Originally the very first genuine “Amazin” Met, today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant almost single-handedly turned Shea Stadium’s tenants from a running joke into a bonafide professional baseball team. Then, beginning in 1975, Met President M. Donald Grant committed three of the dumbest mistakes in Major League front office history.
First he enraged Tom Seaver by penny pinching him during the Mets last pre-free-agent era negotiation with their Ace in 1975. Then when baseball’s age of free agency began the following year, Grant refused to go after any of the newly available superstars who could have rejuvenated a Mets’ roster that had grown very mediocre.
Grants final error, the biggest of them all, was trading Seaver to the Reds in the first half of the 1977 regular season for four pretty ordinary big league players. Seaver would go on to win 20 games that year and the NL Cy Young Award. He would continue to pitch for another decade and on August 4, 1985, while pitching for the White Sox against the Yankees on Phil Rizzuto Day at Yankee Stadium, Tom Terrific won his 300th big league game.
The Yankee crowd that day adored Seaver and Yankee boss George Steinbrenner noticed. He would spend the next year trying to put the future Hall of Famer in pinstripes but could never quite reach an agreement with Chicago. At first, the Boss refused to give up any of his young stud pitchers for the aging right-hander and then it was Chicago GM Ken Harrelson’s turn to balk when Steinbrenner offered him disgruntled Yankee DH Don Baylor for Seaver.
So Seaver went to the Red Sox instead and finished his playing career in Beantown with a 5-7 record during the 1986 season. Two years later, Steinbrenner finally brought the Fresno, California native to Yankee Stadium as Phil Rizzuto’s broadcasting partner. He and the former Yankee shortstop remained a pair for the next five seasons and Yankee fans who were around to witness how extremely well these two Big Apple baseball legends got along in the booth, loved them.
In 1990, just as Steinbrenner was about to begin serving his “Howie Spira induced” lifetime ban from the game, the Boss was considering removing Seaver from the booth and making him the Yankees’ GM. That never happened. Seaver now spends his days overseeing his California vineyards. He turns 69 years old today and shares a birthday with this former Yankee reliever and this long-ago Yankee skipper.
For those first initial glorious years of ”Doc’s” career, he was the best pitcher in all of baseball. He won the Rookie of the Year award his first season with the Mets, the Cy Young Award his second, and a World Championship in his third. He won 24 games, led the National League in strikeouts and ERA, and threw eight shutouts when he was just 20 years of age. Unfortunately for Gooden and the Mets, he couldn’t handle his immense success. He gave it all up for cocaine.
George Steinbrenner made Doc a Yankee in 1996 and Gooden responded with 11 wins and that glorious no-hitter against Seattle. But the Gooden-pitched Yankee game I’ll remember most is the fourth game of the 1997 ALDS against Cleveland. Even though New York was leading that series two games to one at the time, the Indians had hit both a hurting David Cone and a healthy Andy Pettitte hard in earlier games. Doc was Torre’s surprise choice to start the next game at Jacobs Field. When he took the mound, it had been ten days since he last pitched and Gooden probably surmised that New York was not going to re-sign him for ’98. He had gone a lackluster 9-7 that regular season and Yankee fans like me would not have been surprised if the hard-hitting Indians got to him early. Instead, Gooden was masterful for about as long as he could be. The only blemish had been a David Justice home run and when Torre came to the mound to take him out of the game with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, the Yankees were leading 2-1.
Of course, New York went on to lose that game and that series but Doc had certainly impressed the heck out of me. He must have impressed the Indians quite a bit as well because less than two months later, Cleveland signed him to a two year deal for over $5.5 million. It seemed Gooden had conquered his demons at last, but of course we have found out since that he had not. What could have been.
