When CC Sabathia shed 25 pounds after the 2010 postseason, he also shed the mantra of being the heaviest full-time player in MLB history. That honor now reverts back to another Yankee pitcher named Walter Brown. Brown was 6’4″ tall, three inches shorter than Sabathia and tipped the scales at 295 pounds. As a result, he was better known as “Jumbo” Brown. Born in Green, Rhode Island, he broke into the big leagues with the Cubs in 1925 and then pitched for the Indians during the 1927 and ’28 seasons. Not yet ready for prime time, the big guy then returned to the minors.
He became a Yankee in 1932 and spent four of the next five seasons as a member of the Yankee bullpen and one of manager Joe McCarthy’s occasional starters. Unfortunately for Brown, those Yankee teams of the 1930’s were loaded with talented pitchers. One of Brown’s biggest problems, according to author Stephen Lombardi in his book “The Baseball Same Game,” was the fact that his fingers were too short and too stubby to throw a curveball so he was limited to throwing only a fastball. Though Brown’s heater was a good one, it was not good enough to break into that Yankee rotation because after one time through a lineup, opposing hitters had a much easier time squaring up to a one-pitch pitcher.
By 1934, Jumbo was forced to pitch in Newark where he again got a chance to start and won 20-games for the Yankees’ top Minor League franchise. He was 19-16 during his stay in pinstripes, earning two saves and pitching two shutouts. The Reds purchased his contract in 1937 but he quickly returned to the Big Apple when the Giants bought him from Cincinnati that same season. He spent his final five big league seasons pitching very effectively out of the bullpen at the Polo Grounds. His one pitch repertoire was much more suited to relief work, during which hitters faced the rotund right hander and his fastball just once. Brown actually led the NL in saves in both 1940 and ’41 before joining the US Navy. His baseball career ended for good when his military service began. Jumbo is the only member of the Yankee all-time roster to celebrate his birthday on the last day of April.
|NYG (5 yrs)||13||12||.520||2.93||150||0||104||0||0||26||267.1||237||106||87||13||104||131||1.276|
|NYY (4 yrs)||19||16||.543||4.74||80||22||31||7||2||2||281.0||323||166||148||10||148||146||1.676|
|CLE (2 yrs)||0||3||.000||6.48||13||0||10||0||0||0||33.1||38||29||24||3||41||20||2.370|
|CIN (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||8.38||4||1||0||0||0||0||9.2||16||10||9||0||3||4||1.966|
|CHC (1 yr)||0||0||3.00||2||0||2||0||0||0||6.0||5||5||2||0||4||0||1.500|
By the time the Yankees purchased Ernie Johnson off waivers just before June of the 1923 regular season, this Chicago native was already 35 years of age and had eight seasons of big league baseball under his belt. The Yankees were looking for a better offensive player to take over for Mike McNally as their infield utility guy and though Johnson was not a great hitter, he had averaged .295 as the White Sox starting second baseman just two seasons earlier.
He had then ticked off that team’s owner Charley Comiskey, when he demanded a salary increase, Subsequently, when his batting average fell forty points in 1924, he lost his starting job to a guy named Hervey McClellan and Comiskey gladly put Johnson on the waiver wire.
It actually turned out to be a great move for both the infielder and the Yankees. Over the two-and-a-half seasons he played for New York skipper Miller Huggins, Johnson appeared in 159 games and averaged a very robust .327. He also won his one and only World Series ring in 1923 against the Giants and scored the go-ahead run as a pinch runner in the final Game of that Fall Classic.
Its too bad Johnson didn’t get to put on the pinstripes much earlier in his career because by 1925, he had already turned 37-years-old. The Yankees decided to go with some much younger blood. The veteran infielder was one of three players New York traded to the St. Paul Saints in exchange for a 20-year-old shortstop named Mark Koenig. Johnson played four more seasons of minor league ball before hanging up his glove for good. He later became a scout for the Red Sox until he passed away in 1952 at the age of 64. His son Don followed the old man to the big leagues and was a starting second baseman for the Cubs during and after WWII.
