Results tagged ‘ catcher ’

June 11 – Happy Birthday Roger Bresnahan

Ban Johnson, the first-ever American League President did not like John McGraw, who was then the manager of the new league’s Baltimore franchise. McGraw was famous for fighting with umpires and flouting the rules. The fact that the fiery skipper also had an ownership stake in the Orioles’ franchise meant that he was technically one of the AL chief executive’s  bosses, which also drove Johnson nuts. So during the 1902 season, Johnson put together a reason to put McGraw on indefinite suspension. Instead of fighting it or serving it out, McGraw jumped to the rival National League and accepted a managerial position with the New York Giants. When he did, he invited a core group of his favorite Orioles players to accompany him to his new team. That is why both McGraw and today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant were already in the Big Apple when one season later, the Orioles’ franchise was also relocated there and became the Highlanders (and eventually the Yankees.) If Johnson and McGraw did not dislike each other so much both the manager and Roger Bresnahan would have become Highlanders instead of Giants and the Yankee franchise would surly have won its first Pennants and World Series much earlier in team history. Eventually, baseball’s most famous catcher during the first decade of the 20th century would one day join his buddy and skipper in Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Bresnahan was a versatile athlete and a very interesting character. He was famous for his hair-trigger temper. Nobody got ejected from baseball games for fighting with umpires and opposing players more frequently than Bresnahan did and it was often necessary to call in the local police to escort the Toledo, Ohio native off the field. He was also not your prototypical catcher. He had outstanding speed, stealing 212 bases during his big league career. He was a second-string receiver for McGraw in Baltimore but when he joined the Giants they already had two catchers so Lil Napoleon started his buddy in center during his first full season in New York and he hit .350. Bresnahan had started his big league career as a pitcher and went 4-0 doing his 1897 rookie season with Washington. He actually played all nine positions during his career. This guy was also quite the innovator. It was Bresnahan who introduced shin guards to the catching position and he also wore baseball’s first-ever batting helmet.

Roger no doubt owed much of his big league success to Giant Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Matthewson. It was Matthewson who went to McGraw and told him he preferred to have Bresnahan catch his games. In 1905, the two would lead the Giants to their second straight NL Pennant and first ever World Series title. In that Fall Classic, Matthewson would throw three complete game shutouts with Bresnahan behind the plate in each of them. In addition, the Giants’ starting catcher also led New York with a .313 batting average during that Series.

Bresnahan would continue catching for the Giants until 1909, when he was offered the opportunity to become a player-manager for the Cardinals. Not wanting to stand in his friend’s way, McGraw let him go. Bresnahan would spend four years catching and managing for the Cardinals and later hold the same position with the Cubs.  He retired in 1915, after playing 15 Major League seasons and would one day buy a minor league franchise in Toledo. He was voted into Cooperstown by the Old Timer’s Committee in 1945, one year after he had died of a heart attack in Toledo, at the age of 65.

Bresnahan shares his June 11th birthday with this former Yankee co-owner.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1901 BLA 86 323 295 40 79 9 9 1 32 10 23 33 .268 .323 .369 .692
1902 BLA 65 262 235 30 64 8 6 4 34 12 21 16 .272 .337 .409 .746
17 Yrs 1446 5374 4481 682 1252 218 71 26 530 212 714 403 .279 .386 .377 .764
NYG (7 yrs) 751 3024 2499 438 731 135 35 15 291 118 410 234 .293 .403 .393 .795
STL (4 yrs) 289 992 803 92 221 43 14 4 106 32 160 64 .275 .401 .379 .779
CHC (4 yrs) 249 756 633 81 151 23 7 2 64 40 99 54 .239 .345 .306 .652
BLA (2 yrs) 151 585 530 70 143 17 15 5 66 22 44 49 .270 .329 .387 .716
WHS (1 yr) 6 17 16 1 6 0 0 0 3 0 1 2 .375 .412 .375 .787
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/11/2013.

June 6 – Happy Birthday Bill Dickey

One of the all-time great catchers in baseball history, Dickey was superb both at the plate and behind it. He hit .300 in ten of his first eleven seasons as the starting Yankee receiver and drove in over 100 runs in a season four times during his Hall of Fame career. This eleven-time All-Star played in eight World Series with New York, winning seven rings in the process. Dickey’s prime was the four-year-period from 1936 through 1939, during which he averaged 26 home runs, and 115 RBIs with a batting average of .326. He entered Military service in 1943, returning to the team in 1946. When Yankee skipper, Joe McCarthy fell ill and resigned, the team made Dickey the player-manager for the balance of the ’46 season. After leading New York to a 57-48 finish that year, he ended both his big league playing and managing career. He then accepted the Yankee’s offer to manage their Minor League team in Dickey’s hometown of Little, Rock Arkansas. After one season there, he was back in the Bronx to begin a decade long career as a Yankee coach. His Hall-of-Fame Yankee successor at catcher, Yogi Berra credits Dickey for teaching him how to play the position.

