Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

April 24 – Happy Birthday Carlos Beltran

beltranI became an admirer of Carlos Beltran during the 2004 postseason, when he almost single-handedly put the Houston Astros in their first World Series. Against Atlanta in that year’s ALDS he hit .455 with 4 home runs and nine RBIs in the five game series and then followed that up with 4 more dingers and a .417 average in Houston’s seven-game loss to St. Louis in the 2004 ALCS.

Beltran originally came up with the Royals and won the 1999 AL Rookie of the Year award. He’s driven in over 100 runs eight different times in his career and made eight All Star teams. He also began the 2014 season with 358 career home runs.

Right after his stellar performance in the 2004 postseason, this native of Manati, Puerto Rico became a free agent and I was praying the Yanks would grab him. He even told his agent he wanted to wear the pinstripes. He did end up signing with New York but it was the Mets and not my Yankees who got him. He got off on the wrong foot with the Amazins’ when he had an off-year in 2005. He then put together three of the best seasons any Met outfielder has ever had and still was under appreciated by the team’s front office and fans. They never forgave him for making the third and final out of the 2006 ALCS, when he stared at a third strike thrown past him by the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright. When injuries cut both his 2009 and ’10 seasons short he really became persona non grata over in Queens and the Mets ended up trading him to the Giants.

Beltran became a free agent for the second time at the end of the 2011 season and the slugging switch-hitter again told his agent to try and get him to the Bronx but again it didn’t work out that way. He ended up signing with the Cardinals instead and he put together two all star seasons for St. Louis.

The third time proved a charm. On December 19, 2013, Beltran got the best Christmas present of his life when he signed a three-year deal to probably end his playing career as a Yankee. The signing has already paid dividends for the Bronx Bombers as Beltran has driven in some key runs for New York during the opening month of the 2014 season. He turns 37 years old today and I firmly believe this guy will be one of the top three free agent signings in Yankee franchise history. He shares his April 24th birthday with this former Yankee reliever, this Yankee starting pitcher and this one-time Yankee third baseman.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2014 NYY 19 80 75 10 23 7 0 5 13 0 4 18 .307 .338 .600 .938
17 Yrs 2083 9029 7943 1356 2251 453 77 363 1340 308 938 1445 .283 .358 .497 .855
KCR (7 yrs) 795 3512 3134 546 899 156 45 123 516 164 316 584 .287 .352 .483 .835
NYM (7 yrs) 839 3640 3133 551 878 208 17 149 559 100 449 545 .280 .369 .500 .869
STL (2 yrs) 296 1219 1101 162 311 56 4 56 181 15 103 214 .282 .343 .493 .836
SFG (1 yr) 44 179 167 17 54 9 4 7 18 1 11 27 .323 .369 .551 .920
NYY (1 yr) 19 80 75 10 23 7 0 5 13 0 4 18 .307 .338 .600 .938
HOU (1 yr) 90 399 333 70 86 17 7 23 53 28 55 57 .258 .368 .559 .926
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/24/2014.

April 21 – Happy Birthday Jesse Orosco

From 1983 until 1987, Jesse Orosco was one of the best relievers in all of baseball. He joined the Mets in 1979 as the player to be named later in the deal that sent the veteran Jerry Koosman to Minnesota. In the next few seasons, the southpaw would perfect a deadly slider and a backdoor curve that could at times make him unhittable, especially against left-handed batters. He went 13-7 with 17 saves and a 1.47 ERA in 1983 and followed that up with a 10-6, 31-save effort a year later. In the Mets magical 1986 season, Jesse and his right-handed closing counterpart, Roger McDowell practically guaranteed the Mets would win any game in which they led after seven innings. It was Orosco who nailed down the final outs in both the 1986 NLCS and World Series.

