May 11 – Happy Birthday Walt Terrell

waltterrellDrafted by the Mets initially in 1979, Terrell did not sign. The Rangers drafted him the following season, signed him and then bundled him with Ron Darling in a trade for Met fan favorite Lee Mazzilli. Terrell went 19-23 during his three seasons at Shea. In 1984, the Amazins dealt the right-hander to Detroit for Howard Johnson, a transaction that worked out well for both teams. Terrell thrived in the Motor City winning 47 games during the next three seasons. When he slumped to 7-16 in 1988, Detroit traded him to San Diego where he got off to a horrible start during the 1989 season and was just 5-13 by the end of June. That’s when the Yankees swapped their slumping third baseman, Mike Pagliarullo for Terrell and Walt ended the year by winning six of eleven decisions for the Bombers. The Yankees let him walk after that one half-season and he signed with the Pirates. He eventually returned to Detroit where he retired after the 1992 season with 111 victories during his eleven-year big league career.

Only one player in big league history has made the All Star team playing for both Detroit and New York and that’s “the Boomer” David Wells. Here’s my line up of the best players to wear the uniforms of both the Yankees and Tigers during their playing careers:

c – Ivan Rodriguez
1b – Cecil Fielder
2b – Billy Martin
3b – Aurelio Rodriguez
ss - Tom Tresh
of – Rocky Colavito
of – Curtis Granderson
of – Steve Kemp
dh – Gary Sheffield
p – Jeff Weaver
p – David Wells
p – Virgil Trucks
p – Doyle Alexander
cl – Duke Maas
mgr – Ralph Houk

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1989 NYY 6 5 .545 5.20 13 13 0 1 1 0 83.0 102 52 48 9 24 30 1.518
11 Yrs 111 124 .472 4.22 321 294 10 56 14 0 1986.2 2090 1031 931 187 748 929 1.429
DET (7 yrs) 79 76 .510 4.26 216 190 9 44 9 0 1328.0 1379 687 629 126 516 621 1.427
NYM (3 yrs) 19 23 .452 3.53 57 56 1 7 3 0 369.2 377 168 145 25 149 181 1.423
PIT (1 yr) 2 7 .222 5.88 16 16 0 0 0 0 82.2 98 59 54 13 33 34 1.585
SDP (1 yr) 5 13 .278 4.01 19 19 0 4 1 0 123.1 134 65 55 14 26 63 1.297
NYY (1 yr) 6 5 .545 5.20 13 13 0 1 1 0 83.0 102 52 48 9 24 30 1.518
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/11/2013.

May 10 – Happy Birthday John Cumberland

In the late sixties it looked as if this southpaw would follow fellow Yankee pitching prospects Stan Bahnsen and Fritz Petersen to a slot in the Yankees improving starting rotation. Cumberland had won 10 games for the Yankee’s Syracuse triple A team in 1968 and then 12 more the following season. Six of those 22 wins had been complete game shutouts and the youngster was in the process of developing an outstanding change-up. But the native of Westbrook, Maine couldn’t match the success he had pitching in Syracuse when he got to the Bronx. After eighteen appearances in pinstripes between 1968 and 1970, during which he compiled a 3-4 record, Cumberland was traded to the Giants for former 20-game winner, Mike McCormick, in July of the 1970 season. He then went 9-6 as a starter for San Francisco in 1971 but fell apart the following season. Meanwhile, by the time the Yankees got McCormick, he had nothing left in his left arm. He would win his only two Yankee decisions after the trade, but his ERA pitching for his new team was north of six runs per game. He was released at the end of New York’s 1971 spring training season.

Cumberland hung on in the big leagues until 1972 and then returned to the minors and pitched a couple of more seasons before hanging his glove up for good. He eventually got into coaching. In 2001, Red Sox GM Dan Duquette fired Manager Jimy Williams during the second half of the season and replaced him with the team’s pitching coach, Jim Kerrigan. The new skipper then brought in Cumberland as his new pitching coach. A few weeks later, the Red Sox went on an eight-game losing streak with the last three “L’s” coming against the hated Yankees. Since Duquette couldn’t fire Kerrigan after just signing him to a two-year contract, he fired Cumberland instead.