Today is also my beautiful wife Rosemary’s birthday and my lovely sister-in-law Maria’s birthday too. Happy with love birthday ladies.
|NYM (11 yrs)||157||85||.649||3.10||305||303||1||67||23||1||2169.2||1898||823||747||123||651||1875||1.175|
|NYY (3 yrs)||24||14||.632||4.67||67||53||3||1||1||2||341.1||351||190||177||41||162||223||1.503|
|CLE (2 yrs)||11||10||.524||4.92||49||45||0||0||0||0||249.0||262||149||136||31||118||171||1.526|
|TBD (1 yr)||2||3||.400||6.63||8||8||0||0||0||0||36.2||47||32||27||14||20||23||1.827|
|HOU (1 yr)||0||0||9.00||1||1||0||0||0||0||4.0||6||4||4||1||3||1||2.250|
This lefthander, the only former or current Yankee who celebrates a birthday on November 15, was born in West Wyoming, PA in 1916. It took him a while to get to the big leagues. After graduating from college in 1938, Ostrowski was a high school teacher for three years and then signed a minor league contract with the Red Sox. After two seasons of minor league ball, he spent 1943, ’44 and ’45 in the US Army Air Force. In 1947 he was traded to the Browns’ organization and he made his big league debut with St. Louis as a 31-year-old rookie the following season. He evolved into an important part of the Browns’ bullpen during the next three years and then was traded to New York in the deal that ended the pinstripe career of Snuffy Stirnweiss.
Ostrowski pitched for the 1950, ’51 and ’52 Yankee World Championship teams, making his biggest contribution during the 1951 season, when he won six games and saved five more. He made his only World Series appearance that same season, finishing Game Three against the NY Giants by pitching two innings of shutout ball to preserve the Yankee victory.
Ostrowski wore glasses during his playing days which made him look very professorial while on the mound. Since he actually had taught high school before beginning his pro career, his teammates gave him the nickname “Professor.” After a poor year in 1952, the Yankees released the then 35-year-old southpaw after that season. He spent one more season pitching in the minors and then returned to the classroom and taught at the high school level for the next 25 years. He passed away in 2003.
Here’s my picks for the Yankee’s All-Time Pennsylvania-born lineup:
1b – Joe Collins
2b – Pat Kelley
3b – Joe Dugan
ss – John Knight
c – Butch Wynegar
of – Reggie Jackson
of – Ken Griffey Sr.
of – Dion James
dh – Jack Clark
sp – Mike Mussina
cl – Sparky Lyle
Here’s Joe Ostowski’s Yankee annual and career total regular season stats.
|NYY (3 yrs)||9||7||.563||4.37||75||8||35||3||0||10||179.0||209||101||87||20||47||62||1.430|
|SLB (3 yrs)||14||18||.438||4.65||75||29||25||9||0||5||276.2||350||170||143||24||51||69||1.449|
Evidently, “Handsome” Harry Howell could have taught A-Rod a thing or two about flirting with female fans in the stands at Yankee games. According to this excellent article written by Eric Sallee, it was this Jersey native’s roving eye that caused his divorce from the first Mrs. Howell.
After three seasons of playing in the National League, Howell migrated to the newly formed American League as a member of manager John McGraw’s 1901 Baltimore Oriole starting rotation which was also the first starting rotation in official Yankee franchise history. In that inaugural season, he and Joe McGinnity became the first Yankee pitchers to lose 20 games in a season. In 1902, the Baltimore team disintegrated after McGraw quit at midseason and with Howell going just 9-15, the team went on to finish the year with a 50-88 record. That’s when League founder and president, Ban Johnson exerted his near-dictatorial control and relocated the team to New York City.
It proved to be a fortunate move for Howell because when he got to New York he became teammates with Jack Chesbro. The former Pirate ace had one of the game’s most effective spitballs and he was more than happy to show Howell how to throw one of his own. Handsome Harry proved to be a quick study. He spent most of the ’03 season experimenting with the spitter, while still relying more heavily on his fastball and curve. He went 9-6 during the Yankees’ first season in the Big Apple and on April 23rd of that year, he became the first pitcher in New York Yankee history (excluding the franchise’s two years in Baltimore) to win a game, when he beat the Senators 7-2.
