June 2014

June 30 – Happy Birthday Tony Fernandez

After the 1994 postseason, the Yankees signed this four-time Gold Glove winner as a free agent to become their starting shortstop. He did not have a very good 1995 season, hitting just .245, although he did become the first Yankee to hit for the cycle since Bobby Murcer pulled it off in 1972. But the Yankees thought Fernandez would provide more offense and when he failed to do so, Bucky Showalter started giving Randy Velarde some starts at short. Then Fernandez got hurt late in the year and while he was on the DL, he watched a young prospect named Derek Jeter fill in at his position. New Yankee manager, Joe Torre decided Jeter would be his starting shortstop in 1996 but his plan was to make Fernandez his starting second baseman. That went up in smoke when Tony broke his elbow during spring training and missed the entire 1996 season. The Yankees let him go after his two-year contract expired and he signed with Cleveland. Fernandez played until 2001 and retired with a .288 lifetime batting average and 2,276 hits.

Tony shares his June 30th birthday with this former Yankee utility outfielder this one-time Yankee third baseman and this one-time Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1995 NYY 108 438 384 57 94 20 2 5 45 6 42 40 .245 .322 .346 .668
17 Yrs 2158 8793 7911 1057 2276 414 92 94 844 246 690 784 .288 .347 .399 .746
TOR (12 yrs) 1450 5900 5335 704 1583 291 72 60 613 172 439 493 .297 .353 .412 .765
SDP (2 yrs) 300 1315 1180 165 323 59 9 8 75 43 111 136 .274 .337 .359 .697
NYM (1 yr) 48 204 173 20 39 5 2 1 14 6 25 19 .225 .323 .295 .618
CLE (1 yr) 120 442 409 55 117 21 1 11 44 6 22 47 .286 .323 .423 .746
CIN (1 yr) 104 422 366 50 102 18 6 8 50 12 44 40 .279 .361 .426 .787
NYY (1 yr) 108 438 384 57 94 20 2 5 45 6 42 40 .245 .322 .346 .668
MIL (1 yr) 28 72 64 6 18 0 0 1 3 1 7 9 .281 .352 .328 .680
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/30/2013.

June 29 – Happy Birthday Wilbert Robinson

Back in the first part of the twentieth century, managerial changes were pretty much a rarity when it came to Big Apple baseball teams. The Giants had the legendary John McGraw as their skipper for thirty years. For the Yankees, it was Miller Huggins from 1918 until 1929 and it took the death of “Hug” for the Yankees to make a change. In Brooklyn, it was “Uncle Robbie.” Before he got the field skipper’s job with Brooklyn, however, today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant had been a very good catcher with the old Baltimore Orioles teams of the 1890’s, when that franchise was part of the original National League. He was sold to the Cardinals in 1900. Just a year later, the new American League was formed and Baltimore was granted a franchise.  Robinson’s old Oriole teammate, John McGraw was named manager and he convinced Wilbert to return to Baltimore and play for the new team. The catcher did so but when McGraw was later suspended by AL President Ban Johnson, he left the league and took a job as the manager of the New York Giants. Robinson then became the Orioles’ player Manager in 1902. The Orioles finished 24-57 that season prompting Wilbert to accept McGraw’s invitation to become the Giant pitching coach, a job he held for over a decade. That same season, the Orioles AL franchise was relocated to New York and became the Highlanders.

In 1914, Brooklyn hired Robinson to replace Bill Dahlen as Dodger skipper. He stayed in that job for eighteen seasons and helped bring respectability to a franchise that had pretty much become a laughing stock for its ineptness. Under Robinson, Brooklyn won the NL pennant in both 1916 and 1920 and he compiled a 1,375 – 1,341 career record. He shares his birthday with this long-ago Yankee outfielder and this former Yankee reliever who also played in pinstripes.

Robinson’s Yankee(Orioles) seasonal and MLB career playing stats:

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1901 BLA 68 254 239 32 72 12 3 0 26 9 10 16 .301 .335 .377 .711
1902 BLA 91 352 335 38 98 16 7 1 57 11 12 17 .293 .321 .391 .712
17 Yrs 1371 5430 5075 637 1388 212 51 18 722 196 286 323 .273 .316 .346 .662
BLN (10 yrs) 780 3073 2838 361 836 129 27 10 456 81 187 195 .295 .341 .370 .711
PHA (5 yrs) 372 1527 1453 180 330 50 13 7 155 88 66 75 .227 .265 .294 .558
BLA (2 yrs) 159 606 574 70 170 28 10 1 83 20 22 33 .296 .327 .385 .712
STL (1 yr) 60 224 210 26 52 5 1 0 28 7 11 20 .248 .291 .281 .572
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/29/2014.

