The Yankees signed this Puerto Rican giant in 1988 after selecting the 6’7″ right-hander in the 15th round of that year’s amateur draft. During his senior year at Miami Lakes High School in Hialeah, Florida Munoz was a star basketball player who had scholarship offers to play hoops at several big-time schools. In fact, he planned on playing on the hard court at UNLV but bad grades forced a change in those plans and he went to Palm Beach Community College instead. That’s when the Yanks drafted him and convinced him to give professional baseball a shot.
He spent four-plus seasons in the Yankee farm system, where he was converted into a closer when he reached Stump Merrill’s Columbus Clippers Triple A team in 1993. After starting out the season there with a 3-1 record and 10 saves, the Yanks called him up to the Bronx in late May to join Buck Showalter’s bullpen.
A confident 25-year-old at the time of his call-up, Munoz asked for and received Goose Gossage’s uniform number 54. He then spent his first month in pinstripes reminding New York fans of the Goose, pitching in a setup role for then-Yankee closer Steve Farr. By June 29th his record was 2-0 with 3 holds, 17 K’s and a solid 2.50 ERA.
Unfortunately, he faltered in the second half and then the Yankees grew concerned about his weight, which had gotten above the 260 mark by the end of his debut season. He got his weight back down that winter but was unpleasantly surprised at the beginning of the Yanks 1994 spring-training camp to find he had been dealt to the Phils in the deal that brought starting pitcher Terry Mulholland to New York.
The Phillies tried to make him a starter again and his 7-5 record in that role during the strike-shortened season of 1994 indicated there was some wisdom behind the move. But he hurt his arm the following year and went a combined 1-14 during his final five big league seasons.
|PHI (4 yrs)||8||15||.348||4.84||38||30||2||1||0||1||178.2||205||116||96||19||66||93||1.517|
|MON (1 yr)||0||4||.000||5.14||15||7||4||0||0||0||42.0||53||25||24||6||21||21||1.762|
|NYY (1 yr)||3||3||.500||5.32||38||0||12||0||0||0||45.2||48||27||27||1||26||33||1.620|
|BAL (1 yr)||0||0||9.75||9||1||5||0||0||0||12.0||18||13||13||4||6||6||2.000|
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was the fourth outfielder on Joe McCarthy’s last pinstriped World Championship team, the 1943 New York Yankees. Roy Weatherly was a short and speedy native of Warren, Texas, who had made his big league debut with the Cleveland Indians in 1936 and had worked his way into the Tribe’s starting center-fielder’s job by 1940. A good contact hitter with a bit of power, he had his best big league season that year, when he averaged .303 with 12 home runs and 59 RBIs. He was considered to be a solid defensive outfielder.
The Yankees got Weatherly in December of the 1942 season along with infielder Oscar Grimes in a trade that sent spare outfielder Roy Cullenbine and a decent-hitting backup catcher named Buddy Rosar to Cleveland. Some Yankee historians felt the deal was triggered by McCarthy’s anger at Rosar for leaving the Yankee ball club without permission during the ’42 regular season to take a civil service exam for a policeman’s job in Buffalo, NY. All four players involved in this trade were married and had children, which meant none of them were in danger of being drafted to serve in WWII, which was raging in both Europe and the Pacific at the time.
Both Joe DiMaggio and Tommy Henrich were lost to military service following the ’43 season, leaving the Yanks with a starting outfield of Charlie Keller, a former pitcher named Johnny Lindell and 28-year-old rookie, Bud Metheny. Weatherly, who hit from the left side of the plate, saw action in 77 games that season, as McCarthy platooned him with the right-hand hitting Lindell in center field.
He had a solid year for the Yankees, helping them get to their second straight World Series against the Cardinals that fall, but he only got one at bat in New York’s five-game victory over the defending champions. He then volunteered to serve his country in April of 1944 and spent the next two years in the US Army. When he was discharged in 1946, he tried to re-start his Yankee career but could not win a permanent spot on a Yankees outfield depth chart that had been replenished with returning soldier/athletes.
Instead of hanging up his cleats, Weatherly returned to minor league ball and continued playing into his forties. In 1950, his perseverance paid off when the NY Giants brought him up to be their team’s fourth outfielder that season, at the age of 35.
