This native Venezuelan emerged from the Yankee farm system when catchers Jorge Posada and Jose Molina both were hurt during the 2009 season. Cervelli did a surprisingly terrific job, hitting .298 in 42 games and earning the praise of the Yankee pitching staff for his work behind the plate. I use the word surprisingly because at the time, Cervelli seemed to handle big league pitching better than he did minor league stuff. That’s what I most liked about him. He seemed to step up when the pressure got more intense and that caused the expectations I had for the kid to rise up as the 2010 season approached.
Francisco got off to a rough start in 2010 when he was beaned on his birthday in spring training and suffered a concussion. When he returned he was wearing a new bulkier batting helmet that protected him better but also made it look like his head had shrunk. The new oversized lid also seemed to be making him a better hitter. When Posada got hurt early in the year, Cervelli took over as starter and had his batting average in the high .300′s well into May. I still remember blinking my eyes a couple of times when I checked a box score of a Yankee Red Sox game I missed that month and saw five RBI’s next to Cervelli’s name.
But the bat cooled off and more disappointingly, so did Francisco’s work behind the plate. The passed balls, errors and horrible throws started appearing in bunches and it convinced me that the kid was not yet ready to be a full-time catcher.
Give him credit though. Cervelli refused to give up on the notion that he and not Russell Martin, Jesus Montero or Austin Romine would be the next great Yankee behind home plate and he spent the winter of 2010 working like mad to get in the better physical shape he knew it would take to compete against that trio. But the injury bug hit him again during the 2011 exhibition season when a foul ball off his own bat fractured his foot. By the time he got back into action, Martin had not only solidified his hold on New York’s starting catching position, he proved to be an iron man back there and did not take many games off. As a result Cervelli played in just 43 games in 2011 and his season ended in early September when he suffered yet another concussion and missed the rest of the regular season and the Yankees’ two postseason series.
He arrived at New York’s 2012 spring camp knowing he was not going to push Martin out of his starting role and that he was going to have to compete with Austin Romine to keep his job as Martin’s backup. Everyone including Cervelli and me was shocked when Yankee GM Brian Cashman traded for San Francisco Giant back-up catcher, Chris Stewart just before Opening Day 2012 and Cervelli ended up getting sent back to Triple A for almost the entire regular season. Francisco actually broke into tears when Manager Joe Girardi gave him the news of his sudden demotion.
But Francisco hung in there. Even though he had a bad 2012 season down on the farm, he came to the 2013 Yankee spring training camp knowing Russell Martin was gone, Hal Steinbrenner was trying to cut the team’s payroll and he’d have his best opportunity ever to win New York’s starting catcher’s job. He actually did beat out Stewart and Romine for the position and was off to a decent regular season start, when a tipped foul ball broke his hand in a late-April game against the Blue Jays. Compounding his inability to stay injury free was his involvement in the now infamous Miami-based PEDs dispensing clinic investigation and subsequent 50-game suspension.
With New York’s off-season signing of Brian McCann emphatically disintegrating any shot Cervelli had of becoming the team’s starting catcher, the just-completed Yankee 2014 spring training season was most certainly his one-last opportunity to prove to New York’s management that he could play a valuable role as the ball club’s back-up catcher. He was certainly up to the challenge. Despite constant questioning about his role in the Biogenesis scandal and incessant rumors that the team had him on the trading block, Cervelli put together one of the best exhibition season performances of any of his teammates and started the regular season as McCann’s back-up.
Cervelli shares his birthday with this former Yankee outfielder.
