Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

February 6 – Happy Birthday Bob Wickman

WickmanI was a fan of Bob Wickman, even if I couldn’t remember his name. Both my sons were avid Yankee rooters growing up and we used to spend many a summer evening sitting in front of our family room television, watching Bronx Bomber games together during the early 1990′s. Whenever a Yankee pitcher began struggling, I’d say to my boys, “They ought to bring in Wickham.” Both Matt and Mike would scream in unison, “Its Wick-MAN Dad, not Wick-HAM!”

This right-handed native of Green Bay, WI was originally a second round draft choice of the Chicago White Sox in 1990. Two years later, the Yankees acquired him, Melido Perez and another minor league pitcher named Domingo Jean in exchange for second baseman, Steve Sax. New York GM Gene Michael was desperate for pitching at the time and he was hoping Perez would become a solid long-time member of the Yankees’ starting rotation. But “the Stick” also liked Wickman a lot as a prospect and was thinking he’d be ready to contribute some wins at the Major League level two years down the road. It happened a lot faster than that.

One guy who didn’t like the deal was Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. He lambasted his GM publicly for getting too little in return for Sax, who had been New York’s only .300 hitter the season before. But it was Michael  who was proven right, when Perez developed into the Yankees best starter during that 1992 season while Sax’s batting average was plunging to .234 in the Windy City. Making the trade an even bigger-time win for the Bronx Bombers was Wickman’s surprisingly good 6-1 record after being called up that August and inserted into manager Buck Showalter’s starting rotation.

Wickman had lost part of the index finger of his pitching hand in a childhood farming accident. He credited that partially missing digit as the reason his sinker ball sank so dramatically. He really had that pitch working during his second year in pinstripes, as he went 14-4 over 41 games, including 19 starts. Showalter than converted him into a full-time reliever and he became a workhorse for New York in that role over the next three seasons, appearing in 174 games during that span.

There were times during his years with the Yankees that he struggled with his control and had stretches during which he surrendered a rash of home-runs but for the most part Wickman pitched effectively in the pinstripes. That’s why I can clearly remember being disappointed in late August of 1996, when I first heard the news that the Yanks had traded him and outfielder Gerald Williams to the Brewers for utility man Pat Listach and reliever Graeme Lloyd. Wickman had been a big reason why the Yankees found themselves heading for the AL East crown that season and he was well-liked by his New York teammates. The deal prevented him from pitching in the 1996 World Series but he did receive a World Series ring for his contribution.

By 1998, he had worked himself into the closer’s role with the Brewers. He went on to accumulate over 250 saves during the final nine seasons of his pitching career, including a league-leading 45 with the Indians in 2005.

Wickman shares his birthday with this Yankee God and this former Yankee back-up first baseman.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1992 NYY 6 1 .857 4.11 8 8 0 0 0 0 50.1 51 25 23 2 20 21 1.411
1993 NYY 14 4 .778 4.63 41 19 9 1 1 4 140.0 156 82 72 13 69 70 1.607
1994 NYY 5 4 .556 3.09 53 0 19 0 0 6 70.0 54 26 24 3 27 56 1.157
1995 NYY 2 4 .333 4.05 63 1 14 0 0 1 80.0 77 38 36 6 33 51 1.375
1996 NYY 4 1 .800 4.67 58 0 14 0 0 0 79.0 94 41 41 7 34 61 1.620
15 Yrs 63 61 .508 3.57 835 28 511 1 1 267 1059.0 1051 469 420 80 432 785 1.400
CLE (6 yrs) 8 16 .333 3.23 255 0 215 0 0 139 248.1 249 98 89 21 78 197 1.317
NYY (5 yrs) 31 14 .689 4.21 223 28 56 1 1 11 419.1 432 212 196 31 183 259 1.467
MIL (5 yrs) 21 25 .457 3.20 272 0 174 0 0 79 315.0 292 128 112 23 148 267 1.397
ATL (2 yrs) 3 5 .375 2.84 77 0 65 0 0 38 69.2 72 29 22 5 22 60 1.349
ARI (1 yr) 0 1 .000 1.35 8 0 1 0 0 0 6.2 6 2 1 0 1 2 1.050
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/18/2014.

