaver from the booth and making him the Yankees’ GM. That never happened. Seaver now spends his days overseeing his California vineyards. He turns 69 years old today and shares a birthday with this former Yankee reliever and this long-ago Yankee skipper.
For those first initial glorious years of “Doc’s” career, he was the best pitcher in all of baseball. He won the Rookie of the Year award his first season with the Mets, the Cy Young Award his second, and a World Championship in his third. He won 24 games, led the National League in strikeouts and ERA, and threw eight shutouts when he was just 20 years of age. Unfortunately for Gooden and the Mets, he couldn’t handle his immense success. He gave it all up for cocaine.
George Steinbrenner made Doc a Yankee in 1996 and Gooden responded with 11 wins and that glorious no-hitter against Seattle. But the Gooden-pitched Yankee game I’ll remember most is the fourth game of the 1997 ALDS against Cleveland. Even though New York was leading that series two games to one at the time, the Indians had hit both a hurting David Cone and a healthy Andy Pettitte hard in earlier games. Doc was Torre’s surprise choice to start the next game at Jacobs Field. When he took the mound, it had been ten days since he last pitched and Gooden probably surmised that New York was not going to re-sign him for ’98. He had gone a lackluster 9-7 that regular season and Yankee fans like me would not have been surprised if the hard-hitting Indians got to him early. Instead, Gooden was masterful for about as long as he could be. The only blemish had been a David Justice home run and when Torre came to the mound to take him out of the game with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, the Yankees were leading 2-1.
Of course, New York went on to lose that game and that series but Doc had certainly impressed the heck out of me. He must have impressed the Indians quite a bit as well because less than two months later, Cleveland signed him to a two year deal for over $5.5 million. It seemed Gooden had conquered his demons at last, but of course we have found out since that he had not. What could have been.
Today is also my beautiful wife Rosemary’s birthday and my lovely sister-in-law Maria’s birthday too. Happy with love birthday ladies.
|NYM (11 yrs)||157||85||.649||3.10||305||303||1||67||23||1||2169.2||1898||823||747||123||651||1875||1.175|
|NYY (3 yrs)||24||14||.632||4.67||67||53||3||1||1||2||341.1||351||190||177||41||162||223||1.503|
|CLE (2 yrs)||11||10||.524||4.92||49||45||0||0||0||0||249.0||262||149||136||31||118||171||1.526|
|TBD (1 yr)||2||3||.400||6.63||8||8||0||0||0||0||36.2||47||32||27||14||20||23||1.827|
|HOU (1 yr)||0||0||9.00||1||1||0||0||0||0||4.0||6||4||4||1||3||1||2.250|
This lefthander, the only former or current Yankee who celebrates a birthday on November 15, was born in West Wyoming, PA in 1916. It took him a while to get to the big leagues. After graduating from college in 1938, Ostrowski was a high school teacher for three years and then signed a minor league contract with the Red Sox. After two seasons of minor league ball, he spent 1943, ’44 and ’45 in the US Army Air Force. In 1947 he was traded to the Browns’ organization and he made his big league debut with St. Louis as a 31-year-old rookie the following season. He evolved into an important part of the Browns’ bullpen during the next three years and then was traded to New York in the deal that ended the pinstripe career of Snuffy Stirnweiss.
Ostrowski pitched for the 1950, ’51 and ’52 Yankee World Championship teams, making his biggest contribution during the 1951 season, when he won six games and saved five more. He made his only World Series appearance that same season, finishing Game Three against the NY Giants by pitching two innings of shutout ball to preserve the Yankee victory.
Ostrowski wore glasses during his playing days which made him look very professorial while on the mound. Since he actually had taught high school before beginning his pro career, his teammates gave him the nickname “Professor.” After a poor year in 1952, the Yankees released the then 35-year-old southpaw after that season. He spent one more season pitching in the minors and then returned to the classroom and taught at the high school level for the next 25 years. He passed away in 2003.