In 1987, Orosco had his first bad season as a Met and since 1988 would be the final year of his contract, New York decided to trade him before his free agency commenced. Thus began a fifteen year, nine team odyssey for Jesse, during which he was transitioned into one of the Game’s most effective situational left handed relief specialists. That was the role the Yankees needed filled when the Yankees acquired Orosco from the Padres at the midway point of the 2003 season. By then, he was 46 years-old, was pitching in his fourth decade, and had surpassed Dennis Eckersley as the Major League’s all-time leader in games pitched. Unfortunately, he had also lost the ability to get left-handers out.

Orosco appeared in 15 games as a Yankee, pitching a total of just 4.1 innings. He walked six batters, gave up 4 hits and compiled a horrible ERA of 10.48. On the last day of August during the 2003 season, the Yankees sent him to the Twins where he won the last of his 87 big league victories. He retired at the end of that season, his 24th in the big leagues, with 144 lifetime saves.

Orosco shares his August 21st birthday with this Hall of Fame Yankee Manager.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2003 NYY 0 0 10.38 15 0 0 0 0 0 4.1 4 6 5 0 6 4 2.308
24 Yrs 87 80 .521 3.16 *1252* 4 501 0 0 144 1295.1 1055 512 455 113 581 1179 1.263
NYM (8 yrs) 47 47 .500 2.73 372 4 246 0 0 107 595.2 480 207 181 40 240 506 1.209
BAL (5 yrs) 15 11 .577 3.35 336 0 83 0 0 11 244.1 173 95 91 26 133 241 1.252
LAD (3 yrs) 4 5 .444 3.00 146 0 36 0 0 10 96.0 82 35 32 11 49 86 1.365
CLE (3 yrs) 10 8 .556 3.11 171 0 77 0 0 5 188.1 164 75 65 20 79 170 1.290
MIL (3 yrs) 9 7 .563 3.74 156 0 46 0 0 9 134.2 112 66 56 11 56 143 1.248
MIN (1 yr) 1 1 .500 5.79 8 0 3 0 0 0 4.2 4 3 3 0 5 3 1.929
STL (1 yr) 0 0 3.86 6 0 0 0 0 0 2.1 3 3 1 1 3 4 2.571
SDP (1 yr) 1 1 .500 7.56 42 0 10 0 0 2 25.0 33 22 21 4 10 22 1.720
NYY (1 yr) 0 0 10.38 15 0 0 0 0 0 4.1 4 6 5 0 6 4 2.308
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/21/2013.

April 18 – Happy Birthday Rich Bordi

imagesIf they played under today’s big league structure with three different divisions and two wild card teams. The 1985 Yankees would have definitely made the postseason and quite possibly won a World Series. That team finished with 97 wins. In  Yankee franchise history, only the 1954 Bronx Bomber team won more regular season games (104) and failed to reach postseason play. That ’85 team had a potent offense, which included Hall of Famers Dave Winfield and Ricky Henderson plus perennial all-star, Don Mattingly, who was at the peak of his career. They finished two games behind the Blue Jays that year and if you had to lay the blame anything, it would have to be the thinness of the club’s pitching staff. Ron Guidry won 22 games that year and  46-year-old Joe Niekro somehow managed to flutter his knuckleball enough times to win 16 more. They also had closer Dave Righetti doing his thing in the bullpen. After those three however, you really did need a score card to figure out who was on the mound at any given time for New York. That is unless it was Rich Bordi doing the pitching. That’s because the mustachio’d San Francisco-born right hander was 6’7″ tall, making him an easy read for Yankee fans back then.

Pitching for that particular Yankee team, however was anything but easy as Bordi soon found out. He had originally been drafted and signed by the A’s in 1980. In fact he was the last guy ever signed by Oakland’s eccentric owner, Charley Finley, which explains why he was also rushed into his big league debut that same year. By 1984, he had landed in Chicago with the Cubs, where he put together his best season with a 5-2 record as a starter and some-time reliever. That December, the Yanks sent Ray Fontenot and Brian Dayett to the Cubs for Bordi, Henry Cotto, Ron Hassey and somebody named Porfi Altamirano.

