April 2014

April 25 – Happy Birthday “?” Ford

Russ.Ford.jpgThe 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.

This former Yankee reliever and this Cuban defector also celebrate their birthdays on April 25th.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO WHIP
1909 NYY 0 0 9.00 1 0 1 0 0 0 3.0 4 4 3 0 4 2 2.667
1910 NYY 26 6 .813 1.65 36 33 3 29 8 1 299.2 194 69 55 4 70 209 0.881
1911 NYY 22 11 .667 2.27 37 33 4 26 1 0 281.1 251 119 71 3 76 158 1.162
1912 NYY 13 21 .382 3.55 36 35 1 30 0 0 291.2 317 165 115 11 79 112 1.358
1913 NYY 12 18 .400 2.66 33 28 5 15 1 2 237.0 244 101 70 9 58 72 1.274
7 Yrs 99 71 .582 2.59 199 170 28 126 15 9 1487.1 1340 595 428 45 376 710 1.154
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/24/2013.

April 24 – Happy Birthday Carlos Beltran

beltranI 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.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2014 NYY 19 80 75 10 23 7 0 5 13 0 4 18 .307 .338 .600 .938
17 Yrs 2083 9029 7943 1356 2251 453 77 363 1340 308 938 1445 .283 .358 .497 .855
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/24/2014.

April 23 – Happy Birthday Duke Carmel

Carmel.jpgBack 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.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
1965 NYY 6 8 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 .000 .000 .000 .000 -100
4 Yrs 124 256 227 22 48 7 3 4 23 3 4 27 60 .211 .294 .322 .616 74
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2013.

April 22 – Happy Birthday Jimmy Key

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.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1993 NYY 18 6 .750 3.00 34 34 0 4 2 0 236.2 219 84 79 26 43 173 1.107
1994 NYY 17 4 .810 3.27 25 25 0 1 0 0 168.0 177 68 61 10 52 97 1.363
1995 NYY 1 2 .333 5.64 5 5 0 0 0 0 30.1 40 20 19 3 6 14 1.516
1996 NYY 12 11 .522 4.68 30 30 0 0 0 0 169.1 171 93 88 21 58 116 1.352
15 Yrs 186 117 .614 3.51 470 389 28 34 13 10 2591.2 2518 1104 1010 254 668 1538 1.229
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/22/2013.

April 21 – Happy Birthday Jesse Orosco

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.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2003 NYY 0 0 10.38 15 0 0 0 0 0 4.1 4 6 5 0 6 4 2.308
24 Yrs 87 80 .521 3.16 *1252* 4 501 0 0 144 1295.1 1055 512 455 113 581 1179 1.263
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/21/2013.