Results tagged ‘ all star ’

March 8 – Happy Birthday Mark Salas

salasIn 1985, a 24-year-old rookie from Montebello, California named Mark Salas surprised just about everyone by hitting .300 as the starting catcher of the Minnesota Twins. Yankee owner, George Steinbrenner, always looking for a good left-hand-hitting catcher who could take advantage of his home Stadium’s short right field porch, took notice of the kid. Two seasons later, he approved a mid-season deal that brought Salas to the Bronx in exchange for the Yankees disgruntled veteran knuckleballer, Joe Niekro.

The Boss ignored the fact that Salas had followed up his stellar rookie performance by hitting just .233 in his sophomore season with the Twins. He also didn’t pay attention to Salas’s below average defensive skills behind the plate. After all, even though Salas had lost Minnesota’s starting catching job to Mark Laudner, he was hitting a robust .379 in his back-up role at the time of the trade and he was a much better hitter than Joel Skinner, who had been serving as the Yankees second string catcher that year.

So Salas came to New York and was forced upon Lou Piniella, who was not a thrilled recipient. The Yankee skipper was struggling to keep his 1987 club in first place at the time and growing increasingly frustrated by having every decision he made as manager second guessed by “the Boss.” When it became apparent that Salas was not very good defensively and he stopped hitting too, Piniella wanted Skinner brought back up from Triple A, where he had been sent to make roster room for Salas. Steinbrenner refused to approve the move. So Piniella decided to refuse to accept any more of Steinbrenner’s phone calls, which served as perfect fodder for some creative back-page headlining in the New York City tabloids.

Eventually, Skinner was recalled and Salas was sent down to Columbus. The Yankees finished that ’87 season in fourth place in the AL East race with an 89-73 record. Salas finished his only half-season as a Yankee with a .200 batting average and then got traded to the White Sox with Dan Pasqua for pitcher Rich Dotson. His big league career would end after the 1991 season. He finished with 319 lifetime hits and a .247 batting average. He then went into coaching.

Salas shares his birthday with this former Yankee reliever,  this former Yankee starting pitcher and this one too.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1987 NYY 50 130 115 13 23 4 0 3 12 0 10 17 .200 .279 .313 .592
8 Yrs 509 1410 1292 142 319 49 10 38 143 3 89 163 .247 .300 .389 .688
MIN (3 yrs) 233 718 663 87 185 29 9 20 83 3 41 75 .279 .320 .440 .760
DET (2 yrs) 107 247 221 20 43 4 0 10 31 0 21 38 .195 .272 .348 .621
CLE (1 yr) 30 83 77 4 17 4 1 2 7 0 5 13 .221 .277 .377 .654
NYY (1 yr) 50 130 115 13 23 4 0 3 12 0 10 17 .200 .279 .313 .592
STL (1 yr) 14 21 20 1 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 3 .100 .100 .150 .250
CHW (1 yr) 75 211 196 17 49 7 0 3 9 0 12 17 .250 .303 .332 .635
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/31/2014.

March 2 – Happy Birthday Jim Konstanty

Jim Konstanty became one of baseball’s first outstanding relief specialists when the Phillies brought him up to the big leagues for good in 1948. He threw a lot of junk with great control and in 1950, his work out of the bullpen won the Philadelphia Whiz Kids the NL Pennant and Konstanty an MVP award. But the following season, the right-hander thought he needed another pitch to continue his success and he claimed it was his efforts to develop that pitch that screwed up both his rhythm and confidence. Whatever the reason, Konstanty was never again able to regain his 1950 form as a Phillie. Five years after watching him hold the Yankees to just one run as Philadelphia’s surprise starter in the first game of the1950 Series, Casey Stengel told George Weiss to buy Konstanty’s contract in 1954. Jim pitched well for New York the final month of that season and in 1955, he became a top reliever in the American League with a 7-2 record, 11 saves and a 2.32 ERA.  Stengel had so much pitching depth on his team that season that he decided to leave Konstanty off the World Series roster, forcing the Strykersville, NY native to watch helplessly as Brooklyn finally beat New York in a Fall Classic. New York released Konstanty the following season and he retired after a brief stint with the Cardinals. He died in 1976.