Bordi joined a Yankee team that was supposed to have been managed the entire season by Yogi Berra. George Steinbrenner had made that promise to his skipper before the season started. After a 6-10 start, “the Boss” broke that promise by firing Yogi and replacing him with Billy Martin.

Suddenly, poor Bordi, a modestly skilled big league pitcher found himself working for two men who had become famous for making the lives of modestly skilled big league pitchers miserable. The big Californian didn’t do that badly. He became a mainstay of Martin’s bullpen, appearing in a total of 51 games that year which included three starts. He finished the season with a 6-8 record, 2 saves and a decent 3.21 ERA.

I thought we’d see him in a Yankee uniform the following year but I was wrong. He and prospect Rex Hudler were traded to the Orioles for outfielder Gary Roenicke. Then I thought I would never again see him in a Yankee uniform. I was wrong again. The Yankees brought him back to New York as a free agent in 1987. That year, Lou Piniella had taken over as Yankee skipper and Bordi finished the season with a 3-1 record but a sky high ERA and New York released him. He was out of the big leagues by the following year. He returned to California and I believe he is now a scout for the Cincinnati Reds. I bet you he’s glad he doesn’t work for Billy Martin or George Steinbrenner any more.

He shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher, this long-ago Yankee outfielder and also this now demolished shrine of Major League Baseball.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1985 NYY 6 8 .429 3.21 51 3 16 0 0 2 98.0 95 41 35 5 29 64 1.265
1987 NYY 3 1 .750 7.64 16 1 6 0 0 0 33.0 42 28 28 7 12 23 1.636
9 Yrs 20 20 .500 4.34 173 17 59 0 0 10 371.1 383 196 179 42 121 247 1.357
OAK (3 yrs) 0 1 .000 3.86 5 2 2 0 0 0 11.2 11 7 5 0 6 6 1.457
CHC (2 yrs) 5 4 .556 3.81 42 8 11 0 0 5 108.2 112 52 46 13 32 61 1.325
NYY (2 yrs) 9 9 .500 4.33 67 4 22 0 0 2 131.0 137 69 63 12 41 87 1.359
SEA (1 yr) 0 2 .000 8.31 7 2 2 0 0 0 13.0 18 12 12 4 1 10 1.462
BAL (1 yr) 6 4 .600 4.46 52 1 22 0 0 3 107.0 105 56 53 13 41 83 1.364
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/24/2014.

April 17 – Happy Birthday to the New Yankee Stadium

YankeeStadiumIINo members of the all-time Yankee family were born on this date, so even though the new Yankee Stadium officially opened on April 16, 2009 we will use today’s post to wish it a Happy Birthday.

Being a fifty plus year fan of the New York Yankees and a traditionalist when it comes to our National Pastime, I was prepared to not like the Yankees’ new home. I hated to see the original “House that Ruth Built” closed and also hated how the YES cameras kept showing shots of Baseball’s Cathedral being demolished in eerie stages during the 2009 season.

At first, I paid most of my attention to all the things I didn’t like about the “House that George Built.” The astronomical ticket cost for the first eight rows of seats surrounding the infield reminded me of the Roman Coliseum’s seating policy. When it became evident that the large chunks of these “Legends Seats” that remained unsold could not be hidden from the camera’s view during televised Yankee games, they became an embarrassment to the team’s ownership, serving as a constant reminder of the highest ticket prices in all of baseball.

I was also not a fan of the underground parking garage that permitted Yankee players and visiting team busses to enter the Stadium completely hidden from fan view. Some of my favorite memories as both a child and a parent took place while I was leaning against those blue NYPD police barricades that used to form a walking path between the old Stadium’s player parking lot and the street entrance to the Yankee clubhouse. Now, no future Yankee fans or their Dad’s would get to create those same memories.

I admit it was nice to see Jorge Posada hit the first home run in the place, but it was obvious that the new Stadium’s designers had created a homer haven when balls kept leaving that yard at a record pace. Sports journalists around the country were calling baseball’s newest venue a joke.

