Ban Johnson, the first-ever American League President did not like John McGraw, who was then the manager of the new league’s Baltimore franchise. McGraw was famous for fighting with umpires and flouting the rules. The fact that the fiery skipper also had an ownership stake in the Orioles’ franchise meant that he was technically one of the AL chief executive’s bosses, which also drove Johnson nuts. So during the 1902 season, Johnson put together a reason to put McGraw on indefinite suspension. Instead of fighting it or serving it out, McGraw jumped to the rival National League and accepted a managerial position with the New York Giants. When he did, he invited a core group of his favorite Orioles players to accompany him to his new team. That is why both McGraw and today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant were already in the Big Apple when one season later, the Orioles’ franchise was also relocated there and became the Highlanders (and eventually the Yankees.) If Johnson and McGraw did not dislike each other so much both the manager and Roger Bresnahan would have become Highlanders instead of Giants and the Yankee franchise would surly have won its first Pennants and World Series much earlier in team history. Eventually, baseball’s most famous catcher during the first decade of the 20th century would one day join his buddy and skipper in Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Bresnahan was a versatile athlete and a very interesting character. He was famous for his hair-trigger temper. Nobody got ejected from baseball games for fighting with umpires and opposing players more frequently than Bresnahan did and it was often necessary to call in the local police to escort the Toledo, Ohio native off the field. He was also not your prototypical catcher. He had outstanding speed, stealing 212 bases during his big league career. He was a second-string receiver for McGraw in Baltimore but when he joined the Giants they already had two catchers so Lil Napoleon started his buddy in center during his first full season in New York and he hit .350. Bresnahan had started his big league career as a pitcher and went 4-0 doing his 1897 rookie season with Washington. He actually played all nine positions during his career. This guy was also quite the innovator. It was Bresnahan who introduced shin guards to the catching position and he also wore baseball’s first-ever batting helmet.
Roger no doubt owed much of his big league success to Giant Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Matthewson. It was Matthewson who went to McGraw and told him he preferred to have Bresnahan catch his games. In 1905, the two would lead the Giants to their second straight NL Pennant and first ever World Series title. In that Fall Classic, Matthewson would throw three complete game shutouts with Bresnahan behind the plate in each of them. In addition, the Giants’ starting catcher also led New York with a .313 batting average during that Series.
Bresnahan would continue catching for the Giants until 1909, when he was offered the opportunity to become a player-manager for the Cardinals. Not wanting to stand in his friend’s way, McGraw let him go. Bresnahan would spend four years catching and managing for the Cardinals and later hold the same position with the Cubs. He retired in 1915, after playing 15 Major League seasons and would one day buy a minor league franchise in Toledo. He was voted into Cooperstown by the Old Timer’s Committee in 1945, one year after he had died of a heart attack in Toledo, at the age of 65.
Bresnahan shares his June 11th birthday with this former Yankee co-owner.
|NYG (7 yrs)||751||3024||2499||438||731||135||35||15||291||118||410||234||.293||.403||.393||.795|
|STL (4 yrs)||289||992||803||92||221||43||14||4||106||32||160||64||.275||.401||.379||.779|
|CHC (4 yrs)||249||756||633||81||151||23||7||2||64||40||99||54||.239||.345||.306||.652|
|BLA (2 yrs)||151||585||530||70||143||17||15||5||66||22||44||49||.270||.329||.387||.716|
|WHS (1 yr)||6||17||16||1||6||0||0||0||3||0||1||2||.375||.412||.375||.787|
Del Paddock is one of two not-well-known former Yankee franchise infielders to celebrate their birthday on June 8th. Paddock played 46 games for New York way back in the 1912 season, when they were still known as the Highlanders. He could hit decently, averaging .288 for New York that year, which was higher than any of the team’s starting position players could manage except for outfielder Birdie Cree. Paddock’s problem was fielding. He evidently had hands of stone, committing 14 errors in 41 games.
Evidently, Paddock’s poor fielding wasn’t the only problem with the 1912 Highlander team. That squad ended up with the worst regular season record in Yankee franchise history, going 50-102 and finishing dead last in the league.