The following spring, Yankee skipper Clark Griffith traded Howell to the St. Louis Browns for pitcher Jack Powell. It was in St. Louis that Howell perfected the pitch taught to him by Chesbro. During the next six seasons, he threw one of the nastiest, most-loaded-up spitters in the game with great results. His ERA during his Browns’ career, which consisted of almost 1,600 innings pitched was a pretty incredible 2.06.
|SLB (7 yrs)||78||91||.462||2.06||201||173||23||150||16||5||1580.2||1325||549||362||8||390||712||1.085|
|NYY (3 yrs)||32||42||.432||3.77||88||72||16||64||2||0||649.1||716||403||272||14||171||188||1.366|
|BRO (2 yrs)||8||5||.615||3.93||23||12||11||9||2||0||128.1||146||80||56||4||47||28||1.504|
|BLN (1 yr)||13||8||.619||3.91||28||25||3||21||0||1||209.1||248||126||91||1||69||58||1.514|
Just as he was during his tenure as the team’s pitching coach, Mel Stottlemyre was under- appreciated as a Yankee starting pitcher. He did the bulk of his hurling during one of the bleakest ten-year periods in Pinstripe history. Yet he finished his career with a 2.97 ERA, 40 shutouts and averaged 16 victories per season.
Born in Hazelton, MO in 1941, Stottlemyre became one of my favorite players when the Yankees brought him up from the minors at the 1964 mid season and he won nine of twelve decisions to help the team come from behind and win the pennant. He then pitched two great games against the Cardinals in that season’s Fall Classic. I still remember watching the final game of that Series when Yankee Manager,Yogi Berra gave the 22-year-old right-hander the starting assignment a third time on just two-days rest because Whitey Ford couldn’t lift his left arm. Mel gave up three runs in the fourth inning on a walk and a bunch of singles. Berra’s decision to replace Stottlemyre with Al Downing an inning later immediately backfired when Downing gave up a lead-off home run to Lou Brock and a couple of more hits and the Cardinals scored three more runs. That negated the impact of Mickey Mantle’s three-run blast the following inning. The Yankees and Stottlemyre lost the game, Berra lost his job and my favorite team didn’t get back to a World Series for the next 11 years.
My anti-Yankee friends like to point out that Stottlemyre did almost all of his pitching before the American League implemented the designated hitter rule in 1973. This, they contend, explains why his ERA and shutout numbers are much more impressive than today’s starting pitchers. Not so fast. Stottlemyre’s record during the 1973 season, his only full year pitching to a DH, shows 16 victories, 4 shutouts, and an ERA of 3.07 for a Yankee team that had the third worst rated offense in the league that season.
In fact, if it were not for a rotator cuff injury that ended his career at the age of 32, in 1974, I believe Stottlemyre would have remained an effective sinker-balling starter for the great Yankee teams of the mid-seventies. In the process, he might have won a World Series, close to fifty more career victories and had his uniform number retired.
Besides pitching, the other thing Mel did very well was help others become better pitchers. Both his sons ended up pitching in the big leagues and Mel was the pitching coach for both the 1986 World Champion Mets and the four Joe Torre-led World Champion Yankee teams.
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant did not accomplish much as a Yankee. After getting signed by New York as a 16-year-old pitching phee-nom out of Portland Oregon in 1944, this six foot three inch right-hander’s minor league career was interrupted by two years of military service just as WWII ended. When he returned from service he was still just 20 years-old and he was able to pitch his way onto New York’s 1947 Opening Day roster with a strong spring training performance.
Bucky Harris, the Yankee skipper back then, used Johnson in fifteen games that year including 8 starts. He finished his debut season with a 4-3 record and a 3.64 ERA. He also won a World Series ring that year though he did not appear in the Yankees seven-game victory over the Dodgers. After he got off to a slow start the next year, Johnson was included in a seven-player deal New York GM George Weiss made with the St. Louis Browns. Over the next eight seasons, Johnson became a journeyman, pitching for five different big league teams as well as spending quite a bit of time with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League. He hung up his glove for good in 1960 and returned to his hometown, where among other things, he drove a Taxi for 25 years.