Cumberland shares his May 10th birthday with this legendary Yankee front office executive.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1968 NYY 0 0 9.00 1 0 1 0 0 0 2.0 3 4 2 1 1 1 2.000
1969 NYY 0 0 4.50 2 0 1 0 0 0 4.0 3 2 2 0 4 0 1.750
1970 NYY 3 4 .429 3.94 15 8 5 1 0 0 64.0 62 31 28 9 15 38 1.203
6 Yrs 15 16 .484 3.82 110 36 29 6 2 2 334.1 312 161 142 46 103 137 1.241
SFG (3 yrs) 11 10 .524 3.46 61 27 10 5 2 2 221.0 197 98 85 28 66 79 1.190
NYY (3 yrs) 3 4 .429 4.11 18 8 7 1 0 0 70.0 68 37 32 10 20 39 1.257
STL (1 yr) 1 1 .500 6.65 14 1 3 0 0 0 21.2 23 17 16 6 7 7 1.385
CAL (1 yr) 0 1 .000 3.74 17 0 9 0 0 0 21.2 24 9 9 2 10 12 1.569
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.

May 9 – Happy Birthday Eddie Tiemayer

Eddie_Tiemeyer.jpgThe only member of the all-time Yankee/Highlander roster to celebrate his birthday on May 8th is this right-handed first baseman who appeared in just three games during the Highlanders 1909 season. He broke into the big leagues in 1906, in Cincinnati, the city of his birth. A few other former Yankees born in Cincinnati include, Miller Huggins, Dave Justice, and Joe Torre’s former bench coach, Don Zimmer.

Here’s my all-time lineup of Yankees who also played for Cincinnati:

1b – Wally Pipp
2b – Billy Martin
3b – Aaron Boone
ss – Leo Durocher
c – Joe Oliver
of – Ken Griffey Sr.
of – Paul O’Neill
of – Roberto Kelly
sp – Carl Mays (right-hander)
sp – Don Gullett (left-hander)
closer – David Weathers
mgr – Miller Huggins

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1909 NYY 3 9 8 1 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .375 .444 .500 .944
3 Yrs 9 22 19 5 5 1 0 0 0 0 3 3 .263 .364 .316 .679
CIN (2 yrs) 6 13 11 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 3 .182 .308 .182 .490
NYY (1 yr) 3 9 8 1 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .375 .444 .500 .944
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/9/2013.

May 8 – Happy Birthday Orestes Destrade

One of the things that has changed most about the Major League game between the time I started following the Yankees and now is the balance of trade when it comes to Major League Baseball and baseball in Japan.

Before WWII, the people of Japan had fallen in love with the game of baseball and Babe Ruth became just as popular in the Land of the Rising Sun as he was in our country. WWII of course changed the dynamic between the two countries. By the time I was Bradley’s age in the late 1950s, the bitter feelings and suspicions we Americans and the Japanese had for each other still lingered and carried over to each country’s professional baseball leagues. At the same time, however, the game of baseball was a passion shared by both peoples and it was that passion for a common game that would eventually help bring us together again.

The first American to play professional baseball in Japan after the War was a Japanese American and former NFL running back named Wally Yonamine, who played there in 1951. The first Japanese player to play in America was a left handed pitcher named Masanori Murakami who played for the Giants in 1964 and 65. By the time I was a teenager, the Japanese professional leagues had become a common destination for American players who were not quite good enough to make the rosters of Major League teams. By the time my sons were born in the late seventies and early eighties, Major League veterans, who’s best playing days were behind them in the US were finding new markets for their slowing bats and fast balls on the other side of the Pacific.

It took until 1995 for the pendulum to begin swinging and it was the one-time Yankee, Hideki Nomo who got it going in the other direction, when he signed to pitch with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Yankees first ever Japanese born roster member was pitcher Hideki Irabu, who began his career in pinstripes in July of 2007. The greatest Japanese-born Yankee to date has been Hideki Matsui. The big league successes of guys like Nomo, Matsui and especially Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki, have caused every Major League franchise to both begin and then expand their scouting operations in Japan.

