Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant is the winning-est manager in Yankee history. Joe McCarthy’s baseball career began as a Minor League infielder who’s bad knee and inability to hit a curve ball prevented him from ever playing in a Major League game. He was playing for Wilkes-Barre in 1912 when the team’s Manager quit. McCarthy was given the job. Just 20-years-old at the time, he was the youngest manager in professional baseball. His team played very well for him and McCarthy realized his future in the sport was as a Manager.
He got his first big league job with the Cubs in 1926. He remained in the Windy City, working for the Wrigley’s for five seasons and won the NL Pennant in 1929. Ironically it was that success, according to a NY Times article about McCarthy written by Joseph Durso, that led to the Manager’s firing as Cub Manager. The Cubs lost the Series to the A’s that year in five games. In Game Four of that Fall Classic, the Cubs had blown an eight-run lead. Chicago owner William Wrigley, who had the money to buy anything he wanted, coveted a World Series trophy. After McCarthy’s team failed to win it in ’29, the chewing gum magnate came to the fateful conclusion that McCarthy was not the field boss who could win him one. A season later, McCarthy was fired by Chicago. During the next thirteen years, Wrigley’s appraisal of his former Manager had been disproved emphatically, not once but seven different times.
Yankee Manager, Miller Huggins had died during the 1929 season. Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert replaced him with one of his team’s former pitching stars, four-time 20-game winner, Bob Shawkey. When Shawkey’s team finished third in 1930 and McCarthy was fired by the Cubs, the Yankee owner outbid the Red Sox for his services. New York teams won 1,460 games during his sixteen total years at the helm, which included six 100-victory seasons, eight American League Pennants and seven World Championships. “Marse Joe” won a total of 2,125 games during his 24-year Major League managerial career, which ended with the Red Sox in 1950. Babe Ruth hated McCarthy because he wanted the Manager’s job himself but both Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio revered him. He was famous for defending his players and accepting blame for any of the team’s defeats or failures on his own shoulders. The most remarkable thing about his record was that during his two-dozen seasons as a big-league skipper, not one of his three teams ever lost more games than they won. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1957 and died in 1978, at the age of ninety.
McCarthy shares his April 21st birthday with this one time Yankee lefty relief specialist.
|6||1931||44||New York Yankees||AL||155||94||59||.614||2|
|7||1932||45||New York Yankees||AL||156||107||47||.695||1||WS Champs|
|8||1933||46||New York Yankees||AL||152||91||59||.607||2|
|9||1934||47||New York Yankees||AL||154||94||60||.610||2|
|10||1935||48||New York Yankees||AL||149||89||60||.597||2|
|11||1936||49||New York Yankees||AL||155||102||51||.667||1||WS Champs|
|12||1937||50||New York Yankees||AL||157||102||52||.662||1||WS Champs|
|13||1938||51||New York Yankees||AL||157||99||53||.651||1||WS Champs|
|14||1939||52||New York Yankees||AL||152||106||45||.702||1||WS Champs|
|15||1940||53||New York Yankees||AL||155||88||66||.571||3|
|16||1941||54||New York Yankees||AL||156||101||53||.656||1||WS Champs|
|17||1942||55||New York Yankees||AL||154||103||51||.669||1||AL Pennant|
|18||1943||56||New York Yankees||AL||155||98||56||.636||1||WS Champs|
|19||1944||57||New York Yankees||AL||154||83||71||.539||3|
|20||1945||58||New York Yankees||AL||152||81||71||.533||4|
|21||1946||59||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 3||35||22||13||.629||3|
|Chicago Cubs||5 years||770||442||321||.579||2.8||1 Pennant|
|New York Yankees||16 years||2348||1460||867||.627||1.8||8 Pennants and 7 World Series Titles|
|Boston Red Sox||3 years||369||223||145||.606||2.3|
|24 years||3487||2125||1333||.615||2.1||9 Pennants and 7 World Series Titles|
What was the worst Yankee team in history? During my time as a Yankee fan the candidates for this dubious honor would be the 1966 team that finished dead last in the AL with a 70-89 record or Stump Merrill’s 1990 squad, which finished at the bottom of the AL East Division with a horrid 67-95 mark. Both those teams filled a summer of my life with sports agony. But when you’re trying to identify the very worst Yankee team in the history of the franchise, you have to place the New York Highlander squad of 1908 at the very top of the heap, or more accurately, the very bottom of the pile.
