By the time the Yankees were ready to give today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant his first big league start, the team’s season was already over. It was early September of 1990, the Yanks were mired in last place in the AL East Divison standings with an atrocious 58-84 record and with Stump Merrill now calling the shots in New York’s dugout, the organization’s future looked anything but bright.
So all Yankee starting pitcher Steve Adkins does in his big league debut is take the mound against a pretty good Texas Ranger lineup and pitch hitless baseball. So how come you and I don’t remember Steve Adkins, since he remains the only pitcher in the last 28 years to give up no hits in his first big league start?
Well for one thing, the Yankees lost the game. Texas ended up beating them 5-4 that evening. Perhaps another reason we don’t remember Adkins’ no-hit debut was the fact that he issued eight walks that game. But the real reason this six foot six inch southpaw’s inaugural appearance as a Yankee pitcher is not seared into our memories is because it didn’t last very long, just one-and-a-third innings to be exact.
He was able to get out of the first inning without surrendering a run despite three walks with the help of a double play. But when he gave six straight batters free passes to first base in the second inning, Merrill had seen enough and he yanked the then twenty-five-year-old native of Chicago. He had thrown fifty pitches, surrendered three earned runs and became the first pitcher in half a century to give up no-hits and lose his big-league debut.
Adkins got four more chances to start that September and was actually progressing to the point where he was able to get his first win of the season with an eight-inning stint against the Brewers on September 28th. But then Merrill chose him to start the Yankees final game of the 1990 season against Detroit and four innings later he had given up seven hits, seven earned runs, and four more of those dreaded walks. He never pitched another game at the big league level.
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is the only member of the Baseball Hall of Fame who’s father is also a member. Lee MacPhail’s dad Larry was one of baseball’s most legendary executives, running both the Cincinnati Reds and Brooklyn Dodger organizations before becoming a part owner of the Yankees in 1946. Lee had a much quieter demeanor than his hard-living and combative father and was generally considered one of the kindest and most liked executives in baseball during his career.
That career got its real start in 1949, when the younger MacPhail took over as director of the Yankees’ minor league system. That system had been built by geniuses like Ed Barrow and George Weiss, so there was a lot of pressure on the new guy to maintain its excellence as a breeding ground for future pennant winners. Many baseball people thought MacPhail had only got the job because of his last name, but he proved those detractors wrong by operating brilliantly in that capacity. New York’s farm system produced an unprecedented flow of quality big league players all throughout the decade of the 1950′s.
In 1959, MacPhail became General Manager of the Baltimore Orioles. When he left that job in 1965 to become an assistant to Baseball Commissioner, William Eckert, he left an Orioles’ team poised to win a World Championship in 1966 and a thriving minor league system that would keep the O’s near or at the top of the AL East standings for the next decade.
He returned to the Yankees in 1967 to take over as GM from Ralph Houk, who had returned to the dugout to skipper the team after Johnny Keane had failed miserably in that role. It was an unsuccessful era in the organization’s history, notable because for the first and only time in franchise history, the Yankees were owned by a corporation and not wealthy individuals. Suddenly the team’s performance was being judged by profits and loss instead of wins and losses, making MacPhail’s job especially difficult. He did however make progress. He traded for Sparky Lyle, drafted Thurman Munson, and negotiated the deals that brought both Graig Nettles and Lou Piniella to New York.
Things got hairy for MacPhail in New York when George Steinbrenner took over the team in 1973 and brought Gabe Paul with him. It soon became apparent to the beleaguered GM that neither “the Boss” or Paul respected his opinions on much of anything, so he got out of the Bronx when the getting was good and took over as AL President from the retiring Joe Cronin. He served in that capacity for the next decade and is credited for leading the negotiations that ended the 1981 Players strike. He also got some revenge on Steinbrenner, when he overruled the umpires decision to negate George Brett’s home run in the famous “Pine Tar” game between the Yankees and Royals in 1983.