Orestes Destrade was a classic example of a young Major League prospect who struggled to make a big league roster and then traveled to Japan and became a star in that country’s version of the same sport. I can remember when he hit a bunch of homers as a minor-leaguer for the Albany-Colonie Yankees during their 1985 season. The Yankees had predicted this left-hand-hitting Cuban native would be a thirty-home-run hitter, playing in Yankee Stadium. That never happened. He failed to hit a home run during his nine-game, 1987 stint in pinstripes. He had much more success in Japan, leading the league in home runs for three straight seasons from 1990-’92. He then returned to the States and managed to hit 20 round trippers for Seattle in 1993.

This one-time Yankee catcher was also born on May 8.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1987 NYY 9 24 19 5 5 0 0 0 1 0 5 5 .263 .417 .263 .680
4 Yrs 237 866 765 80 184 25 3 26 106 1 87 184 .241 .319 .383 .702
FLA (2 yrs) 192 789 699 73 172 24 3 25 102 1 77 162 .246 .322 .396 .719
PIT (1 yr) 36 53 47 2 7 1 0 1 3 0 5 17 .149 .226 .234 .460
NYY (1 yr) 9 24 19 5 5 0 0 0 1 0 5 5 .263 .417 .263 .680
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/8/2013.

May 7 – Happy Birthday Tom Zachary

TomZachary.jpgThis guy will forever be best known as the pitcher who gave up Babe Ruth’s sixtieth home run during the 1927 season. That happened when Zachary was wearing the uniform of the Washington Senators. The left-hander had been originally signed by Washington but had made his big league debut in 1919 as a member of Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s pitching staff. The Senators got him back in a trade the following year and Zachary evolved into one of the AL’s upper tier southpaws, winning in double digits for six straight seasons. His best year had been 1924, when his 15-9 record helped the Senators win the Pennant. He then beat the Giants twice in that season’s World Series.

In August of 1928, the Yankees picked him up off waivers. He went 3-3 during the rest of that season. Yankee skipper, Miller Huggins, most likely remembering Zachary’s 1924 postseason success, got a hunch to start him against the Cardinals in Game 3 of the 1928 World Series. That hunch paid off when the Graham, NC native responded with a complete game victory.

In 1929, Zachary went a perfect 12-0, but that performance was overshadowed by the tragic death of Huggins and the Yankee’s failure to defend their AL Pennant. After getting off to a slow start during the 1930 season, the Yankees placed the then-34-year-old pitcher on waivers and  he was picked up by the Braves. He ended up pitching six more years of big league baseball, retiring after the 1936 season with a 186-191 lifetime record.

Also born on this date was this former Yankee outfielder and this almost Yankee manager.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO HBP WHIP
1928 NYY 3 3 .500 3.94 7 6 1 3 0 1 45.2 54 26 20 0 15 7 0 1.511
1929 NYY 12 0 1.000 2.48 26 11 9 7 2 2 119.2 131 43 33 5 30 35 2 1.345
1930 NYY 1 1 .500 6.48 3 3 0 0 0 0 16.2 18 16 12 0 9 1 0 1.620
19 Yrs 186 191 .493 3.73 533 408 84 186 24 22 3126.1 3580 1551 1295 118 914 720 41 1.437
WSH (9 yrs) 96 103 .482 3.78 273 210 45 93 10 8 1589.0 1822 803 668 54 460 327 26 1.436
BSN (5 yrs) 42 42 .500 3.48 120 98 11 46 8 4 741.1 827 333 287 24 201 214 3 1.387
BRO (3 yrs) 12 18 .400 3.98 48 33 12 13 1 6 260.0 317 131 115 15 57 61 4 1.438
NYY (3 yrs) 16 4 .800 3.21 36 20 10 10 2 3 182.0 203 85 65 5 54 43 2 1.412
SLB (2 yrs) 18 21 .462 3.79 47 43 4 24 3 0 325.2 374 174 137 18 124 66 6 1.529
PHI (1 yr) 0 3 .000 7.97 7 2 2 0 0 1 20.1 28 20 18 2 11 8 0 1.918
PHA (1 yr) 2 0 1.000 5.63 2 2 0 0 0 0 8.0 9 5 5 0 7 1 0 2.000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/7/2013.

