Bobby Brown started his Yankee career during the tumultuous 1979 season, when he was acquired from the Blue Jays in June of that year. At the same time New York traded for Brown, George Steinbrenner, replaced Manager Bob Lemon with Billy Martin. After winning two straight World Championships, New York was floundering in that year’s AL Pennant race. The “Boss” thought Lemon had lost control of the team and especially center-fielder Mickey Rivers. The Yankee owner felt Martin was the guy who could make the Yankees and “Mick the Quick” play hard again.
Instead, Rivers continued to drift and on August 1, 1979, the speedy outfielder was dealt to the Rangers. That same day, Thurman Munson crashed his plane and the rest of the 1979 baseball season suddenly didn’t matter to anybody.
In one of his best moves as Yankee owner, Steinbrenner then approved the hiring of long-time Yankee coach Dick Howser as the team’s new skipper. The Yankees also swung a deal for the young Mariner center-fielder, Rupert Jones. Everyone thought Jones would become the Yankees next great center fielder. Fortunately for Bobby Brown, that didn’t happen.
With Jones struggling to keep his average over .200, Dick Howser began playing Brown in the middle of his outfield during that 1980 season. Brown’s speed helped him cover the huge dimensions of center field in the old Yankee Stadium and it helped him steal 27 bases that season. Howser also liked the fact that Brown was a switch hitter. Bobby responded well, hitting .260 and poking 14 home runs in his official rookie season. But the Howser-Brown mutual admiration society was about to get disbanded.
Howser was fired by an irate Steinbrenner after the Yankees got knocked out of the 1980 playoffs in three-straight games by the Royals. Brown went hitless in that series, which did not go unnoticed in the Yankee front office. At the very end of New York’s 1981 spring training season, New York traded Jones to the Padres for San Diego’s talented center fielder, Jerry Mumphrey. That trade signaled the official end of Brown’s career as the Yankee’s starting center fielder.
Bobby began the 1981 season in Columbus and then got called back up to the parent club in late May. He remained in pinstripes during the rest of that strike-shortened 1981 season, but he hit only .226. Still, the Yankees kept him on their post-season roster, which ended up giving Brown one more opportunity to make Steinbrenner livid. It happened during the pivotal Game 4 of that year’s Fall Classic against the Dodgers. Yankee Manager, Bob Lemon had inserted Brown as a pinch runner for Oscar Gamble in the sixth inning with the Yankees ahead 6-3. But instead of putting Jerry Mumphrey in center the following inning, Lemon sent Brown out to play the field. Mumphrey was considered to be a much better defensive outfielder than Brown. Later in the game, with the score tied 6-6, Brown misplayed Rick Monday’s blooper into a double, which led to a two-run inning and a Dodger victory and a deadlocked Series. Los Angeles would go on to win the next two games and the World Championship. The following April, Brown was playing for the Mariners.
The Yankees actually traded for Bobby Brown two different times. They originally acquired him in 1978, when he was still a minor leaguer in the Phillies’ organization but then lost him to the Mets in the 1978 rule 5 Draft. In that trade with the Phillies, the Yankees got Brown and outfielder Jay Johnstone for reliever Rawley Eastwick. When New York traded Bobby Brown to the Mariners in 1982 they got starting pitcher Shane Rawley in return. This makes Brown the only Yankee in history who was traded to the team and from the team for guys who shared the name Rawley.
