June 12 – Happy Birthday Hideki Matsui

The initial signing of this former Yomiuri Giant standout was a great move by the Yankee front office prior to the 2003 season. Only Ishiru Suzuki ranks in front of him in terms of on-the-field performance by a Japanese player in the Major Leagues. He knocked in over 100 runs in four of his first five seasons in Pinstripes and only a wrist injury prevented him from making it all five.

The second contract the Yankees gave Matsui (four years, $52 million) after the 2005 season, did not turn out as well for New York. The wrist mishap ended Hideki’s consecutive game streak of over 1,700 (started in Japan and continued during his first 518 games as a Yankee.) After the broken wrist, he missed close to forty percent of the Yankee’s regular-season games during the next three seasons with an assortment of ailments and injuries including two very painful knees.

Matsui then put together a memorable final year in pinstripes in 2009. During the regular season he blasted 28 home runs and drove in ninety. But he saved his very best effort for the 2009 World Series. He hit .615 in fourteen plate appearances against the Phillies with three home runs and 8 RBIs. I had the pleasure of seeing him hit one of those round-trippers live, at Game 2 at the Stadium. His Game 6 performance will remain one for the ages. Matsui drove in six of the seven Yankee runs with a homer, double and single and was named the Series MVP. Since he hit 332 home runs while playing in Japan, Matsui ended up with 507 combined home runs during his career.

Matsui’s quiet brilliance during his seven seasons in the Bronx made him one of my favorite Yankees. “Godzilla” announced his retirement from baseball on December 27, 2012.

This former Yankee relief pitcher shares Matsui’s birthday.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2003 NYY 163 695 623 82 179 42 1 16 106 2 63 86 .287 .353 .435 .788
2004 NYY 162 680 584 109 174 34 2 31 108 3 88 103 .298 .390 .522 .912
2005 NYY 162 704 629 108 192 45 3 23 116 2 63 78 .305 .367 .496 .863
2006 NYY 51 201 172 32 52 9 0 8 29 1 27 23 .302 .393 .494 .887
2007 NYY 143 634 547 100 156 28 4 25 103 4 73 73 .285 .367 .488 .855
2008 NYY 93 378 337 43 99 17 0 9 45 0 38 47 .294 .370 .424 .795
2009 NYY 142 528 456 62 125 21 1 28 90 0 64 75 .274 .367 .509 .876
10 Yrs 1236 5066 4442 656 1253 249 12 175 760 13 547 689 .282 .360 .462 .822
NYY (7 yrs) 916 3820 3348 536 977 196 11 140 597 12 416 485 .292 .370 .482 .852
TBR (1 yr) 34 103 95 7 14 1 0 2 7 0 8 22 .147 .214 .221 .435
OAK (1 yr) 141 585 517 58 130 28 0 12 72 1 56 84 .251 .321 .375 .696
LAA (1 yr) 145 558 482 55 132 24 1 21 84 0 67 98 .274 .361 .459 .820
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/12/2013.

June 11 – Happy Birthday Roger Bresnahan

Ban Johnson, the first-ever American League President did not like John McGraw, who was then the manager of the new league’s Baltimore franchise. McGraw was famous for fighting with umpires and flouting the rules. The fact that the fiery skipper also had an ownership stake in the Orioles’ franchise meant that he was technically one of the AL chief executive’s  bosses, which also drove Johnson nuts. So during the 1902 season, Johnson put together a reason to put McGraw on indefinite suspension. Instead of fighting it or serving it out, McGraw jumped to the rival National League and accepted a managerial position with the New York Giants. When he did, he invited a core group of his favorite Orioles players to accompany him to his new team. That is why both McGraw and today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant were already in the Big Apple when one season later, the Orioles’ franchise was also relocated there and became the Highlanders (and eventually the Yankees.) If Johnson and McGraw did not dislike each other so much both the manager and Roger Bresnahan would have become Highlanders instead of Giants and the Yankee franchise would surly have won its first Pennants and World Series much earlier in team history. Eventually, baseball’s most famous catcher during the first decade of the 20th century would one day join his buddy and skipper in Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Bresnahan was a versatile athlete and a very interesting character. He was famous for his hair-trigger temper. Nobody got ejected from baseball games for fighting with umpires and opposing players more frequently than Bresnahan did and it was often necessary to call in the local police to escort the Toledo, Ohio native off the field. He was also not your prototypical catcher. He had outstanding speed, stealing 212 bases during his big league career. He was a second-string receiver for McGraw in Baltimore but when he joined the Giants they already had two catchers so Lil Napoleon started his buddy in center during his first full season in New York and he hit .350. Bresnahan had started his big league career as a pitcher and went 4-0 doing his 1897 rookie season with Washington. He actually played all nine positions during his career. This guy was also quite the innovator. It was Bresnahan who introduced shin guards to the catching position and he also wore baseball’s first-ever batting helmet.