Before too long, however, I stopped paying attention to the things I didn’t like and started focusing on the performance of that 2009 Yankee team. They kept winning ballgames, both in their new home and on the road and before you knew it, they made it to the World Series.

My wife and I chose the second game of that Series to make our inaugural visit to the new Yankee Stadium. I have to admit that everything about the place (except the prices) impressed me. The improved surrounding neighborhood, the Great Hall, the openness of the walk and concession areas, spacious bathrooms that didn’t smell of urine, the Yankee Museum, the positioning of the seats and the great sound system that started blaring Frank Sinatra’s “New York” the instant Matt Stairs struck out swinging at Mariano’s final pitch of the game, turning the tide of that Fall Classic in the Yankees’ favor.

As my wife and I walked back to the parking lot that night I had fallen in love with the place. I also admit that if the Yanks had lost that game that night to fall behind 2-0 in that Series against Philadelphia, my feelings about the place may not have changed.

April 15 – Happy Birthday Aaron Laffey

The Yankees claimed former Seattle Mariner pitcher, Aaron Laffey off waivers in August of 2011 to get a second left-hander in their bullpen. Laffey had spent his first four big league seasons with Cleveland, where he was considered a very decent pitching prospect. He caused quite a stir in 2008 when he started the season by winning his first four decisions but he just couldn’t get over the hump. By 2010, the Tribe had relegated him to the bullpen where he has spent the balance of his career.

The Cumberland, MD native made his pinstripe debut on August 20th of that 2011 season against the Twins but hardly anybody noticed. That’s because it was in the same game that television cameras caught an angry AJ Burnett screaming something in Joe Gerardi’s direction after the Yankee manager lifted his erratic starter in the third inning with the bases full of Twins. Laffey was probably happy to not get any post game attention since he gave up five hits, two walks and two runs in his initial three-inning stint.

He got his first Yankee win in his next appearance against the Orioles, thanks to Jesus Montero’s first two big league home runs. Laffey continued to pitch well in most of his appearances for New York, winning two of three decisions and finishing the season with a 3.38 ERA. That was not good enough to make the team’s postseason roster or keep him from being released by New York. He started the 2013 season as a member of the New York Mets’ bullpen.

Laffey is just the second member of the all-time Yankee roster to celebrate his birthday on April 15th. This merry old right-handed pitcher would have turned 124 years-old today.

Year Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2011 NYY AL 2 1 .667 3.38 11 0 0 0 0 0 10.2 13 4 4 0 5 6 1.688
7 Yrs 25 29 .463 4.39 150 66 13 0 0 1 479.2 536 260 234 46 187 239 1.507
CLE (4 yrs) 18 21 .462 4.41 79 49 4 0 0 1 320.1 359 177 157 22 128 155 1.520
NYM (1 yr) 0 0 5.06 2 1 1 0 0 0 5.1 10 3 3 0 1 6 2.063
NYY (1 yr) 2 1 .667 3.38 11 0 0 0 0 0 10.2 13 4 4 0 5 6 1.688
SEA (1 yr) 1 1 .500 4.01 36 0 7 0 0 0 42.2 54 20 19 7 16 24 1.641
TOR (1 yr) 4 6 .400 4.56 22 16 1 0 0 0 100.2 100 56 51 17 37 48 1.361
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/15/2013.

April 7 – Happy Birthday John Ganzel

25787_standardLong before the ballfields of Kalamazoo, Michigan produced Derek Jeter, the first Yankee to achieve 3,000 hits in pinstripes, they also produced Johnny Ganzel, the first starting first baseman in the history of the Yankee franchise, after it was relocated from Baltimore to New York. Known as “the first family of Michigan baseball” the Ganzel clan produced a bevy of players. There were five Ganzel brothers and every one of them played big league or minor league ball.

