Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant is the only one of the “Three Killer B’s” who originally received lots of media attention during the Yankees’ 2011 spring training season, to actually begin paying dividends for the parent club. His name is Dellin Betances, and he was born on March 23, 1988, in the Washington Heights section of New York City. He grew up a Yankee fan and the Bronx Bombers selected him in the eighth round of the 2006 draft and then gave him a million dollar contract to dissuade him from accepting a college scholarship to pitch for Vanderbilt University.
An imposing figure on the mound, Betances is 6’8″ tall and throws a fastball that clocks just a shade under 100 mph. His path to the big leagues was obstructed by elbow surgery in 2009. He did appear in his first two big league games for New York during the 2011 season but after he failed to make Joe Girardi’s Yankee staff in either 2012 or 2013, I for one thought his promise was more hype than anything else. It now looks as if I may have been dead wrong and I certainly hope I was. Betances had a terrific 2014 spring training season and has continued his close-to-dominating relief performances through the first two weeks of the regular season. He is the third member of the All-Time Yankee roster to be born on March 23rd, joining this former first baseman and this one-time catcher.
Lidle’s Yankee career began with promise, quickly grew muddled in controversy and ended in shocking tragedy. He came to New York in the Bobby Abreu trade from Philly during the 2006 season. He won his first Yankee start against Toronto and then beat Boston for his second win and I remember at that point liking what I was seeing from this right-hander. He ended up going 4-3 in his nine Yankee starts that year but then got shelled by Detroit in the ALDS-clinching Game 4 loss to Detroit. He was then quoted as saying the Tigers were more ready to play that postseason series than the Yankees, which did not sit well with Yankee fans or his Yankee teammates. It also brought back memories of the derogatory comments Lidle had made about his Philadelphia teammates after getting traded to New York and caused me to conclude that this guy maybe had a screw loose. But then he flew that plane into a New York City apartment building and suddenly those controversial comments meant nothing at all. Lidle was 34 years old when that crash took place and he left behind a wife and young son.
This former Yankee relief pitcher and bullpen coach, this one-time Yankee home-run machine and this one-time Yankee catcher were also born on March 22.
|PHI (3 yrs)||26||20||.565||4.50||62||62||0||3||2||0||372.1||396||207||186||40||96||252||1.321|
|TBD (2 yrs)||5||6||.455||5.13||36||12||6||0||0||0||101.2||122||65||58||13||31||66||1.505|
|OAK (2 yrs)||21||16||.568||3.74||60||59||0||3||2||0||380.0||361||174||158||40||86||229||1.176|
|NYM (1 yr)||7||2||.778||3.53||54||2||20||0||0||2||81.2||86||38||32||7||20||54||1.298|
|CIN (1 yr)||7||10||.412||5.32||24||24||0||3||1||0||149.0||170||95||88||24||44||93||1.436|
|NYY (1 yr)||4||3||.571||5.16||10||9||0||0||0||0||45.1||49||26||26||11||19||32||1.500|
|TOR (1 yr)||12||15||.444||5.75||31||31||0||2||0||0||192.2||216||133||123||24||60||112||1.433|
After the 1978 season, the New York front office decided the Yankee bullpen wasn’t big enough for both Goose Gossage and Sparky Lyle so they traded “The Count” to Texas in a nine player deal. The key acquisition for New York was supposed to be outfielder Juan Beniquez, but he lasted just one season in the Bronx. The real gem in that deal for the Yankees was a young pitcher named Dave Righetti. Paul Mirabella, today’s birthday celebrant quietly accompanied “Ragu” and Beniquez to New York as part of that transaction.
A word of advice to those of you who have children you hope one day will win baseball scholarships to college or get drafted by an MLB team. If they are right-handed groom them to be catchers and if they throw with their left-hands teach them how to pitch. Why? If you study the history of Major League Baseball you will find a large number of catchers in every era who were able to put together lengthy big league careers even though they can’t hit worth a lick. You’ll also discover that there’s always room on a big league roster for a pitcher who can throw from the left side.
