If the rumors circulating in the Yankee sports media are correct, David Adams will celebrate his 26th birthday on his first day as a member of the New York Yankees’ big league roster. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant exemplifies just how difficult it is to make it to the Major Leagues. Born in Margate, Florida in 1987, this right-hand hitting infielder was drafted out of high school by the Detroit Tigers in the 21st round of the 2005 Amateur Draft. He chose to play collegiate baseball instead at the University of Virginia and in 2008, he was drafted again, this time in the third round and this time by the Yankees.
He has been climbing his way up the rungs of New York’s minor league ladder during the past six seasons and dealing with injuries along the way. But he’s played well at just about every stop, averaging right around three hundred and playing an acceptable second base. With a durable superstar in Robbie Cano playing second, the Yankees have been in no rush to get Adams to the Bronx. He doesn’t have the range to play short and though he’s been playing a lot of third base this season in Scranton, his lack of power makes it a long shot that the Yanks would groom him to replace A-Rod at hot corner. He’s already old for a rookie but with the decimated left side of the Yankee’s current infield already at the third and fourth string level, this may be the only shot Mr.Adams ever gets to do something special enough to remain in pinstripes or even the big leagues for that matter.
I’ll be rooting for the guy for two reasons. Up until Adams gets called up the only Yankee born on this date is a guy named C.B.Burns who got one at bat for the Baltimore Orioles (who were the Yankees before the Yankees moved to New York) in 1902. The second reason I’d like to see Adams stick is his wife, Camille, who is an associate blogger of mine at the MLB Blog site. She writes about what its like to be a wife of a professional ballplayer and she does it very well. You can check her blog out here. Congratulations David and Camille for making it to the big show!
The Yankees signed Dave LaRoche ten days after the start of the strike-shortened 1981 season. The left-hander had been released by the California Angels two and a half weeks earlier. When he joined the Yanks, he had eleven big league seasons already on his resume, during which he had established himself as a better than average reliever.
His first year in pinstripes was his best as he went 4-1 with a 2.49 ERA and pitched an inning of scoreless relief for New York in the 1981 World Series. I often refer to that 1981 season as George Steinbrenner’s tipping point as a Yankee owner. The players strike coupled with the Yankee defeat to the Dodgers in that year’s Fall Classic seemed to turn the Boss from a hard-to-work for egomaniac into an impossible to please tyrant. Under his complete control, the Yankee front office began making a series of spur-of-the-moment personnel decisions that undermined the team’s field management and filled the roster with anxiety.
Laroche became a victim of that calamity in 1982, when he began being bounced back and forth between the Bronx and Columbus, as the Yankee front office made roster moves with alarming frequency. Despite all the frequent flier miles, the Colorado Springs native continued to pitch effectively for New York, compiling a 4-2 record in his second season with the team. But even LaRoche had limits. When the team tried to send him back to Triple A at the end of the ’83 exhibition season, LaRoche quit instead. At the time his wife was undergoing a very difficult pregnancy and LaRoche wanted a guarantee that if he did go to Columbus, he could remain with the Clippers until the baby was born. When the Yankees refused that request, LaRoche left baseball to be with his wife.
Unable to land a steady job, LaRoche contacted the Yankees after the baby’s birth to see if they still wanted him to pitch for the organization. He returned for one final go-round in 1983, appearing in seven games for Columbus and just one for the parent club.