Ganzel had three prior years of experience in the National League, when he accepted Clark Griffith’s offer to play for New York’s new American League franchise in 1903. He had a strong season that year, averaging a solid .277 and finishing second on the team in RBIs with 71. He then slumped in 1904, causing Griffith to refuse the first baseman’s demand for a raise for the ’05 season. Ganzel then demanded a trade but Griffith waited until he had Hal Chase under contract before complying with his request and sending Ganzel to Detroit.

Ganzel would never get to play for Detroit. Instead he became the player manager for a minor league team in Grand Rapids before taking over the same role with the NL’s Cincinnati Reds in 1908. He shares his April 7th birthday with the first manager in Yankee franchise history,  this former Yankee pitcher and this one too.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1903 NYY 129 533 476 62 132 25 7 3 71 9 30 38 .277 .336 .378 .714
1904 NYY 130 502 465 50 121 16 10 6 48 13 24 41 .260 .309 .376 .686
7 Yrs 747 2957 2715 281 682 104 50 18 336 48 136 173 .251 .298 .346 .644
CIN (2 yrs) 257 1002 919 93 232 36 26 3 117 15 48 51 .252 .293 .358 .651
NYY (2 yrs) 259 1035 941 112 253 41 17 9 119 22 54 79 .269 .323 .377 .700
CHC (1 yr) 78 308 284 29 78 14 4 4 32 5 10 10 .275 .316 .394 .710
NYG (1 yr) 138 562 526 42 113 13 3 2 66 6 20 32 .215 .256 .262 .518
PIT (1 yr) 15 50 45 5 6 0 0 0 2 0 4 1 .133 .220 .133 .353
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2014.

March 26 – Happy Birthday Brendan Ryan

ryaLast September, the Yankee front office was about to announce that Derek Jeter’s frustrating 2013 season was over. Before they did, they acquired another big league shortstop by the name of Brendan Ryan. At the time of the announcement, I had never heard of Ryan, which was odd because he had been the starting shortstop for both the Cardinals and Mariners for two seasons each.

Unlike Jeter, who was one of baseball’s all-time best-hitting shortstops, Ryan was not a good hitter, averaging just .237 during his almost 700 games in the big leagues. Also unlike Jeter, Ryan was considered one of the very best defensive  shortstops in the game. The Yankees then signed their new acquisition to a two-year contract for $4 million.

I was a bit puzzled by the contract until the Yankees went on their free agent signing spree during the offseason and reloaded their offense with Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. So even if Jeter could not make it back in 2014, the rejuvenated Yankee lineup could score runs without his offense and by using Ryan at short, they could prevent more runs on defense. It seemed a sound strategy.

Ironically, as we approach the end of the first month of the 2014 season, it is Ryan who is on the DL and unable to play, while Jeter looks like he will do just fine in this final year of his brilliant playing career.

Ryan was born in Los Angeles on this date in 1982 and was selected by the Cardinals in the 7th round of the  2003 draft. He bats and throws right-handed and can play second and third in addition to short. He shares his birthday with this former Yankee infielder and  this pacifist WWII era pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2013 NYY 17 62 59 7 13 2 0 1 1 0 2 13 .220 .258 .305 .563
7 Yrs 783 2645 2368 288 562 106 16 19 187 67 189 424 .237 .299 .320 .619
STL (4 yrs) 415 1332 1206 165 312 56 10 9 95 39 88 166 .259 .314 .344 .658
SEA (3 yrs) 351 1251 1103 116 237 48 6 9 91 28 99 245 .215 .286 .294 .580
NYY (1 yr) 17 62 59 7 13 2 0 1 1 0 2 13 .220 .258 .305 .563
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/14/2014.

March 25 – Happy Birthday Woodie Held

One of the Yankees most impacted by the infamous Copa Cabana Nightclub incident wasn’t even there celebrating that night. I’m referring to Woodie Held, a rather free spirited middle infield prospect for New York in the fifties who along with alleged troublemaker Billy Martin, pitcher Ralph Terry and an outfielder named Bob Martyn were traded to Kansas City for reliever Ryne Duren and outfielders Jim Pisoni and Harry “Suitcase” Simpson. Both Martin and Terry would get a chance to return to New York and capture glory in pinstripes. Bob Martyn would never enjoy much success in the big leagues. But Held would go on to play fourteen years in the big leagues and belt 179 home runs.

