As bad as the Yankee offense was in the late 1980′s and early ’90s, their starting pitching was even less effective. Tim Leary, Andy Hawkins, Dave LaPoint, Chuck Cary and Mike Witt were the team’s top five starters during the 1990 season and the quintet had a cumulative record of 32-69 in their 133 combined starts. Lee Guetterman led the team in victories that season with 11, pitching out of the bullpen and reliable closer Dave Righetti, had 36 saves. In fact, I remember thinking that particular Yankee team would have been better off letting their relievers start games instead of finishing them. In addition to Righetti and Guetterman, New York had Greg Cadaret and Erik Plunk in the bullpen that season.
To make their horrible pitching situation even more complicated, following that season, New York let the 31-year-old Righetti become a free agent and sign with San Francisco for $10 million over four years. When they replaced Rags three weeks later by signing 34-year-old Steve Farr to a three-year $6.3 million deal, I was truly disappointed. I should not have been.
At the time, Farr was a seven-year veteran who had been an OK Royal closer in 1987 and ’88 before losing his job to Jeff Montgomery the following year. He was able to win thirteen games as a part-time starter and reliever for Kansas City in 1989 but if he lost his job to a guy named Montgomery, how could the Yankees expect him to replace one of the top closers in the game?
Letting Righetti go turned out to be as wise a move as making him the Yankee closer was in the first place. After an OK 24-save first season in San Francisco, the bottom fell out of his career as he accumulated just four saves during the final four seasons of big league pitching. Farr, on the other hand, performed admirably for New York, saving 78 games during his 3-year tenure in the Bronx including a 30-save, 1.56 ERA 1992 season. Steve was 36-years old at the end of his final contract year and when his ERA ballooned to 4.21 in 1993, New York decided not to re-sign the right-hander and handed the 1994 closer role to Steve Howe. You have to give that Yankee front-office credit for their closer decisions during the past quarter-century. Making Rag’s a reliever, replacing him with Farr after Righetti’s last great year, replacing Farr with Howe, signing John Wetteland and then replacing Wetteland with Rivera represents a pretty good track record.
|KCR (6 yrs)||34||24||.586||3.05||289||12||166||1||1||49||511.0||469||193||173||37||203||429||1.315|
|NYY (3 yrs)||9||9||.500||2.56||159||0||127||0||0||78||169.0||135||51||48||14||67||136||1.195|
|CLE (2 yrs)||4||12||.250||4.66||50||16||16||0||0||5||131.1||123||73||68||17||61||95||1.401|
|BOS (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||6.23||11||0||4||0||0||0||13.0||24||9||9||2||3||8||2.077|
They called him”Hal” and “Skinny” but his real name was Hector. He was 6’2″ and weighed about 180 pounds. Just before he retired, the great Ted Williams told reporters that Brown had never thrown him a “fat pitch” and called Skinny a “great pitcher.” Who could be more qualified than the “Splendid Splinter” to make a judgment like that. Brown had a terrific slider and later in his career he learned how to throw a knuckleball. Those two pitches helped him stay in the big leagues for 14 seasons, coming up with the White Sox, in 1951. He was traded to the Red Sox in1953 and went 11-6 for Boston that year in his first shot as a regular starting pitcher. But it wasn’t until he was traded to Baltimore, two seasons later that Brown really hit his pitching stride. In eight years with the Birds, Hal started and relieved his way to a 62-48 record. The Yankees purchased Brown from Baltimore in the last month of the 1962 season and he got his first and only start in pinstripes against the Red Sox, two days later. Boston battered him pretty good and he left in the fifth inning, trailing 9-2. He got just one more relief appearance that season and then was sold to the Houston Colt 45s the following April. Brown is the only member of the Yankee all-time roster I could find who was born on December 11. The Greensboro, NC native was born on this date in 1924.