Mirabella is a classic example. He had come up with Texas in 1978. After going 0-4 in pinstripes during the 1979 season, he was sent to Toronto with Chris Chambliss in the deal that brought Rick Cerone to New York. He remained in the big leagues for the next eleven seasons even though his ERA as a reliever was 4.45, his record was 19-29 and he saved an average of just one game per season during his 13 years in the Majors. How? Because at least once every season since Major League Baseball was introduced to our culture, the manager of every big league team that has ever played has told the owner or general manager of that team that he needs a left hander who can come into a game and get a left-handed hitter on the opposing team out. That’s why and how Mirabella’s career lasted for thirteen seasons on six different teams.
He was born in Belleville, NJ in 1954. In the above baseball card, Mirabella does bear a slight resemblance to comedy actor, Sacha Baron Cohen, no? He also shares his March 20th birthday with the first pitcher in the history of the Yankee franchise to win 20 games in a season and the first one to lose 20 games in a season.
|MIL (4 yrs)||8||5||.615||3.63||124||2||39||0||0||6||163.2||158||78||66||13||71||81||1.399|
|SEA (3 yrs)||2||5||.286||4.19||70||1||21||0||0||3||88.0||96||50||41||7||39||55||1.534|
|TEX (2 yrs)||4||3||.571||5.15||50||4||22||0||0||4||78.2||76||46||45||6||39||52||1.462|
|TOR (2 yrs)||5||12||.294||4.64||41||23||3||3||1||0||145.1||171||89||75||13||73||62||1.679|
|NYY (1 yr)||0||4||.000||8.79||10||1||0||0||0||0||14.1||16||15||14||3||10||4||1.814|
|BAL (1 yr)||0||0||5.59||3||2||1||0||0||0||9.2||9||6||6||1||7||4||1.655|
You’d have to be close to my age to remember a shortstop by the name of Freddie Patek, who started for the very good Kansas City Royal teams of the 1970s. Patek’s nickname was “the Flea” because he was tiny, just 5’5″ tall and also a real pest for Royal opponents to deal with. He had good speed, was a heck of a bunter and every time you looked up he was moving a runner into scoring position, beating out a slow grounder or stealing a base. Patek was the guy I thought about as I completed my research on today’s pretty obscure Pinstripe Birthday celebrant named Fritz Brickell. Like Patek, Brickell was a 5’5″ shortstop. But unlike Freddie, Fritzie never became a real pest for Yankee opponents at the big league level.
Brickell’s dad, also named Fred, had been a Major League outfielder back in the twenties who played against the Yankees in the 1927 World Series. In addition to being short, Brickell had the additional misfortune of being a middle infielder in a Yankee organization during the fifties that was loaded with great middle infielders. Nevertheless, when Fritzie took over for Tony Kubek as starting shortstop for the Yankee’s AAA team in Denver in 1957, he banged 170 hits and averaged .295. That performance convinced the Yankees he deserved some look-sees at the Major League level. The 1959 Yankee club was one of the most disappointing teams in the franchise’s history. They finished in third place in the AL that season with a 79-75 record. They were playing .500 baseball in June when Brickell was called up. Manager Casey Stengel played him in 18 games during the next six weeks and Fritz hit his one and only big league career home run off of Detroit’s Tom Morgan. Unfortunately, given his small strike zone, Brickell did not like to walk. Kubek’s job was safe.
The Yankees sent Fritz back down to Denver at the end of July. The next time he played in Yankee Stadium was 1961 and he was wearing the uniform of the Los Angeles Angels. The Yankees had traded him to LA in April of that year to reacquire Duke Maas. Maas had been a valuable member of the Yankee pitching staff during the previous three seasons but when New York left him unprotected in the AL Expansion Draft of 1960, the Angels snatched him. Brickell was the Angels’ first ever Opening Day starting shortstop but after 21 games he was hitting just .122 and was released. Four years later he was dead, a victim of cancer, at the age of 30.
Fritz was born in Wichita, Kansas on March 19, 1935. Only a small handful of Yankees were born in the home state of the Wizard of Oz. The three most notable are Johnny Damon (Ft. Riley) Ralph Houk (Lawrence) and Mike Torrez (Topeka.)
