December 2013

December 14 – Happy Birthday John Anderson

His nickname was Honest John and he was the first native Norwegian to play in the Major Leagues. He was also the first New York Yankee (Highlander) starting position player to bat from both sides of the plate. Anderson was already familiar with the Big Apple when the St Louis Browns traded the then 30-year-old to New York after the 1903 season because he had been a starting outfielder for Brooklyn for most of the previous decade. With New York, he joined Wee Willie Keeler and Patsy Dougherty to form a strong  Highlander outfield that helped lead that team to a 92-victory season, falling just one and a half games short (to Boston) of the franchise’s first AL pennant. Anderson hit .278 and led the team with 82 RBIs. When he had a slow start at the plate the following year, New York waived him and he was picked up by the Senators, with whom he rebounded nicely by hitting .290 the rest of that season. During his second season playing in our Nation’s Capitol, he led the AL with 39 stolen bases in 1906. Honest John retired after the 1908 season with 1,843 hits and a .290 lifetime batting average during his fourteen seasons of big league ball.

The only other Major League position player to have been born in Norway was also a Yankee, serving as Bill Dickey’s backup at catcher for most of the 1930’s. Do you know his name? I’ll give the answer in tomorrow’s post.

Today is also the birthday of this former Yankee relief pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1904 NYY 143 598 558 62 155 27 12 3 82 20 23 37 .278 .313 .385 .699
1905 NYY 32 108 99 12 23 3 1 0 14 9 8 8 .232 .296 .283 .579
14 Yrs 1636 6848 6345 871 1843 328 124 50 978 338 310 356 .290 .329 .405 .734
BRO (6 yrs) 487 2131 1937 331 576 86 57 20 350 124 83 100 .297 .333 .432 .764
WSH (3 yrs) 339 1406 1316 145 370 58 14 4 152 80 75 90 .281 .323 .356 .679
SLB (3 yrs) 402 1735 1650 215 495 109 21 14 262 66 68 69 .300 .330 .417 .747
NYY (2 yrs) 175 706 657 74 178 30 13 3 96 29 31 45 .271 .311 .370 .681
WHS (1 yr) 110 471 430 70 131 28 18 9 71 18 23 19 .305 .357 .516 .873
CHW (1 yr) 123 399 355 36 93 17 1 0 47 21 30 33 .262 .321 .315 .637
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/15/2013.

December 13 – Happy Birthday Hank Majeski

MajeskiLike hundreds of other young big league prospects from the same era, Staten Island native Hank Majeski’s baseball career was put on hold for military service during World War II. Nicknamed “Heeney,” he had started his baseball career as a second baseman, but when he made his big league debut with the Boston Bee’s in 1941, Boston manager Casey Stengel switched him to the hot corner. It was a wise move by the “Ol Perfessor” as Majeski evolved into one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball over the next decade. Before that happened, however, the Yankees acquired him from Boston and before he had a chance to play in the Bronx, he turned in his baseball uniform and put on the uniform of the US Coast Guard, which he wore for the next three years.

By the time he was discharged in 1946, he was already 29-years-old. Major League Baseball had expanded rosters to thirty slots at the end of the war to accommodate all of the ballplayers returning from military service. That made it easier for Majeski to make his first Yankee team that spring but also created a crowd of third baseman competing for playing time. With Snuffy Stirnweiss, Billy Johnson and Bobby Brown all on the same roster, its real easy to understand why Majeski only got into eight Yankee games during the first half of that 1946 season. It also explains why the Yankees sold him to the Philadelphia A’s that June.

Connie Mack immediately made his new acquisition the team’s starting third baseman and for the next five seasons, Majeski played brilliantly in the field, setting the MLB record for best fielding percentage by a third baseman (.989) in 1947. Though he hadn’t been known for his offensive skills, Majeski developed into an excellent hitter as well, averaging over 280 during his six years with Philly and surprising everyone in baseball in 1948 when he drove in 120 runs, set a career high in hits with 186 and batting average, with a .310 figure.