February 2 – Happy Birthday Michael Kay

KayI’ve listened to a lot of play-by-play announcers do baseball games, especially Yankee baseball games and I have to admit that none of them have done it better than Michael Kay is doing it right now. He’s knowledgeable, always well prepared, he’s got a sharp sense of humor and he’s got a great broadcasting voice to boot.

I thought Kay’s call of Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit was one of the best ever made. His ability to adjust to whoever YES throws in the booth with him is very impressive. Doesn’t matter if Paul O’Neill is insulting him, or David Cone is droning on and on about some pitcher’s delivery, Kay not only complements his partners in the booth, his ability to ask them extremely pertinent questions that draw on their own expertise and experience is a real plus for fans watching the game.

A native of the Bronx, Kay was a sports reporter for both the New York Post and Daily News before he began doing Yankee games on the radio for WABC in 1992.  A gifted interviewer, if you haven’t seen his Center Stage interview program on the YES network make sure you check it out. He’s already won numerous Emmys for his television work and his daily ESPN Radio show is also very popular.

Like most Yankee fans, I sometimes get irked by some of the things Mr Kay has said into a microphone. I thought the biggest goof of his career was predicting the Texas Rangers were toast after the Yankees came back from a five run deficit to beat them in Game 1 of the 2010 ALCS. Despite these occasional misspeak’s, Kay has been an outstanding asset to Yankee broadcasting and I predict that some day he will end up in the broadcaster’s wing of Cooperstown.

Kay was born on this date in 1961. He shares a birthday with this one-time Yankee utility outfielder, this former Yankee war-time catcher and this member of the Football Hall of Fame.

February 1 – Happy Birthday Erick Almonte

almonteI still remember the play. Opening Day 2003, Yanks are playing the Jays in Toronto and leading 1-0 when Derek Jeter walked with one out in the third inning. The next Yankee hitter, Jason Giambi hit a dribbler between the mound and third base. Jay third baseman Erik Hinske, shortstop Chris Woodward and pitcher Roy Halladay all went after the ball with Halladay reaching it first and  nailing Giambi with a good throw to first. Meanwhile, Jeter raced to second and when he saw that neither Hinske or Woodward was covering third he kept running. Ken Huckaby, the Toronto catcher also saw that third base was uncovered and he ran like hell to get there before Jeter. In the mean time, first baseman Carlos Degado threw a bullet to the third base bag, hoping Huckaby would get there before both the ball and Jeter did. Jeter got their first and was safe on the play but a millisecond later, Huckaby arrived and when he tried to catch the ball and stop at the same time, he barreled into the Yankee shortstop, separating his shoulder in the process. Jeter went on the DL for the first time in his career and everyone wondered, what will the Yankees do without their shortstop.

The immediate options to take his place were Enrique Wilson, who was the utility infielder on that year’s Yankee roster or Erick Almonte, who was considered the organization’s top minor league shortstop at that time. The Dominican native had put together some decent offensive seasons in the Yankee farm system up to that point but his bat had actually been regressing more recently. In fact, the year before Jeter’s injury occurred, New York had demoted Almonte from triple A to double A because of his inability to hit.

That’s why everyone was pleasantly surprised when the Yanks decided to go with Almonte and he got off to a torrid start at the plate when he was called up to the Bronx. In his first game he homered, went 2-for-5 and drove in three runs. He hit safely in six of his first seven games and was averaging .333 after his first ten days as the Yankee shortstop. He would tail off a bit but was still hitting .272 when Jeter returned to the lineup in early May and the Yankees were in first place with a three game lead and a 26-10 record. While Yankee fans had missed the Captain, the truth is the Yankee team hadn’t. Erick Almonte had stepped up big time in Jeter’s absence. He would never get another chance to do so.