Konstanty shares his birthday with the first hitter in Yankee franchise history to lead the league in most strikeouts during a regular season.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1954 NYY 1 1 .500 0.98 9 0 6 0 0 2 18.1 11 2 2 0 6 3 0.927
1955 NYY 7 2 .778 2.32 45 0 30 0 0 11 73.2 68 28 19 5 24 19 1.249
1956 NYY 0 0 4.91 8 0 5 0 0 2 11.0 15 6 6 3 6 6 1.909
11 Yrs 66 48 .579 3.46 433 36 266 14 2 74 945.2 957 420 364 88 269 268 1.296
PHI (7 yrs) 51 39 .567 3.64 314 23 202 9 1 54 675.1 687 309 273 63 187 205 1.294
NYY (3 yrs) 8 3 .727 2.36 62 0 41 0 0 15 103.0 94 36 27 8 36 28 1.262
CIN (1 yr) 6 4 .600 2.80 20 12 4 5 1 0 112.2 113 46 35 11 33 19 1.296
BSN (1 yr) 0 1 .000 5.28 10 1 3 0 0 0 15.1 17 9 9 2 7 9 1.565
STL (1 yr) 1 1 .500 4.58 27 0 16 0 0 5 39.1 46 20 20 4 6 7 1.322
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/3/2014.

January 18 – Happy Birthday Michael Pineda

m.pinedaUPDATE-2014: Phase 2 is now over and its becoming even harder to believe that the trade that brought Pineda to the Yankees two years ago was considered a blockbuster. None of the players involved spent a majority of the season on their parent club’s active 25-man roster in 2013 and Pineda, once again, didn’t see an inning of regular season action for the Yankees. In fact, he only made 10 starts in the minors last season, finishing with a 2-1 record and a 3.32 ERA. as he continued his rehab from shoulder surgery. Despite his continued inaction, there’s a lot of talk among Yankee brass this offseason that they are expecting Pineda to grab a spot on in the rotation this spring. I hope so but I won’t believe it until I see him standing on the mound in the Bronx with the ball in his hand after the National Anthem ends. So how could the original trade now look better for the Yanks than it does for the Mariners? Not only was Montero sent back to the minors by Seattle early last season because he seemed to completely forget how to hit, he was also named as one of the “Biogenesis Boys” and suspended for 50 games for violating the league’s PED policy.

UPDATE-2013: Phase 1 of the Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda trade aftermath is over and the Mariners have taken the advantage. The two players they got in the deal, Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi at least both played for the Mariners last year, albeit not as well as Seattle hoped either would. Noesi had eighteen starts for his new team, going 2-12 with an ERA in the five’s and getting demoted to Tacoma for most of the second half of the season. Montero averaged .260 for Seattle in his official rookie season, with 15 home runs, 62 RBIs and an .OPS of just .685. Seattle’s Safeco Field has proven to be a tough park for home run hitters and the Mariners have decided to move the fences in for the 2013 season. I have no doubt Montero’s power production would have been significantly better if he spent his full rookie campaign in the comfortable confines of Yankee Stadium, especially with the way this kid showed Yankee fans he could punch opposite field drives over that short right field wall in the Bronx during his September 2011 debut. The real problem with Montero is that it looks like he may not have the ability to become a decent big league catcher, defensively. The Mariners were not happy with his game management skills or his arm and he spent most of his first regular season in the northwest DH-ing.

Meanwhile, Pineda never made it out of the Yankees’ 2012 spring training camp. First he reported overweight and then he had nothing but trouble trying to get his highly touted fastball to travel even 90 miles per hour. It was almost with relief that the Yankees announced he had a physical problem with his throwing shoulder and sure enough, doctors discovered a torn labrum muscle, which required season-ending surgery. The key concern I now have about Pineda is his maturity level. He turns just 24-years-old today. Has he figured out how to take care of his huge 6 foot 7 inch body and especially that golden right arm or will he just let nature take its course? Unfortunately, a warning signal occurred this past August when police arrested Pineda in the wee hours of the morning for driving recklessly and at high speeds. He was charged with DUI. Where was he at the time? In Tampa, where he was supposed to be working out and rehabbing his shoulder. Meanwhile, not quite a week after Pineda was sidelined, Jose Campos, the well-regarded minor league pitcher the Yanks acquired with Pineda, also went on the DL of his Class A minor league team with an arm injury that pretty much ended his season.