They finished the season with a 51-103 record, which represents a .331 winning percentage, a low-water mark that has stood as the franchise record for team futility for over a century. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was the starting right-fielder on that 1908 Yankee/Highlander debacle.
New York had acquired Hemphill the previous November in a trade with the Browns. At the time of that deal, this Greenville, Michigan native was 31-years-old and a veteran of eight big league seasons and five different big league franchises. There were good reasons why he kept his suitcase packed all those years. The guy had hands of stone and he had a real problem with alcohol. On the positive side, in an era when the game was played with the deadest baseball of all-time, Hemphill was considered a good stick. It was his ability with a bat that kept him from getting benched for his poor fielding and persistent drinking and it was the same reason why, whenever a team got tired enough of those faults to get rid of him, he seemed to have no trouble finding a new team willing to take him on.
That 1908 Yankee team did not start out bad. Their Manager, Hall-of-Famer Clark Griffith actually got them out of the gate quickly that year by winning 16 of their first 24 games. But when they lost 24 of their next 32 contests, the bitterly disappointed Griffith resigned and the penny-pinching Highlander ownership made New York’s mercurial shortstop, Kid Elberfeld the team’s player-manager. At the time there wasn’t an umpire in the league who didn’t hate Elberfeld. I’m not certain if that collective hatred had anything to do with the Highlanders going 27-71 under their new manager but I can guarantee you that none of the “men in blue” felt a tinge of sorrow for the Kid’s historic failure in his new role.
Just about the only thing that wasn’t horrible on that 1908 Highlander team was the performance of Charley Hemphill. He put together the best season of his big league career. He led the team in runs, hits, RBIs and average. He also stole a career-high 42 bases. The only things that didn’t improve were his defense (he made 20 errors in ’08) and his drinking but Hemphill had built up enough good will with his offensive performance during his inaugural year in New York that he remained a member of the club’s roster for four seasons.
The team finally released him after the 1911 season and he was able to land a coveted player managing position with a minor league team in Atlanta. But before his first season in that post was over, he was fired because of his drinking and ended up moving to Detroit and working in the auto industry.
Hemphill shares his April 20th birthday with one of my all-time favorite Yankees.
|SLB (5 yrs)||629||2682||2425||306||663||72||37||15||232||109||196||267||.273||.329||.352||.681|
|NYY (4 yrs)||386||1460||1238||162||335||30||16||1||90||80||183||111||.271||.369||.323||.692|
|STL (1 yr)||11||45||37||4||9||0||0||1||3||0||6||0||.243||.364||.324||.688|
|BOS (1 yr)||136||595||545||71||142||10||10||3||62||11||39||26||.261||.312||.332||.644|
|CLV (1 yr)||55||209||202||23||56||3||5||2||23||3||6||14||.277||.301||.371||.673|
|CLE (1 yr)||25||102||94||14||25||2||0||0||11||4||5||11||.266||.303||.287||.590|
I remember very clearly not being too excited when I heard the news that the Yanks had signed free-agent shortstop Spike Owen just before Christmas in 1992. They gave the Cleburne, Texas native a surprisingly generous 3-year deal worth $7 million. He was 31 years old at the time and he had been in the big leagues for 11 seasons. A switch-hitter, Owen had made his big league debut with Seattle in 1983 and got his big break in August of ’86, when the Mariners sent him and outfielder Dave Henderson to the Red Sox for Boston’s young starting shortstop, Rey Quinones. Boston skipper, John McNamara immediately inserted Owen as his starting shortstop and he remained there through the end of the regular season, even though he hit just .183 following the trade. But he played excellent defense and got the opportunity to make some offensive amends during the postseason by averaging .429 in the 1986 ALCS versus the Angels and an even .300 against the Mets during the Red Sox epic collapse in the ’86 World Series.
He lost his starting job in Beantown to Jody Reed in 1988 and was dealt to the Expos the following December. He had some of his best big league seasons defensively while with Montreal and even put together a record 61-game streak of errorless shortstop play there, that has since been broken. Though he never hit for a high average, Owen had good strike zone discipline that permitted him to finish his career with an on base percentage that was almost 80 points higher than his .246 lifetime batting average.