Back when I was a kid, I collected baseball cards, which in addition to the annual Street & Smith’s Baseball Preview issue were my primary information conduit for the performances and stats of non-Yankee players. I remember checking the backs of cards of every player to find out what teams they played for. It was most likely on the back of the 1961 Woodie Held card pictured with this post that I found out he used to be a Yankee. Once you were a Yankee, I continued to root for your success except when your team happened to be playing the Yankees. That is how and why I became a fan of Woodie Held. I loved his name and I loved the fact that he played in the middle of the infield but could still hit for power. I remember the year I got this card, Maris and Mantle were chasing Ruth but Skowren, Berra, Howard and Blanchard all had more than 20 home runs that season while Clete Boyer (11), Bobby Richardson (3) and Tony Kubek (8) didn’t reach that milestone. I remember looking at Held’s card and seeing he had hit 21 home runs as a shortstop for the Indians in 1960 and 27 the season before. He would hit 23 during the ’61 season. I remember hoping some day he’d return to New York and hit all those home runs as a Yankee shortstop. Of course back then, I didn’t realize that would have been pretty difficult for Held to do since he was a right-handed pull hitter and probably, just like Clete Boyer ended up doing, many of Woodie’s blasts would have been turned into outs by Yankee Stadium’s cavernous left field.

In any event, Held never did come back to the Yankees. He hung on in the big leagues until 1969, quitting when he was 37 years old. He then enjoyed one of the most erratic retirements of any big league player in history. He opened a pizza parlor, ran a lumber yard, he raced snowmobiles, became an iron worker, he worked as a bartender and an electrician. Woodson George Held died in June of 2009 in his adopted home of DuBois Wyoming at the age of 77. He shares his March 25th birthday with this former Yankee outfielder and coach.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1954 NYY 4 5 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 .000 .400 .000 .400
1957 NYY 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
14 Yrs 1390 4647 4019 524 963 150 22 179 559 14 508 944 .240 .331 .421 .753
CLE (7 yrs) 855 3227 2800 372 698 105 16 130 401 10 351 629 .249 .339 .438 .777
KCA (2 yrs) 139 518 457 61 106 16 3 24 66 4 47 109 .232 .308 .438 .746
CAL (2 yrs) 91 219 186 19 36 4 0 4 17 0 23 56 .194 .296 .280 .575
NYY (2 yrs) 5 6 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 .000 .333 .000 .333
BAL (2 yrs) 82 145 123 10 23 6 1 2 13 0 18 42 .187 .301 .301 .602
CHW (2 yrs) 96 141 117 14 18 3 0 3 8 0 18 33 .154 .275 .256 .532
WSA (1 yr) 122 391 332 46 82 16 2 16 54 0 49 74 .247 .345 .452 .797
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/13/2014.

March 21 – Happy Birthday Bill Lamar

If Marvin Miller or Scott “the snake oil salesman” Boras had been around in the 1920′s, I might have a lot more to tell you about today’s Pinstripe Baseball Birthday Celebrant. Unfortunately, however, for guys like William Harmong Lamar, ballplayers did all of their own labor-lawyer-ing and contract negotiations for many many years and Lamar simply wasn’t very good at it.

As the only member of the all-time Yankee roster to be born on this date, Lamar did not get the opportunity to play much baseball in the Big Apple. Born in Maryland, near Washington DC, he became a high school baseball star who in 1916, signed a contract to play for the Baltimore Orioles in the International League. By the following year, the US had entered WWI and the military draft began in May of that year. The Yankees were probably looking for bodies to replace players lost to the army when they purchased the contracts of Lamar and two of his Oriole teammates toward the end of the 1917 season. Lamar’s first appearance in a big league and Yankee game was on September 19th of that season. He played a total of 11 games that year and just 28 the next before he himself was drafted.

