Al Mamaux seemed to be on top of the baseball world after putting together consecutive 21-victory seasons for his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates in 1915 and ’16. His bubble quickly burst the following season, however, when he went just 2-11 and was also suspended by Pittsburgh Manager, Hugo Bezdek for violating “team rules” during a road trip to New York. When I first found out about the suspension, it caused me to surmise that perhaps Mamaux, who was just 22 years old at the time, had let success go to his head. A closer look at this right-hander’s season stat lines indicated other reasons may have existed for his quick and precipitous downfall. During his two big seasons with the Pirates, he had pitched more than 550 innings of baseball, far more than he had ever thrown over a two season period. All those innings must have put a tremendous strain on his young right arm because he was never again able to approach that same level of success in the big leagues.
The Pirates traded him and Burleigh Grimes to Brooklyn in 1918 in a deal that sent future Yankee skipper Casey Stengel to Pittsburgh. Mamaux hardly pitched for his new team in 1918 but recovered to win 10 games in 1919 and 12 more in 1920. He would spend a total of six seasons with Brooklyn and his big league career was just about over when the Yankees purchased his contract in 1924. He appeared in 14 games for New York in 1924, splitting his only two decisions. That performance ended his big league playing days but put him on the path to his second career as a very successful manager of the Yankees’ Newark Bears farm team. Before he took over as Newark’s field boss, he anchored the Bears starting rotation for four seasons during which he won 79 games. In 1930 he replaced Tris Speaker as skipper of the Bears. His Newark teams were considered the very best in that proud franchise’s illustrious International League history and Mamaux would later become a highly regarded college coach at Seton Hall.
The only other Yankee born in this date made his debut as a Yankee pitcher during the same season Mamaux became the Bears’ manager.
|BRO (6 yrs)||26||30||.464||3.07||127||49||49||26||4||8||541.2||513||241||185||12||183||244||1.285|
|PIT (5 yrs)||49||36||.576||2.61||113||86||23||52||11||2||713.1||581||272||207||8||308||369||1.246|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||1||.500||5.68||14||2||7||0||0||0||38.0||44||28||24||2||20||12||1.684|
Fate shined kindly on this fourteen-year veteran when he found himself catching the final out pop-up of the 1996 World Series as the Yankee’s third baseman. New York had picked him up late that same season to serve as a late-inning defensive replacement for Wade Boggs. Hayes had also been the Yankee starting third baseman in 1992 but was left unprotected in the MLB Expansion Draft and was selected by Colorado.
After he caught the last out of the ’96 Series, he actually started more games at third for the Yankees the following season than Boggs did. But after the Indians bounced the Yankees out of postseason play in the first round of the 1997 playoffs, Charlie was traded to San Francisco and the Yankees went out and got Scott Brosius from Oakland to be their new third baseman.
Born in Hattiesburg, MS in 1965, Charlie retired after the 2001 season with 144 home runs and 1,379 career hits during his 14-season big league career.
|SFG (4 yrs)||216||683||609||72||150||17||1||18||110||5||67||106||.246||.320||.366||.686|
|PHI (4 yrs)||519||1981||1849||174||474||88||5||41||238||15||105||303||.256||.296||.376||.672|
|NYY (3 yrs)||262||1016||929||98||241||38||2||31||132||6||69||178||.259||.310||.405||.715|
|COL (2 yrs)||270||1093||996||135||297||68||6||35||148||14||79||153||.298||.352||.484||.836|
|PIT (1 yr)||128||500||459||51||114||21||2||10||62||6||36||78||.248||.301||.368||.669|
|HOU (1 yr)||31||58||50||4||10||2||0||0||4||0||7||16||.200||.293||.240||.533|
|MIL (1 yr)||121||435||370||46||93||17||0||9||46||1||57||84||.251||.348||.370||.718|
One of the true bright spots of the Yankees 2012 season was the performance of their bullpen. If someone told you at the beginning of that year’s spring training camp that Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson would all be on the DL at the same time but their absence would have little negative impact on the quality of New York’s relief pitching, you’d call that person crazy. But that’s exactly what happened. Raffie Soriano, Boone Logan, Clay Rapada and Cody Eppley all stepped up big time and got a huge early-season assist from today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant.
