By most accounts, when Enos Slaughter joined the Yankees in 1954, many of his new Yankee teammates weren’t to fond of him. That group included and was probably led by the temperamental Billy Martin, who thought Slaughter ‘s habit of running hard to first on every hit ball and even after bases on balls, was an attempt to show up his teammates. Martin considered Slaughter and for that matter most teammates who had not come up through the Yankee organization, as outsiders who could not be trusted on the field or in the clubhouse. Fortunately for Slaughter, Casey Stengel did not share that sentiment, probably because he was an old National Leaguer himself.
Slaughter explained the real reason he hustled every second while on the field in his autobiography. He was playing on a Cardinal farm team in Columbus, GA in 1932, hitting in the low .200′s and thinking he was going to be released any minute when in between innings during a game, he walked backed to the dugout from his right field position. Burt Shotten happened to be his Manager at the time and when Slaughter finally got to the dugout, Shotten told him if he was too tired to run back to the bench that maybe he was too tired to play in the game. Slaughter said that not-too-subtle hint from Shotten forever changed the way he approached the game. He vowed that he would never ever loaf on a baseball field again and he kept that promise for the next 27 years.
The saddest day of his life was August 11, 1954, the day the Cardinals traded him to the Yankees. He actually burst into tears after hearing the news but not because he had any particular animosity toward the Bronx Bombers. Slaughter absolutely loved playing in St. Louis and never dreamed getting traded was even a remote possibility.
As hard as it was for him to do so, Slaughter brought all of his experience and enthusiasm for the game with him to New York. From 1954 until he was traded to Kansas City in 1955 and then again after he was reacquired by New York a season later until 1959, Casey used the aging veteran frequently as both a pinch hitter and outfield substitute. He also treated Slaughter as his bench coach. The two veterans would often sit next to each other in the dugout, constantly discussing strategy and possible moves.
Slaughter contributed on the field as well. He was a star in the 1956 World Series, hitting .350 as the Yankees beat Brooklyn. His best regular season in pinstripes was 1958, when he hit .304 in 160 plate appearances. Enos retired after the 1959 season, at the ripe age of 43 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame, 26-years later. He passed away in 2002 at the age of 85.
|STL (13 yrs)||1820||7713||6775||1071||2064||366||135||146||1148||64||838||429||.305||.384||.463||.847|
|NYY (6 yrs)||350||782||663||90||168||21||6||16||98||4||108||69||.253||.356||.376||.732|
|KCA (2 yrs)||199||570||490||86||148||26||7||7||57||3||69||37||.302||.387||.427||.814|
|MLN (1 yr)||11||21||18||0||3||0||0||0||1||0||3||3||.167||.286||.167||.452|
I remember thinking the Yankees made a good move when they signed this righty reliever to a free agent contract in 1998. Holmes had pitched out of the Colorado bullpen for five seasons before that and had put up decent numbers, especially considering half his mound appearances were in Denver, where pitchers are typically punished by the thin air. But I was wrong. Holmes showed promise during the first two months of his only season in Pinstripes and Joe Torre’s confidence in the Asheville, NC reached a highpoint after Holmes turned in seven consecutive scoreless stints between late April and mid-May. But then he gave up three home runs in a single inning against Baltimore and after that, he struggled to regain consistency. He did bounce back to pitch well that September but when he didn’t make an appearance in the Yankees’ 1998 postseason you knew his days in pinstripes were numbered. The following March, Holmes was traded to the Diamondbacks. His final Yankee record included two saves and an 0-3 won-lost record. Holmes kept pitching until 2003, when he retired with a record of 35-33 and 59 saves, appearing in a total of 557 games during his 13-season career.