I remember LaRoche’s Yankee days very well, primarily because he frequently threw a slow, high arching eephus pitch his Yankee teammates had nicknamed La Lob. After he finished his pitching career, the Yankees hired him as a minor league pitching coach and he has spent the last quarter century working in that role for a number of minor league teams. He is also the father of two big league players. They are the Washington National’s slugging first baseman Adam LaRoche and the former Dodger and Pirate infielder, Andy LaRoche.
|CAL (6 yrs)||35||32||.522||3.65||304||10||170||1||0||65||512.1||462||223||208||51||204||386||1.300|
|CLE (3 yrs)||8||9||.471||2.51||135||0||95||0||0||42||197.1||133||64||55||10||113||216||1.247|
|NYY (3 yrs)||8||3||.727||3.12||52||1||30||0||0||0||98.0||94||37||34||8||27||55||1.235|
|CHC (2 yrs)||9||7||.563||5.17||94||4||43||0||0||9||146.1||158||91||84||16||76||83||1.599|
|MIN (1 yr)||5||7||.417||2.83||62||0||43||0||0||10||95.1||72||33||30||9||39||79||1.164|
Those of us who remember the first half of George Steinbrenner’s tenure as principal owner of the Yankees remember the two things he hated most. The first was seeing his Yankees lose a baseball game. The second was seeing his Yankees lose the back-page headlines of New York City’s tabloid newspapers to the cross-town New York Mets.
When the 1984 regular season began, “The Boss” had already enjoyed a decade of dominant Big Apple press coverage. His Yankees had been to five postseasons and won two rings in those ten years. The Mets, on the other hand, after making the World Series that first year of Steinbrenner’s rein had entered into an extended period of losing by 1977. As Opening Day 1984 approached, the Amazin’s were coming off seven consecutive seasons during which they had failed to reach 70 victories.
But as Steinbrenner began his second decade of Yankeedom, there was a definite whiff of change in the air between the Bronx and Flushing. More specifically, it was a nineteen year old Doctor of Whiff’s with a blazing fastball who would almost singlehandedly evict the Bronx Bombers form the back pages of the Daily News and Post. His name was Dwight Gooden and he would electrify baseball with his 17-9 rookie season and league-leading 276 strikeouts. He led that ’84 team to their first 90-win season since the legendary Miracle Mets of 1969 and he would help the club reach that level of success six more times during the next seven years.
The Boss reacted to Gooden’s emergence as only “the Boss” could. He demanded the Yankees find a teenaged phee-nom starter of their own. The unfortunate pinstriped pitching prospect selected for the cloning experiment was a nineteen-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic who was coming off an 18-7 1983 season spent mostly as a starter with the Yankees’ single A team in the Florida League. Never mind he wasn’t yet old enough to drink and had only pitched a month of that season in double A ball, the Mets had a 19-year-old pitching sensation dominating his league and George Steinbrenner wanted one of his own.
The problem that almost became a tragic career blunder was that Rijo, unlike Gooden was nowhere near ready to pitch at the big league level. Manager Yogi Berra let him perform out of the bullpen the first month of that ’84 season but my guess is that the hotter Gooden got starting for the Mets the greater the pressure the Boss put on Berra to start Rijo. Berra began using him as a starter in early May. By June 11th, his record was 1-6 and Yogi put him back in the bullpen. Less than a month later, he was 2-8 and pitching in Columbus. That December, he was one of five Yankees sent Oakland in the trade for Ricky Henderson.
After three mediocre years with the A’s, Rijo signed as a free agent with the Reds and found a home. He was 97-61 during his decade in Cincinnati, during which he won the 1990 World Series MVP award for his two Fall Classic victories against Oakland. Rijo, who was born in 1965, is the son-in-law of Hall-of-Fame pitcher, Juan Marichal.
Rijo shares his May 13th birthday with another Yankee pitching prospect who made his big league debut in May of 2012.
|CIN (10 yrs)||97||61||.614||2.83||280||215||22||17||4||0||1478.0||1301||523||464||102||453||1251||1.187|
|OAK (3 yrs)||17||22||.436||4.74||72||49||13||5||0||1||339.2||335||209||179||40||177||308||1.507|
|NYY (1 yr)||2||8||.200||4.76||24||5||8||0||0||2||62.1||74||40||33||5||33||47||1.717|
If you ask any native of the Dominican Republic currently playing big league ball which of their countrymen did the most to pave the way for them to play in the majors, their answer would be Felipe Alou. Actually, they might say Felipe Rojas. (His Dad’s last name was Rojas and his Mom’s was Alou.) Ozzie Virgil was the first Dominican to play in the MLB, when the New York Giants brought him up in 1956 but Virgil had migrated to the US as a youth and attended high school in New York City. Alou became the second native of his country (and the first to have lived there all his life) to play big league ball the following year as a member of that same Giants organization.
