Remember Colter Bean? I do, all six feet, six inches and 250 or so pounds of him. He was a right-handed pitcher from Alabama who went un-drafted after completing his collegiate career in 2000 and was then signed by the Yankees as an amateur free agent that same year.
During the next five seasons, he developed into one of the potential “Mariano Rivera successors” in the Yankee farm system. The problem with that of course was that Rivera was like the Energizer Bunny, he just kept going and going and going and didn’t require any successoring.
So Bean kept pitching well out of the pen for Yankee farm teams, putting together a 38-20 record with 16 saves, while getting three brief trials with the parent club. Unfortunately for Bean, he didn’t impress anyone in any of them and ended up getting released by New York in 2007, when he was already 30-years-old.
The Braves signed him and a year later, so did the Rays, but he would never again pitch in a big league game. Too bad, because I thought Colter Bean had one of the coolest names in Yankee franchise history. Its a name you can’t forget. I never have.
|162 Game Avg.||0||11||.000||9.00||68||0||23||0||0||0||79||91||79||79||0||102||57||2.429|
I’m the first to admit that I don’t remember today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant playing for the New York Yankees. This native of Ft. Lauderdale, FL pitched in pinstripes during the 1984 season for manager Yogi Berra after he was acquired in a trade with the California Angels the previous December. He was a tall right-hander who didn’t make New York’s Opening Day roster that year but was instead called up a month later, when starter John Montefusco went on the DL.
Berra used Brown a lot, getting him into 13 games in just over a month and the then-24-year-old pitcher was up to the task. He gave up just 5 runs in 16 2/3 innings of work for an impressive ERA of 2.70. But whenYankee starter, Shane Rawley was ready to return from the DL at the beginning of June, it was Brown who was reassigned to Columbus to make room for him on the 25-man roster.
New York released him in October of 1985 and he signed with the Expos. Montreal gave him two more shots at the big leagues in both 1986 and ’87 but he could not take advantage of either opportunity.
I chose to include Curt Brown in the Pinstipe Birthday Blog because of his common last name. I thought it might be interesting to find out the most popular last name on the Yankees’s all-time roster and figured Brown would be one of them. I was right. There have been seven players with the last name of Brown to play for the franchise. In addition to Curt, they include two Bobby’s, one nicknamed Boardwalk, Hal, Jumbo and Kevin. The most popular last name in Yankee history is Johnson. There are 17 “Johnson’s” on the Yankees’ all-time roster. “Rodriguez” and “Williams” are the second most popular Yankee player surnames with 8 each. There have also been 7 Yankees with the last name of Robinson, 7 more named Jones and another 7 named Smith.
Brown shares his January 15th birthday with the only big league player to be born on the Island of Samoa and this former Yankee catcher.
|MON (2 yrs)||0||2||.000||4.74||11||0||3||0||0||0||19.0||25||13||10||2||6||10||1.632|
|CAL (1 yr)||1||1||.500||7.31||10||0||7||0||0||0||16.0||25||13||13||1||4||7||1.813|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||1||.500||2.70||13||0||7||0||0||0||16.2||18||5||5||1||4||10||1.320|
Yankee fans do not have fond memories of the 2008 season. It was Joe Girardi’s first year at the helm and the team went into the regular season betting heavily that Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy were going to provide at least two fifths of New York’s starting rotation, with Andy Pettitte, Chien-Ming Wang and Mike Mussina. Not only did the three youngsters fail miserably, Wang ruined his season with a freak base-running accident and Pettitte had a sub-par year going 14-14. Only 20-game winner Mike Mussina delivered better than expected results and by the end of the season, the Yankees found themselves out of the race for a postseason berth.
Besides Mussina, the only good story among the Yankees’ 2008 menagerie of starters was the jolt provided by Darrell Rasner when Gerardi inserted the Nevada-born right-hander into the rotation in early May. Rasner had broken into the big leagues in 2005 with the Nationals. The Yankees got him off waivers just before their 2006 spring training camp opened. In ’06 and ’07 he had bounced back and forth between New York and just about every farm team in the organization. When he got off to a great start in Scranton in 2008, he was called up and thrust into a starting role. He then proceeded to win his first three starts for New York and suddenly the pundits were wondering if it might be Rasner instead of Joba, Hughes or Kennedy who would actually solidify the Yankee rotation. That expectations balloon burst when he went on to lose ten of his last twelve decisions, but for that brief three-week stretch in May, he captured the attention and felt the admiration of Yankee fans.