|COL (5 yrs)||23||13||.639||4.42||263||6||129||0||0||46||328.0||341||181||161||34||136||13||297||1.454|
|ARI (2 yrs)||4||3||.571||4.25||52||0||12||0||0||1||55.0||62||27||26||4||26||8||40||1.600|
|ATL (2 yrs)||3||4||.429||2.89||103||0||22||0||0||1||96.2||88||34||31||8||23||4||93||1.148|
|MIL (2 yrs)||5||8||.385||3.94||81||0||34||0||0||9||118.2||125||55||52||7||38||5||90||1.374|
|STL (1 yr)||0||1||.000||9.72||5||0||1||0||0||0||8.1||12||9||9||2||3||0||5||1.800|
|LAD (1 yr)||0||1||.000||5.19||14||0||1||0||0||0||17.1||15||10||10||1||11||3||19||1.500|
|NYY (1 yr)||0||3||.000||3.33||34||0||13||0||0||2||51.1||53||19||19||4||14||3||31||1.305|
|BAL (1 yr)||0||0||25.07||5||0||0||0||0||0||4.2||13||13||13||3||5||0||6||3.857|
If you’ve been a Yankee fan for at least eighteen years, used to be that whenever you heard the name “Andruw Jones”, a bad memory crept into your head. Your mind shifted back to that opening game of the 1996 World Series in old Yankee Stadium on a Sunday afternoon in October. Your Yankees had finally made it back to the Promised Land after a decade and a half of roaming through the regular season desert, but every Yankee hater you knew was telling you that New York had no chance to beat the powerful Atlanta Braves. You would laugh off their taunts but secretly you were worried. The experts always said that the best starting pitching won in the playoffs and nobody had better starters than the Braves’ big three of Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine. Plus, Bobby Cox had some studs in that ’96 lineup. Chipper Jones and Ryan Klesko both had thirty-homer seasons and Fred McGriff, Marquis Grissom and catcher Javy Lopez had each hit over twenty of their own. So when the Game One Yankee starter, a young left-hander named Andy Pettitte was able to retire the first three Atlanta hitters in the top of the first inning you breathed a sigh of relief. But that sense of relief would not last long.
In the visitors half of the second inning, with two outs and Lopez on first, you saw the name “Andruw Jones” flash up on your TV screen and your first thought is “That’s supposed to be an E, not a U.” Whoever was broadcasting the game kept making a big deal of the fact that this sleek-looking athlete with a bat in his hand was just nineteen years old, as he quickly worked Pettitte into a full count. Then suddenly, Bam! This kid with the misspelled first name hits Andy’s sixth pitch into the Stadium’s left-field stands and the Braves took a quick 2-0 lead. Your stomach got a bit queazy but heck, you’d seen that ’96 Yankee team bounce back from deficits all season long. Pettitte retired the next hitter and as he headed back to the dugout, you hoped that pitch to Jones would be his only mistake of the game. Unfortunately, in the very next inning, this Jones kid would reemerge from the Braves dugout and take Pettitte even deeper and that three-run home run would drive a very long nail into the Yankees’ hopes of winning Game 1.
Sixteen years later, Andruw was a Yankee. He was no longer a nineteen year old rookie about to begin a career that would result in over 400 big league home runs. Instead, he’d played 15 big league seasons and was on the back end of a very good big league career. He had become a baseball nomad, the Yankees were his fourth different team in four years. But as he proved in his very first at bat in pinstripes against the Twins Brian Duensing, he could still take southpaws deep and he could still display moments in the outfield filled with that unique style and grace that was so fun to watch. I was hoping that before his Yankee career ended, Andruw would have a Johnny Damon-like “pinstripe redemption moment.” Until Damon made that famous double-steal against the Phillies during the 2009 Series, all I could think of when I saw him wearing a Yankee uniform was that grand slam he hit off of Jeff Weaver to complete Boston’s amazing comeback against New York in the ’04 ALCS. But Jones never really had that a-ha moment for New York that served to instantly eradicate the image of him hitting those two bombs off of Pettitte from my head. But he did have enough good moments wearing those pinstripes to dull that image and make me wish the Yankees could have picked him up earlier in his career.
He actually had his best stretch for New York during the first couple of months of the 2012 season, when he and Raul Ibanez were forming the two halves of the Yankees’ most effective run producer but he stopped hitting completely in the second half of that year. The Yankees ended up signing Travis Hafner as their right-handed DH for the 2013 season and it looks as if Andruw Jones very good big league career is over. Happy 37th birthday Andruw.