Robinson’s Yankee(Orioles) seasonal and MLB career managing record:

Rk Year Age Tm W L W-L% G Finish
1 1902 38 Baltimore Orioles 2nd of 2 24 57 .296 83 8
Baltimore Orioles 1 year 24 57 .296 83 8.0
Brooklyn Robins 18 years 1375 1341 .506 2736 4.7
19 years 1399 1398 .500 2819 4.9
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/29/2014.

June 28 – Happy Birthday Fred Talbot

It was June of 1966 and the New York Yankees were dissolving faster than a wet Alka Seltzer. Two season’s earlier, the team had fallen three runs short of winning a World Series, but here they were, just twenty month’s later, floundering in seventh place in the AL standings. Everybody knew they needed major help immediately and that included their competition. It was fun for the other AL teams to watch the once mighty Yankees get their comeuppance. Even if their own ball clubs were in need of players, no other AL franchise was willing to help much with New York’s retooling effort via a trade except of course the good old Kansas City A’s. But unlike in years past when the A’s would serve up outstanding talent like Roger Maris, Clete Boyer and Hector Lopez to their Big Apple brethren, Kansas City’s front office had been taken over by the eccentric and extremely stingy Charley Finley in the early sixties. Well aware that the Yankees had exploited the A’s in previous player transactions, Finley refused to even deal with New York for years and when he finally did, the trades were no longer one-sided affairs.

So when a deal between the Yankees and A’s was made in June of 1966, instead of being announced with a bold back page headline in the New York City tabloids, it received a paragraph at the end of that day’s Yankee game recap. “The Yankees traded their former starting pitcher Bill Stafford, outfielder Roger Repoz and reliever Gil Blanco  to Kansas City today in exchange for A’s catcher Bill Bryan and starting pitcher Fred Talbot.”

As things turned out, it was one of those trades that had little impact on either team. Talbot was immediately inserted into the Yankees’ starting rotation. He would go 7-7 for the Yankees during the balance of the 1966 season and then 6-8 the following year. But his ERA was north of four both those seasons and in 1968 he was demoted to the Yankee bullpen. He did worse as a reliever, finishing the year at 1-9. The Yankees traded him to the Pilots in 1969, getting Jack Aker in return, who turned out to be a great closer for New York during the next three seasons. Talbot, on the other hand did little for the Pilots except become fodder for Jim Bouton’s best-selling “Ball Four” chronology of the Pilot’s 1969 season. He then found himself back pitching with the A’s in 1970 and ’71, his final two big league seasons. He finished his 8-year career with a 38-56 record. Update: Talbot passed away on January 11, 2013, at the age of 71.

Talbot was born on the same exact date as this former AL strikeout leader and also shares a birthday with this former AL MVP and this one-time back-up Yankee first baseman.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1966 NYY 7 7 .500 4.13 23 19 2 3 0 0 124.1 123 59 57 16 45 48 1.351
1967 NYY 6 8 .429 4.22 29 22 3 2 0 0 138.2 132 78 65 20 54 61 1.341
1968 NYY 1 9 .100 3.36 29 11 7 1 0 0 99.0 89 47 37 6 42 67 1.323
1969 NYY 0 0 5.11 8 0 2 0 0 0 12.1 13 9 7 1 6 7 1.541
8 Yrs 38 56 .404 4.12 195 126 26 12 4 1 853.2 844 431 391 96 334 449 1.380
NYY (4 yrs) 14 24 .368 3.99 89 52 14 6 0 0 374.1 357 193 166 43 147 183 1.346
OAK (4 yrs) 15 19 .441 4.40 63 46 10 2 1 1 286.1 277 148 140 34 122 163 1.393
CHW (2 yrs) 4 5 .444 3.68 18 12 0 3 2 0 78.1 85 32 32 7 24 36 1.391
SEP (1 yr) 5 8 .385 4.16 25 16 2 1 1 0 114.2 125 58 53 12 41 67 1.448
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/28/2013.

