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 24 – Happy Birthday Chad Gaudin

Talk about a lousy birthday present, New York announced they were releasing this right-hander on his 27th birthday. He had been competing in Spring Training for the fifth starter’s spot in Manager Joe Girardi’s 2010 rotation but was beaten out by Phil Hughes. If the Yankees kept him on the roster and put him in the bullpen, they would have had to pay his full $2.7 million salary so they released him instead. Gaudin landed a job on the A’s staff a few days later but when Oakland released him in May of 2010, he again joined the Yankee bullpen. He originally had impressed me during his first 11 appearances in pinstripes in 2009 but he did little for New York upon his return in 2010. He pitched a bit for the Washington Nationals in 2011 and then caught on with the Marlins in 2012, followed up by a strong season out of the Giants’ bullpen in 2013. The Phillies brought him to their 2014 spring training camp but he was cut from their roster early on.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2009 NYY 2 0 1.000 3.43 11 6 4 0 0 0 42.0 41 16 16 7 20 34 1.452
2010 NYY 1 2 .333 4.50 30 0 17 0 0 0 48.0 46 27 24 11 20 33 1.375
11 Yrs 45 44 .506 4.44 344 87 80 1 0 2 836.1 859 459 413 92 382 673 1.484
OAK (4 yrs) 20 20 .500 4.25 127 40 28 1 0 2 343.1 346 179 162 35 164 254 1.485
TBD (2 yrs) 3 2 .600 4.25 41 7 10 0 0 0 82.2 96 45 39 8 32 53 1.548
NYY (2 yrs) 3 2 .600 4.00 41 6 21 0 0 0 90.0 87 43 40 18 40 67 1.411
SDP (1 yr) 4 10 .286 5.13 20 19 0 0 0 0 105.1 105 69 60 7 56 105 1.528
WSN (1 yr) 1 1 .500 6.48 10 0 1 0 0 0 8.1 12 10 6 1 8 10 2.400
CHC (1 yr) 4 2 .667 6.26 24 0 5 0 0 0 27.1 29 21 19 5 10 27 1.427
SFG (1 yr) 5 2 .714 3.06 30 12 4 0 0 0 97.0 81 34 33 6 40 88 1.247
MIA (1 yr) 4 2 .667 4.54 46 0 11 0 0 0 69.1 72 39 35 6 26 57 1.413
TOR (1 yr) 1 3 .250 13.15 5 3 0 0 0 0 13.0 31 19 19 6 6 12 2.846
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/13/2014.

March 23 – Happy Birthday Dellin Betances

Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant is the only one of the “Three Killer B’s” who originally received lots of media attention during the Yankees’ 2011 spring training season, to actually begin paying dividends for the parent club. His name is Dellin Betances, and he was born on March 23, 1988, in the Washington Heights section of New York City. He grew up a Yankee fan and the Bronx Bombers selected him in the eighth round of the 2006 draft and then gave him a million dollar contract to dissuade him from accepting a college scholarship to pitch for Vanderbilt University.

An imposing figure on the mound, Betances is 6’8″ tall and throws a fastball that clocks just a shade under 100 mph. His path to the big leagues was obstructed by elbow surgery in 2009. He did appear in his first two big league games for New York during the 2011 season but after he failed to make Joe Girardi’s Yankee staff in either 2012 or 2013, I for one thought his promise was more hype than anything else. It now looks as if I may have been dead wrong and I certainly hope I was. Betances had a terrific 2014 spring training season and has continued his close-to-dominating relief performances through the first two weeks of the regular season. He is the third member of the All-Time Yankee roster to be born on March 23rd, joining this former first baseman and this one-time catcher.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2011 NYY 0 0 6.75 2 1 0 0 0 0 2.2 1 2 2 0 6 2 2.625
2013 NYY 0 0 10.80 6 0 3 0 0 0 5.0 9 6 6 1 2 10 2.200
2014 NYY 0 0 0.00 5 0 2 0 0 0 4.1 1 0 0 0 2 8 0.692
3 Yrs 0 0 6.00 13 1 5 0 0 0 12.0 11 8 8 1 10 20 1.750
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/13/2014.