May 6 – Happy Birthday Lute Boone

There have been 30 starting second basemen in Yankee franchise history. If he had played two or three more years in the Bronx instead of leaving for Seattle in 2014, Robinson Cano would have certainly been considered the greatest Yankee second sacker of all time.  In my opinion, he now falls just short. That honor still belongs to the Hall of Famer, Tony Lazzeri, who started at second base for New York for twelve seasons. One of my favorites, Willie Randolph holds the record for most seasons starting at second base for the Yankees with thirteen. Cano started at second for New York for nine straight seasons, tying him with Bobby Richardson. The first second baseman in franchise history was a guy named Jimmy Williams, who held the job for seven straight seasons, until 1907. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant, Lute Boone was the starting second baseman for New York in 1914 and ’15.  An excellent defensive infielder, he was a horrible big league hitter, averaging  just .209 during his four seasons in the Big Apple. He had much better success hitting in the American Association. That’s where he ended up after his big league career ended for good in 1918. He kept playing in that league until he was 40 years old and then he became an owner and player manager of his own minor league team. Here’s a look at some key stats of my picks for the top five second basemen in Yankee franchise history:

Player                      Yrs Starting      G       H      R       HR    RBI       AVE    Rings

Tony Lazzeri              12                1659   1784  952   169   1154   .293     5

Willie Randolph          13                1694   1731  1027    48   549   .275     2

Robinson Cano           9                 1374  1649   799   204   822    .309      1

Joe Gordon                 7                 1000  1000   596   153   975    .271      4

Bobby Richardson       9                  1412  1432   643     34    390   .266      1

Lute Boone shares his May 6th birthday with this former Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1913 NYY 6 15 12 3 4 0 0 0 1 0 3 1 .333 .467 .333 .800
1914 NYY 106 413 370 34 82 8 2 0 21 10 18 31 41 .222 .285 .254 .539
1915 NYY 130 494 431 44 88 12 2 5 43 14 17 41 53 .204 .285 .276 .562
1916 NYY 46 146 124 14 23 4 0 1 8 7 8 10 .185 .252 .242 .494
5 Yrs 315 1169 1028 102 215 27 4 6 76 32 35 91 111 .209 .282 .261 .543
NYY (4 yrs) 288 1068 937 95 197 24 4 6 73 31 35 83 105 .210 .284 .264 .547
PIT (1 yr) 27 101 91 7 18 3 0 0 3 1 8 6 .198 .263 .231 .493
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table Generated 5/6/2013.

May 5 – Happy Birthday Bob Cerv

Cerv.jpgThey may have played their home games in the “Show Me State” but the 1958 starting lineup of the Kansas City A’s certainly had lots of pinstripe connections. Former Yankee prospects, Vic Power and Hal Smith started at first and third respectively. Future Yankees Hector Lopez and shortstop Joe DeMaestri held down the middle positions of the A’s infield and their soon-to-be New York teammates, Roger Maris and today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant, Bob Cerv comprised two thirds of Kansas City’s starting outfield that year. If either Ralph Terry, Bob Grim, Duke Maas, Tom Gorman, Bud Daley or Virgil Trucks happened to be on the mound that day and the A’s fourth outfielder Woodie Held started in place of KC’s Bill Tuttle in center, eight of the nine positions would be manned by former or future players from the Yankee organization. It was no wonder people inside of baseball began referring to the A’s as the Yankees big league farm team.

Cerv had made his debut in New York in 1951, which also happened to be Joe DiMaggio’s last season as a Yankee and Mickey Mantle’s first. Unlike those two superstars, Cerv would never become a Yankee regular, but because he played for Casey Stengel at the time, the platoon maestro of big league managers, he would evolve into a very valuable member of those great New York teams. By 1954, ’55 and ’56 he had settled into the role of the Yankee’s starting right-fielder against left handed pitching. Cerv had a vicious swing and it produced some of the hardest hit balls in the game at the time. His home run power was thwarted by the vast dimensions of the Yankee Stadium’s left-center field, but those line drives off his bat would have been hits in any park.

