One of three pitchers to have played for the Yankees and won the MVP award, southpaw Bobby Shantz was a 24-game winner for the 1952 Philadelphia A’s who thought his career was over the following season when he blew out his left elbow. He suffered through four more pain-filled seasons with the A’s, pitching when he could and gradually regaining arm strength. By the time he was sent to the Yankees as part of a ten-player 1957 pre-season swap, Shantz was ready to resume his career as a starter.
It just so happened that Yankee ace, Whitey Ford, developed his own sore arm in 1957 so when Shantz started that season going 9-1 for New York, he became the toast of the Big Apple. He finished that year with an 11-5 record and led the league with a 2.45 ERA. The diminuitive 5 foot 6 inch Shantz stayed in Pinstripes for the next four seasons, gradually becoming Casey Stengel’s best reliever.
Yankee Universe’s memory of this little southpaw would be a lot brighter if the infield at old Forbes Field had been groomed more professionally. The Yankees had quickly fallen behind in the seventh game of the 1960 World Series, when Bob Turley and Bill Stafford gave up four early runs to the Pirates. Stengel then put Shantz in the game in the third inning. He pitched shutout ball until Bill Virdon’s eighth inning grounder to short caromed off a stone that shouldn’t have been there, causing it to take a crazy hop into Tony Kubek’s Adam’s apple and turn a sure double play into a rally starting infield single. If Kubek makes that play Shantz’s pitching performance would reside right up there in the pantheon of outstanding moments in Yankee history. Instead, we got a real-life reenactment of David using a stone to kill Goliath and Mazeroski’s bronze statue stands outside of Pittsburgh’s PNC Park.
Its also too bad Virdon didn’t hit that ball to Shantz, instead. Bobby was a seven-time Gold Glove winner during his career. Bobby was born on September 26, 1925, in Pottsown, PA. Happy 86th birthday Bobby.
Stengel and his pitching coach, Jim Turner perfected the role of spot starter during their Yankee tenures. They used Johnny Sain, Shantz, Duke Maas, Bob Turley and Jim Coates to near perfection in that dual role and each of them helped New York make it to at least one World Series. By the way, Spud Chandler and Roger Clemens were the other two pitchers who won MVP Awards and also played for the Yankees. Chandler was the only one of the three to win the award as a Yankee.
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|STL (3 yrs)||12||10||.545||2.51||99||0||61||0||0||15||154.1||114||56||43||15||44||129||1.024|
|PIT (1 yr)||6||3||.667||3.32||43||6||16||2||1||2||89.1||91||38||33||5||26||61||1.310|
|PHI (1 yr)||1||1||.500||2.25||14||0||3||0||0||0||32.0||23||10||8||1||6||18||0.906|
|CHC (1 yr)||0||1||.000||5.56||20||0||9||0||0||1||11.1||15||7||7||2||6||12||1.853|
|HOU (1 yr)||1||1||.500||1.31||3||3||0||1||0||0||20.2||15||4||3||1||5||14||0.968|
This Cleveland, Ohio native started his big league pitching career as a Yankee in 1916 and pitched well enough to go 12-8 with a 2.62 ERA over the course of his first two seasons. At Manager Miller Huggins’ urging, New York than included the right-hander in a package of players they sent to the Browns in January of 1918 for second baseman Del Pratt and Hall of Fame hurler, Eddie Plank. At the time the deal was made Plank was at the end of his career and he never pitched a game for the Yankees. Pratt gave New York three decent seasons but it was Shocker who proved to be the gem in that transaction. He became a four-time twenty game winner for the Browns that included a league-leading 27 victories in 1921. He also became a thorn in Huggins side as a Yankee killer who was particularly effective against the great Babe Ruth. Seven years after he left New York, again at Huggins urging, the Yankees got him back and Urban finished his big league career in pinstripes. What no one knew at the time of his return except Shocker and a few of his close friends was that the pitcher was slowly dying of heart disease. So when he won 49 games during his three-plus season return tour of duty in the Big Apple, it was in fact a super-human effort, that included a 19-11 record in 1926 and an 18-6 record for the Murderer’s Row team of 1927.