Let’s hope Phase 2 of the Pineda/Montero swap delivers better results for the Yankees. Here’s what I wrote for Pineda’s Birthday post last year:

When President Franklin Roosevelt died, his wife Eleanor met with his just sworn in successor and asked him how he was doing. Harry Truman, referring to the intense pressure he felt at being thrust unexpectedly into the world’s most important job during a time of world war, told the former first lady it was as if the sun and the moon and all the planets and stars had just fallen on him.

I’m hoping Michael Pineda doesn’t feel like old “Give em Hell Harry” did on that fateful day. A few days ago, he was the bright young pitching star of the struggling Seattle Mariners, coming off a very decent rookie season. Then suddenly, he found himself thrust into the number two spot of the New York Yankee starting rotation and the expectations on his right arm increased a thousand fold. If he finishes the 2012 regular season with the same record (9-10) that he put up for Seattle in 2011, he might very well get booed out of Yankee Stadium.

All indications are that this youngster is the real deal. “Nasty” seems to be the adjective used most when players who’ve had to hit against him, describe this native Dominican’s stuff. I can’t help remembering Derek Jeter using the same adjective in an interview a few years ago to describe the stuff of another just-acquired-Yankee pitcher named AJ Burnett.

I got my fingers crossed for Pineda (and the young minor league pitcher named Jose Campos who the Yankees also picked up in the same trade.) I was really pretty pumped about seeing Jesus Montero get a full season of at bats in pinstripes but now that is not going to happen. Instead, I can’t wait to see Pineda get that first start in April.

The only other Yankee I could find who was born on this date was also the last Yankee to wear number 5 before Joe DiMaggio.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2011 SEA 9 10 .474 3.74 28 28 0 0 0 0 171.0 133 76 71 18 55 173 1.099
1 Yr 9 10 .474 3.74 28 28 0 0 0 0 171.0 133 76 71 18 55 173 1.099
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/24/2014.

January 8 – Happy Birthday Carl Pavano

His December, 2004 free agent signing turned out to be one of the worst moves in Yankee front-office history. After paying him $40 million to pitch the next four seasons, the right hander left New York at the conclusion of that contract, having appeared in just 26 games in pinstripes with a 9-8 won-loss record. That equates to more than $1.5 million per start or a bit more than $4 million per victory. Rubbing just a bit more salt in the Yankee’s wounds, Pavano then won 31 times in his first two post Yankee seasons, including a 17-11 record with the Twins in 2010 that had Brian Cashman even considering bringing the guy back to the Bronx in 2011.

That didn’t happen. Pavano ended up signing a new $17 million two-year deal to remain with Minnesota. Turns out Cashman and New York avoided another bad deal.  He was a combined 11-18 for the Twins during the two years covered by that contract and his 2012 season was limited to just 11 starts by a shoulder injury that required surgical repair. Then in January of 2013, Pavano slipped and fell while shoveling the driveway of his home in Vermont and ruptured his spleen. He was contemplating a comeback at the time of that mishap but it looks as if his pitching career is now over.

Pavano was born on this date in 1976. This former Yankee who led New York in RBIs four different times, also celebrates a birthday today as does this one-time Yankee reliever.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2005 NYY 4 6 .400 4.77 17 17 0 1 1 0 100.0 129 66 53 17 18 56 1.470
2007 NYY 1 0 1.000 4.76 2 2 0 0 0 0 11.1 12 7 6 1 2 4 1.235
2008 NYY 4 2 .667 5.77 7 7 0 0 0 0 34.1 41 23 22 5 10 15 1.485
14 Yrs 108 107 .502 4.39 302 284 3 17 8 0 1788.2 1971 955 873 200 425 1091 1.340
MON (5 yrs) 24 35 .407 4.83 81 78 0 1 1 0 452.2 493 264 243 55 159 304 1.440
MIN (4 yrs) 33 33 .500 4.32 88 88 0 10 3 0 579.2 654 303 278 63 101 311 1.302
NYY (3 yrs) 9 8 .529 5.00 26 26 0 1 1 0 145.2 182 96 81 23 30 75 1.455
FLA (3 yrs) 33 23 .589 3.64 86 71 3 4 2 0 485.0 492 212 196 40 112 313 1.245
CLE (1 yr) 9 8 .529 5.37 21 21 0 1 1 0 125.2 150 80 75 19 23 88 1.377
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/8/2014.

