There have been 30 starting second basemen in Yankee franchise history. If he had played two or three more years in the Bronx instead of leaving for Seattle in 2014, Robinson Cano would have certainly been considered the greatest Yankee second sacker of all time. In my opinion, he now falls just short. That honor still belongs to the Hall of Famer, Tony Lazzeri, who started at second base for New York for twelve seasons. One of my favorites, Willie Randolph holds the record for most seasons starting at second base for the Yankees with thirteen. Cano started at second for New York for nine straight seasons, tying him with Bobby Richardson. The first second baseman in franchise history was a guy named Jimmy Williams, who held the job for seven straight seasons, until 1907. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant, Lute Boone was the starting second baseman for New York in 1914 and ’15. An excellent defensive infielder, he was a horrible big league hitter, averaging just .209 during his four seasons in the Big Apple. He had much better success hitting in the American Association. That’s where he ended up after his big league career ended for good in 1918. He kept playing in that league until he was 40 years old and then he became an owner and player manager of his own minor league team. Here’s a look at some key stats of my picks for the top five second basemen in Yankee franchise history:
Player Yrs Starting G H R HR RBI AVE Rings
Tony Lazzeri 12 1659 1784 952 169 1154 .293 5
Willie Randolph 13 1694 1731 1027 48 549 .275 2
Robinson Cano 9 1374 1649 799 204 822 .309 1
Joe Gordon 7 1000 1000 596 153 975 .271 4
Bobby Richardson 9 1412 1432 643 34 390 .266 1
Lute Boone shares his May 6th birthday with this former Yankee reliever.
|NYY (4 yrs)||288||1068||937||95||197||24||4||6||73||31||35||83||105||.210||.284||.264||.547|
|PIT (1 yr)||27||101||91||7||18||3||0||0||3||1||8||6||.198||.263||.231||.493|
They may have played their home games in the “Show Me State” but the 1958 starting lineup of the Kansas City A’s certainly had lots of pinstripe connections. Former Yankee prospects, Vic Power and Hal Smith started at first and third respectively. Future Yankees Hector Lopez and shortstop Joe DeMaestri held down the middle positions of the A’s infield and their soon-to-be New York teammates, Roger Maris and today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant, Bob Cerv comprised two thirds of Kansas City’s starting outfield that year. If either Ralph Terry, Bob Grim, Duke Maas, Tom Gorman, Bud Daley or Virgil Trucks happened to be on the mound that day and the A’s fourth outfielder Woodie Held started in place of KC’s Bill Tuttle in center, eight of the nine positions would be manned by former or future players from the Yankee organization. It was no wonder people inside of baseball began referring to the A’s as the Yankees big league farm team.
Cerv had made his debut in New York in 1951, which also happened to be Joe DiMaggio’s last season as a Yankee and Mickey Mantle’s first. Unlike those two superstars, Cerv would never become a Yankee regular, but because he played for Casey Stengel at the time, the platoon maestro of big league managers, he would evolve into a very valuable member of those great New York teams. By 1954, ’55 and ’56 he had settled into the role of the Yankee’s starting right-fielder against left handed pitching. Cerv had a vicious swing and it produced some of the hardest hit balls in the game at the time. His home run power was thwarted by the vast dimensions of the Yankee Stadium’s left-center field, but those line drives off his bat would have been hits in any park.
His best year in the Bronx was 1955, when he hit .341 in 55 games plus his only World Series home run. The following year, he hit .304 while playing in 54 regular season contests. During his first six seasons with New York, the team played in five World Series and won four of them, generating perhaps $30-to-$40 thousand of additional income for the the growing Cerv family. Then the Yankees sold him to Kansas City where he became an All Star outfielder in 1958, belting 38 home runs, driving in 104 runs and topping the .300 mark in batting average.
By 1960, Cerv was back in the Bronx as a reserve outfielder. When the Yankees didn’t protect him during that year’s AL expansion draft, he was selected by the Los Angeles Angels. The Yankees quickly brought him back in a May 1961 trade with LA and he then became the house-mother-like roommate of both Mantle and Maris during their famous home run race that season. Even though he probably could have enjoyed a much more productive statistical career playing somewhere else, Cerv always cherished his days in a Yankee uniform during an era when World Series checks were as regular as paychecks for those on the Yankee roster. His second tenure in pinstripes ended in June of the 1962 season, when he was sold to Houston.