Heeney Majeski later got sold to Cleveland and ended his big league career with the Orioles in 1955 at the age of 38. After his playing days, he became a big league and college coach. He died of cancer in 1991 at the age of 74.

Majeski shares his birthday with this former Yankee closer, this former Yankee staring pitcher and this son of a former Yankee manager.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1946 NYY 8 12 12 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 3 .083 .083 .250 .333
13 Yrs 1069 3790 3421 404 956 181 27 57 501 10 299 260 .279 .342 .398 .740
PHA (6 yrs) 604 2474 2221 284 629 128 23 37 346 7 210 144 .283 .350 .412 .762
CLE (4 yrs) 179 305 273 26 74 9 0 7 44 0 25 32 .271 .338 .381 .719
BSN (3 yrs) 128 453 425 40 108 21 1 7 57 2 19 43 .254 .289 .358 .647
CHW (2 yrs) 134 503 449 51 137 22 2 6 52 1 43 34 .305 .370 .403 .773
NYY (1 yr) 8 12 12 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 3 .083 .083 .250 .333
BAL (1 yr) 16 43 41 2 7 1 0 0 2 0 2 4 .171 .209 .195 .404
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/13/2013.

December 12 – Happy Birthday Steve Farr

As bad as the Yankee offense was in the late 1980’s and early ’90s, their starting pitching was even less effective. Tim Leary, Andy Hawkins, Dave LaPoint, Chuck Cary and Mike Witt were the team’s top five starters during the 1990 season and the quintet had a cumulative record of 32-69 in their 133 combined starts. Lee Guetterman led the team in victories that season with 11, pitching out of the bullpen and reliable closer Dave Righetti, had 36 saves. In fact, I remember thinking that particular Yankee team would have been better off letting their relievers start games instead of finishing them. In addition to Righetti and Guetterman, New York had Greg Cadaret and Erik Plunk in the bullpen that season.

To make their horrible pitching situation even more complicated, following that season, New York let the 31-year-old Righetti become a free agent and sign with San Francisco for $10 million over four years. When they replaced Rags three weeks later by signing 34-year-old Steve Farr to a three-year $6.3 million deal, I was truly disappointed. I should not have been.

At the time, Farr was a seven-year veteran who had been an OK Royal closer in 1987 and ’88 before losing his job to Jeff Montgomery the following year. He was able to win thirteen games as a part-time starter and reliever for Kansas City in 1989 but if he lost his job to a guy named Montgomery, how could the Yankees expect him to replace one of the top closers in the game?

Letting Righetti go turned out to be as wise a move as making him the Yankee closer was in the first place. After an OK 24-save first season in San Francisco, the bottom fell out of his career as he accumulated just four saves during the final four seasons of big league pitching. Farr, on the other hand, performed admirably for New York, saving 78 games during his 3-year tenure in the Bronx including a 30-save, 1.56 ERA 1992 season. Steve was 36-years old at the end of his final contract year and when his ERA ballooned to 4.21 in 1993, New York decided not to re-sign the right-hander and handed the 1994 closer role to Steve Howe. You have to give that Yankee front-office credit for their closer decisions during the past quarter-century. Making Rag’s a reliever, replacing him with Farr after Righetti’s last great year, replacing Farr with Howe, signing John Wetteland and then replacing Wetteland with Rivera represents a pretty good track record.

Farr shares his December 12th birthday with this former Yankee shortstopthis former Yankee utility infielder and this one-time Yankee reliever.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1991 NYY 5 5 .500 2.19 60 0 48 0 0 23 70.0 57 19 17 4 20 60 1.100
1992 NYY 2 2 .500 1.56 50 0 42 0 0 30 52.0 34 10 9 2 19 37 1.019
1993 NYY 2 2 .500 4.21 49 0 37 0 0 25 47.0 44 22 22 8 28 39 1.532
11 Yrs 48 45 .516 3.25 509 28 313 1 1 132 824.1 751 326 298 70 334 668 1.316
KCR (6 yrs) 34 24 .586 3.05 289 12 166 1 1 49 511.0 469 193 173 37 203 429 1.315
NYY (3 yrs) 9 9 .500 2.56 159 0 127 0 0 78 169.0 135 51 48 14 67 136 1.195
CLE (2 yrs) 4 12 .250 4.66 50 16 16 0 0 5 131.1 123 73 68 17 61 95 1.401
BOS (1 yr) 1 0 1.000 6.23 11 0 4 0 0 0 13.0 24 9 9 2 3 8 2.077
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/12/2013.