Through the middle of June Cory Wade appeared in 27 games for New York that season and pitched 27 innings. He has struck out 30 hitters, walked just 5 and allowed only 8e earned runs for an ERA of 2.63. He wasn’t really a flash in the pan for New York either. In 2011, this right-handed native of Indianapolis appeared in 40 games for the Yankees, went 6-1 with an ERA of just 2.04.
Unfortunately for Wade and the 2012 Yankees, his pitching fell apart during the second half of June. When he gave up a total 10 earned runs in his final two appearances that month, New York skipper Joe Girardi lost confidence in the pitcher and he was demoted to Scranton.
Wade came up to the big leagues with the Dodgers in 2008 and pitched well for Manager Joe Torre. He then injured his shoulder in 2009 and required surgery. The Dodgers released him and he signed with Tampa but never pitched an inning for the Rays. The Yankees signed him in June of 2011 and with his arm completely healed, Wade’s been pitching well ever since. He’s not a hard thrower. His fastball tops out at about 90 miles per hour but he has very good command of four different pitches and has been mixing speeds masterfully since he donned the pinstripes. Let’s hope it continues.
Wade was called back up by New York for the 2012 stretch run and pitched OK but not great. He was then left off the Yankees’ postseason roster and put on waivers that October. He’s now pitching in the Royals’ minor league system.
Wade shares his May 28th birthday with another very effective Yankee relief pitcher from the 1950s.
|LAD (2 yrs)||4||4||.500||3.18||82||0||23||0||0||0||99.0||79||39||35||10||25||69||1.051|
|NYY (2 yrs)||7||2||.778||4.23||79||0||15||0||0||0||78.2||79||39||37||13||16||68||1.208|
The year was 2003. The Yankees would win 101 games that season and capture the AL East Divison, the ALDS against the Twins, the ALCS against the Red Sox but then lose the Series to the Marlins. Coming out of that year’s spring training season, most of the reporters covering the Yankees were predicting Juan Rivera would be Joe Torre’s selection as the team’s fourth outfielder. Instead, Torre chose Chris Latham.
New York had signed the Idaho native the previous September after he had spent the entire 2000 season in the Mets farm system. But Latham did have prior big league experience. He had made his debut in the Majors for the Twins in 1997 and saw action in Minnesota’s outfield for three straight seasons. He had also played for Toronto during the 2000 season, where he hit a career high .274 in 43 games as a utility outfielder.
Reports at the time indicated Torre had selected Latham over Rivera because his speed made him a better pinch-running option, he was a switch-hitter and had experience playing center field. He made his debut in pinstripes as a pinch runner for Raul Mondesi on April 6, 2003, during the sixth inning of game against Tampa Bay. He scored a run and remained in the game to play right field. He got his first Yankee at bat three innings later and singled off Jorge Sosa.
Even though Latham had made the Yankee roster, his agent continued to look for opportunities that would permit his client to play more and make a higher salary. He found such an opportunity with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan. Latham asked the Yankees if they would agree to negotiating a deal with the Giants that would permit him to play there and the team graciously agreed. Before he departed for Yomiuri, he got one more at bat as a Yankee against his old team the Twins and singled. That hit would make him the only Yankee in history to leave New York with more than one official at bat and a 1.000 career batting average.
The only other Yankee born on May 26th was this former first baseman.
|MIN (3 yrs)||63||154||138||19||21||2||0||1||9||4||13||57||.152||.222||.188||.411|
|NYY (1 yr)||4||2||2||3||2||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||1.000||1.000||1.000||2.000|
|TOR (1 yr)||43||84||73||12||20||3||1||2||10||4||10||28||.274||.369||.425||.794|
Bobby Brown started his Yankee career during the tumultuous 1979 season, when he was acquired from the Blue Jays in June of that year. At the same time New York traded for Brown, George Steinbrenner, replaced Manager Bob Lemon with Billy Martin. After winning two straight World Championships, New York was floundering in that year’s AL Pennant race. The “Boss” thought Lemon had lost control of the team and especially center-fielder Mickey Rivers. The Yankee owner felt Martin was the guy who could make the Yankees and “Mick the Quick” play hard again.