He was sent back down to Columbus for most of the rest of that 2003 season. He would later sign as a free agent with the Rockies and then play ball in Japan for a few years. He did not get back to the big leagues until 2011, when he made the Milwaukee Brewer roster as a spare outfielder. Unfortunately, he was beaned pretty severely and didn’t get a chance to play much. As of 2013, he was still playing minor league baseball. He turns 36-years-old today.

He shares his birthday with this former Yankee relieverthis Gold-Glove-winning center fielderthis one-time Yankee prospect and the player the Yanks got when they traded Tom Tresh.

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2001 23 NYY AL 8 4 4 0 2 1 0 0 0 2 0 1 .500 .500 .750 1.250
2003 25 NYY AL 31 111 100 17 26 6 0 1 11 1 8 24 .260 .321 .350 .671
3 Yrs 55 144 133 18 31 7 0 2 14 3 8 29 .233 .282 .331 .613
NYY (2 yrs) 39 115 104 17 28 7 0 1 11 3 8 25 .269 .327 .365 .693
MIL (1 yr) 16 29 29 1 3 0 0 1 3 0 0 4 .103 .103 .207 .310
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/1/2014.

January 31 – Happy Birthday George Burns

28BurnsToday is the birthday of the player who got the first base hit in the original Yankee Stadium. His name was George Burns and he spent a large part of his life answering the question, “Which George Burns are you?” Back during the WWI era of MLB history there were two pretty good players using the same name as well as an up and coming Vaudeville performer who would later marry Gracie Allen and star with her in a popular TV show in the 1950′s.

The National League George Burns played most of his career with the Giants as an outfielder and averaged a very impressive .287 during his 15-years in the Senior Circuit. Then there was the American League George Burns, who averaged an even more robust .307 during his 16-year career in the Junior Circuit, which included brief appearances in a Yankee uniform at the very end of his playing career, during both the 1928 and ’29 seasons.

The NL George Burns was a very good defensive outfielder. The AL George Burns was a horrible defensive player but because he hit from the left side and handled a bat real well, he never had a problem finding a team that wanted him. To help keep the two straight, sportswriters back in the day would refer to the AL George Burns by his nickname, “Tioga George.” He had lived in Tioga, Pennsylvania for quite a while.

He put together some great seasons for the A’s, the Red Sox and the Indians, actually winning the AL MVP Award with Cleveland in 1925, when he set career highs in batting average (.356) and RBIs (112) while leading the league in both base hits (216) and doubles (64). On April 18, 1923, his single off of New York’s Bob Shawkey was the first official regular season hit recorded in the House that Ruth built. A few pitches later, Burns became the first runner ever thrown out attempting to steal a base in the new ballpark.

In September of 1928, Burns had been put on waivers by the Tribe and Miller Huggins told Yankee exec Ed Barrow to pick him up. The Yankee skipper wanted Burns on his bench for those times that called for a skilled left handed hitter. Burns, however, wasn’t sure he wanted to come to the Bronx and he refused to report until he had a chance to talk to Huggins to make sure it was not just an end-of-the-year and then you’re gone sort of deal. When Huggins assured him there’d be a spot for him on the team in 1929 as well, Burns made the move put on the pinstripes.

He was then used exclusively as a pinch-hitter and though he did start the ’29 season on the Yankee roster as Huggins had promised, he was sold back to the A’s that June. That suited Burns just fine because by then he made his home in Philly. He retired following that season and became a coach and manager in the Pacific Coast League following his playing career.