When his contract expired in 1992, Montreal decided to go with Will Cordero at short and let Owen walk. That’s when the Yankees knocked him over with their generosity. The franchise was just emerging from the Stump Merrill regime at the time, during which the flashy but mostly ineffective Alvaro Espinosa had started at short. New York’s new skipper, Buck Showalter had two other shortstop candidates on that year’s Yankee roster in Randy Velarde and Mike Gallego, but he went with Owen to start the season. Spike surprised everyone when he got off to a hot start with his bat, averaging over .400 during the first two weeks of the ’93 season. The problem was his defense. It seemed like every other ground ball hit his way ended up just out of his reach and the New York sports press made frequent negative notice of Owens propensity to make plays from his knees. When his average dipped to .240 by the end of July, Showalter began rotating Gallego and Velarde in with Owen at short.
By the end of that 1993 season, I think Buck might have told the Yankee front office he could get along fine with those two as his middle infielders and Yankee GM Gene Michael took the opportunity to try and shed some of the huge Yankee payroll by dealing Owen. He found a willing partner in the Angels but only after the Yankees agreed to pay most of the amount due on the two remaining years of Owen’s contract. Spike then had the best season of his career starting at short for California during the strike shortened 1994 season. He ended up losing his Angels’ starting job the following year and when his contract expired there were no big league teams interested in signing him.
|MON (4 yrs)||552||1976||1700||198||420||79||20||21||142||22||18||238||195||.247||.338||.354||.692|
|SEA (4 yrs)||462||1770||1590||190||380||61||23||11||136||38||22||138||176||.239||.301||.327||.628|
|BOS (3 yrs)||263||945||820||111||200||33||9||8||76||14||10||97||79||.244||.325||.335||.660|
|CAL (2 yrs)||164||558||486||47||133||26||5||4||65||5||10||67||39||.274||.363||.372||.735|
|NYY (1 yr)||103||367||334||41||78||16||2||2||20||3||2||29||30||.234||.294||.311||.605|
At the time of the trade, it was considered one of the biggest in Yankee franchise history. Pitcher Ernie Shore and outfielder Duffy Lewis had been perennial stars on the great pre WWI Boston Red Sox teams. Both, however, had joined the Navy in 1918 and missed an entire season. Before they returned from service in 1919, the duo had been traded to New York along with another very good veteran Boston pitcher named Dutch Leonard in exchange for four players and $15,000. After the deal was made, Yankee skipper Miller Huggins was thrilled and told members of the press that the trade filled the two biggest weaknesses the Yankees had on their roster and he expected the team would be in the thick of the 1919 AL Pennant race as a result of this deal.
Duffy Lewis was a native of San Francisco who cut his baseball teeth in the Pacific Coast League. His real name was George and he had made his big league debut with Boston in 1910, when he joined Tris Speaker and Harry Hopper to form one of the great outfields in Red Sox franchise history. The trio helped Boston win World Series in 1912, ’15 and ’16 and Lewis added lots of luster to his reputation as a clutch hitter when he averaged .444 against the Phillies in the 1915 Fall Classic and .353 the following fall against Brooklyn.
In actuality, Lewis was pretty much a singles hitter who was blessed to be part of one of baseball’s all-time best lineups. As it turned out Huggins’ high hopes for both Lewis and Shore (Leonard was sold to the Tigers before he pitched a game as a Yankee) proved to be unfounded. Shore caught the mumps during his first New York spring training camp and would never amount to much of anything in pinstripes. Duffy started in left field for New York in 1919 and averaged just .272, which was 17 points below his career average with Boston. He did drive in 89 run but he was overly aggressive at the plate for a guy with little power and not a good base-runner.
A little over a year after the big trade Huggins pulled a perfect “if at first you don’t succeed try again” maneuver by convincing the Yankee owner Jake Ruppert to go back to Boston owner Harry Frazee and pay him whatever it takes to purchase Babe Ruth’s contract. The “Big Bang” then joined Lewis and Ping Bodie to form the starting outfield for a 1920 Yankee team that won 95 games, which was only good enough for a third place finish in the 1920 AL Pennant race. Lewis, however, had seen his playing time decrease during his second season in New York thanks to the emergence of a Yankee rookie outfielder by the name of Bob Meusel.
