After thirteen seasons as a National League second baseman, “”Hug”” became a manager. He took over as skipper of the Yankees in 1918, winning over one thousand games, six AL pennants and three World Series during his one dozen seasons in the Yankee dugout. Though he was small in stature, only 5’6″ tall and weighing just 140 pounds, Huggins was able to gain the respect and love of his players. Lou Gehrig called him “the squarest shooter I ever met in baseball.” He became seriously ill during the 1929 season when an eye infection turned into a case of blood poisoning. He died that September. He was just 50 years old.
Since we’re on the topic of Yankee managers and Joe Girardi is about to begin his seventh year at the helm of the Bronx Bombers, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the records of the top five winning managers in pinstripe history. Here’s the list:
|Manager – World Championships||Wins||Losses||Pct.|
|Joe McCarthy – 7||1460||867||.627|
|Joe Torre – 4||1173||767||.605|
|Casey Stengel – 7||1149||696||.623|
|Miller Huggins – 3||1067||719||.597|
|Ralph Houk – 2||944||806||.539|
|6||1918||40||New York Yankees||AL||60||63||.488||126||4|
|7||1919||41||New York Yankees||AL||80||59||.576||141||3|
|8||1920||42||New York Yankees||AL||95||59||.617||154||3|
|9||1921||43||New York Yankees||AL||98||55||.641||153||1||AL Pennant|
|10||1922||44||New York Yankees||AL||94||60||.610||154||1||AL Pennant|
|11||1923||45||New York Yankees||AL||98||54||.645||152||1||WS Champs|
|12||1924||46||New York Yankees||AL||89||63||.586||153||2|
|13||1925||47||New York Yankees||AL||69||85||.448||156||7|
|14||1926||48||New York Yankees||AL||91||63||.591||155||1||AL Pennant|
|15||1927||49||New York Yankees||AL||110||44||.714||155||1||WS Champs|
|16||1928||50||New York Yankees||AL||101||53||.656||154||1||WS Champs|
|17||1929||51||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 2||82||61||.573||143||2|
|St. Louis Cardinals||5 years||346||415||.455||774||5.4|
|New York Yankees||12 years||1067||719||.597||1796||2.3||6 Pennants and 3 World Series Titles|
|17 years||1413||1134||.555||2570||3.2||6 Pennants and 3 World Series Titles|
Last September, the Yankee front office was about to announce that Derek Jeter’s frustrating 2013 season was over. Before they did, they acquired another big league shortstop by the name of Brendan Ryan. At the time of the announcement, I had never heard of Ryan, which was odd because he had been the starting shortstop for both the Cardinals and Mariners for two seasons each.
Unlike Jeter, who was one of baseball’s all-time best-hitting shortstops, Ryan was not a good hitter, averaging just .237 during his almost 700 games in the big leagues. Also unlike Jeter, Ryan was considered one of the very best defensive shortstops in the game. The Yankees then signed their new acquisition to a two-year contract for $4 million.
I was a bit puzzled by the contract until the Yankees went on their free agent signing spree during the offseason and reloaded their offense with Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. So even if Jeter could not make it back in 2014, the rejuvenated Yankee lineup could score runs without his offense and by using Ryan at short, they could prevent more runs on defense. It seemed a sound strategy.
Ironically, as we approach the end of the first month of the 2014 season, it is Ryan who is on the DL and unable to play, while Jeter looks like he will do just fine in this final year of his brilliant playing career.
Ryan was born in Los Angeles on this date in 1982 and was selected by the Cardinals in the 7th round of the 2003 draft. He bats and throws right-handed and can play second and third in addition to short. He shares his birthday with this former Yankee infielder and this pacifist WWII era pitcher.
|STL (4 yrs)||415||1332||1206||165||312||56||10||9||95||39||88||166||.259||.314||.344||.658|
|SEA (3 yrs)||351||1251||1103||116||237||48||6||9||91||28||99||245||.215||.286||.294||.580|
|NYY (1 yr)||17||62||59||7||13||2||0||1||1||0||2||13||.220||.258||.305||.563|
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.
|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|
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.
|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|
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.
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 coach, this one-time Yankee home-run machine and this one-time Yankee catcher were also born on March 22.
|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|
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.
|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|
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.
|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|
You’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.
|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|
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:
|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|