Dickey was a quiet hard-working professional, much like his close friend and roommate, Lou Gehrig. He played hard on the field and behaved himself off of it. His playing career lasted 17 seasons. The Yankees retired his uniform number 8 (shared with Berra) and a plaque in his honor now rests in the Monument Park of the new Yankee Stadium. It certainly belongs there.

Dickey shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee prospect.

Dickey’s record as a Yankee player:

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1928 NYY 10 16 15 1 3 1 1 0 2 0 0 2 .200 .200 .400 .600
1929 NYY 130 474 447 60 145 30 6 10 65 4 14 16 .324 .346 .485 .832
1930 NYY 109 396 366 55 124 25 7 5 65 7 21 14 .339 .375 .486 .861
1931 NYY 130 524 477 65 156 17 10 6 78 2 39 20 .327 .378 .442 .820
1932 NYY 108 459 423 66 131 20 4 15 84 2 34 13 .310 .361 .482 .843
1933 NYY 130 532 478 58 152 24 8 14 97 3 47 14 .318 .381 .490 .871
1934 NYY 104 438 395 56 127 24 4 12 72 0 38 18 .322 .384 .494 .878
1935 NYY 120 491 448 54 125 26 6 14 81 1 35 11 .279 .339 .458 .797
1936 NYY 112 472 423 99 153 26 8 22 107 0 46 16 .362 .428 .617 1.045
1937 NYY 140 609 530 87 176 35 2 29 133 3 73 22 .332 .417 .570 .987
1938 NYY 132 532 454 84 142 27 4 27 115 3 75 22 .313 .412 .568 .981
1939 NYY 128 565 480 98 145 23 3 24 105 5 77 37 .302 .403 .513 .915
1940 NYY 106 424 372 45 92 11 1 9 54 0 48 32 .247 .336 .355 .691
1941 NYY 109 397 348 35 99 15 5 7 71 2 45 17 .284 .371 .417 .788
1942 NYY 82 295 268 28 79 13 1 2 37 2 26 11 .295 .359 .373 .732
1943 NYY 85 284 242 29 85 18 2 4 33 2 41 12 .351 .445 .492 .937
1946 NYY 54 156 134 10 35 8 0 2 10 0 19 12 .261 .357 .366 .723
17 Yrs 1789 7064 6300 930 1969 343 72 202 1209 36 678 289 .313 .382 .486 .868
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/6/2013.

Dickey’s record as a Yankee manager:

Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
1 1946 39 New York Yankees AL 2nd of 3 105 57 48 .543 3 Player/Manager
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/6/2013.

June 3 – Happy Birthday Jose Molina

Former Yankee catcher, Jose Molina was born on this day in 1975, in Bayamon Puerto Rico. He became Jorge Posada’s backup receiver on July 21, 2007 when the Yankees acquired him from the Angels for a Minor League pitcher named Jeff Kennard. In what I always thought had been a cool arrangement, up until that deal was made Jose had been sharing the Angels’ catching position with his younger brother Bengie. He also has another brother with the absolute best first name in baseball (Yadier; pronounced yah-dee-yay), who has been a very good starting catcher for the Cardinals since 2005. Together, the catching Molina brothers have collected five World Series rings during the past decade. Both Bengie and Yadier are better hitters than their older brother and have each won multiple Gold Gloves. Jose’s inability to hit right-handed pitching usually prevents him from taking over a team’s starting catcher role but his arm and his abilities behind the plate are every bit as good if not better than his younger brothers.

The Yankees had been using Will Nieves as Posada’s backup during the first half of that 2007 season, but he was only hitting .164. When Molina took over that role he became an instant hit with Yankee fans, impressing us with defensive skills that were superior to Posada’s and also hitting a surprisingly robust .318 during his first half-year playing in the Bronx. In fact, it wasn’t till Molina put on the pinstripes and I got to watch him semi-regularly that I really began noticing Posada’s weaknesses behind the plate. I will never forget the evening Molina left me stunned with my mouth open staring at my big screen after he threw a would-be base-stealer out at second from his knees.

His play impressed the Yankee brass too. New York signed him to a two-year-$4 million deal to play for them in 2008 and’ ’09. When Posada was injured in ’08, Molina got the opportunity to start. Unfortunately, by then he had stopped hitting and the Yankees eventually felt forced to go out and get Ivan Rodriguez in a failed effort to put some more offense into their lineup. The move didn’t help New York, as the team missed postseason play for the first time since 1993 but I-Rods inability to hit did help convince the Yankee front-office to keep Molina as Posada’s backup the following year. Jose did get the opportunity to engrave his name in Yankee lore that season. On September 21, 2008 in the bottom of the fourth inning in a game against Baltimore, Jose hit a 2-0 pitch off the then Orioles Chris Waters deep into the left field stands for a two run home run. That blast would turn out to be the very last home run ever hit in the original Yankee Stadium.

In 2009, A.J. Burnett became a Yankee and Molina pretty quickly became Burnett’s personal catcher. Jose helped guide the whacky right-hander to what would turn out to be his best season in pinstripes, helping New York capture their 27th World Championship. But Molina’s bat continued to fail him as he hit just .217 during the ’09 regular season. The Yankees chose not to re-sign him when his contract expired and rookie Francisco Cervelli took over the back-up catcher’s role in 2010.

