January 2014

January 27 – Happy Birthday Mike Zagurski

Mike_ZagurskiIt really was amazing that despite a rash of injuries and bad personnel moves by the team’s front office, the Yankees still had a shot at postseason play going into the second week of September. But when they dropped the first two games of their final series with the Red Sox, I knew there’d be no fall ball for my favorite team in 2013.

On the evening of Sunday, September 15th, I decided to turn on the final game of that three-game set for one reason and one reason only. Ivan Nova was scheduled to pitch and I wanted to see if he was back in his groove. Even though he had won his previous four decisions, he had pitched poorly in his last two outings, getting roughed up by the Rays and the Red Sox. With Pettitte retiring and Hughes imploding, I figured Nova was an essential member of New York’s 2014 rotation so I wanted to see if he could hold the soon-to-be World Champion Red Sox in check that night. He didn’t. When Boston knocked him out in the fifth inning the Yankees were behind 5-1.

By the time the seventh inning rolled around I was probably already snoring away and dreaming that the Yankees would not only sign Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran the following offseason, but also snare Masahiro Tanaka. Whatever the reason, I ended up missing the Yankee debut of today’s Pinstripe Biirthday Celebrant. It turned out to also be his farewell performance as a Bronx Bomber. When he took the mound in Fenway that evening, he became the 23rd different pitcher to do so for New York during the disappointing 2013 regular season.

Like Joba Chamberlain, the guy he relieved in that night’s game, Zagurski is a native of Nebraska. A 12th round draft choice of the Phillies in 2005, he had made his big league debut two years later, appearing in 25 games out of the bullpen for Philadelphia in 2007 and struggling mightily with his control. The portly southpaw then spent most of the next four seasons in the minors, eventually getting traded to the Diamondbacks. He made Arizona’s big league staff in 2012, appeared in 45 games that season and again struggled with his control.

He was released that November and picked up by Pittsburgh that December. The Yankees originally signed him in June of 2013, when the Pirates let him go. New York then released him two months later. He was with Oakland for two short weeks, got dropped and re-signed with the Yankees. Cashman picked him up again only because Boone Logan’s sore pitching elbow wasn’t responding to treatment and Joe Girardi needed a  left-arm in the pen to replace it. Unfortunately, Zagurski failed the only chance the Yankee skipper gave him to fill that void.

The first hitter he faced against Boston that night was Stephen Drew, who drilled a long fly ball out to deep right. Red Sox phee-nom Xander Bogaerts then singled sharply. Another Red Sox phee-nom, Jackie Bradley became the last hitter the Big Zag would ever face while wearing a Yankee uniform. He ended up hitting the young outfielder with a pitch. Cashman released him right after the season ended and Zagurski’s odyssey continued when he was signed the following month by the Indians.

Zagurski became the ninth member of the all-time Yankee roster with a last name that began with the letter “Z.” He shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee who won the 2003 AL Rookie of the Year Award, this long-ago Yankee pitcher and this one too.

2013 NYY 0 0 54.00 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.1 1 2 2 0 0 0 3.000
5 Yrs 1 0 1.000 7.05 89 0 23 0 0 0 75.1 85 60 59 11 46 75 1.739
PHI (3 yrs) 1 0 1.000 6.82 37 0 8 0 0 0 31.2 37 24 24 5 19 36 1.768
ARI (1 yr) 0 0 5.54 45 0 13 0 0 0 37.1 37 24 23 5 19 34 1.500
PIT (1 yr) 0 0 15.00 6 0 2 0 0 0 6.0 10 10 10 1 8 5 3.000
NYY (1 yr) 0 0 54.00 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.1 1 2 2 0 0 0 3.000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/28/2014.

January 26 – Happy Birthday Brian Doyle

Brian Doyle’s big break took place on September 29, 1978 during the bottom half of the eighth inning of an afternoon game between the Yankees and Cleveland Indians, at Yankee Stadium. It was a critical game for New York. Bob Lemon’s team had come from eight and-a-half games behind Boston in late August to catch and pass the Red Sox in the AL East standings. But Boston was hanging tough. When they took the field against the Indians that day, the Yankees were on a four-game winning streak but still only had a one-game lead over the resilient Red Sox.

The game against Cleveland had turned into a pitchers’ duel between the Yankees Jim Beattie and the one-time Ranger phee–nom, David Clyde. The Yankees were behind 1-0 when Lemon sent up Cliff Johnson to bat for Bucky Dent to lead off the inning, and Johnson worked a walk off Clyde. The Yankee skipper then sent Fred Stanley into run for Johnson and he had Mickey Rivers sacrifice “Chicken” to second. That brought up Willie Randolph and it brought Cleveland manager Jeff Torborg out of the dugout to make a pitching change. He brought in the tall right-hander, Jim Kern to face the Yankee second baseman.

