November 2013

November 15 – Happy Birthday Joe Ostrowski

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.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1950 NYY 1 1 .500 5.15 21 4 9 1 0 3 43.2 50 26 25 11 15 15 1.489
1951 NYY 6 4 .600 3.49 34 3 18 2 0 5 95.1 103 44 37 4 18 30 1.269
1952 NYY 2 2 .500 5.63 20 1 8 0 0 2 40.0 56 31 25 5 14 17 1.750
5 Yrs 23 25 .479 4.54 150 37 60 12 0 15 455.2 559 271 230 44 98 131 1.442
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/15/2013.

November 14 – Happy Birthday Harry Howell

howellEvidently, “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.

Howell shares his birthday with this former Yankee outfielder and this one too.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1903 NYY 9 6 .600 3.53 25 15 10 13 0 0 155.2 140 79 61 4 44 62 1.182
13 Yrs 131 146 .473 2.74 340 282 53 244 20 6 2567.2 2435 1158 781 27 677 986 1.212
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/14/2013.

November 13 – Happy Birthday Mel Stottlemyre

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.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1964 NYY 9 3 .750 2.06 13 12 0 5 2 0 96.0 77 26 22 3 35 49 1.167
1965 NYY 20 9 .690 2.63 37 37 0 18 4 0 291.0 250 99 85 18 88 155 1.162
1966 NYY 12 20 .375 3.80 37 35 2 9 3 1 251.0 239 116 106 18 82 146 1.279
1967 NYY 15 15 .500 2.96 36 36 0 10 4 0 255.0 235 96 84 20 88 151 1.267
1968 NYY 21 12 .636 2.45 36 36 0 19 6 0 278.2 243 86 76 21 65 140 1.105
1969 NYY 20 14 .588 2.82 39 39 0 24 3 0 303.0 267 105 95 19 97 113 1.201
1970 NYY 15 13 .536 3.09 37 37 0 14 0 0 271.0 262 110 93 23 84 126 1.277
1971 NYY 16 12 .571 2.87 35 35 0 19 7 0 269.2 234 100 86 16 69 132 1.124
1972 NYY 14 18 .438 3.22 36 36 0 9 7 0 260.0 250 99 93 13 85 110 1.288
1973 NYY 16 16 .500 3.07 38 38 0 19 4 0 273.0 259 112 93 13 79 95 1.238
1974 NYY 6 7 .462 3.58 16 15 1 6 0 0 113.0 119 54 45 7 37 40 1.381
11 Yrs 164 139 .541 2.97 360 356 3 152 40 1 2661.1 2435 1003 878 171 809 1257 1.219
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/13/2013.

November 12 – Happy Birthday Don Johnson

don_johnsonToday’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.

Johnson shares his birthday with this long-ago Yankee ace and this former Yankee speedster.

Here are Johnson’s Yankee and career pitching statistics.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1947 NYY 4 3 .571 3.64 15 8 4 2 0 0 54.1 57 26 22 2 23 16 1.472
1950 NYY 1 0 1.000 10.00 8 0 4 0 0 0 18.0 35 21 20 2 12 9 2.611
7 Yrs 27 38 .415 4.78 198 70 62 17 5 12 631.0 712 371 335 55 285 262 1.580
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/12/2013.

November 11 – Happy Birthday Danny Rios

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.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1997 NYY 0 0 19.29 2 0 0 0 0 0 2.1 9 5 5 3 2 1 4.714
2 Yrs 0 1 .000 9.31 7 0 1 0 0 0 9.2 18 14 10 4 8 7 2.690
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/11/2013.