MacPhail was selected to join his father in Cooperstown in 1998 and he lived to the age of 95, passing away at his home in Florida in November of 2012. He lived to see both his son Andy and grandson Lee MacPhail IV extend the family’s involvement in MLB front offices to a fourth generation.
It was on my birthday this year, June 14th, that I settled down to watch a Yankee game. It was a Friday night, and the Yanks were on a west coast road trip. The surprising Bronx Bombers had been in second place when that trip had started, just a game and a half behind the even more surprising Red Sox. Their first stop had been in Seattle, where they took three out of four from the hapless Mariners. But then they went to Oakland and dropped three straight to the A’s. It was the results of that series that brought my doubts about the patched together Yankee lineup back to the surface. Since their night games started late on the east coast whenever the Yanks played alongside the Pacific, I had not watched any of the contests that had been played on that trip thus far. Even though I had celebrated my birthday with a couple of bourbons, I was determined to stay awake long enough see if that night’s starting pitcher, Andy Pettitte was back in the smooth-pitching groove he had been in at the beginning of the year.
Remember, Pettitte had started the 2013 season with three straight wins and an ERA of 2.01. Then his back began stiffening up on him and the Yankee offense went into a slump and Andy lost three of his next four decisions before finally going on the DL in the middle of May. That night he would be making his second start since returning from the DL. He had won the third game of the Mariners’ series and I was anxious to see if he really was back in the groove. I had my doubts after watching him give up three hits and a run in the opening inning but then he got the next six hitters out and David Adams two run single in the top of the fourth gave New York its first and only lead. The Halos evened the score in the bottom half of the inning, took the lead in the sixth and then scored their fourth and final run off Pettitte in the seventh.
That was it for the Yankees’ veteran left-hander. He had struggled the whole game giving up 11 hits but he had also battled his way through plenty of jams. He left the game with his team down by two. That’s when it became very clear to me just how short the Yankees’ minor league pitching talent was. I remember that when whichever Yankee announcer announced “Chris Bootcheck will be making his Yankee debut to start the eighth inning” my initial reaction was “Chris who check?”
This very tall right hander, wearing uniform number 34 then appears on my big screen throwing warm-up pitches. At first, I jogged my memory, trying to remember if this was one of those “three B’s” Brian Cashman had been so crazy about a few years earlier but then one of the guys in the Yankee booth said he was 34 years old and was making a homecoming of sorts. He had been a number 1 pick of the Angels in the 2000 draft and had pitched for them as a reliever from 2005 through 2008.
The Yankees had signed Bootcheck during the 2013 spring training season and sent him to Scranton/Wilkes Barre, where he had been turned back into a starter and had become the RailRiders’s best pitcher. In a strange move, indicative of just how stretched the Yankee pitching staff had become, New York had sent Adam Warren to Scranton after he had pitched six scoreless innings of relief against the A’s on that same road trip. They knew Warren wouldn’t be able to pitch again for a while so they sent him down and brought Bootcheck up.
I watched Bootcheck walk the first Angel he faced in the bottom of the eighth and since by then it had to be well past midnight and no longer my birthday, I turned off the TV and went to bad a year older and wiser enough to know that it would take a miracle for this 2013 Yankee team to reach the postseason if they had to depend on their pitching to get them there. No disrespect to Bootcheck but if he was the best pitcher they had on their top farm club, I knew my favorite team did not have the pitching talent it would need to reach the 2013 postseason.
Bootcheck is a native of LaPorte, Indiana, who was born on this date in 1978. He finished the 2013 season in Scranton, going 10-7 with a 3.69 ERA. He was one of 24 different Yankee pitchers to appear in a game for New York during the 2013 regular season. He shares a birthday with this former Yankee outfielder and this one too.
|LAA (5 yrs)||3||7||.300||6.04||77||3||29||0||0||1||132.2||162||93||89||18||55||92||1.636|
|PIT (1 yr)||0||0||11.05||13||0||3||0||0||0||14.2||16||18||18||1||9||13||1.705|
|NYY (1 yr)||0||0||9.00||1||0||1||0||0||0||1.0||2||1||1||0||2||1||4.000|
The last time the Red Sox and Cardinals faced each other in a World Series was in 2004 and I didn’t watch a single pitch of Boston’s 4-game sweep of St. Louis that year. Why? I’m a Yankee fan and I still haven’t completely gotten over Boston coming back from a 3-0 deficit in that year’s ALCS. It took me the entire offseason to recover enough from that debacle to again watch a baseball game.