January 5 – Happy Birthday Ron Kittle

I remember being somewhat excited by the news that the Yankees had acquired Kittle in a trade with the White Sox, after the 1986 All Star break. He had been named AL Rookie of the Year just three seasons earlier, when he belted 35 home runs and drove in 100 for Chicago. Even though he was a right-handed hitter who would not be able to take advantage of Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch, the guy had impressive power and I thought he’d make a decent contribution if then Yankee Manager, Lou Piniella could find a place to play him. That turned out to be the problem. Piniella had too many DHs and outfielders on his roster already and he couldn’t give Kittle the volume of at bats streaky hitters like him needed to get hot. What the Yankees really needed back then was starting pitchers. I still can’t believe a Yankee lineup that featured Dave Winfield, Ricky Henderson and Donnie Baseball, all in their primes, never made it to the postseason. Ron did play the entire 1987 season with New York, getting in 59 games and hitting 12 home runs but the Yankees ended up releasing him after that season. Kittle was born in Gary, Indiana on January 5, 1958.

He shares his January 5th birthday with this former Bronx born Yankee outfielder and this legendary Yankee third base coach.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1986 NYY 30 89 80 8 19 2 0 4 12 2 7 23 .238 .292 .413 .705
1987 NYY 59 173 159 21 44 5 0 12 28 0 10 36 .277 .318 .535 .853
10 Yrs 843 3013 2708 356 648 100 3 176 460 16 236 744 .239 .306 .473 .779
CHW (8 yrs) 657 2433 2183 292 517 83 3 140 374 14 201 606 .237 .307 .470 .777
NYY (2 yrs) 89 262 239 29 63 7 0 16 40 2 17 59 .264 .309 .494 .803
CLE (1 yr) 75 254 225 31 58 8 0 18 43 0 16 65 .258 .323 .533 .856
BAL (1 yr) 22 64 61 4 10 2 0 2 3 0 2 14 .164 .203 .295 .498
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/6/2014.

December 9 – Happy Birthday Joe DeMaestri

demaestriI really started collecting baseball cards in 1961. As a passionate six-year-old Yankee fan at the time, opening a nickel pack of Topps cards and discovering a Bronx Bomber inside felt like I had found a thousand dollar bill, well maybe not in all cases.

I can remember feeling no such thrill when I got the card pictured with today’s featured Pinstripe Birthday post. I’m sure Joe DeMaestri was a great guy and in his prime he was considered one of the upper tier shortstops in the American League. But he had spent those prime years of his career playing for the A’s in both Philadelphia and Kansas City.

Even though over a half century has passed since I purchased the pack from Puglisi’s Confectionary on Guy Park Avenue in my hometown of Amsterdam, NY, I still clearly remember this card. That’s because in addition to being perhaps the least recognized player on that 1961 Yankee team, DeMaestri wasn’t even wearing a Yankee hat when they took his picture for the card and I used to hate when that happened. Still, he was a Yankee and therefore it was a Yankee card so I figured it was a nickel well spent, just not one that returned that customary thrill worth a thousand bucks.

As it turned out, that 1961 season was this San Francisco native’s final year in the big leagues. The Yankees had acquired him in the historic seven player deal they made with Kansas City that also put Roger Maris in pinstripes. Nicknamed “Oats,” DeMaestri had been New York’s primary utility infielder for two seasons, appearing in just 79 total games during that span but getting the opportunity to play in his only World Series in 1960 and win his only ring in ’61. His most noteworthy moment in Yankee history took place in the eighth inning of the seventh game of that ’60 fall classic in Pittsburgh. It was DeMaestri who replaced Tony Kubek at short, after Bill Virdon’s certain double-play grounder hit a stone in the Forbes Field infield and struck Tony Kubek in the throat. In addition to almost killing the Yankee shortstop, the play started the rally that enabled Pittsburgh to erase a three run deficit and take a two-run lead. Ironically, all season long, New York manager Casey Stengel had been shifting Kubek from shortstop to replace Yogi Berra in left field in the eighth inning of games in which the Yankees had the lead. DeMaestri would then replace Kubek at short. For some reason, the “Ol Perfessor” didn’t make that move that afternoon in Forbes Field and you have to wonder how DeMaestri would have approached and been able to play that same ground ball.