Weatherly passed away in 1991 back in his native Texas, at the age of 75. He shares his birthday with this former great Yankee outfielder, this one-time Yankee first baseman and this former Yankee skipper.
|CLE (7 yrs)||680||2616||2430||368||701||141||38||36||251||38||149||151||.288||.331||.422||.753|
|NYY (2 yrs)||79||309||282||37||75||8||3||7||28||4||18||9||.266||.312||.390||.702|
|NYG (1 yr)||52||82||69||10||18||3||3||0||11||0||13||10||.261||.378||.391||.769|
No one complained more than me during the 2013 preseason about the Yankees’ penny pinching approach to developing the team’s 25-man Opening Day roster. You won’t hear me complaining this year. Prince Hal and company have put an additional $400 million Yankee bucks back into their product thus far this winter.
The Bronx Bombers have upgraded their catching position, their rotation and their outfield. The recent signing of former A’s closer Andrew Bailey was Brian Cashman’s way of putting in place some insurance for a stretch run just in case David Robertson proves unready to master the Closer’s role in New York’s bullpen.
The only area of the team that the Yanks can be accused of “downgrading” is the infield. Granted, if Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter can both bounce back from serious injuries, Yankee fans will be pleased with the results. But the efforts to replace Robbie Cano with Brian Roberts and A-Rod with today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant were definitely done on the cheap.
Johnson will not make us forget what A-Rod was in his juiced-up prime but, then again, who could. He’s an eight-year veteran who came up with the Braves in 2005 and later put up some good home run numbers for the Diamondbacks. The Yanks are hoping their Stadium’s short right field porch provides as big a boost to Johnson’s power stats as he got from the thin desert air during his top dinger-production days in Arizona. If that does happen, Joe Girardi should be able to live with Johnson’s limited defensive experience and skills as a third baseman
Born in Austin, Texas on this date in 1982, Johnson was a first round draft pick of Atlanta’s in 2000. He spent last year with the Rays and the year before that with the Blue Jays so he’s got lots of experience against AL East pitchers. Both Scott Sizemore and the perennial Yankee infield question mark, Eduardo Nunez will challenge Johnson for the hot corner job this spring but conventional wisdom says the spot is his to lose. He shares his birthday with this former 20-game-winning pitcher, this one-time Yankee closer, this former Yankee phee-nom and this grandfather of a number 1 Yankee draft pick.
|ATL (4 yrs)||490||1902||1661||270||439||97||22||45||206||29||203||359||.264||.346||.430||.777|
|ARI (2 yrs)||268||1152||1015||152||256||59||10||44||120||26||123||280||.252||.335||.460||.795|
|TOR (2 yrs)||175||713||622||77||145||23||4||19||64||17||78||190||.233||.323||.375||.697|
|TBR (1 yr)||118||407||366||41||86||12||2||16||52||7||35||99||.235||.305||.410||.715|
Yankee teams don’t win World Championships without good solid starting catchers. I’ve been a Bronx Bomber fan for over 50 years and during that time its been names like Berra, Howard, Munson, Girardi and Posada, who have been behind the plate when my favorite team won a ring. Most of these guys could hit, most of them were strong defensively as well and each and everyone of them were tough, strong leaders who weren’t afraid to take control of their pitching staffs.
Russell Martin was that type of player for the Yankees. Certainly not a superstar but most definitely a leader behind the plate and a guy who craved at bats with the game on the line. He had no fear and the Yankees could have got to a World Series with him as their starting catcher, which is why it distressed me, when they let him walk away to Pittsburgh last offseason and decided they’d try instead to go cheap by staffing such a critical position with Cervelli, Stewart, and eventually Austin Romine. It was that single front office decision that convinced me that this current Yankee brain trust actually believed they could be clever money-ball practitioners when I knew they were not. More importantly, I knew that trying to win with less money took away the franchise’s biggest advantage over its competition, which is HAVING MORE MONEY to spend!
We all saw the results. The offensive performance of the Yankee catching staff was as bad as I knew it would be last season and the co-catcher model hurt the stability of the pitching staff. There were also more empty seats in Yankee Stadium and fewer viewers watching those commercials on the YES Network.
Brian McCann had to be signed by New York, this offseason. He’s exactly the kind of catcher the Yankees must have to get back to Fall Ball. He’s also the signal I needed to see that this Yankee brain trust fully realized the error of their penny-pinching ways last winter. I’m once again officially excited about Opening Day!
Mr. Mogridge was a tall and thin southpaw, who threw a decent spitball in his day. He made Yankee franchise history on April 24, 1917 when he threw the first no-hitter in the team’s history. It would take more than 66 years before another Yankee pitcher, Dave Righetti threw another one during the regular season.