Burns shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee prospectthis former Yankee reliever and this one-time Yankee shortstop.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1928 NYY 4 4 4 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000
1929 NYY 9 9 9 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 .000 .000 .000 .000
16 Yrs 1866 7240 6573 901 2018 444 72 72 952 154 363 433 .307 .354 .429 .783
CLE (7 yrs) 757 2882 2611 402 853 230 20 22 432 62 157 144 .327 .375 .455 .830
PHA (4 yrs) 307 1175 1084 130 344 59 18 16 145 28 50 53 .317 .359 .449 .809
DET (4 yrs) 496 1952 1756 206 467 76 24 15 220 47 91 170 .266 .313 .362 .675
BOS (2 yrs) 293 1218 1109 162 352 79 10 19 155 17 65 61 .317 .364 .458 .822
NYY (2 yrs) 13 13 13 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 .154 .154 .154 .308
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/1/2014.

January 29 – Happy Birthday John Habyan

habyanBy the time John Habyan got to the Yankees he had learned the hard way that it was best to keep his emotions in check. The Bay Shore, New York native was drafted by the Orioles in the third round of the 1982 draft right out of St. John the Baptist High School. He then impressed everyone during his quick climb up the O’s farm system and by 1985, this right-hander was getting shots with the parent club. He later admitted that he was overwhelmed by the experience and and had difficulty staying calm and composed on the mound. He got his best shot with Baltimore in 1987, appearing in 27 games, including 13 starts for a very bad Orioles’ ball club. He went just 6-7 with an ERA near five and then he separated his shoulder in a winter sledding mishap.

So by the time Baltimore gave up on Habyan and he was traded to the Yankee organization in 1989, he had learned his lesson. No more being in awe of big league hitters and no more letting his emotions effect his pitching. He convinced himself he hated every hitter he faced and he learned how not to get too excited when a manager handed him a baseball. He also worked hard to improve his slider.

These were great adjustments on his part. He got his ticket to the Bronx in 1991 after pitching well in Columbus the season before. His first year in New York was Stump Merrill’s last and his 4-2 record and 2.30 ERA in 66 appearances was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal Yankee season. He and closer Steve Farr combined to give New York a great chance to win whenever the team’s substandard offense was able to give them a lead to protect in the late innings.

Habyan then started out the 1992 season just as hot and new Yankee manager Buck Showalter told every reporter who would listen that this guy was the best setup man in the game. But it didn’t last. Habyan started getting hammered after the 1992 All Star break as hitters no longer had trouble squaring up on his slider.

New York gave him a chance to recover the magic in 1993 but when it didn’t happen, he was traded in a three-team deal that put reliever Paul Assenmacher in pinstripes. After pitching for four different teams in the next three seasons, Habyan’s big league career ended in 1996. He eventually became the head baseball coach at his old high school on Long Island.

He shares his birthday with this former Yankee second baseman and this former Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1990 NYY 0 0 2.08 6 0 1 0 0 0 8.2 10 2 2 0 2 4 1.385
1991 NYY 4 2 .667 2.30 66 0 16 0 0 2 90.0 73 28 23 2 20 70 1.033
1992 NYY 5 6 .455 3.84 56 0 20 0 0 7 72.2 84 32 31 6 21 44 1.445
1993 TOT 2 1 .667 4.15 48 0 23 0 0 1 56.1 59 27 26 6 20 39 1.402
1993 NYY 2 1 .667 4.04 36 0 21 0 0 1 42.1 45 20 19 5 16 29 1.441
11 Yrs 26 24 .520 3.85 348 18 98 0 0 12 532.1 537 254 228 47 186 372 1.358
NYY (4 yrs) 11 9 .550 3.16 164 0 58 0 0 10 213.2 212 82 75 13 59 147 1.268
BAL (4 yrs) 9 10 .474 4.61 42 18 7 0 0 1 160.0 159 95 82 25 62 84 1.381
STL (2 yrs) 4 2 .667 3.07 83 0 19 0 0 1 88.0 82 35 30 2 35 81 1.330
KCR (1 yr) 0 0 4.50 12 0 2 0 0 0 14.0 14 7 7 1 4 10 1.286
COL (1 yr) 1 1 .500 7.13 19 0 5 0 0 0 24.0 34 19 19 4 14 25 2.000
CAL (1 yr) 1 2 .333 4.13 28 0 7 0 0 0 32.2 36 16 15 2 12 25 1.469
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/29/2014.

