April 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.

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.