Results tagged ‘ 23 ’
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant’s career initially suffered from poor timing. He started out as a catcher in the Cleveland organization right about the time the Indians’ Jim Hegan was just beginning to establish himself as one of the best defensive receivers ever. When he was brought up to the parent club in 1946, he begged management to send him back down instead of letting him rot on the bench. Instead, that December, the Cleveland front office traded the right-hand hitting Lollar to the Yankees.
Poor timing again. The Yankee organization and big league roster were both loaded with promising catchers. In 1947, they included Aaron Robinson, Ralph Houk, Ken Sylvestri and a young left-handed receiver named Yogi Berra. Lollar was sent to New York’s Newark farm team and he had a solid year with the Bears. The Yankees decided to give him a look-see late that season and ended up keeping him on their postseason roster. When Lollar got into two World Series games that year against Brooklyn and went 3-for-4 at the plate, his standing in the organization went up dramatically.
But the following year, the Yankees added the right-hand hitting Gus Niarhos to their big league roster and skipper Bucky Harris began platooning him and Berra behind the plate while Lollar again sat the pine. He got into just 22 games that season while Berra, who played the outfield when he wasn’t catching, had a breakout season at the plate, hitting .305 and driving in 98 runs. That’s when the timing in Lollar’s career went from bad to good. That October, the Yankees replaced Harris as Yankee manager with Casey Stengel. Though the Ol’ Perfessor would establish a legacy as the master of platooning, he would soon ignore that strategy when it came to Berra, and Yogi would go on to catch close to 1,700 games as a Yankee. Two months after Stengel got his pinstripes, Lollar lost his when he was traded to the Browns. In St. Louis, he finally got a chance to play regularly and quickly began to realize his potential. But after just three years there, Lollar was again traded, this time to the Chicago White Sox. It would be in the Windy City where this native of Durham, Arkansas would establish his legacy as one of baseball’s best catchers. He played a dozen seasons for the White Sox, and during the first nine of them, the team never finished below third in the AL Pennant race. Lollar’s career year was 1959, when his 22 home runs and 84 RBIs led Chicago to that year’s World Series, which they lost to the Dodgers.
Lollar would continue playing for Chicago until 1963, when he retired with 155 career home runs and a .264 lifetime batting average. He died suddenly from a heart attack in 1977, when he was just 56-years-old. In his NY Times obituary, the White Sox GM who traded for Lollar, the legendary Frank Lane was quoted as saying that trade was the best one he ever made. As Lane went on to explain, “Sherm turned out to be one of the best catchers in the American League behind only Yogi Berra and maybe Jim Hegan.” Some things never change.
Lollar shares his August 23rd birthday with this MLB’s first-ever DH.
On April 6, 1973, Ron Blomberg came to the plate in the top of the first inning at Fenway Park with two outs and bases loaded during that year’s Yankee season opener and he was walked by the Red Sox’ Luis Tiant. “Boomer” thus became the very first designated hitter in Major League history. Blomberg, who was born on this date in 1948 in Atlanta, GA, might have been in the Hall of Fame today if there were no left handed pitchers in baseball. He hit over .300 against righties during his eight-year big league career and just .215 against southpaws. Unfortunately, a string of injuries limited him to one game of action during the Yankee’s 1976 AL Championship year and he was released by New York the following season.
On his Website, RonBlomberg.com, Boomer informs visitors that it was his boyhood dream to play baseball for the New York Yankees. He certainly had lot’s of options back then. According to his Wikipedia article, Blomberg is the only high school athlete ever selected to Parade Magazine’s High School All American Teams for the sports of baseball, football and basketball. When he graduated from high school in 1967, the Yankees made him their number 1 draft choice. Two years later, he was in the Bronx wearing pinstripes.
A dependable clutch hitter, I’ll always be convinced that Boomer would have been a key cog in the Yankee championship teams of the late seventies if he could have stayed healthy. He had a great eye at the plate and he didn’t strike out a lot. Being such a great athlete, you have to believe that given the opportunity, this guy could have learned to hit left-handers.
But Boomer just couldn’t stay off the DL. He had the knees of Mickey Mantle with chronically sore shoulders thrown in for good measure. Still, after the Yankees released him, he was able to secure a three-year , half-million dollar deal with the White Sox. His final big league season was 1978.
Blomberg shares his August 23rd birthday with this one-time Yankee catcher who had to get traded from New York to finally get some playing time.