Instead, Rivers continued to drift and on August 1, 1979, the speedy outfielder was dealt to the Rangers. That same day, Thurman Munson crashed his plane and the rest of the 1979 baseball season suddenly didn’t matter to anybody.
In one of his best moves as Yankee owner, Steinbrenner then approved the hiring of long-time Yankee coach Dick Howser as the team’s new skipper. The Yankees also swung a deal for the young Mariner center-fielder, Rupert Jones. Everyone thought Jones would become the Yankees next great center fielder. Fortunately for Bobby Brown, that didn’t happen.
With Jones struggling to keep his average over .200, Dick Howser began playing Brown in the middle of his outfield during that 1980 season. Brown’s speed helped him cover the huge dimensions of center field in the old Yankee Stadium and it helped him steal 27 bases that season. Howser also liked the fact that Brown was a switch hitter. Bobby responded well, hitting .260 and poking 14 home runs in his official rookie season. But the Howser-Brown mutual admiration society was about to get disbanded.
Howser was fired by an irate Steinbrenner after the Yankees got knocked out of the 1980 playoffs in three-straight games by the Royals. Brown went hitless in that series, which did not go unnoticed in the Yankee front office. At the very end of New York’s 1981 spring training season, New York traded Jones to the Padres for San Diego’s talented center fielder, Jerry Mumphrey. That trade signaled the official end of Brown’s career as the Yankee’s starting center fielder.
Bobby began the 1981 season in Columbus and then got called back up to the parent club in late May. He remained in pinstripes during the rest of that strike-shortened 1981 season, but he hit only .226. Still, the Yankees kept him on their post-season roster, which ended up giving Brown one more opportunity to make Steinbrenner livid. It happened during the pivotal Game 4 of that year’s Fall Classic against the Dodgers. Yankee Manager, Bob Lemon had inserted Brown as a pinch runner for Oscar Gamble in the sixth inning with the Yankees ahead 6-3. But instead of putting Jerry Mumphrey in center the following inning, Lemon sent Brown out to play the field. Mumphrey was considered to be a much better defensive outfielder than Brown. Later in the game, with the score tied 6-6, Brown misplayed Rick Monday’s blooper into a double, which led to a two-run inning and a Dodger victory and a deadlocked Series. Los Angeles would go on to win the next two games and the World Championship. The following April, Brown was playing for the Mariners.
The Yankees actually traded for Bobby Brown two different times. They originally acquired him in 1978, when he was still a minor leaguer in the Phillies’ organization but then lost him to the Mets in the 1978 rule 5 Draft. In that trade with the Phillies, the Yankees got Brown and outfielder Jay Johnstone for reliever Rawley Eastwick. When New York traded Bobby Brown to the Mariners in 1982 they got starting pitcher Shane Rawley in return. This makes Brown the only Yankee in history who was traded to the team and from the team for guys who shared the name Rawley.
There was another pretty famous Bobby Brown in Yankee history, a third baseman during the late forties who went on to become a medical doctor and then the last president of MLB’s American League. There have also been lots of Yankees who like the two Bobby Brown’s, have names (or nicknames) with the same first and last initial. Here’s my line up of the most notable of those alliteratively monikered Bronx Bombers:
Chris Chambliss – 1b
Steve Sax – 2b
Tommy Tresh – SS
Red Rolfe – 3b
Frank Fernandez – c
Mickey Mantle – of
Bobby Bonds – of
Chad Curtis – of
Shane Spencer – dh
Mike Mussina – p
Red Ruffing – p
Goose Gossage – rp
Bobby turns 59-years-old today. He shares his May 25th birthday with this former Yankee pitcher and minor league pitching instructor.