There was another pretty famous Bobby Brown in Yankee history, a third baseman during the late forties who went on to become a medical doctor and then the last president of MLB’s American League. There have also been lots of Yankees who like the two Bobby Brown’s, have names (or nicknames) with the same first and last initial. Here’s my line up of the most notable of those alliteratively monikered Bronx Bombers:
Chris Chambliss – 1b
Steve Sax – 2b
Tommy Tresh – SS
Red Rolfe – 3b
Frank Fernandez – c
Mickey Mantle – of
Bobby Bonds – of
Chad Curtis – of
Shane Spencer – dh
Mike Mussina – p
Red Ruffing – p
Goose Gossage – rp
Bobby turns 59-years-old today. He shares his May 25th birthday with this former Yankee pitcher and minor league pitching instructor.
|SDP (3 yrs)||221||528||480||76||116||15||5||8||57||49||39||91||.242||.296||.344||.640|
|NYY (3 yrs)||198||586||542||77||138||16||6||14||56||33||36||114||.255||.299||.384||.683|
|SEA (1 yr)||79||267||245||29||59||7||1||4||17||28||17||32||.241||.288||.327||.614|
|TOR (1 yr)||4||12||10||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||1||.000||.167||.000||.167|
It is still hard to believe Bobby is gone. He became my favorite Yankee when he was brought up in 1969 to replace my previous favorite Yankee, the great Mickey Mantle. Even though he developed into a very good big league player, he was no Mantle. He was instead, the very best player on a very bad string of Yankee teams and I loved the guy. I remember being very upset when Bobby was traded to the Giants for Bobby Bonds right after the 1974 season. I remember being overjoyed when the Yankees put him back in pinstripes during the 1979 season. I hated to see him retire during the 1983 season but I enjoyed listening to him and learning more about him during his many years in the Yankees’ broadcast booth. When he died from a brain tumor in July of 2008, Yankee fans around the world mourned him. Had he lived he would have turned 68 years-old today.
In April of 2014, the Yankees announced that they would be placing plaques in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park to honor Paul O’Neill and Tino Martinez, two great Yankees who certainly deserve the recognition. But what about Bobby Murcer?
|NYY (13 yrs)||1256||4997||4428||641||1231||192||29||175||687||74||491||564||.278||.349||.453||.802|
|CHC (3 yrs)||358||1465||1243||178||336||44||10||43||175||32||196||154||.270||.367||.426||.792|
|SFG (2 yrs)||294||1256||1059||153||295||49||6||34||181||21||175||123||.279||.379||.432||.812|
I never was a big fan of Billy Martin. I was too young to remember his playing days with the Yankees in the fifties. When he started managing in the American League, first for the Twins in 1969 and then the Tigers in 1971, I remember trying to learn more about him. Everything I read seemed to indicate he had a great will to win, a strong knowledge of the game but an extremely bad temper. This helped explain why he was fired from his first three managerial positions even after he helped turn losing teams into winners.
When George Steinbrenner became managing partner of the Yankees the perfect storm necessary to bring these two unpredictable forces together in the Bronx had been formed. In the beginning, it worked marvelously. The Yankees got back to the World Series and fans filled the Stadium like never before. It didn’t last long, however. Martin’s dependence on alcohol worsened under the pressure of Steinbrenner’s meddling and the glare of the New York media. Once these fault lines became public during and after the 1977 season, Martin would never again be able to command the respect or support of his players necessary to lead them to championships.
As more and more Yankees and ex-Yankees began talking and writing about their experiences while playing for Martin, a clearer picture of his addiction to alcohol, his emotional insecurity, and his inhumane behavior emerged. What respect I had for his past achievements was quickly replaced by pity for what he had become.
Having written all this it is only fair to point out that there are many people who knew Martin personally and who played with him and for him on a baseball field who loved and deeply respected the guy. My opinions of him were formed from the far-away focus of a typical baseball fan.
He died on Christmas day in 1989 when his truck was driven into a ditch by a friend who was allegedly driving intoxicated at the time of the accident. It has also been reported that the driver and Martin had been drinking all day. May he now be resting in peace.
During his final season as Yankee skipper in 1989, Martin had this right-handed veteran starter who shares his May 16th birthday, on his pitching staff. Martin was not the Yankee manager when this other May 16th born right-hander pitched in pinstripes, during the 1981 season. This former Yankee reliever was also born on that day.