The Yanks would finally make it to their first World Series in 1921 and they got there without Lewis, who had been traded to Washington the previous December. He was out of the big leagues for good the following year but he did not hang up his spikes. Instead he returned to the Pacific Coast League, where he continued playing another six years, finally retiring as a player at the age of 39. Duffy would eventually become the long-time traveling secretary of the Boston Braves.
He shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher and also this “house,” which was built by his former teammate.
|BOS (8 yrs)||1184||4884||4325||500||1248||254||62||27||629||102||57||303||465||.289||.340||.395||.735|
|NYY (2 yrs)||248||1005||924||101||251||31||5||11||150||10||8||41||74||.272||.304||.352||.656|
|WSH (1 yr)||27||114||102||11||19||4||1||0||14||1||1||8||10||.186||.252||.245||.497|
Being a fifty plus year fan of the New York Yankees and a traditionalist when it comes to our National Pastime, I was prepared to not like the Yankees’ new home. I hated to see the original “House that Ruth Built” closed and also hated how the YES cameras kept showing shots of Baseball’s Cathedral being demolished in eerie stages during the 2009 season.
At first, I paid most of my attention to all the things I didn’t like about the “House that George Built.” The astronomical ticket cost for the first eight rows of seats surrounding the infield reminded me of the Roman Coliseum’s seating policy. When it became evident that the large chunks of these “Legends Seats” that remained unsold could not be hidden from the camera’s view during televised Yankee games, they became an embarrassment to the team’s ownership, serving as a constant reminder of the highest ticket prices in all of baseball.
I was also not a fan of the underground parking garage that permitted Yankee players and visiting team busses to enter the Stadium completely hidden from fan view. Some of my favorite memories as both a child and a parent took place while I was leaning against those blue NYPD police barricades that used to form a walking path between the old Stadium’s player parking lot and the street entrance to the Yankee clubhouse. Now, no future Yankee fans or their Dad’s would get to create those same memories.
I admit it was nice to see Jorge Posada hit the first home run in the place, but it was obvious that the new Stadium’s designers had created a homer haven when balls kept leaving that yard at a record pace. Sports journalists around the country were calling baseball’s newest venue a joke.
Before too long, however, I stopped paying attention to the things I didn’t like and started focusing on the performance of that 2009 Yankee team. They kept winning ballgames, both in their new home and on the road and before you knew it, they made it to the World Series.
My wife and I chose the second game of that Series to make our inaugural visit to the new Yankee Stadium. I have to admit that everything about the place (except the prices) impressed me. The improved surrounding neighborhood, the Great Hall, the openness of the walk and concession areas, spacious bathrooms that didn’t smell of urine, the Yankee Museum, the positioning of the seats and the great sound system that started blaring Frank Sinatra’s “New York” the instant Matt Stairs struck out swinging at Mariano’s final pitch of the game, turning the tide of that Fall Classic in the Yankees’ favor.
As my wife and I walked back to the parking lot that night I had fallen in love with the place. I also admit that if the Yanks had lost that game that night to fall behind 2-0 in that Series against Philadelphia, my feelings about the place may not have changed.
When Bernie Allen graduated from high school in his hometown of East Liverpool, OH, he was a good enough school-boy quarterback to get a scholarship offer from Purdue University. Problem was Bernie didn’t like playing football but he knew if he wanted to go to college, accepting that scholarship was the only way he’d be able to, so that’s what he did. During his time on the gridiron as a Boilermaker, he became one of the better QB’s in the Big Ten but he also got the opportunity to play collegiate baseball and become an All American in that sport. In early 1961, the Minnesota Twins made Allen one of the first amateurs signed by that team after it had relocated to the Twin Cities from our Nation’s capitol.
After just one year in the minors, he made the Twins big league roster during the team’s 1962 spring training season. Minnesota’s first year manager, Sam Mele liked his rookie infielder so much, he benched the veteran Billy Martin and started Allen at second base. Mele also installed a second rookie, third baseman Rich Rollins in his starting infield and the two first-year players helped the surprising Twins finish in second place with 91 wins, a 20-game improvement over the previous season. Bernie had 154 hits that year including 12 home runs, with 64 RBIs and finished third in the AL Rookie-of-theYear balloting. Though I was just 8-years-old at the time, I clearly remember that 1962 Minnesota team because in addition to battling my Yankees for the Pennant, every player in their starting lineup reached double figures in home runs that season.