Roger no doubt owed much of his big league success to Giant Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Matthewson. It was Matthewson who went to McGraw and told him he preferred to have Bresnahan catch his games. In 1905, the two would lead the Giants to their second straight NL Pennant and first ever World Series title. In that Fall Classic, Matthewson would throw three complete game shutouts with Bresnahan behind the plate in each of them. In addition, the Giants’ starting catcher also led New York with a .313 batting average during that Series.

Bresnahan would continue catching for the Giants until 1909, when he was offered the opportunity to become a player-manager for the Cardinals. Not wanting to stand in his friend’s way, McGraw let him go. Bresnahan would spend four years catching and managing for the Cardinals and later hold the same position with the Cubs.  He retired in 1915, after playing 15 Major League seasons and would one day buy a minor league franchise in Toledo. He was voted into Cooperstown by the Old Timer’s Committee in 1945, one year after he had died of a heart attack in Toledo, at the age of 65.

Bresnahan shares his June 11th birthday with this former Yankee co-owner.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1901 BLA 86 323 295 40 79 9 9 1 32 10 23 33 .268 .323 .369 .692
1902 BLA 65 262 235 30 64 8 6 4 34 12 21 16 .272 .337 .409 .746
17 Yrs 1446 5374 4481 682 1252 218 71 26 530 212 714 403 .279 .386 .377 .764
NYG (7 yrs) 751 3024 2499 438 731 135 35 15 291 118 410 234 .293 .403 .393 .795
STL (4 yrs) 289 992 803 92 221 43 14 4 106 32 160 64 .275 .401 .379 .779
CHC (4 yrs) 249 756 633 81 151 23 7 2 64 40 99 54 .239 .345 .306 .652
BLA (2 yrs) 151 585 530 70 143 17 15 5 66 22 44 49 .270 .329 .387 .716
WHS (1 yr) 6 17 16 1 6 0 0 0 3 0 1 2 .375 .412 .375 .787
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/11/2013.

June 10 – Happy Birthday Ken Singleton

I remember when the Mets brought Kenny Singleton up in the early seventies and put him in right field, alongside Tommie Agee and Cleon Jones. At the time, I was convinced these three would form the best outfield in the National League if not all of baseball for the next several seasons. Shows you how smart I was.

Singleton played just two seasons at Shea and then was traded to Montreal for Rusty Staub. The middle season of his three years in Montreal was his best as he reached the 20-homer, 100-RBI and .300 batting average milestones all for the first time in his career. After the following season, the Expos made one of the worst trades in the history of their franchise when they sent Singleton and starter Mike Torrez to the Orioles for a washed up Dave McNally and outfielder Rich Coggins.

Singleton went on to a great playing career for the O’s, making three All Star teams, appearing in two World Series and finally winning a championship in 1983.

I always admired Singleton as a player. He was consistent and very professional on the field and the same can be said for his performance in the Yankee broadcast booth. I enjoy listening to him do color and play-by-play. He was born on June 10, 1947 in the Big Apple.

Singleton shares his birthday with  this former Yankee receiver and this long-ago Yankee pitcher.

