Its been over 25 years since the transaction took place and it wasn’t until I did research for today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant that I finally completely understood why the Yankees traded their very solid designated hitter, Mike “the Hit Man” Easler, for the very shaky Philadelphia starting pitcher, Charles Hudson in December of 1985. I knew that Easler had demanded to be traded when he was told that Yankee manager Lou Piniella intended to platoon him at DH with Ken Griffey during the ’86 season. What I was not aware of was that the Yankees were contractually obligated to doing so within three months of the demand or Easler would have become a free agent.
So that’s why a very emphatic George Steinbrenner ordered the Yankees to send Easler, who had hit .302 for New York in 1985, to the Phillies for Hudson, who had had put together a very mediocre 32-42 record during his four years pitching in the “City of Brotherly Love.” Hudson was also a switch-hitter, which was a pretty rare attribute for a pitcher. His problem was however, he couldn’t hit very well from either side of the plate.
At first, it looked like “the Boss” was a prophet, as Hudson got off to a fast start with New York, winning his first six decisions during the 1987 season. Even though the right-handed native of Ennis, TX cooled off after that and spent some time pitching out of the Yankee bullpen, he still finished his first year in pinstripes with an 11-7 record that included two shutouts and an efficient 3.61 ERA. That win total put him in third place behind Rick Rhoden (16) and Tommy John (13) for most victories by a Yankee pitcher that year.
Unfortunately for Hudson, that would prove to be his best season in New York. In 1988, he again split his time between the starting rotation and the bullpen to finish 6-6, while his ERA jumped to 4.49. In spite of that performance, the Yankees resigned him for the ’89 season. Then just before spring training camp broke, he was dealt to the Tigers for the veteran infielder, Tom Brookens, who was a complete bust during his one season in pinstripes.
Hudson floundered in Detroit during the 1989 season and his career ended that August, after he smashed his car into a Motor City telephone pole, and destroyed his right knee. It was at that low point that Hudson admitted to having a drinking problem, which he worked hard to eliminate.
Hudson shares his March 16th birthday with “the Grandy-Man.”
|PHI (4 yrs)||32||42||.432||3.98||127||105||9||7||1||0||680.0||692||353||301||68||237||399||1.366|
|NYY (2 yrs)||17||13||.567||3.97||63||28||17||7||2||2||261.0||230||116||115||28||93||158||1.238|
|DET (1 yr)||1||5||.167||6.35||18||7||4||0||0||0||66.2||75||49||47||14||31||23||1.590|
There was a two-season gap in between the time that Hal Chase, the Yankees’ first great first baseman left the team in 1912 and Wally Pipp, the franchise’s second great first baseman took over that position in 1915. Charley Mullen was one of the interim first sackers New York used to fill that gap.
This native of Seattle was 25 years old when Yankee manager Frank Chance began starting him during the 1914 season. He wasn’t a disaster. Mullen hit .260 that year, which was actually third best among the team’s starting lineup and he drove in 44 runs, which was also third best on the squad during that low-scoring deadfall era.
Just before the 1915 season began, the Yankee franchise was purchased by brewer Jacob Ruppert and his partner Tillinghast Huston. The two men had been assured by AL President Ban Johnson that the Junior Circuit’s other team owners would help the Yankees become more competitive with their New York City neighbors, the Giants. The plan was to have the other clubs make some of their best players and prospects available to New York for acquisition. One of the first such acquisitions made by the new Yankee ownership was Pipp, a young hard-hitting Detroit Tiger prospect who would start at first for New York for the next decade until his famous headache opened the door for Lou Gehrig.
So what happened to Charley Mullen? He actually remained a Yankee for the next couple of seasons in a utility role before returning to the minors. He played his final season in 1919 with the Seattle Raniers of the Pacific Coast League. He remained in his hometown after he retired and died there in 1963 at the age of 74.
|NYY (3 yrs)||192||644||559||55||147||18||1||0||69||23||52||80||.263||.328||.299||.627|
|CHW (2 yrs)||61||204||182||22||36||4||2||0||18||5||9||17||.198||.236||.242||.477|
The lucrative salaries paid in Major League Baseball nowadays continue to shock me. Those huge bucks have changed the way big leaguers play the game and live their lives. Even the most marginal players today have contracts sizable enough to permit them to not have to worry about working a second career, at least during their playing days. And with decent investment counseling and a much improved MLB pension plan, when these guys retire in their thirties, many can afford to kick back and relax their way through their forties and fifties too. Good for them. I just hope they tell their children and grandchildren the story about Marvin Miller some day.
When I was a kid, guys like Ray Barker, today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant had to scrape to make a living on what they were paid to play the game. Barker, who had grown up a Yankee fan, had been originally signed by the Orioles in 1955 when he was a 19-year-old kid and given a $1,000 bonus. The son of a West Virginia stone quarry worker, that was more money than his family had ever seen.
