Joel Skinner came to the Yankees in a trade with the White Sox during the 1986 season. New York was hoping he could take over the starting catcher slot from a disappointing Butch Wynegar, who was hitting in the low .200s at the time. Skinner did OK for Manager Lou Piniella’s team the rest of that season but not good enough to stop New York from re-acquiring Rick Cerone in 1988 and then Don Slaught from Texas in 1989. Skinner remained in pinstripes both years as the backup catcher, hitting just .214 as a Yankee. He was born in La Jolla, CA on this date in 1961. After his playing days were through in 1991, Skinner got into coaching and managing and in 2002, he was hired to replace Charley Manuel as the Indians’ field boss for the second half of that season. Skinner shares his February 21st birthday with this starting left-fielder for the 1990 Yankees and the first 34th round draft pick in Yankee history.
Can anybody out there tell me what the following Yankee lineup has in common?
Here are Joel Skinner’s Yankee regular season and MLB career stats:
|CHW (4 yrs)||131||311||284||32||65||11||2||5||29||2||21||76||.229||.282||.335||.617|
|CLE (3 yrs)||227||640||601||49||145||28||1||4||53||1||30||153||.241||.279||.311||.590|
|NYY (3 yrs)||206||600||556||38||119||23||0||8||54||0||29||158||.214||.253||.299||.551|
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!
The 1989 season was a bad one for Yankee fans. That year’s team became the first New York club in fifteen seasons to lose more regular season games than it won, (74-87.) It was a season of transition for my favorite baseball team but unfortunately, that transition was moving in the wrong direction. That year would be the last time Don Mattingly would average .300 in a full regular season in pinstripes. It was the first time in almost a decade that Dave Winfield wasn’t a Yankee outfielder and the last season Ricky Henderson was. It was the first year of Ron Guidry’s retirement and the final year George Steinbrenner would officially have dictatorial control over all organizational and personnel moves before being suspended for his role in the Howie Spira scandal. The Yankee managers that season were Dallas Green and then Bucky Dent, both of whom were fired, clearing the way for the Stump Merrill era to begin one season later or as I like to refer to it as “the era of being completely Stumped.”
It appeared as if the only good thing happening in Yankee Stadium in 1989 was the introduction of a flashy Venezuelan-born starting shortstop. But alas, even that turned out to be an illusion. When I think of Alvaro Espinosa during his Yankee playing days I’m reminded of a line that comedian Billy Crystal used on Saturday Night Live whenever he impersonated the actor, Fernando Lamas, with one slight modification. “It is better to look good than to play good.”
At first appearance to Yankee fans, Alvaro Espinosa looked like a classic Major League shortstop. He hit .282 his first full year as a Yankee and played shortstop with a flair that often thrilled us. As time and Yankee seasons wore on however and the team’s losses mounted, it became clear that Espinosa’s defensive skills, though not horrible were far from great and his propensity to swing at terrible pitches on 3-0 counts and his lack of run production made him a liability in the Yankee lineup. When Buck Showalter replaced Stump Merrill in 1992, Espinosa’s three-year reign as New York’s starting shortstop was officially over. There was of course Espinosa’s great gold necklace. I could be wrong but I do believe it was Alvaro who first introduced bling to big league baseball in the Bronx. In any event, happy 52nd birthday to Mr Espinosa and may he enjoy many more. He shares his birthday with this Yankee catcher.
|CLE (4 yrs)||344||802||749||88||189||36||2||11||74||4||22||103||.252||.276||.350||.626|
|NYY (4 yrs)||447||1528||1424||133||363||58||5||7||94||8||46||171||.255||.281||.317||.598|
|MIN (3 yrs)||70||107||99||9||24||3||0||0||10||0||2||19||.242||.265||.273||.537|
|NYM (1 yr)||48||144||134||19||41||7||2||4||16||0||4||19||.306||.324||.478||.801|
|SEA (1 yr)||33||78||72||3||13||1||0||0||7||1||2||12||.181||.213||.194||.408|
Mr. Mogridge was a tall and thin southpaw, who threw a decent spitball in his day. He made Yankee franchise history on April 24, 1917 when he threw the first no-hitter in the team’s history. It would take more than 66 years before another Yankee pitcher, Dave Righetti threw another one during the regular season.
