April 2014

April 20 – Happy Birthday Don Mattingly

mattingly.jpgDon Mattingly’s first game in a Yankee uniform took place in 1982, the season after the Yankees lost a World Series to the LA Dodgers. His career in pinstripes lasted until 1995. One year later the Yankees would finally make it back to the Fall Classic, with their victory over Atlanta. “Donnie Baseball” was the first person I thought about when New York third baseman Charlie Hayes squeezed the foul-popped final out of the 1996 World Series in his glove.

During his first six full seasons with New York, Mattingly averaged 203 hits per year, 27 home runs, 114 RBIs and hit .327. He also made the All Star team each of those seasons, won five Gold Gloves for his outstanding play at first base and was voted AL MVP in 1985. During that period, he was the best and most popular player in baseball and he along with Dave Winfield made the Yankees perennial contenders in the very tough AL East.

Even though they missed the playoffs every year, those Mattingly-Winfield-led Yankee teams played every inning of every game with a hustle and determination that made you proud to be a Yankee fan. In 1990, Mattingly injured his back and it never fully healed. The impact of the injury on his swing and his power was immediate, significant and permanent. Still he persevered, playing six more seasons. I remember feeling so bad for him when a strike ended the 1994 regular season and prevented the Yankees, who were in first place at the time, from playing in Mattingly’s first-ever postseason. Fortunately, New York did get there in ’95. Those of us who followed him closely throughout his career will never forget his outstanding performance during those five October games against the Mariners. He had ten hits in that series with a homer and six RBIs and he averaged .417. Even though New York lost, Mattingly’s farewell effort to Yankee fans was one of the most poignant moments in franchise history. Donnie Baseball turns fifty-two-years-old today. I still miss watching him play the game.

Mattingly shares his birthday with this long-ago New York outfielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1982 NYY 7 13 12 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 .167 .154 .167 .321
1983 NYY 91 305 279 34 79 15 4 4 32 0 0 21 31 .283 .333 .409 .742
1984 NYY 153 662 603 91 207 44 2 23 110 1 1 41 33 .343 .381 .537 .918
1985 NYY 159 727 652 107 211 48 3 35 145 2 2 56 41 .324 .371 .567 .939
1986 NYY 162 742 677 117 238 53 2 31 113 0 0 53 35 .352 .394 .573 .967
1987 NYY 141 630 569 93 186 38 2 30 115 1 4 51 38 .327 .378 .559 .937
1988 NYY 144 651 599 94 186 37 0 18 88 1 0 41 29 .311 .353 .462 .816
1989 NYY 158 693 631 79 191 37 2 23 113 3 0 51 30 .303 .351 .477 .828
1990 NYY 102 428 394 40 101 16 0 5 42 1 0 28 20 .256 .308 .335 .643
1991 NYY 152 646 587 64 169 35 0 9 68 2 0 46 42 .288 .339 .394 .733
1992 NYY 157 686 640 89 184 40 0 14 86 3 0 39 43 .288 .327 .416 .742
1993 NYY 134 596 530 78 154 27 2 17 86 0 0 61 42 .291 .364 .445 .809
1994 NYY 97 436 372 62 113 20 1 6 51 0 0 60 24 .304 .397 .411 .808
1995 NYY 128 507 458 59 132 32 2 7 49 0 2 40 35 .288 .341 .413 .754
14 Yrs 1785 7722 7003 1007 2153 442 20 222 1099 14 9 588 444 .307 .358 .471 .830
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/20/2013.

April 19 – Happy Birthday Scott Kamieniecki

kamieniecki.jpgWhen this Michigan native went 10-7 as a starter for the 1993 Yankees I thought it was the beginning of what would become a very good pinstripe pitching career for the right hander. Instead, he got fewer and fewer starts over the next two seasons and actually was sent back down to the minors in 1996, when he was 32 years-old. During the 1995 ALDS, with the Yankees up two games to one over the Mariners, Buck Showalter had pegged Kamieniecki to start Game 4 in Seattle. The night before the game, he and his wife received a call from the baby sitter watching their two kids back home in Michigan telling them that their two children were in the hospital being treated for smoke inhalation, victims of a house fire. Scott and his wife decided that he would stay in Seattle and pitch while she returned home to be with the couple’s two young sons, who both ended up being fine.