Just last week, the Yankees announced they had signed free agent Jacoby Ellsbury to a long-term deal. Ellsbury joins Hal Brown and a whole bunch of other former big leaguers who played for both the Yankees and Red Sox during their careers. Here’s my all-time lineup of Yankee/Red Sox:
1b: George Boomer Scott
2b: Mark Bellhorn
3b: Wade Boggs
ss: Everett Scott
c: Elston Howard
of: Babe Ruth
of: Johnny Damon
of: Jacoby Ellsbury
dh: Don Baylor
sp: Red Ruffing
cl: Sparky Lyle
|BAL (8 yrs)||62||48||.564||3.61||204||131||36||30||9||9||1030.2||975||442||413||105||228||422||1.167|
|BOS (3 yrs)||13||14||.481||4.40||72||30||21||7||1||0||288.1||305||159||141||22||100||130||1.405|
|HOU (2 yrs)||8||26||.235||3.62||53||41||5||9||3||1||273.1||291||122||110||32||34||121||1.189|
|CHW (2 yrs)||2||3||.400||4.78||27||8||9||1||0||1||81.0||97||48||43||11||25||35||1.506|
|NYY (1 yr)||0||1||.000||6.75||2||1||1||0||0||0||6.2||9||10||5||3||2||2||1.650|
One of the smallest players in baseball during the time he played, this 5’8″ outfielder used one of the biggest gloves in baseball history. Polonia, a native of the Dominican Republic, had three tours of duty in pinstripes. In June of 1989 he was traded to New York by the A’s in the deal that sent Rickey Henderson back to Oakland. He hit .313 during the second half of that season but an alleged sexual escapade with a minor after a game in Milwaukee in August of that year, nearly destroyed his career. The Yankees sent him to the Angels the following April. He then had his best big league seasons with California, averaging over 50 stolen bases per season during the next three years. In 1994, he rejoined New York and batted .311 in 94 games of action as the Yankees’ starting left-fielder. Then in 2000, Louis played his final 37 big league games in a Yankee uniform. In all, Luis played 12 seasons in the Majors, batting .293 lifetime.
|NYY (5 yrs)||276||1019||914||151||271||45||11||6||88||44||85||102||.296||.357||.389||.746|
|CAL (4 yrs)||560||2347||2138||300||628||69||27||5||149||174||170||233||.294||.345||.358||.704|
|OAK (3 yrs)||268||1000||929||160||268||33||18||7||93||66||62||119||.288||.332||.385||.717|
|ATL (2 yrs)||50||90||84||9||27||7||0||0||4||4||4||12||.321||.348||.405||.753|
|DET (2 yrs)||167||653||600||83||181||31||13||16||57||25||38||57||.302||.343||.477||.819|
|BAL (1 yr)||58||187||175||25||42||4||1||2||14||8||10||20||.240||.285||.309||.594|
Tino Martinez was a great Yankee. During his seven seasons in New York, this Tampa native who was born in 1967, drove in 739 runs, hit 192 of his 339 career home runs and won four World Series rings. He also happened to be my wife’s all-time favorite baseball player. So instead of spending the rest of this post describing the biggest highlights of Tino’s career in pinstripes, I’m going to tell you a story about how my wife met Tino Martinez. It happened in my Oldsmobile Minivan outside of Yankee Stadium, about ten years ago and to those of you with your minds in the gutter, it was not “that” type of meeting.
My wife and I had taken our kids to a Yankee Game. As we were leaving the Stadium parking garage I was trying to maneuver the van into a certain exit line so I could take a simple right-hand turn and get onto the Major Deegan Expressway heading north toward home. I had driven to Yankee games at least forty times in my life and had parked in that same garage most of those times. From experience I knew if I used any other exit, barricades would block me from taking a right turn and force me to go left which meant I’d have to spend the next two hours riding through the unfamiliar streets of the South Bronx to get back on the Deegan going in the right direction.
That’s when my wife uttered her famous phrase. “Why are we waiting in this long line? There’s no cars over at that exit why don’t we just go out there?” My immediate reaction was to ignore the question and simply hope she wouldn’t ask it again. No such luck. I don’t remember if it was the third or fourth time she repeated her inquiry that I patiently tried to explain that the reason there were no cars at the other exit was because you couldn’t take a right-hand turn from that location. I tried to point out that every driver in the fifty or so cars in front of us and the one hundred or so vehicles behind us knew that if you took a left instead of a right from this side of the parking garage you would spend the next five hours driving underneath elevated subway platforms and past six thousand auto body shops with pit bulls chained to razor-wire-topped chain link fences, as you cruised aimlessly through South Bronx looking for the one and only sign in the entire borough that directs you to the Deegan North.Her response? ”That’s stupid. I’m sure you can take a right from that exit too. Just go that way. We are going to be stuck in this line forever. I’d go that way if I were driving.”So what did I do? I gave up my place in line and drove to the other exit and sure enough as we drove through the gate the familiar wooden blue NYPD barricades blocked me from taking the right I needed to make and forced me left.