June 27 – Happy Birthday Wayne Terwilliger

I could find no former or current Yankee player, manager, coach, front office member or broadcaster born on this date but I did find one “unofficial Yankee.” Back in the late fifties and early sixties, the Yankees and Kansas City Athletics were accused of conducting an unholy alliance in which mighty New York would treat the lowly A’s like one of their farm teams instead of as an American League competitor.

The A’s, who had always called Philadelphia home, had been purchased and relocated to Kansas City in 1954, by a KC real estate magnate named Arnold Johnson. At the time, Johnson was actively involved in a lot of real estate partnerships with then Yankee co-owner, Del Webb. With Johnson now at the helm of the A’s, the two clubs would regularly play deal-making ping pong, sending players and (usually Yankee) cash back and forth whenever a special on-the-field need or off-the-field contract squabble arose. In addition to the reserve clause, it has been rumored that then Yankee GM, George Weiss was not averse to using the threat of a trade to Kansas City, to get hesitant players to accept his usually stingy annual offerings.

The relationship between the two teams was so incestuous that on occasion, they would not even bother to officially trade players, they’d just let the other team borrow the guy for awhile. This is exactly how a journeyman infielder named Wayne Terwilliger, became an unofficial Yankee during the early part of the 1960 season.”Twig” never got to play a single game in pinstripes. Instead, the Yankees sent him to their International League Triple A farm team. The accompanying photo is of Terwilliger, cropped from the 1960 photo of the Yankees’ Richmond Virginians farm team. He retired as a player at the end of that year and in 1961 was named the Manager of the Yankee’s Carolina League affiliate in Greensboro, NC. That began what would become a half-century-long career as a baseball manager and coach.

Let’s take a look at an all-time Yankee lineup of players who at one time also played for the Kansas City A’s:

1B Irv Noren
2B Billy Martin
3B Clete Boyer
SS Dick Howser
C Johnny Blanchard
OF Roger Maris
OF Bob Cerv
OF Reggie Jackson
P Catfish Hunter
P Vic Raschi
P Ralph Terry
P Bob Grim
CL Bobby Shantz
RP Bud Daley

June 26 – Happy Birthday Derek Jeter

derek-jeterThe great Derek Jeter’s Yankee career will end this year, after his twentieth season as a Yankee. Since he put on the pinstripes the team has made postseason play seventeen times, played in seven World Series and won five of them. He passed Lou Gehrig as the all-time leader in career hits as a Yankee during the 2009 season and in 2011 became the first player in franchise history to reach 3,000 hits while wearing the pinstripes. I consider the five-for-five game he put together to reach that magical plateau one of the greatest all-time individual game performances in Yankee franchise history. He is among the top ten Yankees lifetime in just about every offensive category and in most cases among the top five. As of today, the Captain’s 40th birthday, Jeter is in ninth place on the all-time hits list with 3,387. He needs just 49 more to surpass Cap Anson for sixth place on the all-time list and he will vault by Carl Yastrzemski (3,419) and Honus Wagner (3,420), on his way.

He is an extremely gifted player and team leader who somehow copes perfectly with the stresses of being a star athlete in the Big Apple. There are those who claim Jeter was over-rated. Those of us who follow the Yankees on a game-by-game and season-by-season basis ignore such ignorance.

I’m the first to admit that age has impacted Jeter’s overall abilities on the baseball field, especially in this his final season. He’s not the player he was five years ago. But he was still good enough to lead all of baseball in hits during the 2012 season with 216 and if not for the horrendous ankle injury he suffered in that year’s postseason I believe he might have played another season before retiring. Regardless, this guy is the greatest Yankee shortstop ever and one of the top two or three to ever play the game. Its hard to describe the positive impact this man has had on the game of baseball for the past two decades. He’s my favorite player, my children’s favorite player and my grandchildren’s favorite player.

After the final out of his final game in pinstripes, nobody will ever again wear his number “2″ jersey and five years later he will be honored with an induction ceremony in Cooperstown. Watching him earn that ceremony has been one of the great pleasures I’ve experienced as a fifty-four-year fan of the Bombers.