While researching Brown’s background for this post, I came across a one-hour video below, which shows an 86-year-old Johnson being interviewed in June of 2013, at his old grade school in Portland. It runs for about an hour and in it, Johnson either mis-remembers or exaggerates some of his accomplishments on the ball field. For example,he claims he once faced Bob Feller when he was on a 4-game winning streak and lost a 1-0 complete-game decision, but a review of his career performances turned up no such streak or decision. He also claimed he won 27 games for Toronto during the 1957 season but Baseball-Reference.com has him winning just 17 games that year. Despite these apparent exaggerations, I found the interview delightful to listen to and hopefully you will as well.
Here are Johnson’s Yankee and career pitching statistics.
|BAL (3 yrs)||7||11||.389||6.54||62||20||19||4||1||2||179.0||242||144||130||22||108||66||1.955|
|WSH (2 yrs)||7||16||.304||4.11||50||26||12||8||1||2||212.2||218||108||97||13||91||89||1.453|
|NYY (2 yrs)||5||3||.625||5.23||23||8||8||2||0||0||72.1||92||47||42||4||35||25||1.756|
|SFG (1 yr)||0||1||.000||6.26||17||0||6||0||0||1||23.0||31||19||16||2||8||14||1.696|
|CHW (1 yr)||8||7||.533||3.13||46||16||17||3||3||7||144.0||129||53||50||14||43||68||1.194|
There have only been four players in the history of Major League Baseball to have been born in Spain. One of them is today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant. Rios came into this world in Madrid on this date in 1972. He and his parents moved to the US two years later. He played baseball for the University of Miami and was signed by the Yankees in 1993. He was groomed from the beginning as a closer by the Yankee organization and had some really strong seasons in that role for New York’s Greensboro, Tampa and Norwich farm teams. By 1997 he was pitching in Columbus and got his call up to the parent club in May of that season.
Unfortunately for Rios, he got shelled by the Red Sox in his first Major League appearance, giving up three home runs and five earned runs during his one and two-thirds inning pitched. That debut performance got him sent back to Columbus and he didn’t throw another pitch in a big league game until September of that season. This time, in his first and only game in the original Yankee Stadium, Rios got shelled again, giving up five hits in two-thirds of an inning against the Orioles. Having seen enough, the Yankees released him after the 1997 season. He signed with the Royals the following year, appeared in five games for Kansas City in 1998 and then left the big leagues for good.
He landed on his feet in the Korean Baseball Organization, becoming the first non-Korean ever to win 20 games in that league in 2007. That performance earned him a huge contract to pitch in Japan the following year. According to his “Bullpen” profile section at Baseball-Reference.com, Rios tested positive for steroids while pitching in Japan and was suspended.
Another nondescript Yankee pitcher named Ownie Carroll was also born on this date.
|KCR (1 yr)||0||1||.000||6.14||5||0||1||0||0||0||7.1||9||9||5||1||6||6||2.045|
|NYY (1 yr)||0||0||19.29||2||0||0||0||0||0||2.1||9||5||5||3||2||1||4.714|
It would not take too long for just about any Yankee fan to corresctly guess who hit the first World Series home run in franchise history. That would be the one and only Babe Ruth. The Bambino hit the historic blast in Game 4 of the 1921 World Series versus the Yankees’ Polo Grounds landlord at the time, the mighty New York Giants. But even the most astute fan of Bronx Bomber baseball could keep guessing for the next ten years and not come up with the name of the second Yankee to perform that same feat.
The correct answer of course, is today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Wilson Lloyd “Chick” Fewster. His two-run blast in the top of the second inning of that same Fall Classic’s very next game, gave the Yankees a temporary 5-3 lead they would eventually lose. Its no wonder the name “Chick Fewster” means nothing to Yankee fans. After all, his entire Yankee career consisted of just 228 games spread over six lackluster seasons beginning in 1917. Back then, Yankee manager Miller Huggins was predicting great things for his young outfielder, telling the New York sports press that he had never seen a better prospect than this new kid from Baltimore. But Fewster would never fulfill that promise and he almost didn’t live long enough to hit that World Series home run either.