When the 2008 season ended, Rasner faced a big decision. The Yankees were interested in re-signing him but his agent got him a bigger offer to play in Japan. The difference in dollars was at least a million bucks. He loved pitching in New York and he had lots of apprehension about playing and living in Japan. But his wife was expecting the couple’s second child and the then 28-year-old Rasner knew the money he could make in Japan would help him solidify his growing family’s future so he made the move. After a rough first couple of years as a starter for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan’s Pacific League, Rasner was converted to a reliever and he’s become very good in that role. He registered 17 saves for the Eagles in 2013. If the name of his Japanese team sounds a bit familiar to Yankee fans, its because Rasner has been Masahiro Tanaka’s teammate for the past five seasons. The Yankees are about to offer the moon to Tanaka to make him part of their starting rotation in 2014.
Rasner shares his birthday with this not-well-remembered Yankee shortstop.
|NYY (3 yrs)||9||14||.391||5.06||36||29||2||0||0||0||158.1||182||98||89||20||52||89||1.478|
|WSN (1 yr)||0||1||.000||3.68||5||1||1||0||0||0||7.1||5||3||3||0||2||4||0.955|
The older I get the more I wonder why people with so much always seem to want more. Alex Rodriguez had escaped the precipice of a public shaming, when he admitted before the 2009 season that he had used steroids and then put together the greatest postseason of his life to lead the Yankees to their 27th World Championship. He could have stayed off the juice after that for the rest of his career, let his performance simply decline naturally, collect his mega-millions in salary and gone off into the sunset in a few years with at least a portion of his reputation intact.
But no, Rodriguez doesn’t think like that. He never has. The happiness fuel for this guy’s life is playing baseball and being adored because of how well he does it. The adoration part of that formula was whittled away by diminished performance on the field. Steroids help athletes build abnormal muscle mass but the problem is that the human skeleton is not designed to support it. A-Rod’s hips gave away and he will never again hit 30 homers in a season or drive in 100 runs.
Rodriguez wasn’t ready to accept that so he did something about it. He found a sleazy Miami-based hormone lab operator who supposedly could help him continue to cheat without getting caught. Yesterday, the arbitrator’s ruling confirmed for Rodriguez that he got caught. So now in addition to never again being admired or respected for anything he does on the baseball field, A-Rod has locked his own Yankee Stadium gate, preventing himself from doing what he most loved to do, for at least a year but quite possibly forever.
A-Rod is not the only culprit here. The Commissioner and the Yankee ownership knew full well that many of their players were using drugs to enhance their performances and as long as the money was rolling in because of those enhanced performances, the powers that be looked the other way and most likely even encouraged it. Like I wrote at the beginning of this post, the older I get the more I wonder why people with so much always seem to want more.
A native of Los Mochis, Mexico, right-hander Luis Ayala made quite a splash as a big league rookie in 2003. He appeared in 65 games that year out of manager Frank Robinson’s Montreal Expo bullpen and posted a 2.92 ERA, while winning ten of thirteen decisions and getting five saves. He proved he was no fluke in his sophomore season, appearing in 81 games and posting a 2.69 ERA. He was well on his way to becoming one of MLB’s best middle relievers when he blew out his elbow pitching for Mexico in the 2006 World Baseball Championship.
He underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire ’06 season. He did OK during his first season back from the injury but it went downhill fast from there. During the next two seasons he pitched for four different clubs and his ERA skyrocketed to almost six runs for every nine innings he pitched.
Things looked bleak for Alaya after the Marlins released him in ’09 and he spent the entire 2010 season back in the minors. The following February, the Yankees signed him to a minor league contract. Though New York’s bullpen appeared to be loaded with middle and late inning relievers, Ayala pitched well enough in spring training to make the team’s Opening Day roster. He then got hit hard in his first Yankee appearance and after two decent outings, landed on the DL with a strained muscle in his back.
