December 2013

December 29 – Happy Birthday Bill Knickerbocker

knickerbockerThis L.A.-born shortstop was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1931 and two year’s later he was the Tribe’s starting shortstop. An adept contact hitter, Knickerbocker might have become one of Cleveland’s all-time great shortstops if he didn’t have to actually play the field. This guy made 125 errors at that position during his three-and-a-half seasons as an Indian. So even though his lifetime average was a lofty .293 at the time and he was only 24-years-old, when his error total reached 40 during the 1936 season, Knickerbocker was traded to the Browns in January of the following year.

After his only season in St. Louis, he was dealt to the Yankees. New York had just released veteran second baseman, Tony Lazzeri following the 1937 World Series. Joe McCarthy intended to replace him with rookie Joe Gordon, but he wanted a safety valve just in case the kid wasn’t ready for prime time.

Fortunately for today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Yankee shortstop Frank Crosetti suffered a leg injury during spring training and Knickerbocker got plenty of opportunities to show the Yankee skipper his lively bat more than made up for his less than average glove work.

Sure enough, Gordon got off to a horrible start at the plate in ’38 and by May 1st, he was back in the minors and Knickerbocker was starting at second for New York. The move to the new position actually improved his defense and he set a career high in fielding percentage during his first season in pinstripes.

In the mean time, Gordon got his stroke back down on the farm and when he returned to the parent club in June, his torrid bat helped propel New York to the team’s third straight World Championship. The only one who suffered from Gordon’s emergence as an all star was, of course Knickerbocker, who saw action in just seven games during the final three months of the ’38 season and completely sat out that year’s World Series sweep of the Cubs.

In 1939, Knickerbocker had pretty-much a no-show job as Gordon started all but three regular season games at second for New York and Crosetti missed just two starts at short. In 1940, Knickerbocker saw prolonged stretches of playing time at both short and third due to injuries to Crosetti and Red Rolfe. His defense was again better than average though his offense was disappearing, no doubt due to the lack of playing time.

That December, New York traded Knickerbocker to the White Sox for catcher Ken Silvestri. Following the 1942 regular season, Chicago put him on waivers and he spent the ’43 season playing in the Pacific Coast League. He then entered the US Army and served his Country during WWII for the next two years. Though the Yankees invited him to their 1946 spring training camp, he failed to make the team and never again played big league or minor league ball. Knickerbocker was struck down by a heart attack in 1961, passing away at the age of just fifty-one.

He shares his December 29th birthday with this one-time Yankee first baseman, this other former Yankee first baseman, this former Yankee pitcher, and this long-ago Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1938 NYY 46 143 128 15 32 8 3 1 21 0 11 10 .250 .309 .383 .692
1939 NYY 6 13 13 2 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 .154 .154 .231 .385
1940 NYY 45 145 124 17 30 8 1 1 10 1 14 8 .242 .333 .347 .680
10 Yrs 907 3755 3418 423 943 198 27 28 368 25 244 238 .276 .326 .374 .700
CLE (4 yrs) 513 2199 2030 260 594 117 16 14 227 14 119 131 .293 .333 .387 .719
NYY (3 yrs) 97 301 265 34 64 17 4 2 32 1 25 18 .242 .314 .358 .672
PHA (1 yr) 87 328 289 25 73 12 0 1 19 1 29 30 .253 .323 .304 .627
SLB (1 yr) 121 530 491 53 128 29 5 4 61 3 30 32 .261 .303 .365 .668
CHW (1 yr) 89 397 343 51 84 23 2 7 29 6 41 27 .245 .329 .385 .714
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/30/2013.

December 28 – Eight Yankees who left us in 2013

ObitYanks2012

December 28 – Happy Birthday Aurelio Rodriguez

The first A-Rod to play third base for the New York Yankees was born in Cananea, Mexico, in 1947. His 79 games in pinstripes during the 1980 and ’81 seasons, however, were just a blip in this defensive wizard’s seventeen-year big league career. Most of those years were spent playing the hot corner in the uniform of the Detroit Tigers. Lifetime, he was just a .236 hitter but he earned his paycheck with his remarkable glove and accurate arm. He won just one Gold Glove in 1976 but should have won a few more. Back then, American League managers and coaches were enamored with the much more celebrated Brooks Robinson at Gold Glove voting time. A-Rod hit .389 during the Yankee’s 1981 postseason run and was traded to the Blue Jays two months later.

He left the big leagues after the 1983 season and returned to play several more productive years in his native Mexico. He was treated as a National hero in his home country and after he was tragically struck and killed by an out-of-control driver while walking on a sidewalk during a visit to Detroit in September of 2000, thousands of Mexicans attended his funeral.

Rodriguez shares his birthday with this infielder, who signed a free agent contract with the Yankees but didn’t make their big league roster.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1980 NYY 52 182 164 14 36 6 1 3 14 0 7 35 .220 .251 .323 .575
1981 NYY 27 55 52 4 18 2 0 2 8 0 2 10 .346 .370 .500 .870
17 Yrs 2017 7085 6611 612 1570 287 46 124 648 35 324 943 .237 .275 .351 .626
DET (9 yrs) 1241 4649 4352 417 1040 193 31 85 423 13 207 589 .239 .274 .356 .631
CAL (4 yrs) 281 1051 977 81 232 32 6 9 80 6 54 151 .237 .278 .310 .588
NYY (2 yrs) 79 237 216 18 54 8 1 5 22 0 9 45 .250 .280 .366 .646
CHW (2 yrs) 140 298 277 25 66 16 1 4 32 0 11 38 .238 .270 .347 .616
WSA (1 yr) 142 596 547 64 135 31 5 19 76 15 37 81 .247 .300 .426 .726
SDP (1 yr) 89 183 175 7 35 7 2 2 13 1 6 26 .200 .227 .297 .524
BAL (1 yr) 45 71 67 0 8 0 0 0 2 0 0 13 .119 .130 .119 .250
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/30/2013.