December 11 – Happy Birthday Hal Brown

They called him”Hal” and “Skinny” but his real name was Hector. He was 6’2″ and weighed about 180 pounds. Just before he retired, the great Ted Williams told reporters that Brown had never thrown him a “fat pitch” and called Skinny a “great pitcher.” Who could be more qualified than the “Splendid Splinter” to make a judgment like that. Brown had a terrific slider and later in his career he learned how to throw a knuckleball. Those two pitches helped him stay in the big leagues for 14 seasons, coming up with the White Sox, in 1951. He was traded to the Red Sox in1953 and went 11-6 for Boston that year in his first shot as a regular starting pitcher. But it wasn’t until he was traded to Baltimore, two seasons later that Brown really hit his pitching stride. In eight years with the Birds, Hal started and relieved his way to a 62-48 record. The Yankees purchased Brown from Baltimore in the last month of the 1962 season and he got his first and only start in pinstripes against the Red Sox, two days later. Boston battered him pretty good and he left in the fifth inning, trailing 9-2. He got just one more relief appearance that season and then was sold to the Houston Colt 45s the following April. Brown is the only member of the Yankee all-time roster I could find who was born on December 11. The Greensboro, NC native was born on this date in 1924.

Just last week, the Yankees announced they had signed free agent Jacoby Ellsbury to a long-term deal. Ellsbury joins Hal Brown and a whole bunch of other former big leaguers who played for both the Yankees and Red Sox during their careers. Here’s my all-time lineup of Yankee/Red Sox:

1b: George Boomer Scott
2b: Mark Bellhorn
3b: Wade Boggs
ss: Everett Scott
c: Elston Howard
of: Babe Ruth
of: Johnny Damon
of: Jacoby Ellsbury
dh: Don Baylor
sp: Red Ruffing
cl: Sparky Lyle

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1962 NYY 0 1 .000 6.75 2 1 1 0 0 0 6.2 9 10 5 3 2 2 1.650
14 Yrs 85 92 .480 3.81 358 211 72 47 13 11 1680.0 1677 781 712 173 389 710 1.230
BAL (8 yrs) 62 48 .564 3.61 204 131 36 30 9 9 1030.2 975 442 413 105 228 422 1.167
BOS (3 yrs) 13 14 .481 4.40 72 30 21 7 1 0 288.1 305 159 141 22 100 130 1.405
HOU (2 yrs) 8 26 .235 3.62 53 41 5 9 3 1 273.1 291 122 110 32 34 121 1.189
CHW (2 yrs) 2 3 .400 4.78 27 8 9 1 0 1 81.0 97 48 43 11 25 35 1.506
NYY (1 yr) 0 1 .000 6.75 2 1 1 0 0 0 6.2 9 10 5 3 2 2 1.650
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/11/2013.

December 10 – Happy Birthday Luis Polonia

One of the smallest players in baseball during the time he played, this 5’8″ outfielder used one of the biggest gloves in baseball history. Polonia, a native of the Dominican Republic, had three tours of duty in pinstripes. In June of 1989 he was traded to New York by the A’s in the deal that sent Rickey Henderson back to Oakland. He hit .313 during the second half of that season but an alleged sexual escapade with a minor after a game in Milwaukee in August of that year, nearly destroyed his career. The Yankees sent him to the Angels the following April. He then had his best big league seasons with California, averaging over 50 stolen bases per season during the next three years. In 1994, he rejoined New York and batted .311 in 94 games of action as the Yankees’ starting left-fielder. Then in 2000, Louis played his final 37 big league games in a Yankee uniform. In all, Luis played 12 seasons in the Majors, batting .293 lifetime.