Martin’s record as a Yankee player:
|1954||Did not play in major leagues (Military Service)|
|NYY (7 yrs)||527||1887||1717||220||449||70||18||30||188||19||112||178||.262||.313||.376||.688|
|MIN (1 yr)||108||398||374||44||92||15||5||6||36||3||13||42||.246||.275||.361||.636|
|MLN (1 yr)||6||6||6||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|KCA (1 yr)||73||285||265||33||68||9||3||9||27||7||12||20||.257||.295||.415||.710|
|CIN (1 yr)||103||346||317||34||78||17||1||3||16||0||27||34||.246||.304||.334||.639|
|CLE (1 yr)||73||258||242||37||63||7||0||9||24||0||8||18||.260||.290||.401||.691|
|DET (1 yr)||131||536||498||56||127||19||1||7||42||5||16||62||.255||.279||.339||.619|
Martin’s record as a Yankee manager:
|8||1975||47||New York Yankees||AL||2nd of 2||56||30||26||.536||3|
|9||1976||48||New York Yankees||AL||159||97||62||.610||1||AL Pennant|
|10||1977||49||New York Yankees||AL||162||100||62||.617||1||WS Champs|
|11||1978||50||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 3||94||52||42||.553||1|
|12||1979||51||New York Yankees||AL||2nd of 2||95||55||40||.579||4|
|17||1983||55||New York Yankees||AL||162||91||71||.562||3|
|18||1985||57||New York Yankees||AL||2nd of 2||145||91||54||.628||2|
|19||1988||60||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 2||68||40||28||.588||5|
|Minnesota Twins||1 year||162||97||65||.599||1.0|
|Detroit Tigers||3 years||452||248||204||.549||2.0|
|Texas Rangers||3 years||279||137||141||.493||3.7|
|Oakland Athletics||3 years||433||215||218||.497||2.5|
|New York Yankees||8 years||941||556||385||.591||2.5||2 Pennants and 1 World Series Title|
|16 years||2267||1253||1013||.553||2.5||2 Pennants and 1 World Series Title|
Earle Combs was born on May 14, 1899, in Pebworth, KY. Nicknamed the “”Kentucky Colonel”” he was the first great Yankee center fielder. When he left his parents’ farm at the age of seventeen, his career goal was to become a school teacher. He attended what is now Eastern Kentucky University to pursue a teaching degree. He got involved in a baseball game between the students and the faculty of the college. The guy pitching for the teachers that day had some big league experience and was impressed enough by Combs’ ability that he urged him to try out for the school’s baseball team. He did and quickly became an elite player on that team. Soon he was playing semi pro and minor league ball.
In 1924, he signed a contract to play for the Kentucky Colonels of the American Association. The team’s manager was future Yankee skipper, Joe McCarthy, who converted Combs from a shortstop to a center fielder. After two outstanding seasons with the Colonels, the Yankees outbid a slew of other big league teams and purchased his contract for $50,000. He than began his twelve-season career in Pinstripes in 1924.
He batted .325, lifetime. That mark places Combs third on the list of highest Yankee lifetime batting averages with a minimum of 1,500 plate appearances. Combs scored at least 113 runs for eight straight seasons hitting in front of Ruth and Gehrig. During the 1934 season, he ran into an outfield wall in Sportsmen’s Park in St Louis, chasing a fly ball at top speed. He broke his skull and almost died from the resulting injuries. He attempted a comeback in 1935 but after crashing into another wall, he called it quits for good. Combs was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1970.
|162 Game Avg.||162||725||640||132||208||34||17||6||70||11||75||31||.325||.397||.462||.859|
My personal memory of this great Yankee took place during a game I attended at Yankee Stadium sometime during the early 1960s, probably 1962. My Uncle always got us field box seats when he took us to the Stadium, somewhere between first base and the right field foul pole. Berra came to the plate and I vividly remember several things about the at bat. The pitch he hit was very high, especially for the short 5’8″ Berra. He hit the ball on a line. It went by me, my Uncle and my older brother like a comet, right at our eye level but still rising. When it hit the drab green painted metal facing of the Stadium’s mezzanine level in right field, it hit it so hard that the clang it made actually echoed throughout the Stadium. I did not see anyone hit a ball as hard as that one until over thirty years later when Jose Canseco hit one out of Fenway that may still have not landed. Of course Jose used steroids and the only juice a urine test might have discovered in Berra’s body was the kind you squeezed out of oranges.