I actually hated seeing Bob Cerv play when I was a kid only because it usually meant my hero, Mickey Mantle, was scratched from the lineup again. The Lincoln, Nebraska native was born in 1926 and played a total of 12 seasons in the Majors. He may have been just a part-time player but Cerv was among the Yankees top ten all-time lists in one important category. He and his wife raised ten children and got each of them through college. That qualifies him for my own Hall of Fame, any day of the week. Mr. Cerv turns 89 years old today. Happy Birthday Bob Cerv!
Cerv shares his Yankee birthday with this one-time Yankee pitcher who’s life ended tragically in July of 2011.
|NYY (9 yrs)||379||878||772||112||205||36||12||26||118||5||94||131||.266||.350||.444||.795|
|KCA (4 yrs)||413||1544||1401||203||403||57||14||75||247||7||115||243||.288||.342||.509||.851|
|LAA (1 yr)||18||60||57||3||9||3||0||2||6||0||1||8||.158||.169||.316||.485|
|HOU (1 yr)||19||33||31||2||7||0||0||2||3||0||2||10||.226||.273||.419||.692|
This native of Rapid City, SD is one of only two all-time Yankee roster members I could find who celebrate their birthday on May 1. He went to high school in Roswell, New Mexico, site of the space center where most of America’s space rockets were originally designed. Appropriately, this southpaw had a rocket for a fastball but not much else. The Yankees selected him in the 34th round of the 1998 amateur draft. He got the attention of the parent club’s brain trust in 2001, when he went 14-4 and led every minor league player in the country with 220 strikeouts.
Claussen ended up appearing in only one game for New York, a single start during the 2003 season in which he was credited with the victory. That win however, was not Brandon’s only contribution to helping the Yankees get into that season’s World Series. He was also included in the July 2003 trade with the Reds that brought Aaron Boone to the Yankees. He had a 10-win season for Cincinnati in 2005 but after a bad year in ’06 he was out of the big leagues for good.
Claussen shares his May 1 birthday with another pitcher who played for the Yankees over a century earlier.
|NYY (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||1.42||1||1||0||0||0||0||6.1||8||2||1||1||1||5||1.421|
When CC Sabathia shed 25 pounds after the 2010 postseason, he also shed the mantra of being the heaviest full-time player in MLB history. That honor now reverts back to another Yankee pitcher named Walter Brown. Brown was 6’4″ tall, three inches shorter than Sabathia and tipped the scales at 295 pounds. As a result, he was better known as “Jumbo” Brown. Born in Green, Rhode Island, he broke into the big leagues with the Cubs in 1925 and then pitched for the Indians during the 1927 and ’28 seasons. Not yet ready for prime time, the big guy then returned to the minors.
He became a Yankee in 1932 and spent four of the next five seasons as a member of the Yankee bullpen and one of manager Joe McCarthy’s occasional starters. Unfortunately for Brown, those Yankee teams of the 1930’s were loaded with talented pitchers. One of Brown’s biggest problems, according to author Stephen Lombardi in his book “The Baseball Same Game,” was the fact that his fingers were too short and too stubby to throw a curveball so he was limited to throwing only a fastball. Though Brown’s heater was a good one, it was not good enough to break into that Yankee rotation because after one time through a lineup, opposing hitters had a much easier time squaring up to a one-pitch pitcher.