You have to then go back all the way to the 1967 World Series to find the next most recent Fall Classic that matched these two teams. I was just 13 at the time, suffering through my third straight Yankee-less postseason but unlike the 2004 matchup of these two teams, I remember watching just about every inning of that Series.
As I do with all things having to do with baseball, I cover events based on their relevance to Yankee history. For example, the 1967 Cardinal team that beat Boston in seven games that year had ex-Yankee slugger, Roger Maris starting in right field that season. No longer a power threat, the man who broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record six years earlier, hit just 9 home runs for that ’67 St. Louis ball club, but he was born again that fall, when he led the Cards with 7 RBIs against Boston and posted a .385 batting average.
The only other St. Louis player who would one day have a pinstriped connection was their great catcher, Tim McCarver, who would become part of the Yankee broadcasting team for three seasons, beginning in 1999.
The 1967 Boston Red Sox team on the other hand had quite a few past and future Yankees on their roster. The most notable former Yankee was the great catcher, Elston Howard, who had come over to Boston in early August of that season to provide veteran behind-the-plate leadership to a young and evolving Red Sox pitching staff. Ellie was well past his offensive prime by then as his .111 Series batting average against St. Louis attests. Another former Yankee playing for Boston was their skilled pinch-hitter, Norm Siebern. Ironically, Siebern was a native of St. Louis who had come up with the Yankees as a promising outfielder in the late fifties and won a Gold Glove, only to be traded to Kansas City for Maris after the ’59 season.
Future Yankees who saw action for Boston in that same Fall Classic included first baseman George “Boomer” Scott and relievers John Wyatt and Gary Waslewski. The most famous future Yankee, Red Sox closer Sparky Lyle had been forced off the Series roster with an injury that year. The “Count” was replaced by a 19-year-old southpaw named Ken Brett, who in addition to being one of Boston’s best pitchers in that Series, would also one day become a Yankee.
The other Yankee-related thing I think about as it relates to the two teams playing in this year’s Series are all time lineups of Yankees who were also Cardinals during their careers and Red Sox who also wore pinstripes. Here they are:
During the 53 years I’ve been a Yankee fan, I’ve sort of behaved by two rules. The first is that I do not disrespect Yankee players for failing to live up to expectations. Each and every one of them has been skilled and talented enough to accomplish something I know I never could and that is to reach the Major Leagues as a professional ballplayer. Mistakes, slumps and errors are part of the game and as upset as I get when individual Yankees don’t perform well, I don’t hold it against them and I have never boo’d a Yankee player in my lifetime. The second rule is that despite how “against” I might have been about a transaction that brings a player to the Yankees, once he puts on a Yankee uniform, I root like crazy for the guy.
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is a perfect example of how I apply these rules in real-life. When I heard Brian Cashman was going to sign Ben Francisco as a right handed DH and spare outfielder, I screamed in anguish. I absolutely knew this native of Santa Ana, California was not the right guy for the slot the Yankees expected him to fill. When I first read reports that Cashman was going after him, I remember yelling out loud. “Go get Alphonso Soriano from the Cubs instead.” But since I was in my home’s basement office at the time, about 1,300 miles north of Cashman’s office in Tampa, the Yankee GM couldn’t hear my suggestion and he signed Francisco.
So I became an instant Ben Francisco fan, hoping with every fiber in my being that I was wrong about the guy and he would evolve into this year’s version of Raul Ibanez. Unfortunately, I seemed to be in a minority of those Yankee fans who were willing to be patient with him. It didn’t help matters that so many Yankee regulars were physically unable to play on Opening Day of the 2013 season and the pressure on back-up guys like Francisco to perform was abnormally high as a result.