Allen got off to a horrendously slow start at the plate in his sophomore season and his batting average was still under.200 by late August. He then hit .320 during the last six weeks of the ’63 season, saving his starting job in the process. But his potential to develop into a perennial big league All Star was wiped out with one play during the 1964 season. Attempting to turn a double play, Allen was bowled over by Don Zimmer who rolled over the second baseman’s leg. Allen had torn his ACL, but the injury was mis-diagnosed by Minnesota’a team doctors. When the leg didn’t get better, Allen got his own doctors to examine the knee and they made a correct diagnosis and operated five months after the injury occurred. By then however, the ligament had shriveled and the surgeon didn’t think Allen would ever again play baseball. He proved that doctor wrong but it does explain why all of Allen’s highest single-season offensive numbers took place during that 1962 rookie season. He was simply never the same player after Zimmer rolled his knee.
The Yankees got Bernie in 1972. The Twins had traded him to the Senators after the 1966 season and he played pretty regularly for Washington for five years, right up until that franchise moved to Texas. He then became Ralph Houk’s primary utility infielder during the 1972 season, appearing in 84 games, mostly as a third baseman, but hitting a paltry .227 in the process. It was that weak bat that got him sold to the Expos in August of 1973. When he hit just .180, the then 34-year-old Allen hung up his glove for good.
|MIN (5 yrs)||492||1789||1595||195||392||75||10||32||163||3||6||165||212||.246||.316||.366||.682|
|WSA (5 yrs)||530||1669||1482||126||351||52||11||30||154||10||9||172||161||.237||.317||.348||.665|
|NYY (2 yrs)||101||310||277||31||63||12||0||9||25||0||1||28||47||.227||.294||.368||.663|
|MON (1 yr)||16||56||50||5||9||1||0||2||9||0||0||5||4||.180||.255||.320||.575|
Joking aside, Cole’s real first name was Leonard. He had become “King” in 1910 when, as a rookie with the Chicago Cubs he went 20-4 with a league-leading ERA of just 1.80. How special was that performance? Only 17 other Major League first-year pitchers have been able to win 20 games (Bob Grim, who went 20-6 in 1954, was the only Yankee rookie to do it) and only nine have compiled an ERA of less than two runs per game. He pitched the Cubs into the 1910 World Series and even though his team lost, Cole had gained national attention. This “Royal” rookie then went on to trash baseball’s sophomore jinx superstition by going 18-7 in his second season with the Cubbies.
Everything began to change for Cole during the 1912 season. He won just one of his first eight starts that season and he was getting shelled by every opposing lineup. The Cubs traded the former phee-nom to the Pirates but the change of scenery did not help and Cole found himself pitching in the minor leagues the following year. That seemed to be an elixir for the young right-hander’s career as he won 23 games for a team in Columbus and that effort attracted attention from a bunch of big league clubs, including the Yankees. New York ended up outbidding all other teams for Cole and he was headed to the Big Apple.
Cole appeared in 33 games for New York in 1914, including 15 starts and won ten of his nineteen decisions, including two shutouts. But Cole’s performance plummeted again in 1915 and the reason turned out to be a medical one. The pitcher was suffering from tuberculosis and then a cancerous tumor was found in his groin. The end came quick for the native of Toledo, IA. He died in January of 1916 at the age of 29.
This former Yankee reliever was also born on IRS tax deadline day.
|CHC (4 yrs)||40||13||.755||2.72||74||60||10||35||7||1||489.0||404||177||148||7||240||225||1.317|
|NYY (2 yrs)||12||12||.500||3.27||43||21||16||10||2||1||192.2||192||90||70||5||73||62||1.375|
|PIT (1 yr)||2||2||.500||6.43||12||5||6||2||0||0||49.0||61||42||35||1||18||11||1.612|
When I see the name Kyle Farnsworth, I associate it with a pitcher who had nasty closer-like stuff but lacked a closer’s mentality. Brian Cashman paid Farnsworth a lot of money after the 2005 season ($17 million over three years) to replace Flash Gordon as the new Yankee bridge to Mariano Rivera. The right hander had pitched his first six big league seasons as a member of the Chicago Cub bullpen. In 2005 he was traded to the Tigers. He made just 16 appearances in Detroit and was then traded to the Braves just before the 2005 inter-league trading deadline expired. He became Bobby Cox’s closer in Atlanta and during the last two months of the ’05 season, Farnsworth pitched the best baseball of his life. He saved 10 games, struck out 32 guys in 27 innings and gave up less than two earned runs per nine innings pitched, helping the Braves hold off the Marlins and win the NL East division race. But in Game 4 of that year’s NLDS, Farnsworth was called in to protect a 6-1 lead in the eighth inning against the Astros and gave up a grand slam to Lance Berkman and a solo shot an inning later and the Braves lost the game and the series in the 18th inning.