Yogi Berra was a marvelous Yankee catcher who won ten championship rings. He had supreme offensive and defensive skills and his teammates loved him. He was also under appreciated as a manager, being the only field boss to win pennants for both the Yankees and Mets.
There are so many things I cherish about the game of baseball and having had the opportunity to watch number 8 play the game is high on that list. Happy 89th birthday Yogi.
Berra’s Yankee career record as a player:
|NYY (18 yrs)||2116||8350||7546||1174||2148||321||49||358||1430||30||704||411||.285||.348||.483||.830|
|NYM (1 yr)||4||9||9||1||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||3||.222||.222||.222||.444|
|1||1964||39||New York Yankees||AL||164||99||63||.611||1||AL Pennant|
|6||1984||59||New York Yankees||AL||162||87||75||.537||3|
|7||1985||60||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 2||16||6||10||.375||2|
|New York Mets||4 years||588||292||296||.497||3.0||1 Pennant|
|New York Yankees||3 years||342||192||148||.565||2.0||1 Pennant|
|7 years||930||484||444||.522||2.6||2 Pennants|
Drafted by the Mets initially in 1979, Terrell did not sign. The Rangers drafted him the following season, signed him and then bundled him with Ron Darling in a trade for Met fan favorite Lee Mazzilli. Terrell went 19-23 during his three seasons at Shea. In 1984, the Amazins dealt the right-hander to Detroit for Howard Johnson, a transaction that worked out well for both teams. Terrell thrived in the Motor City winning 47 games during the next three seasons. When he slumped to 7-16 in 1988, Detroit traded him to San Diego where he got off to a horrible start during the 1989 season and was just 5-13 by the end of June. That’s when the Yankees swapped their slumping third baseman, Mike Pagliarullo for Terrell and Walt ended the year by winning six of eleven decisions for the Bombers. The Yankees let him walk after that one half-season and he signed with the Pirates. He eventually returned to Detroit where he retired after the 1992 season with 111 victories during his eleven-year big league career.
Only one player in big league history has made the All Star team playing for both Detroit and New York and that’s “the Boomer” David Wells. Here’s my line up of the best players to wear the uniforms of both the Yankees and Tigers during their playing careers:
c – Ivan Rodriguez
1b – Cecil Fielder
2b – Billy Martin
3b – Aurelio Rodriguez
ss - Tom Tresh
of – Rocky Colavito
of – Curtis Granderson
of – Steve Kemp
dh – Gary Sheffield
p – Jeff Weaver
p – David Wells
p – Virgil Trucks
p – Doyle Alexander
cl – Duke Maas
mgr – Ralph Houk
|DET (7 yrs)||79||76||.510||4.26||216||190||9||44||9||0||1328.0||1379||687||629||126||516||621||1.427|
|NYM (3 yrs)||19||23||.452||3.53||57||56||1||7||3||0||369.2||377||168||145||25||149||181||1.423|
|PIT (1 yr)||2||7||.222||5.88||16||16||0||0||0||0||82.2||98||59||54||13||33||34||1.585|
|SDP (1 yr)||5||13||.278||4.01||19||19||0||4||1||0||123.1||134||65||55||14||26||63||1.297|
|NYY (1 yr)||6||5||.545||5.20||13||13||0||1||1||0||83.0||102||52||48||9||24||30||1.518|
In the late sixties it looked as if this southpaw would follow fellow Yankee pitching prospects Stan Bahnsen and Fritz Petersen to a slot in the Yankees improving starting rotation. Cumberland had won 10 games for the Yankee’s Syracuse triple A team in 1968 and then 12 more the following season. Six of those 22 wins had been complete game shutouts and the youngster was in the process of developing an outstanding change-up. But the native of Westbrook, Maine couldn’t match the success he had pitching in Syracuse when he got to the Bronx. After eighteen appearances in pinstripes between 1968 and 1970, during which he compiled a 3-4 record, Cumberland was traded to the Giants for former 20-game winner, Mike McCormick, in July of the 1970 season. He then went 9-6 as a starter for San Francisco in 1971 but fell apart the following season. Meanwhile, by the time the Yankees got McCormick, he had nothing left in his left arm. He would win his only two Yankee decisions after the trade, but his ERA pitching for his new team was north of six runs per game. He was released at the end of New York’s 1971 spring training season.