Why did I listen to my wife? Forgive my chauvinism but I know there are many married male readers out there who follow the same rule I do while driving in heavy traffic. If there’s a choice between doing something you know is stupid or not doing it and then getting in an argument with your wife over it, you just follow her stupid advice. Why? Because in the long run, spending two hours lost in the Bronx was better than spending the rest of the ride home and at least the next five days living with a woman who is mad at you for not taking her bad advice.
So I’m now outside the Stadium garage and I’m being forced to head either the wrong way on the Deegan or head back up River Avenue toward the same Stadium we were trying to leave. Usually there was a cop on duty at that corner forcing cars away from the Stadium but for some reason, that day there was just an empty police car sitting there. So I took the left and then I think another left and perhaps another, and before you know it, I had gotten my van onto Ruppert Place which runs right alongside the Stadium itself. In front of me was the same ramp to the Deegan I normally took when I made the correct right hand turn out of the garage. The only thing blocking my path was a huge bus, sitting right there in the middle of the intersection with its passenger door open. We were so close to the bus that we could actually see through the reflective glass of the closed passenger windows.I was about to ask the question, “Isn’t that Tino Martinez in that window?” when I heard my wife screaming at the top of her lungs, ”Teeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeno Marteeeeeeeeeeeeeenez, over here, I love youuuuuu! Teeeeeeno! Teeeeno!”
She was actually standing on the front seat of our minivan and had somehow gotten the entire top three quarters of her body out of the passenger side window yelling as loudly as possible and waving her arms and hands frantically. I had never in my life seen a human being get so excited about seeing a baseball player and evidently, neither had Tino and the rest of the Yankees. My better half (or I should say three quarters of my better half) was making such a commotion that Constantino “Tino” Martinez actually opened his passenger window, laughing at my wife’s enthusiasm, and yelled hello and waved to her. As the bus began to move, me and the kids were able to successfully pull my wife’s contorted body out of the window and get her buckled back into her seat. As we made our way back up the New York State Thruway that evening and I listened to my wife and kids talk and laugh about our encounter with the Yankee player’s bus, I was glad I took that stupid left instead of waiting in line to make my usual right.
|NYY (7 yrs)||1054||4244||3770||566||1039||189||11||192||739||17||405||546||.276||.347||.484||.831|
|SEA (6 yrs)||543||2139||1896||250||502||106||6||88||312||3||198||309||.265||.334||.466||.801|
|STL (2 yrs)||288||1123||987||129||264||50||3||36||144||4||111||142||.267||.345||.434||.778|
|TBD (1 yr)||138||538||458||63||120||20||1||23||76||3||66||72||.262||.362||.461||.823|
December 1 in general is not a very noteworthy date for baseball birthdays of any kind. The only member of Baseball’s Hall-of-Fame born on this date, played in just 1 big league game, but he managed in 3,658 of them and won four World Series rings. That would be Walter Alston, who managed the Dodgers for 23 years and beat the Yankees in two of those Fall Classics (1955 and 1963.) The greatest all-around big league player born on this date would probably be former Expo and Rockies outfielder, Larry Walker, who retired in 2005 with a .313 lifetime average and 383 home runs.
The only member of the Yankee all-time roster who celebrates his birthday on December 1 is a former pitcher named Cecil Perkins. You’ve never heard of him because his entire big league and Yankee career consisted of two appearances during the 1967 season. The first was as a starter against the Twins on July 5th of that year. Perkins lasted just three innings, giving up five runs and five hits and getting the loss in a 10-4 Minnesota victory. Former Yankee announcer, Jim Kaat, got the complete game win for the Twins that day. Perkins gave up his first big league hit, a triple to Rod Carew in the first inning. Later in the game, Minnesota third baseman Rich Reese hit what would become the only big league home run ever given up by the right hander. That loss extended a Yankee losing streak to five games. Three days later, Yankee Manager Ralph Houk inserted Perkins in the sixth inning of a game against the Orioles, in Baltimore. The Yankees were trailing 8-3 at the time and Perkins pitched two inning of one-hit, shutout ball, including a strikeout of the great Oriole reliever, Moe Drabowsky, which turned out to be Perkins only big league career K. He was then sent back down to Syracuse for the balance of the 1967 season and was gone from baseball for good after the following season.