Francis Joseph O’Doul began his pro baseball career as a southpaw pitcher with the New York Yankees in 1919. He failed to win or lose a game in three partial seasons with New York and then hurt his left arm, pitching for the Red Sox in 1923. He spent the next five years in the minors converting himself into an every day player. He resurfaced with the New York Giants in 1928, hitting .319 as a 31-year old second-time rookie. Unfortunately, O’Doul’s defensive skills in the outfield did not match his hitting prowess and New York traded him to Philadelphia after that season. What a mistake that turned out to be for the Giants. All O’Doul did for the Phillies in 1929 was win the NL batting title with an incredible .398 average and a league-leading 254 hits. He belted 32 home runs, drove in 122 and scored 152 times himself and finished second in that year’s MVP voting to the immortal Rogers Hornsby. O’Doul had another great year in 1930, averaging .383 but the Phillies finished 40 games out of first place. Lefty’s defense was still dreadful however, and the Phillies needed pitching so they dealt O’Doul to Brooklyn for a couple of hurlers, a replacement outfielder and some much needed cash. During O’Douls three years with Brooklyn, he averaged .340 and won his second NL batting title with a .368 average in 1932. During the 33 season, he was traded back to the Giants and got the opportunity to play in the only World Series of his career. By then he was 36-years old and losing his hitting skills. He retired the following year and went back to his native San Francisco to manage the Seals, in the Pacific Coast League.
Lefty died in 1969. He shares a birthday with this other star from the 1920s and ’30s who like O’Doul, was known by his nickname and made brief appearances as a Yankee, early in his career.
|NYG (3 yrs)||275||848||760||125||239||32||8||26||127||12||77||32||.314||.380||.480||.860|
|BRO (3 yrs)||325||1394||1266||219||431||69||20||33||186||18||113||42||.340||.399||.505||.904|
|NYY (3 yrs)||40||39||37||4||9||2||0||0||6||1||2||5||.243||.282||.297||.579|
|PHI (2 yrs)||294||1338||1166||274||456||72||13||54||219||5||139||40||.391||.460||.614||1.074|
|BOS (1 yr)||36||39||35||2||5||0||0||0||4||0||2||3||.143||.189||.143||.332|
Jim Konstanty became one of baseball’s first outstanding relief specialists when the Phillies brought him up to the big leagues for good in 1948. He threw a lot of junk with great control and in 1950, his work out of the bullpen won the Philadelphia Whiz Kids the NL Pennant and Konstanty an MVP award. But the following season, the right-hander thought he needed another pitch to continue his success and he claimed it was his efforts to develop that pitch that screwed up both his rhythm and confidence. Whatever the reason, Konstanty was never again able to regain his 1950 form as a Phillie. Five years after watching him hold the Yankees to just one run as Philadelphia’s surprise starter in the first game of the1950 Series, Casey Stengel told George Weiss to buy Konstanty’s contract in 1954. Jim pitched well for New York the final month of that season and in 1955, he became a top reliever in the American League with a 7-2 record, 11 saves and a 2.32 ERA. Stengel had so much pitching depth on his team that season that he decided to leave Konstanty off the World Series roster, forcing the Strykersville, NY native to watch helplessly as Brooklyn finally beat New York in a Fall Classic. New York released Konstanty the following season and he retired after a brief stint with the Cardinals. He died in 1976.
Konstanty shares his birthday with the first hitter in Yankee franchise history to lead the league in most strikeouts during a regular season.
|PHI (7 yrs)||51||39||.567||3.64||314||23||202||9||1||54||675.1||687||309||273||63||187||205||1.294|
|NYY (3 yrs)||8||3||.727||2.36||62||0||41||0||0||15||103.0||94||36||27||8||36||28||1.262|
|CIN (1 yr)||6||4||.600||2.80||20||12||4||5||1||0||112.2||113||46||35||11||33||19||1.296|
|BSN (1 yr)||0||1||.000||5.28||10||1||3||0||0||0||15.1||17||9||9||2||7||9||1.565|
|STL (1 yr)||1||1||.500||4.58||27||0||16||0||0||5||39.1||46||20||20||4||6||7||1.322|
In 1970, I remember giving a trio of young Yankee pitchers the nickname “The Three K’s.” They were Steve Kline, Mike Kekich and Ron Klimkowski. Klimkowski was a Jersey City native who was born on March 1, 1944. He grew up a passionate Yankee fan but was signed by the Red Sox out of college. He realized his boyhood dream of becoming a Yankee when he was sent to New York as part of the 1967 trade that sent Ellie Howard to Beantown. After a brief call-up to the Bronx in 1969, the right hander became a permanent part of the Yankee staff the following season. Pitching mainly out of the bullpen with an occasional start, he won 6 of 13 decisions including a complete-game three hit shutout of Detroit and posted a 2.68 ERA in 98 innings of work.