Brickell shares his birthday with this long-ago starting outfielder for the New York Highlanders.
|NYY (2 yrs)||20||41||39||4||10||1||0||1||4||0||1||10||.256||.275|
|LAA (1 yr)||21||55||49||3||6||0||0||0||3||0||6||9||.122||.218|
I remember thinking when I first watched him pitch that Brian Fisher would be a good Yankee starter for a number of years. That was back in 1986 and the Yankees had missed the playoffs for five consecutive seasons at that point, mostly because they lacked good starting pitching. Ron Guidry had just turned 35 years old and his best days were behind him. Dennis Rasmussen had come from nowhere to lead that ’86 Yankee staff with 18 wins but I thought the team’s future rested on the arms of young studs like Fisher, Doug Drabek and Bob Tewksbury. George Steinbrenner didn’t agree with me. After the 86 season, when Fisher went 9-6 out of the Yankee bullpen, this big right hander and Drabek were sent to the Pirates for veteran starter Rick Rhoden and Tewksbury was dealt to the Cubs for Steve Trout. Of the three, Fisher had the best year in 1987, going 11-9 for Pittsburgh but both Tewksbury and especially Drabek went on to even better big league careers. Fisher was out of baseball by 1992. He’s one of only two Yankee players to be born in Hawaii. Can you name the other? It was a utility infielder named Lenny Sakata.
Lot’s of very good pitchers but not so many great position players have worn the uniforms of both the Yankees and Pirates during their big league careers. Here’s my all-time lineup of Yankee/Pirates:
1b Dale Long
2b Willie Randolph
3b Tim Foli
ss Gene Michael
c Russell Martin
of Matty Alou
of Omar Moreno
of Xavier Nady
dh Mike Easler
sp Jack Chesbro
sp Waite Hoyt
sp Doug Drabek
sp John Candelaria
p Rick Rhoden
p Doc Medich
p Dock Ellis
p AJ Burnett
cl Goose Gossage
cl Luis Arroyo
mgr Casey Stengel
Here are Brian Fishers’ Yankee and career stats:
|PIT (3 yrs)||19||22||.463||4.72||79||51||7||7||4||2||348.2||367||194||183||42||139||191||1.451|
|NYY (2 yrs)||13||9||.591||3.65||117||0||49||0||0||20||195.0||182||93||79||18||66||152||1.272|
|SEA (1 yr)||4||3||.571||4.53||22||14||2||0||0||1||91.1||80||49||46||9||47||26||1.391|
|HOU (1 yr)||0||0||7.20||4||0||3||0||0||0||5.0||9||5||4||1||0||1||1.800|
I do remember getting pretty excited when New York acquired this veteran right-hander from the Dodgers after their 2003 World Series defeat to the Marlins. They had to give up Jeff Weaver to get him but Weaver had been unimpressive in pinstripes. New York also had to pay Brown’s salary of $15 million per year but the Yankees had the cash.
Brown’s initial season as a Yankee was filled with disappointments. First, his chronically sore back prevented him from pitching well over an extended string of starts. Next, a frustrated Brown injured his hand punching a concrete wall, angering his teammates. Finally, Brown pitched terribly in the seventh and deciding game of the disastrous 2004 ALCS against the Red Sox, sealing his reputation as a disappointment with Yankee fans. He then went 4-7 in 2005 and retired with a career record of 211-144.
|TEX (8 yrs)||78||64||.549||3.81||187||186||1||40||6||0||1278.2||1322||629||541||85||428||742||1.369|
|LAD (5 yrs)||58||32||.644||2.83||137||129||0||11||2||0||872.2||737||319||274||68||223||784||1.100|
|NYY (2 yrs)||14||13||.519||4.95||35||35||0||0||0||0||205.1||239||122||113||19||54||133||1.427|
|FLA (2 yrs)||33||19||.635||2.30||65||65||0||11||5||0||470.1||401||137||120||18||99||364||1.063|
|SDP (1 yr)||18||7||.720||2.38||36||35||0||7||3||0||257.0||225||77||68||8||49||257||1.066|
|BAL (1 yr)||10||9||.526||3.60||26||26||0||3||1||0||172.1||155||73||69||10||48||117||1.178|
By the time the Yankees signed Mariano Duncan as a free agent in December of 1995, the Dominican middle infielder was already a 32-year-old, 11-year veteran of the big leagues. The Yankees expected to play their rookie, Derek Jeter at short in 1996 and were going to move switch-hitting Tony Fernandez from short to second. They wanted Duncan to serve as a backup for both positions. That plan fell apart when Fernandez got hurt in spring training and was shelved for the year. Manager Joe Torre gave Yankee rookie Andy Fox every chance to win the second base job but the youngster could not get his average up to .200. Then Torre gave Duncan a try. He responded with the best season of his career.
