February 2014

February 18 – Happy Birthday George Mogridge

mogridgeMr. Mogridge was a tall and thin southpaw, who threw a decent spitball in his day. He made Yankee franchise history on April 24, 1917 when he threw the first no-hitter in the team’s history. It would take more than 66 years before another Yankee pitcher, Dave Righetti threw another one during the regular season.

A native of Rochester, NY, Mogridge made his big league debut with the White Sox in 1911 but he was not yet ready to stick. He returned to the minors in 1912 and it would take three more years for him to get back to the big dance and this time it was as a Yankee. His first Yankee skipper was Wild Bill Donovan who used Mogridge mostly as a starter in both 1916 and ’17. When Miller Huggins took over the team the following year, he used this lanky left-hander a lot in a closing role as well as a starter. The result was a 16-win season with a 2.18 ERA and 7 saves.

After another solid year in 1919, Mogridge’s performance slipped badly in 1920 and that December the Yanks traded him to the Senators. He quickly evolved into one of Washington’s most reliable starters, putting together back-to-back 18-win seasons during his first two years there and becoming one of the heroes of the Senators’ 1924 World Series victory. In that Fall Classic against the Giants, he started and won Game 4 and then pitched brilliantly out of the bullpen in Game 7, which Washington won in extra innings in a contest still considered to be one of the greatest in Series history.

Age began to catch up with Mogridge in 1925 and he was traded to the Browns that June. The Yankees actually re-aquired him in a trade with St. Louis the following February, but immediately put the by then, 36-year-old pitcher on waivers and he was claimed by the Braves. He pitched a couple more years for Boston, retiring after the 1927 season and returning to his native Rochester. He died in that city in 1962, at the age of 73.

Mogridge shares his birthday with this Hall of Fame Yankee second baseman, this former Yankee catcher and this former Yankee closer.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1915 NYY 2 3 .400 1.76 6 5 1 3 1 0 41.0 33 11 8 0 11 11 1.073
1916 NYY 6 12 .333 2.31 30 21 5 10 2 0 194.2 174 71 50 3 45 66 1.125
1917 NYY 9 11 .450 2.98 29 25 4 15 1 0 196.1 185 82 65 5 39 46 1.141
1918 NYY 16 13 .552 2.18 45 19 23 13 1 7 239.1 232 78 58 6 43 62 1.149
1919 NYY 10 9 .526 2.77 35 18 9 13 3 0 169.0 159 68 52 6 46 58 1.213
1920 NYY 5 9 .357 4.31 26 15 6 7 0 1 125.1 146 83 60 4 36 35 1.452
15 Yrs 132 133 .498 3.23 398 261 101 138 20 20 2265.2 2352 1003 812 77 565 678 1.287
NYY (6 yrs) 48 57 .457 2.73 171 103 48 61 8 8 965.2 929 393 293 24 220 278 1.190
WSH (5 yrs) 68 55 .553 3.38 145 136 6 72 12 1 1016.2 1104 453 382 38 273 284 1.354
BSN (2 yrs) 12 14 .462 4.30 59 11 40 2 0 8 190.2 221 105 91 10 51 72 1.427
CHW (2 yrs) 3 6 .333 4.19 21 9 7 2 0 3 77.1 81 42 36 3 16 36 1.254
SLB (1 yr) 1 1 .500 5.87 2 2 0 1 0 0 15.1 17 10 10 2 5 8 1.435
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/27/2014.

February 17 – Happy Birthday Red Barber

Yankees Red Barber 1953TI never heard Walter “Red” Barber announce a Dodger game. I was born in 1954, the same year Barber left the Brooklyn booth to join Mell Allen in the Bronx. By the time I was old enough to remember him announcing Yankee games, his voice and style really didn’t make much of an impression on me. Allen was my guy and I can still remember details about the way he called games and talked about different Yankee players.

Then I read Roger Kahn’s classic Boys of Summer and fell in love with the old Brooklyn Dodgers, so in love that I continue to strive to improve my knowledge of D’em Bums still today. In doing so, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to tapes and watch old television broadcasts featuring Barber during his days describing the action at Ebbetts Field. This younger Barber was much better than the older Yankee version I remember listening to on my big brother’s GE transistor radio as a boy. He did those Dodger games with more emotion and made much more liberal and entertaining use of the glorious homespun lexicon of his native Mississippi. From “can of corn” to “walkin in the tall cotton,” the Ol’ Redhead invented a whole new way of describing the action taking place on a Major League baseball field that endeared him to hundreds of thousands of Dodger fans and got him into the Hall of Fame.

Barber’s most famous moment in the Yankee booth took place sadly the day that cost him his job. On September 22, 1966, the Yankees were ending a season that would see them finish in last place and playing in front of a paid home crowd of just 413 people. Barber rightly attempted to focus his television audience’s attention on the fact that the once mighty Bronx Bombers had fallen on such hard times that nobody was willing to pay to see them play. He instructed his cameramen to focus on the thousands upon thousands of empty seats that existed in the House that Ruth Built that afternoon but was overruled by one of the Yankee suits upstairs. He was fired by new club president Mike Burke just a week later.