He did not pitch well the next night, giving up three runs in the first inning as Seattle evened the series. To make a bad off season even worse, doctors found bone chips in his pitching elbow and he underwent surgery to have them removed. In the mean time, Joe Torre had taken over as Yankee skipper and Kamieniecki would soon became part of a small but vocal group of ex-Yankees who did not like the way they were treated by him.

According to the pitcher, he had fully recovered from the elbow surgery and the new Yankee manager had promised him he’d be given an equal shot at one of the starting spots in the Yankees’ 1996 rotation. Just a day later, Torre told the media that Kamieniecki’s off season surgery had put him behind the other candidates. Even though Torre apologized to him, the episode left a bitter taste in Kamieniecki’s mouth. He started the 1996 season on the DL and later claimed the Yankees forced him to fake the injury to avoid an assignment back to the minors. He ended up spending much of the ’96 season back in the Triple A anyway, contributing just one regular-season win to the Yankees’ championship. He was then released after the season. The Orioles evidently saw enough of Kamieniecki to give him a 3-year free agent contract just shy of $8 million in 1997. He went 10-6 for Baltimore that year, helping the Birds make the playoffs. Old wounds were also reopened when an embarrassed Yankee front office admitted they had not ordered World Championship rings for many of the players who had been part of the 1996 squad, including Kamieniecki. He was then measured for the valuable keepsake but never actually received one.

After his 10-6 1997 performance, Scott’s career faded quickly, as he went a combined 4-10 in ’98 and ’99. He was out of the Majors for good after the 2000 season. He shares his birthday with another pitcher who had problems with a manager and this former Yankee shortstop.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1991 NYY 4 4 .500 3.90 9 9 0 0 0 0 55.1 54 24 24 8 22 34 1.373
1992 NYY 6 14 .300 4.36 28 28 0 4 0 0 188.0 193 100 91 13 74 88 1.420
1993 NYY 10 7 .588 4.08 30 20 4 2 0 1 154.1 163 73 70 17 59 72 1.438
1994 NYY 8 6 .571 3.76 22 16 2 1 0 0 117.1 115 53 49 13 59 71 1.483
1995 NYY 7 6 .538 4.01 17 16 1 1 0 0 89.2 83 43 40 8 49 43 1.472
1996 NYY 1 2 .333 11.12 7 5 0 0 0 0 22.2 36 30 28 6 19 15 2.426
10 Yrs 53 59 .473 4.52 250 138 37 8 0 5 975.2 1006 519 490 105 446 542 1.488
NYY (6 yrs) 36 39 .480 4.33 113 94 7 8 0 1 627.1 644 323 302 65 282 323 1.476
BAL (3 yrs) 14 16 .467 4.71 85 44 19 0 0 2 290.1 298 156 152 31 122 173 1.447
CLE (1 yr) 1 3 .250 5.67 26 0 7 0 0 0 33.1 42 22 21 6 20 29 1.860
ATL (1 yr) 2 1 .667 5.47 26 0 4 0 0 2 24.2 22 18 15 3 22 17 1.784
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/18/2013.

April 18 – Happy Birthday Rich Bordi

imagesIf they played under today’s big league structure with three different divisions and two wild card teams. The 1985 Yankees would have definitely made the postseason and quite possibly won a World Series. That team finished with 97 wins. In  Yankee franchise history, only the 1954 Bronx Bomber team won more regular season games (104) and failed to reach postseason play. That ’85 team had a potent offense, which included Hall of Famers Dave Winfield and Ricky Henderson plus perennial all-star, Don Mattingly, who was at the peak of his career. They finished two games behind the Blue Jays that year and if you had to lay the blame anything, it would have to be the thinness of the club’s pitching staff. Ron Guidry won 22 games that year and  46-year-old Joe Niekro somehow managed to flutter his knuckleball enough times to win 16 more. They also had closer Dave Righetti doing his thing in the bullpen. After those three however, you really did need a score card to figure out who was on the mound at any given time for New York. That is unless it was Rich Bordi doing the pitching. That’s because the mustachio’d San Francisco-born right hander was 6’7″ tall, making him an easy read for Yankee fans back then.