Paddock was released by New York after that one season. He would spend the rest of his playing career in the minors and eventually fight in WW I. Paddock died in 1952, two years before this one-time Yankee infielder who shares Paddock’s birthday was born.
|NYY (1 yr)||46||185||156||26||45||5||3||1||14||9||23||21||.288||.393||.378||.772|
|CHW (1 yr)||1||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.000||.000||.000||.000|
“Boomer” was not the first Wells to pitch for the Yankees. That honor belonged to today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, a southpaw named Ed “Satchelfoot” Wells. The Tigers originally signed this Ashland, OH native in 1922 with the condition that he could keep attending college full-time and pitch during the summer. He made his big league debut for Detroit in June of 1923. His first manager was the legendary Ty Cobb. Though most guys who played with, against and for the “Georgia Peach” hated him, Wells was an exception. The two got along great even though Cobb admitted he couldn’t help his young left-hander get better because he knew nothing about pitching.
Wells was with Detroit for five seasons and went 12-10 for them in 1926 and led the AL with four shutouts that year. But his inconsistency got him released after the ’27 season. He spent 1928 with the Birmingham Barons of the Southern League where he went 28-7 and caught the attention of the Yankees. New York brought him to the Bronx in 1929 and he went 13-9 during his first season in pinstripes. He followed that up with a 12-3 season in 1930 but his ERA was over five. Fortunately for Wells he was pitching for an offense that included Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Tony Lazzeri, et. al. who made scoring more than five runs per game a habit that boosted the pitcher’s winning percentage.
Wells Yankee Stadium locker was situated right in between Ruth’s and Gehrig’s so he became good friends with both men. He also was the object of one of the Bambino’s most famous practical jokes. Ruth invited the pitcher to go on a double date with him after a Yankee road game in Detroit. When the two Yankees knocked on the door of the girl’s apartment, a guy claiming to be her husband opened it holding a pistol which he fired directly at Ruth. A horrified Wells turned and ran all the way back to his Detroit hotel. By the time he got there, Tony Lazzeri told him Ruth had been shot and was up in his room asking to see Eddie.
When Wells entered the Babe’s suite, the lights were turned down low and Ruth was laying in a bed with ketchup spilled on the white sheets and talcum powder all over his face to feign a dearly pale. Wells took one look at his famous teammate and fainted on the spot.
He ended up pitching a total of four years for New York, before getting sold to the Browns just before the 1933 season started. He had the misfortune of becoming a Yankee right at the time managerial instability. His first Yankee Skipper, Huggins died unexpectedly during the 1929 season and then Bob Shawkey got fired to make room for Joe McCarthy. Wells was 37-20 in Pinstripes and 68-69 when he left the big leagues for good in 1934. He shares his June 7 birthday with this great Yankee catcher.
|DET (5 yrs)||24||28||.462||4.90||115||56||34||19||4||7||444.1||547||287||242||20||191||147||5||1.661|
|NYY (4 yrs)||37||20||.649||4.59||107||54||34||23||3||4||492.1||532||290||251||38||179||171||6||1.444|
|SLB (2 yrs)||7||21||.250||4.38||69||30||24||12||0||2||295.2||338||173||144||20||98||85||1||1.475|
Mike Stanton was a key cog in a great Yankee bullpen that helped the team win three straight World Championships, beginning in1998. A left-hander, this native of Houston, Texas didn’t begin pitching until he got to college but mastered the art quick enough to get selected in the 13th round of the 1987 MLB amateur draft by the Atlanta Braves. He made his big league debut with the Braves two years later and impressed the organization by saving 7 ball games, compiling a 1.50 ERA and striking out more than a hitter an inning during his 20-game first-ever trial.
Stanton spent six-plus seasons in Atlanta, including 1993, when he became the team’s closer and saved a career high 27 games. He lost the closer’s job to Greg McMichael the following year and was traded to the Red Sox at the mid-season trading deadline in 1995.
The Yankees signed him as a free agent following the 1996 season and for the next half-dozen years, he was Joe Torre’s first southpaw choice out of the bullpen. He had a good, moving fastball and when his slider and curveball were working, this guy was simply nasty, especially on left-handed hitters. I loved his toughness and no-nonsense demeanor on the mound. He was the type of pitcher who believed he could get any hitter out in any situation. Though you couldn’t prove it by his rather high ERA while in pinstripes, Stanton got lots of key outs during that unforgettable string of three straight Yankee championships.