|SDP (3 yrs)||221||528||480||76||116||15||5||8||57||49||39||91||.242||.296||.344||.640|
|NYY (3 yrs)||198||586||542||77||138||16||6||14||56||33||36||114||.255||.299||.384||.683|
|SEA (1 yr)||79||267||245||29||59||7||1||4||17||28||17||32||.241||.288||.327||.614|
|TOR (1 yr)||4||12||10||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||1||.000||.167||.000||.167|
You’re fourteen years old, you love the Yankees and for the previous three years you’ve watched them degrade from perennial World Series participants to AL cellar dwellers. All your favorite pinstriper’s have grown old instantly together and you’re desperate for some good news. Is Bobby Murcer the next Mickey Mantle? Will Jerry Kenney make us forget about Clete Boyer.? Is Horace Clarke better than Bobby Richardson? You keep watching and listening to game after game and scouring the box scores to get the answer to these questions and even though it quickly became obvious that this next generation of Yankees were simply pale imitations of the previous ones, you didn’t give up hope.
It was this never-give-up-hope attitude that helps me clearly remember when today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant made his debut in the Bronx. It was a Sunday afternoon game at the Stadium in late May of 1968 and I can almost hear Scooter make the first-ever big league introduction of this native Puerto Rican. It probably went something like this; “and batting eighth and doing the catching is, holy cow Messer, this kid’s name is Ellie Rodriguez and he’s doing the catching. If he’s anything like the last Ellie (Elston Howard) who caught for the Yankees, we may have something special here.”
But alas, Ellie Rodriguez was no Ellie Howard. He went 0-3 in his Yankee debut that afternoon and was hitting just .167 by mid-June, when the Yankees sent him back to their Syracuse Chiefs farm team. He’d get called back up a couple of times that year but he did not do much better, finishing his nine-game debut season with a .209 batting average. New York had this other young catcher named Munson playing for Binghamton that same season, who was impressing everyone in the organization, so they left Ellie II unprotected in the AL expansion draft. The Kansas City Royals made him their 13th pick.
It turned out to be a big break for Rodriguez because he became the Royals’ starting catcher in 1969 and made the AL All Star team. Three seasons later he repeated that feat as the Brewers starting catcher. The Brewers traded him to the Angels following the ’73 season and he caught 137 games for California in 1974, a career high. He would end up spending nine years in all as a big league catcher, and then he played four more seasons in Mexico. Lifetime he hit .245 and threw out 41% of the runners attempting to steal against him. He may not have been the next Ellie Howard but he did just fine.
Rodriguez shares his May 24th birthday with this veteran pitcher who played an important role in the Yankees’ 2011 starting rotation.
|MIL (3 yrs)||325||1152||964||89||246||32||4||3||95||6||134||122||.255||.357||.306||.663|
|KCR (2 yrs)||175||575||498||52||115||18||2||3||35||5||58||61||.231||.323||.293||.617|
|CAL (2 yrs)||230||778||621||68||153||26||0||10||63||6||118||93||.246||.376||.337||.712|
|LAD (1 yr)||36||90||66||10||14||0||0||0||9||0||19||12||.212||.400||.212||.612|
|NYY (1 yr)||9||27||24||1||5||0||0||0||1||0||3||3||.208||.296||.208||.505|
Arch McDonald was the original voice of the New York Yankees. The three original New York City MLB franchises were the last three to permit radio broadcasts of their games. They all caved together in 1939. Brooklyn hired Red Barber for their booth and the thrifty Yankees and Giants decided to share an announcer. Since the two teams never had home games scheduled on the same day and had both agreed to blackout broadcasts of road games, it was possible that one person could do play-by-play for both teams. That person turned out to be McDonald.
Born in Arkansas but raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, he was a country music DJ in that town when the local minor league team reached a deal to have their games broadcast by the station that employed him. McDonald became the play-by play announcer and the listening audience loved him. In 1932, Sporting News conducted a contest, inviting readers to vote for the best baseball announcer in the country and surprisingly, McDonald beat out several big league microphone jockeys to win the honor. Two years later, when Clark Griffith was looking for a radio announcer to do Senator games, he did the same thing he did when he needed a player. He reached down into the broadcast booth of Washington’s Chattanooga affiliate and brought up McDonald. During the next five seasons, he built a loyal following of listeners in our Nation’s Capital with his relaxed southern speaking voice and homespun charm. McDonald was credited with coining the phrase “ducks on the pond” to describe “men on base.” When a Senator hit a home run, McDonald would call it by saying “There goes Mrs. Murphy.”
