Results tagged ‘ april 7 ’

April 7 – Happy Birthday John McGraw

mcgrawSo much of the Yankees’ history is tied to the city of Baltimore. Not only was the franchise born in Maryland’s largest city, so was Babe Ruth, its biggest all-time star. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant’s legendary career sort of followed the same geographical route and like Ruth, McGraw’s childhood was not a happy one. His mom died when he was just 11-years old and his alcoholic father was ill-equipped to raise four children on his own. When McGraw was 12, his old man beat him so badly that the boy ran to an Inn, located across the street from his Truxton, NY home, for protection. Fortunately, he found it. The owner of the Inn ended up raising him as her own.

The young McGraw, again like Ruth, discovered an escape from his childhood miseries in baseball and became a very good player and pitcher for a local semi-pro ball club. He was good enough to earn roster spots with minor league teams, and in 1892, the 22-year-old McGraw, who was by then an infielder, made his debut with the Baltimore Orioles of the American Association, which was back then considered the major league of baseball. Over the next decade, he became a star for the Orioles, topping the .320 mark in batting average for nine straight seasons. Just five feet seven inches tall, he developed a playing style that was completely devoted to one primary goal, getting on base as often as humanly possible. He became so good at it that McGraw’s lifetime on base percentage of .466 places him third on the all-time list behind latter-day sluggers, Ted Williams and Babe Ruth.

McGraw and his Oriole teammates became one of baseball’s first dynasties, when they won three-straight league pennants during the mid 1890′s. A celebrated sports hero, he had found a home in B-town, even marrying a local girl. But when the Orioles’ ticket sales took a dip in the late 1890′s, the team’s owner tried to transfer all of his star players to a new franchise he was starting in Brooklyn in 1899. McGraw refused to make the move and remained in Baltimore as the roster-raped club’s skipper. He impressed everyone by leading a team that had lost its entire starting lineup and its best pitchers to an 82-65 record. But during September of that ’99 season, McGraw’s wife died from a ruptured appendix. When the financially troubled Orioles collapsed the following year, McGraw’s reasons for wanting to stay in Baltimore were gone and he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Just one year later, the new American League was formed and McGraw accepted an offer to become the first manager and part owner of the AL’s Baltimore Orioles franchise. He then led the first team in Yankee franchise history to a 68-65 record during the 1901 season, but in the process constantly battled with Ban Johnson, who had founded and ran the new league. When McGraw was suspended by Johnson during the following season, the second-year skipper accepted a new position to manage the National League’s New York Giants team. That single move changed the course of history for two of baseball’s most fabled franchises.

This is the guy responsible for the brand new Yankee Stadium getting constructed. Why?  Because without McGraw the original Yankee Stadium might never have been built in the first place. The Yankees moved into the Polo Grounds as a co-tenant with McGraw’s Giants in 1914. The Giants were the better team back then, consistently winning or challenging for the NL pennant. They also outdrew the Yankees in attendance every year. That all changed in 1920, however, when Babe Ruth put on the Pinstripes for the first time. Suddenly, a Yankee game became the hottest ticket in town and McGraw didn’t like the change. Little Napoleon evicted the Yankees and they moved across the East River to their new home, the original Yankee Stadium, in 1923.

McGraw was considered the best baseball mind of his generation. His teams won ten NL pennants and four World Series. He was an outstanding judge of talent and a fiery, no-nonsense leader. He still holds the record for most wins by a National League manager with 2,669. He died in 1934 at the age of 60.

McGraw shares his April 7th birthday with this former Yankee pitcher and this one too.

April 7 – Happy Birthday Brett Tomko

Brett Tomko started his Major league career in May of 1997, when beleaguered Cincinnati Reds’ Manager, Ray Knight needed to bolster his team’s starting rotation. The 24-year-old Tomko delivered, getting 19 starts that year and finishing with an 11-7 rookie year record and a 3.43 earned run average. The six-foot four-inch Cleveland-born right-hander followed up that strong first-year performance with a thirteen-win sophomore season and Reds fans head every reason to expect that Tomko would be a big part of their rotation for years to come. That didn’t happen and in fact, those same Reds fans were thrilled to see him go.

After he slumped to just 5-7 in 1999, Ken Griffey Jr. had made it known that he wanted to finish his baseball career in the same place his All Star father had begun his. In February of 2000, the Reds traded Tomko, Mike Cameron, Antonio Perez and Jake Meyer to the Mariners to bring “Junior” Home.