This not-very-well-known other former Yankee who celebrates a birthday today is one I happen to remember real well.
|ATL (12 yrs)||1761||7276||6408||1045||1683||330||34||368||1117||138||55||717||1394||.263||.342||.497||.839||113|
|NYY (2 yrs)||171||491||423||54||93||15||0||27||67||0||0||57||133||.220||.322||.447||.769||106|
|TEX (1 yr)||82||331||281||43||60||18||0||17||43||5||1||45||72||.214||.323||.459||.782||100|
|LAD (1 yr)||75||238||209||21||33||8||1||3||14||0||1||27||76||.158||.256||.249||.505||35|
|CHW (1 yr)||107||328||278||41||64||12||1||19||48||9||2||45||73||.230||.341||.486||.827||120|
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant is the winning-est manager in Yankee history. Joe McCarthy’s baseball career began as a Minor League infielder who’s bad knee and inability to hit a curve ball prevented him from ever playing in a Major League game. He was playing for Wilkes-Barre in 1912 when the team’s Manager quit. McCarthy was given the job. Just 20-years-old at the time, he was the youngest manager in professional baseball. His team played very well for him and McCarthy realized his future in the sport was as a Manager.
He got his first big league job with the Cubs in 1926. He remained in the Windy City, working for the Wrigley’s for five seasons and won the NL Pennant in 1929. Ironically it was that success, according to a NY Times article about McCarthy written by Joseph Durso, that led to the Manager’s firing as Cub Manager. The Cubs lost the Series to the A’s that year in five games. In Game Four of that Fall Classic, the Cubs had blown an eight-run lead. Chicago owner William Wrigley, who had the money to buy anything he wanted, coveted a World Series trophy. After McCarthy’s team failed to win it in ’29, the chewing gum magnate came to the fateful conclusion that McCarthy was not the field boss who could win him one. A season later, McCarthy was fired by Chicago. During the next thirteen years, Wrigley’s appraisal of his former Manager had been disproved emphatically, not once but seven different times.
Yankee Manager, Miller Huggins had died during the 1929 season. Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert replaced him with one of his team’s former pitching stars, four-time 20-game winner, Bob Shawkey. When Shawkey’s team finished third in 1930 and McCarthy was fired by the Cubs, the Yankee owner outbid the Red Sox for his services. New York teams won 1,460 games during his sixteen total years at the helm, which included six 100-victory seasons, eight American League Pennants and seven World Championships. “Marse Joe” won a total of 2,125 games during his 24-year Major League managerial career, which ended with the Red Sox in 1950. Babe Ruth hated McCarthy because he wanted the Manager’s job himself but both Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio revered him. He was famous for defending his players and accepting blame for any of the team’s defeats or failures on his own shoulders. The most remarkable thing about his record was that during his two-dozen seasons as a big-league skipper, not one of his three teams ever lost more games than they won. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1957 and died in 1978, at the age of ninety.
McCarthy shares his April 21st birthday with this one time Yankee lefty relief specialist.
|6||1931||44||New York Yankees||AL||155||94||59||.614||2|
|7||1932||45||New York Yankees||AL||156||107||47||.695||1||WS Champs|
|8||1933||46||New York Yankees||AL||152||91||59||.607||2|
|9||1934||47||New York Yankees||AL||154||94||60||.610||2|
|10||1935||48||New York Yankees||AL||149||89||60||.597||2|
|11||1936||49||New York Yankees||AL||155||102||51||.667||1||WS Champs|
|12||1937||50||New York Yankees||AL||157||102||52||.662||1||WS Champs|
|13||1938||51||New York Yankees||AL||157||99||53||.651||1||WS Champs|
|14||1939||52||New York Yankees||AL||152||106||45||.702||1||WS Champs|
|15||1940||53||New York Yankees||AL||155||88||66||.571||3|
|16||1941||54||New York Yankees||AL||156||101||53||.656||1||WS Champs|
|17||1942||55||New York Yankees||AL||154||103||51||.669||1||AL Pennant|
|18||1943||56||New York Yankees||AL||155||98||56||.636||1||WS Champs|
|19||1944||57||New York Yankees||AL||154||83||71||.539||3|
|20||1945||58||New York Yankees||AL||152||81||71||.533||4|
|21||1946||59||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 3||35||22||13||.629||3|
|Chicago Cubs||5 years||770||442||321||.579||2.8||1 Pennant|
|New York Yankees||16 years||2348||1460||867||.627||1.8||8 Pennants and 7 World Series Titles|
|Boston Red Sox||3 years||369||223||145||.606||2.3|
|24 years||3487||2125||1333||.615||2.1||9 Pennants and 7 World Series Titles|
Joking aside, Cole’s real first name was Leonard. He had become “King” in 1910 when, as a rookie with the Chicago Cubs he went 20-4 with a league-leading ERA of just 1.80. How special was that performance? Only 17 other Major League first-year pitchers have been able to win 20 games (Bob Grim, who went 20-6 in 1954, was the only Yankee rookie to do it) and only nine have compiled an ERA of less than two runs per game. He pitched the Cubs into the 1910 World Series and even though his team lost, Cole had gained national attention. This “Royal” rookie then went on to trash baseball’s sophomore jinx superstition by going 18-7 in his second season with the Cubbies.