Polonia shares his December with this one-time Yankee back-up receiver and this former Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1989 NYY 66 248 227 39 71 11 2 2 29 9 16 29 .313 .359 .405 .764
1990 NYY 11 23 22 2 7 0 0 0 3 1 0 1 .318 .304 .318 .623
1994 NYY 95 394 350 62 109 21 6 1 36 20 37 36 .311 .383 .414 .797
1995 NYY 67 269 238 37 62 9 3 2 15 10 25 29 .261 .326 .349 .675
2000 NYY 37 85 77 11 22 4 0 1 5 4 7 7 .286 .341 .377 .718
12 Yrs 1379 5296 4840 728 1417 189 70 36 405 321 369 543 .293 .342 .383 .726
NYY (5 yrs) 276 1019 914 151 271 45 11 6 88 44 85 102 .296 .357 .389 .746
CAL (4 yrs) 560 2347 2138 300 628 69 27 5 149 174 170 233 .294 .345 .358 .704
OAK (3 yrs) 268 1000 929 160 268 33 18 7 93 66 62 119 .288 .332 .385 .717
ATL (2 yrs) 50 90 84 9 27 7 0 0 4 4 4 12 .321 .348 .405 .753
DET (2 yrs) 167 653 600 83 181 31 13 16 57 25 38 57 .302 .343 .477 .819
BAL (1 yr) 58 187 175 25 42 4 1 2 14 8 10 20 .240 .285 .309 .594
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/10/2013.

December 9 – Happy Birthday Joe DeMaestri

demaestriI really started collecting baseball cards in 1961. As a passionate six-year-old Yankee fan at the time, opening a nickel pack of Topps cards and discovering a Bronx Bomber inside felt like I had found a thousand dollar bill, well maybe not in all cases.

I can remember feeling no such thrill when I got the card pictured with today’s featured Pinstripe Birthday post. I’m sure Joe DeMaestri was a great guy and in his prime he was considered one of the upper tier shortstops in the American League. But he had spent those prime years of his career playing for the A’s in both Philadelphia and Kansas City.

Even though over a half century has passed since I purchased the pack from Puglisi’s Confectionary on Guy Park Avenue in my hometown of Amsterdam, NY, I still clearly remember this card. That’s because in addition to being perhaps the least recognized player on that 1961 Yankee team, DeMaestri wasn’t even wearing a Yankee hat when they took his picture for the card and I used to hate when that happened. Still, he was a Yankee and therefore it was a Yankee card so I figured it was a nickel well spent, just not one that returned that customary thrill worth a thousand bucks.

As it turned out, that 1961 season was this San Francisco native’s final year in the big leagues. The Yankees had acquired him in the historic seven player deal they made with Kansas City that also put Roger Maris in pinstripes. Nicknamed “Oats,” DeMaestri had been New York’s primary utility infielder for two seasons, appearing in just 79 total games during that span but getting the opportunity to play in his only World Series in 1960 and win his only ring in ’61. His most noteworthy moment in Yankee history took place in the eighth inning of the seventh game of that ’60 fall classic in Pittsburgh. It was DeMaestri who replaced Tony Kubek at short, after Bill Virdon’s certain double-play grounder hit a stone in the Forbes Field infield and struck Tony Kubek in the throat. In addition to almost killing the Yankee shortstop, the play started the rally that enabled Pittsburgh to erase a three run deficit and take a two-run lead. Ironically, all season long, New York manager Casey Stengel had been shifting Kubek from shortstop to replace Yogi Berra in left field in the eighth inning of games in which the Yankees had the lead. DeMaestri would then replace Kubek at short. For some reason, the “Ol Perfessor” didn’t make that move that afternoon in Forbes Field and you have to wonder how DeMaestri would have approached and been able to play that same ground ball.

