He was the first pitcher in the history of the Yankee franchise to win 20 games in a season. He was also the first pitcher in the history of the Yankee franchise to lose 20 games in a season. His name was Joe McGinnity. He had worked in an iron foundry until he was 27-years-old and then started pitching in the minor leagues in 1898. Known as “The Iron Man” because of his pre-baseball career, McGinnity made his big league debut with the 1899 Baltimore Orioles, a team that was then a member of the National League and managed by John McGraw. Joe led the league with 28 wins in his rookie season, which also happened to be the last season the Orioles were part of the NL. In 1900, the ownership of that team merged their club with the Brooklyn franchise and McGinnity pitched the 1900 season for the Brooklyn Superbas. He again won 28 games and again led the NL in wins but his heart was evidently in Baltimore. In 1901, the new American League had formed and awarded a franchise to Baltimore. That team adopted the Orioles name and John McGraw was named their Manager. McGinnity jumped from Brooklyn to Baltimore and went 26-20 for the new AL franchise. The following year, the Orioles had a horrible season, finishing with a record of 50-88. McGinnity did OK himself, going 13-10, but the Orioles had the worst attendance of the eight teams in the league. That contributed to the League decision to move the team to New York in 1903 where they would play first as the Highlanders and eventually, the Yankees.
When Clark Griffith was named manager of the Highlanders, McGraw was out of a job. The Orioles released McGinnity and he signed with the New York Giants, finishing 8-8 in 1902. The following season, McGraw was hired as Manager of the Giants, where he was reunited with McGinnity and a young Giant pitcher named Christy Matthewson. Those three M’s would help turn the Giants into one of the most successful franchises in baseball. McGinnity and Matthewson both won 30 games in 1903 and McGraw’s team went from last place in the NL to second. In 1904, the pitching duo again each won 30 and the Giants captured the NL Pennant. McGinnity pitched in the Polo Grounds until 1908 and finished his big league career with a lifetime record of 246-142. He didn’t stop pitching though. He became a Minor Leaguer again and won 207 more games before he retired for good at the age of 54, in 1925. He was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1946.
Iron Man McGinnity shares his March 20th birthday with this one-time Yankee reliever.
I remember thinking when I first watched him pitch that Brian Fisher would be a good Yankee starter for a number of years. That was back in 1986 and the Yankees had missed the playoffs for five consecutive seasons at that point, mostly because they lacked good starting pitching. Ron Guidry had just turned 35 years old and his best days were behind him. Dennis Rasmussen had come from nowhere to lead that ’86 Yankee staff with 18 wins but I thought the team’s future rested on the arms of young studs like Fisher, Doug Drabek and Bob Tewksbury. George Steinbrenner didn’t agree with me. After the 86 season, when Fisher went 9-6 out of the Yankee bullpen, this big right hander and Drabek were sent to the Pirates for veteran starter Rick Rhoden and Tewksbury was dealt to the Cubs for Steve Trout. Of the three, Fisher had the best year in 1987, going 11-9 for Pittsburgh but both Tewksbury and especially Drabek went on to even better big league careers. Fisher was out of baseball by 1992. He’s one of only two Yankee players to be born in Hawaii. Can you name the other? It was a utility infielder named Lenny Sakata.
1b Dale Long
2b Willie Randolph
3b Tim Foli
ss Gene Michael
c Russell Martin
of Matty Alou
of Omar Moreno
of Xavier Nady
dh Mike Easler
sp Jack Chesbro
sp Waite Hoyt
sp Doug Drabek
sp John Candelaria
p Rick Rhoden
p Doc Medich
p Dock Ellis
p AJ Burnett
cl Goose Gossage
cl Luis Arroyo
mgr Casey Stengel
This tall southpaw is one of the few members of the New York Yankees to be born on St Pattie’s Day. Lollar had already appeared in 13 games out of the bullpen when Manager Dick Howser gave the then 24-year-old rookie his first and only pinstripe start against the Tigers in the very last game of the 1980 season. Lollar responded by pitching six innings of one-run ball and getting the victory. Then on the last day of the 1981 spring training season, Lollar was included in a package of players sent to the Padres for outfielder Jerry Mumphrey. After a bad 2-8 initial season in San Diego, Lollar broke out with a 16-9 record in 1982 and a 3.13 ERA. That turned out to be his one and only great season. He finished his big league career as a Red Sox in 1986 with a career record of 47-52. Lollar shares his St. Patrick’s Day birthday with this very troubled former Yankee reliever.