Everything began to change for Cole during the 1912 season. He won just one of his first eight starts that season and he was getting shelled by every opposing lineup. The Cubs traded the former phee-nom to the Pirates but the change of scenery did not help and Cole found himself pitching in the minor leagues the following year. That seemed to be an elixir for the young right-hander’s career as he won 23 games for a team in Columbus and that effort attracted attention from a bunch of big league clubs, including the Yankees. New York ended up outbidding all other teams for Cole and he was headed to the Big Apple.
Cole appeared in 33 games for New York in 1914, including 15 starts and won ten of his nineteen decisions, including two shutouts. But Cole’s performance plummeted again in 1915 and the reason turned out to be a medical one. The pitcher was suffering from tuberculosis and then a cancerous tumor was found in his groin. The end came quick for the native of Toledo, IA. He died in January of 1916 at the age of 29.
This former Yankee reliever was also born on IRS tax deadline day.
|CHC (4 yrs)||40||13||.755||2.72||74||60||10||35||7||1||489.0||404||177||148||7||240||225||1.317|
|NYY (2 yrs)||12||12||.500||3.27||43||21||16||10||2||1||192.2||192||90||70||5||73||62||1.375|
|PIT (1 yr)||2||2||.500||6.43||12||5||6||2||0||0||49.0||61||42||35||1||18||11||1.612|
When I see the name Kyle Farnsworth, I associate it with a pitcher who had nasty closer-like stuff but lacked a closer’s mentality. Brian Cashman paid Farnsworth a lot of money after the 2005 season ($17 million over three years) to replace Flash Gordon as the new Yankee bridge to Mariano Rivera. The right hander had pitched his first six big league seasons as a member of the Chicago Cub bullpen. In 2005 he was traded to the Tigers. He made just 16 appearances in Detroit and was then traded to the Braves just before the 2005 inter-league trading deadline expired. He became Bobby Cox’s closer in Atlanta and during the last two months of the ’05 season, Farnsworth pitched the best baseball of his life. He saved 10 games, struck out 32 guys in 27 innings and gave up less than two earned runs per nine innings pitched, helping the Braves hold off the Marlins and win the NL East division race. But in Game 4 of that year’s NLDS, Farnsworth was called in to protect a 6-1 lead in the eighth inning against the Astros and gave up a grand slam to Lance Berkman and a solo shot an inning later and the Braves lost the game and the series in the 18th inning.
I remember watching that game. I’m sure it was a performance Farnsworth would love to forget and Brian Cashman must have forgot it when he paid all that money to bring this guy to the Bronx. He then became an enigma for Joe Torre. Torre was a great Manager but he did have his struggles developing working relationships with certain players and Farnsworth was one of them. In his first year in pinstripes, the pitcher struggled to establish a rhythm. He’d pitch lights out baseball for a stretch and then he’d get hit hard for a week or two. It was clear Torre did not trust his stuff and it became clear that Farnsworth resented that when the pitcher started talking about his Manager’s lack of faith in him to the New York sports press.
