Bobby Brown started his Yankee career during the tumultuous 1979 season, when he was acquired from the Blue Jays in June of that year. At the same time New York traded for Brown, George Steinbrenner, replaced Manager Bob Lemon with Billy Martin. After winning two straight World Championships, New York was floundering in that year’s AL Pennant race. The “Boss” thought Lemon had lost control of the team and especially center-fielder Mickey Rivers. The Yankee owner felt Martin was the guy who could make the Yankees and “Mick the Quick” play hard again.
Instead, Rivers continued to drift and on August 1, 1979, the speedy outfielder was dealt to the Rangers. That same day, Thurman Munson crashed his plane and the rest of the 1979 baseball season suddenly didn’t matter to anybody.
In one of his best moves as Yankee owner, Steinbrenner then approved the hiring of long-time Yankee coach Dick Howser as the team’s new skipper. The Yankees also swung a deal for the young Mariner center-fielder, Rupert Jones. Everyone thought Jones would become the Yankees next great center fielder. Fortunately for Bobby Brown, that didn’t happen.
With Jones struggling to keep his average over .200, Dick Howser began playing Brown in the middle of his outfield during that 1980 season. Brown’s speed helped him cover the huge dimensions of center field in the old Yankee Stadium and it helped him steal 27 bases that season. Howser also liked the fact that Brown was a switch hitter. Bobby responded well, hitting .260 and poking 14 home runs in his official rookie season. But the Howser-Brown mutual admiration society was about to get disbanded.
Howser was fired by an irate Steinbrenner after the Yankees got knocked out of the 1980 playoffs in three-straight games by the Royals. Brown went hitless in that series, which did not go unnoticed in the Yankee front office. At the very end of New York’s 1981 spring training season, New York traded Jones to the Padres for San Diego’s talented center fielder, Jerry Mumphrey. That trade signaled the official end of Brown’s career as the Yankee’s starting center fielder.
Bobby began the 1981 season in Columbus and then got called back up to the parent club in late May. He remained in pinstripes during the rest of that strike-shortened 1981 season, but he hit only .226. Still, the Yankees kept him on their post-season roster, which ended up giving Brown one more opportunity to make Steinbrenner livid. It happened during the pivotal Game 4 of that year’s Fall Classic against the Dodgers. Yankee Manager, Bob Lemon had inserted Brown as a pinch runner for Oscar Gamble in the sixth inning with the Yankees ahead 6-3. But instead of putting Jerry Mumphrey in center the following inning, Lemon sent Brown out to play the field. Mumphrey was considered to be a much better defensive outfielder than Brown. Later in the game, with the score tied 6-6, Brown misplayed Rick Monday’s blooper into a double, which led to a two-run inning and a Dodger victory and a deadlocked Series. Los Angeles would go on to win the next two games and the World Championship. The following April, Brown was playing for the Mariners.
The Yankees actually traded for Bobby Brown two different times. They originally acquired him in 1978, when he was still a minor leaguer in the Phillies’ organization but then lost him to the Mets in the 1978 rule 5 Draft. In that trade with the Phillies, the Yankees got Brown and outfielder Jay Johnstone for reliever Rawley Eastwick. When New York traded Bobby Brown to the Mariners in 1982 they got starting pitcher Shane Rawley in return. This makes Brown the only Yankee in history who was traded to the team and from the team for guys who shared the name Rawley.
There was another pretty famous Bobby Brown in Yankee history, a third baseman during the late forties who went on to become a medical doctor and then the last president of MLB’s American League. There have also been lots of Yankees who like the two Bobby Brown’s, have names (or nicknames) with the same first and last initial. Here’s my line up of the most notable of those alliteratively monikered Bronx Bombers:
Chris Chambliss – 1b
Steve Sax – 2b
Tommy Tresh – SS
Red Rolfe – 3b
Frank Fernandez – c
Mickey Mantle – of
Bobby Bonds – of
Chad Curtis – of
Shane Spencer – dh
Mike Mussina – p
Red Ruffing – p
Goose Gossage – rp
Bobby turns 59-years-old today. He shares his May 25th birthday with this former Yankee pitcher and minor league pitching instructor.