A native of Rochester, NY, Mogridge made his big league debut with the White Sox in 1911 but he was not yet ready to stick. He returned to the minors in 1912 and it would take three more years for him to get back to the big dance and this time it was as a Yankee. His first Yankee skipper was Wild Bill Donovan who used Mogridge mostly as a starter in both 1916 and ’17. When Miller Huggins took over the team the following year, he used this lanky left-hander a lot in a closing role as well as a starter. The result was a 16-win season with a 2.18 ERA and 7 saves.
After another solid year in 1919, Mogridge’s performance slipped badly in 1920 and that December the Yanks traded him to the Senators. He quickly evolved into one of Washington’s most reliable starters, putting together back-to-back 18-win seasons during his first two years there and becoming one of the heroes of the Senators’ 1924 World Series victory. In that Fall Classic against the Giants, he started and won Game 4 and then pitched brilliantly out of the bullpen in Game 7, which Washington won in extra innings in a contest still considered to be one of the greatest in Series history.
Age began to catch up with Mogridge in 1925 and he was traded to the Browns that June. The Yankees actually re-aquired him in a trade with St. Louis the following February, but immediately put the by then, 36-year-old pitcher on waivers and he was claimed by the Braves. He pitched a couple more years for Boston, retiring after the 1927 season and returning to his native Rochester. He died in that city in 1962, at the age of 73.
|NYY (6 yrs)||48||57||.457||2.73||171||103||48||61||8||8||965.2||929||393||293||24||220||278||1.190|
|WSH (5 yrs)||68||55||.553||3.38||145||136||6||72||12||1||1016.2||1104||453||382||38||273||284||1.354|
|BSN (2 yrs)||12||14||.462||4.30||59||11||40||2||0||8||190.2||221||105||91||10||51||72||1.427|
|CHW (2 yrs)||3||6||.333||4.19||21||9||7||2||0||3||77.1||81||42||36||3||16||36||1.254|
|SLB (1 yr)||1||1||.500||5.87||2||2||0||1||0||0||15.1||17||10||10||2||5||8||1.435|
I never heard Walter “Red” Barber announce a Dodger game. I was born in 1954, the same year Barber left the Brooklyn booth to join Mell Allen in the Bronx. By the time I was old enough to remember him announcing Yankee games, his voice and style really didn’t make much of an impression on me. Allen was my guy and I can still remember details about the way he called games and talked about different Yankee players.
Then I read Roger Kahn’s classic Boys of Summer and fell in love with the old Brooklyn Dodgers, so in love that I continue to strive to improve my knowledge of D’em Bums still today. In doing so, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to tapes and watch old television broadcasts featuring Barber during his days describing the action at Ebbetts Field. This younger Barber was much better than the older Yankee version I remember listening to on my big brother’s GE transistor radio as a boy. He did those Dodger games with more emotion and made much more liberal and entertaining use of the glorious homespun lexicon of his native Mississippi. From “can of corn” to “walkin in the tall cotton,” the Ol’ Redhead invented a whole new way of describing the action taking place on a Major League baseball field that endeared him to hundreds of thousands of Dodger fans and got him into the Hall of Fame.
Barber’s most famous moment in the Yankee booth took place sadly the day that cost him his job. On September 22, 1966, the Yankees were ending a season that would see them finish in last place and playing in front of a paid home crowd of just 413 people. Barber rightly attempted to focus his television audience’s attention on the fact that the once mighty Bronx Bombers had fallen on such hard times that nobody was willing to pay to see them play. He instructed his cameramen to focus on the thousands upon thousands of empty seats that existed in the House that Ruth Built that afternoon but was overruled by one of the Yankee suits upstairs. He was fired by new club president Mike Burke just a week later.
Barber died in 1992 at the age of 84. This former Yankee reliever , this one-time replacement for A-Rod as Yankee third baseman and this great former Yankee first baseman were each also born on February 17th.
Over the five decades I’ve been a Yankee fan, there have been a lot of back-up catchers come and go on the Yankee roster. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant held that position for New York back during the strike shortened season of 1981. But Barry Foote wasn’t always a back-up. In fact, when he came up to the big leagues in 1974, he was good enough to beat out future Hall-of-Famer, Gary Carter for Montreal’s starting catcher’s position. That season he hit 11 home runs, drove in 60, averaged .262 plus displayed a strong arm and great defensive ability behind home plate. He was named to the Topp’s All-Rookie team. The following year, however, Foote pretty much stopped hitting and his putrid .194 batting average in 1975, opened the door for Carter to begin his legendary career as one of the best backstops of his era.