I remember watching that game. I’m sure it was a performance Farnsworth would love to forget and Brian Cashman must have forgot it when he paid all that money to bring this guy to the Bronx. He then became an enigma for Joe Torre. Torre was a great Manager but he did have his struggles developing working relationships with certain players and Farnsworth was one of them. In his first year in pinstripes, the pitcher struggled to establish a rhythm. He’d pitch lights out baseball for a stretch and then he’d get hit hard for a week or two. It was clear Torre did not trust his stuff and it became clear that Farnsworth resented that when the pitcher started talking about his Manager’s lack of faith in him to the New York sports press.
Ironically, it was Joba Chamberlain who effectively ended Farnsworth’s career in New York. When Joba was brought up in 2007 and pitched brilliantly as Mo’s set-up man, Farnsworth found himself buried even deeper in that Yankee bullpen. I call it ironic because Joba’s meltdown in the 2007 postseason’s “Bug” game at Jacobs Field seemed to knock his career off stride in the same way Farnsworth’s was thrown off kilter by his disastrous performance against the Astro’s two seasons earlier.
When both Jorge Posada and Jose Molina went down with injuries in the first half of the 2008 season, the Yankees traded Farnsworth to the Tigers for Ivan Rodriguez. Kyle was born in Wichita in 1976. Another Yankee who shares Farnsworth’s April 14th birthday is this hero from New York’s 2000 season.
|CHC (6 yrs)||22||37||.373||4.78||343||26||88||1||1||4||478.2||468||281||254||75||224||20||467||1.446|
|TBR (3 yrs)||6||7||.462||2.86||101||0||59||0||0||25||88.0||71||30||28||7||27||3||76||1.114|
|NYY (3 yrs)||6||9||.400||4.33||181||0||41||0||0||7||170.1||165||87||82||28||72||8||166||1.391|
|KCR (2 yrs)||4||5||.444||3.40||78||0||27||0||0||0||82.0||83||35||31||5||26||2||78||1.329|
|ATL (2 yrs)||0||2||.000||3.42||49||0||24||0||0||10||47.1||30||18||18||6||14||1||57||0.930|
|DET (2 yrs)||2||2||.500||3.53||62||0||21||0||0||6||58.2||56||26||23||5||25||1||73||1.381|
The great Joe McCarthy really was a players’ manager but that didn’t mean he was a pushover, far from it. During the 1942 season, Bill Dickey got hurt. His backup that season and heir apparent as Yankee catcher was a 27-year-old native of Buffalo, NY named Buddy Rosar. Rosar was married and had a kid and with the world at war, he was worried about his future. He felt he needed a career to fall back on in case he didn’t make it as a big league catcher so he made a fateful decision to leave the Yankees for a couple of days to take a policeman’s exam back in his native Buffalo. During his absence, the Yankees played a double header on a very hot afternoon and McCarthy had no choice but to start 35-year-old Rollie Hemsley behind the plate for both games. When the day was done, Hemsley was near collapse from physical exhaustion and McCarthy was determined to get rid of Rosar.
The trade took place ten days after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Rosar and Yankee outfielder Roy Cullenbine were sent to Cleveland for outfielder Roy Weatherly and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. Oscar Grimes had been around baseball all his life. His father Ray had been a first baseman for the Cubs during the 1920′s and his uncle Roy Grimes, had once played second base for the New York Giants. Oscar was an infielder too and one of the reasons Marse Joe wanted him was his ability to play any of the four infield positions.