By 1934, Jumbo was forced to pitch in Newark where he again got a chance to start and won 20-games for the Yankees’ top Minor League franchise. He was 19-16 during his stay in pinstripes, earning two saves and pitching two shutouts. The Reds purchased his contract in 1937 but he quickly returned to the Big Apple when the Giants bought him from Cincinnati that same season. He spent his final five big league seasons pitching very effectively out of the bullpen at the Polo Grounds. His one pitch repertoire was much more suited to relief work, during which hitters faced the rotund right hander and his fastball just once. Brown actually led the NL in saves in both 1940 and ’41 before joining the US Navy. His baseball career ended for good when his military service began. Jumbo is the only member of the Yankee all-time roster to celebrate his birthday on the last day of April.
|NYG (5 yrs)||13||12||.520||2.93||150||0||104||0||0||26||267.1||237||106||87||13||104||131||1.276|
|NYY (4 yrs)||19||16||.543||4.74||80||22||31||7||2||2||281.0||323||166||148||10||148||146||1.676|
|CLE (2 yrs)||0||3||.000||6.48||13||0||10||0||0||0||33.1||38||29||24||3||41||20||2.370|
|CIN (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||8.38||4||1||0||0||0||0||9.2||16||10||9||0||3||4||1.966|
|CHC (1 yr)||0||0||3.00||2||0||2||0||0||0||6.0||5||5||2||0||4||0||1.500|
Back in the nineteen fifties, slugger Mickey Mantle would begin drooling a week before his Yankees were scheduled to play a series against the Washington Senators. Why? There were three reasons, and their names were Chuck Stobbs, Camilio Pascual and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Pedro “Pistol Pete” Ramos. They formed three fifths of Washington’s starting rotation back then and it seemed as if Mantle hit three-fifths of his 536 lifetime home runs off the trio. Pascual and Ramos were both from Cuba and both were actually very talented big league pitchers. In fact, I saw Pascual pitch a couple of times live at Yankee Stadium and several times on television and to this day, I believe he belongs in Cooperstown. Ramos was a notch below his countryman in talent but it would end up being Ramos who would help pitch the Yankees into a World Series.
Pedro pitched his first seven big league seasons for the Senators (who moved to Minnesota and became the Twins in 1961) and achieved double figures in victories in six of them. Unfortunately, thanks in large part to the anemic offense and porous defense of those Washington teams, Ramos also lost 112 games during that same span. He was then traded to the Indians, where he pitched decently for almost three seasons until September 5, 1964 when Yankee GM Ralph Houk acquired him for two players to be named later, who would turn out to be pitchers Ralph Terry and Bud Daley.
Yogi Berra had replaced Houk as Yankee skipper that season and the team took a long time to respond to their new Manager and were in danger of not reaching the World Series for the first time in five straight seasons. Berra’s starting rotation and bullpen were running on fumes. The additions of Mel Stottlemyre and Ramos proved to be the perfect elixir to what ailed Yankee pitching. Ramos took over the closer role and pitched brilliantly, saving eight games down the stretch as New York pulled off a late-season surge to win the AL Pennant. Unfortunately, he had joined the Yankees to late in the season to qualify for the World Series roster so he was forced to watch helplessly as the Cardinals beat New York in that year’s seven-game Fall Classic.
Houk then replaced Berra as Yankee Manager with Johnny Keane right after that series and Ramos spent the next two years as the closer on a Yankee team that was not able to generate too many leads that needed closing. Still, Ramos did save a total 32 games for New York during the 1965 and ’66 seasons before getting dealt to Philadelphia for relief pitcher Joe Verbanic. He retired after the 1970 season with a lifetime record of 117-160, 55 saves and 13 shutouts.
It seems Ramos was pretty much a wild man in his private life. In fact, his nickname “Pistol Pete” was only partially attributable to the right-hander’s fastball. This guy actually carried a gun with him off the field, almost all the time. He once used that gun to shoot out the screen of his family’s television set when he objected to the channel choice of Mrs. Ramos (who quickly thereafter became the ex-Mrs. Ramos.) He also used his gun after his playing days were over when he got himself involved in Little Havana’s drug business, which landed him in jail in the early 1980’s.