From the research I did on his career, it appears as if Lamar was a very fast runner but not much of a hitter or defensive outfielder during his days with the Yankees. Neither of his two Yankee Managers, Wild Bill Donovan or  Miller Huggins played him much during the 1917 and ’18 seasons and the kid averaged less than .230 in the Yankee action he did experience. That explains why Huggins did not invite Lamar to the Yankees’ 1919 spring training camp but he showed up anyway. Not wanting to disrespect a returning soldier, Huggins let him stay and brought him north with the team, but only for a short while. On June 10, 1919, Huggins ended Lamar’s Yankee career by putting him on waivers. The Red Sox picked him up immediately and he managed to hit .291 for Boston during the second half of the 1919 season. He was then traded for an International League outfielder and it would take Lamar another five years before he actually got a regular job as a big leaguer. That was in 1924, when he joined Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s as a 27-year-old left-fielder.

Lamar hit .330 in 1924 and then an even more robust .356 in 1925 with 202 hits. It looked as if his train had finally arrived at the station. But Lamar had also developed a propensity to party. In fact, his nickname was “Good Time Bill.”  His batting average and his playing time dropped in ’26 and even though he was hitting .299 at the time, Lamar was put on waivers by the A’s in early August of the 1927 season. accompanied by rumors that he had a difficult time complying with Connie Mack’s team rules. The Senators immediately picked up his contract but that’s when Lamar started getting a bit too cute. The Washington newspapers had played up the fact that the newest Senator would be starting in the outfield in an upcoming series against the Yankees. He decided to try and leverage the anticipation of Washington fans for his arrival into a bonus for reporting  from the famously tight-fisted Senators’ owner Clark Griffith. How’d that little ploy turn out for “Good Time Bill?” He lost the balance of his salary for 1927  and he never again played in a big league came.

Much of the information used for this post came from an article about Lamar, written by Bill Nowlin, as part of the SABR Baseball Biography Project. You can find that article online, here.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1917 NYY 11 42 41 2 10 0 0 0 3 1 0 2 .244 .244 .244 .488
1918 NYY 28 119 110 12 25 3 0 0 2 2 6 2 .227 .267 .255 .522
1919 NYY 11 18 16 1 3 1 0 0 0 1 2 1 .188 .278 .250 .528
9 Yrs 550 2203 2040 303 633 114 23 19 246 25 86 78 .310 .339 .417 .755
PHA (4 yrs) 425 1818 1678 263 539 101 22 19 223 18 73 63 .321 .350 .442 .792
NYY (3 yrs) 50 179 167 15 38 4 0 0 5 4 8 5 .228 .263 .251 .514
BRO (2 yrs) 27 47 47 7 13 4 0 0 4 0 0 1 .277 .277 .362 .638
BOS (1 yr) 48 159 148 18 43 5 1 0 14 3 5 9 .291 .314 .338 .652
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/13/2014.

March 17 – Happy Birthday Rod Scurry

For the past decade the voodoo drug in Major League Baseball has been steroids and its tentacles have extended into the Yankee locker room on several occasions, highlighted by the public confessions of A-Rod and Jason Giambi. I’m currently reading Jim Bouton’s incredibly good book “Ball Four,” in which he chronicles his 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros. In it, “the Bulldog” makes it very clear that in the 1960′s, the voodoo drug of choice for professional baseball players was amphetamines (or “greenies” as they were called back then.) Before that, booze was the preferred poison of Major Leaguers. It was alcohol abuse that almost derailed Babe Ruth’s career in New York, rotted Mickey Mantle’s liver and allegedly contributed to the roll-over of the pickup truck that killed Billy Martin.

So illegal drugs and substance abuse of some sort or another have unfortunately become as big a part of the Yankee tradition as pennant drives and batting crowns. Its been going on forever and you can bet its not going away any time soon. I personally consider the most demoralizing period of substance abuse to have been the 1980s. Why? Cocaine.