That flexibility didn’t earn the native of Minerva, OH much playing time during his first season in New York. He got into just eight games for the Yankees in 1943 but he did get his first and only World Series ring that year, even though he didn’t get to play a single out of that Fall Classic. Things changed for Grimes in 1944. The Yankees’ young and talented starting third baseman, Billy Johnson was called into military service and McCarthy began playing Grimes regularly at the hot corner. In one of his early starts there, he found out firsthand why the legendary Yankee skipper was so beloved by his players. Grimes had made three errors in the contest, pretty much single handedly costing New York the loss. While he was undressing in the clubhouse after the game, he saw McCarthy approaching him. He prepared himself for a tongue-lashing but instead, the manager put his hand on Grimes shoulder and told him about a horrible fielding day he himself had had in the minors.
Grimes played 116 games and had a career high .279 during that ’44 season. In 1945, he played 142 games for New York and had a stellar on base percentage of .395. But Grimes achilles heel were his iron hands. He was simply not a very good defensive infielder and when Johnson and all the other Yankee third base prospects returned from service, Grimes days in pinstripes were numbered. That number came up on July 11th of the 1946 season when New York sold him to the Philadelphia A’s. He became the A’s starting second baseman and didn’t do to badly with his bat, hitting .262 during his half season in Philadelphia. But his defense just wasn’t good enough to keep him in the post war big leagues and he spent the next five seasons playing minor league ball, finally retiring for good in 1950, at the age of 35.
|CLE (5 yrs)||262||847||715||94||173||31||9||8||84||15||5||110||130||.242||.345||.344||.689|
|NYY (4 yrs)||281||1116||926||113||246||37||15||9||96||13||7||160||144||.266||.378||.367||.746|
|PHA (1 yr)||59||230||191||28||50||5||0||1||20||2||0||27||29||.262||.356||.304||.660|
You’re Brennan Boesch and you’ve been a starting outfielder for the Detroit Tigers since you made your big league debut in 2010. During that first year you led all American League rookies in home runs and RBIs. You were having an even better sophomore year when in early August of 2011, you tore a ligament in your wrist, causing you to miss the final two months of the regular season plus that year’s ALDS and ALCS.
You worked hard to get your wrist rehabbed but it hurt like hell to swing a bat and you pretty much struggled with it during the entire 2012 season. Even though you had some big hits down the stretch, Jim Leyland left you off the Tigers’ postseason roster and you missed a chance to play in the 2012 World Series. Five months later, you were in for an even bigger disappointment. You were determined to play your way back into Detroit’s starting lineup in 2013 but that didn’t happen. Early on in spring training you suffered an oblique injury, which set you back and then on March 15th, Leyland called you into his office and told you the team was releasing you. That had to be one of the toughest things you’ve ever had to hear. But then your agent told you the Yanks had called and were interested in bringing you to New York to start in their outfield while Curtis Granderson’s broken arm healed. Just like that, it looked like you were about to turn lemon into lemonade. The deal gets made, you pack our bags and head for Tampa, but no sooner do you get there and the Yankees announce they’ve just acquired Vernon Wells from the Angels. Within a span of just a few days you go from fighting for a starting job to getting cut to being given a starting job for the Yankees and then losing it. Talk about the highs and lows of professional athletes, huh?
I remember when Brennan Boesch got his first at bat against the Yankees and I saw his name flash on the television screen. I thought some YES Network technician had left the “d” out of his first name and mistakenly hit the “n” key twice. I also remember he pretty much wore out Yankee pitching. He averaged .363 against them in 22 games and like most left-handed hitters with some pop in his bat, he absolutely loved hitting in Yankee Stadium. When the news broke that the Yankees signed him, I confess that the first thing that came into my head was that this guy had enough of an all-around game to have a chance of evolving into a Paul O’Neill type player for New York. Since then though, I’ve watched Wells and Yankee DH Travis Hafner both get off to hot starts in 2013 and I now wonder if Boesch will get enough playing time to make the kind of impression he will need to make to even remain on the Yankees’ parent club roster when Granderson returns in May.
Boesch is a big guy, six feet four inches tall and he weighs over 230 pounds. He was born in Santa Monica, California in 1985. He shares his birthday with this former Yankee reliever and this long-ago Yankee outfielder.
|DET (3 yrs)||380||1487||1362||176||353||73||6||42||175||18||7||101||286||.259||.315||.414||.729||96||564||23||15||0||9||8|
|NYY (1 yr)||6||12||12||1||3||0||1||1||2||0||0||0||2||.250||.250||.667||.917||134||8||0||0||0||0||0|