So Tomko packed his bags for the move to Seattle. Little did he know that he was about to become the unofficial and unpaid Major League spokesman for Allied Van Lines. He pitched two years in Seattle and got traded to the Padres. After just a season in San Diego, he was dealt to the Cardinals. That turned out to be the last time Tomko was ever traded but it was far from his last big league relocation. Beginning in 2003 when the Cards let him go, Brett Tomko has been released more than the trigger of Buffalo Bill’s Winchester.

The Giants let him walk in 2005. Ditto for the Dodgers in 2007. Then it was back to San Diego for a few weeks and then Kansas City. The Royals said good bye in 2008 but then the good-old-Padres invited him back for a three-month visit. In February of 2009, Brian Cashman signed Tomko and he started the season pitching for the Yankees Triple A team in Scranton. And what a start it was. In fourteen innings of pitching, he saved four games won another, struck out 17 hitters and had an ERA of 0.64. He got called up to the Bronx that May and Joe Girardi used him in 15 games. After a shaky first appearance against the Orioles, Tomko was sharp in five of his next six times out and it looked like he was settling into an important role in that Yankee bullpen. But then in a June inter-league game against the cross-town Mets, he relieved an ineffective Joba Chamberlain in the fourth inning and also got shelled in a 9-8 Yankee defeat. After getting his Yankee ERA down to 2.16, he experienced several bad outings and saw it explode to over six. Joe Girardi stopped calling his number. The Yankees released him on July 29, 2009 and he immediately signed on with Oakland. He then spent the entire 2010 season in the minors after which the A’s released him. He signed with Texas in 2011 and this past February he came back to where it all began fifteen years ago in Cincinnati.

If you add it all up, Tomko has pitched for ten different big league teams and fourteen different minor league ball clubs. He has a big league record of 100 wins and 104 losses with 2 career saves and 2 shutouts. He lost number 100 while he was wearing the Yankee pinstripes. You look at all the places he’s been and all the time’s he’s had to relocate and you can’t help feeling sorry for a baseball nomad like Brett Tomko, right? Well don’t waste any tears. He’s made at least $22 million in salary during his big league career and probably half that amount in reimbursed moving expenses.

Like Tomko, this former pitcher was born on April 7 and joined a Yankee team that would go on to win the World Series. The first manager in Yankee franchise history was also born on April 7.

April 7 – Happy Birthday Oral Hildebrand

hildebrand.jpegThe 1939 season was an historic year for the New York Yankee franchise. It is probably best remembered as the season Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game playing streak and remarkable Yankee career both came to a tragic end. It was also the year that the team, under manager Joe McCarthy, captured a record fourth straight World Series crown. The 1939 Yankees were also the only team in franchise history to have seven pitchers achieve at least ten wins during the same regular season. Hall of Famer, Red Ruffing led the staff with 21 victories. Atley Donald was next with 13. Another Hall of Famer, Lefty Gomez won a dozen as did Bump Hadley and Monte Pearson. Reliever, Steve “Smokey” Sundra chipped in with 11. All six of these guys had also pitched for New York the year before. In ’39 they were joined by today’s Birthday Celebrant, Oral Hildebrand. The Yankees had picked the big right hander up in a trade with the St Louis Browns after winning the 1938 World Series.  At the time of the trade, Hildebrand was a 31-year-old eight-year veteran and one-time All Star, who had led the American League with six shutouts in 1933, while pitching for Cleveland. He became the sixth Yankee pitcher to achieve 15 starts during the 1939 season. He ended up winning 10 of his 14 decisions. 


That Yankee staff was so deep with arms that Hildebrand was pulled in his only World Series start that year despite pitching four innings of shutout baseball against the Reds. Too much pitching was also part of the reason Oral’s Yankee career ended on a sour note. In 1940, the Yankees tried to assign him to their Kansas City farm team but he refused to report, claiming he had pitched well enough to earn a spot on the team’s big league roster. He ended up sitting out half the season rather than accept the demotion. The following year, the Yankees sold him to St. Paul in the American Association. He hung on for two more years in that league and then retired for good.

Like Hildebrand, this former Yankee pitcher was a well traveled veteran by the time he pitched in pinstripes and like old Oral, he joined a Yankee team that ended up winning the World Series. And like Hildebrand, he was born on April 7th as was this first manager in Yankee franchise history.