He was born in the Dominican Republic on May 12, 1935 to extremely poor parents. Felipe was an outstanding athlete and an outstanding student, who had been accepted in the pre-med program at the University of Santo Domingo. But he also played on his country’s baseball team that competed in 1955 Pan American Game. When he led the Dominican Republic to a victory over the US in the finals of those Games the MLB scouts came calling and he signed with the Giants.
It took awhile because the Giant organization in the late fifties was loaded with outstanding black and latino prospects, but Alou finally became a starter in San Franciso’s outfield in the early sixties. His younger brothers Matty and Jesus later joined him there and the three made history when they became the first three siblings to ever play in one team’s outfield at the same time, in September of 1963.
That was also Alou’s last year with the Giants. After the ’63 season, he was traded to Milwaukee in a seven-player deal. Felipe played for the Braves for the next six seasons, including 1966, when the team relocated to Atlanta and he put together his best year in the big leagues, with 31 HRs, a .327 batting average and leading the league in hits (218) and runs (122.)
He was traded to the A’s in 1970. By then he was 35-years-old and his best playing days were behind him. During the first week of his second season with Oakland, he was traded to the Yankees for pitchers Rob Gardner and Ron Klimkowski, where he was reunited with his brother Matty to become the first set of siblings to wear the pinstripes together since Bobby and Billy Shantz had done so in 1960.
Ralph Houk, the Yankee skipper at the time of the trade loved Felipe and put him in the lineup as a first baseman or outfielder 131 times during his first season in the Bronx. Alou responded with a .289 batting average and 69 RBIs that year. He continued to play a lot for Houk the following year, but his run production took a nose dive. Still, when the Yankees 1973 spring training season came around, Felipe was hammering the ball and Houk was telling the press that the elder Alou would share the brand new DH position with Ron Blomberg and also play a lot of first base. But on September 6th of that season, with his average hovering in the .230′s, Alou was put on waivers and picked up by the Expos. On that same day, the Yankees sold his brother Matty to the Cardinals and the Yankees were suddenly Alou-less.
Felipe Alou would retire as a player the following year and became a minor league manager in the Expos organization. He would later become a highly successful big league skipper of the Expos and also manage the Giants. His son Moises became a big league all star outfielder who played for his Dad with both Montreal and the Giants.
|SFG (6 yrs)||719||2478||2292||337||655||119||19||85||325||51||138||308||.286||.328||.466||.794|
|ATL (6 yrs)||841||3604||3348||464||989||163||20||94||335||40||188||284||.295||.338||.440||.778|
|NYY (3 yrs)||344||1145||1065||110||289||50||7||18||133||6||63||76||.271||.311||.382||.694|
|OAK (2 yrs)||156||627||583||70||158||26||3||8||55||10||32||32||.271||.307||.367||.674|
|MON (1 yr)||19||50||48||4||10||1||0||1||4||0||2||4||.208||.240||.292||.532|
|MIL (1 yr)||3||3||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||.000||.000||.000||.000|
Drafted by the Mets initially in 1979, Terrell did not sign. The Rangers drafted him the following season, signed him and then bundled him with Ron Darling in a trade for Met fan favorite Lee Mazzilli. Terrell went 19-23 during his three seasons at Shea. In 1984, the Amazins dealt the right-hander to Detroit for Howard Johnson, a transaction that worked out well for both teams. Terrell thrived in the Motor City winning 47 games during the next three seasons. When he slumped to 7-16 in 1988, Detroit traded him to San Diego where he got off to a horrible start during the 1989 season and was just 5-13 by the end of June. That’s when the Yankees swapped their slumping third baseman, Mike Pagliarullo for Terrell and Walt ended the year by winning six of eleven decisions for the Bombers. The Yankees let him walk after that one half-season and he signed with the Pirates. He eventually returned to Detroit where he retired after the 1992 season with 111 victories during his eleven-year big league career.