March 22 – Happy Birthday Cory Lidle

Lidle’s Yankee career began with promise, quickly grew muddled in controversy and ended in shocking tragedy. He came to New York in the Bobby Abreu trade from Philly during the 2006 season. He won his first Yankee start against Toronto and then beat Boston for his second win and I remember at that point liking what I was seeing from this right-hander. He ended up going 4-3 in his nine Yankee starts that year but then got shelled by Detroit in the ALDS-clinching Game 4 loss to Detroit. He was then quoted as saying the Tigers were more ready to play that postseason series than the Yankees, which did not sit well with Yankee fans or his Yankee teammates. It also brought back memories of the derogatory comments Lidle had made about his Philadelphia teammates after getting traded to New York and caused me to conclude that this guy maybe had a screw loose. But then he flew that plane into a New York City apartment building and suddenly those controversial comments meant nothing at all. Lidle was 34 years old when that crash took place and he left behind a wife and young son.

This former Yankee relief pitcher and bullpen coachthis one-time Yankee home-run machine and this one-time Yankee catcher were also born on March 22.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2006 NYY 4 3 .571 5.16 10 9 0 0 0 0 45.1 49 26 26 11 19 32 1.500
9 Yrs 82 72 .532 4.57 277 199 26 11 5 2 1322.2 1400 738 671 159 356 838 1.328
PHI (3 yrs) 26 20 .565 4.50 62 62 0 3 2 0 372.1 396 207 186 40 96 252 1.321
TBD (2 yrs) 5 6 .455 5.13 36 12 6 0 0 0 101.2 122 65 58 13 31 66 1.505
OAK (2 yrs) 21 16 .568 3.74 60 59 0 3 2 0 380.0 361 174 158 40 86 229 1.176
NYM (1 yr) 7 2 .778 3.53 54 2 20 0 0 2 81.2 86 38 32 7 20 54 1.298
CIN (1 yr) 7 10 .412 5.32 24 24 0 3 1 0 149.0 170 95 88 24 44 93 1.436
NYY (1 yr) 4 3 .571 5.16 10 9 0 0 0 0 45.1 49 26 26 11 19 32 1.500
TOR (1 yr) 12 15 .444 5.75 31 31 0 2 0 0 192.2 216 133 123 24 60 112 1.433
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 20 – Happy Birthday Paul Mirabella

After the 1978 season, the New York front office decided the Yankee bullpen wasn’t big enough for both Goose Gossage and Sparky Lyle so they traded “The Count” to Texas in a nine player deal. The key acquisition for New York was supposed to be outfielder Juan Beniquez, but he lasted just one season in the Bronx. The real gem in that deal for the Yankees was a young pitcher named Dave Righetti. Paul Mirabella, today’s birthday celebrant quietly accompanied “Ragu” and Beniquez to New York as part of that transaction.

A word of advice to those of you who have children you hope one day will win baseball scholarships to college or get drafted by an MLB team. If they are right-handed groom them to be catchers and if they throw with their left-hands teach them how to pitch. Why? If you study the history of Major League Baseball  you will find a large number of catchers in every era who were able to put together lengthy big league careers even though they can’t hit worth a lick. You’ll also discover that there’s always room on a big league roster for a pitcher who can throw from the left side.

Mirabella is a classic example. He had come up with Texas in 1978.  After going 0-4 in pinstripes during the 1979 season, he was sent to Toronto with Chris Chambliss in the deal that brought Rick Cerone to New York. He remained in the big leagues for the next eleven seasons even though his ERA as a reliever was 4.45, his record was 19-29 and he saved an average of just one game per season during his 13 years in the Majors. How? Because at least once every season since Major League Baseball was introduced to our culture, the manager of every big league team that has ever played has told the owner or general manager of that team that he needs a left hander who can come into a game and get a left-handed hitter on the opposing team out. That’s why and how Mirabella’s career lasted for thirteen seasons on six different teams.