In his first five games,he got a total of eight at bats and failed to get a hit but judging by the boo birds at the Stadium and the vitriol of Yankee bloggers, you’d of thought he went 0-for-80 instead. His first Yankee hit against Arizona, started a three-run come-from-behind rally in a game New York would eventually win. But by the end of April, his average was just .103.
On May 1, Francisco hit his one and only home run as a Bronx Bomber in a 5-4 Yankee victory over the Astros. On June 4th, with his batting average at .114, Francisco was released by New York. A couple weeks later, he was signed by the Padres and spent the remainder of the 2013 season playing for San Diego’s Pacific Coast League affiliate in Tucson.
He was originally a fifth round draft choice of the Cleveland Indians in 2002. After a solid rookie season with the Tribe in 2008, Francisco’s name got thrown into the Cliff Lee trade negotiations and he ended up accompanying the pitcher to Philadelphia in return for four Phillies’ prospects at the 2009 trading deadline. The deal led to Francisco’s first and thus far only World Series appearance that fall against the Yankees (He went hitless in 7 at-bats.) But the outfielder struggled during his entire two-and-a-half season tenure in the City of Brotherly Love. He seemed much more comfortable playing in Cleveland.
|CLE (3 yrs)||235||920||817||123||213||58||1||28||99||17||76||164||.261||.332||.437||.768|
|PHI (3 yrs)||225||594||526||58||136||32||1||17||75||13||52||101||.259||.332||.420||.752|
|TBR (1 yr)||24||63||57||4||13||5||0||2||8||0||4||16||.228||.270||.421||.691|
|NYY (1 yr)||21||50||44||4||5||0||0||1||1||0||5||11||.114||.220||.182||.402|
|HOU (1 yr)||31||90||85||5||21||4||0||2||5||0||5||23||.247||.289||.365||.654|
|TOR (1 yr)||27||54||50||5||12||5||1||0||2||0||4||10||.240||.296||.380||.676|
The article appeared in the New York Times on December 17, 1925. It started out like this; “Good news for Yankee fans. Miller Huggins announced yesterday the purchase of one the best minor league pitchers in the country, a young man named Myles Thomas…” The article went on to say that the purchase had forced Jake Ruppert, the Yankee owner then, to “remove several layers from his bankroll to get this lad” because there were several big league teams interested in the right-hander from College Station, Pennsylvania. The reason for all the attention on Myles Thomas was the 28-8 record he had put together during the 1925 season, while pitching for the double A International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs.
Ironically, Huggins had been given a chance to sign this same guy in 1921, when he was fresh out of Pennsylvania State Teachers College. The Yankee skipper passed on that first opportunity and Thomas had then spent the next six seasons pitching in the minors. So he was already 28 years-old when he made his big-league debut with the 1926 Yankees, but he couldn’t have picked a better time to come to the Bronx. During his three full seasons on the team, the Yankees won three straight AL Pennants and both the 1927 and ’28 World Series.
Thomas’s best season in pinstripes was his second, when he went 7-4 for the Murderers’ Row team that went 110-44 and swept the Pirates in the ’27 World Series. But Huggins gradually lost faith in him as time went on. The pitcher’s starts and appearances out of the bullpen decreased in each of his successive seasons with New York until he was finally put on waivers and sold to the Senators in late June of 1929.
He pitched a couple of seasons in Washington before going back to the minors, where after hanging up his glove, he eventually became a coach with the Toledo Mud Hens. I can picture Thomas, perhaps wearing one of the World Series rings he won with the Yankees, out in the Mud Hens bullpen during a game, surrounded by a bunch of wide-eyed big-leaguer wannabe’s, regaling them with his memories of pitching for one of the greatest teams in big league history. I wonder if he told those kids that Babe Ruth himself had given Thomas the nickname of “Duck Eye.” Of course, the Bambino gave just about every teammate he ever played with a nickname because he was too self-absorbed to bother remembering their real names. In fact, in 1928, after Thomas had been Ruth’s teammate for more than two years. Yankee second baseman Tony Lazzeri introduced him to Ruth in a Boston hotel lobby as “the new pitcher from Yale the Yanks had just signed.” Ruth stuck out his hand and said “Hi ya keed.”