January 28 – Happy Birthday Lyle Overbay

overbayttAlong with thousands of Yankee fans, I became a member of the “Lyle Overbay Fan Club” in 2013.  When Brian Cashman first signed this native of Centralia, Washington to a minor league contract after the Red Sox cut him during the final week of the 2013 spring training season, I admit I hardly noticed. I knew he had a good glove, but I thought his offensive skills had abandoned him. Though he had a nice stretch of decent years at the plate with both Milwaukee and Toronto earlier in his career, I felt there was no way he’d be able to effectively replace the run production of the now-injured Mark Teixeira and when the 2013 season began, both Cashman and Yankee skipper Joe Girardi fully agreed with me.

The plan was to give Overbay a shot at becoming the short-term answer at first base during the six weeks doctors figured Teixeira would need to recover from his wrist injury. When that six weeks turned into season-ending surgery for the Yankee slugger, Overbay had played well enough in the field and hit just good enough at the plate to permit New York’s front office to continue to delay a bigger more expensive solution to Teixeira’s absence.

The days turned into weeks, the weeks into months and before we knew it, September came around and Overbay was still starting at first for New York. Along the way, he delivered in enough clutch at bats to lead the Yankees in game-winning hits. He was never really spectacular just pretty much always steady and he stayed healthy. If a couple of Cashman’s other “affordable” preseason personnel moves like Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells or Kevin Youklis had followed suit, the Yankees would have made postseason play.

Just this past week, Overbay signed a minor league deal to play for the Brewers in 2014. The Yankees and Yankee fans probably won’t miss him much but I certainly won’t forget his noteworthy contribution to my favorite team during the 2013 regular season. He shares his January 28th birthday with this one-time Yankee announcer and this long ago Yankee second baseman.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2013 NYY 142 486 445 43 107 24 1 14 59 2 36 111 .240 .295 .393 .688
13 Yrs 1466 5506 4844 621 1295 342 12 147 640 17 602 1048 .267 .348 .434 .782
ARI (5 yrs) 161 464 404 37 112 33 0 7 49 2 53 110 .277 .363 .411 .774
TOR (5 yrs) 723 2854 2507 337 672 180 8 83 336 9 317 516 .268 .350 .446 .796
MIL (2 yrs) 317 1290 1116 163 322 87 2 35 159 3 159 226 .289 .376 .464 .840
PIT (1 yr) 103 391 352 40 80 17 1 8 37 1 36 77 .227 .300 .349 .649
ATL (1 yr) 20 21 20 1 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 8 .100 .143 .150 .293
NYY (1 yr) 142 486 445 43 107 24 1 14 59 2 36 111 .240 .295 .393 .688
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/28/2014.

January 27 – Happy Birthday Mike Zagurski

Mike_ZagurskiIt really was amazing that despite a rash of injuries and bad personnel moves by the team’s front office, the Yankees still had a shot at postseason play going into the second week of September. But when they dropped the first two games of their final series with the Red Sox, I knew there’d be no fall ball for my favorite team in 2013.

On the evening of Sunday, September 15th, I decided to turn on the final game of that three-game set for one reason and one reason only. Ivan Nova was scheduled to pitch and I wanted to see if he was back in his groove. Even though he had won his previous four decisions, he had pitched poorly in his last two outings, getting roughed up by the Rays and the Red Sox. With Pettitte retiring and Hughes imploding, I figured Nova was an essential member of New York’s 2014 rotation so I wanted to see if he could hold the soon-to-be World Champion Red Sox in check that night. He didn’t. When Boston knocked him out in the fifth inning the Yankees were behind 5-1.