June 9 – Happy Birthday Bill Virdon

Although he spent almost all of his playing career as a Pittsburgh Pirate outfielder, Bill Virdon was originally signed by the Yankees in 1950 and spent his first five seasons as a pro climbing his way up New York’s minor league ladder. Then in 1954, he was included in a package of players and prospects the Yankees traded to St Louis for veteran outfielder Enos Slaughter. Virdon enjoyed a solid 12-season playing career in the NL, retiring for good in 1968. He then got into coaching and in 1972 he became skipper of the Pirates, leading Pittsburgh to a Division title in his first year as their field boss. When the team slumped the following season, Virdon was dumped. George Steinbrenner hired him to pilot the Yankees in 1974 and he led them to an 89-73 record and second-place finish in their division. “The Boss” was not truly a fan of Virdon’s low-key managing style and when the fiery Billy Martin became available during the second half of the 1975 season, Virdon was dumped again. He immediately got the manager’s job in Houston where he remained for the next seven seasons. Virdon then completed his managerial career with a two year stint as Montreal Expo skipper, finishing with a 995-921 lifetime won-loss record during his 13-seasons. I always felt it was the acquisitions of Willie Randolph, Ed Figueroa and Mickey Rivers that won the Yankees’ the 1976 pennant and not the switch from Virdon to Martin. Imagine how different Yankee history would have been if Steinbrenner kept Virdon in the Yankee dugout instead of hiring Billy.

Virdon shares his June 9th birthday with this one-time Yankee outfielder and this former Yankee GM.

Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
3 1974 43 New York Yankees AL 162 89 73 .549 2
4 1975 44 New York Yankees AL 1st of 2 104 53 51 .510 3
Pittsburgh Pirates 2 years 291 163 128 .560 2.0
New York Yankees 2 years 266 142 124 .534 2.5
Houston Astros 8 years 1067 544 522 .510 3.2
Montreal Expos 2 years 294 146 147 .498 4.0
13 years 1918 995 921 .519 3.1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/9/2013.

June 8 – Happy Birthday Del Paddock

Del Paddock is one of two not-well-known former Yankee franchise infielders to celebrate their birthday on June 8th. Paddock played 46 games for New York way back in the 1912 season, when they were still known as the Highlanders. He could hit decently, averaging .288 for New York that year, which was higher than any of the team’s starting position players could manage except for outfielder Birdie Cree. Paddock’s problem was fielding. He evidently had hands of stone, committing 14 errors in 41 games.

Evidently, Paddock’s poor fielding wasn’t the only problem with the 1912 Highlander team. That squad ended up with the worst regular season record in Yankee franchise history, going 50-102 and finishing dead last in the league.

Paddock was released by New York after that one season. He would spend the rest of his playing career in the minors and eventually fight in WW I. Paddock died in 1952, two years before this one-time Yankee infielder who shares Paddock’s birthday was born.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1912 NYY 46 185 156 26 45 5 3 1 14 9 23 21 .288 .393 .378 .772
1 Yr 47 186 157 26 45 5 3 1 14 9 23 22 .287 .391 .376 .767
NYY (1 yr) 46 185 156 26 45 5 3 1 14 9 23 21 .288 .393 .378 .772
CHW (1 yr) 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/8/2013.

June 7 – Happy Birthday Ed Wells

“Boomer” was not the first Wells to pitch for the Yankees. That honor belonged to today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, a southpaw named Ed “Satchelfoot” Wells. The Tigers originally signed this Ashland, OH native in 1922 with the condition that he could keep attending college full-time and pitch during the summer. He made his big league debut for Detroit in June of 1923. His first manager was the legendary Ty Cobb. Though most guys who played with, against and for the “Georgia Peach” hated him, Wells was an exception. The two got along great even though Cobb admitted he couldn’t help his young left-hander get better because he knew nothing about pitching.