|CHW (4 yrs)||319||1439||1311||190||355||47||11||1||113||45||73||66||.271||.312||.326||.638|
|NYY (3 yrs)||159||356||327||60||107||10||10||9||37||7||20||18||.327||.368||.502||.869|
|SLB (3 yrs)||183||539||469||64||112||16||5||2||39||30||42||41||.239||.309||.307||.617|
|SLM (1 yr)||152||581||512||58||123||18||10||7||67||32||46||35||.240||.305||.355||.661|
Back in the nineteen fifties, slugger Mickey Mantle would begin drooling a week before his Yankees were scheduled to play a series against the Washington Senators. Why? There were three reasons, and their names were Chuck Stobbs, Camilio Pascual and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Pedro “Pistol Pete” Ramos. They formed three fifths of Washington’s starting rotation back then and it seemed as if Mantle hit three-fifths of his 536 lifetime home runs off the trio. Pascual and Ramos were both from Cuba and both were actually very talented big league pitchers. In fact, I saw Pascual pitch a couple of times live at Yankee Stadium and several times on television and to this day, I believe he belongs in Cooperstown. Ramos was a notch below his countryman in talent but it would end up being Ramos who would help pitch the Yankees into a World Series.
Pedro pitched his first seven big league seasons for the Senators (who moved to Minnesota and became the Twins in 1961) and achieved double figures in victories in six of them. Unfortunately, thanks in large part to the anemic offense and porous defense of those Washington teams, Ramos also lost 112 games during that same span. He was then traded to the Indians, where he pitched decently for almost three seasons until September 5, 1964 when Yankee GM Ralph Houk acquired him for two players to be named later, who would turn out to be pitchers Ralph Terry and Bud Daley.
Yogi Berra had replaced Houk as Yankee skipper that season and the team took a long time to respond to their new Manager and were in danger of not reaching the World Series for the first time in five straight seasons. Berra’s starting rotation and bullpen were running on fumes. The additions of Mel Stottlemyre and Ramos proved to be the perfect elixir to what ailed Yankee pitching. Ramos took over the closer role and pitched brilliantly, saving eight games down the stretch as New York pulled off a late-season surge to win the AL Pennant. Unfortunately, he had joined the Yankees to late in the season to qualify for the World Series roster so he was forced to watch helplessly as the Cardinals beat New York in that year’s seven-game Fall Classic.
Houk then replaced Berra as Yankee Manager with Johnny Keane right after that series and Ramos spent the next two years as the closer on a Yankee team that was not able to generate too many leads that needed closing. Still, Ramos did save a total 32 games for New York during the 1965 and ’66 seasons before getting dealt to Philadelphia for relief pitcher Joe Verbanic. He retired after the 1970 season with a lifetime record of 117-160, 55 saves and 13 shutouts.
It seems Ramos was pretty much a wild man in his private life. In fact, his nickname “Pistol Pete” was only partially attributable to the right-hander’s fastball. This guy actually carried a gun with him off the field, almost all the time. He once used that gun to shoot out the screen of his family’s television set when he objected to the channel choice of Mrs. Ramos (who quickly thereafter became the ex-Mrs. Ramos.) He also used his gun after his playing days were over when he got himself involved in Little Havana’s drug business, which landed him in jail in the early 1980’s.
Ramos shares his April 28th birthday with this former Yankee pitcher.
|MIN (7 yrs)||78||112||.411||4.19||290||199||56||58||10||12||1544.1||1579||808||719||210||491||740||1.340|
|CLE (3 yrs)||26||30||.464||3.87||109||68||15||15||3||1||519.0||489||262||223||75||152||363||1.235|
|NYY (3 yrs)||9||14||.391||3.05||130||1||91||0||0||40||203.2||191||80||69||18||45||147||1.159|
|WSA (1 yr)||0||0||7.56||4||0||1||0||0||0||8.1||10||7||7||2||4||10||1.680|
|CIN (1 yr)||4||3||.571||5.16||38||0||12||0||0||2||66.1||73||41||38||8||24||40||1.462|
|PIT (1 yr)||0||1||.000||6.00||5||0||3||0||0||0||6.0||8||4||4||2||0||4||1.333|
|PHI (1 yr)||0||0||9.00||6||0||4||0||0||0||8.0||14||8||8||1||8||1||2.750|
By most accounts, when Enos “Country” Slaughter joined the Yankees in 1954, many of his new Yankee teammates weren’t too fond of him. That group included and was probably led by the temperamental Billy Martin, who thought Slaughter ‘s habit of running hard to first on every hit ball and even after bases on balls, was an attempt to show up his teammates. Martin considered Slaughter and for that matter most teammates who had not come up through the Yankee organization, as outsiders who could not be trusted on the field or in the clubhouse. Fortunately for Slaughter, Casey Stengel did not share that sentiment, probably because he was an old National Leaguer himself.