Pitching for that particular Yankee team, however was anything but easy as Bordi soon found out. He had originally been drafted and signed by the A’s in 1980. In fact he was the last guy ever signed by Oakland’s eccentric owner, Charley Finley, which explains why he was also rushed into his big league debut that same year. By 1984, he had landed in Chicago with the Cubs, where he put together his best season with a 5-2 record as a starter and some-time reliever. That December, the Yanks sent Ray Fontenot and Brian Dayett to the Cubs for Bordi, Henry Cotto, Ron Hassey and somebody named Porfi Altamirano.

Bordi joined a Yankee team that was supposed to have been managed the entire season by Yogi Berra. George Steinbrenner had made that promise to his skipper before the season started. After a 6-10 start, “the Boss” broke that promise by firing Yogi and replacing him with Billy Martin.

Suddenly, poor Bordi, a modestly skilled big league pitcher found himself working for two men who had become famous for making the lives of modestly skilled big league pitchers miserable. The big Californian didn’t do that badly. He became a mainstay of Martin’s bullpen, appearing in a total of 51 games that year which included three starts. He finished the season with a 6-8 record, 2 saves and a decent 3.21 ERA.

I thought we’d see him in a Yankee uniform the following year but I was wrong. He and prospect Rex Hudler were traded to the Orioles for outfielder Gary Roenicke. Then I thought I would never again see him in a Yankee uniform. I was wrong again. The Yankees brought him back to New York as a free agent in 1987. That year, Lou Piniella had taken over as Yankee skipper and Bordi finished the season with a 3-1 record but a sky high ERA and New York released him. He was out of the big leagues by the following year. He returned to California and I believe he is now a scout for the Cincinnati Reds. I bet you he’s glad he doesn’t work for Billy Martin or George Steinbrenner any more.

He shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher, this long-ago Yankee outfielder and also this now demolished shrine of Major League Baseball.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1985 NYY 6 8 .429 3.21 51 3 16 0 0 2 98.0 95 41 35 5 29 64 1.265
1987 NYY 3 1 .750 7.64 16 1 6 0 0 0 33.0 42 28 28 7 12 23 1.636
9 Yrs 20 20 .500 4.34 173 17 59 0 0 10 371.1 383 196 179 42 121 247 1.357
OAK (3 yrs) 0 1 .000 3.86 5 2 2 0 0 0 11.2 11 7 5 0 6 6 1.457
CHC (2 yrs) 5 4 .556 3.81 42 8 11 0 0 5 108.2 112 52 46 13 32 61 1.325
NYY (2 yrs) 9 9 .500 4.33 67 4 22 0 0 2 131.0 137 69 63 12 41 87 1.359
SEA (1 yr) 0 2 .000 8.31 7 2 2 0 0 0 13.0 18 12 12 4 1 10 1.462
BAL (1 yr) 6 4 .600 4.46 52 1 22 0 0 3 107.0 105 56 53 13 41 83 1.364
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/24/2014.

April 17 – Happy Birthday to the New Yankee Stadium

YankeeStadiumIINo members of the all-time Yankee family were born on this date, so even though the new Yankee Stadium officially opened on April 16, 2009 we will use today’s post to wish it a Happy Birthday.

Being a fifty plus year fan of the New York Yankees and a traditionalist when it comes to our National Pastime, I was prepared to not like the Yankees’ new home. I hated to see the original “House that Ruth Built” closed and also hated how the YES cameras kept showing shots of Baseball’s Cathedral being demolished in eerie stages during the 2009 season.

At first, I paid most of my attention to all the things I didn’t like about the “House that George Built.” The astronomical ticket cost for the first eight rows of seats surrounding the infield reminded me of the Roman Coliseum’s seating policy. When it became evident that the large chunks of these “Legends Seats” that remained unsold could not be hidden from the camera’s view during televised Yankee games, they became an embarrassment to the team’s ownership, serving as a constant reminder of the highest ticket prices in all of baseball.

I was also not a fan of the underground parking garage that permitted Yankee players and visiting team busses to enter the Stadium completely hidden from fan view. Some of my favorite memories as both a child and a parent took place while I was leaning against those blue NYPD police barricades that used to form a walking path between the old Stadium’s player parking lot and the street entrance to the Yankee clubhouse. Now, no future Yankee fans or their Dad’s would get to create those same memories.