Both Kline and Kekich were first-year starters on that same staff and both matched Klimkowski’s total of six wins. I considered Kline the most talented of the three. He won 28 games in pinstripes over the next two seasons with an ERA well under three runs per game, but pitched too many innings in the process. His arm and career faded quickly and he was out of the big leagues by 1975. Kekich also became a two-time double digit winner for New York, winning ten games in both 1971 and ’72. That’s when he swapped wives with teammate Fritz Peterson, pretty much ruining his career in the process.
After the 1970 season, New York sent Klimkowski to Oakland in their trade for Felipe Alou. The A’s released him after his 2-2, 2-save performance in 1971 and he rejoined the Yankees. When he could not recover from a 1973 spring-training knee injury, he was forced to retire. Klimkowski died in November of 2009 of heart failure at the young age of 55, after seeing his beloved Yankees win their 27th World Series.
Some Klimkowski uniform trivia: Klimkowski was assigned uniform number 51 during his 1969 rookie season. In 1970, he was given number 24. He then got traded to Oakland for Felipe Alou who also wore number 24 for the Yankees. When the A’s released Klimkowski and the Yankees re-signed him for a spell, he wore uniform number 22.
In the last three days, we’ve had two Pinstripe Birthday Celebrants who were born in Jersey City (Klimkowski & Willie Banks). Over the years, more Yankees have lived in New Jersey than any other state, especially during baseball season. Oddly, there have not been that many Bronx Bombers born in the Garden State. Here’s my top five list of Jersey-born Yankees:
1. Derek Jeter – Pequannock
2. Billy Johnson – Montclair
3. Jim Bouton – Newark
4. Rick Cerone – Newark
5. Elliott Maddox – East Orange
|NYY (3 yrs)||6||10||.375||2.76||64||6||15||1||1||2||143.2||118||52||44||10||53||54||1.190|
|OAK (1 yr)||2||2||.500||3.38||26||0||11||0||0||2||45.1||37||19||17||3||23||25||1.324|
The Yankees traded their number 1 pick in the 1971 MLB Draft, a guy named Terry Whitfield, to the Giants in 1977 for the veteran infielder, Marty Perez. Perez had come up to the big leagues with the Angels in 1969. He then spent most of his career as a valuable middle infielder for the Atlanta Braves. He made his Yankee debut in an April 1977 game against Baltimore when Billy Martin gave Graig Nettles the day off and started Marty at third base. He went 2 for 4 in New York’s 6-2 victory. The next day, the Yankees included Perez and their unpredictable pitcher, Dock Ellis in a swap with Oakland that brought pitcher Mike Torrez to New York. Terry Whitfield ended up spending parts of ten seasons in the big leagues, mostly with San Francisco and hitting .281 lifetime. Torrez would win two games for New York in the 1977 World Series and then sign with Boston the following year and give up the Bucky Dent home run. Perez hit .231 for the A’s in 1977 and was out of the big leagues the following year. He is the only member of the Yankees’ all-time roster to celebrate a birthday on this date.