In any event, my older brother Jerry and I were able to collect every card in that 1961 Topps series, but unlike all the rest of those we collected as kids, I don’t have this DeMaestri card anymore. Tragically, the younger brother of one of Jerry’s classmates was struck by a car and killed that year. I still remember walking up to his house a few days later with my brother and giving his grieving friend our entire collection of 1961 Topps baseball cards as our way of expressing sympathy for his loss.

He shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher and a Yankee franchise Hall-of-Famer nobody remembers.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1960 NYY 49 36 35 8 8 1 0 0 2 0 0 9 .229 .229 .257 .486
1961 NYY 30 41 41 1 6 0 0 0 2 0 0 13 .146 .146 .146 .293
11 Yrs 1121 3679 3441 322 813 114 23 49 281 15 168 511 .236 .274 .325 .599
KCA (7 yrs) 905 3325 3105 292 742 104 20 47 256 15 155 453 .239 .277 .331 .608
NYY (2 yrs) 79 77 76 9 14 1 0 0 4 0 0 22 .184 .184 .197 .382
SLB (1 yr) 81 198 186 13 42 9 1 1 18 0 8 25 .226 .258 .301 .559
CHW (1 yr) 56 79 74 8 15 0 2 1 3 0 5 11 .203 .253 .297 .550
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/8/2013.

December 8 – Happy Birthday Vernon Wells

vwellsI was one of those Yankee fans who was vociferously against the 2013 preseason deal that made Vernon Wells a Yankee. I understand how and why it happened. When both Granderson and Texeira went down with injuries this spring and it became apparent that Jeter was not ready to play, New York’s front office went into sort of a cheapskate panic mode. They needed to do something fast but they wanted it to also be easy and not too expensive. That explains the Vernon Wells deal in a nutshell. All one had to do to understand this was listen to the incessant bragging the team’s publicity department did about how the Angels had agreed to pick up most of the outfielder’s salary for the next two years.

Still, as a loyal, long-time Yankee fan, once the deal went down, I became a Vernon Wells fan and rooted for him like crazy. My sincere hope was that I would be proven completely wrong about his inability to help this Yankee team make the playoffs. And for about six weeks at the beginning of the season, it looked as if I might have been. Wells got out of the gate quickly and helped the Yankees do the same. By the end of April, he was hitting .300 and was on a pace to hit 30 home runs and drive in 90. Then two weeks later, Wells pretty much stopped hitting. He hit his 10th home run of the season on May 15. He then went three months before he hit another. By the end of June, his batting average had fallen to .223 and it was apparent to me that the move to obtain Wells would definitely not go down in franchise history as one of Brian Cashman’s better ones.

Now that the Yankees have signed Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, one has to wonder if Wells will even be on the Yankee roster when Opening Day 2014 rolls around. He can still play good outfield defense but with Gardner, Soriano and Suzuki all still in Pinstripes, the Yankees have a glut of extra outfielders.

Wells was born in Shreveport, Louisiana on December 8, 1978. As anyone who has ever been his teammate will tell you, this guy is a class act in the clubhouse and during his prime, was one of the top outfielders in the American League. Even though he did not perform well during the 2013 season, he hustled every second he was on the field and handled the critical New York media like the consummate professional he is. That’s why I for one will continue to root for Vernon Wells.

Wells shares his birthday with this former Yankee shortstop,  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
2013 NYY 130 458 424 45 99 16 0 11 50 7 30 73 .233 .282 .349 .631
15 Yrs 1731 7212 6642 930 1794 379 34 270 958 109 472 956 .270 .319 .459 .778
TOR (12 yrs) 1393 5963 5470 789 1529 339 30 223 813 90 406 762 .280 .329 .475 .804
LAA (2 yrs) 208 791 748 96 166 24 4 36 95 12 36 121 .222 .258 .409 .667
NYY (1 yr) 130 458 424 45 99 16 0 11 50 7 30 73 .233 .282 .349 .631
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/8/2013.