Lollar is the only Yankee and only big league ballplayer to have been born in Poplar Bluff, MO. Plenty of Yankees however, have been born in the “Show Me” state. Here’s my top six Pinstriped Missourians of all time:
After an MVP-level season in 2011, in which he led the AL in runs scored and RBIs, the Grandy Man slumped a bit in 2012. He averaged a career low .232 and struck out a franchise record 195 times. But the native of Blue Island, IL did reach the 100 run, 40 HR, 100 RBI plateaus for the second straight season in 2012 and he is the only hitter in either league who can claim that achievement. That’s why I’m a bit perplexed by the significant level of negative press this guy gets. Yes he disappeared in the 2012 postseason but the same can be said of just about every hitter in the Yankee lineup. Since 2013 is the final year of his contract and he is becoming eligible for free agency during the same season as Robinson Cano, Granderson will most likely need to have a career year to continue on as a Yankee. That’s why the broken wrist he suffered in an early exhibition season at bat was not good news for this outfielder, who turns 32-years-old today. The injury will sideline him until May.
It was toward the end of the 2010 regular season that Granderson, who had been hitting horribly against left-handed pitching, spent some time working with Yankee hitting coach, Kevin Long to improve his swing against southpaws. Those practice sessions resulted in one of the most amazing hitting adjustments I’ve ever seen a big league hitter make and in 2011, Granderson, who has a lifetime average of just .229 against lefties, raised that mark to .279. Curtis has also provided the Yankees with strong defense in the middle of the outfield and his enthusiasm for the game is an important ingredient for this New York team both on the field and in the clubhouse.
The Yanks got Granderson in December, 2009 three-team trade in which they gave up Austin Jackson and Phil Coke to the Tigers and starting pitcher Ian Kennedy to the Diamondbacks. All three of those ex-Yankees have performed well for their new teams as has Granderson. I’d love to see him remain in pinstripes beyond 2013.
Granderson shares his May 16th birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher.
If former Yankee catching phee-nom, Jesus Montero had become the next great Yankee catcher, today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant would have had a lot to do with his success. That’s because Butch Wynegar served as Montero’s hitting and catching coach at Scranton/Wilkes Barre in 2010. Montero didn’t need much help at the plate but Wynegar’s task that season was to try and make the kid a better player behind it. At one time, Wynegar himself was being proclaimed as baseball’s next superstar catcher when he was drafted by the Twins in 1974. Two years later, when he was just 20-years-old, he was Minnesota’s starting catcher, made the AL All Star team and finished second behind Mark “The Bird” Fidrych in that season’s Rookie of the Year balloting. Wynegar was a switch hitter who like Montero, felt naturally comfortable hitting but uncomfortable catching. Ironically, Butch turned himself into one of baseball’s better defensive catchers but he never became the offensive force pundits had predicted he would be at the big league level.
Wynegar played for Minnesota from 1976 until May of 1982, when the Twins traded him to New York. The Yankees had given up hope that Rick Cerone was ever going to be the next Thurman Munson and their thinking was that Wynegar, who was only 26 at the time of the trade, still had his best years ahead of him. It looked like the Yankee brass had made the right decision after Butch hit .296 in 1983, his first full year in pinstripes and caught Dave Righetti’s unforgettable fourth-of-July no-hitter against Boston. But that turned out to be the best year he would have in New York. I remember he did do a great job handling a very unstable Yankee pitching staff during his tenure with the team but his bat never made much noise. By 1986, the Yankees decided they’s seen enough of Wynegar and shipped him to the Angels for next to nothing in return.