He then spent the next ten years of his life trying to get to the big leagues and trying to take care of his growing family on the few thousand dollars he would earn playing both minor league and winter baseball. His wife and children lived in a trailer park back in West Virginia and when Barker’s dad was killed while riding his motorcycle, his Mom moved in with them.
After brief big league appearances with the Orioles and Indians, Cleveland traded this left-hand-hitting first baseman to the Yankees for infielder Pedro Gonzalez, in May of 1965. The defending AL Pennant winners were a mess that year under new skipper, Johnny Keane. In addition to rebelling at Keane’s strict disciplinarian management style, injuries began crippling the veteran Yankee lineup. Both Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were out for extended periods, forcing Keane to play his starting first baseman, Joe Pepitone in the outfield. That Yankee misfortune was the piece of good luck Barker needed to finally get an extended stay on a big league roster.
His debut season in the Bronx wasn’t spectacular but it was steady and in 1965, steady was good enough for the Yankee front office. In addition to tying a big league record that season by hitting two consecutive pinch-hit home runs, Barker’s 7 total round-trippers and 31 RBIs in 98 games got him invited back for a second season. He returned to West Virginia, bought a home and moved his brood out of that trailer park.
Unfortunately, the Yankees got even worse in 1966, finishing in last place and Barker got worse too. He pretty much stopped hitting, which meant he pretty much stopped getting chances to hit. During most any other season in Yankee history, Barker’s .187 batting average would have got him banished forever but not in 1966.
Ralph Houk brought Barker back to spring training in 1967 as a Mickey Mantle insurance policy. The Yankees had become convinced that in order to extend the switch-hitting legend’s career, they needed to get him out of the outfield and start him at first base. That meant they also had to commit to playing Joe Pepitone in the outfield full-time. Houk needed somebody to serve as a late-inning defensive replacement for Mantle at first. The organization’s bonus-baby heir to that position was Mike Hegan, who was doing Army reserve duty until May of that ’67 season. That gave Barker just a small window of time to impress Houk enough to keep him on the 25-man roster and get Hegan sent back down to the minors.
Barker couldn’t get it done. In the 17 games he appeared during the first part of that ’67 season, he hit an atrocious .077. During that trying period of his career, Barker was interviewed by long-time New York Times’ sports journalist Robert Lipsyte. He explained to Lipsyte that he needed to get hot at the plate in order to stick with the Yankees but he needed more at bats to get in an offensive groove but he would only get those at bats if he could get hot. It was the age-old Catch-22 lament of big-league utility players.
During that interview, Barker said his goal was to get five seasons of service as a Major League player so that he could qualify for the pension plan. If he could make that milestone, Barker would start receiving a retirement benefit of $250 per month when he reached the age of 50. Barker didn’t make that five-year milestone but hopefully, he’s not missing that $250 check every month.
|NYY (3 yrs)||176||342||306||34||68||16||0||10||44||1||27||71||.222||.289||.373||.662|
|CLE (1 yr)||11||8||6||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||2||.000||.250||.000||.250|
|BAL (1 yr)||5||6||6||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||3||.000||.000||.000||.000|
When outfielder Myril Hoag began his Yankee career, he competed for playing time with the likes of Babe Ruth and Earle Combs. By the time he completed it seven years later, he was playing behind names like DiMaggio, Selkirk and Henrich. Thus went the pinstriped career of one of the most effective fourth outfielders in franchise history, good enough to back up those who were better.
Born in California, Hoag began his pro career in the Pacific Coast League and made his Yankee and big league debut in 1931. His best season in the Bronx was 1937, when he appeared in 103 games, had 109 hits and averaged .301. Hoag also put together a solid World Series against the Giants in 1937, starting all five games and batting an even .300.
After the 1938 World Series, New York traded Hoag and back-up catcher Joe Glenn to the St. Louis Browns for pitcher Orel Hildebrand and outfielder Buster Mills. He finally got his chance to be a starting outfielder with his new ball club and took advantage of it, by averaging .295 and making the AL All Star team. That ’39 season proved to be his best. The Browns traded him to the White Sox and after his second season with Chicago, Hoag joined the Army. He was given a medical discharge a year later and ended up playing for Cleveland during the second half of the ’44 season and averaging .285 for the Tribe.
That would be Hoag’s last hurrah as a big leaguer, though he’d continue to play in the minors well into his forties, finally hanging his spikes up for good after the 1951 season. He was only 63 when he passed away in 1971, a victim of an emphysema-induced heart attack.