He was too weak to make it to the Yankees 1928 spring training and when he did rejoin the club, he collapsed while pitching batting practice in Chicago. By September of that same year, Shocker was dead at the age of just 38 years old. His lifetime record was 187 and 117 and his record in pinstripes, 61-37. But that 18-6 effort when his heart was literally turning to stone during the 1927 season will forever remain one of the most remarkable achievements by a pitcher in baseball history.
Shocker wasn’t the only Yankee born on this date to enjoy consecutive twenty-win seasons as a big league pitcher. In fact, this Hall of Famer had two separate three-season streaks of twenty or more wins and enjoyed a total of seven during his 13-year career. You can find out who he is by clicking here. This former Yankee catcher was also born on September 22nd.
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|NYY (6 yrs)||61||37||.622||3.14||152||111||25||57||5||5||932.0||951||391||325||48||248||279||1.286|
If you’re a Yankee fan who is at least twenty years old, you probably remember Cecil Fielder well. He was born on today’s date in 1963, in Los Angeles. The Yankees acquired the slugging first baseman from Detroit during the 1996 season in a move designed to get some right-handed power on their bench. Fielder filled that role perfectly, blasting 13 home runs and driving in 68 in just 98 games.
When starting first baseman, Tino Martinez slumped in the AL playoffs and New York fell behind 2-0 in the ’96 World Series against the Braves, Joe Torre started Fielder at first in the DH-less games in Atlanta and benched Martinez. Cecil responded with an overall .391 average in that Series and because Tino ended up hitting just .091 against Atlanta, many Big Apple sports pundits predicted Fielder would see a lot more action at first base for New York, in ’97. That rumor gained even more traction during the off-season, when the Yankee front-office let it be known that they were considering offering the big guy a three-year contract extension.
That’s when Fielder and his agent over-played their hand and started making some hefty demands involving dollars. The Yankees backed off and New York fans responded to Fielder’s whining by turning on the huge slugger when the 97 season got underway. Fielder’s Yankee fate was sealed when he broke his thumb that July while Martinez was simultaneously in the process of putting together the season of his life, hitting 44 homers and driving in 141 runs. The Yankees’ released Cecil following their playoff loss that year to the Indians.
Since that time, published reports alleging Fielder had severe gambling problems certainly help explain why Fielder seemed to behave so greedily during that 1996 off-season negotiation. We also have since learned that Cecil’s look-alike son Prince, now a big league slugger in his own right, had pretty much disowned the elder Fielder years ago, disgusted with his Father’s gambling habits and resulting money problems. I read one article that claimed Cecil took half of Prince’s bonus money when his son signed with the Brewers.
Too bad for the Fielders and too bad for Major League Baseball. After all, these two guys are the only father and son combination to both hit fifty home runs in a big league season. They should be doing commercials together. Cecil earned close to $50 million playing the game and Prince will probably quadruple that amount by the end of his own career. Ordinary fans struggling to pay their property taxes, health insurance premiums and grocery bills have a real difficult time comprehending how money ever gets to be a divisive issue with athletes who have so God darn much of it, especially when those athletes are father and son.
In any event, the Yankees might not have won that 1996 World Championship without Cecil Fielder. I hope he gets his priorities and his problems straightened out and finds some peace in the years ahead.
Fielder shares his September 21st birthday with another former big league star who got traded to the Yankees late in his career and who also had to do battle with a debilitating personal demon. This long-ago Yankee outfielder was also born on this date.