After a short rehab tour at Scranton/Wilkes Barre, Ayala returned to New York’s bullpen and for the rest of the year, he was one of Joe Girardi’s best and most trusted middle relievers, coming up especially big when injuries shelved both Joba Chamberlain and Rafael Soriano. He ended the regular season with 52 appearances and an excellent ERA of 2.09.
His ERA would have been even lower, but in his last regular season appearance, Tampa got three earned runs off of him. He then didn’t look sharp in either of his two appearances against the Tigers in that year’s ALDS. It could very well have been those last three consecutive sub par outings that caused the Yankee front office to let Ayala sign with the Orioles instead of bringing him back for another season in the Bronx. I remember being surprised they let him go. He put together a good season for the O’s in 2012 and then did the same for Atlanta in 2013, after Baltimore traded him to the Braves early in the season.
|WSN (5 yrs)||27||32||.458||3.33||320||0||93||0||0||9||332.1||338||137||123||32||76||213||1.246|
|BAL (2 yrs)||6||5||.545||2.81||68||0||15||0||0||1||77.0||85||29||24||8||14||53||1.286|
|MIN (1 yr)||1||2||.333||4.18||28||0||11||0||0||0||32.1||38||18||15||4||8||21||1.423|
|NYM (1 yr)||1||2||.333||5.50||19||0||13||0||0||9||18.0||23||12||11||3||2||14||1.389|
|ATL (1 yr)||1||1||.500||2.90||37||0||7||0||0||0||31.0||34||10||10||1||13||20||1.516|
|NYY (1 yr)||2||2||.500||2.09||52||0||20||0||0||0||56.0||51||17||13||5||20||39||1.268|
|FLA (1 yr)||0||3||.000||11.74||10||0||2||0||0||0||7.2||12||10||10||1||6||7||2.348|
The Yankee pitching staff faced a lot of questions as the 1994 regular season was about to open. The most pressing one was who would manager Buck Showalter use as his closer. They had lost Steve Farr to free agency during the offseason and had Jeff Reardon, Steve Howe, Bob Wickman and a sore shouldered Xavier Hernandez all in camp fighting for the coveted role. When none of the four stood out, Showalter told the press he’d use all of them, sort of a closer by committee. That didn’t leave much room out in the bullpen.
The Yankees had signed right-hander Don Pall as a free agent after the ’93 season. The Chicago native had spent his first six big league seasons pitching decently out of the bullpen for his hometown White Sox. The Sox had traded him to the Phillies the previous September and now the Yanks were hoping the 32-year-old veteran could give them some dependable middle inning relief. He sort of did that just fine.
Showalter called on him 26 times during the first half of the ’94 season and he posted a respectable 3.60 ERA in the 35 innings he pitched. He was looking forward to helping the Yankees reach the postseason for the first time in 12 years, when Showalter called him into his office and told him he was being released. Pall was completely shocked by the move and told the New York press so. Showalter explained it by saying he was committed to giving his young starter, Sterling Hitchcock the rest of the year to prove he belonged in the starting rotation and he needed Pall’s roster spot for that purpose. The Yankee skipper admitted it was a tough decision.
Pall, who was nicknamed “the Pope,” ended up signing on with the Cubs before the season was halted by the Players’ strike. He then spent the next two years in the minors before reemerging with the Florida Marlins in 1996.
The only other Yankee born on this date was this former Yankee third baseman.
|CHW (6 yrs)||21||19||.525||3.45||255||0||72||0||0||10||394.1||392||169||151||38||109||209||1.270|
|FLA (3 yrs)||1||2||.333||5.30||37||0||13||0||0||0||54.1||61||35||32||9||17||35||1.436|
|CHC (1 yr)||0||0||4.50||2||0||0||0||0||0||4.0||8||2||2||1||1||2||2.250|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||2||.333||3.60||26||0||7||0||0||0||35.0||43||18||14||3||9||21||1.486|
|PHI (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||2.55||8||0||2||0||0||0||17.2||15||7||5||1||3||11||1.019|
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is the only ex-Yankee no longer playing the game, who still thanks Scott Boras every time he gets his paycheck. Bob Brower was one of the most versatile athletes ever to graduate from Brooklyn’s James Madison High School and was the very first one to letter in four varsity sports in a single school year. Though he was only five feet eleven inches tall and weighed 185 pounds, he could hit baseballs amazingly long distances. He attended Duke University on a football scholarship but gave it up to play baseball for the Blue Devils as a walk-on.