Wells was with Detroit for five seasons and went 12-10 for them in 1926 and led the AL with four shutouts that year. But his inconsistency got him released after the ’27 season. He spent 1928 with the Birmingham Barons of the Southern League where he went 28-7 and caught the attention of the Yankees. New York brought him to the Bronx in 1929 and he went 13-9 during his first season in pinstripes. He followed that up with a 12-3 season in 1930 but his ERA was over five. Fortunately for Wells he was pitching for an offense that included Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Tony Lazzeri, et. al. who made scoring more than five runs per game a habit that boosted the pitcher’s winning percentage.

Wells Yankee Stadium locker was situated right in between Ruth’s and Gehrig’s so he became good friends with both men. He also was the object of one of the Bambino’s most famous practical jokes. Ruth invited the pitcher to go on a double date with him after a Yankee road game in Detroit. When the two Yankees knocked on the door of the girl’s apartment, a guy claiming to be her husband opened it holding a pistol which he fired directly at Ruth. A horrified Wells turned and ran all the way back to his Detroit hotel. By the time he got there, Tony Lazzeri told him Ruth had been shot and was up in his room asking to see Eddie.

When Wells entered the Babe’s suite, the lights were turned down low and Ruth was laying in a bed with ketchup spilled on the white sheets and talcum powder all over his face to feign a dearly pale. Wells took one look at his famous teammate and fainted on the spot.

He ended up pitching a total of four years for New York, before getting sold to the Browns just before the 1933 season started. He had the misfortune of becoming a Yankee right at the time managerial instability. His first Yankee Skipper, Huggins died unexpectedly during the 1929 season and then Bob Shawkey got fired to make room for Joe McCarthy. Wells was 37-20 in Pinstripes and 68-69 when he left the big leagues for good in 1934. He shares his June 7 birthday with this great Yankee catcher.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO HBP WHIP
1929 NYY 13 9 .591 4.33 31 23 5 10 3 0 193.1 179 102 93 19 81 78 1 1.345
1930 NYY 12 3 .800 5.20 27 21 3 7 0 0 150.2 185 101 87 11 49 46 4 1.553
1931 NYY 9 5 .643 4.32 27 10 12 6 0 2 116.2 130 68 56 7 37 34 1 1.431
1932 NYY 3 3 .500 4.26 22 0 14 0 0 2 31.2 38 19 15 1 12 13 0 1.579
11 Yrs 68 69 .496 4.65 291 140 92 54 7 13 1232.1 1417 750 637 78 468 403 12 1.530
DET (5 yrs) 24 28 .462 4.90 115 56 34 19 4 7 444.1 547 287 242 20 191 147 5 1.661
NYY (4 yrs) 37 20 .649 4.59 107 54 34 23 3 4 492.1 532 290 251 38 179 171 6 1.444
SLB (2 yrs) 7 21 .250 4.38 69 30 24 12 0 2 295.2 338 173 144 20 98 85 1 1.475
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/7/2013.

June 6 – Happy Birthday Bill Dickey

One of the all-time great catchers in baseball history, Dickey was superb both at the plate and behind it. He hit .300 in ten of his first eleven seasons as the starting Yankee receiver and drove in over 100 runs in a season four times during his Hall of Fame career. This eleven-time All-Star played in eight World Series with New York, winning seven rings in the process. Dickey’s prime was the four-year-period from 1936 through 1939, during which he averaged 26 home runs, and 115 RBIs with a batting average of .326. He entered Military service in 1943, returning to the team in 1946. When Yankee skipper, Joe McCarthy fell ill and resigned, the team made Dickey the player-manager for the balance of the ’46 season. After leading New York to a 57-48 finish that year, he ended both his big league playing and managing career. He then accepted the Yankee’s offer to manage their Minor League team in Dickey’s hometown of Little, Rock Arkansas. After one season there, he was back in the Bronx to begin a decade long career as a Yankee coach. His Hall-of-Fame Yankee successor at catcher, Yogi Berra credits Dickey for teaching him how to play the position.