Wynegar shares his March 14th birthday with this former bad-tempered Yankee pitcher.
George Steinbrenner was not the first Yankee owner of German extraction who liked to wheel and deal his way to a pennant. That honor belonged to millionaire brewer, Jacob Rupert, who purchased the New York AL franchise in 1914. He considered every day his baseball team made the headlines as free advertisement for his beer and since the teams that made it to the World Series got the most headlines, old Jake was determined to turn the Yankees into winners as quickly as possible.
His first big move in that direction was the acquisition of Baseball’s first famous slugger. Frank Baker’s nickname was “”Home Run”". He had led the American League in home runs four straight times as a Philadelphia Athletic from 1911 through 1914, during which he hit 11, 10, 12 and 9 round trippers, respectively. He then got into a contract dispute with Connie Mack and sat out the 1915 season. The Hall of Famer spent the last six of his thirteen-year big league career with New York and hit half of his 96 career round trippers as a Yankee. When he retired for good in 1922, he had helped New York make it to the franchise’s first two World Series.
I was never a big Steve Howe fan, but I remember reading an article about one of Howe’s seven suspensions for substance abuse in which Yankee Captain, Don Mattingly was quoted and suddenly feeling sorry for the one-time NL Rookie of the Year reliever. According to Mattingly, Howe was one of the hardest working members of the Yankee roster and an outstanding teammate.
For whatever reason, George Steinbrenner loved giving former big league star players with drug problems second chances. Howe was one of the Yankee owner’s first reclamation projects and in the strike shortened season of 1994, he repaid the Boss by once again becoming one of the most effective relief pitchers in baseball. He saved 15 games in that abbreviated year and posted an ERA of under two, helping the Yankees build a huge lead in their division only to have the work stoppage destroy their season.
In 2006, Howe was on a highway in California, driving home to Arizona in his pickup truck following a business meeting. Witnesses say the truck just drifted onto the medium and rolled over. The former pitcher was not wearing his seat belt at the time and he was ejected from the vehicle and killed instantly. He was only 48 years old at the time of his death. Tests later revealed that Howe had methamphetamine in his system at the time of the crash.
Having smoked cigarettes for 17 years of my life, I will never wonder why people cannot overcome their addictions to chemical substances that temporarily relax them and provide a buzz. When we are young, we think we are immortal, able to do anything we want without fear of hurting ourselves. When wiser elders warned me I would find it very difficult to quit cigarettes, I laughed them off. But within a few years of taking my first puff, I was so hooked that I would find myself lying to my family so I could sneak away and grab a smoke. The drug of choice first takes over your body and then controls your life. Those that don’t quit fail to reach a point at which they know their lives will be better without the drug until it is too late, or never at all. I’m glad I was able to do so but again, I will never wonder why stars and celebrities like Steve Howe could not.
I was a Marcus Thames fan after his first-ever at bat in pinstripes. That came in June of 2002, when the 25-year-old rookie came to the plate in the original Yankee Stadium in the third inning of an intra-league game against the Diamondbacks and smacked a two-run home run off of their then un-hittable ace, Randy Johnson. At that wonderful moment, I never thought it would be eight years before he’d hit another one for New York, but you can’t blame Marcus. After appearing in just 7 games that first season, the Yankees sent him back down to Columbus and then one year later, traded him to Texas for Ruben Sierra. The Rangers released him after the 2003 season and Thames finally found a more permanent big league home in MoTown. The Tigers signed him as a free agent and he became an important part of their team as a DH and fourth outfielder. He hit 99 home runs for Detroit during his five season there.