By the time the seventh inning rolled around I was probably already snoring away and dreaming that the Yankees would not only sign Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran the following offseason, but also snare Masahiro Tanaka. Whatever the reason, I ended up missing the Yankee debut of today’s Pinstripe Biirthday Celebrant. It turned out to also be his farewell performance as a Bronx Bomber. When he took the mound in Fenway that evening, he became the 23rd different pitcher to do so for New York during the disappointing 2013 regular season.

Like Joba Chamberlain, the guy he relieved in that night’s game, Zagurski is a native of Nebraska. A 12th round draft choice of the Phillies in 2005, he had made his big league debut two years later, appearing in 25 games out of the bullpen for Philadelphia in 2007 and struggling mightily with his control. The portly southpaw then spent most of the next four seasons in the minors, eventually getting traded to the Diamondbacks. He made Arizona’s big league staff in 2012, appeared in 45 games that season and again struggled with his control.

He was released that November and picked up by Pittsburgh that December. The Yankees originally signed him in June of 2013, when the Pirates let him go. New York then released him two months later. He was with Oakland for two short weeks, got dropped and re-signed with the Yankees. Cashman picked him up again only because Boone Logan’s sore pitching elbow wasn’t responding to treatment and Joe Girardi needed a  left-arm in the pen to replace it. Unfortunately, Zagurski failed the only chance the Yankee skipper gave him to fill that void.

The first hitter he faced against Boston that night was Stephen Drew, who drilled a long fly ball out to deep right. Red Sox phee-nom Xander Bogaerts then singled sharply. Another Red Sox phee-nom, Jackie Bradley became the last hitter the Big Zag would ever face while wearing a Yankee uniform. He ended up hitting the young outfielder with a pitch. Cashman released him right after the season ended and Zagurski’s odyssey continued when he was signed the following month by the Indians.

Zagurski became the ninth member of the all-time Yankee roster with a last name that began with the letter “Z.” He shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee who won the 2003 AL Rookie of the Year Award, this long-ago Yankee pitcher and this one too.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2013 NYY 0 0 54.00 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.1 1 2 2 0 0 0 3.000
5 Yrs 1 0 1.000 7.05 89 0 23 0 0 0 75.1 85 60 59 11 46 75 1.739
PHI (3 yrs) 1 0 1.000 6.82 37 0 8 0 0 0 31.2 37 24 24 5 19 36 1.768
ARI (1 yr) 0 0 5.54 45 0 13 0 0 0 37.1 37 24 23 5 19 34 1.500
PIT (1 yr) 0 0 15.00 6 0 2 0 0 0 6.0 10 10 10 1 8 5 3.000
NYY (1 yr) 0 0 54.00 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.1 1 2 2 0 0 0 3.000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/28/2014.

January 25 – Happy Birthday Roy Sherid

sheridWhen Wilcy Moore’s sore right arm wasn’t feeling better by the end of the team’s 1929 spring training camp, Miller Huggins was asked who he would use in place of his ace relief pitcher. Moore had just helped the Yankees win two consecutive World Championships and was considered to be the best finisher in the game back then.The Yankee manager didn’t hesitate with his response. He told the reporters he’d use Yankee rookie Roy Sherid and then explained why; “Sherid is fast and he knows how to keep his fastball low, right down where they can’t get at it. I like the way he uses his head in working on batters, particularly his judgement of when to mix his slow ball with his speed. He looks like the right man to send into those late innings when things are tight and important.”

Those were certainly words of high praise, especially since they were coming from the mouth of the Yankee’s legendary manager. At the time, Sherid was just 22 years old and had pitched two seasons of minor league ball for the Yankees Newark farm club. He was a tall, well-built right hander who hailed from Norristown, PA.