His best year in the Bronx was 1955, when he hit .341 in 55 games plus his only World Series home run. The following year, he hit .304 while playing in 54 regular season contests. During his first six seasons with New York, the team played in five World Series and won four of them, generating perhaps $30-to-$40 thousand of additional income for the the growing Cerv family. Then the Yankees sold him to Kansas City where he became an All Star outfielder in 1958, belting 38 home runs, driving in 104 runs and topping the .300 mark in batting average.

By 1960, Cerv was back in the Bronx as a reserve outfielder. When the Yankees didn’t protect him during that year’s AL expansion draft, he was selected by the Los Angeles Angels. The Yankees quickly brought him back in a May 1961 trade with LA and he then became the house-mother-like roommate of both Mantle and Maris during their famous home run race that season. Even though he probably could have enjoyed a much more productive statistical career playing somewhere else, Cerv always cherished his days in a Yankee uniform during an era when World Series checks were as regular as paychecks for those on the Yankee roster. His second tenure in pinstripes ended in June of the 1962 season, when he was sold to Houston.

I actually hated seeing Bob Cerv play when I was a kid only because it usually meant my hero, Mickey Mantle, was scratched from the lineup again. The Lincoln, Nebraska native was born in 1926 and played a total of 12 seasons in the Majors. He may have been just a part-time player but Cerv was among the Yankees top ten all-time lists in one important category. He and his wife raised ten children and got each of them through college. That qualifies him for my own Hall of Fame, any day of the week. Mr. Cerv turns 89 years old today. Happy Birthday Bob Cerv!

Cerv shares his Yankee birthday with this one-time Yankee pitcher who’s life ended tragically in July of 2011.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1951 NYY 12 33 28 4 6 1 0 0 2 0 4 6 .214 .313 .250 .563
1952 NYY 36 96 87 11 21 3 2 1 8 0 9 22 .241 .313 .356 .669
1953 NYY 8 7 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .143 .000 .143
1954 NYY 56 112 100 14 26 6 0 5 13 0 11 17 .260 .330 .470 .800
1955 NYY 55 96 85 17 29 4 2 3 22 4 7 16 .341 .411 .541 .952
1956 NYY 54 134 115 16 35 5 6 3 25 0 18 13 .304 .396 .530 .926
1960 NYY 87 249 216 32 54 11 1 8 28 0 30 36 .250 .349 .421 .771
1961 NYY 57 131 118 17 32 5 1 6 20 1 12 17 .271 .344 .483 .827
1962 NYY 14 20 17 1 2 1 0 0 0 0 2 3 .118 .250 .176 .426
12 Yrs 829 2515 2261 320 624 96 26 105 374 12 212 392 .276 .340 .481 .821
NYY (9 yrs) 379 878 772 112 205 36 12 26 118 5 94 131 .266 .350 .444 .795
KCA (4 yrs) 413 1544 1401 203 403 57 14 75 247 7 115 243 .288 .342 .509 .851
LAA (1 yr) 18 60 57 3 9 3 0 2 6 0 1 8 .158 .169 .316 .485
HOU (1 yr) 19 33 31 2 7 0 0 2 3 0 2 10 .226 .273 .419 .692
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/5/2014.

May 4 – Happy Birthday Joe Borowski

I was busy last evening and missed most of the Yankee game so when I sat down to write this blog at around 10:00 pm the first thing I did was check for the score of the game on ESPN NY. That’s when I learned about Mariano Rivera twisting his knee while shagging outfield flies in batting practice. After I cursed like a sailor, kicked the dog and screamed at my wife (I’m kidding, I don’t own a dog) I started thinking about just how durable Rivera has been during the seventeen seasons the Yankees have trusted no one else with ninth inning leads.

 I’ll never forget thinking the Yankee front office was crazy for letting John Wetteland walk away as a free agent after he had saved 43 games during the 1996 regular season and all four of the Yankees’ victories in that year’s World Series. But it turned out he was just the first of many. What do Bob Wickman, David Weathers, Mark Wohlers, Tom Gordon, Octavio Dotel, Kerry Ward, Armando Benitez, and Rafael Soriano all have in common? Not only did they pitch in the same Yankee bullpen as the great Sandman, each of them has had 30-save seasons in the big leagues either before or after they became Mo’s teammate. Mo has been so good for so long that no other 30-save big league closer has ever had even the slightest chance of taking away his job. And that includes today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant.