Cumberland hung on in the big leagues until 1972 and then returned to the minors and pitched a couple of more seasons before hanging his glove up for good. He eventually got into coaching. In 2001, Red Sox GM Dan Duquette fired Manager Jimy Williams during the second half of the season and replaced him with the team’s pitching coach, Jim Kerrigan. The new skipper then brought in Cumberland as his new pitching coach. A few weeks later, the Red Sox went on an eight-game losing streak with the last three “L’s” coming against the hated Yankees. Since Duquette couldn’t fire Kerrigan after just signing him to a two-year contract, he fired Cumberland instead.
Cumberland shares his May 10th birthday with this legendary Yankee front office executive.
|SFG (3 yrs)||11||10||.524||3.46||61||27||10||5||2||2||221.0||197||98||85||28||66||79||1.190|
|NYY (3 yrs)||3||4||.429||4.11||18||8||7||1||0||0||70.0||68||37||32||10||20||39||1.257|
|STL (1 yr)||1||1||.500||6.65||14||1||3||0||0||0||21.2||23||17||16||6||7||7||1.385|
|CAL (1 yr)||0||1||.000||3.74||17||0||9||0||0||0||21.2||24||9||9||2||10||12||1.569|
The only member of the all-time Yankee/Highlander roster to celebrate his birthday on May 8th is this right-handed first baseman who appeared in just three games during the Highlanders 1909 season. He broke into the big leagues in 1906, in Cincinnati, the city of his birth. A few other former Yankees born in Cincinnati include, Miller Huggins, Dave Justice, and Joe Torre’s former bench coach, Don Zimmer.
Here’s my all-time lineup of Yankees who also played for Cincinnati:
1b – Wally Pipp
2b – Billy Martin
3b – Aaron Boone
ss – Leo Durocher
c – Joe Oliver
of – Ken Griffey Sr.
of – Paul O’Neill
of – Roberto Kelly
sp – Carl Mays (right-hander)
sp – Don Gullett (left-hander)
closer – David Weathers
mgr – Miller Huggins
|CIN (2 yrs)||6||13||11||4||2||0||0||0||0||0||2||3||.182||.308||.182||.490|
|NYY (1 yr)||3||9||8||1||3||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.375||.444||.500||.944|
One of the things that has changed most about the Major League game between the time I started following the Yankees and now is the balance of trade when it comes to Major League Baseball and baseball in Japan.
Before WWII, the people of Japan had fallen in love with the game of baseball and Babe Ruth became just as popular in the Land of the Rising Sun as he was in our country. WWII of course changed the dynamic between the two countries. By the time I was Bradley’s age in the late 1950s, the bitter feelings and suspicions we Americans and the Japanese had for each other still lingered and carried over to each country’s professional baseball leagues. At the same time, however, the game of baseball was a passion shared by both peoples and it was that passion for a common game that would eventually help bring us together again.
The first American to play professional baseball in Japan after the War was a Japanese American and former NFL running back named Wally Yonamine, who played there in 1951. The first Japanese player to play in America was a left handed pitcher named Masanori Murakami who played for the Giants in 1964 and 65. By the time I was a teenager, the Japanese professional leagues had become a common destination for American players who were not quite good enough to make the rosters of Major League teams. By the time my sons were born in the late seventies and early eighties, Major League veterans, who’s best playing days were behind them in the US were finding new markets for their slowing bats and fast balls on the other side of the Pacific.