Perez was born in Visalia, California on February 28, 1946. If the Yankees had to field an all-time line up of native Californians, Perez would not be on it but the following guys probably would:
1b Hal Chase (Los Gatos)
2b Tony Lazzeri (San Francisco)
3b Graig Nettles (San Francisco)
SS Frank Crosetti (San Francisco)
c Matt Nokes (San Diego)
OF Bob Meusel (San Jose)
OF Joe DiMaggio (Martinez)
OF Roy White (Los Angeles)
DH Jason Giambi (West Covina)
SP Lefty Gomez (Rodeo)
RP Dave Righetti (San Jose)
Mgr Billy Martin (Berkeley)
Marty Perez wore uniform number 27 during the short time he played for the Bronx Bombers. The last six Yankees to wear this same number were: Raul Ibanez, Chris Dickerson, Kevin Russo, Colin Curtis, Greg Golson, and Joe Girardi. Number 27 was also worn on the backs of Kevin Brown, Graeme Lloyd, Mel Hall, Butch Wynegar, Elliott Maddox and Johnny Lindell.
|ATL (6 yrs)||690||2639||2394||240||594||81||16||18||191||7||184||269||.248||.302||.318||.620|
|OAK (2 yrs)||131||427||385||33||86||14||5||2||23||1||29||70||.223||.282||.301||.583|
|CAL (2 yrs)||16||18||16||3||3||0||0||0||1||0||2||1||.188||.278||.188||.465|
|SFG (1 yr)||93||375||332||37||86||13||1||2||26||3||30||28||.259||.318||.322||.640|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||4||4||0||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.500||.500||.500||1.000|
The nice thing about writing a blog like this is that in doing the research necessary, I learn things about my all-time favorite team that I never knew or realized. For example, I remember when Greg Cadaret wore pinstripes but I had no idea he actually appeared in over 180 games for New York during the three and a half seasons he pitched as a Yankee. His best season in the Bronx was 1991 when he went 8-6 out of the bullpen with three saves and a 3.62 ERA. He came to New York in the 1989 in-season trade that sent Ricky Henderson back to Oakland. The Yankees sold him to Cincinnati after the 1992 season. Greg was born in Detroit on February 27, 1962.
Another Yankee celebrating a birthday on February 27 is this former catcher who is the only man in MLB history to have caught two perfect games during his career. This former catcher/coach and another former Yankee reliever also share Cadaret’s birthday.
|NYY (4 yrs)||22||23||.489||4.12||188||35||36||4||2||7||439.0||443||220||201||35||235||324||1.544|
|OAK (3 yrs)||11||4||.733||3.24||113||0||29||0||0||3||139.0||118||57||50||8||79||108||1.417|
|ANA (2 yrs)||1||2||.333||3.91||54||0||17||0||0||1||50.2||49||22||22||7||23||48||1.421|
|KCR (1 yr)||1||1||.500||2.93||13||0||3||0||0||0||15.1||14||5||5||0||7||2||1.370|
|TEX (1 yr)||0||0||4.70||11||0||3||0||0||0||7.2||11||4||4||1||3||5||1.826|
|CIN (1 yr)||2||1||.667||4.96||34||0||15||0||0||1||32.2||40||19||18||3||23||23||1.929|
|DET (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||3.60||17||0||9||0||0||2||20.0||17||9||8||0||16||14||1.650|
|TOR (1 yr)||0||1||.000||5.85||21||0||8||0||0||0||20.0||24||15||13||4||17||15||2.050|
1920 was an historic year for the New York Yankee franchise. Major League baseball was in the throes of scandal over the alleged involvement of several Chicago White Sox players in a concerted effort to lose the 1919 World Series against Cincinnati. Fans all over the country were turning away from the game in disgust. That wasn’t the case in the Big Apple thanks to the Yankees’ acquisition of Babe Ruth from Boston in January of 1920. In his first season as a Yankee, Ruth stunned the nation by hitting the then unbelievable total of 54 home runs. That would be like someone hitting 180 home runs during the 2010 season, without the help of any pharmaceuticals.