A native of Rochester, NY, Mogridge made his big league debut with the White Sox in 1911 but he was not yet ready to stick. He returned to the minors in 1912 and it would take three more years for him to get back to the big dance and this time it was as a Yankee. His first Yankee skipper was Wild Bill Donovan who used Mogridge mostly as a starter in both 1916 and ’17. When Miller Huggins took over the team the following year, he used this lanky left-hander a lot in a closing role as well as a starter. The result was a 16-win season with a 2.18 ERA and 7 saves.
After another solid year in 1919, Mogridge’s performance slipped badly in 1920 and that December the Yanks traded him to the Senators. He quickly evolved into one of Washington’s most reliable starters, putting together back-to-back 18-win seasons during his first two years there and becoming one of the heroes of the Senators’ 1924 World Series victory. In that Fall Classic against the Giants, he started and won Game 4 and then pitched brilliantly out of the bullpen in Game 7, which Washington won in extra innings in a contest still considered to be one of the greatest in Series history.
Age began to catch up with Mogridge in 1925 and he was traded to the Browns that June. The Yankees actually re-aquired him in a trade with St. Louis the following February, but immediately put the by then, 36-year-old pitcher on waivers and he was claimed by the Braves. He pitched a couple more years for Boston, retiring after the 1927 season and returning to his native Rochester. He died in that city in 1962, at the age of 73.
|NYY (6 yrs)||48||57||.457||2.73||171||103||48||61||8||8||965.2||929||393||293||24||220||278||1.190|
|WSH (5 yrs)||68||55||.553||3.38||145||136||6||72||12||1||1016.2||1104||453||382||38||273||284||1.354|
|BSN (2 yrs)||12||14||.462||4.30||59||11||40||2||0||8||190.2||221||105||91||10||51||72||1.427|
|CHW (2 yrs)||3||6||.333||4.19||21||9||7||2||0||3||77.1||81||42||36||3||16||36||1.254|
|SLB (1 yr)||1||1||.500||5.87||2||2||0||1||0||0||15.1||17||10||10||2||5||8||1.435|
I never heard Walter “Red” Barber announce a Dodger game. I was born in 1954, the same year Barber left the Brooklyn booth to join Mell Allen in the Bronx. By the time I was old enough to remember him announcing Yankee games, his voice and style really didn’t make much of an impression on me. Allen was my guy and I can still remember details about the way he called games and talked about different Yankee players.
Then I read Roger Kahn’s classic Boys of Summer and fell in love with the old Brooklyn Dodgers, so in love that I continue to strive to improve my knowledge of D’em Bums still today. In doing so, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to tapes and watch old television broadcasts featuring Barber during his days describing the action at Ebbetts Field. This younger Barber was much better than the older Yankee version I remember listening to on my big brother’s GE transistor radio as a boy. He did those Dodger games with more emotion and made much more liberal and entertaining use of the glorious homespun lexicon of his native Mississippi. From “can of corn” to “walkin in the tall cotton,” the Ol’ Redhead invented a whole new way of describing the action taking place on a Major League baseball field that endeared him to hundreds of thousands of Dodger fans and got him into the Hall of Fame.
Barber’s most famous moment in the Yankee booth took place sadly the day that cost him his job. On September 22, 1966, the Yankees were ending a season that would see them finish in last place and playing in front of a paid home crowd of just 413 people. Barber rightly attempted to focus his television audience’s attention on the fact that the once mighty Bronx Bombers had fallen on such hard times that nobody was willing to pay to see them play. He instructed his cameramen to focus on the thousands upon thousands of empty seats that existed in the House that Ruth Built that afternoon but was overruled by one of the Yankee suits upstairs. He was fired by new club president Mike Burke just a week later.