The predictions that Jeter was destined to become a great Yankee that were made at the beginning of his career turned out to be correct. Similar predictions made for this former Yankee outfielder who shares “The Captain’s” June 26th birthday would turn out to be far less accurate. This one-time Yankee LOOGY was also born on this date.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1995 NYY 15 51 48 5 12 4 1 0 7 0 3 11 .250 .294 .375 .669
1996 NYY 157 654 582 104 183 25 6 10 78 14 48 102 .314 .370 .430 .800
1997 NYY 159 748 654 116 190 31 7 10 70 23 74 125 .291 .370 .405 .775
1998 ★ NYY 149 694 626 127 203 25 8 19 84 30 57 119 .324 .384 .481 .864
1999 ★ NYY 158 739 627 134 219 37 9 24 102 19 91 116 .349 .438 .552 .989
2000 ★ NYY 148 679 593 119 201 31 4 15 73 22 68 99 .339 .416 .481 .896
2001 ★ NYY 150 686 614 110 191 35 3 21 74 27 56 99 .311 .377 .480 .858
2002 ★ NYY 157 730 644 124 191 26 0 18 75 32 73 114 .297 .373 .421 .794
2003 NYY 119 542 482 87 156 25 3 10 52 11 43 88 .324 .393 .450 .844
2004 ★ NYY 154 721 643 111 188 44 1 23 78 23 46 99 .292 .352 .471 .823
2005 NYY 159 752 654 122 202 25 5 19 70 14 77 117 .309 .389 .450 .839
2006 ★ NYY 154 715 623 118 214 39 3 14 97 34 69 102 .343 .417 .483 .900
2007 ★ NYY 156 714 639 102 206 39 4 12 73 15 56 100 .322 .388 .452 .840
2008 ★ NYY 150 668 596 88 179 25 3 11 69 11 52 85 .300 .363 .408 .771
2009 ★ NYY 153 716 634 107 212 27 1 18 66 30 72 90 .334 .406 .465 .871
2010 ★ NYY 157 739 663 111 179 30 3 10 67 18 63 106 .270 .340 .370 .710
2011 ★ NYY 131 607 546 84 162 24 4 6 61 16 46 81 .297 .355 .388 .743
2012 ★ NYY 159 740 683 99 216 32 0 15 58 9 45 90 .316 .362 .429 .791
2013 NYY 17 73 63 8 12 1 0 1 7 0 8 10 .190 .288 .254 .542
2014 NYY 66 292 266 26 71 8 1 2 17 3 20 41 .267 .322 .327 .649
20 Yrs 2668 12260 10880 1902 3387 533 66 258 1278 351 1067 1794 .311 .380 .444 .823
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/26/2014.

June 25 – Happy Birthday Bob Shirley

Most Yankee fans around my age can clearly remember the famous shower-room scuffle between Goose Gossage and Cliff Johnson in 1979 but how many of you can recall a similar incident between Don Mattingly and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant that took place eight years later, during the 1987 season? At the time, the southpaw Shirley was in his fifth year as a Yankee pitcher. He had been signed by New York as a free agent after the 1982 season and went 5-8 as a member of Billy Martin’s starting rotation in ’83. After that inauspicious beginning, he was demoted to the bullpen and became the Yankees’ primary left-handed long reliever. He thrived in that role for the next two seasons and had his best year in pinstripes in ’85 when he appeared in 48 games and posted a career-low ERA of 2.64. He then had a horrible year in 1986, going 0-4 with an ERA that exploded to over five runs for every nine innings he pitched. So Shirley was already on pretty thin ice when according to published reports in June of 1987, he and Donnie Baseball engaged in a playful wrestling match in the visitors’ locker room of Milwaukee’s County Stadium, where the Yankees were playing a series against the Brewers. Mattingly ended up on the DL with two ruptured discs in his back. Though both players and their teammates denied the wrestling had taken place, George Steinbrenner was reportedly livid and ordered that Shirley be released the next day. Mattingly continued to insist that his former teammate was not the cause of his injury, explaining to reporters that Shirley was now looking for a job and he did not want other teams to think that the pitcher was some kind of locker room trouble maker.