Ironically, it was Joba Chamberlain who effectively ended Farnsworth’s career in New York. When Joba was brought up in 2007 and pitched brilliantly as Mo’s set-up man, Farnsworth found himself buried even deeper in that Yankee bullpen. I call it ironic because Joba’s meltdown in the 2007 postseason’s “Bug” game at Jacobs Field seemed to knock his career off stride in the same way Farnsworth’s was thrown off kilter by his disastrous performance against the Astro’s two seasons earlier.
When both Jorge Posada and Jose Molina went down with injuries in the first half of the 2008 season, the Yankees traded Farnsworth to the Tigers for Ivan Rodriguez. Kyle was born in Wichita in 1976. Another Yankee who shares Farnsworth’s April 14th birthday is this hero from New York’s 2000 season.
|CHC (6 yrs)||22||37||.373||4.78||343||26||88||1||1||4||478.2||468||281||254||75||224||20||467||1.446|
|TBR (3 yrs)||6||7||.462||2.86||101||0||59||0||0||25||88.0||71||30||28||7||27||3||76||1.114|
|NYY (3 yrs)||6||9||.400||4.33||181||0||41||0||0||7||170.1||165||87||82||28||72||8||166||1.391|
|KCR (2 yrs)||4||5||.444||3.40||78||0||27||0||0||0||82.0||83||35||31||5||26||2||78||1.329|
|ATL (2 yrs)||0||2||.000||3.42||49||0||24||0||0||10||47.1||30||18||18||6||14||1||57||0.930|
|DET (2 yrs)||2||2||.500||3.53||62||0||21||0||0||6||58.2||56||26||23||5||25||1||73||1.381|
I believe it was my son Matthew who e-mailed me to let me know the Yankees had signed Mark Teixeira. I was both shocked and smiling when I read his message. It was early January in 2009 and New York had already snagged CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett during that free agent signing season to rejuvenate their starting rotation. The prevailing rumor was that Teixeira was going to sign with the Red Sox but at the last minute, the Yankees swooped in and made the offer that Tex was waiting for and he was on his way to the Bronx.
What surprised me most as I got to watch this guy play every day was how good he really is as a defensive first baseman. I knew he was a quality hitter with good power from both sides of the plate but I had no idea that he would make such a positive impact for New York with his glove. In both 2009 and 2010, his extraordinary range and his ability to catch any ball thrown anywhere near him improved the entire Yankee infield dramatically. In fact, during the 2009 postseason Teixeira was terrible at the plate but was so good in the field I truly doubt the Yankees would have gotten to or won that World Series without him.
Through 2011, his offensive numbers since arriving in the Bronx had also been pretty impressive. During his first three seasons in pinstripes, he averaged 34 home runs and 114 RBIs per season with 102 runs scored per year. He was on his way to similar numbers in 2012 when he suffered a calf injury in late August and missed the last month of the regular season and the playoffs. He managed to hit 24 home runs and drive in 84 runs in the 123 games he played. His 135 HRs as a Yankee put him in 35th place on the all-time list, five behind the late Tom Thresh.
What has been dropping since he came to New York are Teixeira’s batting average and on base percentage. He has also been pretty much an offensive bust during his Yankee April’s and more problematically, his Yankee October’s. This is one of the few guys in baseball history to have hit at least 30 home runs and drive in 100 or more runs for eight straight seasons. When he’s in one of his hitting funks, it really has a negative impact on New York’s ability to score runs. As the Yankees’ 2013 spring training camp was opening, I was really hoping Teixeira would not experience yet another horrible April at the plate and I sort of got my wish. After hurting his wrist hitting balls off a tee while practicing with the US team for the WBC Championship series this spring, Teixeira will not even get to swing his bat in a 2013 regular season game for New York until at least May 1.
Mark was born on April 11, 1980, in Annapolis, MD. The Yankees have him under contract through 2016.