Randolph hit a slow roller down the third base line toward Buddy Bell, who, at the time, was well on his way to becoming the premier defensive third baseman in the American League. Knowing Bell had a strong arm and hoping Stanley could get to third on Bell’s throw to first, Randolph most certainly attempted to turn a higher gear on his sprint to first. He did beat Bell’s throw but in the process he pulled the hamstring in his left leg. As Randolph limped his way toward the Yankee dugout for treatment, he passed Brian Doyle, who Lemon had sent in to run for him. But Doyle’s walk that day did not stop at first base. Instead, it took him to a special place in Yankee lore.

Doyle would end up playing just 93 regular season games during his three-year Yankee career, but this Glasgow, KY native’s 1978 World Series performance was one of the best and most unexpected in pinstripe history. Filling in for the injured Randolph, Doyle batted .438 in the six game victory over the Dodgers. This guy never averaged higher than .192 during a regular season with New York. If you’re not old enough to remember Doyle, think about a player with abilities similar to Ramiro Pena. Him hitting .438 in the biggest baseball show on earth would be like if Pena had taken over for the injured Derek Jeter in the 2012 ALCS and led the Yankees to the World Series with his hitting. In other words, Doyle’s performance was shocking, especially since it took place in the national spotlight of the World Series.

Brian is the brother of former big league infielder, Denny Doyle. Together, they and a third brother, Brian’s twin named Blake, run the very successful Doyle Baseball Camp program. Graduates of the program include, Gary Sheffield, J.D. Drew, Brian Roberts and Tim Wakefield.

Doyle shares his January 26th birthday with this former Yankee pitcher.

1978 NYY 39 54 52 6 10 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .192 .192 .192 .385
1979 NYY 20 36 32 2 4 2 0 0 5 0 3 1 .125 .200 .188 .388
1980 NYY 34 81 75 8 13 1 0 1 5 1 6 7 .173 .235 .227 .461
4 Yrs 110 214 199 18 32 3 0 1 13 1 10 13 .161 .201 .191 .392
NYY (3 yrs) 93 171 159 16 27 3 0 1 10 1 9 11 .170 .214 .208 .422
OAK (1 yr) 17 43 40 2 5 0 0 0 3 0 1 2 .125 .146 .125 .271
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/26/2014.

January 25 – Happy Birthday Roy Sherid

sheridWhen Wilcy Moore’s sore right arm wasn’t feeling better by the end of the team’s 1929 spring training camp, Miller Huggins was asked who he would use in place of his ace relief pitcher. Moore had just helped the Yankees win two consecutive World Championships and was considered to be the best finisher in the game back then.The Yankee manager didn’t hesitate with his response. He told the reporters he’d use Yankee rookie Roy Sherid and then explained why; “Sherid is fast and he knows how to keep his fastball low, right down where they can’t get at it. I like the way he uses his head in working on batters, particularly his judgement of when to mix his slow ball with his speed. He looks like the right man to send into those late innings when things are tight and important.”

Those were certainly words of high praise, especially since they were coming from the mouth of the Yankee’s legendary manager. At the time, Sherid was just 22 years old and had pitched two seasons of minor league ball for the Yankees Newark farm club. He was a tall, well-built right hander who hailed from Norristown, PA.

As it turned out, Moore’s sore arm, Sherid’s development as his replacement, and all other matters of Yankee baseball would turn out to be the least of Huggins problems during that 1929 season. The diminutive skipper was felled by an eye infection and bad case of the flu that September and during a Yankee road trip, he was admitted to a St Louis hospital for treatment. Shockingly, he died a few days later at the age of 50. The A’s ended up steam-rolling the Yankees in the AL Pennant race that season, Sherid ended up going 6-6 that first year and Moore ended up getting sent back to the minors.

In 1930, new Yankee skipper Bob Shawkey used Sherid plenty as both a starter and reliever. He finished that year with a 12-13 record and an unimpressive ERA. The following season, Joe McCarthy began his Hall of Fame run as Yankee manager and the change in field bosses at first seemed to be just what Sherid needed. He won five of his first six decisions pitching for “Marse Joe” plus earned two saves. Unfortunately the magic didn’t last. During the next month and a half, Sherid got shelled and dropped four straight decisions. He spent the second half of the season pitching for Montreal in the International League and never again threw another pitch in the  big leagues. He passed away in 1982 at the age of 75.

Sherid shares his birthday with this long-ago Yankee starting catcherthis one-time Yankee reliever and this WWII era Yankee pitcher.

1929 NYY 6 6 .500 3.61 33 15 14 9 0 1 154.2 165 81 62 6 55 51 1.422
1930 NYY 12 13 .480 5.23 37 21 11 8 0 4 184.0 214 122 107 13 87 59 1.636
1931 NYY 5 5 .500 5.69 17 8 4 3 0 2 74.1 94 52 47 4 24 39 1.587
3 Yrs 23 24 .489 4.71 87 44 29 20 0 7 413.0 473 255 216 23 166 149 1.547
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/25/2014.