|SDP (3 yrs)||221||528||480||76||116||15||5||8||57||49||39||91||.242||.296||.344||.640|
|NYY (3 yrs)||198||586||542||77||138||16||6||14||56||33||36||114||.255||.299||.384||.683|
|SEA (1 yr)||79||267||245||29||59||7||1||4||17||28||17||32||.241||.288||.327||.614|
|TOR (1 yr)||4||12||10||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||1||.000||.167||.000||.167|
It is still hard to believe Bobby is gone. He became my favorite Yankee when he was brought up in 1969 to replace my previous favorite Yankee, the great Mickey Mantle. Even though he developed into a very good big league player, he was no Mantle. He was instead, the very best player on a very bad string of Yankee teams and I loved the guy. I remember being very upset when Bobby was traded to the Giants for Bobby Bonds right after the 1974 season. I remember being overjoyed when the Yankees put him back in pinstripes during the 1979 season. I hated to see him retire during the 1983 season but I enjoyed listening to him and learning more about him during his many years in the Yankees’ broadcast booth. When he died from a brain tumor in July of 2008, Yankee fans around the world mourned him. Had he lived he would have turned 68 years-old today.
In April of 2014, the Yankees announced that they would be placing plaques in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park to honor Paul O’Neill and Tino Martinez, two great Yankees who certainly deserve the recognition. But what about Bobby Murcer?
|NYY (13 yrs)||1256||4997||4428||641||1231||192||29||175||687||74||491||564||.278||.349||.453||.802|
|CHC (3 yrs)||358||1465||1243||178||336||44||10||43||175||32||196||154||.270||.367||.426||.792|
|SFG (2 yrs)||294||1256||1059||153||295||49||6||34||181||21||175||123||.279||.379||.432||.812|
I never was a big fan of Billy Martin. I was too young to remember his playing days with the Yankees in the fifties. When he started managing in the American League, first for the Twins in 1969 and then the Tigers in 1971, I remember trying to learn more about him. Everything I read seemed to indicate he had a great will to win, a strong knowledge of the game but an extremely bad temper. This helped explain why he was fired from his first three managerial positions even after he helped turn losing teams into winners.
When George Steinbrenner became managing partner of the Yankees the perfect storm necessary to bring these two unpredictable forces together in the Bronx had been formed. In the beginning, it worked marvelously. The Yankees got back to the World Series and fans filled the Stadium like never before. It didn’t last long, however. Martin’s dependence on alcohol worsened under the pressure of Steinbrenner’s meddling and the glare of the New York media. Once these fault lines became public during and after the 1977 season, Martin would never again be able to command the respect or support of his players necessary to lead them to championships.
As more and more Yankees and ex-Yankees began talking and writing about their experiences while playing for Martin, a clearer picture of his addiction to alcohol, his emotional insecurity, and his inhumane behavior emerged. What respect I had for his past achievements was quickly replaced by pity for what he had become.
Having written all this it is only fair to point out that there are many people who knew Martin personally and who played with him and for him on a baseball field who loved and deeply respected the guy. My opinions of him were formed from the far-away focus of a typical baseball fan.
He died on Christmas day in 1989 when his truck was driven into a ditch by a friend who was allegedly driving intoxicated at the time of the accident. It has also been reported that the driver and Martin had been drinking all day. May he now be resting in peace.
During his final season as Yankee skipper in 1989, Martin had this right-handed veteran starter who shares his May 16th birthday, on his pitching staff. Martin was not the Yankee manager when this other May 16th born right-hander pitched in pinstripes, during the 1981 season. This former Yankee reliever was also born on that day.