In a 1920 spring training game against the Brooklyn Robins, Fewster was hit in the head by a pitch and nearly died. They put a plate in his head and doctors told him he’d never play baseball again. Miraculously, he was back in action by early July of that same season.
|NYY (6 yrs)||228||783||642||113||174||33||4||3||45||15||90||109||.271||.372||.349||.721|
|BOS (2 yrs)||113||424||367||40||91||14||2||0||24||15||45||45||.248||.337||.297||.634|
|BRO (2 yrs)||109||397||338||54||82||16||3||2||24||9||45||49||.243||.340||.325||.666|
|CLE (2 yrs)||194||704||616||75||159||28||3||1||74||18||60||61||.258||.327||.318||.645|
After Miller Huggins’ Yankee team lost their second straight World Series to the New York Giants in 1922, the diminutive field skipper spent his offseason trying to figure out what his ball club needed in the way of personnel to finally beat his crosstown rivals in a Fall Classic. He brought his shopping list with him to the Yanks 1923 spring training camp in New Orleans and it included an infielder, two pitchers, a third string catcher and two new outfielders. One of those outfielders ended up being today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant.
Harvey “Gink” Hendrick was born in Mason, TN in 1897 and had played college ball at Vanderbilt University, his native state’s most famous school. He then spent a couple of years in the minors including a solid 1922 season with Galveston in the Texas League during which he belted 16 home runs and averaged .311. The Red Sox signed him to a contract but in early January of 1923, he was traded to New York along with pitcher George Pipgras. Hendrick then performed well enough that spring to earn a spot on Huggins’ Opening Day roster.
He ended up serving as a fifth outfielder and occasional pinch-hitter on that 1923 Yankee squad, which featured a strong starting outfield of Babe Ruth,Bob Meusel and Whitey Witt along with the veteran Elmer Smith as their primary backup. Like fellow rookie and teammate, Lou Gehrig, Hendrick spent most of that season sitting on the Yankee bench. Fortunately for him, however, New York dominated the AL Pennant race that year, beating second place Detroit by a full 16 games. That permitted Huggins to rest his starters the whole final month of his season. That meant lots of playing time for Hendrick and he made the most of it, raising his average by 40 points and hitting all three of his rookie season home runs that September. His strong finish helped convince Huggins to keep the rookie outfielder on the Yanks’ postseason roster. Hendrick made his one and only career World Series appearance in the eighth inning of that Series’ first game as a pinch hitter for Yankee shortstop Everett Scott, flying out to center off of Giants’ reliever Rosey Ryan. He did end up winning a coveted ring.
He spent one more season in New York in 1924, playing about as much and performing about as well as he did the year before. The Yanks released him after that second season and he ended up with the Indians in 1925 and back in the minors in ’26. He got his break in 1927 when he became an often-used utility player for a pretty bad Brooklyn Robins team. For the next three seasons he averaged 120 games played and over 400 at bats playing some outfield, some third base and some first base for Brooklyn. He averaged over .300 in each of those seasons including a career high .354 in 1929.
The Robins traded Hendrick to Cincinnati at the start of the 1931 regular season and he would later also play for the Cardinals and Phillies before his big league career ended in 1936. Evidently, Hendrick struggled in life after his playing days were over because in 1941 he committed suicide by shooting himself in his Covington, Tennessee home. Other former Yankees who have taken their own lives include; Dan McGann, Jake Powell, Hugh Casey and most recently, Hideki Irabu.
|BRO (5 yrs)||433||1604||1435||236||456||68||28||34||219||61||129||113||.318||.378||.475||.853|
|CIN (2 yrs)||231||1021||928||130||287||62||12||5||115||6||76||69||.309||.363||.418||.782|
|NYY (2 yrs)||77||149||142||16||38||3||1||4||23||4||4||15||.268||.293||.387||.680|
|PHI (1 yr)||59||127||116||12||34||8||0||0||19||0||9||15||.293||.344||.362||.706|
|STL (1 yr)||28||77||72||8||18||2||0||1||5||0||5||9||.250||.299||.319||.618|
|CHC (1 yr)||69||208||189||30||55||13||3||4||23||4||13||17||.291||.346||.455||.801|
|CLE (1 yr)||25||33||28||2||8||1||2||0||9||0||3||5||.286||.355||.464||.819|
When Del Webb and Dan Topping purchased the Yankees in 1945, they needed a baseball man to run things and they selected former Dodger and Cardinal team president, Larry MacPhail to fulfill that role. The two multi-millionaires loaned MacPhail the $900,000 he needed to purchase ten percent of the team. That presented a problem for legendary Yankee Manager, Joe McCarthy, who did not like MacPhail. It became the key reason why Marse Joe quit as the Yankee skipper 35 games into the 1946 season. He was replaced by Yankee catching legend Bill Dickey, who had been one of McCarthy’s coaches.