Foote remained with Montreal as “The Kid’s” backup until 1977, when he was dealt to the Phillies. He got one more chance at a starting job in 1979, after Philadelphia traded him to the Cubs. He put together a strong debut season in Chicago, hitting a career high 16 home runs and averaging a respectable .256. Then in ’80, he lost his starting job to Tim Blackwell. The following April, the Yankees traded for Barry.
Rick Cerone had become New York’s starting catcher in 1980 and the veteran, Johnny Oates had been his backup that first year. The Yankees had signed Oates to another one-year contract just three weeks before they traded for Foote but it was Barry who became Cerone’s primary backup in that whacky strike-shortened 1981 split season. Foote hit just .208 his first year in pinstripes, appearing in 40 games and producing six home runs. He also got the opportunity to appear in his one and only World Series that fall against the Dodgers. He failed to get a hit in his only at-bat. He remained with the Yankees in 1982 and retired as a player after that season. The Yankees then hired Foote to manage in their Minor League system.
He shares his February 16th birthday with this former Yankee pitcher.
Here’s a list of the New York’s starting catchers with their primary back-ups since I started following the Yankees in 1960
|MON (5 yrs)||369||1309||1212||105||283||54||9||27||126||4||73||164||.233||.277||.360||.637|
|CHC (3 yrs)||204||711||653||63||157||39||1||22||85||6||50||74||.240||.298||.404||.702|
|PHI (2 yrs)||57||93||89||7||16||1||0||2||7||0||4||17||.180||.215||.258||.473|
|NYY (2 yrs)||57||187||173||16||33||9||0||6||12||0||9||32||.191||.230||.347||.576|
The deal that made Larry Milbourne a Yankee for the first time became part of Yankee trivia history. In November of 1980, the Seattle Mariners traded Milbourne and a player to be named later to New York for catcher Brad Gulden. The following May, the Mariners completed the trade by sending Gulden back to the Yankees as the “player to be named later” part of the trade. This made Gulden the only player in franchise history ever to be traded for himself.
Milbourne would go on to have his best big league season during his 1981 Yankee debut. He played sparingly but well as a pinch-hitter and back-up infielder during the first half of that season, which was split in two by a players’ strike. In the second half, he took over as New York’s starting shortstop after Bucky Dent tore a ligament in his hand at the end of August. The League’s embarrassingly bad decision to award team’s with the best pre-strike records a postseason spot gave the Yankee players little motivation to give a damn during the second half, but Milbourne impressed everyone with his grit and hustle as he filled in for Dent.
He then hit a combined .363 in New York’s ALDS and ALCS victories that postseason and though his bat cooled off a bit against the Dodgers in the Series, Yankee fans like me were very grateful for his better-than-expected performance. Milbourne also loved playing for New York and told reporters he was so happy wearing the pinstripes, he’d prefer staying with the Yanks and backing up Dent and Willie Randolph to starting for any other team. But after getting off to a horrible start in 1982, he was traded to the Twins in May of that year in the deal that brought Butch Wynegar to New York. The Yanks brought him back to New York the following year but traded him back to the Mariners after he hit just .200 in 31 games. His final big league season was 1984.
Nicknamed “the Devil,” Milbourne was born on Valentine’s Day in 1951 in Port Norris, NJ. He shares a birthday with this Hall-of-Fame Yankee announcer, this former Yankee relief pitcher and this one-time Yankee pitching prospect.
|SEA (5 yrs)||487||1420||1301||148||329||40||13||7||115||20||65||75||.253||.287||.320||.607|
|NYY (3 yrs)||106||281||260||31||69||12||2||1||14||3||15||28||.265||.309||.338||.648|
|HOU (3 yrs)||244||472||432||70||106||7||3||1||25||13||30||38||.245||.297||.282||.579|
|MIN (1 yr)||29||106||98||9||23||1||1||0||1||1||7||8||.235||.283||.265||.548|
|PHI (1 yr)||41||73||66||3||16||0||1||0||4||2||4||7||.242||.282||.273||.554|
|CLE (1 yr)||82||319||291||29||80||11||4||2||25||2||12||20||.275||.301||.361||.662|
As the 1953 season approached, New York’s veteran shortstop, Phil Rizzuto was not enjoying his offseason. Two years removed from his MVP year of 1950, Scooter was getting on in years and slumping at the plate. Yankee GM George Weiss had sent Rizzuto a contract for the ’53 season that included a significant pay cut and to make matters worse, the future Hall of Famer had spent time in the hospital that winter, being treated for some sort of stomach disorder.