He signed with the Rangers in 1982 as an un-drafted free agent and made his big league debut with Texas, four years later. He worked his way into the team’s fourth outfielder slot by 1987 and put together his best big league season that year, hitting 14 home runs and averaging .261. When he slumped the following season, Texas traded him to the Yankees for shortstop Bobby Meacham.
A month after the Yankees acquired Bower, Claudell Washington, New York’s starting center fielder in 1988, signed a free agent deal with the Angels. That meant Brower would compete for the job in his first Yankee spring training camp against two other young Yankee outfielders, Roberto Kelly and Stanley Jefferson. Brower’s playing time prospects grew even brighter when it was announced that Dave Winfield’s bad back would force him to sit out the entire ’89 season.
Unfortunately for Brower, his exhibition season effort was hampered by a sore groin and a tender throwing shoulder. When the season started, he found himself on the disabled list and it was Kelly who started in center. and veteran Gary Ward in right. Dallas Green, the Yankee skipper that season, gave Brower his chance two weeks later and he seemed ready to take advantage of it. He had five hits in his first four games in pinstripes, his batting average was .385 and he had scored three runs. But the good hitting wouldn’t last and when he began to press at the plate, his defense also suffered. In a mid-May game against California, he committed two costly errors in the outfield and then got picked off first base with the Yankees trailing 4-0. Green, who by then was suffering under the full wrath of Boss Steinbrenner, expressed his displeasure with the young outfielder’s defensive lapses.
What really killed Brower’s chances to make it in the Bronx, however was the team’s acquisition of Jesse Barfield during the first month of the ’89 regular season. With veteran Mel Hall already ensconced as the team’s fourth outfielder, the roster became two crowded to keep Brower and he was sent to Columbus.
He spent most of the next three seasons in the minors, trying to make it back to the big leagues, but he never would. Instead, he accepted a job with a young baseball agent named Scott Boras. The two had met when Brower was a student athlete at Duke. Boras became Brower’s agent. He is now vice president of Boras Corporation.
|TEX (3 yrs)||230||592||513||95||125||18||3||15||57||26||63||107||.244||.326||.378||.704|
|NYY (1 yr)||26||75||69||9||16||3||0||2||3||3||6||11||.232||.293||.362||.656|
Sort of appropriate that during a week when it was revealed that a whole bunch of crooked New York City policemen scammed taxpayers out of millions of dollars of undeserved disability and retirement income, today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant happens to also be one of the most well-known corrupt cops in the history of NYPD. “Big Bill” Devery became one of the first owners of the Yankee franchise when he silent partnered with the notorious saloon owner and gambler Frank Farrell, to purchase the struggling Baltimore Orioles’ American League franchise in 1903 and move it to New York.
Devery was really nothing more than a super-sized Tammany Hall-backed bribe collector with a badge, who demanded tribute from just about every border-line illicit business in his Manhattan precinct. This slob used to stand on a prescribed street corner and accept bribes in full view of the public. So crooked was the Big Apple police force back then that a brazen thief like Devery actually rose to the rank of Chief of Police in 1898 before the decade-long reform movement initiated by Teddy Roosevelt and a team of muckraking New York City newspaper and magazine reporters, finally took hold.
Unfortunately for the cause of justice, Tammany Hall still maintained enough control over the City’s court system to get Devery acquitted of corruption charges and he was able to retire a free man, collect his pension and take full advantage of all the loot he plundered from his policing days.