The Yankees finished in third place in 1946 and Dickey did not even finish the season as manager, resigning that September, as soon as the Red Sox had eliminated New York from the pennant race. Two days after Dickey quit as skipper, MacPhail hired Bucky Harris to an unnamed front office position, to serve as MacPhail’s personal liason with the Yankee clubhouse. Harris then got the Manager’s job after the 1946 season ended.
Bucky had become famous in 1926, when at just 27 years of age, he became the player manager of the Senators and led the team to a World Series Championship that season. That title earned him the nickname “The Boy Wonder.” He then continued to manage for the next two decades but had not won another World Series.
The Yankee team he inherited in 1947 was getting old and ornery. His outfield was a mess. Joe DiMaggio had sore heels, Charley Keller a bad back and Tommy Henrich had turned 37 and hit just .251 in 1946. His infield wasn’t any better. First baseman Nick Etten had become an automatic out once big league pitchers returned from serving in WWII plus he was a horrible defensive first baseman. Third baseman Snuffy Stirnweiss was also a much less effective hitter against post war pitching and both second baseman Joe Gordon and shortstop Phil Rizzuto had a difficult time getting their swings back after their military service. As for pitching, Red Ruffing had retired and Spud Chandler was getting old fast.
Working with MacPhail, Harris made a series of moves that turned out to be genius-like. He replaced Etten at first with 38-year old George McQuinn, an NL veteran with a decent glove and good bat. MacPhail traded Joe Gordon to the Indians for pitcher Allie Reynolds and Harris switched Stirnweiss from third to Gordon’s old spot at second and inserted rookie Billy Johnson at the hot corner. He benched Keller and made Johnny Lindell his starting left fielder. His best move was converting Yankee starter Joe Page to his closer. Each of these maneuvers panned out perfectly and with DiMaggio, Henrich and Rizzuto all enjoying bounce back seasons, the Yankees rolled to the 1947 AL Pennant, finishing a dozen games ahead of the second place Tigers. A few weeks later, Harris had his second World Championship as a Manager when the Yankees beat the Dodgers in seven games.
Despite winning 94 games the following season, the Yankees finished a disappointing third in the AL Pennant race. MacPhail had also been bought out by Topping and Webb, who had installed George Weiss as the new Yankee GM. Weiss used the Yankees third place finish in ’47 as an excuse to replace Harris with his own man, Casey Stengel.
If a Manager was hired in today’s times, who then won 191 regular season games during his first two years managing a team plus a World Series, he’d get a multi-year contract worth eight figures. Instead, Bucky Harris got fired. In all, Harris managed 30 years in the Majors. He was named to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans’ Committee in 1975.
Harris shares his birthday with this short-time Yankee outfielder.
|21||1947||50||New York Yankees||AL||97||57||.630||155||1||WS Champs|
|22||1948||51||New York Yankees||AL||94||60||.610||154||3|
|Boston Red Sox||1 year||76||76||.500||153||4.0|
|Philadelphia Phillies||1 year||39||53||.424||94||7.0|
|New York Yankees||2 years||191||117||.620||309||2.0||1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title|
|Washington Senators||18 years||1336||1416||.485||2776||4.9||2 Pennants and 1 World Series Title|
|Detroit Tigers||7 years||516||557||.481||1078||5.4|
|29 years||2158||2219||.493||4410||4.9||3 Pennants and 2 World Series Titles|