Mattingly’s chronic back trouble would of course end up stunting the glorious start he had put together as a Yankee. Shirley would sign on with the Royals one week after being let go but pitched horribly during his only three appearances with Kansas City and was quickly released. He never again pitched in a big league game. He finished his 165-game Yankee career with a 14-20 record, 5 saves and a 4.05 ERA. Lifetime, he was 67-94 during his 11 big league seasons with 18 saves and a 3.82 ERA. Shirley shares his June 25th birthday with this former Yankee catcher. Besides George “Babe” Ruth and Shirley, can you think of any other Yankees who have a girl’s first name as their surname?

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1983 NYY 5 8 .385 5.08 25 17 3 1 1 0 108.0 122 71 61 10 36 53 1.463
1984 NYY 3 3 .500 3.38 41 7 11 1 0 0 114.1 119 47 43 8 38 48 1.373
1985 NYY 5 5 .500 2.64 48 8 9 2 0 2 109.0 103 34 32 5 26 55 1.183
1986 NYY 0 4 .000 5.04 39 6 9 0 0 3 105.1 108 60 59 13 40 64 1.405
1987 NYY 1 0 1.000 4.50 12 1 6 0 0 0 34.0 36 20 17 4 16 12 1.529
11 Yrs 67 94 .416 3.82 434 162 105 16 2 18 1432.0 1432 689 608 127 543 790 1.379
NYY (5 yrs) 14 20 .412 4.05 165 39 38 4 1 5 470.2 488 232 212 40 156 232 1.368
SDP (4 yrs) 39 57 .406 3.58 197 92 55 10 1 12 722.0 718 329 287 59 274 432 1.374
KCR (1 yr) 0 0 14.73 3 0 1 0 0 0 7.1 10 12 12 5 6 1 2.182
STL (1 yr) 6 4 .600 4.08 28 11 5 1 0 1 79.1 78 42 36 6 34 36 1.412
CIN (1 yr) 8 13 .381 3.60 41 20 6 1 0 0 152.2 138 74 61 17 73 89 1.382
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/25/2013.

June 24 – Happy Birthday Phil Hughes

Yankee fans are not known for their patience, especially with pitchers. We want strikes thrown, we want to hold leads and we want consistent performances game-to-game, season-to-season and especially in the postseason. Anything less than that and Yankee pitchers begin to see and hear Yankee fans express their dissatisfaction.

The team’s fans grow even more impatient when management touts young pitching prospects as ready-for-prime-time starting pitchers. That’s what happened to Ian Kennedy, Joba Chamberlain and also finally, today’s birthday boy, Phil Hughes. All three are now ex-Yankees and of the trio, it was Mr. Hughes who came closest to fulfilling the lofty expectations of New York’s front office and Yankee fans. But close only counts in horseshoes, not in the Bronx.

He originally showed us something in 2007, especially in the playoffs against Cleveland. He earned another reprieve after a very shaky start in 2008 and a rib injury that sidelined him for much of the year. Then in 2009, Hughes stepped up big when he was sent to the bullpen to become Mariano Rivera’s setup man. After a highly publicized spring training competition with Chamberlain for the 2010 fifth starter position, Hughes pitched as well as any starter in either league during the first half of 2010 season and made the All Star team. But even though he finished that year with an 18-8 record, he became a very ordinary pitcher in the second half and was once again ineffective in fall ball.

After failing to sign Cliff Lee and losing Andy Pettitte during the 2010 off season, the Yankees urgently needed Hughes to come out on fire in 2011. Instead, he was horrible. His confidence seemed to decrease in direct proportion to the lower and lower digital number readings on the radar gun aimed at Hughes’ fastballs. Finally, management put him on the DL and told us he had a dead arm. He did bounce back to win 16 games in 2012 and even pitched well in his first postseason start against Baltimore in that year’s ALCS. But in his next start against Detroit in Game 3 of the ALCS, Hughes complained of back stiffness in the third inning and he was taken out of the game.

Whatever the reason, physical, mental or mechanical, Hughes continued to be an enigma during what would be his final season as a Yankee in 2013 and actually regressed. He seemed to lose whatever ability he had to finish off good big league hitters on a consistent basis. Brian Cashman chose not to make him a qualifying offer after the season, afraid he’d accept the $14 million and make a bad situation in New York even worse and much more expensive. But “Hughesie” did land on his feet, signing a three-year $24 million deal to pitch for Minnesota. And through today’s date, the pitcher’s 28th birthday, the Twin Cities have proved very much to his liking. He’s currently 8-3 with his new team and I’m thrilled for him. He deserves the success.