December 7 – Happy Birthday Tino Martinez

Tino Martinez was a great Yankee. During his seven seasons in New York, this Tampa native who was born in 1967, drove in 739 runs, hit 192 of his 339 career home runs and won four World Series rings. He also happened to be my wife’s all-time favorite baseball player. So instead of spending the rest of this post describing the biggest highlights of Tino’s career in pinstripes, I’m going to tell you a story about how my wife met Tino Martinez. It happened in my Oldsmobile Minivan outside of Yankee Stadium, about ten years ago and to those of you with your minds in the gutter, it was not “that” type of meeting.

My wife and I had taken our kids to a Yankee Game. As we were leaving the Stadium parking garage I was trying to maneuver the van into a certain exit line so I could take a simple right-hand turn and get onto the Major Deegan Expressway heading north toward home. I had driven to Yankee games at least forty times in my life and had parked in that same garage most of those times. From experience I knew if I used any other exit, barricades would block me from taking a right turn and force me to go left which meant I’d have to spend the next two hours riding through the unfamiliar streets of the South Bronx to get back on the Deegan going in the right direction.

That’s when my wife uttered her famous phrase. “Why are we waiting in this long line? There’s no cars over at that exit why don’t we just go out there?” My immediate reaction was to ignore the question and simply hope she wouldn’t ask it again. No such luck. I don’t remember if it was the third or fourth time she repeated her inquiry that I patiently tried to explain that the reason there were no cars at the other exit was because you couldn’t take a right-hand turn from that location. I tried to point out that every driver in the fifty or so cars in front of us and the one hundred or so vehicles behind us knew that if you took a left instead of a right from this side of the parking garage you would spend the next five hours driving underneath elevated subway platforms and past six thousand auto body shops with pit bulls chained to razor-wire-topped chain link fences, as you cruised aimlessly through South Bronx looking for the one and only sign in the entire borough that directs you to the Deegan North.Her response? “That’s stupid. I’m sure you can take a right from that exit too. Just go that way. We are going to be stuck in this line forever. I’d go that way if I were driving.”So what did I do? I gave up my place in line and drove to the other exit and sure enough as we drove through the gate the familiar wooden blue NYPD barricades blocked me from taking the right I needed to make and forced me left.

Why did I listen to my wife? Forgive my chauvinism but I know there are many married male readers out there who follow the same rule I do while driving in heavy traffic. If there’s a choice between doing something you know is stupid or not doing it and then getting in an argument with your wife over it, you just follow her stupid advice. Why? Because in the long run, spending two hours lost in the Bronx was better than spending the rest of the ride home and at least the next five days living with a woman who is mad at you for not taking her bad advice.

So I’m now outside the Stadium garage and I’m being forced to head either the wrong way on the Deegan or head back up River Avenue toward the same Stadium we were trying to leave. Usually there was a cop on duty at that corner forcing cars away from the Stadium but for some reason, that day there was just an empty police car sitting there. So I took the left and then I think another left and perhaps another, and before you know it, I had gotten my van onto Ruppert Place which runs right alongside the Stadium itself. In front of me was the same ramp to the Deegan I normally took when I made the correct right hand turn out of the garage. The only thing blocking my path was a huge bus, sitting right there in the middle of the intersection with its passenger door open. We were so close to the bus that we could actually see through the reflective glass of the closed passenger windows.I was about to ask the question, “Isn’t that Tino Martinez in that window?” when I heard my wife screaming at the top of her lungs, “Teeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeno Marteeeeeeeeeeeeeenez, over here, I love youuuuuu! Teeeeeeno! Teeeeno!”