Thomas shares his birthday with baseball’s best all-around second baseman and a player who has a decent chance of becoming the first Japanese-born member of the Hall-of-Fame.
|NYY (4 yrs)||14||12||.538||4.70||71||24||22||4||0||0||275.2||311||177||144||13||126||76||1.585|
|WSH (2 yrs)||9||10||.474||4.53||34||16||11||7||0||2||159.0||188||107||80||6||63||45||1.579|
Flash turns 46 years old today. Before he joined the YES Network as an analyst for Yankee games and as a commentator on the Post Game shows, Flaherty was a big league catcher for fourteen seasons with five different teams. Born in the Big Apple, he ended that playing career in his hometown, with three seasons as Jorge Posada’s backup from 2003 until 2005. During lulls in the action, when he is in the booth for Yankee games, viewers often hear Michael Kay or Kenny Singleton tease Flaherty about the lucrative contract he signed with Tampa Bay, back in 1998. He pocketed about $12 million of Devil Ray money during his five season stay for catching about 90 games per year and averaging .252. He hit just .226 during his 134-game career in pinstripes but he’s doing a much better job for New York in his broadcasting role.
In 2011, Flaherty became an owner of a professional baseball team, when he founded the Rockland Boulders, a member of the unaffiliated Canadian-American League. The team is based in Rockland County, NY.
Like Flaherty, this Yankee was born in New York City and celebrates his birthday on this date. He did a bit better than John did while playing in New York and now has a plaque in Cooperstown. Also born on October 21st is this former Yankee pitcher who flirted with World Series history in 1947.
|TBD (5 yrs)||471||1802||1673||157||422||82||1||35||196||3||86||250||.252||.289||.365||.654|
|NYY (3 yrs)||134||389||359||37||81||22||0||12||41||0||15||70||.226||.261||.387||.648|
|DET (3 yrs)||193||594||546||59||130||35||1||15||67||1||27||83||.238||.277||.388||.665|
|BOS (2 yrs)||48||100||91||6||16||4||0||0||4||0||5||13||.176||.224||.220||.444|
|SDP (2 yrs)||201||755||703||60||200||33||1||18||87||6||42||98||.284||.324||.411||.736|
The Yankees 1981 World Series defeat to the Dodgers was an almost tragic turning point for George Steinbrenner. He had spent loads of Yankee dollars to put together an offense that was driven by home runs only to see that offense sputter and fail in both the second half of the strike-induced split season and the last four games with Los Angeles. He then seemed to have let his anger over the strike and the pain of that Dodger defeat drive a series of player decisions that would keep the Yankees out of postseason play for the next fifteen years. No move symbolized Steinbrenner’s inept over-reaction more than the signing of Dave Collins.
At the time, Collins was a singles-hitting, base-stealing outfielder who slap-swung his bat from both sides of the plate. He had hit .300 for the Reds in both 1979 and ’80 but what really captured the Boss’s attention was the 79 bases Collins stole during that 1980 season. Steinbrenner was convinced the guy would be a perfect lead-off man for the new small-ball offense he envisioned for his ball club so he blew him over with a three-year, two-and-a-half million dollar free agent offer that was probably twice as much and at least a year-more than any other team would have offered Collins.