There was enough of that loot for him to put up half of the $18,000 purchase price he and Farrell paid for the Orioles in 1903 plus finance the hurried construction of a playing venue for the new team in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan that would come to be known as Hilltop Park. The new club’s co-owners had such questionable character that their identity was kept secret for months as negotiations over the sale of the team and construction of the park were completed. Baseball historians are still a bit perplexed over the fact that AL President Ban Johnson, a man who was so concerned with the crystal-clean image of his league, would choose to comport with men like Devery and Farrell. The best answer put forth thus far was that Johnson needed their City Hall and labor group connections to get the new ballpark built in time for the 1903 baseball season.
Whatever the reason, Devery proved to be especially inept as an owner of a baseball team and for the most part, permitted Farrell complete control over all management decisions. His most famous interaction with the Highlanders’ operation occurred during the 1914 season. Farrell had hired the legendary Cubs manager, Frank Chance to skipper the team that season. By that time, Devery had learned enough about baseball to make it a point to publicly criticize Chance for poor decision making after several Highlander losses. The crooked cop-turned owner made the mistake however, of issuing one of his criticisms of the New York manager right after a tough loss while standing in close proximity to the frustrated skipper in the team’s locker room. Chance, who had a well-known reputation as a brawler took a swing at Devery but missed, as onlookers quickly moved in to separate the two.
Can you imagine if Chance was manager at the time Steinbrenner owned the Yankees or if Billy Martin was skipper when Devery owned half the team? There would have been a murder committed in the Yankee locker room.
As it turned out, Chance wasn’t the only guy growing tired of Big Bill. Frank Farrell had grown to hate his crude and hefty partner as well. The two men stopped speaking to each other and Farrell actively started looking for someone willing to buy Devery’s share of the club.
Sure enough two prospective buyers turned up but they weren’t interested in purchasing half a team, they wanted it all. On January 30, 1915, brewery owner Jacob Ruppert and construction magnate Tillinghast Huston paid Farrell and Devery $460,000 for the Highlanders.
Devery died in June of 1919 at the age of 65. Though everyone assumed he had plenty of money, the probate court declared his estate to be in debt at the time of his death.
This Brooklyn born right hander took 27 years to make his big league debut with the New York Highlanders and unfortunately, it happened during the worst season in the franchise’s history. Joe Lake had caught everyone’s attention when in his first-ever season of minor league ball in 1907, he won 25 games for the Eastern League’s Jersey City Skeeters. That same year’s Highlander team had finished with a mediocre 70-78 record. New York’s manager, Clark Griffith knew he had to find some younger arms because his top two starters, 33-year-old Jack Chesbro and 34-year-old Al Orth were both getting a bit long in the tooth. He had received a scouting report praising a hard-throwing young right-hander named Walter Johnson, but the kid had only pitched on sandlots and for company-sponsored semi-pro teams. This lack of experience caused Griffith to hesitate reaching out to Johnson and by the time he did, the Senators had already signed the future Hall of Famer.
So the Highlanders went and got today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant instead and Griffith put him in his 1908 starting rotation. It looked like a genius move when both Lake and the team got off to a quick start that season. New York was actually on top of the AL standings with a 20-15 record on June 1st. They then lost 12 of their next 16 games and after arguing with the front-office over the team’s reversal of fortune, a frustrated Griffith was let go and replaced by Yankee starting shortstop, Kid Elberfield. The “Tabasco Kid” proved to be a much better player than he was a manager. He skippered the team to a dismal 27-71 record and a last-place finish. Every Highlander starter ended the year with a losing record including Lake, who at 9-22 led the league in losses.
Still, when the team’s 1909 spring training camp opened, new manager George Stallings told the New York press that Lake figured prominently in his pitching plans for the upcoming season. It was a wise move on the part of Stallings. Lake already had a decent fastball and Chesbro had helped him improve his knuckleball. The second-year hurler used both pitches efficiently enough to fashion a noteworthy 14-11 record in ’09 with an outstanding ERA of just 1.88. But instead of keeping Lake, the Highlanders traded him to the Browns in December of that year for a 37-year-old veteran catcher named Lou Criger, who would end up hitting just .188 for New York in 1910.