Here’s my picks for the Yankee’s All-Time Pennsylvania-born lineup:
1b – Joe Collins
2b – Pat Kelley
3b – Joe Dugan
ss – John Knight
c – Butch Wynegar
of – Reggie Jackson
of – Ken Griffey Sr.
of – Dion James
dh – Jack Clark
sp – Mike Mussina
cl – Sparky Lyle
Here’s Joe Ostowski’s Yankee annual and career total regular season stats.
|NYY (3 yrs)||9||7||.563||4.37||75||8||35||3||0||10||179.0||209||101||87||20||47||62||1.430|
|SLB (3 yrs)||14||18||.438||4.65||75||29||25||9||0||5||276.2||350||170||143||24||51||69||1.449|
Evidently, “Handsome” Harry Howell could have taught A-Rod a thing or two about flirting with female fans in the stands at Yankee games. According to this excellent article written by Eric Sallee, it was this Jersey native’s roving eye that caused his divorce from the first Mrs. Howell.
After three seasons of playing in the National League, Howell migrated to the newly formed American League as a member of manager John McGraw’s 1901 Baltimore Oriole starting rotation which was also the first starting rotation in official Yankee franchise history. In that inaugural season, he and Joe McGinnity became the first Yankee pitchers to lose 20 games in a season. In 1902, the Baltimore team disintegrated after McGraw quit at midseason and with Howell going just 9-15, the team went on to finish the year with a 50-88 record. That’s when League founder and president, Ban Johnson exerted his near-dictatorial control and relocated the team to New York City.
It proved to be a fortunate move for Howell because when he got to New York he became teammates with Jack Chesbro. The former Pirate ace had one of the game’s most effective spitballs and he was more than happy to show Howell how to throw one of his own. Handsome Harry proved to be a quick study. He spent most of the ’03 season experimenting with the spitter, while still relying more heavily on his fastball and curve. He went 9-6 during the Yankees’ first season in the Big Apple and on April 23rd of that year, he became the first pitcher in New York Yankee history (excluding the franchise’s two years in Baltimore) to win a game, when he beat the Senators 7-2.
The following spring, Yankee skipper Clark Griffith traded Howell to the St. Louis Browns for pitcher Jack Powell. It was in St. Louis that Howell perfected the pitch taught to him by Chesbro. During the next six seasons, he threw one of the nastiest, most-loaded-up spitters in the game with great results. His ERA during his Browns’ career, which consisted of almost 1,600 innings pitched was a pretty incredible 2.06.
|SLB (7 yrs)||78||91||.462||2.06||201||173||23||150||16||5||1580.2||1325||549||362||8||390||712||1.085|
|NYY (3 yrs)||32||42||.432||3.77||88||72||16||64||2||0||649.1||716||403||272||14||171||188||1.366|
|BRO (2 yrs)||8||5||.615||3.93||23||12||11||9||2||0||128.1||146||80||56||4||47||28||1.504|
|BLN (1 yr)||13||8||.619||3.91||28||25||3||21||0||1||209.1||248||126||91||1||69||58||1.514|
Just as he was during his tenure as the team’s pitching coach, Mel Stottlemyre was under- appreciated as a Yankee starting pitcher. He did the bulk of his hurling during one of the bleakest ten-year periods in Pinstripe history. Yet he finished his career with a 2.97 ERA, 40 shutouts and averaged 16 victories per season.
Born in Hazelton, MO in 1941, Stottlemyre became one of my favorite players when the Yankees brought him up from the minors at the 1964 mid season and he won nine of twelve decisions to help the team come from behind and win the pennant. He then pitched two great games against the Cardinals in that season’s Fall Classic. I still remember watching the final game of that Series when Yankee Manager,Yogi Berra gave the 22-year-old right-hander the starting assignment a third time on just two-days rest because Whitey Ford couldn’t lift his left arm. Mel gave up three runs in the fourth inning on a walk and a bunch of singles. Berra’s decision to replace Stottlemyre with Al Downing an inning later immediately backfired when Downing gave up a lead-off home run to Lou Brock and a couple of more hits and the Cardinals scored three more runs. That negated the impact of Mickey Mantle’s three-run blast the following inning. The Yankees and Stottlemyre lost the game, Berra lost his job and my favorite team didn’t get back to a World Series for the next 11 years.
My anti-Yankee friends like to point out that Stottlemyre did almost all of his pitching before the American League implemented the designated hitter rule in 1973. This, they contend, explains why his ERA and shutout numbers are much more impressive than today’s starting pitchers. Not so fast. Stottlemyre’s record during the 1973 season, his only full year pitching to a DH, shows 16 victories, 4 shutouts, and an ERA of 3.07 for a Yankee team that had the third worst rated offense in the league that season.