A month before that signing the Boss had approved a trade for Collins’ Cincinnati teammate and fellow outfielder, Ken Griffey. Then just before spring training, Steinbrenner must have been feeling sentimental because he gave both Lou Piniella and Bobby Murcer, two more outfielders, three-year contract extensions. The Yankees also already had Dave Winfield, Jerry Mumphrey and Oscar Gamble under contract for the 1982 season. That added up to seven outfielders which didn’t add up to a very confused Bob Lemon, who as Yankee manager was given the responsibility of figuring out where and when to play all of them. When Collins reported to spring training, Lemon told him to work out at first base. As Bill Madden explained the situation in his excellent biography of Steinbrenner, “The Last Lion of Baseball,” Collins spent all that spring asking every reporter who covered the team “Why in the world did they sign me?”
He ended up playing first base in 52 games for New York and split 60 more pretty evenly as the Yankee left, right, and center fielder. He hit just .253 that year, stole only 13 bases and was probably one of the most uncomfortable Yankee players in the history of the franchise. Steinbrenner’s 1982 small ball Yankees finished the season next-to-last in their division with a 79-83 record. New York then mercifully traded Collins to the Blue Jays, where, feeling much more wanted, he averaged .290 and 50 stolen bases during the final two years of the contract he had originally signed with New York. But just to make Steinbrenner regret his signing of Collins even more, the Blue jays insisted that the Yankees include a youngster named Fred McGriff in the trade for Collins
|CIN (7 yrs)||697||1981||1774||272||504||70||16||9||126||147||168||231||.284||.349||.357||.706|
|CAL (2 yrs)||192||775||684||86||181||25||5||7||57||56||76||110||.265||.337||.346||.684|
|TOR (2 yrs)||246||943||843||114||245||36||19||3||78||91||76||108||.291||.355||.389||.744|
|STL (1 yr)||99||74||58||12||13||1||0||0||3||7||13||10||.224||.366||.241||.608|
|OAK (1 yr)||112||418||379||52||95||16||4||4||29||29||29||37||.251||.303||.346||.648|
|NYY (1 yr)||111||393||348||41||88||12||3||3||25||13||28||49||.253||.315||.330||.646|
|SEA (1 yr)||120||447||402||46||96||9||3||5||28||25||33||66||.239||.299||.313||.613|
|DET (1 yr)||124||476||419||44||113||18||2||1||27||27||44||49||.270||.340||.329||.670|
The 1974 Yankees opened up their season with a double play combination of Gene Michael at second and Jim Mason at shortstop. Decent defensively, new Yankee skipper, Bill Virdon batted the two switch-hitters eighth and ninth respectively because both men were pretty putrid hitters from both sides of the plate. In an effort to get some more offense from their infield, the Yankees acquired a guy named Fernando Gonzalez from the Royals to play second. He responded by hitting .215 that year. Then just before that season’s trading deadline, the Yankee front-office went out and purchased Sandy Alomar Sr, who was the starting second baseman for the Angels at the time. Virdon handed him the second baseman’s job and Sandy responded well by hitting .269 during the second half of 1974.
As a Yankee fan back then, I can personally attest to the fact that after watching Mason, Michael and Gonzalez consistently fail to produce at the plate, having Alomar in the lineup was a huge offensive upgrade for that 1974 Yankee team. Sandy Sr. continued to start at second for New York for the entire 1975 season but his hitting fell off that year, when he averaged just .239. His offensive regression helped convince the Yankees to make the deal with Pittsburgh in December of 1975 that brought Willie Randolph to the Bronx. Alomar lost his starting job to the more talented youngster in 1976 and was traded to Texas in 1977. His 15-season big-league playing career ended the following year and Alomar then began a long coaching career . Today, Sandy, who was born on October 19, 1943 in Salinas Puerto Rico, is best remembered for being the Dad of former big league All Stars Sandy Jr. and Roberto.