She was actually standing on the front seat of our minivan and had somehow gotten the entire top three quarters of her body out of the passenger side window yelling as loudly as possible and waving her arms and hands frantically. I had never in my life seen a human being get so excited about seeing a baseball player and evidently, neither had Tino and the rest of the Yankees. My better half (or I should say three quarters of my better half) was making such a commotion that Constantino “Tino” Martinez actually opened his passenger window, laughing at my wife’s enthusiasm, and yelled hello and waved to her. As the bus began to move, me and the kids were able to successfully pull my wife’s contorted body out of the window and get her buckled back into her seat. As we made our way back up the New York State Thruway that evening and I listened to my wife and kids talk and laugh about our encounter with the Yankee player’s bus, I was glad I took that stupid left instead of waiting in line to make my usual right.

Today is also the birthday of this six-time Gold Glove winner and these two former Yankee outfielders who all played their best baseball before they put on the pinstripes.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1996 NYY 155 671 595 82 174 28 0 25 117 2 68 85 .292 .364 .466 .830
1997 NYY 158 685 594 96 176 31 2 44 141 3 75 75 .296 .371 .577 .948
1998 NYY 142 608 531 92 149 33 1 28 123 2 61 83 .281 .355 .505 .860
1999 NYY 159 665 589 95 155 27 2 28 105 3 69 86 .263 .341 .458 .800
2000 NYY 155 632 569 69 147 37 4 16 91 4 52 74 .258 .328 .422 .749
2001 NYY 154 635 589 89 165 24 2 34 113 1 42 89 .280 .329 .501 .830
16 Yrs 2023 8044 7111 1008 1925 365 21 339 1271 27 780 1069 .271 .344 .471 .815
NYY (7 yrs) 1054 4244 3770 566 1039 189 11 192 739 17 405 546 .276 .347 .484 .831
SEA (6 yrs) 543 2139 1896 250 502 106 6 88 312 3 198 309 .265 .334 .466 .801
STL (2 yrs) 288 1123 987 129 264 50 3 36 144 4 111 142 .267 .345 .434 .778
TBD (1 yr) 138 538 458 63 120 20 1 23 76 3 66 72 .262 .362 .461 .823
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/7/2013.

December 6 – Happy Birthday Gus Niarhos

niarhosWhen the Yankees signed catcher, Gus Niarhos to his first contract, Hall-of-Famer Bill Dickey was still starting behind the plate for the parent club. Nine years later, when the Yankees placed the first Greek-American ever to wear pinstripes and play in a World Series on waivers, Hall-of-Famer Yogi Berra was the team’s starting catcher. As Niarhos explained years later, when asked about his career as a Yankee, “That was a tough organization if you were a catcher.” It sure was.

Niarhos was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, where he was a three-sport star as a high school athlete. He was actually enrolled at Auburn University on a football scholarship when the Yanks signed him and sent him to their Akron farm club. When WWII broke out, Niarhos joined the Navy and served his country for the next four years.

He got his first chance to play in the Bronx in 1946, when he was called up in June of that year, after Bill Dickey replaced Joe McCarthy as Yankee skipper. Though Dickey continued to catch occasionally after becoming manager , it was Niarhos who served as Aaron Robinson’s primary back-up during the second half of that season.

Solid defensively, Niarhos was pretty much a singles-hitter with the stick and he never hit a home run during his days with New York. After spending the entire 1947 season back in the minors, he shared the Yankees’ starting catching responsibilities with Yogi Berra in ’48, averaging a decent .268 but producing just 19 RBI’s.

Berra became the Yankees’ full time receiver the following season with Niarhos backing him up and since Yogi could catch 140 games a year in his prime, New York suddenly found itself with a glut of backup catching talent and released Niarhos.

He landed on his feet with the Chicago White Sox, where he hit a career high .324 backing up Phil Masi during the ’50 season. He hit his first and only big league home run the following year against his former team, when he connected off of Yankee reliever Bob Kuzava. He later played for both the Red Sox and the Phillies. He finally hung up his catcher’s mitt for good after the ’57 season and became a minor league manager and coach in the A’s organization. He passed away in 2004 at the age of 84.