He was born in Belleville, NJ in 1954. In the above baseball card, Mirabella does bear a slight resemblance to comedy actor, Sacha Baron Cohen, no? He also shares his March 20th birthday with the first pitcher in the history of the Yankee franchise to win 20 games in a season and the first one to lose 20 games in a season.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1979 NYY 0 4 .000 8.79 10 1 0 0 0 0 14.1 16 15 14 3 10 4 1.814
13 Yrs 19 29 .396 4.45 298 33 86 3 1 13 499.2 526 284 247 43 239 258 1.531
MIL (4 yrs) 8 5 .615 3.63 124 2 39 0 0 6 163.2 158 78 66 13 71 81 1.399
SEA (3 yrs) 2 5 .286 4.19 70 1 21 0 0 3 88.0 96 50 41 7 39 55 1.534
TEX (2 yrs) 4 3 .571 5.15 50 4 22 0 0 4 78.2 76 46 45 6 39 52 1.462
TOR (2 yrs) 5 12 .294 4.64 41 23 3 3 1 0 145.1 171 89 75 13 73 62 1.679
NYY (1 yr) 0 4 .000 8.79 10 1 0 0 0 0 14.1 16 15 14 3 10 4 1.814
BAL (1 yr) 0 0 5.59 3 2 1 0 0 0 9.2 9 6 6 1 7 4 1.655
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/13/2014.

March 19 – Happy Birthday Fritz Brickell

brick.jpgYou’d have to be close to my age to remember a shortstop by the name of Freddie Patek, who started for the very good Kansas City Royal teams of the 1970s. Patek’s nickname was “the Flea” because he was tiny, just 5’5″ tall and also a real pest for Royal opponents to deal with. He had good speed, was a heck of a bunter and every time you looked up he was moving a runner into scoring position, beating out a slow grounder or stealing a base. Patek was the guy I thought about as I completed my research on today’s pretty obscure Pinstripe Birthday celebrant named Fritz Brickell. Like Patek, Brickell was a 5’5″ shortstop. But unlike Freddie, Fritzie never became a real pest for Yankee opponents at the big league level.

Brickell’s dad, also named Fred, had been a Major League outfielder back in the twenties who played against the Yankees in the 1927 World Series. In addition to being short, Brickell had the additional misfortune of being a middle infielder in a Yankee organization during the fifties that was loaded with great middle infielders. Nevertheless, when Fritzie took over for Tony Kubek as starting shortstop for the Yankee’s AAA team in Denver in 1957, he banged 170 hits and averaged .295. That performance convinced the Yankees he deserved some look-sees at the Major League level. The 1959 Yankee club was one of the most disappointing teams in the franchise’s history. They finished in third place in the AL that season with a 79-75 record. They were playing .500 baseball in June when Brickell was called up. Manager Casey Stengel played him in 18 games during the next six weeks and Fritz hit his one and only big league career home run off of Detroit’s Tom Morgan. Unfortunately, given his small strike zone, Brickell did not like to walk. Kubek’s job was safe.

The Yankees sent Fritz back down to Denver at the end of July. The next time he played in Yankee Stadium was 1961 and he was wearing the uniform of the Los Angeles Angels. The Yankees had traded him to LA in April of that year to reacquire Duke Maas. Maas had been a valuable member of the Yankee pitching staff during the previous three seasons but when New York left him unprotected in the AL Expansion Draft of 1960, the Angels snatched him. Brickell was the Angels’ first ever Opening Day starting shortstop but after 21 games he was hitting just .122 and was released. Four years later he was dead, a victim of cancer, at the age of 30.