Perkins was born in Baltimore in 1940. Other former Yankees born in Baltimore include; Phil Linz, Jeff Nelson, Tommy Byrne, Ron Swoboda and the Big Bam, Babe Ruth.
The best closer ever. Those really are the only four words you need to describe “Mo’s” career with the Yankees. In my fifty-plus years of being an avid Major League baseball fan, I’ve seen nobody end games as successfully as this guy did for the past nineteen seasons. And the amazing thing is that he did it with one pitch, a cut fastball. Yankee fans watched Rivera’s cutter break a remarkable number of big league bats over the years. The pitch had such late and significant movement that it was almost impossible for even the most skilled big league hitters to get the meaty part of their bat on the ball. I heard Jim Kaat try to explain it years ago during one Yankee broadcast by telling viewers that Mariano had very long fingers, which helped him get more spin on the cutter than most other pitchers who threw it. Add in his flawless mechanics which enabled him to precisely replicate his elegant delivery pitch after pitch and you have the formula for closing perfection that danced to the tune of “Enter Sandman.”
When I think of Mariano I will remember his postseason brilliance which included 42 saves, an 8-1 record and an ERA of 0.70. I will remember him setting the MLB career saves record during the 2011 season. I will remember how he returned from an ACL tear at the age of 43 and went on to save 44 games during the final year of his Hall of Fame career. But most of all, I will remember how secure every Yankee lead seemed to be at the end of the eighth inning for almost two straight decades and how comforting it was as a Yankee fan to see that bullpen door swing open and see number 42 trot in to that elevated circular spot in the middle of the infield from where he performed his magic.
Thank you Mariano Rivera. Yankee fans will never ever forget just how magnificent you were.
Strangely, Bob Friend almost helped the Yankees win the 1960 World Series. I use the word strangely because Friend did not become a Yankee until 1965. At the time of the ’60 Fall Classic he was still the ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ staff, who had won 18 games during that regular season and would end up winning 192 decisions before being traded by the Bucs to New York for reliever Pete Mikkelsen. The veteran right-hander, who was nicknamed “The Warrior,” started the second and sixth games of the Series and was plastered by the very talented Yankee lineup. Friend pitched a total of just six innings in those two appearances, surrendering thirteen hits and nine earned runs in the process. He would never again pitch in the postseason. When he started his one and only season in pinstripes losing four of his first five decisions, the Yankees sold him to the Mets. The Lafayette, IN native finished that season with a 5-8 record for the Amazin’s and then retired.
|PIT (15 yrs)||191||218||.467||3.55||568||477||46||161||35||10||3480.1||3610||1575||1372||273||869||1682||1.287|
|NYM (1 yr)||5||8||.385||4.40||22||12||8||2||1||1||86.0||101||52||42||11||16||30||1.360|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||4||.200||4.84||12||8||2||0||0||0||44.2||61||25||24||2||9||22||1.567|
The only member of the Yankee All-Time roster I came across, who was born on November 21 is this right handed reliever who pitched in a total of 20 games for New York during the 1998, ’99 and 2000 seasons. He recorded just one save in pinstripes during that time and had an ERA that exceed five runs for every nine innings pitched. The 1998 trade that brought Erdos to New York from the Arizona Diamondbacks was the same one that ended Andy Fox’s Yankee career. I happened to be a huge Andy Fox fan. Why? Because Andy was a member of the last Albany Colonie Yankee Team in the Double A Eastern league. That was 1994 and the following season, the Yankees switched their Double A affiliation to Greenwich, CT. The Albany ballpark was just a half-hour’s drive from my home in upstate New York. Me and my kids got to see some great future Yankees play in Albany from some very very good seats. In addition to Fox, that team’s final roster for that 1994 season included Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mo Rivera. Erdos is one of two Major League pitchers to be born in Washington, PA. The other one was also a relief pitcher for the Yankees by the name of Joe Verbanic.
|NYY (3 yrs)||0||0||5.03||20||0||8||0||0||1||34.0||41||20||19||4||16||22||1.676|
|SDP (2 yrs)||2||0||1.000||6.23||33||0||10||0||0||1||43.1||49||33||30||6||21||29||1.615|
|BOS (1 yr)||0||0||4.96||10||0||3||0||0||0||16.1||15||9||9||2||8||7||1.408|
For those first initial glorious years of ”Doc’s” career, he was the best pitcher in all of baseball. He won the Rookie of the Year award his first season with the Mets, the Cy Young Award his second, and a World Championship in his third. He won 24 games, led the National League in strikeouts and ERA, and threw eight shutouts when he was just 20 years of age. Unfortunately for Gooden and the Mets, he couldn’t handle his immense success. He gave it all up for cocaine.