New York set a franchise record by winning 95 games that year and although Ruth was clearly the driving force behind that success, New York had also assembled an outstanding pitching staff. Three veterans on that staff, Carl Mays, Bob Shawkey and Jack Quinn combined to win 64 games that season. The fourth starter was a young, whiskey drinking rookie from Texas named Rip Collins. He was a former Texas Aggie football player who was as tough as they come and he put together a fourteen-victory season during his first year in pinstripes. The following year, Ruth hit 59 bombs and the Yankees won the first AL Pennant in their illustrious history. Collins went 11-5 in his sophomore season and although he had a tendency to walk too many hitters, it looked as if he was in the infant stages of what promised to be a long and successful career with New York. But Yankee manager Miller Huggins had different ideas. From the moment Ruth came to New York, Huggins found it impossible to control this slugging wild man off the field. The manager knew he couldn’t trade Ruth so he did the next best thing. He started getting rid of the Yankee teammates that Ruth enjoyed partying with. Young Rip Collins was one such teammate. In December of 1921, the pitcher was part of a seven player swap with the Red Sox. He went 14-7 during his one season in Beantown but the same control issues that he had experienced as a Yankee followed him to Boston as he led the AL in bases-on-balls. Collins then spent the next five years in Detroit pitching for the Tigers. He then pitched in Canada in 1928 and then signed with the Browns, where he finished his big league career in 1931. Lifetime, Collins was 108-82. After he left baseball he began a career in law enforcement which included a job as a Texas Ranger. He died in Texas in May of 1968 at the age of 72.
|DET (5 yrs)||44||40||.524||3.94||137||102||14||34||6||1||743.0||787||415||325||25||240||214||1.382|
|SLB (3 yrs)||25||18||.581||4.09||78||54||17||18||2||3||434.0||460||224||197||32||174||156||1.461|
|NYY (2 yrs)||25||13||.658||4.16||64||34||16||17||4||1||324.2||329||186||150||12||157||130||1.497|
|BOS (1 yr)||14||11||.560||3.76||32||29||2||15||3||0||210.2||219||101||88||4||103||69||1.528|
I remember being upset when the Yankees traded third base prospect Mike Lowell to the Marlins, after New York picked up Scott Brosius in 1998. I had been following Lowell’s progress at Columbus at the time and he looked like the real deal. Brosius of course went on to have a super 1998 season and postseason and worked his butt off during his four years in pinstripes.
But Mike Lowell turned out to be a very good ballplayer and a class act in the clubhouse. And he would come back and haunt his former franchise for dealing him. He spent seven solid seasons with the Marlins and in 2003, he led them to the World Series where the Fish pulled off an upset 4-games-to-2 victory against the Yankees. That regular season, Lowell set career highs with 32 home runs and 105 RBIs.
Then in November of 2005, Red Sox GM Brian Epstein pulled off a stunning trade with Florida, getting both Lowell and starting pitcher Josh Beckett for a package of four prospects that included both Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez. That deal brought the one-time Yankee prospect back to the AL East Division. During the next five seasons, Lowell appeared in 76 Red Sox-Yankee games and hit .314 in those contests including 12 home runs and 56 RBIs. Even worse, in 2007, he set new career highs in RBIs (120) and batting average (.324) and led Boston to an AL East Division title. He then averaged .352, smashed 18 hits and drove in 15 runs in the Red Sox’ 14-game ’07 postseason, which culminated with a second ring and a World Series MVP award for Lowell.
That ’07 playoff run would turn out to be the high point of Lowell’s career in Beantown. During the next three seasons, he was afflicted with an A-Rod like hip injury that would eventually force him into retirement after the 2010 season.
Its interesting to think about what would have happened if New York started Lowell at third in 1998. Would they have gone for A-Rod when they did if they had a young and productive Lowell at third? Would that mean Soriano might still be a Yankee today? I of course get to ask these questions while Cashman earns his salary by answering them.