Ramos shares his April 28th birthday with this former Yankee pitcher.
|MIN (7 yrs)||78||112||.411||4.19||290||199||56||58||10||12||1544.1||1579||808||719||210||491||740||1.340|
|CLE (3 yrs)||26||30||.464||3.87||109||68||15||15||3||1||519.0||489||262||223||75||152||363||1.235|
|NYY (3 yrs)||9||14||.391||3.05||130||1||91||0||0||40||203.2||191||80||69||18||45||147||1.159|
|WSA (1 yr)||0||0||7.56||4||0||1||0||0||0||8.1||10||7||7||2||4||10||1.680|
|CIN (1 yr)||4||3||.571||5.16||38||0||12||0||0||2||66.1||73||41||38||8||24||40||1.462|
|PIT (1 yr)||0||1||.000||6.00||5||0||3||0||0||0||6.0||8||4||4||2||0||4||1.333|
|PHI (1 yr)||0||0||9.00||6||0||4||0||0||0||8.0||14||8||8||1||8||1||2.750|
By most accounts, when Enos “Country” Slaughter joined the Yankees in 1954, many of his new Yankee teammates weren’t too 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|
The last name of today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant is Ford. He was a two-time twenty game winner as a starter for the Yankee franchise and he was famous for scuffing the baseball with a tiny piece of sandpaper. He admitted to that doctoring after his playing days were over. What was this pitcher’s first name?
You’re wrong if you guessed Whitey. You’re also wrong if you guessed Edward, which was the real first name of one-time Yankee ace Whitey Ford. Whitey was also a two-time twenty-game winner for New York and after he retired in 1967, he also admitted to doctoring the baseball with a small strip of sandpaper attached to his wedding ring. But Whitey Ford wasn’t born on April 25th.
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant is instead, “Russ” Ford, who was born in Canada on April 25, 1883. He was a right handed pitcher for the New York Highlanders from 1909 until he jumped to the Federal League in 1914. This Ford won 26 games for New York in 1910 and then 22 the following year. According to his New York Times obituary, he invented the “Emory ball” by accident when one of his warm up pitches went flying by the catcher and bounced off a grating. When he got that ball back in his glove, he noticed a scuff mark. He then noticed that every pitch he threw with that scuffed baseball moved much more sharply than even his spitball did. That’s when Ford began concealing and carrying sandpaper with him to the mound.
After his two straight 20-win seasons, Ford lost 21 games for the 1912 Highlanders and then went 12-18 for the 1913 team that by then had officially changed its name to the New York Yankees. Those two bad years helped make Ford’s jump to the upstart Federal League in 1914 much easier for the Yankees to swallow. In fact, when AL President Ban Johnson offered to go to court to protect the Yankee’s contractual rights to the pitcher, Frank Chance, the New York Manager at the time told Johnson not to even bother.
|NYY (5 yrs)||73||56||.566||2.54||143||129||14||100||10||3||1112.2||1010||458||314||27||287||553||1.166|
|BUF (2 yrs)||26||15||.634||2.74||56||41||14||26||5||6||374.2||330||137||114||18||89||157||1.118|
Back in 1964 I was an avid baseball card collector. I remember that $1.25 was enough to purchase an entire box of Topps. I would scrimp, save, beg, and borrow every penny possible and as soon as I reached that magic amount I’d run to Puglisi’s Confectionary, up the street from my house, and buy my box. I’d then take my treasure back to my house and sit on the rusting green metal porch swing we used to have on the front porch and begin the glorious ritual of opening each pack. I will never forget the day I sat on that porch swing and got six Duke Carmel cards in the same box. I saw him staring at me with that bat cocked over his shoulder so many times that afternoon that he became a friend of mine. About a week later, I’m sure five of those Carmel cards were fastened to the forks of my 20″ Rollfast two-wheeler, transforming the sound of the bike into a roaring Harley.
Duke was born in New York City and got to play in his home town when the Cardinals traded him to the Mets in 1963. He joined the Yankees two seasons later but only appeared in a half dozen games wearing the pinstripes. Carmel turns 76 years old today. Carmel shares his April 23rd birthday with this Yankee outfielder.