George Steinbrenner made Doc a Yankee in 1996 and Gooden responded with 11 wins and that glorious no-hitter against Seattle. But the Gooden-pitched Yankee game I’ll remember most is the fourth game of the 1997 ALDS against Cleveland. Even though New York was leading that series two games to one at the time, the Indians had hit both a hurting David Cone and a healthy Andy Pettitte hard in earlier games. Doc was Torre’s surprise choice to start the next game at Jacobs Field. When he took the mound, it had been ten days since he last pitched and Gooden probably surmised that New York was not going to re-sign him for ’98. He had gone a lackluster 9-7 that regular season and Yankee fans like me would not have been surprised if the hard-hitting Indians got to him early. Instead, Gooden was masterful for about as long as he could be. The only blemish had been a David Justice home run and when Torre came to the mound to take him out of the game with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, the Yankees were leading 2-1.
Of course, New York went on to lose that game and that series but Doc had certainly impressed the heck out of me. He must have impressed the Indians quite a bit as well because less than two months later, Cleveland signed him to a two year deal for over $5.5 million. It seemed Gooden had conquered his demons at last, but of course we have found out since that he had not. What could have been.
Today is also my beautiful wife Rosemary’s birthday and my lovely sister-in-law Maria’s birthday too. Happy with love birthday ladies.
|NYM (11 yrs)||157||85||.649||3.10||305||303||1||67||23||1||2169.2||1898||823||747||123||651||1875||1.175|
|NYY (3 yrs)||24||14||.632||4.67||67||53||3||1||1||2||341.1||351||190||177||41||162||223||1.503|
|CLE (2 yrs)||11||10||.524||4.92||49||45||0||0||0||0||249.0||262||149||136||31||118||171||1.526|
|TBD (1 yr)||2||3||.400||6.63||8||8||0||0||0||0||36.2||47||32||27||14||20||23||1.827|
|HOU (1 yr)||0||0||9.00||1||1||0||0||0||0||4.0||6||4||4||1||3||1||2.250|
This lefthander, the only former or current Yankee who celebrates a birthday on November 15, was born in West Wyoming, PA in 1916. It took him a while to get to the big leagues. After graduating from college in 1938, Ostrowski was a high school teacher for three years and then signed a minor league contract with the Red Sox. After two seasons of minor league ball, he spent 1943, ’44 and ’45 in the US Army Air Force. In 1947 he was traded to the Browns’ organization and he made his big league debut with St. Louis as a 31-year-old rookie the following season. He evolved into an important part of the Browns’ bullpen during the next three years and then was traded to New York in the deal that ended the pinstripe career of Snuffy Stirnweiss.
Ostrowski pitched for the 1950, ’51 and ’52 Yankee World Championship teams, making his biggest contribution during the 1951 season, when he won six games and saved five more. He made his only World Series appearance that same season, finishing Game Three against the NY Giants by pitching two innings of shutout ball to preserve the Yankee victory.
Ostrowski wore glasses during his playing days which made him look very professorial while on the mound. Since he actually had taught high school before beginning his pro career, his teammates gave him the nickname “Professor.” After a poor year in 1952, the Yankees released the then 35-year-old southpaw after that season. He spent one more season pitching in the minors and then returned to the classroom and taught at the high school level for the next 25 years. He passed away in 2003.
Here’s my picks for the Yankee’s All-Time Pennsylvania-born lineup:
1b – Joe Collins
2b – Pat Kelley
3b – Joe Dugan
ss – John Knight
c – Butch Wynegar
of – Reggie Jackson
of – Ken Griffey Sr.
of – Dion James
dh – Jack Clark
sp – Mike Mussina
cl – Sparky Lyle
Here’s Joe Ostowski’s Yankee annual and career total regular season stats.
|NYY (3 yrs)||9||7||.563||4.37||75||8||35||3||0||10||179.0||209||101||87||20||47||62||1.430|
|SLB (3 yrs)||14||18||.438||4.65||75||29||25||9||0||5||276.2||350||170||143||24||51||69||1.449|