Barber died in 1992 at the age of 84. This former Yankee reliever , this one-time replacement for A-Rod as Yankee third baseman and this great former Yankee first baseman were each also born on February 17th.
Over the five decades I’ve been a Yankee fan, there have been a lot of back-up catchers come and go on the Yankee roster. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant held that position for New York back during the strike shortened season of 1981. But Barry Foote wasn’t always a back-up. In fact, when he came up to the big leagues in 1974, he was good enough to beat out future Hall-of-Famer, Gary Carter for Montreal’s starting catcher’s position. That season he hit 11 home runs, drove in 60, averaged .262 plus displayed a strong arm and great defensive ability behind home plate. He was named to the Topp’s All-Rookie team. The following year, however, Foote pretty much stopped hitting and his putrid .194 batting average in 1975, opened the door for Carter to begin his legendary career as one of the best backstops of his era.
Foote remained with Montreal as “The Kid’s” backup until 1977, when he was dealt to the Phillies. He got one more chance at a starting job in 1979, after Philadelphia traded him to the Cubs. He put together a strong debut season in Chicago, hitting a career high 16 home runs and averaging a respectable .256. Then in ’80, he lost his starting job to Tim Blackwell. The following April, the Yankees traded for Barry.
Rick Cerone had become New York’s starting catcher in 1980 and the veteran, Johnny Oates had been his backup that first year. The Yankees had signed Oates to another one-year contract just three weeks before they traded for Foote but it was Barry who became Cerone’s primary backup in that whacky strike-shortened 1981 split season. Foote hit just .208 his first year in pinstripes, appearing in 40 games and producing six home runs. He also got the opportunity to appear in his one and only World Series that fall against the Dodgers. He failed to get a hit in his only at-bat. He remained with the Yankees in 1982 and retired as a player after that season. The Yankees then hired Foote to manage in their Minor League system.
He shares his February 16th birthday with this former Yankee pitcher.
Here’s a list of the New York’s starting catchers with their primary back-ups since I started following the Yankees in 1960
|MON (5 yrs)||369||1309||1212||105||283||54||9||27||126||4||73||164||.233||.277||.360||.637|
|CHC (3 yrs)||204||711||653||63||157||39||1||22||85||6||50||74||.240||.298||.404||.702|
|PHI (2 yrs)||57||93||89||7||16||1||0||2||7||0||4||17||.180||.215||.258||.473|
|NYY (2 yrs)||57||187||173||16||33||9||0||6||12||0||9||32||.191||.230||.347||.576|
“Ross Moschitto” is the name most often mentioned by lukewarm Yankee fans who are my age, when they are trying to convince someone else how big a Yankee fan they are. I’m not sure why but that’s just the way it is. They don’t mention Frank Tepedino or Steve Whitaker or Roger Repoz. Its always Moschitto. He has to be the most famous non-famous Yankee in pinstripe history.
In 1965, Major League baseball started its free agent draft along with the rule that any player in the Majors or Minor leagues could be drafted if that player’s name was not on a Major League club’s 40-man expanded roster at the time the draft was conducted. For years, the Yankees had dominated their league by signing up all the best amateur prospects and developing their talent in New York’s well financed and well managed minor league farm system. No other team could steal a prospect from another franchise and since the Yankees had the most money they consistently had the most prospects.The draft and the 40-man roster rule changed that forever and Ross Moschitto paid the price for those changes.
He had signed with New York in 1964 and was assigned to their lowest level minor league team, in Johnson City, TN. When Ross hit 20 home runs in just 71 games that year, he popped onto the radar of every big league franchise. Instead of practicing their usual prospect patience, the Yankees put Moschitto on their big league roster the following April, when he was far from ready. So instead of getting a chance to play every day, Ross spent the the 1965 season sitting on a big league bench, pinch running for Mickey Mantle if the aging slugger got on base in his last at bat or taking his spot in the outfield if the Mick made an out. He got just 27 big league at bats that year and when he was sent back to the Minors the following season, he had lost his stroke for good. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Blog celebrant was born in Fresno, CA in 1945.