Lowell shares his birthday with this former Yankee utility outfielder.
|FLA (7 yrs)||981||4005||3554||477||965||241||3||143||578||21||354||528||.272||.339||.462||.801|
|BOS (5 yrs)||612||2480||2244||293||650||153||4||80||374||9||194||288||.290||.346||.468||.814|
|NYY (1 yr)||8||15||15||1||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.267||.267||.267||.533|
I personally remember three instances when Yankee television broadcast crews actively promoted the acquisition of a player on a competing team. The first was Scott Brosius. It seemed as if whenever New York played the A’s during the 1997 season, somebody in the New York booth would make it a point of commenting how Brosius, then Oakland’s starting third baseman, would be a perfect fit on the Yankee team. The next time I remember it happening was that same season when the Royals were in town and somebody in the booth talking about how Kansas City ‘s switch-hitting DH, Chili Davis would be a great addition to the Yankee lineup. The last time I remember the booth chatting about who would be a great addition for the Yankees, the subject was a Chicago Cub and former Expo outfielder, Rondell White.
I’m sure there have been several other instances when somebody with a Yankee microphone made statements about acquiring players from other teams but either I wasn’t listening or the conversation centered on a superstar that every team coveted at the time. Brosius, Davis and White were all considered good solid players in their day but not superstars. That’s why it is so easy for me to remember thinking the booth chatter about each was odd. It almost seemed as if somebody in New York’s front office asked the game announcers to talk about each player as a way of making the team’s interest in them public but I couldn’t think of any real good reasons why they would want to do so.
In any event, the announcers were spot on about Brosius. The Yankees got him in a trade for Kenny Rogers after the ’97 season. The TV guys were also right about Davis. After a year of bad health, he became a key cog as the full-time DH of New York’s 1999 World Championship team. Unfortunately, their good feelings about Rondell White as a Yankee proved to be unfounded. The Milledgeville, GA native was signed as a free agent after the 2001 season and the hope was that he would fill the huge outfield hole left by the retiring Paul O’Neill. That didn’t happen. His batting average, slugging percentage and on base percentage fell of the cliff as soon as he put on the pinstripes and after just one season in the Yankee outfield, he was traded off to the Padres. White played well just about everywhere else, ending a fifteen year big league career in 2007 with a .284 lifetime batting average and 198 home runs. He was born on February 23, 1972.
|MON (8 yrs)||742||3021||2756||420||808||165||23||101||384||88||200||494||.293||.348|
|MIN (2 yrs)||137||474||446||40||102||21||1||11||58||1||17||73||.229||.266|
|CHC (2 yrs)||114||431||390||50||121||21||1||19||57||1||31||68||.310||.374|
|DET (2 yrs)||218||898||822||125||238||45||5||31||120||2||56||125||.290||.342|
|KCR (1 yr)||22||85||75||13||26||6||1||4||21||0||6||8||.347||.400|
|SDP (1 yr)||115||449||413||49||115||17||3||18||66||1||25||71||.278||.330|
|NYY (1 yr)||126||494||455||59||109||21||0||14||62||1||25||86||.240||.288|
Joel Skinner came to the Yankees in a trade with the White Sox during the 1986 season. New York was hoping he could take over the starting catcher slot from a disappointing Butch Wynegar, who was hitting in the low .200s at the time. Skinner did OK for Manager Lou Piniella’s team the rest of that season but not good enough to stop New York from re-acquiring Rick Cerone in 1988 and then Don Slaught from Texas in 1989. Skinner remained in pinstripes both years as the backup catcher, hitting just .214 as a Yankee. He was born in La Jolla, CA on this date in 1961. After his playing days were through in 1991, Skinner got into coaching and managing and in 2002, he was hired to replace Charley Manuel as the Indians’ field boss for the second half of that season. Skinner shares his February 21st birthday with this starting left-fielder for the 1990 Yankees and the first 34th round draft pick in Yankee history.
Can anybody out there tell me what the following Yankee lineup has in common?
Here are Joel Skinner’s Yankee regular season and MLB career stats:
|CHW (4 yrs)||131||311||284||32||65||11||2||5||29||2||21||76||.229||.282||.335||.617|
|CLE (3 yrs)||227||640||601||49||145||28||1||4||53||1||30||153||.241||.279||.311||.590|
|NYY (3 yrs)||206||600||556||38||119||23||0||8||54||0||29||158||.214||.253||.299||.551|