Slaughter explained the real reason he hustled every second while on the field in his autobiography. He was playing on a Cardinal farm team in Columbus, GA in 1932, hitting in the low .200’s and thinking he was going to be released any minute when in between innings during a game, he walked backed to the dugout from his right field position. Burt Shotten happened to be his Manager at the time and when Slaughter finally got to the dugout, Shotten told him if he was too tired to run back to the bench that maybe he was too tired to play in the game. Slaughter said that not-too-subtle hint from Shotten forever changed the way he approached the game. He vowed that he would never ever loaf on a baseball field again and he kept that promise for the next 27 years.
The saddest day of his life was August 11, 1954, the day the Cardinals traded him to the Yankees. He actually burst into tears after hearing the news but not because he had any particular animosity toward the Bronx Bombers. Slaughter absolutely loved playing in St. Louis and never dreamed getting traded was even a remote possibility.
As hard as it was for him to do so, Slaughter brought all of his experience and enthusiasm for the game with him to New York. From 1954 until he was traded to Kansas City in 1955 and then again after he was reacquired by New York a season later until 1959, Casey used the aging veteran frequently as both a pinch hitter and outfield substitute. He also treated Slaughter as his bench coach. The two veterans would often sit next to each other in the dugout, constantly discussing strategy and possible moves.
Slaughter contributed on the field as well. He was a star in the 1956 World Series, hitting .350 as the Yankees beat Brooklyn. His best regular season in pinstripes was 1958, when he hit .304 in 160 plate appearances. Enos retired after the 1959 season, at the ripe age of 43 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame, 26-years later. He passed away in 2002 at the age of 85.
|STL (13 yrs)||1820||7713||6775||1071||2064||366||135||146||1148||64||838||429||.305||.384||.463||.847|
|NYY (6 yrs)||350||782||663||90||168||21||6||16||98||4||108||69||.253||.356||.376||.732|
|KCA (2 yrs)||199||570||490||86||148||26||7||7||57||3||69||37||.302||.387||.427||.814|
|MLN (1 yr)||11||21||18||0||3||0||0||0||1||0||3||3||.167||.286||.167||.452|
Ray Caldwell was one of the most interesting Yankees to ever play the game. Born on this date in 1888, in a northwestern Pennsylvania town that now lies under water, Caldwell was working as a telegrapher, when he received an offer to pitch for a C-level minor league ball club in McKeesport, PA. He won 18 games for that team in his professional debut and the next year he was pitching for the New York Yankees.
According to baseball historians, this guy was one of the biggest playboys in the history of the game and one of its heaviest drinkers too. He was also a brilliant pitcher, so good that Washington Senator manager Cal Griffith once offered the Yankees the great Walter Johnson for Caldwell even up.
A tall, slender right-hander, his best seasons for New York were 1914, when he went 18-9 with a 1.94 ERA and the following year, when he won a career high 19 games. He also happened to be one of baseball’s best hitting pitchers and frequently played the outfield on days he wasn’t on the mound.
But whenever it looked as if Caldwell was about to achieve greatness, he went on one of his hard-partying binges, often leaving the ball club for days on end and then suddenly reappearing to accept whatever punishment was thrown at him. His erratic behavior drove all his Yankee managers crazy, especially Frank Chance, who levied close to a thousand dollars worth of fines against his care-free pitcher during the 1914 season. When Caldwell was openly considering jumping to the upstart Federal League, however, Yankee owner Frank Farrell forgave the fines, causing Chance to quit.