His best season in the Bronx was probably his first. In 1997, he appeared in 64 games and went 6-1 with a sparkling 2.57 ERA. Though the Yankees didn’t make it to the Fall Classic that year, they did formulate one of the franchise’s all-time great relief corps by putting Mariano Rivera in the closer role and teaming Stanton with Ramiro Mendoza, Jeff Nelson, and Graeme Lloyd as his set-up men. For the next three years, a Yankee lead in the sixth inning was safer than the gold in Fort Knox.
Though he went 7-1 during the final season of his contract with the Yanks in 2002, he had turned 35 and when Brian Cashman didn’t go after him hard, Stanton ended up signing with the Mets. Two years later, he returned to the Yankees in a trade but the magic was gone. When he retired after the 2007 season he held the record for most “Holds” by a big league reliever.
|ATL (7 yrs)||18||21||.462||4.01||304||0||123||0||0||55||289.2||277||146||129||22||114||223||1.350|
|NYY (7 yrs)||31||14||.689||3.77||456||1||118||0||0||15||448.1||430||197||188||35||165||407||1.327|
|BOS (3 yrs)||5||3||.625||3.56||82||0||31||0||0||1||78.1||76||33||31||12||31||57||1.366|
|NYM (2 yrs)||4||13||.235||3.68||133||0||43||0||0||5||122.1||107||57||50||12||52||92||1.300|
|WSN (2 yrs)||5||6||.455||4.13||86||0||13||0||0||0||72.0||78||35||33||3||30||44||1.500|
|SFG (1 yr)||4||2||.667||3.09||26||0||15||0||0||8||23.1||23||8||8||1||6||18||1.243|
|TEX (1 yr)||0||1||.000||3.22||22||0||9||0||0||0||22.1||20||8||8||2||4||14||1.075|
|CIN (1 yr)||1||3||.250||5.93||69||0||11||0||0||0||57.2||75||39||38||6||18||40||1.613|
One of the true bright spots of the Yankees 2012 season was the performance of their bullpen. If someone told you at the beginning of that year’s spring training camp that Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson would all be on the DL at the same time but their absence would have little negative impact on the quality of New York’s relief pitching, you’d call that person crazy. But that’s exactly what happened. Raffie Soriano, Boone Logan, Clay Rapada and Cody Eppley all stepped up big time and got a huge early-season assist from today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant.
Through the middle of June Cory Wade appeared in 27 games for New York that season and pitched 27 innings. He has struck out 30 hitters, walked just 5 and allowed only 8e earned runs for an ERA of 2.63. He wasn’t really a flash in the pan for New York either. In 2011, this right-handed native of Indianapolis appeared in 40 games for the Yankees, went 6-1 with an ERA of just 2.04.
Unfortunately for Wade and the 2012 Yankees, his pitching fell apart during the second half of June. When he gave up a total 10 earned runs in his final two appearances that month, New York skipper Joe Girardi lost confidence in the pitcher and he was demoted to Scranton.
Wade came up to the big leagues with the Dodgers in 2008 and pitched well for Manager Joe Torre. He then injured his shoulder in 2009 and required surgery. The Dodgers released him and he signed with Tampa but never pitched an inning for the Rays. The Yankees signed him in June of 2011 and with his arm completely healed, Wade’s been pitching well ever since. He’s not a hard thrower. His fastball tops out at about 90 miles per hour but he has very good command of four different pitches and has been mixing speeds masterfully since he donned the pinstripes. Let’s hope it continues.
Wade was called back up by New York for the 2012 stretch run and pitched OK but not great. He was then left off the Yankees’ postseason roster and put on waivers that October. He’s now pitching in the Royals’ minor league system.