It took until 1995 for the pendulum to begin swinging and it was the one-time Yankee, Hideki Nomo who got it going in the other direction, when he signed to pitch with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Yankees first ever Japanese born roster member was pitcher Hideki Irabu, who began his career in pinstripes in July of 2007. The greatest Japanese-born Yankee to date has been Hideki Matsui. The big league successes of guys like Nomo, Matsui and especially Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki, have caused every Major League franchise to both begin and then expand their scouting operations in Japan.
Orestes Destrade was a classic example of a young Major League prospect who struggled to make a big league roster and then traveled to Japan and became a star in that country’s version of the same sport. I can remember when he hit a bunch of homers as a minor-leaguer for the Albany-Colonie Yankees during their 1985 season. The Yankees had predicted this left-hand-hitting Cuban native would be a thirty-home-run hitter, playing in Yankee Stadium. That never happened. He failed to hit a home run during his nine-game, 1987 stint in pinstripes. He had much more success in Japan, leading the league in home runs for three straight seasons from 1990-’92. He then returned to the States and managed to hit 20 round trippers for Seattle in 1993.
This one-time Yankee catcher was also born on May 8.
|FLA (2 yrs)||192||789||699||73||172||24||3||25||102||1||77||162||.246||.322||.396||.719|
|PIT (1 yr)||36||53||47||2||7||1||0||1||3||0||5||17||.149||.226||.234||.460|
|NYY (1 yr)||9||24||19||5||5||0||0||0||1||0||5||5||.263||.417||.263||.680|
This guy will forever be best known as the pitcher who gave up Babe Ruth’s sixtieth home run during the 1927 season. That happened when Zachary was wearing the uniform of the Washington Senators. The left-hander had been originally signed by Washington but had made his big league debut in 1919 as a member of Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s pitching staff. The Senators got him back in a trade the following year and Zachary evolved into one of the AL’s upper tier southpaws, winning in double digits for six straight seasons. His best year had been 1924, when his 15-9 record helped the Senators win the Pennant. He then beat the Giants twice in that season’s World Series.
In August of 1928, the Yankees picked him up off waivers. He went 3-3 during the rest of that season. Yankee skipper, Miller Huggins, most likely remembering Zachary’s 1924 postseason success, got a hunch to start him against the Cardinals in Game 3 of the 1928 World Series. That hunch paid off when the Graham, NC native responded with a complete game victory.
In 1929, Zachary went a perfect 12-0, but that performance was overshadowed by the tragic death of Huggins and the Yankee’s failure to defend their AL Pennant. After getting off to a slow start during the 1930 season, the Yankees placed the then-34-year-old pitcher on waivers and he was picked up by the Braves. He ended up pitching six more years of big league baseball, retiring after the 1936 season with a 186-191 lifetime record.
|WSH (9 yrs)||96||103||.482||3.78||273||210||45||93||10||8||1589.0||1822||803||668||54||460||327||26||1.436|
|BSN (5 yrs)||42||42||.500||3.48||120||98||11||46||8||4||741.1||827||333||287||24||201||214||3||1.387|
|BRO (3 yrs)||12||18||.400||3.98||48||33||12||13||1||6||260.0||317||131||115||15||57||61||4||1.438|
|NYY (3 yrs)||16||4||.800||3.21||36||20||10||10||2||3||182.0||203||85||65||5||54||43||2||1.412|
|SLB (2 yrs)||18||21||.462||3.79||47||43||4||24||3||0||325.2||374||174||137||18||124||66||6||1.529|
|PHI (1 yr)||0||3||.000||7.97||7||2||2||0||0||1||20.1||28||20||18||2||11||8||0||1.918|
|PHA (1 yr)||2||0||1.000||5.63||2||2||0||0||0||0||8.0||9||5||5||0||7||1||0||2.000|