Hoag shares his March 9th birthday with this Yankee who hit one of the most famous home runs in franchise history, this former AL MVP, this recent Yankee reliever and one of the great base-stealers in MLB history.
|NYY (7 yrs)||471||1360||1228||181||349||61||18||11||185||17||106||141||.284||.345||.390||.735|
|SLB (3 yrs)||206||724||674||78||192||34||4||13||101||11||37||65||.285||.323||.405||.728|
|CHW (3 yrs)||236||927||840||82||207||32||5||3||85||24||73||51||.246||.307||.307||.615|
|CLE (2 yrs)||107||451||405||43||106||14||6||1||30||7||36||41||.262||.325||.333||.658|
In 1985, a 24-year-old rookie from Montebello, California named Mark Salas surprised just about everyone by hitting .300 as the starting catcher of the Minnesota Twins. Yankee owner, George Steinbrenner, always looking for a good left-hand-hitting catcher who could take advantage of his home Stadium’s short right field porch, took notice of the kid. Two seasons later, he approved a mid-season deal that brought Salas to the Bronx in exchange for the Yankees disgruntled veteran knuckleballer, Joe Niekro.
The Boss ignored the fact that Salas had followed up his stellar rookie performance by hitting just .233 in his sophomore season with the Twins. He also didn’t pay attention to Salas’s below average defensive skills behind the plate. After all, even though Salas had lost Minnesota’s starting catching job to Mark Laudner, he was hitting a robust .379 in his back-up role at the time of the trade and he was a much better hitter than Joel Skinner, who had been serving as the Yankees second string catcher that year.
So Salas came to New York and was forced upon Lou Piniella, who was not a thrilled recipient. The Yankee skipper was struggling to keep his 1987 club in first place at the time and growing increasingly frustrated by having every decision he made as manager second guessed by “the Boss.” When it became apparent that Salas was not very good defensively and he stopped hitting too, Piniella wanted Skinner brought back up from Triple A, where he had been sent to make roster room for Salas. Steinbrenner refused to approve the move. So Piniella decided to refuse to accept any more of Steinbrenner’s phone calls, which served as perfect fodder for some creative back-page headlining in the New York City tabloids.
Eventually, Skinner was recalled and Salas was sent down to Columbus. The Yankees finished that ’87 season in fourth place in the AL East race with an 89-73 record. Salas finished his only half-season as a Yankee with a .200 batting average and then got traded to the White Sox with Dan Pasqua for pitcher Rich Dotson. His big league career would end after the 1991 season. He finished with 319 lifetime hits and a .247 batting average. He then went into coaching.
|MIN (3 yrs)||233||718||663||87||185||29||9||20||83||3||41||75||.279||.320||.440||.760|
|DET (2 yrs)||107||247||221||20||43||4||0||10||31||0||21||38||.195||.272||.348||.621|
|CLE (1 yr)||30||83||77||4||17||4||1||2||7||0||5||13||.221||.277||.377||.654|
|NYY (1 yr)||50||130||115||13||23||4||0||3||12||0||10||17||.200||.279||.313||.592|
|STL (1 yr)||14||21||20||1||2||1||0||0||1||0||0||3||.100||.100||.150||.250|
|CHW (1 yr)||75||211||196||17||49||7||0||3||9||0||12||17||.250||.303||.332||.635|
Don Savage was a depression-era New Jersey schoolboy athlete who could have played football for a number of major colleges but chose baseball instead. Unfortunately, he suffered two serious knee injuries during his high school playing days and those injuries would haunt him and eventually shorten his big league career.
The Yankees signed him in 1938 and groomed him mostly as a third baseman. He spent the next four seasons following another future Yankee third sacker named Billy Johnson through New York’s farm system. That ascent suddenly got abruptly stalled during the winter of 1941 when Savage, feeling unusually tired all the time, went to the doctor to find out what was wrong with him. He was diagnosed with diabetes and would spend the rest of his life trying to keep the disease under control.
The one and only advantage of the diagnosis was that it made Savage permanently ineligible for military service. That meant, once he felt well enough to resume his career, the Yankees could count on him being available for the remainder of the war years. He got the OK from his doctors to play for the New Jersey Bears in 1943 and put together a good enough season there to get invited to the Yankees’ 1944 spring training camp. With most of the Yankee veterans and top prospects in military service by then, New York manager Joe McCarthy had plenty of time to pay attention to the team’s new arrivals. He liked Savage enough to bring him north and start him at third base on Opening Day, replacing Johnson who had an outstanding rookie season in 1943 but had then been called into the service.
After getting off to a hot start, Savage’s fragile knees failed him and he began missing games and valuable at bats. The injuries also disrupted his fielding work and before he knew it, he was spending most of his time sitting in the Yankee dugout, watching another Yankee wartime third baseman, Oscar Grimes take his position away.
Savage ended up playing just 71 games during his rookie season and averaging .261. His offensive numbers were decent enough, especially considering his injuries, but it was his mediocre defensive play at the hot corner that eventually caused McCarthy to give up on him.
Savage got to play in 34 games for New York in his second season but after averaging just .224, his big league playing days were over. He ended up working as an elevator mechanic back in his New Jersey hometown and then tragically losing his two-decade battle with diabetes at the age of 42, on Christmas Day in 1961.
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!