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|TOR (4 yrs)||220||558||506||67||123||19||2||31||84||0||46||144||.243||.308||.472||.781|
|NYY (2 yrs)||151||653||561||70||146||23||0||26||98||0||75||135||.260||.352||.440||.793|
|CLE (1 yr)||14||37||35||1||5||1||0||0||0||0||1||13||.143||.189||.171||.361|
|ANA (1 yr)||103||439||381||48||92||16||1||17||68||0||52||98||.241||.335||.423||.757|
I was seven years old when I heard the news that Tony Kubek was not going to be able to play for the Yankees during the 1962 baseball season because he had to report for National Guard duty. Having just started following the Yankees in 1960, this represented the first time ever that I was about to experience one of my favorite team’s regular players leave the lineup. Up until Kubek’s military call-up, I probably thought only death could separate Skowren from Richardson, from Kubek, from Boyer, from Howard, from Mantle from Maris from Berra, etc.
So who was going to play shortstop for New York? The Yankees answered that question by bringing up Tom Tresh from their Richmond minor league team. Born on September 20, 1937 in Detroit, Tresh was a switch hitter, just like my boyhood hero, Mickey Mantle and his dad Mike had been a catcher for the White Sox in the late thirties and early forties. The Yankees batted Tresh second in the lineup, just like Kubek, and he was having a great year. He had more power than Kubek, hitting 20 home runs in 1962 and he also drove in 93. He wasn’t as good a shortstop as Kubek but not many were. When I learned Kubek would be back in a Yankee uniform in August of that season, I was torn. I liked Tony but this new guy had grown on me. When I heard the Yankees were going to instead use Tresh as their regular left-fielder when Kubek returned, I was an ecstatic young man.
The Yankees ended up winning the 1962 pennant and another World Series and Tresh made the All Star team and was voted the AL Rookie of the Year. I was sure Mantle, Maris and Tresh would be the best outfield in baseball for a long time. Unfortunately, as it turned out, injuries to both Mantle and Maris prevented that from happening. Tresh made the defensive transition to his new position seamlessly, even winning a Gold Glove in 1965. But he never again put together as good an offensive year as he had during his rookie season. Though New York won Pennants in 1963 and ’64, their core group of starting position players got old fast and by 1965, most of their skills had deserted them. Even the much younger Tresh stopped hitting. His highest single season batting average after 1965 was just .233.
I was shocked back in October of 2008 when a headline at NYTimes.com reported Tom Tresh had died. I was probably more shocked to find out that he was seventy years old at the time. Where have all those Yankee baseball summers gone?
Tresh shares his birthday with another one-time Yankee shortstop prospect.
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|DET (1 yr)||94||377||331||46||74||13||1||13||37||2||39||47||.224||.305||.387||.692|
In an interview I came across over a year ago, Derek Jeter confirmed that Tim Raines was one of his favorite all-time teammates. “Rock” spent three years as a Yankee, from 1996 through 1998 and was an extremely valuable utility outfielder, DH and pinch hitter in each of those seasons. Jeter loved the fact that Raines was always smiling and always looking on the bright side of every situation.
Raines’ baseball life however, had not always been so rosy. The speedy outfielder shocked all of baseball in his 1981 rookie season with the Expos, when he led the National League in stolen bases by compiling an amazing 71 thefts in just 88 games. He won the next three NL stolen base crowns as well, setting a personal season high of 90, in 1983. His lifetime total of 808 places Raines fifth on the All-Time stolen bases list and the thing that separated him from most other big base stealers was his efficiency. Percentage-wise, Rock was thrown out attempting to steal less than any player in history with 300 or more steals.
Raines shocked the baseball world a second time in a different way when it was revealed that he had played the first part of his career addicted to cocaine. I still remember reading his revelation that he would make head first slides on stolen base attempts so that he would not break the vials of cocaine he regularly carried in his uniform back pocket during Expos’ games. He credits his Montreal teammate, Andre Dawson, with getting him into rehab and swears he’s been off the stuff since. But cocaine wasn’t the only thing that hurt Raines career.