In any event, my older brother Jerry and I were able to collect every card in that 1961 Topps series, but unlike all the rest of those we collected as kids, I don’t have this DeMaestri card anymore. Tragically, the younger brother of one of Jerry’s classmates was struck by a car and killed that year. I still remember walking up to his house a few days later with my brother and giving his grieving friend our entire collection of 1961 Topps baseball cards as our way of expressing sympathy for his loss.

He shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher and a Yankee franchise Hall-of-Famer nobody remembers.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1960 NYY 49 36 35 8 8 1 0 0 2 0 0 9 .229 .229 .257 .486
1961 NYY 30 41 41 1 6 0 0 0 2 0 0 13 .146 .146 .146 .293
11 Yrs 1121 3679 3441 322 813 114 23 49 281 15 168 511 .236 .274 .325 .599
KCA (7 yrs) 905 3325 3105 292 742 104 20 47 256 15 155 453 .239 .277 .331 .608
NYY (2 yrs) 79 77 76 9 14 1 0 0 4 0 0 22 .184 .184 .197 .382
SLB (1 yr) 81 198 186 13 42 9 1 1 18 0 8 25 .226 .258 .301 .559
CHW (1 yr) 56 79 74 8 15 0 2 1 3 0 5 11 .203 .253 .297 .550
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/8/2013.

December 8 – Happy Birthday Vernon Wells

vwellsI was one of those Yankee fans who was vociferously against the 2013 preseason deal that made Vernon Wells a Yankee. I understand how and why it happened. When both Granderson and Texeira went down with injuries this spring and it became apparent that Jeter was not ready to play, New York’s front office went into sort of a cheapskate panic mode. They needed to do something fast but they wanted it to also be easy and not too expensive. That explains the Vernon Wells deal in a nutshell. All one had to do to understand this was listen to the incessant bragging the team’s publicity department did about how the Angels had agreed to pick up most of the outfielder’s salary for the next two years.

Still, as a loyal, long-time Yankee fan, once the deal went down, I became a Vernon Wells fan and rooted for him like crazy. My sincere hope was that I would be proven completely wrong about his inability to help this Yankee team make the playoffs. And for about six weeks at the beginning of the season, it looked as if I might have been. Wells got out of the gate quickly and helped the Yankees do the same. By the end of April, he was hitting .300 and was on a pace to hit 30 home runs and drive in 90. Then two weeks later, Wells pretty much stopped hitting. He hit his 10th home run of the season on May 15. He then went three months before he hit another. By the end of June, his batting average had fallen to .223 and it was apparent to me that the move to obtain Wells would definitely not go down in franchise history as one of Brian Cashman’s better ones.

Now that the Yankees have signed Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, one has to wonder if Wells will even be on the Yankee roster when Opening Day 2014 rolls around. He can still play good outfield defense but with Gardner, Soriano and Suzuki all still in Pinstripes, the Yankees have a glut of extra outfielders.

Wells was born in Shreveport, Louisiana on December 8, 1978. As anyone who has ever been his teammate will tell you, this guy is a class act in the clubhouse and during his prime, was one of the top outfielders in the American League. Even though he did not perform well during the 2013 season, he hustled every second he was on the field and handled the critical New York media like the consummate professional he is. That’s why I for one will continue to root for Vernon Wells.

Wells shares his birthday with this former Yankee shortstop,  this former Yankee starting pitcher and this former Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2013 NYY 130 458 424 45 99 16 0 11 50 7 30 73 .233 .282 .349 .631
15 Yrs 1731 7212 6642 930 1794 379 34 270 958 109 472 956 .270 .319 .459 .778
TOR (12 yrs) 1393 5963 5470 789 1529 339 30 223 813 90 406 762 .280 .329 .475 .804
LAA (2 yrs) 208 791 748 96 166 24 4 36 95 12 36 121 .222 .258 .409 .667
NYY (1 yr) 130 458 424 45 99 16 0 11 50 7 30 73 .233 .282 .349 .631
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/8/2013.