In fact, if it were not for a rotator cuff injury that ended his career at the age of 32, in 1974, I believe Stottlemyre would have remained an effective sinker-balling starter for the great Yankee teams of the mid-seventies. In the process, he might have won a World Series, close to fifty more career victories and had his uniform number retired.
Besides pitching, the other thing Mel did very well was help others become better pitchers. Both his sons ended up pitching in the big leagues and Mel was the pitching coach for both the 1986 World Champion Mets and the four Joe Torre-led World Champion Yankee teams.
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant did not accomplish much as a Yankee. After getting signed by New York as a 16-year-old pitching phee-nom out of Portland Oregon in 1944, this six foot three inch right-hander’s minor league career was interrupted by two years of military service just as WWII ended. When he returned from service he was still just 20 years-old and he was able to pitch his way onto New York’s 1947 Opening Day roster with a strong spring training performance.
Bucky Harris, the Yankee skipper back then, used Johnson in fifteen games that year including 8 starts. He finished his debut season with a 4-3 record and a 3.64 ERA. He also won a World Series ring that year though he did not appear in the Yankees seven-game victory over the Dodgers. After he got off to a slow start the next year, Johnson was included in a seven-player deal New York GM George Weiss made with the St. Louis Browns. Over the next eight seasons, Johnson became a journeyman, pitching for five different big league teams as well as spending quite a bit of time with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League. He hung up his glove for good in 1960 and returned to his hometown, where among other things, he drove a Taxi for 25 years.
While researching Brown’s background for this post, I came across a one-hour video below, which shows an 86-year-old Johnson being interviewed in June of 2013, at his old grade school in Portland. It runs for about an hour and in it, Johnson either mis-remembers or exaggerates some of his accomplishments on the ball field. For example,he claims he once faced Bob Feller when he was on a 4-game winning streak and lost a 1-0 complete-game decision, but a review of his career performances turned up no such streak or decision. He also claimed he won 27 games for Toronto during the 1957 season but Baseball-Reference.com has him winning just 17 games that year. Despite these apparent exaggerations, I found the interview delightful to listen to and hopefully you will as well.
Here are Johnson’s Yankee and career pitching statistics.
|BAL (3 yrs)||7||11||.389||6.54||62||20||19||4||1||2||179.0||242||144||130||22||108||66||1.955|
|WSH (2 yrs)||7||16||.304||4.11||50||26||12||8||1||2||212.2||218||108||97||13||91||89||1.453|
|NYY (2 yrs)||5||3||.625||5.23||23||8||8||2||0||0||72.1||92||47||42||4||35||25||1.756|
|SFG (1 yr)||0||1||.000||6.26||17||0||6||0||0||1||23.0||31||19||16||2||8||14||1.696|
|CHW (1 yr)||8||7||.533||3.13||46||16||17||3||3||7||144.0||129||53||50||14||43||68||1.194|
There have only been four players in the history of Major League Baseball to have been born in Spain. One of them is today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant. Rios came into this world in Madrid on this date in 1972. He and his parents moved to the US two years later. He played baseball for the University of Miami and was signed by the Yankees in 1993. He was groomed from the beginning as a closer by the Yankee organization and had some really strong seasons in that role for New York’s Greensboro, Tampa and Norwich farm teams. By 1997 he was pitching in Columbus and got his call up to the parent club in May of that season.
Unfortunately for Rios, he got shelled by the Red Sox in his first Major League appearance, giving up three home runs and five earned runs during his one and two-thirds inning pitched. That debut performance got him sent back to Columbus and he didn’t throw another pitch in a big league game until September of that season. This time, in his first and only game in the original Yankee Stadium, Rios got shelled again, giving up five hits in two-thirds of an inning against the Orioles. Having seen enough, the Yankees released him after the 1997 season. He signed with the Royals the following year, appeared in five games for Kansas City in 1998 and then left the big leagues for good.
He landed on his feet in the Korean Baseball Organization, becoming the first non-Korean ever to win 20 games in that league in 2007. That performance earned him a huge contract to pitch in Japan the following year. According to his “Bullpen” profile section at Baseball-Reference.com, Rios tested positive for steroids while pitching in Japan and was suspended.
Another nondescript Yankee pitcher named Ownie Carroll was also born on this date.
|KCR (1 yr)||0||1||.000||6.14||5||0||1||0||0||0||7.1||9||9||5||1||6||6||2.045|
|NYY (1 yr)||0||0||19.29||2||0||0||0||0||0||2.1||9||5||5||3||2||1||4.714|