Dickey was a quiet hard-working professional, much like his close friend and roommate, Lou Gehrig. He played hard on the field and behaved himself off of it. His playing career lasted 17 seasons. The Yankees retired his uniform number 8 (shared with Berra) and a plaque in his honor now rests in the Monument Park of the new Yankee Stadium. It certainly belongs there.

Dickey shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee prospect.

Dickey’s record as a Yankee player:

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1928 NYY 10 16 15 1 3 1 1 0 2 0 0 2 .200 .200 .400 .600
1929 NYY 130 474 447 60 145 30 6 10 65 4 14 16 .324 .346 .485 .832
1930 NYY 109 396 366 55 124 25 7 5 65 7 21 14 .339 .375 .486 .861
1931 NYY 130 524 477 65 156 17 10 6 78 2 39 20 .327 .378 .442 .820
1932 NYY 108 459 423 66 131 20 4 15 84 2 34 13 .310 .361 .482 .843
1933 NYY 130 532 478 58 152 24 8 14 97 3 47 14 .318 .381 .490 .871
1934 NYY 104 438 395 56 127 24 4 12 72 0 38 18 .322 .384 .494 .878
1935 NYY 120 491 448 54 125 26 6 14 81 1 35 11 .279 .339 .458 .797
1936 NYY 112 472 423 99 153 26 8 22 107 0 46 16 .362 .428 .617 1.045
1937 NYY 140 609 530 87 176 35 2 29 133 3 73 22 .332 .417 .570 .987
1938 NYY 132 532 454 84 142 27 4 27 115 3 75 22 .313 .412 .568 .981
1939 NYY 128 565 480 98 145 23 3 24 105 5 77 37 .302 .403 .513 .915
1940 NYY 106 424 372 45 92 11 1 9 54 0 48 32 .247 .336 .355 .691
1941 NYY 109 397 348 35 99 15 5 7 71 2 45 17 .284 .371 .417 .788
1942 NYY 82 295 268 28 79 13 1 2 37 2 26 11 .295 .359 .373 .732
1943 NYY 85 284 242 29 85 18 2 4 33 2 41 12 .351 .445 .492 .937
1946 NYY 54 156 134 10 35 8 0 2 10 0 19 12 .261 .357 .366 .723
17 Yrs 1789 7064 6300 930 1969 343 72 202 1209 36 678 289 .313 .382 .486 .868
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/6/2013.

Dickey’s record as a Yankee manager:

Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
1 1946 39 New York Yankees AL 2nd of 3 105 57 48 .543 3 Player/Manager
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/6/2013.

June 5 – Happy Birthday Jack Chesbro

When I first started following baseball in 1960, New York Yankees dominated the record book. Babe Ruth’s single season and career home run records, Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played, Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak and Jack Chesbro’s most wins in a season marks were all considered unbreakable. One year later, Maris hit 61 but that was OK by me because he was a Yankee. Then Aaron grabbed the Babe’s other record, Ripken replaced the Iron Horse, and a juiced up McGuire eclipsed Maris. That leaves just DiMaggio’s 56 games and Chesbro’s 41 victories still Pinstripe property.

I do believe that the Clipper’s hitting streak will fall some day in the not too distant future but Happy Jack’s victory mark will withstand the test of time. The ironic thing about Chesbro’s 41-win season in 1904 was that he too used juice to help him set the mark. But his juice came out of his mouth instead of a syringe and was applied to a baseball instead of being injected into his butt. Jack had one of baseball’s best spitballs and in 1904 he used it to near perfection. Just like steroids’ impact on the the human body however, foreign substances applied to a baseball can have disastrous side effects. One of the spitters Chesbro threw during the 1904 season finale against the Red Sox fluttered so much it got past the New York catcher and the winning run scored, costing the Highlanders the pennant.

Chesbro pitched seven seasons for New York with a cumulative record of 128-93. His total big league career lasted 11 years and his lifetime record was 198-132. That 40-victory season got him elected to the Hall of Fame by the old-timers committee in 1946.