Back in the eighties, MLB owners began to privately rebel against free agency. They had grown tired of the system’s bidding wars and dealing with players’ agents and decided among themselves that they were not going to play anymore. As a result, upper tier players like Raines and Dawson, who entered free agency in the late eighties found no demand for their services. The owners collectively simply stopped bidding for stars from other teams and Raines, who had been expecting a huge payday, was forced to re-sign with the Expos for what he felt was a token raise. The courts eventually ruled in the players’ favor and owner collusion ended. Raines finally got the opportunity to shop his talents after the 1990 season and left the tight-fisted Montreal organization to sign a five-year $20 million dollar deal with the White Sox. He did not have his greatest statistical years during his time in the Windy City but his performance was solid and he had a great influence on young White Sox players like Frank Thomas and Robin Ventura. Raines’ Chicago teams won many more games than they lost.
His base-stealing days were behind him by the time he joined New York but he could still handle a bat and get on base, averaging .299 with an on base percentage of close to .400 during his stint in Pinstripes. Like Jeter described in the interview, whenever a television camera panned Raines sitting in the Yankee dugout, he always had a huge smile on his face. Why not? This was a guy who battled cocaine and collusion and was now getting the opportunity in the twilight of his career to win three World Series rings as a member of a great team. His bat, base running and outfield defense were all important parts of that Yankee team’s winning formula and his veteran leadership had a huge influence in that Yankee clubhouse.
Raines was born on September 16, 1959 in Seminole, FL.
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|CHW (5 yrs)||648||2873||2461||440||697||98||28||50||277||143||359||246||.283||.375||.407||.781|
|NYY (3 yrs)||242||940||793||154||237||43||3||18||118||26||130||112||.299||.395||.429||.823|
|OAK (1 yr)||58||164||135||20||29||5||0||4||17||4||26||17||.215||.337||.341||.678|
|FLA (1 yr)||98||114||89||9||17||3||0||1||7||0||22||19||.191||.351||.258||.609|
|BAL (1 yr)||4||12||11||1||3||0||0||1||5||0||0||3||.273||.250||.545||.795|
This Commerce, Georgia native, who was born in 1907, didn’t throw his first pitch in a Major League baseball game until he was almost thirty years old. Some may think it was the name his parents gave him that delayed his arrival in the big leagues. Imagine you were the person in the Yankee front office who was responsible for notifying the team’s minor league players that they were being called up to the parent club. Someone hands you a message that reads “Call Spurgeon Chandler and tell him to report immediately.” You’d probably start laughing so hard you wouldn’t be able to pick up the phone.
The truth is, however, that Spud was one of those rare future Major League baseball players who attended college during the years of the Great Depression. After he graduated from the University of Georgia, where he was also a star football player, it took Spud five more seasons to work his way up to the Bronx. Even then, an assortment of nagging injuries cut down on his starts during the first half of his ten-year career in Pinstripes.
That all changed in 1942, when Chandler went 16-5 and then in 1943 he had one the greatest seasons of any Yankee right-hander before or since. Spud went 20-4 that year with a microscopic 1.64 ERA and won the AL MVP Award, leading the Yankees to their third straight AL Pennant. He went on to pitch two complete game victories over the Cardinals in that year’s Fall Classic, giving up just one earned run in the process.
Spud made just five starts during the next two seasons but it was service in WWII and not injuries or school that prevented him from playing full seasons. When he returned from service in 1946 he put together his second twenty-victory season. By 1947, however, he was approaching forty years of age and his body could not do it anymore. Chandler retired with a regular season career record of 109-43. Who knows? He’d probably be in Cooperstown today if he’d skipped college and didn’t serve his country in a war.
This late great Yankee outfielder shares Chandler’s September 12th birthday.
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Blog celebrant is the New York Yankee outfielder, Roger Maris, born in Hibbing Minnesota, in 1934. I can say without a doubt that the home run race between Maris and his teammate Mickey Mantle during the 1961 season is the reason I am such a huge Yankee fan today. Their competition to break Ruth’s single season home run record dominated the sports pages and back then, when their were only three TV stations on the air, even network news anchors like Walter Cronkite and NBC’s Huntley & Brinkley would report how many home runs each of the M&M boys currently had. It seemed as if everyone everywhere was focused on the exploits of this dynamic duo and of course you had to choose sides.