Wade shares his May 28th birthday with another very effective Yankee relief pitcher from the 1950s.
|LAD (2 yrs)||4||4||.500||3.18||82||0||23||0||0||0||99.0||79||39||35||10||25||69||1.051|
|NYY (2 yrs)||7||2||.778||4.23||79||0||15||0||0||0||78.2||79||39||37||13||16||68||1.208|
The year was 2003. The Yankees would win 101 games that season and capture the AL East Divison, the ALDS against the Twins, the ALCS against the Red Sox but then lose the Series to the Marlins. Coming out of that year’s spring training season, most of the reporters covering the Yankees were predicting Juan Rivera would be Joe Torre’s selection as the team’s fourth outfielder. Instead, Torre chose Chris Latham.
New York had signed the Idaho native the previous September after he had spent the entire 2000 season in the Mets farm system. But Latham did have prior big league experience. He had made his debut in the Majors for the Twins in 1997 and saw action in Minnesota’s outfield for three straight seasons. He had also played for Toronto during the 2000 season, where he hit a career high .274 in 43 games as a utility outfielder.
Reports at the time indicated Torre had selected Latham over Rivera because his speed made him a better pinch-running option, he was a switch-hitter and had experience playing center field. He made his debut in pinstripes as a pinch runner for Raul Mondesi on April 6, 2003, during the sixth inning of game against Tampa Bay. He scored a run and remained in the game to play right field. He got his first Yankee at bat three innings later and singled off Jorge Sosa.
Even though Latham had made the Yankee roster, his agent continued to look for opportunities that would permit his client to play more and make a higher salary. He found such an opportunity with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan. Latham asked the Yankees if they would agree to negotiating a deal with the Giants that would permit him to play there and the team graciously agreed. Before he departed for Yomiuri, he got one more at bat as a Yankee against his old team the Twins and singled. That hit would make him the only Yankee in history to leave New York with more than one official at bat and a 1.000 career batting average.
The only other Yankee born on May 26th was this former first baseman.
|MIN (3 yrs)||63||154||138||19||21||2||0||1||9||4||13||57||.152||.222||.188||.411|
|NYY (1 yr)||4||2||2||3||2||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||1.000||1.000||1.000||2.000|
|TOR (1 yr)||43||84||73||12||20||3||1||2||10||4||10||28||.274||.369||.425||.794|
You’re fourteen years old, you love the Yankees and for the previous three years you’ve watched them degrade from perennial World Series participants to AL cellar dwellers. All your favorite pinstriper’s have grown old instantly together and you’re desperate for some good news. Is Bobby Murcer the next Mickey Mantle? Will Jerry Kenney make us forget about Clete Boyer.? Is Horace Clarke better than Bobby Richardson? You keep watching and listening to game after game and scouring the box scores to get the answer to these questions and even though it quickly became obvious that this next generation of Yankees were simply pale imitations of the previous ones, you didn’t give up hope.
It was this never-give-up-hope attitude that helps me clearly remember when today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant made his debut in the Bronx. It was a Sunday afternoon game at the Stadium in late May of 1968 and I can almost hear Scooter make the first-ever big league introduction of this native Puerto Rican. It probably went something like this; “and batting eighth and doing the catching is, holy cow Messer, this kid’s name is Ellie Rodriguez and he’s doing the catching. If he’s anything like the last Ellie (Elston Howard) who caught for the Yankees, we may have something special here.”
But alas, Ellie Rodriguez was no Ellie Howard. He went 0-3 in his Yankee debut that afternoon and was hitting just .167 by mid-June, when the Yankees sent him back to their Syracuse Chiefs farm team. He’d get called back up a couple of times that year but he did not do much better, finishing his nine-game debut season with a .209 batting average. New York had this other young catcher named Munson playing for Binghamton that same season, who was impressing everyone in the organization, so they left Ellie II unprotected in the AL expansion draft. The Kansas City Royals made him their 13th pick.
It turned out to be a big break for Rodriguez because he became the Royals’ starting catcher in 1969 and made the AL All Star team. Three seasons later he repeated that feat as the Brewers starting catcher. The Brewers traded him to the Angels following the ’73 season and he caught 137 games for California in 1974, a career high. He would end up spending nine years in all as a big league catcher, and then he played four more seasons in Mexico. Lifetime he hit .245 and threw out 41% of the runners attempting to steal against him. He may not have been the next Ellie Howard but he did just fine.