Drinking booze was and still is considered as much of an accepted all-American pastime as the game itself. Greenies and steroids were not good for ballplayers but they were dispensed and administered under the premise that they would help a player perform better. But smack was different. Too many Americans had already witnessed or personally experienced the debilitating impact of cocaine addiction on people and whole communities.

Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Steve Howe, Tim Raines, Lee Mazzilli, and Dale Berra were all one-time Yankees who experienced highly publicized cocaine addictions. And then there was today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. Rod Scurry was a California native who came up to the big leagues with the Pirates in 1980. He was a tall lean left-hander who became a workhorse in manager Chuck Tanner’s bullpen during the early eighties. But of all places, Pittsburgh, famously known as the Steel City, was also the Cocaine Center of Major League Baseball in the 80′s. In 1985 a Pittsburgh grand jury was convened to hear testimony from players on the Pirates and opposing teams who purchased cocaine from drug dealers permitted inside the home and visiting clubhouses of Three Rivers Stadium. (Raines, Mazzilli, Berra and Scurry all testified)

Trials were held, the dealers were jailed and the commissioner handed out fines and suspensions to the players involved. In September of 1985, while these legal proceedings were still in process, the Yankee purchased Scurry from Pittsburgh. Then-Yankee Manager Billy Martin inserted him into five games for New York during the last month of that season and Scurry pitched well, winning his only decision, earning a save and posting an ERA of 2.84.

The following March, MLB Commissioner Peter Ueberroth announced his penalties for all the players involved in the Pittsburgh Drug Trials. Scurry was quoted at the time in a NY Times article, referring to the penalties as “a great day for baseball.” In that same article, it was pretty clear that Scurry himself had doubts about his ability to stay off the drug. “It’s all in the past now. It’s a new start in life and in baseball. I’m on the way back up. Go back two years, and I was almost out of baseball. I think addiction overrides everything else, no matter how stiff the penalties are. You don’t care about anything; nothing matters. It’s not something you can turn off and on. I don’t know where it’ll end, if it’ll ever end.”

For Scurry, it did not end. He went on to pitch for New York in 1986, appearing in 31 games and finishing the season with a 1-2 record with 2 saves and ann ERA of 3.66. That December, the Yankees re-signed him to pitch for the club the following year. Just one month after that signing, Scurry was arrested for drunken driving in Reno, NV and refused a police request to undergo a chemical test. That incident pretty much ended his Yankee career.

I found the following in another NY Times article, describing events leading up to Scurry’s death in November of 1992: “…Scurry’s neighbors in Reno summoned Washoe County sheriff’s deputies to his home. They found the 36-year-old Scurry in the throes of what the coroner’s report later called an acute psychotic episode. The deputies said he complained that snakes were crawling on him and biting him. They said Scurry became violent and stopped breathing when they tried to place him in handcuffs and leg restraints. Hospitalized and placed on life-support systems in the intensive-care unit, Scurry died a week later. An autopsy disclosed that he died of a small hemorrhage within his brain after a cardiorespiratory collapse. A “significant condition,” the autopsy report said, was cocaine intoxication.”

Scurry shares his St. Patrick’s Day birthday with this one-time Yankee pitcher.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1985 NYY 1 0 1.000 2.84 5 0 2 0 0 1 12.2 5 4 4 2 10 17 1.184
1986 NYY 1 2 .333 3.66 31 0 10 0 0 2 39.1 38 18 16 1 22 36 1.525
8 Yrs 19 32 .373 3.24 332 7 145 0 0 39 460.2 384 190 166 31 274 431 1.428
PIT (6 yrs) 17 28 .378 3.15 257 7 115 0 0 34 377.1 309 152 132 22 224 345 1.413
NYY (2 yrs) 2 2 .500 3.46 36 0 12 0 0 3 52.0 43 22 20 3 32 53 1.442
SEA (1 yr) 0 2 .000 4.02 39 0 18 0 0 2 31.1 32 16 14 6 18 33 1.596
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/9/2014.