Most of us wanted Mantle to be the one. The Mick had been a Yankee all his career and he was the epitome of a slugger. Every time he swung his bat from either side of the plate he swung as hard as he possibly could and many of his home runs would travel epic distances. 1961 was only Roger’s second season in pinstripes. He had a very smooth and graceful left-handed swing that was perfectly suited for Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch. Up until they became teammates, Mantle had a pretty lousy public demeanor and nobody paid any attention to Maris. When Roger came to New York from Kansas City and started challenging Mantle for MVP Awards and home run titles, New York’s rabid baseball press had someone else to assault in the Yankee locker room and while he helped get reporters off of Mickey’s back, Maris simply hated all of the superfluous attention. All of a sudden, the title of “toughest interview in the Yankee locker room” was passed from Mantle to Maris and Mickey’s public image got a huge boost as a result.
Another reason I probably rooted for Mickey back then was that my older brother was rooting for Maris. At the time, Big J was my tormentor. This is the guy who when he wasn’t performing what were supposed to be fake pro wrestling maneuvers on me would poke darts through the eyeballs of my collection of 5″ x 8″ glossy photos of the Yankee players. For quite a while, he was the owner of our family’s only transistor radio and when I would sit next to him on the front porch so I could listen to a radio broadcast of the Yankee game, he’d plug-in the earplug and stick the sounds of my favorite team inside his ear. So if Big J liked Maris back then it was all the more reason for me to root for Mantle.
That season-long home run derby remains one of the greatest events in both Yankee and Major League Baseball history. But as all Yankee fans have since learned, Maris was much more than home runs. He was an outstanding defensive outfielder with a shotgun arm. He was an incredibly good base runner and he could do all of the little things both at bat and in the field that helped produce and prevent runs. He appeared in seven World Series and had three championship rings when he retired after the 1968 season.
With the steroid controversy that consumed the achievements of Mark McGuire and Barry Bonds, respect and admiration have grown for Maris in recent years. He was a small town boy who unlike Mantle could never be comfortable with a celebrity’s life in the Big Apple. Maris died in 1985 after a two-year struggle with cancer.
Maris shares his September 10th birthday with another Yankee superstar trade acquisition who could never warm up to the big Apple press. This former Yankee utility infielder was also born on September 10th.
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|STL (2 yrs)||225||812||720||89||186||36||9||14||100||0||76||99||.258||.330||.392||.721|
|KCA (2 yrs)||221||934||834||130||217||35||10||35||125||2||86||105||.260||.331||.452||.783|
|CLE (2 yrs)||167||626||540||87||125||14||6||23||78||12||77||112||.231||.326||.407||.733|
The only member of the New York Yankee all-time roster to celebrate a birthday on September 8th is this Asheville, NC native who won 29 games over two seasons for the Yankee’s Triple A teams in the late seventies. McCall could not replicate that success at the big league level, appearing in only a total of seven games in pinstripes over the course of the 1977 and 78 seasons. He won his only Yankee decision during the 1978 regular season. I guess you could say that without that victory, the Yankees would not have tied Boston for that season’s Eastern Division Pennant. Without that tie, Bucky Dent’s home run never would have happened. So thank you Larry.
After the 1978 postseason, McCall was included as part of the package the Yankees traded to Texas to obtain Dave Righetti. By 1980, McCall was out of the big leagues for good and began a long career as a Minor League pitching coach in the Orioles’ organization. In 2006, he served as Baltimore’s big league bullpen coach.