Moschitto was an Italian American but not good enough to make my All-Time Yankee team of Italian Americans. Here’s my all-time Pinstriped Paisans:
1B – Jason Giambi
2B – Tony Lazzeri
3B – Mike Pagliarulo (or Frank Crosetti who started one season at third for NY)
SS – Phil Rizzuto
C – Yogi Berra
OF – Joe DiMaggio
OF - Joe Pepitone
OF -Francesco Pezzolo (better known as Ping Bodie, the first Italian American player in the Majors)
SP – Mike Mussina
RP – Dave Righetti
The deal that made Larry Milbourne a Yankee for the first time became part of Yankee trivia history. In November of 1980, the Seattle Mariners traded Milbourne and a player to be named later to New York for catcher Brad Gulden. The following May, the Mariners completed the trade by sending Gulden back to the Yankees as the “player to be named later” part of the trade. This made Gulden the only player in franchise history ever to be traded for himself.
Milbourne would go on to have his best big league season during his 1981 Yankee debut. He played sparingly but well as a pinch-hitter and back-up infielder during the first half of that season, which was split in two by a players’ strike. In the second half, he took over as New York’s starting shortstop after Bucky Dent tore a ligament in his hand at the end of August. The League’s embarrassingly bad decision to award team’s with the best pre-strike records a postseason spot gave the Yankee players little motivation to give a damn during the second half, but Milbourne impressed everyone with his grit and hustle as he filled in for Dent.
He then hit a combined .363 in New York’s ALDS and ALCS victories that postseason and though his bat cooled off a bit against the Dodgers in the Series, Yankee fans like me were very grateful for his better-than-expected performance. Milbourne also loved playing for New York and told reporters he was so happy wearing the pinstripes, he’d prefer staying with the Yanks and backing up Dent and Willie Randolph to starting for any other team. But after getting off to a horrible start in 1982, he was traded to the Twins in May of that year in the deal that brought Butch Wynegar to New York. The Yanks brought him back to New York the following year but traded him back to the Mariners after he hit just .200 in 31 games. His final big league season was 1984.
Nicknamed “the Devil,” Milbourne was born on Valentine’s Day in 1951 in Port Norris, NJ. He shares a birthday with this Hall-of-Fame Yankee announcer, this former Yankee relief pitcher and this one-time Yankee pitching prospect.
|SEA (5 yrs)||487||1420||1301||148||329||40||13||7||115||20||65||75||.253||.287||.320||.607|
|NYY (3 yrs)||106||281||260||31||69||12||2||1||14||3||15||28||.265||.309||.338||.648|
|HOU (3 yrs)||244||472||432||70||106||7||3||1||25||13||30||38||.245||.297||.282||.579|
|MIN (1 yr)||29||106||98||9||23||1||1||0||1||1||7||8||.235||.283||.265||.548|
|PHI (1 yr)||41||73||66||3||16||0||1||0||4||2||4||7||.242||.282||.273||.554|
|CLE (1 yr)||82||319||291||29||80||11||4||2||25||2||12||20||.275||.301||.361||.662|
As the 1953 season approached, New York’s veteran shortstop, Phil Rizzuto was not enjoying his offseason. Two years removed from his MVP year of 1950, Scooter was getting on in years and slumping at the plate. Yankee GM George Weiss had sent Rizzuto a contract for the ’53 season that included a significant pay cut and to make matters worse, the future Hall of Famer had spent time in the hospital that winter, being treated for some sort of stomach disorder.
Observing all this from his home in California, Yankee skipper Casey Stengel was making plans just in case he did not have the services of Rizzuto on Opening Day of that ’53 season. The Ol Perfessor had two young Yankee shortstop prospects attend his baseball school in Glendale that winter. The first was Andy Carey, who was considered number one in line to succeed Scooter. The second was a University of Southern California graduate by the name of Jim Brideweser.
Brideweser had put himself into contention for the job with a solid 1951 season with the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League. Then in 1952, he saw significant action with the parent club as Rizzuto’s backup. When Carey showed up at the Yanks 1953 spring training camp with a sore arm, Stengel told the Yankee press he was going to start Bridweser at short and give him a “thorough trial” that spring.