February 5 – Happy Birthday Lee Thomas

leethomasWhen I started following the Yankees in 1960, their best minor league outfield prospects required patience or a willingness to relocate. That’s because the parent club had Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, both in their primes, solidly stationed in center field and right, while in left they used a trio of highly skilled veterans that included Yogi Berra, Hector Lopez and Bob Cerv. There was simply not enough playing time available at the big league level for young promising outfield prospects like today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant to develop. As a result, they either stayed in the minors a very long time or they were traded to other teams to shore up weaknesses New York had in other areas.

Lee Thomas was one such prospect. The Yankees signed him right out of high school in 1954. He spent the next seven seasons climbing up the alphabet ladder of New York’s farm system, impressing everyone along the way with his patience at the plate, his ability to hit for average and his power. In his final two minor league seasons he averaged 27 home runs and 115 RBIs per season with a batting average right around .320. His only negative was a sometimes violent temper that would earn him the nickname “Mad Dog.”

By the 1961 Spring Training season, he was so good and so ready that first-year Yankee manager Ralph Houk had no choice but to put him on the Opening Day roster. But this was the same 1961 Yankee team that most baseball historians consider to be one of the great teams in MLB history, which is why during the first six weeks of the regular season, the only action Thomas had seen was two pinch-hitting opportunities. Finally, Roger Maris approached the rookie and told him he was too good a player to sit on the Yankee bench or get sent back down to triple A. Thomas explained what happened next in an interview documented in the book “The Yankees in the Early 1960’s,” authored by William J. Ryczek. On a flight to LA for a series against the Angels, Maris approached Thomas and told him he and Mantle had a plan to take care of the rookie. When the Yankees started batting practice in LA’s old Wrigley Field, the original home of the expansion team, Mickey, Roger and two other Yankee starters gave up their time in the batting cage so that Thomas could have an extended session in front of the watchful eyes of Angel skipper, Bill Rigney. These extended sessions continued for the next two games as well. Thomas took advantage of the showcase by smashing the ball all over the park. He said he hit at least fifteen home runs during those sessions and sure enough, before the Yankees left town, the Angels made a trade for the rookie.

Even though the deal meant a full-time big league starting position for Thomas, he admitted he hated leaving the Bronx Bombers. He knew that 1961 team was special, he knew they were going to win it all and he wanted to be part of it but it just wasn’t meant to be.

Thomas immediately became a star for the struggling expansion Angels. He hit 24 home runs for them in 1961 and in ’62, he made the AL All Star team and ended the season with 26 HRs, 105 RBIs and a .290 batting average. He appeared to have found a permanent home with the Halos but all of a sudden, he stopped hitting. Thomas’s average fell seventy points in 1963, and his home runs and RBIs that year dropped pretty much in half. When his slump continued into the first part of the 1964 season, the Angels sent him to the Red Sox for Boston outfielder, Lou Clinton.

The change of scenery seemed to help revive Lee’s bat a bit. He hit 13 home ruins for Boston during the final two thirds of the ’64 season and drove in 42 runs. The following year he did even better, with 22 home runs, 71 RBIs and he raised his batting average up to a more respectable .271. He probably thought he had found a new home in Beantown right up until ten days before Christmas in 1965, when he found out he had been traded to Atlanta for Braves’ pitchers Dan Osinski and Bob Sadowski.

He floundered horribly in Atlanta, and was hitting just .188 by the end of May when he was told he had been traded again, this time to the Cubs. After a season and a half in the Windy City and a final year playing with Houston, Thomas was gone from the big leagues for good. Thomas then got into managing at the minor league level for a few seasons before moving up to the big league front office of the Cardinals where he was named the organization’s Farm Director. He then got the Phillies’ GM job in 1988 and kept it for nine years. Thomas then returned to Boston where he served as assistant GM under Dan Duquette. He was born in Peoria, IL on February 5, 1936.