Fritz was born in Wichita, Kansas on March 19, 1935. Only a small handful of Yankees were born in the home state of the Wizard of Oz. The three most notable are Johnny Damon (Ft. Riley) Ralph Houk (Lawrence) and Mike Torrez (Topeka.)

Brickell shares his birthday with this long-ago starting outfielder for the New York Highlanders.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP
1958 NYY 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1959 NYY 18 41 39 4 10 1 0 1 4 0 1 10 .256 .275
3 Yrs 41 96 88 7 16 1 0 1 7 0 7 19 .182 .242
NYY (2 yrs) 20 41 39 4 10 1 0 1 4 0 1 10 .256 .275
LAA (1 yr) 21 55 49 3 6 0 0 0 3 0 6 9 .122 .218
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/13/2014.

March 18 – Happy Birthday Brian Fisher

I remember thinking when I first watched him pitch that Brian Fisher would be a good Yankee starter for a number of years. That was back in 1986 and the Yankees had missed the playoffs for five consecutive seasons at that point, mostly because they lacked good starting pitching. Ron Guidry had just turned 35 years old and his best days were behind him. Dennis Rasmussen had come from nowhere to lead that ’86 Yankee staff with 18 wins but I thought the team’s future rested on the arms of young studs like Fisher, Doug Drabek and Bob Tewksbury. George Steinbrenner didn’t agree with me. After the 86 season, when Fisher went 9-6 out of the Yankee bullpen, this big right hander and Drabek were sent to the Pirates for veteran starter Rick Rhoden and Tewksbury was dealt to the Cubs for Steve Trout. Of the three, Fisher had the best year in 1987, going 11-9 for Pittsburgh but both Tewksbury and especially Drabek went on to even better big league careers. Fisher was out of baseball by 1992. He’s one of only two Yankee players to be born in Hawaii. Can you name the other? It was a utility infielder named Lenny Sakata.

Lot’s of very good pitchers but not so many great position players have worn the uniforms of both the Yankees and Pirates during their big league careers. Here’s my all-time lineup of Yankee/Pirates:

1b Dale Long
2b Willie Randolph
3b Tim Foli
ss Gene Michael
c Russell Martin
of Matty Alou
of Omar Moreno
of Xavier Nady
dh Mike Easler
sp Jack Chesbro
sp Waite Hoyt
sp Doug Drabek
sp John Candelaria
p Rick Rhoden
p Doc Medich
p Dock Ellis
p AJ Burnett
cl Goose Gossage
cl Luis Arroyo
mgr Casey Stengel

Here are Brian Fishers’ Yankee and career stats:

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1985 NYY 4 4 .500 2.38 55 0 23 0 0 14 98.1 77 32 26 4 29 85 1.078
1986 NYY 9 5 .643 4.93 62 0 26 0 0 6 96.2 105 61 53 14 37 67 1.469
7 Yrs 36 34 .514 4.39 222 65 61 7 4 23 640.0 638 341 312 70 252 370 1.391
PIT (3 yrs) 19 22 .463 4.72 79 51 7 7 4 2 348.2 367 194 183 42 139 191 1.451
NYY (2 yrs) 13 9 .591 3.65 117 0 49 0 0 20 195.0 182 93 79 18 66 152 1.272
SEA (1 yr) 4 3 .571 4.53 22 14 2 0 0 1 91.1 80 49 46 9 47 26 1.391
HOU (1 yr) 0 0 7.20 4 0 3 0 0 0 5.0 9 5 4 1 0 1 1.800
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/9/2014.

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.

March 16 – Happy Birthday Charles Hudson

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.”

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1987 NYY 11 7 .611 3.61 35 16 7 6 2 0 154.2 137 63 62 19 57 100 1.254
1988 NYY 6 6 .500 4.49 28 12 10 1 0 2 106.1 93 53 53 9 36 58 1.213
7 Yrs 50 60 .455 4.14 208 140 30 14 3 2 1007.2 997 518 463 110 361 580 1.348
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/9/2014.