Mariano hit .340 in 109 games that year. He became a leader in that Yankee clubhouse and his popular pre-game pronouncement, “We play today, we win today…dassit” became the slogan of that amazing club. When the Yankees won the 1996 Pennant and World Series, I was pretty certain Duncan would be back to start at second again in 1997. But George Steinbrenner did not feel the same way. He did not think Duncan was good enough defensively and when the Boss’s feeling became public, Mariano was angry and demanded to be traded. The Yankees tried to grant him that wish by reaching a deal with the Padres that would send Duncan and pitcher Kenny Rogers to San Diego in return for slugger Greg Vaughn. When Vaughn failed his physical and the deal was voided, Duncan became even more vocal about his dislike for Steinbrenner. Finally, after the All Star break, the Yankees traded Duncan to Toronto. He played his final 39 big league games as a Blue Jay and then tried Japanese baseball for a year before retiring for good.
Yankee fans will always remember Mariano’s great year in 1996 and he has a ring on his finger to prove it. This former Yankee slugger shares a March 13 birthday with Mariano as does this former outfielder who was the last Yankee to wear uniform number 7 before Mickey Mantle made it famous.
|PHI (4 yrs)||406||1698||1613||208||442||100||9||30||194||40||46||311||.274||.298||.403||.701|
|LAD (4 yrs)||376||1439||1314||161||307||44||8||20||95||100||85||268||.234||.284||.325||.609|
|CIN (4 yrs)||299||1089||1011||152||282||41||17||28||121||24||49||179||.279||.316||.436||.752|
|NYY (2 yrs)||159||596||572||78||178||42||3||9||69||6||15||116||.311||.327||.442||.769|
|TOR (1 yr)||39||176||167||20||38||6||0||0||12||4||6||39||.228||.267||.263||.531|
Bobby Abreu gave the Yankees two and a half seasons of solid play as their starting right fielder. He averaged .295 while in pinstripes, stole more than 20 bases a season, was never hurt and he both scored and drove in over 100 runs in each of his two full years in New York. I was expecting him to be a better defensive outfielder than he showed as a Yankee but when you look at his overall performance, he did absolutely fine. Unfortunately, fine was just not good enough for a Yankee team that slowly but surely forgot how to win in October.
I liked Abreu’s game but I liked the game of the guy he replaced in right field for New York, even more. That would be Gary Sheffield, who was in my opinion one of the most intimidating hitters in the big leagues. Opposing pitchers respected Abreu but they feared Sheffield. So when the Yankees let Abreu walk after the 2008 season, I was not too upset. He signed with the Angels and had a typical very good Abreu year in 2009 before slumping significantly in 2010. Bobby was born in Venezuela on March 11, 1974.
|PHI (9 yrs)||1353||5885||4857||891||1474||348||42||195||814||254||947||1078||.303||.416||.513||.928|
|LAA (4 yrs)||456||1946||1662||239||443||103||5||43||246||75||261||363||.267||.364||.412||.776|
|NYY (3 yrs)||372||1631||1423||260||420||95||9||43||243||57||190||276||.295||.378||.465||.843|
|HOU (2 yrs)||74||234||210||23||52||11||2||3||27||7||23||51||.248||.325||.362||.687|
|LAD (1 yr)||92||230||195||28||48||8||1||3||19||6||35||51||.246||.361||.344||.704|
I was never a big Steve Howe fan, but I remember reading an article about one of Howe’s seven suspensions for substance abuse in which Yankee Captain, Don Mattingly was quoted and suddenly feeling sorry for the one-time NL Rookie of the Year reliever. According to Mattingly, Howe was one of the hardest working members of the Yankee roster and an outstanding teammate.
For whatever reason, George Steinbrenner loved giving former big league star players with drug problems second chances. Howe was one of the Yankee owner’s first reclamation projects and in the strike shortened season of 1994, he repaid the Boss by once again becoming one of the most effective relief pitchers in baseball. He saved 15 games in that abbreviated year and posted an ERA of under two, helping the Yankees build a huge lead in their division only to have the work stoppage destroy their season.
