April 2014

April 30 – Happy Birthday Jumbo Brown

brownWhen 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.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1932 NYY 5 2 .714 4.53 19 3 9 3 1 1 55.2 58 30 28 1 30 31 1.581
1933 NYY 7 5 .583 5.23 21 8 8 1 0 0 74.0 78 48 43 3 52 55 1.757
1935 NYY 6 5 .545 3.61 20 8 6 3 1 0 87.1 94 41 35 2 37 41 1.500
1936 NYY 1 4 .200 5.91 20 3 8 0 0 1 64.0 93 47 42 4 29 19 1.906
12 Yrs 33 31 .516 4.07 249 23 147 7 2 28 597.1 619 316 270 26 300 301 1.539
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/29/2014.

April 29 – Happy Birthday Ernie Johnson

23Johnson_Ernie_002By 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.

Johnson shares his April 29th birthday with this Yankee pitcher from the ninetiesthis one from the fifties, and this other one from the forties.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1923 NYY 19 40 38 6 17 1 1 1 8 0 1 1 .447 .462 .605 1.067
1924 NYY 64 133 119 24 42 4 8 3 12 1 11 7 .353 .412 .597 1.009
1925 NYY 76 183 170 30 48 5 1 5 17 6 8 10 .282 .315 .412 .726
10 Yrs 813 2915 2619 372 697 91 36 19 256 114 181 160 .266 .317 .350 .667
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/28/2014.

April 28 – Happy Birthday Pedro Ramos

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.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1964 NYY 1 0 1.000 1.25 13 0 11 0 0 8 21.2 13 3 3 1 0 21 0.600
1965 NYY 5 5 .500 2.92 65 0 42 0 0 19 92.1 80 34 30 7 27 68 1.159
1966 NYY 3 9 .250 3.61 52 1 38 0 0 13 89.2 98 43 36 10 18 58 1.294
15 Yrs 117 160 .422 4.08 582 268 182 73 13 55 2355.2 2364 1210 1068 316 724 1305 1.311
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/27/2014.

April 27 – Happy Birthday Enos Slaughter

enosslaughterfront.jpgBy 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.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1954 NYY 69 154 125 19 31 4 2 1 19 0 28 8 .248 .386 .336 .722
1955 NYY 10 10 9 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 .111 .200 .111 .311
1956 NYY 24 89 83 15 24 4 2 0 4 1 5 6 .289 .330 .386 .715
1957 NYY 96 255 209 24 53 7 1 5 34 0 40 19 .254 .369 .368 .737
1958 NYY 77 160 138 21 42 4 1 4 19 2 21 16 .304 .396 .435 .831
1959 NYY 74 114 99 10 17 2 0 6 21 1 13 19 .172 .265 .374 .639
19 Yrs 2380 9086 7946 1247 2383 413 148 169 1304 71 1018 538 .300 .382 .453 .834
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/27/2014.

April 26 – Happy Birthday Ray Caldwell

caldwellRay 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.

He shares his April 26th birthday with this Yankee relieverthis former Yankee pitcher who gained most of his fame pitching for another team and this one too.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1910 NYY 1 0 1.000 3.72 6 2 2 1 0 1 19.1 19 8 8 1 9 17 1.448
1911 NYY 14 14 .500 3.35 41 26 13 19 1 1 255.0 240 115 95 7 79 145 1.251
1912 NYY 8 16 .333 4.47 30 26 3 13 3 0 183.1 196 111 91 1 67 95 1.435
1913 NYY 9 8 .529 2.41 27 16 9 15 2 1 164.1 131 59 44 5 60 87 1.162
1914 NYY 18 9 .667 1.94 31 23 7 22 5 0 213.0 153 53 46 5 51 92 0.958
1915 NYY 19 16 .543 2.89 36 35 1 31 3 0 305.0 266 115 98 6 107 130 1.223
1916 NYY 5 12 .294 2.99 21 18 1 14 1 0 165.2 142 62 55 6 65 76 1.249
1917 NYY 13 16 .448 2.86 32 29 3 21 1 0 236.0 199 92 75 8 76 102 1.165
1918 NYY 9 8 .529 3.06 24 21 3 14 1 1 176.2 173 69 60 2 62 59 1.330
12 Yrs 134 120 .528 3.22 343 259 65 184 21 8 2242.0 2089 972 802 59 738 1006 1.261
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/25/2014.