Observing all this from his home in California, Yankee skipper Casey Stengel was making plans just in case he did not have the services of Rizzuto on Opening Day of that ’53 season. The Ol Perfessor had two young Yankee shortstop prospects attend his baseball school in Glendale that winter. The first was Andy Carey, who was considered number one in line to succeed Scooter. The second was a University of Southern California graduate by the name of Jim Brideweser.
Brideweser had put himself into contention for the job with a solid 1951 season with the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League. Then in 1952, he saw significant action with the parent club as Rizzuto’s backup. When Carey showed up at the Yanks 1953 spring training camp with a sore arm, Stengel told the Yankee press he was going to start Bridweser at short and give him a “thorough trial” that spring.
Casey was true to his word and as late as March 22nd of that year, he was still telling anyone who’d listen that he was thrilled with Brideweser’s effort that spring. As the situation played out however, Rizzuto was finally signed and got healthy enough to play 134 games that season and put together a fine bounce-back performance. Carey was switched over to third, where he’d play the rest of his career. Brideweser started the year on the Opening Day roster but spent most of that ’53 season in Syracuse playing for the Yanks Triple A team there. New York GM George Weiss purchased switch-hitting utility infielder Willy Miranda from the Browns that June and he became Rizzuto’s primary backup.
The following May, Brideweser was traded to the Orioles. He would get big league at bats with Baltimore, the White Sox and the Tigers before retiring as a player in 1957 and becoming a high school math teacher and baseball coach.
|NYY (3 yrs)||51||53||49||16||16||0||1||0||5||0||4||6||.327||.377||.367||.745|
|BAL (2 yrs)||164||392||346||34||92||14||3||1||30||3||36||43||.266||.336||.332||.668|
|CHW (2 yrs)||44||75||69||6||14||4||2||0||5||0||3||10||.203||.247||.319||.565|
|DET (1 yr)||70||180||156||23||34||4||0||0||10||3||20||19||.218||.307||.244||.550|
Lenny Randle was a superb athlete, an intelligent human being and a good big league ballplayer who unfortunately, is perhaps now best known for punching out his manager and trying to blow a bunted ball foul. The skipper he decked was Frank Luchessi, during the Texas Rangers’ 1977 spring training season. Randle had been a Washington Senator first round draft pick (10th selection overall) in 1970. Before that, he had starred in both baseball and football at Arizona State.
He made his big league debut for the last Washington Senator team in history before that franchise relocated to Texas in 1972. Three years later, Randle was Billy Martin’s starting third baseman on a 1974 Ranger team that surprised everyone by finishing second in the AL West Division race. Randle hit .302 that year and led the team with 26 stolen bases as he thrived under Martin’s aggressive style of play. But when the team struggled to win the following year and Ranger ownership grew tired of Martin’s volcanic temper, he was replaced by Luchessi 95 games into the season.
Randle, who was by then starting at second for Texas, had a terrible offensive season in 1976, averaging just .224. The following spring, Luchessi decided to replace Lenny as the team’s starting second baseman with Bump Wills. Just before Opening Day, Randle approached Luchessi telling him he wanted to talk and in the ensuing conversation, the skipper evidently called the player a “punk.” An enraged Randle decked Luchessi with a three punch combination, breaking his jaw in the process. The player was immediately suspended and one month later, was on his way to New York, where he would become one of the best players on a very bad 1977 Mets’ ball club. Once again, Randle followed up a .300 season with a horrible offensive year in ’78 and the Mets released him.
The Yankees got him on August 3, 1979, one day after Thurman Munson lost his life in a tragic plane crash. Though he was being reunited with Billy Martin, the spirit of that ’79 Yankee team had been destroyed with Munson’s plane and Randle’s addition proved insignificant as New York went through the motions of completing what would be a lost season. He played in just 20 games during the last two months of the season, hitting just .179. The Yanks released him after the season and he would then play for the Cubs and Mariners before becoming the first Major League ballplayer to play professional baseball in Italy, in 1983.
|TEX (6 yrs)||608||2392||2153||256||545||77||18||11||192||77||169||295||.253||.308||.321||.629|
|NYM (2 yrs)||268||1093||950||131||258||38||15||7||62||47||129||127||.272||.358||.365||.724|
|SEA (2 yrs)||112||351||319||32||71||11||1||4||26||13||21||26||.223||.270||.301||.571|
|CHC (1 yr)||130||549||489||67||135||19||6||5||39||19||50||55||.276||.343||.370||.713|
|NYY (1 yr)||20||42||39||2||7||0||0||0||3||0||3||2||.179||.238||.179||.418|