Rodriguez shares his May 24th birthday with this veteran pitcher who played an important role in the Yankees’ 2011 starting rotation.
|MIL (3 yrs)||325||1152||964||89||246||32||4||3||95||6||134||122||.255||.357||.306||.663|
|KCR (2 yrs)||175||575||498||52||115||18||2||3||35||5||58||61||.231||.323||.293||.617|
|CAL (2 yrs)||230||778||621||68||153||26||0||10||63||6||118||93||.246||.376||.337||.712|
|LAD (1 yr)||36||90||66||10||14||0||0||0||9||0||19||12||.212||.400||.212||.612|
|NYY (1 yr)||9||27||24||1||5||0||0||0||1||0||3||3||.208||.296||.208||.505|
Arch McDonald was the original voice of the New York Yankees. The three original New York City MLB franchises were the last three to permit radio broadcasts of their games. They all caved together in 1939. Brooklyn hired Red Barber for their booth and the thrifty Yankees and Giants decided to share an announcer. Since the two teams never had home games scheduled on the same day and had both agreed to blackout broadcasts of road games, it was possible that one person could do play-by-play for both teams. That person turned out to be McDonald.
Born in Arkansas but raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, he was a country music DJ in that town when the local minor league team reached a deal to have their games broadcast by the station that employed him. McDonald became the play-by play announcer and the listening audience loved him. In 1932, Sporting News conducted a contest, inviting readers to vote for the best baseball announcer in the country and surprisingly, McDonald beat out several big league microphone jockeys to win the honor. Two years later, when Clark Griffith was looking for a radio announcer to do Senator games, he did the same thing he did when he needed a player. He reached down into the broadcast booth of Washington’s Chattanooga affiliate and brought up McDonald. During the next five seasons, he built a loyal following of listeners in our Nation’s Capital with his relaxed southern speaking voice and homespun charm. McDonald was credited with coining the phrase “ducks on the pond” to describe “men on base.” When a Senator hit a home run, McDonald would call it by saying “There goes Mrs. Murphy.”
When the Yankees finally went on radio, the sponsor of their broadcasts, Wheaties Cereal lured McDonald to New York with a big salary. The first ever radio broadcast of a Yankee game took place on April 17, 1939, with McDonald doing the play-by-play. During that first season, a young CBS announcer by the name of Mel Allen was also hired as McDonald’s assistant. In addition to being the first radio voice of the franchise, McDonalds’ next most significant contribution to Yankee history was coming up with the nickname of “Yankee Clipper” for slugger, Joe DiMaggio.
It would end up being Barber and Allen who did the best job at capturing and keeping the attention of Big Apple baseball fans.Those two injected their calls with a lot more enthusiasm and a lot more words than McDonald, who preferred to describe a play and then stop talking until there was another play to describe. The silence in between proved deafening for radio listeners and McDonald was let go after just one season in New York, leaving Allen to take over the Yankee booth as number one announcer.
McDonald ended up going back to Washington, where he became a sports broadcasting institution, doing both Senator and Redskins games. In 1946, President Harry Truman, a regular listener, convinced the announcer to run for congress. He ended up losing the election.
He kept doing both Senator and Redskin games right up until he died in 1960, of a heart attack, during a train ride back to D.C. after a Giants Redskins football game. He was 59 years-old.
My wife dragged me to a performance of Les Miserables at Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady, NY several years ago. I was not a fan of the place because the seats were built for munchkins and there was absolutely no way for a person my size to get comfortable. Plus if you’re familiar with the epic play about the French Revolution, you know I was not in for a night of excitement and laughs.
Sure enough, as soon as the curtain opened I started fidgeting and with my knees crammed against the seat in front of me, both of my legs quickly went to sleep. I was just about to close my eyes and force myself into a numbing nap when I heard my wife whisper, “That’s that Yankee pitcher’s son singing.” I opened up my program and sure enough, one of the lead characters was Tommy John’s boy. I think it was Travis and he had an absolutely amazing voice.
In spite of this connection to my all-time favorite baseball team, my legs were getting prickly, the lady next to me was pushing my arm off the armrest and I spent the rest of the evening in a painful agony. I remember how good it felt when the final curtain came down and we were able to get up and start walking toward the theater’s exit. As we crawled along with the large crowd approaching the door leading outside, I noticed a man leaning against the wall in the corner nearest me. As I passed him I smiled and told him that his son had a wonderful voice. Tommy John smiled and mouthed back the words “Thank you.”