Only one player in big league history has made the All Star team playing for both Detroit and New York and that’s “the Boomer” David Wells. Here’s my line up of the best players to wear the uniforms of both the Yankees and Tigers during their playing careers:
c – Ivan Rodriguez
1b – Cecil Fielder
2b – Billy Martin
3b – Aurelio Rodriguez
ss - Tom Tresh
of – Rocky Colavito
of – Curtis Granderson
of – Steve Kemp
dh – Gary Sheffield
p – Jeff Weaver
p – David Wells
p – Virgil Trucks
p – Doyle Alexander
cl – Duke Maas
mgr – Ralph Houk
|DET (7 yrs)||79||76||.510||4.26||216||190||9||44||9||0||1328.0||1379||687||629||126||516||621||1.427|
|NYM (3 yrs)||19||23||.452||3.53||57||56||1||7||3||0||369.2||377||168||145||25||149||181||1.423|
|PIT (1 yr)||2||7||.222||5.88||16||16||0||0||0||0||82.2||98||59||54||13||33||34||1.585|
|SDP (1 yr)||5||13||.278||4.01||19||19||0||4||1||0||123.1||134||65||55||14||26||63||1.297|
|NYY (1 yr)||6||5||.545||5.20||13||13||0||1||1||0||83.0||102||52||48||9||24||30||1.518|
The only thing Edward Grant Barrow couldn’t do real well in the game of baseball, was play it. But nobody managed a team, an organization or a league better than this one-time farm boy from Springield, IL. Barrow’s Yankee career started after he managed the Red Sox and Babe Ruth to a World Series title in 1918. Boston owner, Harry Frazee than began selling his best players for the money he needed to finance his Broadway shows. At the time the Yankees were co-owned by Jacob Rupert and a guy named Tillinghast Huston. The two millionaires hated each other and were constantly arguing about what was best for their baseball team. Hiring Barrow to serve as the team’s business manager in 1920 was about the only thing the two agreed on and it turned out to be the best decision in the history of the Yankee franchise.
Barrow convinced Rupert to make the deal for Ruth. Working closely with Huggins, the new team exec put together a 1921 Yankee roster that won the franchise’s first-ever pennant. Barrow was the architect and overseer of a Yankee minor league organization that became the envy of all of baseball. He handled every detail in the opening and operation of the greatest stadium in the history of US sports. When Huggins died in 1929, it was Barrow who hired Joe McCarthy as soon as the Cubs fired him. Many of the players he put into pinstripes have their faces on plaques that reside in Cooperstown today. Barrow was known for having a fiery temper and for being a strict negotiator. He spent Ruppert’s money as thriftily as if it was his own and his annual contract squabbles with the Yankee stable of superstars were legendary. When Ruppert died and Dan Topping, Del Webb and Larry MacPhail purchased the team, they made Barrow Chairman of the Board. He retired from that position in 1946, after over a half century making his living in and his mark on the game of baseball. Barrow’s Yankee teams had won 14 Pennants and ten World Series. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1953 and he died that same year at the age of 85.
Barrow shares his May 10th birthday with this one-time Yankee pitcher.
The only member of the all-time Yankee/Highlander roster to celebrate his birthday on May 8th is this right-handed first baseman who appeared in just three games during the Highlanders 1909 season. He broke into the big leagues in 1906, in Cincinnati, the city of his birth. A few other former Yankees born in Cincinnati include, Miller Huggins, Dave Justice, and Joe Torre’s former bench coach, Don Zimmer.