So how many Yankees have their been on the team’s all-time roster who have a last name that begins with the moniker prefix “Mc?” Including McCall, I counted 39. Four of them are in the Hall of Fame but two of those four, John McGraw and Joe “Iron Man” McGinnity played or managed for the franchise before it was relocated to the Big Apple from Baltimore in 1903. Another “Mc” enshrined in Cooperstown was named Bill McKechnie, a utility second baseman on the 1913 Yankee team who would go onto become a two-time World Series winning manager. The fourth was of course the legendary Yankee manager, Joe McCarthy. Gil McDougald was the best McYankee player of all time. He is the all-time leader in Yankee McHomers with 112. Others you might remember include pitchers Sam McDowell, Mike McCormick, “Black Jack” McDowell and the wily reliever, Lindy McDaniel. Who was the biggest Yanke McDud? Remember Rich McKinney? He’s the third baseman the Yankees got for 1968 AL Rookie of the Year pitcher, Stan Bahnsen in a 1972 trade with the White Sox. McKinney would hit just .215 during his one year with New York while Bahnsen was winning 21 games for Chicago that same season. There have been four Yankee “McDonalds,” including Darnell, who played some games in the outfield for the 2012 Yankees. The most recent McYankee was Casey McGeHee.
|NYY (2 yrs)||1||2||.333||6.14||7||1||3||0||0||0||22.0||32||17||15||3||7||7||1.773|
|TEX (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||2.16||2||1||1||0||0||0||8.1||7||2||2||0||3||3||1.200|
The first player to do it was pitcher Bob Friend, back in 1966. The last guy to do it was infielder, Angel Berroa, who accomplished it during the 2009 season. In between them, sixteen other guys who at one time played baseball for a Big Apple team have done it during their Major League careers including today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant, Darren Bragg. Bragg was born in Waterbury, CT, on September 7, 1969 and is the only member of the Yankee’s all-time roster to celebrate his birthday on this date. He broke into the big leagues with Seattle, in 1994. The Red Sox acquired him from the Mariners in 1996 and he was a starter in the Boston outfield for the next two-and-a-half seasons. In all, he played for nine teams during his 11 year career in the Majors, including the Yankees, in 2001. The Yankees released him before the end of that season. So the question remains, what feat did Friend, Berroa, Bragg and fifteen other players accomplish during their Major League careers? Each of them appeared in games for both the Yankees and Mets during the same regular season.
Bragg shares his September 7th birthday with this first woman play-by-play announcer in Yankee broadcast history.
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|SEA (3 yrs)||129||426||359||60||90||18||2||10||39||17||53||77||.251||.351||.396||.747|
|ATL (2 yrs)||213||421||374||55||96||20||3||3||24||7||37||90||.257||.329||.350||.680|
|NYM (1 yr)||18||63||57||4||15||6||0||0||5||3||4||23||.263||.323||.368||.691|
|COL (1 yr)||71||169||149||16||33||7||1||3||21||4||17||41||.221||.296||.342||.638|
|STL (1 yr)||93||325||273||38||71||12||1||6||26||3||44||67||.260||.369||.377||.746|
|SDP (1 yr)||9||9||7||2||1||0||0||0||0||0||2||2||.143||.333||.143||.476|
|CIN (1 yr)||38||103||94||11||18||3||1||4||9||1||8||29||.191||.255||.372||.627|
|NYY (1 yr)||5||4||4||1||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.250||.250||.500||.750|
If you ask Joe Girardi, Jorge Posada or Jason Varitek who was the best catching instructor they ever had, each highly respected veteran receiver would answer, “Gary Tuck.” Gary was a classmate of mine in high school back in Amsterdam, NY, in the early seventies. He was the quarterback of our school’s varsity football team and the catcher on our baseball team and the thing I remember most about him in both roles was his almost flawless technique. At the time, there were better athletes available to play both positions but Tuck was smarter and worked harder than everybody else. He was a keen student of both games even way back then and he is now considered one of Major League Baseball’s most gifted catching mentors. He won four World Series rings as a Yankee coach and currently serves as the Red Sox bullpen coach, where he has won a fifth ring. I’m hoping that some day, he gets a shot at managing in the big leagues. His hometown is very proud of him and all that he has accomplished.