I liked Tommy John when he pitched for the Yankees but I liked him even more when I saw him that night at Proctor’s Theater. After all, John is 6’3″ tall just like me so I know his legs were sore too. I knew then and there that in addition to being a great pitcher, Tommy was also a good father.
John may be most famous for the surgery (ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction) named after him but he was a pretty good Yankee pitcher too. He had two twenty-victory seasons with New York during his first stay in the Bronx and then went 13-6 for them as a 44-year old in 1987. One of the things that most surprised me when I was doing research for this post was finding out that Tommy won more games as a Yankee (91) than he did for the Dodgers (87) or White Sox (82.) As of right now, those 91 wins place him in the 20th spot on the Yankees’ all-time career wins list. He has more wins as a Yankee than Roger Clemens (83), Bob Turley, David Wells (68) or Catfish Hunter (64) were ever able to achieve in pinstripes.
John was born in Terre Haute, Indiana on May 22, 1943, the only member of the Yankee all-time roster to be born on today’s date. I was also surprised to find out that there were not too many former Yankee all-star-level players born in Indiana. The best of the Hoosier-born Yankees were Don Mattingly, Don Larsen and John.
|NYY (8 yrs)||91||60||.603||3.59||214||203||7||53||12||0||1367.0||1456||621||545||80||324||483||1.302|
|CHW (7 yrs)||82||80||.506||2.95||237||219||5||56||21||3||1493.1||1362||573||490||99||460||888||1.220|
|LAD (6 yrs)||87||42||.674||2.97||182||174||6||37||11||1||1198.0||1169||460||396||64||296||649||1.223|
|CAL (4 yrs)||24||32||.429||4.40||85||76||3||14||1||0||489.1||610||263||239||42||125||143||1.502|
|CLE (2 yrs)||2||11||.154||3.61||31||17||1||2||1||0||114.2||120||63||46||11||41||74||1.404|
|OAK (1 yr)||2||6||.250||6.19||11||11||0||0||0||0||48.0||66||37||33||6||13||8||1.646|
1968 was a terrible year in the history of our country and was shaping up to be a terrible year in Yankee history as well. New York had finished ninth the previous season. Joe Pepitone, the team’s best hitter was getting nuttier every year and the great Mickey Mantle was literally on his last leg.
I had two passions as a young teenager, sports and politics. When Bobby Kennedy was killed all I had left to look forward to were Yankee games so I was hoping they’d be decent that year. Almost miraculously, they were. Thanks to a starting staff featuring Mel Stottlemyre, Stan Bahnsen and Fritz Peterson and a bullpen led by Steve Hamilton and Lindy McDaniel, the Yankees could hang around most games and were pretty good at holding a lead if they were lucky enough to have one in the later innings.
The offense was another story. Pepitone imploded and Mantle continued to decline. As a team they hit just just .214 but guys like Roy White, Andy Kosco, and a 27 year-old rookie third baseman named Bobby Cox seemed to get on base and cross home plate just enough times to win more games than they lost. The bomberless Bombers finished 83-79 which to me felt like winning a pennant.
Cox of course went on to become one of the game’s all-time great managers with Atlanta. My In-laws are huge Brave fans and my Mother-in-law loves Cox. Several years ago we were with them at Disney World after the Braves had moved their spring-training operation to the resort. Early one morning, we went to the stadium to watch the Braves practice and Bobby Cox was alongside the dugout talking to someone sitting in the stands. As soon as she saw him my mother started shouting “Yoo-hoo Bobby Cox. I love you. Can I have your autograph? Can I take my picture with you?” Cox looked up feigning annoyance and held up his hand signaling he’d come over to us after he was done talking to the other person. Sure enough he did and he spent the next five minutes talking to my Mother-in-Law like he had known her all his life. I went from being a big Bobby Cox fan to being a huge Bobby Cox fan that day. Cox was voted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2014, along with former Yankee skipper, Joe Torre. It certainly is a well-deserved honor.