I admit it was nice to see Jorge Posada hit the first home run in the place, but it was obvious that the new Stadium’s designers had created a homer haven when balls kept leaving that yard at a record pace. Sports journalists around the country were calling baseball’s newest venue a joke.

Before too long, however, I stopped paying attention to the things I didn’t like and started focusing on the performance of that 2009 Yankee team. They kept winning ballgames, both in their new home and on the road and before you knew it, they made it to the World Series.

My wife and I chose the second game of that Series to make our inaugural visit to the new Yankee Stadium. I have to admit that everything about the place (except the prices) impressed me. The improved surrounding neighborhood, the Great Hall, the openness of the walk and concession areas, spacious bathrooms that didn’t smell of urine, the Yankee Museum, the positioning of the seats and the great sound system that started blaring Frank Sinatra’s “New York” the instant Matt Stairs struck out swinging at Mariano’s final pitch of the game, turning the tide of that Fall Classic in the Yankees’ favor.

As my wife and I walked back to the parking lot that night I had fallen in love with the place. I also admit that if the Yanks had lost that game that night to fall behind 2-0 in that Series against Philadelphia, my feelings about the place may not have changed.

April 16 – Happy Birthday Frank Fernandez

fernandez.jpgToday’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant was a back up catcher during his days in pinstripes. Many have served in that role through the ages. The current guy in that position, Chris Stewart, was a surprise choice at the very end of the 2012 spring training season, a move that ended the popular Francisco Cervelli’s two-year hold on the same job. The first backup catcher in franchise history was Jack O’Connor. Known as Rowdy Jack, he was already 37 years old when he spent the 1903 season backing up Monte Beville behind home plate. O’Connor batted just .203 that season but that was nine points better than Beville hit. Benny Bengough was the Yankees’ first long-term second catcher. He started his pinstripe career in 1923 behind Wally Schang on the depth chart and finished it eight seasons later behind Hall-of-Famer, Bill Dickey. Dickey’s longtime backup was the Norwegian receiver, Arndt Jorgens, who spent all eleven of his big league seasons in that role. Yogi Berra’s backup during the first half of his Yankee careeer was Charley Silvera. Elston Howard took over from him and gradually took over the starting catcher’s job from Berra. During the fabled 1961 Yankee season, the Yankees had three catchers, Howard, Berra and Johnny Blanchard all hit more than 20 home runs in the same season. Former Yankee Manager, Ralph Houk had been a backup catcher for New York during his playing days and the team’s current Manager, Joe Girardi, ended his Yankee playing days in that supporting role behind Jorge Posada. Some of the better known Yankee backup catchers included Rick Dempsey, Fran Healy, and Ivan Rodriguez.

I can clearly recall when today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant took over as the Yankee backup receiver. It was during the 1967 season. Elston Howard had broke completely down physically that year and the Yankees inserted his backup, Jake Gibbs as starting catcher and brought up Frank Fernandez from their farm system to become the new number two receiver. The native of Staten Island held onto that backup role for three seasons until Thurman Munson arrived in the Bronx in 1969. Fernandez was then traded to the A’s. He was decent defensively and had some power in his bat, hitting 12 home runs for New York in 1969 and then 15 for the A’s a season later. He also had a keen batting eye. His biggest problem was that when he did swing the bat he usually missed the ball. Frank averaged about one strikeout every three times at bat during his Yankee career and averaged just .199 during the six seasons he played in the big leagues.

Fernandez shares his birthday with one of the only five Yankee players to have collected three thousand base hits during their big league careers and this former Yankee utility infielder.

Year Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1967 NYY AL 9 32 28 1 6 2 0 1 4 1 1 2 7 .214 .281 .393 .674
1968 NYY AL 51 171 135 15 23 6 1 7 30 1 0 35 50 .170 .341 .385 .726
1969 NYY AL 89 298 229 34 51 6 1 12 29 1 3 65 68 .223 .399 .415 .814
6 Yrs 285 903 727 92 145 21 2 39 116 4 4 164 231 .199 .350 .395 .744
OAK (2 yrs) 98 304 261 31 55 6 0 15 45 1 0 41 79 .211 .322 .406 .728
NYY (3 yrs) 149 501 392 50 80 14 2 20 63 3 4 102 125 .204 .372 .403 .775
CHC (2 yrs) 20 61 44 11 7 1 0 4 4 0 0 17 17 .159 .393 .455 .848
WSA (1 yr) 18 37 30 0 3 0 0 0 4 0 0 4 10 .100 .194 .100 .294
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/15/2013.