Here is my all-time lineup of the most skilled players who have played for both the Mets and Yankees during their careers:
1b Dave Kingman
2b Willie Randolph
3b Gary Sheffield
ss Tony Fernandez
c Yogi Berra
of Ricky Henderson
of Darryl Strawberry
of Ron Swoboda
p Dwight Gooden
rp Jesse Orosco
mgr Casey Stengel
Here are Carmel’s Yankee seasonal and big league lifetime career stats.
|STL (3 yrs)||71||81||70||11||13||2||0||1||5||1||2||11||18||.186||.296||.257||.553||52|
|NYM (1 yr)||47||167||149||11||35||5||3||3||18||2||2||16||37||.235||.307||.369||.676||94|
|NYY (1 yr)||6||8||8||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||5||.000||.000||.000||.000||-100|
After a solid nine-year career with the Blue Jays, this left-hander was signed as a free agent by New York after the 1992 season to become the ace of the Yankee rotation. For the next two years, Key was exactly that, winning
thirty five games and losing just ten. He got beat out for the AL Cy Young Award during the strike-shortened 1994 season by future Yankee teammate, David Cone. A rotator cuff injury then wiped out his 1995 season. He had an ok 12-11 record in 1996 but then got the opportunity to win the sixth and final game of that year’s World Series against Atlanta in his final performance in pinstripes.
I remember thinking the Yankees had gone crazy after that Fall Classic, when they let both Key and the Series MVP, closer John Wetteland, sign with other teams. Key signed a nice deal with the Orioles but he really wanted to stay in New York. Turns out that rotator cuff injury that sidelined him in ’95 was enough to convince the New York front office they couldn’t match Baltimore’s guarantee of a second year. Key pitched well for the Birds in 1997, going 16-10 but when he fell off to 6-3 the following season he decided to call it quits, doing so with a 186-117 lifetime record.
The retired southpaw made Big Apple back page headlines again during the 1999 preseason when the Yankees approached him about coming out of retirement to pitch in their bullpen. Key had made his big league debut as a closer for the Blue Jays back in 1984, saving ten games in his rookie season. The native of Hunstville, AL quickly threw cold water over the comeback rumors when he insisted he was done with baseball for good.
Key shares his April 22nd birthday with this one-time New York Highlander shortstop.
|TOR (9 yrs)||116||81||.589||3.42||317||250||24||28||10||10||1695.2||1624||710||645||165||404||944||1.196|
|NYY (4 yrs)||48||23||.676||3.68||94||94||0||5||2||0||604.1||607||265||247||60||159||400||1.268|
|BAL (2 yrs)||22||13||.629||3.64||59||45||4||1||1||0||291.2||287||129||118||29||105||194||1.344|
Don Mattingly’s first game in a Yankee uniform took place in 1982, the season after the Yankees lost a World Series to the LA Dodgers. His career in pinstripes lasted until 1995. One year later the Yankees would finally make it back to the Fall Classic, with their victory over Atlanta. “Donnie Baseball” was the first person I thought about when New York third baseman Charlie Hayes squeezed the foul-popped final out of the 1996 World Series in his glove.
During his first six full seasons with New York, Mattingly averaged 203 hits per year, 27 home runs, 114 RBIs and hit .327. He also made the All Star team each of those seasons, won five Gold Gloves for his outstanding play at first base and was voted AL MVP in 1985. During that period, he was the best and most popular player in baseball and he along with Dave Winfield made the Yankees perennial contenders in the very tough AL East.
Even though they missed the playoffs every year, those Mattingly-Winfield-led Yankee teams played every inning of every game with a hustle and determination that made you proud to be a Yankee fan. In 1990, Mattingly injured his back and it never fully healed. The impact of the injury on his swing and his power was immediate, significant and permanent. Still he persevered, playing six more seasons. I remember feeling so bad for him when a strike ended the 1994 regular season and prevented the Yankees, who were in first place at the time, from playing in Mattingly’s first-ever postseason. Fortunately, New York did get there in ’95. Those of us who followed him closely throughout his career will never forget his outstanding performance during those five October games against the Mariners. He had ten hits in that series with a homer and six RBIs and he averaged .417. Even though New York lost, Mattingly’s farewell effort to Yankee fans was one of the most poignant moments in franchise history. Donnie Baseball turns fifty-two-years-old today. I still miss watching him play the game.
Mattingly shares his birthday with this long-ago New York outfielder.