Chesbro shares his June 5th birthday with a couple of former Yankee catchers nicknamed “Duke” and “Truck.”

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO HBP WHIP
1903 NYY 21 15 .583 2.77 40 36 4 33 1 0 324.2 300 140 100 7 74 147 9 1.152
1904 NYY 41 12 .774 1.82 55 51 3 48 6 0 454.2 338 128 92 4 88 239 7 0.937
1905 NYY 19 15 .559 2.20 41 38 2 24 3 0 303.1 262 125 74 5 71 156 6 1.098
1906 NYY 23 17 .575 2.96 49 42 7 24 4 1 325.0 314 138 107 2 75 152 10 1.197
1907 NYY 10 10 .500 2.53 30 25 3 17 1 0 206.0 192 83 58 0 46 78 6 1.155
1908 NYY 14 20 .412 2.93 45 31 13 20 3 1 288.2 276 134 94 6 67 124 14 1.188
1909 NYY 0 4 .000 6.34 9 4 4 2 0 0 49.2 70 47 35 2 13 17 3 1.671
11 Yrs 198 132 .600 2.68 392 332 52 260 35 5 2896.2 2647 1206 864 39 690 1265 113 1.152
NYY (7 yrs) 128 93 .579 2.58 269 227 36 168 18 2 1952.0 1752 795 560 26 434 913 55 1.120
PIT (4 yrs) 70 38 .648 2.89 122 104 16 92 17 3 938.2 888 407 301 12 252 349 58 1.214
BOS (1 yr) 0 1 .000 4.50 1 1 0 0 0 0 6.0 7 4 3 1 4 3 0 1.833
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/5/2013.

June 4 – Happy Birthday Phil Linz

When then Manager, Yogi Berra slapped the harmonica out of Phil’s hands on that infamous 1964 Yankee bus ride, Yankee fans would never had guessed that the seemingly quiet and shy Linz was possible of such defiance. In actuality, Linz  was a whacko. He and the even crazier Joe Pepitone had come up through the Yankee farm system together, leaving a trail of behavioral incidents that would have made Charley Sheen blush.

Linz spent four seasons in pinstripes as a utility infielder. He had a good glove and displayed a good enough bat to see plenty of action during his first three years in the big leagues. In fact, Linz started and led off every game of the Yankee’s 1964 World Series against the Cardinals. The two home runs he hit during that Fall Classic would be the highlight of his Yankee career and also the turning point. In 1965, Linz pretty much stopped hitting, averaging just .207 in 99 games. So when Tony Kubek’s bad back forced the Yankee stating shortstop’s early retirement at the age of 29, Linz was bypassed for the job. Instead, New York traded him to Philadelphia, for their starting shortstop, Ruben Amaro. Linz bombed as a Phillie and then played his final two big league seasons as a backup infielder with the Mets.

Phil shares his June 4th birthday with this Yankee coach who as a big league catcher invented the “sit-down strike.” This long-ago Yankee outfielder was also born on this date.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1962 NYY 71 136 129 28 37 8 0 1 14 6 6 17 .287 .316 .372 .688
1963 NYY 72 209 186 22 50 9 0 2 12 1 15 18 .269 .328 .349 .678
1964 NYY 112 417 368 63 92 21 3 5 25 3 43 61 .250 .332 .364 .696
1965 NYY 99 324 285 37 59 12 1 2 16 2 30 33 .207 .281 .277 .558
7 Yrs 519 1518 1372 185 322 64 4 11 96 13 112 195 .235 .295 .311 .606
NYY (4 yrs) 354 1086 968 150 238 50 4 10 67 12 94 129 .246 .314 .337 .651
NYM (2 yrs) 102 340 316 27 66 9 0 0 18 1 14 51 .209 .248 .237 .485
PHI (2 yrs) 63 92 88 8 18 5 0 1 11 0 4 15 .205 .239 .295 .535
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/3/2013.