April 15 – Happy Birthday Aaron Laffey

The Yankees claimed former Seattle Mariner pitcher, Aaron Laffey off waivers in August of 2011 to get a second left-hander in their bullpen. Laffey had spent his first four big league seasons with Cleveland, where he was considered a very decent pitching prospect. He caused quite a stir in 2008 when he started the season by winning his first four decisions but he just couldn’t get over the hump. By 2010, the Tribe had relegated him to the bullpen where he has spent the balance of his career.

The Cumberland, MD native made his pinstripe debut on August 20th of that 2011 season against the Twins but hardly anybody noticed. That’s because it was in the same game that television cameras caught an angry AJ Burnett screaming something in Joe Gerardi’s direction after the Yankee manager lifted his erratic starter in the third inning with the bases full of Twins. Laffey was probably happy to not get any post game attention since he gave up five hits, two walks and two runs in his initial three-inning stint.

He got his first Yankee win in his next appearance against the Orioles, thanks to Jesus Montero’s first two big league home runs. Laffey continued to pitch well in most of his appearances for New York, winning two of three decisions and finishing the season with a 3.38 ERA. That was not good enough to make the team’s postseason roster or keep him from being released by New York. He started the 2013 season as a member of the New York Mets’ bullpen.

Laffey is just the second member of the all-time Yankee roster to celebrate his birthday on April 15th. This merry old right-handed pitcher would have turned 124 years-old today.

Year Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2011 NYY AL 2 1 .667 3.38 11 0 0 0 0 0 10.2 13 4 4 0 5 6 1.688
7 Yrs 25 29 .463 4.39 150 66 13 0 0 1 479.2 536 260 234 46 187 239 1.507
CLE (4 yrs) 18 21 .462 4.41 79 49 4 0 0 1 320.1 359 177 157 22 128 155 1.520
NYM (1 yr) 0 0 5.06 2 1 1 0 0 0 5.1 10 3 3 0 1 6 2.063
NYY (1 yr) 2 1 .667 3.38 11 0 0 0 0 0 10.2 13 4 4 0 5 6 1.688
SEA (1 yr) 1 1 .500 4.01 36 0 7 0 0 0 42.2 54 20 19 7 16 24 1.641
TOR (1 yr) 4 6 .400 4.56 22 16 1 0 0 0 100.2 100 56 51 17 37 48 1.361
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/15/2013.

April 14 – Happy Birthday David Justice

My in-laws became huge Atlanta Braves’ fans in the 1980s, which of course meant they adored Dale Murphy. I’m not certain of this but I think I do remember my mother-in-law actually crying on the day the team traded “the Murph” to the Phillies, in August of 1990. The guy who took over for the Braves’ legend was David Justice. He got off to a great start, winning the 1990 NL Rookie of the Year Award by hitting 28 home runs and averaging .282 in his first full big league season. He then had two consecutive 21 home run seasons before suddenly exploding with 40 round trippers and 120 RBIs in 1993.

The following season, Justice tore his shoulder muscle and was never again the force he had been in Atlanta’s lineup. He had also married the actress, Halle Barry in 1992 and their life together became fodder for the tabloids for the next few years. Their coupling ended pretty badly just a couple of years after it began and the outfielder’s marriage to the Braves also broke up shortly thereafter.

In March of 1997, Justice switched tribes when Atlanta traded him and fellow Braves’ outfielder, Marquis Grissom to the Indians for Kenny Lofton and pitcher Alan Embree. My mother-in-law didn’t cry that day but she wasn’t happy a year later when Lofton, who had hit .333 during his one season in Atlanta, became a free agent and rejoined the Indians. He and Justice, who hit 31 home runs and drove in 101 runs, led Cleveland to the 1997 World Series.