In 2006, Howe was on a highway in California, driving home to Arizona in his pickup truck following a business meeting. Witnesses say the truck just drifted onto the medium and rolled over. The former pitcher was not wearing his seat belt at the time and he was ejected from the vehicle and killed instantly. He was only 48 years old at the time of his death. Tests later revealed that Howe had methamphetamine in his system at the time of the crash.
Having smoked cigarettes for 17 years of my life, I will never wonder why people cannot overcome their addictions to chemical substances that temporarily relax them and provide a buzz. When we are young, we think we are immortal, able to do anything we want without fear of hurting ourselves. When wiser elders warned me I would find it very difficult to quit cigarettes, I laughed them off. But within a few years of taking my first puff, I was so hooked that I would find myself lying to my family so I could sneak away and grab a smoke. The drug of choice first takes over your body and then controls your life. Those that don’t quit fail to reach a point at which they know their lives will be better without the drug until it is too late, or never at all. I’m glad I was able to do so but again, I will never wonder why stars and celebrities like Steve Howe could not.
|NYY (6 yrs)||18||10||.643||3.57||229||0||88||0||0||31||227.0||219||99||90||19||50||116||1.185|
|LAD (5 yrs)||24||25||.490||2.35||231||0||149||0||0||59||328.2||306||109||86||10||74||183||1.156|
|MIN (1 yr)||2||3||.400||6.16||13||0||5||0||0||0||19.0||28||16||13||1||7||10||1.842|
|TEX (1 yr)||3||3||.500||4.31||24||0||15||0||0||1||31.1||33||15||15||2||8||19||1.309|
Long-time Yankee fans like me can remember the days prior to the onslaught of steroid use by MLB players, when hitting thirty home runs in the big leagues was considered something really special. If a rookie did it, the feat was considered near majestic. That’s why when today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant came up to the Twins during the 1963 season and set an American League record by belting 33 home runs in his first year, it was pretty special. He broke a record that had been set by none other than the great Ted Williams, who had hit 31 during his rookie season of 1939. That 1963 Twins team had one of the best homer-hitting starting outfields in baseball history. Harmon Killebrew was the left fielder and he led all of baseball with 45 circuit blasts. Bob Allison played center and he had 35. The entire 1963 Minnesota lineup had some power, leading the league with 225 home runs, 37 more than the second place Yankees hit that season.
Hall played four years in the Twin Cities, made two AL All Star teams and helped Minnesota win the 1965 AL Pennant. After his average dipped by fifty points in 1966, the Twins traded him to California with big Don Mincher for a very good starting pitcher named Dean Chance. Hall would never again be the hitter he was but I still member getting sort of excited when the Yankees picked him up during the 1969 season. Why? That year’s struggling Yankee team had Bill Robinson starting in the outfield even though he was averaging in the one-seventies. I was hoping Hall’s left-handed swing would be rejuvenated by Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch. It wasn’t. Hall was traded to the Cubs right before the end of the 1969 season. 1970 was his last year in the bigs. He retired with 121 career home runs over eight seasons. He was born on March 7, 1938 in Mount Holly, NC and shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee reliever.
If you put together an all-time lineup of players who played for both the Yankees and Twins, it might look like the following:
1B Doug Mientkiewicz
SS Roy Smalley
OF Jimmie Hall
OF Cesar Tovar
DH Gary Ward
P Jim Kaat
CL Ron Davis
Mgr Billy Martin
Jimmie Hall’s Yankee and career stats:
|MIN (4 yrs)||573||2102||1885||282||507||73||16||98||288||23||191||358||.269||.334||.481||.815|
|CHC (2 yrs)||39||61||56||3||8||2||0||0||2||0||5||17||.143||.213||.179||.392|
|CLE (2 yrs)||57||133||121||5||22||4||0||1||8||2||12||22||.182||.256||.240||.495|
|CAL (2 yrs)||175||589||527||69||127||11||3||17||63||5||58||84||.241||.315||.370||.685|
|ATL (1 yr)||39||49||47||7||10||2||0||2||4||0||2||14||.213||.245||.383||.628|
|NYY (1 yr)||80||233||212||21||50||8||5||3||26||8||19||34||.236||.296||.363||.659|