When the Yankees finally went on radio, the sponsor of their broadcasts, Wheaties Cereal lured McDonald to New York with a big salary. The first ever radio broadcast of a Yankee game took place on April 17, 1939, with McDonald doing the play-by-play. During that first season, a young CBS announcer by the name of Mel Allen was also hired as McDonald’s assistant. In addition to being the first radio voice of the franchise, McDonalds’ next most significant contribution to Yankee history was coming up with the nickname of “Yankee Clipper” for slugger, Joe DiMaggio.
It would end up being Barber and Allen who did the best job at capturing and keeping the attention of Big Apple baseball fans.Those two injected their calls with a lot more enthusiasm and a lot more words than McDonald, who preferred to describe a play and then stop talking until there was another play to describe. The silence in between proved deafening for radio listeners and McDonald was let go after just one season in New York, leaving Allen to take over the Yankee booth as number one announcer.
McDonald ended up going back to Washington, where he became a sports broadcasting institution, doing both Senator and Redskins games. In 1946, President Harry Truman, a regular listener, convinced the announcer to run for congress. He ended up losing the election.
He kept doing both Senator and Redskin games right up until he died in 1960, of a heart attack, during a train ride back to D.C. after a Giants Redskins football game. He was 59 years-old.
My wife dragged me to a performance of Les Miserables at Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady, NY several years ago. I was not a fan of the place because the seats were built for munchkins and there was absolutely no way for a person my size to get comfortable. Plus if you’re familiar with the epic play about the French Revolution, you know I was not in for a night of excitement and laughs.
Sure enough, as soon as the curtain opened I started fidgeting and with my knees crammed against the seat in front of me, both of my legs quickly went to sleep. I was just about to close my eyes and force myself into a numbing nap when I heard my wife whisper, “That’s that Yankee pitcher’s son singing.” I opened up my program and sure enough, one of the lead characters was Tommy John’s boy. I think it was Travis and he had an absolutely amazing voice.
In spite of this connection to my all-time favorite baseball team, my legs were getting prickly, the lady next to me was pushing my arm off the armrest and I spent the rest of the evening in a painful agony. I remember how good it felt when the final curtain came down and we were able to get up and start walking toward the theater’s exit. As we crawled along with the large crowd approaching the door leading outside, I noticed a man leaning against the wall in the corner nearest me. As I passed him I smiled and told him that his son had a wonderful voice. Tommy John smiled and mouthed back the words “Thank you.”
I liked Tommy John when he pitched for the Yankees but I liked him even more when I saw him that night at Proctor’s Theater. After all, John is 6’3″ tall just like me so I know his legs were sore too. I knew then and there that in addition to being a great pitcher, Tommy was also a good father.
John may be most famous for the surgery (ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction) named after him but he was a pretty good Yankee pitcher too. He had two twenty-victory seasons with New York during his first stay in the Bronx and then went 13-6 for them as a 44-year old in 1987. One of the things that most surprised me when I was doing research for this post was finding out that Tommy won more games as a Yankee (91) than he did for the Dodgers (87) or White Sox (82.) As of right now, those 91 wins place him in the 20th spot on the Yankees’ all-time career wins list. He has more wins as a Yankee than Roger Clemens (83), Bob Turley, David Wells (68) or Catfish Hunter (64) were ever able to achieve in pinstripes.