Casey was true to his word and as late as March 22nd of that year, he was still telling anyone who’d listen that he was thrilled with Brideweser’s effort that spring. As the situation played out however, Rizzuto was finally signed and got healthy enough to play 134 games that season and put together a fine bounce-back performance. Carey was switched over to third, where he’d play the rest of his career. Brideweser started the year on the Opening Day roster but spent most of that ’53 season in Syracuse playing for the Yanks Triple A team there. New York GM George Weiss purchased switch-hitting utility infielder Willy Miranda from the Browns that June and he became Rizzuto’s primary backup.
The following May, Brideweser was traded to the Orioles. He would get big league at bats with Baltimore, the White Sox and the Tigers before retiring as a player in 1957 and becoming a high school math teacher and baseball coach.
|NYY (3 yrs)||51||53||49||16||16||0||1||0||5||0||4||6||.327||.377||.367||.745|
|BAL (2 yrs)||164||392||346||34||92||14||3||1||30||3||36||43||.266||.336||.332||.668|
|CHW (2 yrs)||44||75||69||6||14||4||2||0||5||0||3||10||.203||.247||.319||.565|
|DET (1 yr)||70||180||156||23||34||4||0||0||10||3||20||19||.218||.307||.244||.550|
Lenny Randle was a superb athlete, an intelligent human being and a good big league ballplayer who unfortunately, is perhaps now best known for punching out his manager and trying to blow a bunted ball foul. The skipper he decked was Frank Luchessi, during the Texas Rangers’ 1977 spring training season. Randle had been a Washington Senator first round draft pick (10th selection overall) in 1970. Before that, he had starred in both baseball and football at Arizona State.
He made his big league debut for the last Washington Senator team in history before that franchise relocated to Texas in 1972. Three years later, Randle was Billy Martin’s starting third baseman on a 1974 Ranger team that surprised everyone by finishing second in the AL West Division race. Randle hit .302 that year and led the team with 26 stolen bases as he thrived under Martin’s aggressive style of play. But when the team struggled to win the following year and Ranger ownership grew tired of Martin’s volcanic temper, he was replaced by Luchessi 95 games into the season.
Randle, who was by then starting at second for Texas, had a terrible offensive season in 1976, averaging just .224. The following spring, Luchessi decided to replace Lenny as the team’s starting second baseman with Bump Wills. Just before Opening Day, Randle approached Luchessi telling him he wanted to talk and in the ensuing conversation, the skipper evidently called the player a “punk.” An enraged Randle decked Luchessi with a three punch combination, breaking his jaw in the process. The player was immediately suspended and one month later, was on his way to New York, where he would become one of the best players on a very bad 1977 Mets’ ball club. Once again, Randle followed up a .300 season with a horrible offensive year in ’78 and the Mets released him.
The Yankees got him on August 3, 1979, one day after Thurman Munson lost his life in a tragic plane crash. Though he was being reunited with Billy Martin, the spirit of that ’79 Yankee team had been destroyed with Munson’s plane and Randle’s addition proved insignificant as New York went through the motions of completing what would be a lost season. He played in just 20 games during the last two months of the season, hitting just .179. The Yanks released him after the season and he would then play for the Cubs and Mariners before becoming the first Major League ballplayer to play professional baseball in Italy, in 1983.
|TEX (6 yrs)||608||2392||2153||256||545||77||18||11||192||77||169||295||.253||.308||.321||.629|
|NYM (2 yrs)||268||1093||950||131||258||38||15||7||62||47||129||127||.272||.358||.365||.724|
|SEA (2 yrs)||112||351||319||32||71||11||1||4||26||13||21||26||.223||.270||.301||.571|
|CHC (1 yr)||130||549||489||67||135||19||6||5||39||19||50||55||.276||.343||.370||.713|
|NYY (1 yr)||20||42||39||2||7||0||0||0||3||0||3||2||.179||.238||.179||.418|