Barber died in 1992 at the age of 84. This former Yankee reliever this one-time replacement for A-Rod as Yankee third baseman and this great former Yankee first baseman were each also born on February 17th.

February 16 – Happy Birthday Barry Foote

Over the five decades I’ve been a Yankee fan, there have been a lot of back-up catchers come and go on the Yankee roster. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant held that position for New York back during the strike shortened season of 1981. But Barry Foote wasn’t always a back-up. In fact, when he came up to the big leagues in 1974, he was good enough to beat out future Hall-of-Famer, Gary Carter for Montreal’s starting catcher’s position. That season he hit 11 home runs, drove in 60, averaged .262 plus displayed a strong arm and great defensive ability behind home plate. He was named to the Topp’s All-Rookie team. The following year, however, Foote pretty much stopped hitting and his putrid .194 batting average in 1975, opened the door for Carter to begin his legendary career as one of the best backstops of his era.

Foote remained with Montreal as “The Kid’s” backup until 1977, when he was dealt to the Phillies. He got one more chance at a starting job in 1979, after Philadelphia traded him to the Cubs. He put together a strong debut season in Chicago, hitting a career high 16 home runs and averaging a respectable .256. Then in ’80, he lost his starting job to Tim Blackwell. The following April, the Yankees traded for Barry.

Rick Cerone had become New York’s starting catcher in 1980 and the veteran, Johnny Oates had been his backup that first year. The Yankees had signed Oates to another one-year contract just three weeks before they traded for Foote but it was Barry who became Cerone’s primary backup in that whacky strike-shortened 1981 split season. Foote hit just .208 his first year in pinstripes, appearing in 40 games and producing six home runs. He also got the opportunity to appear in his one and only World Series that fall against the Dodgers. He failed to get a hit in his only at-bat. He remained with the Yankees in 1982 and retired as a player after that season. The Yankees then hired Foote to manage in their Minor League system.

He shares his February 16th birthday with this former Yankee pitcher.

Here’s a list of the New York’s starting catchers with their primary back-ups since I started following the Yankees in 1960

1960-66 Starter: Elston Howard – BackUp: Yogi Berra, Johnny Blanchard
1967-69 Starter: Jake Gibbs – BackUp: Frank Fernandez
1980-82, 87 Starter: Rick Cerone – BackUps: Johnny Oates, Barry Foote, Joel Skinner
1983-86 Starter: Butch Wynegar – BackUps: Cerone, Ron Hassey
1988-89 Starter: Don Slaught – BackUps: Skinner, Bob Geren
1990 Starter: Geren – BackUp: Cerone
1991-92 Starter: Matt Nokes – BackUp: Geren, Mike Stanley
1993-95 Starter: Mike Stanley – BackUp: Nokes, Jim Leyritz
1996-97 Starter: Joe Girardi – BackUp: Leyritz, Jorge Posada
1997-07, 09-10 Starter: Jorge Posada – BackUps: Girardi, Chris Turner, Todd Greene, Chris Widger, John Flaherty, Kelly Sinnett, Jose Molina, Francisco Cervelli
2008 Starter: Molina – BackUp: – Chad Moeller, Ivan Rodriguez
2011-12 Starter: Russell Martin – BackUp: Cervelli, Chris Stewart
2013 Starter: Stewart, Austin Romine,  Cervelli
Barry Foote’s Yankee seasonal and lifetime career stats:
Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1981 NYY 40 137 125 12 26 4 0 6 10 0 8 21 .208 .256 .384 .640
1982 NYY 17 50 48 4 7 5 0 0 2 0 1 11 .146 .160 .250 .410
10 Yrs 687 2300 2127 191 489 103 10 57 230 10 136 287 .230 .277 .368 .645
MON (5 yrs) 369 1309 1212 105 283 54 9 27 126 4 73 164 .233 .277 .360 .637
CHC (3 yrs) 204 711 653 63 157 39 1 22 85 6 50 74 .240 .298 .404 .702
PHI (2 yrs) 57 93 89 7 16 1 0 2 7 0 4 17 .180 .215 .258 .473
NYY (2 yrs) 57 187 173 16 33 9 0 6 12 0 9 32 .191 .230 .347 .576
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/26/2014.

February 15 – Happy Birthday Ross Moschitto plus All-Time Italian-American Yankee Team

Moschitto“Ross Moschitto” is the name most often mentioned by lukewarm Yankee fans who are my age, when they are trying to convince someone else how big a Yankee fan they are. I’m not sure why but that’s just the way it is. They don’t mention Frank Tepedino or Steve Whitaker or Roger Repoz. Its always Moschitto. He has to be the most famous non-famous Yankee in pinstripe history.

