On December 19th (the birthday of Rafael Soriano, Ian Kennedy, super-scout Paul Krichell and Walt “No-Neck” Williams,) my daughter Michela and her husband Aaron blessed my wife and I with our fifth grandchild, a beautiful baby girl they named Genevieve.
I do this with all my newborn grandchildren. You get the best results when they are still under a week old. You grab them while they are sleeping and using your best Sinatra imitation, you start singing “New York New York” until they wake up. As soon as their eyes begin to open you position their heads so that the first thing they see is a Yankee logo. If done right, you’re guaranteed to create another Yankee fan. It worked so well with my son Matt’s daughter Mianna, her first words were actually “Derek Jeter.”
Are you ready Genevieve? Its your turn now….”Start spreading the news…”
Back in 2005, starting pitchers were dropping like flies for manager Joe Torre’s Yankees. Carl Pavano, Jared Wright and Chien Ming Wang were already on the disabled list when in late July, the mercurial Kevin Brown joined them. The Yankee front office responded by going on a starter acquisition blitz. They went out and got Al Leiter, Hideki Nomo and Shawn Chacon.
Of the three, Yankee fans expected the least from Chacon. His big league career up until that point had been weird to say the least. During his first three seasons in the Majors he had been a starter for Colorado. After going 11-21 his first two years, he had 11 victories by the 2003 All Star break but then did not win another game that season. Then he became the Rockie closer, finishing 2004 with 35 saves but a horrible 1-7 won-lost record.
Chacon ended up being one of the best pitchers on the Yankee staff during the second half of 2005. He won seven of ten decisions with a sparkling 2.85 ERA. He and another journeyman starter, Aaron Small, actually saved that Yankee season, with both guys pitching better than the millionaire’s club of starters the Yankees started that year with.
He got off to a good start for New York in 2006 as well but he got hurt early in the season and then got traded to the Pirates. He ended up with the Astros, in 2008 where he made headlines and got suspended when he scuffled with Houston GM Ed Wade. The right-hander has not pitched a game in the big leagues since. Chacon was born on December 23, 1977 in Anchorage, Alaska and given up for adoption, four years later.
|COL (5 yrs)||24||45||.348||5.20||150||83||60||0||0||35||552.1||543||338||319||82||293||385||1.514|
|PIT (2 yrs)||7||7||.500||4.44||73||13||11||0||0||1||142.0||142||74||70||21||75||106||1.528|
|NYY (2 yrs)||12||6||.667||4.69||31||23||0||0||0||0||142.0||143||80||74||18||66||75||1.472|
|HOU (1 yr)||2||3||.400||5.04||15||15||0||0||0||0||85.2||88||52||48||16||41||53||1.506|
If you’re a long time Yankee fan, it was one of those multi-player trades you just don’t forget, the likes of which will probably never be seen again. Back in the 1950s, trades involving two big league teams and six to ten players were not unusual but they normally took place between a team in a pennant race and a team outside of one. In June of the 1976 season, the Yankees were battling Baltimore for supremacy in the AL East, when the two clubs announced a pretty stunning deal.
New York sent their backup catcher, Rick Dempsey, veteran starter, Rudy May, a young left-handed reliever named Tippy Martinez, pitching prospect Scott McGregor and starter/reliever Dave Pagan all to the Birds. In exchange, the Yankees received starting pitchers Ken Holtzman and Doyle Alexander, reliever Grant Jackson and today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant, Elrod Hendricks. Baltimore definitely got the best of this deal long term, as Dempsey became their starting catcher for the next decade, McGregor turned into one of the league’s premier starters and Martinez evolved into one of the best relievers in all of baseball. Even Rudy May paid dividends, going 29-21 during his two seasons with the Orioles. But the most immediate benefit went to the Yankees. During the second half of that season, Holtzman, Alexander and Jackson won an incredible 25 decisions between them, helping New York beat out the Birds for the AL East and capture the team’s first AL Pennant in over a decade.
Elrod Hendricks became the forgotten man in that transaction. He only got into 18-regular season games as a backup to the very durable Thurman Munson during his first half season in the Bronx. In 1977, the ten year big league veteran actually agreed to go down to the Yankee’s triple A team in Syracuse for most of the season, ceding his backup receiving role with the parent club to Fran Healy. But baby boomer aged fans like me remember when Hendricks caught those great Baltimore pitching staffs of the late sixties and early seventies. He was a solid receiver with a great arm. Hendricks is a native of the Virgin Islands who was born on this date in 1940. He passed away on the day before his 65th birthday in 2005.
|BAL (11 yrs)||658||2031||1781||191||395||63||7||56||214||1||213||299||.222||.306||.359||.666|
|NYY (2 yrs)||36||68||64||7||15||2||0||4||10||0||3||12||.234||.265||.453||.718|
|CHC (1 yr)||17||56||43||7||5||1||0||2||6||0||13||8||.116||.321||.279||.600|
First impressions mean a lot in any field of work and probably even more so for baseball players. LaTroy Hawkins’ brief Yankee career got off to a bad start, even before he threw his first regular season pitch in pinstripes. It was the third game of the season and New York was trailing the Blue Jays, 3-0 when Joe Girardi waved in Hawkins to replace Mike Mussina with two outs and runners on first and second in the top of the sixth inning. As Hawkins emerged from the Yankee bullpen the boos began in the Stadium’s bleacher section. It wasn’t anything the huge right-hander had done that was causing the catcalls. It was what he was wearing.