Even the most diehard Yankee fans will have a difficult time remembering this starting pitcher from the 1991 Yankee team who happens to share the senior Alomar’s October 19th birthday.
|CAL (6 yrs)||795||3314||3054||341||758||79||12||8||162||139||209||280||.248||.296||.290||.585|
|ATL (3 yrs)||117||214||205||23||43||3||1||0||16||13||5||33||.210||.229||.234||.463|
|NYY (3 yrs)||294||1005||931||116||231||30||4||4||76||46||53||95||.248||.287||.302||.589|
|CHW (3 yrs)||167||477||436||53||108||10||2||0||16||25||26||48||.248||.290||.280||.570|
|TEX (2 yrs)||93||128||112||24||28||4||0||1||12||4||9||20||.250||.309||.313||.621|
|NYM (1 yr)||15||22||22||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||6||.000||.000||.000||.000|
The next time I hear James Taylor sing “Walking Man,” I’m sure the name of today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant will cross my mind. Roy Cullenbine refused to swing at any pitch that was not in the strike zone. If he played today, he’d probably be an Oakland A and praised profusely in the sports media for his ability to get on base. But Cullenbine played in the 1940′s, during an era when ballplayers were expected to swing their bats at any pitch they could reach and taking too many “walks” was even considered by many to be a sign of laziness. Few paid much attention to on base percentage until Bill James promoted the stat as the sport’s Holy Grail decades later. So when Cullenbine’s OBP reached .477 in 1946, nobody noticed and even though he got on base four out of every ten times he came to the plate the following season and finished second on the Tigers in runs scored, he was still released at the end of the season and forced into retirement.
Cullenbine was born in Tennessee in 1913 but raised in Detroit, where he became a switch-hitting star of the City’s sandlot leagues. The Tigers signed him but then lost him in 1939, when Kenesaw Mountain Landis ruled that Detroit had violated roster manipulation rules and the Commissioner penalized the organization by declaring several of their prized prospects free agents. Cullenbine then signed for a hefty bonus with the Dodgers, got traded to the Browns and in 1942, got traded again, this time to the Senators.
With WWII raging, every big league team was losing players to military service and when Tommy Henrich joined the Coast Guard in August of the 1942 season, Yankee GM Ed Barrow checked the waiver wire to see if he could pick up another outfielder. He found Cullenbine’s name on the list and claimed him on the last day of August.
Since that season’s Yankee team also had George Selkirk on its roster as the fourth outfielder, it wasn’t clear how much playing time Cullenbine would get from New York’s skipper Joe McCarthy. As it turned out, with the Yanks comfortably ahead of the Red Sox in the AL Pennant race at the time, Marse Joe started Cullenbine just about every game down the stretch so he could give his regulars plenty of rest for the postseason.
Cullenbine took advantage of the opportunity by hitting .364 in the 21 games he played in pinstripes that month, while producing a sky-high .484 OBP. That performance guaranteed him a spot on the Yankees World Series roster. He then played in all five games of the 1942 World Series, batting .263 in New York’s losing effort to the Cardinals.
Most Yankee fans and pundits probably expected to see Cullenbine return to the Bronx on Opening Day 1943. But one week before Christmas in 1942, the Yanks traded him and catcher Buddy Rosar to Cleveland for infielder Oscar Grimes and outfielder Roy Weatherly. The “Walking Man” played real well for the Indians the next two seasons and then got traded back to Detroit, where his big league career ended in the same town it began.
Cullenbine passed away in 1991 in Michigan at the age of 77. He still holds the 38th highest MLB career on base percentage. He shares his birthday with this former Yankee third baseman and this former Yankee reliever.
|DET (5 yrs)||501||1952||1561||268||421||76||11||63||259||10||373||164||.270||.412||.454||.865|
|CLE (3 yrs)||300||1288||1072||167||304||59||9||24||136||7||194||107||.284||.395||.423||.817|
|SLB (3 yrs)||273||1080||867||138||239||47||12||18||143||6||201||97||.276||.414||.420||.834|
|WSH (1 yr)||64||285||241||30||69||19||0||2||35||1||44||18||.286||.396||.390||.787|
|BRO (1 yr)||22||84||61||8||11||1||0||1||9||2||23||11||.180||.405||.246||.651|
|NYY (1 yr)||21||97||77||16||28||7||0||2||17||0||18||2||.364||.484||.532||1.017|