In 1965, Major League baseball started its free agent draft along with the rule that any player in the Majors or Minor leagues could be drafted if that player’s name was not on a Major League club’s 40-man expanded roster at the time the draft was conducted. For years, the Yankees had dominated their league by signing up all the best amateur prospects and developing their talent in New York’s well financed and well managed minor league farm system. No other team could steal a prospect from another franchise and since the Yankees had the most money they consistently had the most prospects.The draft and the 40-man roster rule changed that forever and Ross Moschitto paid the price for those changes.

He had signed with New York in 1964 and was assigned to their lowest level minor league team, in Johnson City, TN. When Ross hit 20 home runs in just 71 games that year, he popped onto the radar of every big league franchise. Instead of practicing their usual prospect patience, the Yankees put Moschitto on their big league roster the following April, when he was far from ready. So instead of getting a chance to play every day, Ross spent the the 1965 season sitting on a big league bench, pinch running for Mickey Mantle if the aging slugger got on base in his last at bat or taking his spot in the outfield if the Mick made an out. He got just 27 big league at bats that year and when he was sent back to the Minors the following season, he had lost his stroke for good. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Blog celebrant was born in Fresno, CA in 1945.

Moschitto was an Italian American but not good enough to make my All-Time Yankee team of Italian Americans. Here’s my all-time Pinstriped Paisans:

1B – Jason Giambi
2B – Tony Lazzeri
3B – Mike Pagliarulo (or Frank Crosetti who started one season at third for NY)
SS – Phil Rizzuto
C – Yogi Berra
OF – Joe DiMaggio
OF - Joe Pepitone
OF -Francesco Pezzolo (better known as Ping Bodie, the first Italian American player in the Majors)
SP – Mike Mussina
RP – Dave Righetti

This Yankee catcher and this one-time Yankee starting pitcher were both also was born on February 15.
Here’s Moschitto’s career stats:
Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1965 NYY 96 28 27 12 5 0 0 1 3 0 0 12 .185 .179 .296 .475
1967 NYY 14 11 9 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 .111 .200 .111 .311
2 Yrs 110 39 36 13 6 0 0 1 3 0 1 14 .167 .184 .250 .434
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/24/2014.

February 14 – Happy Birthday Larry Milbourne

milbournerThe deal that made Larry Milbourne a Yankee for the first time became part of Yankee trivia history. In November of 1980, the Seattle Mariners traded Milbourne and a player to be named later to New York for catcher Brad Gulden. The following May, the Mariners completed the trade by sending Gulden back to the Yankees as the “player to be named later” part of the trade. This made Gulden the only player in franchise history ever to be traded for himself.

Milbourne would go on to have his best big league season during his 1981 Yankee debut. He played sparingly but well as a pinch-hitter and back-up infielder during the first half of that season, which was split in two by a players’ strike. In the second half, he took over as New York’s starting shortstop after Bucky Dent tore a ligament in his hand at the end of August. The League’s embarrassingly bad decision to award team’s with the best pre-strike records a postseason spot gave the Yankee players little motivation to give a damn during the second half, but Milbourne impressed everyone with his grit and hustle as he filled in for Dent.

He then hit a combined .363 in New York’s ALDS and ALCS victories that postseason and though his bat cooled off a bit against the Dodgers in the Series, Yankee fans like me were very grateful for his better-than-expected performance. Milbourne also loved playing for New York and told reporters he was so happy wearing the pinstripes, he’d prefer staying with the Yanks and backing up Dent and Willie Randolph to starting for any other team. But after getting off to a horrible start in 1982, he was traded to the Twins in May of that year in the deal that brought Butch Wynegar to New York. The Yanks brought him back to New York the following year but traded him back to the Mariners after he hit just .200 in 31 games. His final big league season was 1984.

Nicknamed “the Devil,” Milbourne was born on Valentine’s Day in 1951 in Port Norris, NJ. He shares a birthday with this Hall-of-Fame Yankee announcer,  this former Yankee relief pitcher and this one-time Yankee pitching prospect.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1981 NYY 61 177 163 24 51 7 2 1 12 2 9 14 .313 .351 .399 .749
1982 NYY 14 28 27 2 4 1 0 0 0 0 1 4 .148 .179 .185 .364
1983 NYY 31 76 70 5 14 4 0 0 2 1 5 10 .200 .263 .257 .520
11 Yrs 989 2671 2448 290 623 71 24 11 184 41 133 176 .254 .293 .317 .609
SEA (5 yrs) 487 1420 1301 148 329 40 13 7 115 20 65 75 .253 .287 .320 .607
NYY (3 yrs) 106 281 260 31 69 12 2 1 14 3 15 28 .265 .309 .338 .648
HOU (3 yrs) 244 472 432 70 106 7 3 1 25 13 30 38 .245 .297 .282 .579
MIN (1 yr) 29 106 98 9 23 1 1 0 1 1 7 8 .235 .283 .265 .548
PHI (1 yr) 41 73 66 3 16 0 1 0 4 2 4 7 .242 .282 .273 .554
CLE (1 yr) 82 319 291 29 80 11 4 2 25 2 12 20 .275 .301 .361 .662
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/23/2014.