Here’s my all-time lineup of Yankees who also played for Cincinnati:
1b – Wally Pipp
2b – Billy Martin
3b – Aaron Boone
ss – Leo Durocher
c – Joe Oliver
of – Ken Griffey Sr.
of – Paul O’Neill
of – Roberto Kelly
sp – Carl Mays (right-hander)
sp – Don Gullett (left-hander)
closer – David Weathers
mgr – Miller Huggins
|CIN (2 yrs)||6||13||11||4||2||0||0||0||0||0||2||3||.182||.308||.182||.490|
|NYY (1 yr)||3||9||8||1||3||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.375||.444||.500||.944|
Before the 2001 season began, the Yankees had signed veteran catcher, Joe Oliver to back up Jorge Posada behind the plate. After a 12-game trial, Oliver had not impressed anyone with his defense or his arm, throwing out just 2 of the 12 runners who had attempted steals against him. New York had signed Todd Greene that April, right after the five-year veteran had been released by the Blue Jays. Greene had spent four seasons as a utility catcher, first baseman and outfielder for the Angels. The Yankees called him up in June of 2001 and the native of Augusta, Georgia turned some heads by hitting a homer in his first game in pinstripes and driving in a total of six runs in his first two. With his shaved head and stocky build, he looked like a professional wrestler and Yankee fans hoped his great start was a sign of more good things to come. It was not. He not only cooled off at the plate, base stealers had a field day running with him behind it. He did make the 2001 postseason roster and doubled and scored a run against Arizona in that year’s World Series. Joe Torre cut him at the end of the 2002 spring training season and he signed on with the Rangers. Greene played until 2006, retiring with 71 big league home runs and a .252 lifetime batting average.
This former Yankee prospect shares Greene’s May 8th birthday.
|ANA (4 yrs)||189||626||595||72||147||31||0||26||82||5||25||119||.247||.281||.430||.711|
|COL (2 yrs)||113||343||321||33||87||18||0||17||58||0||20||59||.271||.315||.486||.801|
|TEX (2 yrs)||104||328||317||40||77||15||1||20||39||0||4||70||.243||.257||.486||.743|
|SFG (1 yr)||61||170||159||16||46||12||2||2||17||0||10||45||.289||.335||.428||.763|
|NYY (1 yr)||35||100||96||9||20||4||0||1||11||0||3||21||.208||.240||.281||.521|
|TOR (1 yr)||34||90||85||11||20||2||0||5||10||0||5||18||.235||.278||.435||.713|
The 1966 Yankee spring training camp was the first one in my lifetime in which anxiety about the upcoming season competed with confidence in the minds of most Bronx Bomber fans, myself included. The team’s outfield situation was a perfect example. Mickey Mantle had just experienced the worst season of his illustrious career in 1965 and Roger Maris had spent most of that same year on the DL. Tom Tresh had been about the only offensive bright spot in that ’65 lineup and it would again be him and the M&M Boys who would be penciled in to start in manager Johnny Keane’s second Yankee Opening Day outfield.
With the Mick’s crippled knees and Maris’s chronically sore wrist, Keane’s choices for reserve outfielders on that ’65 roster were especially important. Long-time Yankee Hector Lopez was pretty much guaranteed one of those three spots. Four other players were in that 1966 camp to compete for the other two. One was the recently acquired Red Sox veteran Lou Clinton and the other three were the Yankee’s top prospects at the time, Roy White, Roger Repoz and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant.
Steve Whitaker, a 22-year-old left-hand-hitting slugger from Tacoma, Washington had been in the Yankee farm system since 1962. He had hit 27 homers for Greensboro in 1964 but he had two big chinks in his resume. In order to hit a home run, your bat has to make contact with the ball and Whitaker’s bat did not do that very often. Compounding the youngster’s propensity to strike out was an explosive temper that just happened to peak whenever the kid struck out. So after an exhibition-season filled with slammed down batting helmets, knocked over water coolers and punched walls, the Yankee brain trust thought it best to send Whitaker back down to the farm for more “seasoning.”