Hughes shares his June 24th birthday with this former Yankee All Star catcher and this long-ago Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2007 NYY 5 3 .625 4.46 13 13 0 0 0 0 72.2 64 39 36 8 29 58 1.280
2008 NYY 0 4 .000 6.62 8 8 0 0 0 0 34.0 43 26 25 3 15 23 1.706
2009 NYY 8 3 .727 3.03 51 7 6 0 0 3 86.0 68 31 29 8 28 96 1.116
2010 ★ NYY 18 8 .692 4.19 31 29 0 0 0 0 176.1 162 83 82 25 58 146 1.248
2011 NYY 5 5 .500 5.79 17 14 1 1 1 0 74.2 84 48 48 9 27 47 1.487
2012 NYY 16 13 .552 4.19 32 32 0 1 0 0 191.1 196 101 89 35 46 165 1.265
2013 NYY 4 14 .222 5.19 30 29 0 0 0 0 145.2 170 91 84 24 42 121 1.455
8 Yrs 64 53 .547 4.41 197 147 7 3 1 3 876.0 886 456 429 119 254 738 1.301
NYY (7 yrs) 56 50 .528 4.53 182 132 7 2 1 3 780.2 787 419 393 112 245 656 1.322
MIN (1 yr) 8 3 .727 3.40 15 15 0 1 0 0 95.1 99 37 36 7 9 82 1.133
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/26/2014.

June 23 – Happy Birthday George Weiss

George Weiss was not an easy guy to get along with. Even his wife agreed with that, once complaining after he was let go by the Yankees that she didn’t like having him at home too much. The reason George did not make friends easily could be summed up by his business philosophy, which was to never be satisfied with anything. He always felt things could be better and to him, better meant winning more world championships and becoming more profitable. That’s the philosophy he used when he designed and built the Yankee farm system during the thirties and forties and also exactly how he ran the organization when he was named General Manager of the parent club in January of 1948. Weiss managed every detail at every level of the Yankee organization, regardless how small and that usually meant saving or making every penny possible.

My favorite story about “Lonesome George” took place in 1957. Mickey Mantle had won the triple crown in 1956 and finished the ’57 season with a .365 batting average, 34 home runs and 94 RBIs. Weiss sent him a contract with a $17,000 pay cut. Mantle asked why. Weiss pointed out that Mantle had failed to repeat as triple crown winner. Weiss was GM of the Yankees from 1948 until 1961. During that time, New York won ten AL Pennants and seven Fall Classics. His greatest move as GM was hiring Casey Stengel. His biggest failure and the stain on his otherwise brilliant career was his refusal to sign black ballplayers.

Weiss shares his birthday with this Yankee catcher, who he traded to the White Sox for Eddie Lopat in 1948 . This one-time Yankee slugging prospect and this former Yankee pitching prospect were also born on June 23rd.

June 22 – Happy Birthday Jim Bronstad

This 6’3″ right-hander made his big league debut in 1959, as a member of the Yankee bullpen. He lost all three of his decisions but picked up two saves in his 16 appearances that season. He was sent back down to the minors in July of that season and the next time he pitched in the Majors was as a member of the Senators’ 1963 staff.

As I researched Bronstad’s career, I came across newspaper articles from the winter and spring of 1960 that talked about how the Yankees were really expecting this guy to make their big league roster that season. Then I came across a list of Yankee “prospects” who had been invited to the team’s 1960 spring training camp.The pitchers on that list were Bronstad, Bill Bethell, Tom Burrell, Frank Carpin, Ed Dick, Mark Freeman, John Gabler, George Haney, Johnny James, Billy Short, Bill Stafford, Hal Stowe and Don Thompson. Fritz Brickell was the only infield prospect invited to that camp and there were two catchers brought in by the names of Dan Bishop and Joe Miller. The outfielder invitees were Kent Hunt, Deron Johnson, Don Lock, Jack Reed and Roy Thomas. Of these 21 youngsters, only Stafford would end up making what I considered to be a significant contribution to the parent club during their subsequent careers. Deron Johnson and Don Lock would both become solid big leaguers with other organizations and Ken Hunt would have a couple of decent seasons as a member of the Angels. Remember, this was back in 1960, when Major League Baseball had just 16 teams so it was even tougher for a prospect to earn a roster spot with their parent club than it is today. Coincidentally, I was researching this information about the Yankees’ 1960 prospects last evening as I watched one of their 2013 prospects, outfielder Zoilio Almonte, hit his first big league home run against Tampa Bay. The odds are so stacked against these young kids, it truly has been and always will be a huge accomplishment for a young kid to become a star with the same big league organization that signs him.