Martin’s record as a Yankee player:
|1954||Did not play in major leagues (Military Service)|
|NYY (7 yrs)||527||1887||1717||220||449||70||18||30||188||19||112||178||.262||.313||.376||.688|
|MIN (1 yr)||108||398||374||44||92||15||5||6||36||3||13||42||.246||.275||.361||.636|
|MLN (1 yr)||6||6||6||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|KCA (1 yr)||73||285||265||33||68||9||3||9||27||7||12||20||.257||.295||.415||.710|
|CIN (1 yr)||103||346||317||34||78||17||1||3||16||0||27||34||.246||.304||.334||.639|
|CLE (1 yr)||73||258||242||37||63||7||0||9||24||0||8||18||.260||.290||.401||.691|
|DET (1 yr)||131||536||498||56||127||19||1||7||42||5||16||62||.255||.279||.339||.619|
Martin’s record as a Yankee manager:
|8||1975||47||New York Yankees||AL||2nd of 2||56||30||26||.536||3|
|9||1976||48||New York Yankees||AL||159||97||62||.610||1||AL Pennant|
|10||1977||49||New York Yankees||AL||162||100||62||.617||1||WS Champs|
|11||1978||50||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 3||94||52||42||.553||1|
|12||1979||51||New York Yankees||AL||2nd of 2||95||55||40||.579||4|
|17||1983||55||New York Yankees||AL||162||91||71||.562||3|
|18||1985||57||New York Yankees||AL||2nd of 2||145||91||54||.628||2|
|19||1988||60||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 2||68||40||28||.588||5|
|Minnesota Twins||1 year||162||97||65||.599||1.0|
|Detroit Tigers||3 years||452||248||204||.549||2.0|
|Texas Rangers||3 years||279||137||141||.493||3.7|
|Oakland Athletics||3 years||433||215||218||.497||2.5|
|New York Yankees||8 years||941||556||385||.591||2.5||2 Pennants and 1 World Series Title|
|16 years||2267||1253||1013||.553||2.5||2 Pennants and 1 World Series Title|
Earle Combs was born on May 14, 1899, in Pebworth, KY. Nicknamed the “”Kentucky Colonel”” he was the first great Yankee center fielder. When he left his parents’ farm at the age of seventeen, his career goal was to become a school teacher. He attended what is now Eastern Kentucky University to pursue a teaching degree. He got involved in a baseball game between the students and the faculty of the college. The guy pitching for the teachers that day had some big league experience and was impressed enough by Combs’ ability that he urged him to try out for the school’s baseball team. He did and quickly became an elite player on that team. Soon he was playing semi pro and minor league ball.
In 1924, he signed a contract to play for the Kentucky Colonels of the American Association. The team’s manager was future Yankee skipper, Joe McCarthy, who converted Combs from a shortstop to a center fielder. After two outstanding seasons with the Colonels, the Yankees outbid a slew of other big league teams and purchased his contract for $50,000. He than began his twelve-season career in Pinstripes in 1924.
He batted .325, lifetime. That mark places Combs third on the list of highest Yankee lifetime batting averages with a minimum of 1,500 plate appearances. Combs scored at least 113 runs for eight straight seasons hitting in front of Ruth and Gehrig. During the 1934 season, he ran into an outfield wall in Sportsmen’s Park in St Louis, chasing a fly ball at top speed. He broke his skull and almost died from the resulting injuries. He attempted a comeback in 1935 but after crashing into another wall, he called it quits for good. Combs was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1970.
|162 Game Avg.||162||725||640||132||208||34||17||6||70||11||75||31||.325||.397||.462||.859|
My personal memory of this great Yankee took place during a game I attended at Yankee Stadium sometime during the early 1960s, probably 1962. My Uncle always got us field box seats when he took us to the Stadium, somewhere between first base and the right field foul pole. Berra came to the plate and I vividly remember several things about the at bat. The pitch he hit was very high, especially for the short 5’8″ Berra. He hit the ball on a line. It went by me, my Uncle and my older brother like a comet, right at our eye level but still rising. When it hit the drab green painted metal facing of the Stadium’s mezzanine level in right field, it hit it so hard that the clang it made actually echoed throughout the Stadium. I did not see anyone hit a ball as hard as that one until over thirty years later when Jose Canseco hit one out of Fenway that may still have not landed. Of course Jose used steroids and the only juice a urine test might have discovered in Berra’s body was the kind you squeezed out of oranges.
Yogi Berra was a marvelous Yankee catcher who won ten championship rings. He had supreme offensive and defensive skills and his teammates loved him. He was also under appreciated as a manager, being the only field boss to win pennants for both the Yankees and Mets.
There are so many things I cherish about the game of baseball and having had the opportunity to watch number 8 play the game is high on that list. Happy 89th birthday Yogi.
Berra’s Yankee career record as a player:
|NYY (18 yrs)||2116||8350||7546||1174||2148||321||49||358||1430||30||704||411||.285||.348||.483||.830|
|NYM (1 yr)||4||9||9||1||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||3||.222||.222||.222||.444|
|1||1964||39||New York Yankees||AL||164||99||63||.611||1||AL Pennant|
|6||1984||59||New York Yankees||AL||162||87||75||.537||3|
|7||1985||60||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 2||16||6||10||.375||2|
|New York Mets||4 years||588||292||296||.497||3.0||1 Pennant|
|New York Yankees||3 years||342||192||148||.565||2.0||1 Pennant|
|7 years||930||484||444||.522||2.6||2 Pennants|