|162 Game Avg.||162||710||613||102||171||38||2||37||119||2||1||81||122||.279||.369||.527||.896||131||323||14||10||0||6||9|
|TEX (5 yrs)||693||3006||2632||426||746||173||12||153||499||11||3||318||555||.283||.368||.533||.901||128||1402||60||42||0||14||44|
|NYY (4 yrs)||593||2627||2250||372||591||132||5||135||425||8||3||304||429||.263||.357||.506||.863||126||1138||51||43||0||30||19|
|ATL (2 yrs)||157||691||589||101||174||36||1||37||134||0||0||92||116||.295||.395||.548||.943||146||323||15||7||0||3||12|
|LAA (1 yr)||54||234||193||39||69||14||0||13||43||2||0||32||23||.358||.449||.632||1.081||181||122||4||4||0||5||4|
I was not a big fan of Bob Watson when he became the Yankee’s starting first baseman in 1980. The biggest reason for this was that I had been a big fan of the starting first baseman Watson replaced that season for New York, Chris Chambliss. In my humble opinion, the historic home run Chambliss had hit to get the Yankees into the 1976 World Series earned him the right to remain in pinstripes for the rest of his playing career. Instead, the Yankees had dealt him to the Blue Jays to get Toronto catcher, Rick Cerone. New York then signed Watson as a free agent to take over at first.
Watson was actually a very similar player to Chambliss. He averaged about 16 home-runs per season, drove in close to 90 and hit close to .300. He wasn’t as good defensively as Chambliss was, but few were. He had a good first year in pinstripes, hitting .307 and helping New York make the playoffs. He slumped badly in 1981, hitting just .212 during that strike shortened season. He then surprised me and every other Yankee fan by putting together an outstanding 1981 postseason. He hit .438 against the Brewers in that year’s ALDS and then had 2 home runs and 7 RBIs in the Yankees’ 6-game loss to the Dodgers in the ’81 World Series. That didn’t prevent the Yankees from trading the LA native to the Braves in April of the following season. Watson then spent the final three years of his 19-season big league career, backing up the same first baseman he had replaced as a Yankee starter in 1980.
After retiring in 1984, Watson became a coach with Oakland, then an assistant GM at Houston and in 1993, he was promoted to GM by the Astros, becoming the first black man in Major League history to hold that position. George Steinbrenner then hired Watson as GM of the Yankees in October of 1995 where he remained until Brian Cashman replaced him in February of 1998. Watson found out very quickly that working as GM for the Boss could be hazardous to one’s health. Steinbrenner would not let Watson make any decisions by himself, which still did not prevent the Yankee owner from berating his new GM’s every action. George even refused to congratulate Watson after the Yankees’ 1996 World Series win. The stress of working for Steinbrenner was so bad that the guy who’s nickname had been “the Bull” during his playing days, ended up in the hospital in April of 1997 with high blood pressure and orders from his doctors to reduce his Yankee GM workload by 25%.
Also born on this date was this father of one of baseball’s all-time great home run hitters.
|HOU (14 yrs)||1381||5496||4883||640||1448||241||30||139||782||21||22||508||635||.297||.364||.444||.808|
|ATL (3 yrs)||171||394||348||34||92||16||1||13||71||1||3||41||55||.264||.338||.428||.766|
|NYY (3 yrs)||196||725||642||80||181||31||6||19||83||2||1||75||73||.282||.355||.438||.793|
|BOS (1 yr)||84||347||312||48||105||19||4||13||53||3||2||29||33||.337||.401||.548||.949|
From the moment I started following my Yankees as a six-year-old in 1960 right up until the team’s fifth place finish in the AL Pennant race in 1965, I loved Major League Baseball’s Reserve Clause. It is what had permitted the Yankee’s skillful and ruthless front office to firmly imprison the best baseball talent in America in Pinstripes until they could no longer run, hit, field, or throw or at least until they could be traded for someone who could do these things a bit better.
But after 1966, my stance on the sanctity of this oppressive piece of contract language began to soften. Overnight, the Yankees’ glamorous galaxy of star players seemed to grow old. Compounding the problem was that CBS, the team’s new owner, stopped investing in the Yankee farm system and that thriftiness, combined with the impact of the newly introduced MLB Amateur Draft, caused New York’s cupboard of bonafide home grown prospects to quickly grow bare. Also coming back to bite the team in the rear end was the tendency of the Yankee front office to avoid signing black prospects all throughout the late forties and fifties.
So by the late sixties I was one of the biggest advocates of testing baseball’s reserve clause in the courts and when George Steinbrenner took control of my favorite team, I was actively rooting for Curt Flood’s legal victory.