When Miller Huggins took over the Yankees, he tried hiring detectives to keep tabs on Caldwell but the pitcher learned how to lose them. Tired of the nonsense, Huggins traded him to the Red Sox after the 1918 season. After half a year with Boston he was dealt to Cleveland, where he had a temporary but glorious rebirth. During the next season and a half he went 25-11 for the Indians and helped get them to the 1920 World Series, which the Tribe won in seven games. After slumping to 6-6 the following year, Caldwell’s big league days were over, but not his pitching career. Somehow, this guy pitched in the minors for 11 more seasons, finally hanging his glove up for good, in 1933, at the age of 45.
As you might expect, Caldwell’s private life was also pretty chaotic. He got married four times and held all kinds of jobs. He lived to be 79 years old, passing away in 1967.
|NYY (9 yrs)||96||99||.492||3.00||248||196||42||150||17||4||1718.1||1519||684||572||41||576||803||1.219|
|CLE (3 yrs)||31||17||.646||3.95||77||51||18||28||3||4||437.1||478||239||192||17||131||180||1.393|
|BOS (1 yr)||7||4||.636||3.96||18||12||5||6||1||0||86.1||92||49||38||1||31||23||1.425|
The last name of today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant is Ford. He was a two-time twenty game winner as a starter for the Yankee franchise and he was famous for scuffing the baseball with a tiny piece of sandpaper. He admitted to that doctoring after his playing days were over. What was this pitcher’s first name?
You’re wrong if you guessed Whitey. You’re also wrong if you guessed Edward, which was the real first name of one-time Yankee ace Whitey Ford. Whitey was also a two-time twenty-game winner for New York and after he retired in 1967, he also admitted to doctoring the baseball with a small strip of sandpaper attached to his wedding ring. But Whitey Ford wasn’t born on April 25th.
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant is instead, “Russ” Ford, who was born in Canada on April 25, 1883. He was a right handed pitcher for the New York Highlanders from 1909 until he jumped to the Federal League in 1914. This Ford won 26 games for New York in 1910 and then 22 the following year. According to his New York Times obituary, he invented the “Emory ball” by accident when one of his warm up pitches went flying by the catcher and bounced off a grating. When he got that ball back in his glove, he noticed a scuff mark. He then noticed that every pitch he threw with that scuffed baseball moved much more sharply than even his spitball did. That’s when Ford began concealing and carrying sandpaper with him to the mound.
After his two straight 20-win seasons, Ford lost 21 games for the 1912 Highlanders and then went 12-18 for the 1913 team that by then had officially changed its name to the New York Yankees. Those two bad years helped make Ford’s jump to the upstart Federal League in 1914 much easier for the Yankees to swallow. In fact, when AL President Ban Johnson offered to go to court to protect the Yankee’s contractual rights to the pitcher, Frank Chance, the New York Manager at the time told Johnson not to even bother.
|NYY (5 yrs)||73||56||.566||2.54||143||129||14||100||10||3||1112.2||1010||458||314||27||287||553||1.166|
|BUF (2 yrs)||26||15||.634||2.74||56||41||14||26||5||6||374.2||330||137||114||18||89||157||1.118|
I became an admirer of Carlos Beltran during the 2004 postseason, when he almost single-handedly put the Houston Astros in their first World Series. Against Atlanta in that year’s ALDS he hit .455 with 4 home runs and nine RBIs in the five game series and then followed that up with 4 more dingers and a .417 average in Houston’s seven-game loss to St. Louis in the 2004 ALCS.
Beltran originally came up with the Royals and won the 1999 AL Rookie of the Year award. He’s driven in over 100 runs eight different times in his career and made eight All Star teams. He also began the 2014 season with 358 career home runs.
Right after his stellar performance in the 2004 postseason, this native of Manati, Puerto Rico became a free agent and I was praying the Yanks would grab him. He even told his agent he wanted to wear the pinstripes. He did end up signing with New York but it was the Mets and not my Yankees who got him. He got off on the wrong foot with the Amazins’ when he had an off-year in 2005. He then put together three of the best seasons any Met outfielder has ever had and still was under appreciated by the team’s front office and fans. They never forgave him for making the third and final out of the 2006 ALCS, when he stared at a third strike thrown past him by the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright. When injuries cut both his 2009 and ’10 seasons short he really became persona non grata over in Queens and the Mets ended up trading him to the Giants.