Like Mariano, Joe Borowski also began his big league career in 1995. The Orioles brought him up in July and he appeared in six games as a reliever that season. He spent the next year with the Braves but did not make their postseason roster so he missed the opportunity to compete against Mo and the Yankees in the ’96 Series. The following September Atlanta waived him and the Yankees picked him up. In 1998, he spent most of the season in Columbus but was called up to the Bronx in August. With the exception of one pounding he took against Texas, this right-handed native of Bayonne, NJ pitched real well, surrendering just a single run in his seven other appearances for New York. The Yankees let him go in September of 1999 and he didn’t get back to the big leagues until late in the 2001 season as a member of the Cubs. In 2002, he finally got a chance to pitch regularly at the big league level, when he appeared in 73 games for Chicago, won four of eight decisions, had an ERA of 2.73 and garnered his first two big league saves. That effort gave Cub Manager Dusty Baker the confidence he needed to give Borowski a shot at closing in 2003 and big Joe did not disappoint. He saved 33 games that year, lowered his ERA to 2.63 and was a big reason why the Cubbies made it to the postseason.

Chicago rewarded him with a two-year, four million dollar contract that off season and Borowski went out and tore his rotator cuff. The next year he broke his hand. He did not fully recover from those injuries until 2006 and by then he was pitching for the Marlins and getting paid the league minimum. But after he saved 33 games for Florida, the Indians signed him as a free agent with a two-year deal worth eight million dollars. Borowski helped Cleveland win the AL Central Division in 2007 by leading the League with 45 saves. The odd thing about his performance that season was that he was able to save so many games despite compiling an ERA north of five. When the 2008 season opened, Borowski got off to a horrible start, forcing Cleveland to first take his closer job away and then in July of that year, giving him his outright release. By then Borowski was 37 years old. He shares his May 4th birthday with this former Yankee infielder.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1997 NYY 0 1 .000 9.00 1 0 1 0 0 0 2.0 2 2 2 0 4 2 3.000
1998 NYY 1 0 1.000 6.52 8 0 6 0 0 0 9.2 11 7 7 0 4 7 1.552
12 Yrs 22 34 .393 4.18 423 1 268 0 0 131 454.1 450 222 211 53 177 372 1.380
CHC (5 yrs) 8 11 .421 3.73 175 1 106 0 0 44 198.0 182 87 82 24 67 192 1.258
ATL (2 yrs) 4 6 .400 4.32 42 0 16 0 0 0 50.0 60 26 24 6 29 21 1.780
CLE (2 yrs) 5 8 .385 5.57 87 0 72 0 0 51 82.1 101 53 51 13 25 67 1.530
NYY (2 yrs) 1 1 .500 6.94 9 0 7 0 0 0 11.2 13 9 9 0 8 9 1.800
TBD (1 yr) 1 5 .167 3.82 32 0 4 0 0 0 35.1 26 15 15 3 11 16 1.047
FLA (1 yr) 3 3 .500 3.75 72 0 60 0 0 36 69.2 63 31 29 7 33 64 1.378
BAL (1 yr) 0 0 1.23 6 0 3 0 0 0 7.1 5 1 1 0 4 3 1.227
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/4/2014.