The New York Yankee’s first signing in Baseball’s new free agent era took place on the very last day of 1974. At the time, Jim Catfish Hunter was the American League’s premier starter. He had just completed a string of four consecutive 20-victory seasons for Oakland, the ace pitcher on a team that had won the last three World Series.
Hunter’s best season in pinstripes turned out to be his first, in 1975. He won 23 of his 37 decisions, threw 7 shutouts and compiled a 2.49 ERA. It wasn’t enough to win the Yankees a pennant but that certainly was not Catfish’s fault. He literally pitched his arm off that year, completing 30 games and amassing 328 innings pitched. In fact, during the three seasons of 1974, ’75 and ’76, Hunter threw 944 innings of baseball and the damage caused to his arm by that strain helps explain why he spent much of his last three seasons with New York on the DL.
What many Yankee fans fail to fully appreciate about Hunter was his ability to pitch effectively and be a clubhouse leader on teams that had rosters full of strong player personalities led by eccentric, very vocal owners. Hunter’s experience with Charley Finley’s Oakland A’s prepared him well for the Bronx Zoo and George Steinbrenner. And even though he had just that one twenty-victory season with the Yankees, Catfish showed his Yankee teammates how to focus on winning while on the field and how to survive the glare of a hyperactive media, monitoring a crazy clubhouse.
I will never forget Catfish’s gutty seven-inning performance in Game 6 of the 1978 World Series. That victory clinched a second straight championship for New York and I felt it was Hunter’s finest moment as a Yankee.
Inducted into Cooperstown in 1987, Catfish died of Lou Gehrig’s disease, twelve years later.
Below is my all-time Yankee free agent lineup. Only players who became Yankees’ originally via free agency are eligible. This disqualifies Yankees like Derek Jeter, who became a free agent while he was a Yankee and re-signed with the team. It also disqualifies free agent signers like Andy Pettitte, who was a Yankee, left and then re-signed with NY as a free agent.
The Pinstripe Birthday Blog’s All-Time Yankee Free Agent Line-Up
1B Mark Teixeira
2B Steve Sax
3B Wade Boggs
SS Tony Fernandez
C Russ Martin/Butch Wynegar
OF Reggie Jackson
OF Dave Winfield
OF Hideki Matsui
DH Jason Giambi
P CC Sabathia
P Catfish Hunter
P Mike Mussina
P David Wells
CL Goose Gossage
Kenny Clay’s most famous moment in pinstripes was not a positive one. He had started a home game against the Royals in September of 1979 and was quickly staked to a 5-0 lead. By the time Billy Martin pulled him in the third inning, the lead had shrunk to one run and the Yankees ended up losing that contest 9-8. Yankee owner George Steinbrenner was livid after the loss and when reporters asked him what he thought about Clay’s performance, the Boss told them that his once-prized pitching prospect had “spit the bit.”
Just four years earlier, Kenny Clay had been considered a can’t miss future member of the team’s starting rotation. The hard-throwing right-hander had put together a 28-18 record at the Triple A level of the minors but he could never duplicate that success in the big leagues. In three separate trials in the Bronx he was 6-14. After blowing that game in Kansas City and finishing the ’79 season with a horrible 1-7 record, Steinbrenner had seen enough and he traded Clay to Texas for Gaylord Perry during the 1980 season. Old Gaylord went 4-4 for New York the rest of that year while Clay was going 2-3 for the Rangers. Clay’s failure at the big league level gave the Boss even more impetus to turn to free agency and trades instead of his own farm system when the Yankees needed pitching talent.
Turns out that Clay had a bad habit of disappointing his employers. In 1986, he was convicted for stealing $30,000 from Jostens Inc. The company makes class rings for high schools and colleges and had hired Clay as a salesman. He escaped jail by making restitution and doing community service. In 1992 he stole a car from the car dealership he worked for and served hard time for that crime. In 1999 he went back to jail for forgery. Six years later, he forged the sale of a copier in an attempt to obtain a $7,500 commission check and ended up back in the slammer.
Clay is not the only one-time Yankee prospect to be born on April 6th. This first baseman and this Hawaiian-born outfielder both were considered top Yankee prospects in the first decade of the 21st century, but like Clay, neither made much of an impact as a Yankee or as a big leaguer.