In June of 2000, Justice came to the Yankees. I had never been a big David Justice fan so when New York made the mid-season trade with Cleveland to get him that year, my first reaction was disappointment that the New York front office had given up on Ricky Ledee, who was part of the trade. But boy did Justice make me forget Ledee in a hurry. In just 78 games in pinstripes that season, he smacked 20 home runs, scored 58, and drove in 60 more. He pretty much put the team on his back and carried them to the playoffs. Then in the ALCS against Seattle, Justice drove in eight more runs. Without him, I doubt seriously the Subway Series of 2000 would ever have taken place.

In 2001, Justice suffered a groin injury that plagued him almost the entire season. He played in only 111 games, hit just 18 home runs and averaged a career low .241. Those numbers got him traded after the 2001 season, first to the Mets who then immediately turned around and traded Justice to the A’s, where the then 36-year-old three-time all-star played the final season of his 14-year big league career. He quit with 305 career home runs and two rings. But baseball wasn’t through with Justice yet.

Five years after he played his final big league game, his name showed up in “the Mitchell Report,” the Major League’s official expose of steroid and HGH abuse. An informant claimed to have sold Justice HGH after the 2000 World Series. Justice has steadfastly denied he ever used any PEDs during his career. What’s the truth? When Justice hit those 40 homers in 1993, the two guys who finished ahead of him in the NL MVP race were Barry Bonds and Larry Dykstra. When the Yankees traded for Justice during the 2000 season, it was only after Brian Cashman failed in his efforts to bring Sammy Sosa or Juan Gonzalez to New York. Justice played and peaked during the same era as Bonds, Dykstra, Sosa and Gonzalez. We know PEDs were part of the game. Are they still? Who really knows? That’s the damn shame.

Justice shares his April 14th birthday with this former Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2000 NYY 78 318 275 43 84 17 0 20 60 1 39 42 .305 .391 .585 .977
2001 NYY 111 439 381 58 92 16 1 18 51 1 54 83 .241 .333 .430 .763
14 Yrs 1610 6602 5625 929 1571 280 24 305 1017 53 903 999 .279 .378 .500 .878
ATL (8 yrs) 817 3349 2858 475 786 127 16 160 522 33 452 492 .275 .374 .499 .873
CLE (4 yrs) 486 2025 1713 299 503 102 4 96 335 14 288 316 .294 .392 .526 .918
NYY (2 yrs) 189 757 656 101 176 33 1 38 111 2 93 125 .268 .357 .495 .853
OAK (1 yr) 118 471 398 54 106 18 3 11 49 4 70 66 .266 .376 .410 .785
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2014.

April 13 – Happy Birthday Kid Elberfeld

elberfeld.jpgHis real name was Norman Arthur Elberfeld and back when he played professional baseball at the turn of the twentieth century, he was considered to be one of the meanest players in uniform. He was so hot-tempered that he was given the nickname “The Tabasco Kid.” Elberfeld’s meanness was not limited to the ball field. He also owned a farm in Tennessee. He was accused of stealing a calf from a neighboring farm. The case ended up in a local court and the ruling went against “The Kid” and he was forced to let his neighbor have the calf. A week later the animal was found poisoned to death.

As far as we know, Elberfeld never poisoned a human being but he did do a tap dance on an opposing player’s back wearing his razor-sharp baseball cleats. He also once threw a handful of mud INSIDE the mouth of an umpire he happened to be arguing with. He poked another ump in the stomach with his finger so many times that the guy started beating Elberfeld over the head with his mask. He would actually get so mad at umpires that he was known to chase men-in-blue around baseball diamonds trying to physically assault them.

This maniac was the first starting shortstop in Yankee (Highlander) history. He played that position from 1903 until he was sold to the Washington Senators after the 1909 season. As hot-tempered as he was, Elberfeld evidently was a pretty skilled player who knew how to get on base. During his seven seasons playing for New York, he batted .268 and had a .340 on base percentage.

At the beginning of the 1908 season, New York Manager, Clark Griffith got into a dispute with the team’s owners and was dismissed. Elberfeld happened to be injured at the time so since he was being paid anyway, the Highlander brain trust made him the team’s Manager. The results were disastrous. The umpires hated him and so did his own players. He piloted the team to an almost comical 27-71 record during the rest of that 1908 season and his big league managerial days were over forever. He played one more season for New York before getting sold to Washington where he was reunited with Clark Griffith.