Beltran became a free agent for the second time at the end of the 2011 season and the slugging switch-hitter again told his agent to try and get him to the Bronx but again it didn’t work out that way. He ended up signing with the Cardinals instead and he put together two all star seasons for St. Louis.
The third time proved a charm. On December 19, 2013, Beltran got the best Christmas present of his life when he signed a three-year deal to probably end his playing career as a Yankee. The signing has already paid dividends for the Bronx Bombers as Beltran has driven in some key runs for New York during the opening month of the 2014 season. He turns 37 years old today and I firmly believe this guy will be one of the top three free agent signings in Yankee franchise history. He shares his April 24th birthday with this former Yankee reliever, this Yankee starting pitcher and this one-time Yankee third baseman.
|KCR (7 yrs)||795||3512||3134||546||899||156||45||123||516||164||316||584||.287||.352||.483||.835|
|NYM (7 yrs)||839||3640||3133||551||878||208||17||149||559||100||449||545||.280||.369||.500||.869|
|STL (2 yrs)||296||1219||1101||162||311||56||4||56||181||15||103||214||.282||.343||.493||.836|
|SFG (1 yr)||44||179||167||17||54||9||4||7||18||1||11||27||.323||.369||.551||.920|
|NYY (1 yr)||19||80||75||10||23||7||0||5||13||0||4||18||.307||.338||.600||.938|
|HOU (1 yr)||90||399||333||70||86||17||7||23||53||28||55||57||.258||.368||.559||.926|
Back in 1964 I was an avid baseball card collector. I remember that $1.25 was enough to purchase an entire box of Topps. I would scrimp, save, beg, and borrow every penny possible and as soon as I reached that magic amount I’d run to Puglisi’s Confectionary, up the street from my house, and buy my box. I’d then take my treasure back to my house and sit on the rusting green metal porch swing we used to have on the front porch and begin the glorious ritual of opening each pack. I will never forget the day I sat on that porch swing and got six Duke Carmel cards in the same box. I saw him staring at me with that bat cocked over his shoulder so many times that afternoon that he became a friend of mine. About a week later, I’m sure five of those Carmel cards were fastened to the forks of my 20″ Rollfast two-wheeler, transforming the sound of the bike into a roaring Harley.
Duke was born in New York City and got to play in his home town when the Cardinals traded him to the Mets in 1963. He joined the Yankees two seasons later but only appeared in a half dozen games wearing the pinstripes. Carmel turns 76 years old today. Carmel shares his April 23rd birthday with this Yankee outfielder.
Here is my all-time lineup of the most skilled players who have played for both the Mets and Yankees during their careers:
1b Dave Kingman
2b Willie Randolph
3b Gary Sheffield
ss Tony Fernandez
c Yogi Berra
of Ricky Henderson
of Darryl Strawberry
of Ron Swoboda
p Dwight Gooden
rp Jesse Orosco
mgr Casey Stengel
Here are Carmel’s Yankee seasonal and big league lifetime career stats.
|STL (3 yrs)||71||81||70||11||13||2||0||1||5||1||2||11||18||.186||.296||.257||.553||52|
|NYM (1 yr)||47||167||149||11||35||5||3||3||18||2||2||16||37||.235||.307||.369||.676||94|
|NYY (1 yr)||6||8||8||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||5||.000||.000||.000||.000||-100|
After a solid nine-year career with the Blue Jays, this left-hander was signed as a free agent by New York after the 1992 season to become the ace of the Yankee rotation. For the next two years, Key was exactly that, winning
thirty five games and losing just ten. He got beat out for the AL Cy Young Award during the strike-shortened 1994 season by future Yankee teammate, David Cone. A rotator cuff injury then wiped out his 1995 season. He had an ok 12-11 record in 1996 but then got the opportunity to win the sixth and final game of that year’s World Series against Atlanta in his final performance in pinstripes.