Thomas shares his birthday with this long-ago Yankee shortstop and this former Yankee catcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1961 NYY 2 2 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000
8 Yrs 1027 3731 3324 405 847 111 22 106 428 25 332 397 .255 .327 .397 .724
LAA (4 yrs) 486 1945 1733 231 460 52 14 61 253 13 173 252 .265 .336 .417 .753
BOS (2 yrs) 258 1045 922 118 244 46 6 35 117 8 106 71 .265 .343 .441 .785
CHC (2 yrs) 152 379 340 31 78 8 1 3 32 1 29 37 .229 .300 .285 .585
ATL (1 yr) 39 139 126 11 25 1 1 6 15 1 10 15 .198 .261 .365 .626
NYY (1 yr) 2 2 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000
HOU (1 yr) 90 221 201 14 39 4 0 1 11 2 14 22 .194 .249 .229 .478
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/14/2014.

January 23 – Happy Birthday Johnny Sturm

sturmJohnny Sturm was not your prototypical Yankee starting first baseman. He was instead, a singles hitter. In fact, no Yankee starting first baseman in the history of the franchise ever had a slugging average lower than the .300 figure turned in by Sturm during the 1941 regular season.

Lou Gehrig had set the impossible-to-fill mold all future Yankee first sackers would be measured by. Babe Dahlgren, the Iron Horse’s immediate successor had not hit more than 15 home runs or averaged above .264 during his two seasons in the position. Meanwhile, Sturm was hitting well over .300 and averaging 180 base-hits per year while playing first base for the Yankee’s farm team in Kansas City. At the end of New York’s 1941 spring training camp, Yankee skipper Joe McCarthy made the decision to put Sturm and two other infielders from that Kansas City farm club, second baseman Jerry Priddy and shortstop Phil Rizzuto on the Yank’s Opening Day roster. With an outfield full of home run power (DiMaggio, Henrich and Keller would each hit 30 round-trippers in 1941) plus Joe Gordon, Marse Joe figured any of these rookies and maybe even all three would be perfect table setters for the Yankees’ big bats.

The plan seemed reasonable but during the season a couple of hitches emerged. After getting the Opening Day start at first, Sturm was quickly benched so that Joe Gordon could move to first and McCarthy could play Priddy and Rizzuto together in the middle of the Yankee infield. But Priddy could not get himself untracked at the plate and by mid-May, “Marse Joe” had moved Gordon back to second and was starting Sturm at first. Almost immediately, Sturm went on an 11-game hitting streak and by the end of it, McCarthy had moved him into the leadoff spot of the Yankee lineup where he would remain for the rest of the ’41 season. Like Priddy however, Sturm also struggled with big league pitching, averaging just .239 during his rookie season. As a result, he scored just 58 times in 568 plate appearances. Despite that poor showing, McCarthy stuck with his punchless rookie in that year’s World Series and the then-25-year-old Sturm came through with a .318 average in the Yankees’ victory over Brooklyn, hitting safely in each of that Fall Classic’s five games.

So why did McCarthy stick with Sturm’s inefficient bat at first instead of giving Priddy another chance at second? After all, Phil Rizzuto always insisted that Priddy was a much better ballplayer than the Scooter was and could do everything well on a baseball field. From what I’ve read, it seems Priddy was a very cocky kid who thought nothing of mouthing off at his veteran Yankee teammates and vocally insisting he was as good as or better than most of them. Such brashness, especially from a rookie, did not sit well with his teammates. As a result, few if any of them showed any sympathy or offered to help Priddy with his offensive struggles, while reacting in the exact opposite way with the much more likable Sturm. I’m sure McCarthy realized all this and kept Priddy on the bench in part because he didn’t want to antagonize his veteran players.