The Yankees entered the 2010 season with mostly young low-paid farm-system products and bargain-basement-type outfielders Randy Winn and Thames on the team’s bench. I’ve spent more money at Subway than it cost the Steinbrenner’s for that collection of subs. Thames turned out to be the best of the bunch and when DH Nick Johnson got hurt and was lost for the year, Thames became the team’s primary DH and one of New York’s best late-inning hitters. He carried the team in the dog-days of late August when he went on a tear at the plate that saw him hit six home runs and drive in 11 runs in one six game stretch. He then cooled down a bit in September. After playing well against the Twins in the 2010 ALDS, he along with most of the Yankees’ offense disappeared in the ALCS against Texas. It was probably Thames failure to hit in that Rangers series that convinced New York not to re-sign him and Marcus signed on with Don Mattingly’s Dodgers in 2011.
Marcus shares his birthday with this Yankee back-up catcher who has the best name in all of baseball.
The biggest contribution Doug Bird made to the Yankees was surrendering the eighth inning two-run home run to Thurman Munson that enabled New York to win the pivotal third game of the 1978 ALCS against the Royals. Munson’s homer was the only earned run Bird allowed the Yanks in a total of six postseason games he appeared against them between 1976 and ’78. After that series, the Royals traded Bird to Philadelphia where he had an unspectacular 1979 season. When the Phillies released him, the Yankees signed the tall right-handed native of Corona, California and he went 3-0 with a save for the 1980 AL East division winners. He was doing even better in 1981 when New York swung a deal that sent Bird to the Cubs for Rick Reuschel, who had been the ace of Chicago’s rotation for most of the previous decade. Even though Bird was 5-1 at the time of the trade, you had to be impressed with the Yankees’ front office ability to turn a Bird into a Reuschel. As it turned out, Reuschel went 4-4 for New York the rest of that season and then developed arm trouble and missed all of 1982. The snake-bitten Yankees released him in June of 1983. Reuschel would end up rehabbing his arm and become the ace of the Giants staff in the late eighties. In the meantime, Bird was converted back into a starter with the Cubs and after a 9-14 season in 1983 he was traded to Boston and was out of the big leagues one year later. Doug was born in Corona, CA and turns sixty-three-years-old today.
Bird shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee outfielder.
Dazzy Vance is in the Hall of Fame even though he did not win his first Major League game until he was 31 years old. What took him so long? He spent almost a decade, from 1912 until 1921 in the minor leagues trying to figure out how to throw his lightening quick fastball over the plate for strikes. Before he came up for good with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1922, Vance spent about four seasons in the Yankee organization. New York brought him up to the big leagues for two look-see’s. The first time was 1915. Vance was a 17-game winner that year pitching single A ball in St. Joseph, MO. He got into eight games for New York, losing all three of his decisions. He didn’t get his next taste of the Big Apple until four years later, in 1918 and it did not taste good. Dazzy got shelled in both his Yankee relief appearances that season and since he was 27 at the time, it seemed as if his chances of making the big leagues were over. But the persistent Vance went back to the minors and toiled for four more years.
In 1922, Brooklyn purchased his contract and dumped him immediately into their starting rotation. Dazzy won 18 games in his full-fledged rookie season and led the NL in strikeouts. For the next ten seasons he was one of the very best pitchers in baseball. He ended up winning seven-straight strikeout titles. In 1924 he had one of the greatest seasons any big league pitcher has ever had, leading the NL in victories (28), ERA (2.16) and K’s (262.) By the time his career was over, in 1935, the 44-year-old right-hander had put together a lifetime record of 197-140. That’s on top of the 139 victories he had accumulated in the minor leagues. In 1955, Vance was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
His real name was Charles. He was born in Orient,IA on March 4, 1891. He passed away in 1961.
Ironically, Dazzy shares his March 4th birthday with this other Major League baseball star with a well-known nickname, who also got big league call-ups as a Yankee early in his career, who also didn’t make it to the major leagues for good until he was 31 years old and when he did, he also became a star for Brooklyn.