By August of that ’66 season, however, everything had changed. By then it had become clear to everyone that the Yankee team that had won that decade’s first five AL Pennants was no more. After a horrible start, Houk had replaced Keane as skipper and Whitaker had hit 25 more minor league home runs. The Yankees brought him up that August and told the kid he was a huge part of their future.
Houk threw him into the fire and Whitaker responded pretty well, belting 7 home runs in just 31 games. But his temper hadn’t improved, he still struck out too much and the Yankees still finished in the basement of the AL’s 1966 standings. But I do remember thinking the guy was good enough to help make my Yankee’s winners again and Ralph Houk agreed with me. He started Whitaker in the Yank’s 1967 outfield pretty much the whole season. When that year was over, New York was in ninth place and Houk had seen enough of his young outfielder to decide that he was not the future of the franchise. The Yankees left him unprotected in the 1968 AL expansion draft and he was the 23rd pick of the new Kansas City Royals team. Before he ever played a game for the Royals, KC traded him to Seattle for Lou Piniella. After a year with the Pilots and one more with the Giants, Whitaker’s big league career was over. He and his son, who was also a prospect in the Cleveland Indians’ organization, now operate Whitaker Realty in southern Florida.
Also born on this date was this former Yankee pitcher who’s most famous pitch in Yankee Stadium took place while he was wearing an opposing team’s uniform. Still another May 7th pinstripe birthday belongs to the first guy George Steinbrenner ever hired to manage the Yankees.
|NYY (3 yrs)||181||664||615||55||142||17||5||18||68||2||40||131||.231||.281||.363||.644|
|SFG (1 yr)||16||30||27||3||3||1||0||0||4||0||2||14||.111||.167||.148||.315|
|SEP (1 yr)||69||130||116||15||29||2||1||6||13||2||12||29||.250||.323||.440||.763|
There are not many if any Yankee fans still around who can remember this knuckle-balling right-hander. The best thing about Ivy Andrews had to be his nickname, which was “Poison.” He started his big league career in 1931 when he went 2-0 for New York after being called up from the minors in August of that season. Yankee Manager Joe McCarthy planned on giving the Dora, Alabama native plenty of opportunities the following year but when Andrews came down with a case of lumbago after just four appearances in 1932, Marse Joe started using a rookie named Johnny Allen in his place. Allen became an instant success and Andrews found himself in a Boston Red Sox uniform by early June. He bounced back from his illness to finish that ’32 season with a 10-7 record. When he slumped to 7-13 the following year he was traded to the Browns. In his first season in St. Louis he won just 4 games but three of those victories were complete game shutouts. He then went 13-7 for the 1935 Browns, which turned out to be his best year in the big leagues. The Yankees got him back in 1937 and in that year’s World Series he enjoyed his finest moment in pinstripes. It took place in Game 4 with the Yankees leading the cross-town Giants three games to none and looking for a sweep. McCarthy started Bump Hadley who got hammered for six runs in the second inning. Poison Ivy replaced Hadley and pitched five plus innings of solid relief. Unfortunately, the Yankee lineup took that game off and the Giants came out on top. Andrews played one more year in New York and then spent the next seven in the minors trying to make it back to the big show. He never did.
Also born on this date was one of the first second baseman in New York Yankee history.
|NYY (4 yrs)||8||6||.571||3.12||41||10||22||6||1||2||156.0||156||69||54||8||51||47||1.327|
|SLB (3 yrs)||24||30||.444||4.29||129||58||42||23||0||5||543.2||618||288||259||36||168||127||1.446|
|BOS (2 yrs)||15||19||.441||4.38||59||36||12||13||0||1||281.2||301||172||137||12||114||67||1.473|
|CLE (1 yr)||3||4||.429||4.37||20||4||8||1||1||0||59.2||76||33||29||3||9||16||1.425|