June 3 – Happy Birthday Jose Molina

Former Yankee catcher, Jose Molina was born on this day in 1975, in Bayamon Puerto Rico. He became Jorge Posada’s backup receiver on July 21, 2007 when the Yankees acquired him from the Angels for a Minor League pitcher named Jeff Kennard. In what I always thought had been a cool arrangement, up until that deal was made Jose had been sharing the Angels’ catching position with his younger brother Bengie. He also has another brother with the absolute best first name in baseball (Yadier; pronounced yah-dee-yay), who has been a very good starting catcher for the Cardinals since 2005. Together, the catching Molina brothers have collected five World Series rings during the past decade. Both Bengie and Yadier are better hitters than their older brother and have each won multiple Gold Gloves. Jose’s inability to hit right-handed pitching usually prevents him from taking over a team’s starting catcher role but his arm and his abilities behind the plate are every bit as good if not better than his younger brothers.

The Yankees had been using Will Nieves as Posada’s backup during the first half of that 2007 season, but he was only hitting .164. When Molina took over that role he became an instant hit with Yankee fans, impressing us with defensive skills that were superior to Posada’s and also hitting a surprisingly robust .318 during his first half-year playing in the Bronx. In fact, it wasn’t till Molina put on the pinstripes and I got to watch him semi-regularly that I really began noticing Posada’s weaknesses behind the plate. I will never forget the evening Molina left me stunned with my mouth open staring at my big screen after he threw a would-be base-stealer out at second from his knees.

His play impressed the Yankee brass too. New York signed him to a two-year-$4 million deal to play for them in 2008 and’ ’09. When Posada was injured in ’08, Molina got the opportunity to start. Unfortunately, by then he had stopped hitting and the Yankees eventually felt forced to go out and get Ivan Rodriguez in a failed effort to put some more offense into their lineup. The move didn’t help New York, as the team missed postseason play for the first time since 1993 but I-Rods inability to hit did help convince the Yankee front-office to keep Molina as Posada’s backup the following year. Jose did get the opportunity to engrave his name in Yankee lore that season. On September 21, 2008 in the bottom of the fourth inning in a game against Baltimore, Jose hit a 2-0 pitch off the then Orioles Chris Waters deep into the left field stands for a two run home run. That blast would turn out to be the very last home run ever hit in the original Yankee Stadium.

In 2009, A.J. Burnett became a Yankee and Molina pretty quickly became Burnett’s personal catcher. Jose helped guide the whacky right-hander to what would turn out to be his best season in pinstripes, helping New York capture their 27th World Championship. But Molina’s bat continued to fail him as he hit just .217 during the ’09 regular season. The Yankees chose not to re-sign him when his contract expired and rookie Francisco Cervelli took over the back-up catcher’s role in 2010.

Jose ended up playing two seasons as Toronto’s second catcher before signing a rather surprising two-year deal with Tampa Bay in November of 2011. Rays’ manager, Joe Madden used Molina as his team’s starting receiver the following season. The veteran catcher turns 39 years old today.

Molina shares his birthday with this Yankee DH.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2007 NYY 29 71 66 9 21 5 0 1 9 0 2 13 .318 .333 .439 .773
2008 NYY 100 297 268 32 58 17 0 3 18 0 12 52 .216 .263 .313 .576
2009 NYY 52 155 138 15 30 4 0 1 11 0 14 28 .217 .292 .268 .560
15 Yrs 906 2656 2420 237 566 115 3 39 214 17 146 548 .234 .283 .332 .615
LAA (7 yrs) 363 1043 958 92 227 49 2 15 97 9 44 221 .237 .274 .339 .613
TBR (3 yrs) 240 695 633 54 136 23 0 10 51 5 48 150 .215 .273 .299 .571
NYY (3 yrs) 181 523 472 56 109 26 0 5 38 0 28 93 .231 .281 .318 .599
TOR (2 yrs) 112 374 338 32 89 16 1 9 27 3 24 80 .263 .323 .396 .720
CHC (1 yr) 10 21 19 3 5 1 0 0 1 0 2 4 .263 .333 .316 .649
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/16/2014.