Also born on April 13th is this older brother of a former Yankee pitcher and this WWII era third baseman.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1903 NYY 90 385 349 49 100 18 5 0 45 16 22 12 .287 .346 .367 .713
1904 NYY 122 511 445 55 117 13 5 2 46 18 37 20 .263 .337 .328 .665
1905 NYY 111 449 390 48 102 18 2 0 53 18 23 16 .262 .329 .318 .647
1906 NYY 99 393 346 59 106 11 5 2 31 19 30 19 .306 .378 .384 .763
1907 NYY 120 505 447 61 121 17 6 0 51 22 36 7 .271 .343 .336 .678
1908 NYY 19 69 56 11 11 3 0 0 5 1 6 3 .196 .328 .250 .578
1909 NYY 106 431 379 47 90 9 5 0 26 23 28 17 .237 .314 .288 .601
14 Yrs 1292 5273 4561 647 1235 169 56 10 535 213 427 165 .271 .355 .339 .694
NYY (7 yrs) 667 2743 2412 330 647 89 28 4 257 117 182 94 .268 .340 .333 .674
DET (3 yrs) 286 1219 1052 175 305 43 20 4 159 48 123 33 .290 .376 .380 .757
WSH (2 yrs) 254 1022 859 111 224 28 6 2 89 43 100 23 .261 .363 .314 .677
BRO (1 yr) 30 71 62 7 14 1 0 0 1 0 2 4 .226 .304 .242 .546
CIN (1 yr) 41 166 138 23 36 4 2 0 22 5 15 6 .261 .378 .319 .697
PHI (1 yr) 14 52 38 1 9 4 0 0 7 0 5 5 .237 .420 .342 .762
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2014.

April 12 – Happy Birthday Sammy Vick

vick.jpgA few years ago, I read a book entitled “The Big Bam,” which is a biography of Babe Ruth, written by Leigh Montville. In it, the author goes into great detail about the transaction that made Ruth a Yankee, in January of 1920. At the time the deal was made, Ruth was coming off a season in which he hit the  then unheard of total of 29 home runs. He had almost convinced Red Sox Manager, Ed Barrow, that he was too good a hitter to continue pitching. He was quickly becoming the most famous man in America and was about to embark on a career in pinstripes that would in effect, make him the God of baseball. So imagine for a moment that you are today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant, Sammy Vick. You’ve been a Yankee for three seasons and in 1919, you finally became the team’s starting right fielder. You’re only 24 years old and the Yankees, under second-year Manager Miller Huggins, were an improving baseball team, finishing in third place in the American League the past season. So you wake up on January 4, 1920 and you pour yourself a cup of coffee and grab the morning newspaper. You unfold  it and there on the top of the front page, you’re suddenly staring at your own obituary. Actually, the headline reads “Yankees Purchase Ruth From Boston” but to your eyes it says “Sammy Vick’s Days as Yankees’ Starting Right Fielder Are Over Forever.” When he got to the part of the article where Huggins is quoted as saying Babe’s pitching days are over for good, Vick probably put down his coffee and the newspaper and went back to bed hoping against hope that everything that had just transpired was nothing but a bad dream.

Ruth went on to hit 59 home runs during his first season in New York. Vick only got to play when “The Big Bam” was hurt, tired, hung over or finished hitting for the day. That meant Vick, who was a native of Batesville, Mississippi, appeared in just 51 games in 1920. The following season he was traded to Boston as part of a nine-player swap between the two teams. He floundered as a Red Sox and was back in the minors by 1922. He played until 1930 but never got back to the big leagues. Sammy lived to be 91, passing away in 1986. I bet at the time, he was still telling anyone who would listen that he was the guy who lost his job to Babe Ruth.

Joining Vick as a former Yankee who celebrates his birthday on April 12 is this reliever who came to New York in a trade for El Duque and this outfielder the Yankees picked up from Detroit just as the 2013 season was about to begin.