As it turned out, Moore’s sore arm, Sherid’s development as his replacement, and all other matters of Yankee baseball would turn out to be the least of Huggins problems during that 1929 season. The diminutive skipper was felled by an eye infection and bad case of the flu that September and during a Yankee road trip, he was admitted to a St Louis hospital for treatment. Shockingly, he died a few days later at the age of 50. The A’s ended up steam-rolling the Yankees in the AL Pennant race that season, Sherid ended up going 6-6 that first year and Moore ended up getting sent back to the minors.

In 1930, new Yankee skipper Bob Shawkey used Sherid plenty as both a starter and reliever. He finished that year with a 12-13 record and an unimpressive ERA. The following season, Joe McCarthy began his Hall of Fame run as Yankee manager and the change in field bosses at first seemed to be just what Sherid needed. He won five of his first six decisions pitching for “Marse Joe” plus earned two saves. Unfortunately the magic didn’t last. During the next month and a half, Sherid got shelled and dropped four straight decisions. He spent the second half of the season pitching for Montreal in the International League and never again threw another pitch in the  big leagues. He passed away in 1982 at the age of 75.

Sherid shares his birthday with this long-ago Yankee starting catcherthis one-time Yankee reliever and this WWII era Yankee pitcher.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1929 NYY 6 6 .500 3.61 33 15 14 9 0 1 154.2 165 81 62 6 55 51 1.422
1930 NYY 12 13 .480 5.23 37 21 11 8 0 4 184.0 214 122 107 13 87 59 1.636
1931 NYY 5 5 .500 5.69 17 8 4 3 0 2 74.1 94 52 47 4 24 39 1.587
3 Yrs 23 24 .489 4.71 87 44 29 20 0 7 413.0 473 255 216 23 166 149 1.547
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/25/2014.

January 24 – Happy Birthday Earle Gardner

earle_gardnerThough they were also referred to as the Americans, their Highlanders’ nickname fit them well because they played their home games in a place called Hilltop Park, which was located on one of the highest points on Manhattan island. The team landed there in 1903 when Ban Johnson’s upstart American League relocated its Baltimore Oriole franchise to the Big Apple. It was a forced move that caused tons of bad blood and hostility. As a result, just about the entire Orioles roster either refused to make the move or were not offered the opportunity to do so. This forced the Highlanders to throw a team together in a helter skelter fashion, that included boozers, brawlers, gamblers and a few talented ball players thrown in for good measure. Co-owned by one of New York City’s biggest gambling barons and a retired corrupt cop, the club played as erratically as the hit-or-miss evolution of the team’s roster suggested it would. They finished 4th, 2nd, 6th, 2nd, 5th, last, 5th, 2nd, 6th and last during their first decade in their new home. They battled helplessly for the attention of city’s baseball fans and baseball press in those early years with John McGraw’s mighty Giants. Things really didn’t get better for the team and its fans until the franchise was purchased by a couple of very wealthy colonels named Rupert and Huston in 1915.

Earle Gardner joined the team in 1908. He was a five foot eleven inch, 160 pound second baseman from Sparta, IL, who during three previous seasons in the minors had developed a reputation with his fancy glove work. He was also a decent hitter, averaging right around .300 in three different classes of farm league ball. It took him two-and-a-half seasons to claim the starting second-baseman’s job and he was only able to hold onto it for just a year-and-a-half. He hit .263 in 1911, his only full season as a starter and then he gave way to Hack Simmons in 1912.

Just 28 years-old at the time he lost his starting position, Gardner returned to minor league ball and never again played in a big league game. He ended up with a .263 lifetime average during his five seasons in New York. He continued playing in the minors until 1918. He died in 1943 at the age of 59.

Gardner shares his birthday with this former Yankee relief pitcher and this one too.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
1908 NYY 20 80 75 7 16 2 0 0 4 0 1 6 .213 .234 .240 .474 54
1909 NYY 22 89 85 12 28 4 0 0 15 4 3 8 .329 .352 .376 .729 129
1910 NYY 86 303 271 36 66 4 2 1 24 9 21 22 .244 .303 .284 .587 79
1911 NYY 102 395 357 36 94 13 2 0 39 14 20 27 .263 .312 .311 .622 70
1912 NYY 43 170 160 14 45 3 1 0 26 11 5 8 .281 .303 .313 .616 72
5 Yrs 273 1037 948 105 249 26 5 1 108 38 50 71 .263 .305 .304 .609 76
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/24/2014.