Lake went on to do some very good pitching for some very bad St. Louis ballclubs the next two seasons before ending his big league career as a Tiger in 1913. He shares his January 6th birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher, this one-time Yankee shortstop, this former 20-game-winning pitcher and this former Yankee reliever.
|SLB (3 yrs)||22||39||.361||2.88||76||60||15||42||3||2||533.2||558||272||171||5||133||238||1.295|
|NYY (2 yrs)||23||33||.411||2.60||69||53||16||36||5||1||484.2||432||238||140||8||136||235||1.172|
|DET (2 yrs)||17||18||.486||3.18||54||26||22||17||0||2||299.2||339||161||106||6||63||121||1.341|
Hearing the name of today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant always confuses me. I think of Tom Gorman the long-time MLB umpire. I also get all anagrammic and think of Tom Morgan, another Yankee reliever from the 1950′s. Then there’s Tom Gorman, the tennis player, Tom Gorman the Mets’ pitcher from the 1980′s and even Gorman Thomas, who used to hit lots of homers for the Milwaukee Brewers a generation ago. See what I mean?
This Tom Gorman was the bespectacled right-hander who was called up to the Yankees for the first time in 1952, when the other New York pitcher with the same letters in his last name, Tom Morgan, was called into military service. Gorman was the only MLB ball player ever to come from Valley Stream, NY, a village bordering the New York City borough of Queens, that was also the hometown of Steve Buscemi, the lead character in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire series. Gorman was signed by the Yankees in 1946 and spent five and a half seasons in the organization’s farm system, so he was already 27-years-old when he finally got called to the Bronx.
For his first-ever big league appearance, Casey Stengel brought him into a game against the Indians in the seventh inning to protect a 3-2 lead. He blew the save on a force play but stayed in the game for two innings and got the win when the Yankees rallied. Two days later, Stengel gave Gorman his first start against the White Sox and he gave up three runs over seven innings and got the win.
He ended up appearing in 12 games during his first half-season as a Yankee, split evenly between starts and relief appearances. His 6-2 record earned him a spot on New York’s postseason roster and it was during the third game of the 1952 World Series, that he threw a pitch that could have made him one of the biggest “Goats” in Yankee postseason history.
Eddie Lopat had kept the Yankees in Game 3 against Brooklyn into the ninth inning with less than his best stuff. But after the crafty southpaw surrendered one-out back-to-back singles to Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson, Stengel called in his rookie right-hander, Gorman to keep New York’s deficit at one run.
The two speedy Dodgers immediately executed a double steal but Gorman was able to retire Roy Campanella on an infield pop-up. That brought Brooklyn’s Andy Pafko to the plate. With two strikes against the veteran outfielder, Gorman threw a pitch inside that seemed to cross up Yogi Berra, glancing of his gloved hand, ricocheting off his shin guard and getting passed the Yankee catcher. Both Reese and Robinson scored on the miscue, which was officially ruled a passed ball. The three-run lead proved insurmountable and Brooklyn took a two-games to one advantage into game 4.
There were two reasons why that pitch did not end up branding Gorman a perennial Goat in Yankee lore. The first was that Berra swore it was his fault. When asked after the game by reporters if the Gorman had crossed him up on the pitch, Yogi adamantly denied it and told the reporters to blame him and not the first-year pitcher, so that’s how it was written up. Since the Yanks rebounded to beat Brooklyn in that Fall Classic, the play also turned out to be a lot less costly and notable than it would have been if the Dodgers had been able to hang on and win that Series. A year later, Gorman told the Yankee media that he had in fact crossed Berra up on that pitch and described the Yankee catcher’s insistence on taking blame for the incident as “one of the nicest things anyone had ever done for him.”
Tom Gorman remained an effective member of the Yankee bullpen corps for the next two seasons, until he was sold to Kansas City in March of 1955. He pitched well for the A’s as both a reliever and a starter for the next four years before age caught up to him in 1959. He died back in his hometown of Valley Stream in 1992, at the age of 67.
|KCA (5 yrs)||26||29||.473||3.84||214||26||103||4||1||33||515.0||501||252||220||63||171||221||1.305|
|NYY (3 yrs)||10||7||.588||3.56||75||7||29||1||1||9||174.1||158||80||69||14||68||100||1.296|