Hawkins had worn uniform number 32 since he had made his big league debut as a 22-year-old starting pitcher with the Minnesota Twins, way back in 1993. That number wasn’t available when he came to the Yankees because it had been retired in honor of Elston Howard. Pirate Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente had always been the Hawkins’ baseball hero so the Gary,Indiana native chose uniform number 21 instead. The problem with that choice was that it had been the uniform number of Yankee fan favorite Paul O’Neill and even though the team had not retired it, Yankee fans, led by the highly emotional bleacher bums, let Hawkins know they didn’t appreciate any one else wearing 21. He then switched jerseys, to number 22.
The truth is, however,that Hawkins could have been wearing number 80 on his back and he still would have been hearing boos in Yankee Stadium. That’s because after his first ten appearances that year, his ERA was over ten, as the Yanks struggled to play .500 baseball during the first month of Girardi’s first season at the helm.
The shaky start resulted in Girardi losing some trust in Hawkins and calling on him less.The lighter workload seemed to help him pitch more effectively.For the next three months, with the exception of a couple of bad appearances, he gave the Yanks some solid innings and lowered his ERA by five runs in the process. But that didn’t prevent him getting traded to the Astros before the ’08 trading deadline.
He then had perhaps the best half season of his career with the Astros. In 24 appearances with Houston that year, he gave up just one earned run resulting in a microscopic ERA of just 0.42. And this guy is still pitching! In 2013, at the age of 40, he was one of the Mets’ best relief pitchers, appearing in 72 games and posting an ERA of 2.93. That effort got him a one-year $2.25 million deal to pitch for the Rockies in 2014. It will be Hawkins’ 20th big league season.
|MIN (9 yrs)||44||57||.436||5.05||366||98||117||2||0||44||818.0||956||497||459||105||290||532||1.523|
|CHC (2 yrs)||6||8||.429||2.76||98||0||62||0||0||29||101.0||90||36||31||14||21||82||1.099|
|HOU (2 yrs)||3||4||.429||1.71||89||0||38||0||0||12||84.1||71||19||16||7||21||70||1.091|
|MIL (2 yrs)||3||4||.429||3.92||70||0||15||0||0||0||64.1||71||30||28||3||16||46||1.352|
|NYM (1 yr)||3||2||.600||2.93||72||0||28||0||0||13||70.2||71||27||23||6||10||55||1.146|
|COL (1 yr)||2||5||.286||3.42||62||0||10||0||0||0||55.1||52||21||21||6||16||29||1.229|
|SFG (1 yr)||1||4||.200||4.10||45||0||9||0||0||2||37.1||40||18||17||3||17||30||1.527|
|LAA (1 yr)||2||3||.400||3.64||48||0||7||0||0||1||42.0||45||20||17||5||13||23||1.381|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||1||.500||5.71||33||0||11||0||0||0||41.0||42||26||26||3||17||23||1.439|
|BAL (1 yr)||3||2||.600||4.48||60||0||12||0||0||0||60.1||73||30||30||4||15||27||1.459|
Last week, Bronx Bomber fans were forced to say good-bye to the most recent “great” second baseman in Yankee franchise history, when Robbie Cano took his magical bat and gifted glove to Seattle for 240 million Mariner bucks. Today, we can say Happy Birthday to the first great second baseman in Yankee franchise history.
Jimmy Williams had made a smashing big league debut in his 1899 rookie season with Pittsburgh, when he led the National League with 27 triples,smashed 9 home runs and averaged a whopping .354. Its no wonder the legendary John McGraw literally kidnapped Williams on his way to the Pirates 1901 spring training camp and enticed him to sign with his newly formed Baltimore Orioles in the newly formed American League.
A third baseman with the Pirates, McGraw switched Williams to second and for the next seven seasons,he established himself as one of the best in the game at that position. Offensively, he continued to be a “triples machine,” leading the league in three-baggers in each of the two seasons the team remained in Baltimore.
When Ban Johnson’s dictatorial antics forced the shift of the Orioles’ franchise to New York before the 1903 season, Williams was one of just four Orioles’ players who made the move north with the club. He and outfielder Harry Howell were the only two starters in the New York Highanders’ first Opening Day lineup who were also in the first ever Baltimore Orioles Opening Day lineup, two seasons earlier. Williams, who was born in St. Louis but spent most of his childhood in Denver, is also credited with driving in the first run in New York Highlander/Yankee history.
Though he never again topped the .300 mark in batting average once the team relocated, he was one of the Highlanders’ best offensive weapons. He consistently finished near the top of the team’s leader board in most of the major hitting categories. He was also well respected by his teammates serving New York’s first-ever team-captains.
Following the 1907 regular season, New York manager Cal Griffith decided Williams was getting a bit long in the tooth and traded his then 30-year-old infielder to the Browns as part of a six player deal that brought 27-year-old St.Louis second baseman, Harry Niles to New York. Williams ended up outplaying Niles during each player’s first season with their new teams but Williams would falter badly for the Browns the following year, (1909) averaging just .195.
Instead of quitting, he went back to the minors and spent the final six years of his playing career manning second base for the Minneapolis Millers in the American Association. A favorite of Minneapolis fans, Williams ended up settling in that city after he finally retired in 1915. He died there in 1965, at the age of 89.
|NYY (7 yrs)||940||3934||3535||486||978||176||87||31||537||94||298||348||.277||.337||.402||.739|
|PIT (2 yrs)||259||1148||1037||199||330||43||38||14||184||44||92||78||.318||.379||.473||.853|
|SLB (2 yrs)||258||1034||913||95||200||23||13||4||75||13||84||105||.219||.288||.286||.574|