John was born in Terre Haute, Indiana on May 22, 1943, the only member of the Yankee all-time roster to be born on today’s date. I was also surprised to find out that there were not too many former Yankee all-star-level players born in Indiana. The best of the Hoosier-born Yankees were Don Mattingly, Don Larsen and John.
|NYY (8 yrs)||91||60||.603||3.59||214||203||7||53||12||0||1367.0||1456||621||545||80||324||483||1.302|
|CHW (7 yrs)||82||80||.506||2.95||237||219||5||56||21||3||1493.1||1362||573||490||99||460||888||1.220|
|LAD (6 yrs)||87||42||.674||2.97||182||174||6||37||11||1||1198.0||1169||460||396||64||296||649||1.223|
|CAL (4 yrs)||24||32||.429||4.40||85||76||3||14||1||0||489.1||610||263||239||42||125||143||1.502|
|CLE (2 yrs)||2||11||.154||3.61||31||17||1||2||1||0||114.2||120||63||46||11||41||74||1.404|
|OAK (1 yr)||2||6||.250||6.19||11||11||0||0||0||0||48.0||66||37||33||6||13||8||1.646|
1968 was a terrible year in the history of our country and was shaping up to be a terrible year in Yankee history as well. New York had finished ninth the previous season. Joe Pepitone, the team’s best hitter was getting nuttier every year and the great Mickey Mantle was literally on his last leg.
I had two passions as a young teenager, sports and politics. When Bobby Kennedy was killed all I had left to look forward to were Yankee games so I was hoping they’d be decent that year. Almost miraculously, they were. Thanks to a starting staff featuring Mel Stottlemyre, Stan Bahnsen and Fritz Peterson and a bullpen led by Steve Hamilton and Lindy McDaniel, the Yankees could hang around most games and were pretty good at holding a lead if they were lucky enough to have one in the later innings.
The offense was another story. Pepitone imploded and Mantle continued to decline. As a team they hit just just .214 but guys like Roy White, Andy Kosco, and a 27 year-old rookie third baseman named Bobby Cox seemed to get on base and cross home plate just enough times to win more games than they lost. The bomberless Bombers finished 83-79 which to me felt like winning a pennant.
Cox of course went on to become one of the game’s all-time great managers with Atlanta. My In-laws are huge Brave fans and my Mother-in-law loves Cox. Several years ago we were with them at Disney World after the Braves had moved their spring-training operation to the resort. Early one morning, we went to the stadium to watch the Braves practice and Bobby Cox was alongside the dugout talking to someone sitting in the stands. As soon as she saw him my mother started shouting “Yoo-hoo Bobby Cox. I love you. Can I have your autograph? Can I take my picture with you?” Cox looked up feigning annoyance and held up his hand signaling he’d come over to us after he was done talking to the other person. Sure enough he did and he spent the next five minutes talking to my Mother-in-Law like he had known her all his life. I went from being a big Bobby Cox fan to being a huge Bobby Cox fan that day. Cox was voted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2014, along with former Yankee skipper, Joe Torre. It certainly is a well-deserved honor.
It is still hard to believe Bobby is gone. He became my favorite Yankee when he was brought up in 1969 to replace my previous favorite Yankee, the great Mickey Mantle. Even though he developed into a very good big league player, he was no Mantle. He was instead, the very best player on a very bad string of Yankee teams and I loved the guy. I remember being very upset when Bobby was traded to the Giants for Bobby Bonds right after the 1974 season. I remember being overjoyed when the Yankees put him back in pinstripes during the 1979 season. I hated to see him retire during the 1983 season but I enjoyed listening to him and learning more about him during his many years in the Yankees’ broadcast booth. When he died from a brain tumor in July of 2008, Yankee fans around the world mourned him. Had he lived he would have turned 68 years-old today.
In April of 2014, the Yankees announced that they would be placing plaques in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park to honor Paul O’Neill and Tino Martinez, two great Yankees who certainly deserve the recognition. But what about Bobby Murcer?
|NYY (13 yrs)||1256||4997||4428||641||1231||192||29||175||687||74||491||564||.278||.349||.453||.802|
|CHC (3 yrs)||358||1465||1243||178||336||44||10||43||175||32||196||154||.270||.367||.426||.792|
|SFG (2 yrs)||294||1256||1059||153||295||49||6||34||181||21||175||123||.279||.379||.432||.812|