Niarhos shares his birthday with  this Hall-of-Fame Yankee second basemanthis former Yankee coach this Cuban defector and this former Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1946 NYY 37 51 40 11 9 1 1 0 2 1 11 2 .225 .392 .300 .692
1948 NYY 83 285 228 41 61 12 2 0 19 1 52 15 .268 .404 .338 .741
1949 NYY 32 57 43 7 12 2 1 0 6 0 13 8 .279 .456 .372 .828
1950 NYY 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
9 Yrs 315 858 691 114 174 26 5 1 59 6 153 56 .252 .390 .308 .699
NYY (4 yrs) 153 393 311 59 82 15 4 0 27 2 76 25 .264 .410 .338 .747
PHI (2 yrs) 10 14 14 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .143 .143 .143 .286
BOS (2 yrs) 45 113 93 10 13 1 1 0 6 0 16 13 .140 .279 .172 .451
CHW (2 yrs) 107 338 273 44 77 10 0 1 26 4 61 15 .282 .415 .330 .745
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/6/2013.

December 5 – Happy Birthday Joe Gedeon

gedeonToday’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was born in Sacramento, California on December 5, 1893 and became a star athlete at Sacramento High School. He was so good that Calvin Griffith, the legendary manager and future owner of the Washington Senators, brought Elmer “Joe” Gedeon to the big leagues when he was just 19 years-old. The problem was that back then, the big leagues played all of their games east of the Mississippi and most of them in cities that didn’t get warm until June. Gedeon hated cold weather and was far from disappointed when the Senators sent him back to the much more mild game-time temperatures of the Pacific Coast League for more experience after the 1914 season.

After he put together a great year as the starting second baseman for the Salt Lake City Bees, Griffith wanted him back in Washington. But the Newark franchise in the upstart Federal League lured him away with a very attractive two-year deal that then fell apart when that struggling enterprise went belly-up. That’s when the Yankees swooped in and signed Gedeon to play second base for their 1916 team.

By all accounts,Gedeon had a super spring training camp that year and beat out Luke Boone for the starting job. His hot hitting continued early in the season and his batting average was at .319 at the end of April. He couldn’t keep it up, however and ended his first year with New York hitting just .211. He then lost his job to Fritz Maisel during the 1917 season and was traded to the Browns in January of 1918.

Still just 23 years-old at the time of that deal, over the next three seasons Gedeon got better with both the bat and the glove and was soon being touted as one of the AL’s top second baseman. Then misfortune hit him like a ton of bricks.

When the 1919 regular season ended, instead of returning to California right away, Gedeon decided to take in that year’s World Series between the White Sox and Cincinnati. That of course was the Series during which the infamous “Black Sox” scandal took police. Gedeon had buddies on the Chicago team and he later testified to a Grand Jury that those buddies had told him that the games were going to be fixed. Gedeon placed bets totaling about $700 on the Reds. He won the bets but lost his MLB career.

Unbelievably, after volunteering to tell the whole truth to to the grand jury convened the following year to investigate the scandal, Gedeon received a lifetime ban from the game by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. More shockingly, many of the White Sox players who also knew the fix was on, received no punishment whatsoever.

A distraught Gedeon went back to California and evidently slowly drank himself to death. When he died in 1941 at the age of 47, he was suffering from severe cirrhosis of the liver.

Gedeon shares his birthday with this former Yankee reliever and this one-time Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1916 NYY 122 491 435 50 92 14 4 0 27 14 40 61 .211 .282 .262 .544
1917 NYY 33 131 117 15 28 7 0 0 8 4 7 13 .239 .288 .299 .587
7 Yrs 584 2446 2109 259 515 82 20 1 171 34 180 181 .244 .311 .303 .615
SLB (3 yrs) 396 1746 1484 191 382 60 13 1 129 13 132 100 .257 .326 .317 .643
WSH (2 yrs) 33 78 73 3 13 1 3 0 7 3 1 7 .178 .211 .274 .484
NYY (2 yrs) 155 622 552 65 120 21 4 0 35 18 47 74 .217 .284 .270 .554
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/5/2013.