May 3 – Happy Birthday Ken Silvestri

They called this Chicago native “the Hawk” and he was signed as a catcher by his hometown White Sox in 1936, after attending Purdue University for two years. He got to the big leagues by 1939 and played two seasons as a backup catcher to Chicago’s Mike Tresh, who was the father of future Yankee shortstop, Tom Tresh. The White Sox then traded the switch-hitting Silvestri to the Yankees, where he became the third string receiver behind Hall of Famer Bill Dickey and Buddy Rosar during the 1941 season and won his first World Series ring. When World War II came, Silvestri spent the next four seasons in the U.S. Army. When he returned to the Yankees in 1946, Aaron Robinson was New York’s starting catcher, an aging Dickey was his backup and Sylvestri, Gus Niarhos, Bill Drescher and a youngster named Yogi Berra all battled for the third string job. The following year Dickey retired, Berra became Robinson’s backup and Silvestri found himself back in the minor leagues. He spent the entire 1948 season playing for the Yankee’s Newark farm team. Though he was a switch-hitter, Silvestri’s problem was that he couldn’t hit very well from either side of the plate. Unable to win even a third string job with the loaded Yankees, Silvestri was probably happy when the Phillies grabbed him in the 1948 Rule 5 draft. But Philadelphia already had Andy Seminick and Stan Lopata doing the catching. The Hawk would appear in a total of just 19 games during his three seasons in the City of Brotherly Love and get just 42 plate appearances. He also got his first-ever World Series at bat as a member of the 1950 Whiz Kids team that lost to the Yankees. The fact of the matter was that Mr. Silvestri spent almost his entire eight season big league career in his teams’ bullpens, warming up relievers. His career totals included 102 games played, 203 lifetime at bats, 44 hits and a lifetime batting average of .217. He would rejoin the Yankee organization in 1954 and spend the rest of his playing days on Yankee farm teams. He then became a Manager in the Yankee farm system and eventually a long-time big league coach in the Braves organization. He passed away in 1992 at the age of 75. Silvestri shares his May 3rd birthday with the winningest right-hander in Yankee history and also this much less successful former Yankee hurler.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1941 NYY 17 47 40 6 10 5 0 1 4 0 7 6 .250 .362 .450 .812
1946 NYY 13 24 21 4 6 1 0 0 1 0 3 7 .286 .375 .333 .708
1947 NYY 3 12 10 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 .200 .333 .200 .533
8 Yrs 102 238 203 26 44 11 1 5 25 0 31 41 .217 .326 .355 .681
PHI (3 yrs) 19 44 33 5 7 0 1 0 5 0 9 6 .212 .395 .273 .668
NYY (3 yrs) 33 83 71 10 18 6 0 1 5 0 12 15 .254 .361 .380 .742
CHW (2 yrs) 50 111 99 11 19 5 0 4 15 0 10 20 .192 .273 .364 .636
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/3/2014.

May 2 – Happy Birthday Larry Gowell

I love writing this blog because I learn such interesting things about players who wore the pinstripes. Take today’s birthday celebrant as an example. I very clearly remember when Larry Gowell made his debut with the Yankees way back in 1972. He was considered a very good prospect at the time but he had one serious handicap. He was a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church and as such, it was against his religious beliefs to work from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. This meant he could not and did not pitch in any baseball games on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon. Still, his slider was good enough to get him promoted to the Yankees for a cup-of-coffee look see in September of 1972. He would appear in just two games as a Yankee and as a big leaguer, yet he still became part of baseball history.

His first big league appearance was a hitless two-inning relief stint against the Milwaukee Brewers. Two weeks later, Yankee manager Ralph Houk gave the Lewiston, Maine-born right hander his first and only big league start against that same Brewer team. Although Gowell took the loss, he made MLB history when he hit a third inning ground ball double off of Milwaukee’s Jim Lonborg. That hit turned out to be the very last hit by an American League pitcher before the League’s new designated hitter rule went into affect.

Gowell would spend the next two seasons in Syracuse pitching for the Yankees’ triple A franchise. He left baseball after the 1974 season. During my research for this post, I found a reference to Gowell in a book about offshore insurance schemes of all things. Robert Tillman, author of the book alleges that in 1996, Gowell sold a worthless $100,000 promissory note on behalf of a company called Legends Sports, that was supposedly constructing a string of golf courses and entertainment centers in the southeastern United States. The note was supposed to pay the purchaser a twelve percent annual interest but instead, proved to be worthless when it was discovered that the owners of Legends Sports were operating a Ponzi scheme. I wonder if Gowell made the sale of that bond on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon. I hope not because according to his religion, that would have been a sin.

Gowell shares his May 2nd birthday with a Yankee pitcher who got in trouble when he barnstormed with Babe Ruth.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1972 NYY 0 1 .000 1.29 2 1 0 0 0 0 7.0 3 1 1 0 2 7 0.714
1 Yr 0 1 .000 1.29 2 1 0 0 0 0 7.0 3 1 1 0 2 7 0.714
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2013.