I remember thinking the Yankees had gone crazy after that Fall Classic, when they let both Key and the Series MVP, closer John Wetteland, sign with other teams. Key signed a nice deal with the Orioles but he really wanted to stay in New York. Turns out that rotator cuff injury that sidelined him in ’95 was enough to convince the New York front office they couldn’t match Baltimore’s guarantee of a second year. Key pitched well for the Birds in 1997, going 16-10 but when he fell off to 6-3 the following season he decided to call it quits, doing so with a 186-117 lifetime record.
The retired southpaw made Big Apple back page headlines again during the 1999 preseason when the Yankees approached him about coming out of retirement to pitch in their bullpen. Key had made his big league debut as a closer for the Blue Jays back in 1984, saving ten games in his rookie season. The native of Hunstville, AL quickly threw cold water over the comeback rumors when he insisted he was done with baseball for good.
Key shares his April 22nd birthday with this one-time New York Highlander shortstop.
|TOR (9 yrs)||116||81||.589||3.42||317||250||24||28||10||10||1695.2||1624||710||645||165||404||944||1.196|
|NYY (4 yrs)||48||23||.676||3.68||94||94||0||5||2||0||604.1||607||265||247||60||159||400||1.268|
|BAL (2 yrs)||22||13||.629||3.64||59||45||4||1||1||0||291.2||287||129||118||29||105||194||1.344|
From 1983 until 1987, Jesse Orosco was one of the best relievers in all of baseball. He joined the Mets in 1979 as the player to be named later in the deal that sent the veteran Jerry Koosman to Minnesota. In the next few seasons, the southpaw would perfect a deadly slider and a backdoor curve that could at times make him unhittable, especially against left-handed batters. He went 13-7 with 17 saves and a 1.47 ERA in 1983 and followed that up with a 10-6, 31-save effort a year later. In the Mets magical 1986 season, Jesse and his right-handed closing counterpart, Roger McDowell practically guaranteed the Mets would win any game in which they led after seven innings. It was Orosco who nailed down the final outs in both the 1986 NLCS and World Series.
In 1987, Orosco had his first bad season as a Met and since 1988 would be the final year of his contract, New York decided to trade him before his free agency commenced. Thus began a fifteen year, nine team odyssey for Jesse, during which he was transitioned into one of the Game’s most effective situational left handed relief specialists. That was the role the Yankees needed filled when the Yankees acquired Orosco from the Padres at the midway point of the 2003 season. By then, he was 46 years-old, was pitching in his fourth decade, and had surpassed Dennis Eckersley as the Major League’s all-time leader in games pitched. Unfortunately, he had also lost the ability to get left-handers out.
Orosco appeared in 15 games as a Yankee, pitching a total of just 4.1 innings. He walked six batters, gave up 4 hits and compiled a horrible ERA of 10.48. On the last day of August during the 2003 season, the Yankees sent him to the Twins where he won the last of his 87 big league victories. He retired at the end of that season, his 24th in the big leagues, with 144 lifetime saves.
Orosco shares his August 21st birthday with this Hall of Fame Yankee Manager.
|NYM (8 yrs)||47||47||.500||2.73||372||4||246||0||0||107||595.2||480||207||181||40||240||506||1.209|
|BAL (5 yrs)||15||11||.577||3.35||336||0||83||0||0||11||244.1||173||95||91||26||133||241||1.252|
|LAD (3 yrs)||4||5||.444||3.00||146||0||36||0||0||10||96.0||82||35||32||11||49||86||1.365|
|CLE (3 yrs)||10||8||.556||3.11||171||0||77||0||0||5||188.1||164||75||65||20||79||170||1.290|
|MIL (3 yrs)||9||7||.563||3.74||156||0||46||0||0||9||134.2||112||66||56||11||56||143||1.248|
|MIN (1 yr)||1||1||.500||5.79||8||0||3||0||0||0||4.2||4||3||3||0||5||3||1.929|
|STL (1 yr)||0||0||3.86||6||0||0||0||0||0||2.1||3||3||1||1||3||4||2.571|
|SDP (1 yr)||1||1||.500||7.56||42||0||10||0||0||2||25.0||33||22||21||4||10||22||1.720|
|NYY (1 yr)||0||0||10.38||15||0||0||0||0||0||4.1||4||6||5||0||6||4||2.308|