Bronstad was born in Ft. Worth, TX. Just like “All my Ex’s” there have been some famous Yankees who have lived in Texas. There have not, however been many great Bronx Bombers who were born in the Lone Star State. Mickey Mantle moved his family to Dallas during his playing days. Roger Clemens was born in Ohio but moved to Texas when he was in high school. Andy Pettitte moved there from Louisiana. The honor of being the best-ever Texas-born Yankee is probably currently between Don Baylor, Chuck Knoblaugh and pitcher Ron Davis. Davis, in fact, is the only native born Texan to make an All Star team while wearing the Yankee uniform.

Jim Bronstad’s Yankee and career stats:

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1959 NYY 0 3 .000 5.22 16 3 8 0 0 2 29.1 34 19 17 2 13 14 1.602
3 Yrs 1 7 .125 5.48 45 3 20 0 0 3 93.2 110 61 57 11 37 45 1.569
WSA (2 yrs) 1 4 .200 5.60 29 0 12 0 0 1 64.1 76 42 40 9 24 31 1.554
NYY (1 yr) 0 3 .000 5.22 16 3 8 0 0 2 29.1 34 19 17 2 13 14 1.602
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/22/2013.

June 21 – Happy Birthday Russ Van Atta

Talk about hot starts, southpaw starting pitcher Russ Van Atta’s big league and Yankee debut on April 25, 1933 could have melted hard steel. The New Jersey native not only threw a complete game five-hit shutout against the Washington Senators in our nation’s capitol that day, he also had a perfect 4-for-4 day at the plate, scoring three runs and driving in another in New York’s 16-0 victory. The guy they called “Sheriff” would go on to win 12 of his 16 decisions in his rookie season and lead the AL with a .750 winning percentage. He also would end up hitting .283 that first season. You couldn’t blame the Yankee brass for thinking that Van Atta would be a key member of the their team’s starting rotation for at least the rest of that decade. It didn’t quite work out that way.

That December, a fire broke out in Van Atta’s home and while fighting or trying to escape the blaze, the Augusta, New Jersey native suffered a severe cut on his pitching hand. That injury severely impacted his pitching performance for the rest of his career. He began the ’34 season still a member of the Yankee rotation, but after getting hit hard in his first four starts, Joe McCarthy demoted Van Atta to the bullpen. Having watched both Joba and Phil Hughes try to go back and forth between the Yankee rotation and bullpen the past few seasons, it was not surprising for me to learn that Van Atta had problems making the moves as well. For the rest of that ’34 season he was used as a reliever and spot starter. He finished the year with a 3-5 record and a 5.30 ERA. He also developed a sore arm.

He was back in the bullpen to start the 1935 season but not for long. On May 15th of that year he was sold to the St. Louis Browns. He continued to struggle with his new team for the next four years, until his contract was sold to a minor league team in Toronto. After appearing in two games there, he hung up his glove for good. He finished his seven-year big league career 15-9 as a Yankee and 18-32 with St. Louis. He shares his June 21st birthday with another Yankee southpaw starting pitcher and the first Mormon to ever wear the Yankee pinstripes.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1933 NYY 12 4 .750 4.18 26 22 3 10 2 1 157.0 160 81 73 8 63 76 1.420
1934 NYY 3 5 .375 6.34 28 9 9 0 0 0 88.0 107 69 62 3 46 39 1.739
1935 NYY 0 0 3.86 5 0 2 0 0 0 4.2 5 5 2 0 4 3 1.929
7 Yrs 33 41 .446 5.60 207 76 66 17 3 6 712.1 838 498 443 39 368 339 1.693
SLB (5 yrs) 18 32 .360 5.95 148 45 52 7 1 5 462.2 566 343 306 28 255 221 1.774
NYY (3 yrs) 15 9 .625 4.94 59 31 14 10 2 1 249.2 272 155 137 11 113 118 1.542
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/21/2013.