Year Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1917 NYY AL 10 38 36 4 10 3 0 0 2 2 1 6 .278 .297 .361 .658
1918 NYY AL 2 3 3 1 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333
1919 NYY AL 106 445 407 59 101 15 9 2 27 9 35 55 .248 .308 .344 .652
1920 NYY AL 51 135 118 21 26 7 1 0 11 1 1 14 20 .220 .313 .297 .610
5 Yrs 213 702 641 90 159 28 11 2 50 12 2 51 91 .248 .305 .335 .641
NYY (4 yrs) 169 621 564 85 139 25 10 2 41 12 1 50 81 .246 .310 .337 .647
BOS (1 yr) 44 81 77 5 20 3 1 0 9 0 1 1 10 .260 .269 .325 .594
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/12/2013.

April 11 – Happy Birthday Mark Teixeira

teixeira.jpegI believe it was my son Matthew who e-mailed me to let me know the Yankees had signed Mark Teixeira. I was both shocked and smiling when I read his message. It was early January in 2009 and New York had already snagged CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett during that free agent signing season to rejuvenate their starting rotation. The prevailing rumor was that Teixeira was going to sign with the Red Sox but at the last minute, the Yankees swooped in and made the offer that Tex was waiting for and he was on his way to the Bronx.

What surprised me most as I got to watch this guy play every day was how good he really is as a defensive first baseman. I knew he was a quality hitter with good power from both sides of the plate but I had no idea that he would make such a positive impact for New York with his glove. In both 2009 and 2010, his extraordinary range and his ability to catch any ball thrown anywhere near him improved the entire Yankee infield dramatically. In fact, during the 2009 postseason Teixeira was terrible at the plate but was so good in the field I truly doubt the Yankees would have gotten to or won that World Series without him.

Through 2011, his offensive numbers since arriving in the Bronx had also been pretty impressive. During his first three seasons in pinstripes, he averaged 34 home runs and  114 RBIs per season with 102 runs scored per year. He was on his way to similar numbers in 2012 when he suffered a calf injury in late August and missed the last month of the regular season and the playoffs. He managed to hit  24 home runs and drive in 84 runs in the 123 games he played. His 138 HRs as a Yankee put him in 35th place on the all-time list, two behind the late Tom Thresh.

What has been dropping since he came to New York are Teixeira’s batting average, on base percentage and most unfortunately, his playing time. A torn wrist tendon pretty much wiped out his entire 2013 season and he was back on the DL just six games into the 2014  season with a groin pull. One has to start wondering if this guy has become too frail to withstand the rigors of a complete season.

He has also been pretty much an offensive bust during his Yankee April’s and more problematically, his Yankee October’s. This is one of the few guys in baseball history to have hit at least 30 home runs and drive in 100 or more runs for eight straight seasons. When he’s in one of his hitting funks, it really has a negative impact on New York’s ability to score runs. I think one of the big reasons the Yanks signed Carlos Beltran was their uncertainty that Texeira could once again be the effective middle-of-the-lineup slugger they signed five seasons ago.

Mark was born on April 11, 1980, in Annapolis, MD. The Yankees have him under contract through 2016.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2009 NYY 156 707 609 103 178 43 3 39 122 2 81 114 .292 .383 .565 .948
2010 NYY 158 712 601 113 154 36 0 33 108 0 93 122 .256 .365 .481 .846
2011 NYY 156 684 589 90 146 26 1 39 111 4 76 110 .248 .341 .494 .835
2012 NYY 123 524 451 66 113 27 1 24 84 2 54 83 .251 .332 .475 .807
2013 NYY 15 63 53 5 8 1 0 3 12 0 8 19 .151 .270 .340 .609
2014 NYY 6 24 22 2 6 1 0 0 3 0 2 7 .273 .333 .318 .652
12 Yrs 1518 6645 5739 945 1594 357 18 341 1116 21 756 1149 .278 .368 .524 .893
NYY (6 yrs) 614 2714 2325 379 605 134 5 138 440 8 314 455 .260 .355 .500 .855
TEX (5 yrs) 693 3006 2632 426 746 173 12 153 499 11 318 555 .283 .368 .533 .901
ATL (2 yrs) 157 691 589 101 174 36 1 37 134 0 92 116 .295 .395 .548 .943
LAA (1 yr) 54 234 193 39 69 14 0 13 43 2 32 23 .358 .449 .632 1.081
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2014.