Sturm’s very good 1941 postseason performance convinced most Yankee observers that he would be back at first base come the following season, but two months later, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. On January 13, 1942, Sturm became the first married big league ballplayer to be drafted into military service. He spent most of his time in the Army playing baseball but he also was part of a detail that built baseball fields on army posts. While driving a tractor on one such detail, Sturm was involved in an accident that resulted in the amputation of two fingers on his non-throwing hand. When he tried to rejoin the Yankees in 1946, that injury destroyed his chances at being successful. Instead, he became a player-manager in the Yankees farm system and one day in 1948, while serving in that role for New York’s Class C Western Association League franchise in Joplin, Sturm’s phone rang. A father of a high school player was calling to request a tryout for his son. Sturm listened to the voice on the other end of the line tell him why this kid was worth looking at and was convinced enough to place a call to Yankee scout Tom Greenwade and arrange a tryout. The name of the dad who called Sturm that day was Mutt Mantle and the rest is Yankee history.

This one-time All Star closer and  this former Yankee number 1 draft pick were also born on this date.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1941 NYY 124 568 524 58 125 17 3 3 36 3 37 50 .239 .293 .300 .592
1 Yr 124 568 524 58 125 17 3 3 36 3 37 50 .239 .293 .300 .592
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/24/2014.

January 10 – Happy Birthday Rich Dotson

dotsonI began paying attention to the White Sox starting pitching rotation right around 1980. That was the season a former Yankee minor league phee-nom named Lamarr Hoyt made his first big league start for Chicago and went an impressive 9-3 in his rookie year. The Yankees had included Hoyt in the package of players they used to acquire shortstop Bucky Dent from the White Sox three seasons earlier and I had kept an eye on Hoyt’s progress ever since.

The Chicago rotation Hoyt joined that season included some very good young pitchers headed by 21-year-old Britt Burns, who led the staff with 15 victories that season. Hoyt and Burns were joined by 22-year-old left-hander Steve Trout and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Rich Dotson. Dotson was a 21-year-old rookie at the time, who finished the year with an impressive 12-10 record. Back then, the Yankee rotation by contrast was ancient but still effective, with 39-year-old Luis Tiant, 37-year-old Tommy John and 35-year-old Rudy May helping 29-year-old Ron Guidry win the AL East. Yankee fans like me couldn’t help but notice the young guns being assembled in the Windy City and wish our favorite team was as well-stocked with fresh young arms.

Dotson had a superb start to his sophomore year. By June 9th of the ’81 season, the young right-hander was 7-3 and four of those seven victories were complete game shutouts. Two days later the season stopped when players went on strike. The disruption clearly bothered Dotson, who went just 2-5 during the second half of the split season.

The Cincinnati native would reach his apex as a pro two years later when he went 22-7 to help lead the White Sox to an AL West Division flag. It looked as if he was on his way to becoming one of baseball’s premier right-handed pitchers after he started the ’84 season with 11 wins in his first 15 decisions and made the All Star team. But he fell apart in the second half of that year and the White Sox collapsed in the standings. A circulatory problem was later discovered in Dotson’s throwing shoulder and it limited him to just nine starts in 1985. After two more losing seasons in Chicago, he was traded to the Yankees in November of 1987, for outfielder Dan Pasqua.

Ironically, both Steve Trout and Britt Burns had preceded their former pitching mate to the Bronx in earlier deals and both had failed miserably. Dotson fared better in pinstripes than both of them, winning 12 games for New York in 1988, but his ERA hit five and the Yankees finished in a disappointing fifth place in the AL East. When he continued to struggle the following year, new Yankee manager Dallas Green demoted Dotson to the bullpen and a few weeks later, the pitcher was given his unconditional release. He retired after the 1990 season with a lifetime record of 111-113.

Dotson shares his January 10th birthday with this long-ago Yankee starting second baseman and this former Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1988 NYY 12 9 .571 5.00 32 29 0 4 0 0 171.0 178 103 95 27 72 77 1.462
1989 NYY 2 5 .286 5.57 11 9 2 1 0 0 51.2 69 33 32 8 17 14 1.665
12 Yrs 111 113 .496 4.23 305 295 7 55 11 0 1857.1 1884 964 872 194 740 973 1.413
CHW (10 yrs) 97 95 .505 4.02 254 250 4 50 11 0 1606.0 1594 799 718 156 637 873 1.389
NYY (2 yrs) 14 14 .500 5.13 43 38 2 5 0 0 222.2 247 136 127 35 89 91 1.509
KCR (1 yr) 0 4 .000 8.48 8 7 1 0 0 0 28.2 43 29 27 3 14 9 1.988
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/10/2014.