January 23 – Happy Birthday Mark Wohlers

wohlersIf you weren’t a Braves’ fan back in the early-to-mid 1990′s, you are probably quick to give much of Atlanta’s phenomenal success during that era to the stellar starting pitching trio of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. If you were instead a devoted tomahawking follower of the team back then, you know how huge a role today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant played in the success of that franchise.

Only one word is needed to describe Mark Wohlers’ performance during Atlanta’s championship season of 1995, “invincible.” After spending his first four big league seasons evolving into one of the best late-inning relievers in baseball, the Braves made the decision to turn this native of Holyoke, Massachusetts with his 100 mile per hour fastball and a nasty split finger, into their closer. All he did was go 7-3 with 25 saves in the regular season and put together five more saves during the Braves victorious 1995 postseason run to the title.

He then saved 39 more games during the 1996 regular season and five more in that year’s NLDS and NLCS. As he and his teammates prepared to defend their world championship against the Yankees, I remember thinking it was going to be very difficult for my favorite team to emerge victorious against Atlanta, largely because Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz were so good at giving the Brave’s bullpen the lead and Wohlers’ was the best in the business at keeping it. Then Mr. Wohlers met Mr. Leyritz. The encounter took place in the eighth inning of Game 4, with the Braves leading 6-3. At the time, Atlanta had a two-games to one edge over New York and if they had been able to hold that Game 4 lead, I have no doubt they would have repeated as champions.

Instead, Leyritz hit his famous game-tying homer and it proved to be a turning point in three significant ways. The Yankees not only won that Series, they have gone on to appear in six more since ’96 and win four more of them. The Braves on the other hand have not made it back to the Series since and worst of all, Wohlers was really never again the same dominating pitcher he had been right up until the moment Leyritz drove that ball over the the left field wall of Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium.

The big right-hander was able to save 33 games for the Braves in 1997 but he suddenly had trouble throwing that blazing fastball over the plate. Since he couldn’t get ahead with his heater anymore, opposing hitters were able to simply lay off Wohlers’ split-finger. As his walks climbed so did his ERA. He lost the closer spot the following season and began throwing so much in an effort to figure out what was wrong, he blew out his elbow, requiring surgery. By 1999 he was pitching for Cincinnati.

In July of 2001, the Reds traded him to the Yankees for some pitcher who never made it to the big leagues. Wohlers was excited about coming to New York and told the Yankee press he had fully recovered from his surgery and was ready to get hitters out again. Joe Torre pitched him 31 times during the second half of that ’01 season and though his arm held up OK, he was still struggling with his control. The Yanks let him sign a 2-year deal with the Indians after the season ended.

Wohlers shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee first baseman and this former Yankee first-round draft pick.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2001 NYY 1 0 1.000 4.54 31 0 14 0 0 0 35.2 33 20 18 3 18 33 1.430
12 Yrs 39 29 .574 3.97 533 0 293 0 0 119 553.1 490 273 244 37 272 557 1.377
ATL (9 yrs) 31 22 .585 3.73 388 0 233 0 0 112 386.1 331 178 160 20 204 437 1.385
CIN (2 yrs) 4 3 .571 4.20 50 0 18 0 0 0 60.0 55 34 28 8 24 41 1.317
CLE (1 yr) 3 4 .429 4.79 64 0 28 0 0 7 71.1 71 41 38 6 26 46 1.360
NYY (1 yr) 1 0 1.000 4.54 31 0 14 0 0 0 35.2 33 20 18 3 18 33 1.430
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/23/2014.