Jose ended up playing two seasons as Toronto’s second catcher before signing a rather surprising two-year deal with Tampa Bay in November of 2011. Rays’ manager, Joe Madden used Molina as his team’s starting receiver the following season. The veteran catcher turns 39 years old today.

Molina shares his birthday with this Yankee DH.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2007 NYY 29 71 66 9 21 5 0 1 9 0 2 13 .318 .333 .439 .773
2008 NYY 100 297 268 32 58 17 0 3 18 0 12 52 .216 .263 .313 .576
2009 NYY 52 155 138 15 30 4 0 1 11 0 14 28 .217 .292 .268 .560
15 Yrs 906 2656 2420 237 566 115 3 39 214 17 146 548 .234 .283 .332 .615
LAA (7 yrs) 363 1043 958 92 227 49 2 15 97 9 44 221 .237 .274 .339 .613
TBR (3 yrs) 240 695 633 54 136 23 0 10 51 5 48 150 .215 .273 .299 .571
NYY (3 yrs) 181 523 472 56 109 26 0 5 38 0 28 93 .231 .281 .318 .599
TOR (2 yrs) 112 374 338 32 89 16 1 9 27 3 24 80 .263 .323 .396 .720
CHC (1 yr) 10 21 19 3 5 1 0 0 1 0 2 4 .263 .333 .316 .649
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/16/2014.

May 24 – Happy Birthday Ellie Rodriguez

You’re fourteen years old, you love the Yankees and for the previous three years you’ve watched them degrade from perennial World Series participants to AL cellar dwellers. All your favorite pinstriper’s have grown old instantly together and you’re desperate for some good news. Is Bobby Murcer the next Mickey Mantle? Will Jerry Kenney make us forget about Clete Boyer.? Is Horace Clarke better than Bobby Richardson? You keep watching and listening to game after game and scouring the box scores to get the answer to these questions and even though it quickly became obvious that this next generation of Yankees were simply pale imitations of the previous ones, you didn’t give up hope.

It was this never-give-up-hope attitude that helps me clearly remember when today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant made his debut in the Bronx. It was a Sunday afternoon game at the Stadium in late May of 1968 and I can almost hear Scooter make the first-ever big league introduction of this native Puerto Rican. It probably went something like this; “and batting eighth and doing the catching is, holy cow Messer, this kid’s name is Ellie Rodriguez and he’s doing the catching. If he’s anything like the last Ellie (Elston Howard) who caught for the Yankees, we may have something special here.”

But alas, Ellie Rodriguez was no Ellie Howard. He went 0-3 in his Yankee debut that afternoon and was hitting just .167 by mid-June, when the Yankees sent him back to their Syracuse Chiefs farm team. He’d get called back up a couple of times that year but he did not do much better, finishing his nine-game debut season with a .209 batting average. New York had this other young catcher named Munson playing for Binghamton that same season, who was impressing everyone in the organization, so they left Ellie II unprotected in the AL expansion draft. The Kansas City Royals made him their 13th pick.

It turned out to be a big break for Rodriguez because he became the Royals’ starting catcher in 1969 and made the AL All Star team. Three seasons later he repeated that feat as the Brewers starting catcher. The Brewers traded him to the Angels following the ’73 season and he caught 137 games for California in 1974, a career high. He would end up spending nine years in all as a big league catcher, and then he played four more seasons in Mexico. Lifetime he hit .245 and threw out 41% of the runners attempting to steal against him. He may not have been the next Ellie Howard but he did just fine.

Rodriguez shares his May 24th birthday with this veteran pitcher who played an important role in the Yankees’ 2011 starting rotation.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1968 NYY 9 27 24 1 5 0 0 0 1 0 3 3 .208 .296 .208 .505
9 Yrs 775 2622 2173 220 533 76 6 16 203 17 332 291 .245 .356 .308 .664
MIL (3 yrs) 325 1152 964 89 246 32 4 3 95 6 134 122 .255 .357 .306 .663
KCR (2 yrs) 175 575 498 52 115 18 2 3 35 5 58 61 .231 .323 .293 .617
CAL (2 yrs) 230 778 621 68 153 26 0 10 63 6 118 93 .246 .376 .337 .712
LAD (1 yr) 36 90 66 10 14 0 0 0 9 0 19 12 .212 .400 .212 .612
NYY (1 yr) 9 27 24 1 5 0 0 0 1 0 3 3 .208 .296 .208 .505
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/24/2013.

May 19 – Happy Birthday Rick Cerone

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I was far from thrilled with the November 1979 trade that sent Chris Chambliss to Toronto and brought Rick Cerone to New York to replace Thurman Munson as Yankee starting catcher. Besides being a huge Chambliss fan I was hoping Steinbrenner’s front office would go after Ted Simmons, the Cardinals switch-hitting receiver, to succeed Munson.

Cerone’s performance in 1980 helped me get over that disappointment pretty quickly. Even though his lifetime average at the time of the trade was just .229, Cerone hit .277 during his first year in pinstripes, caught 147 games, drove in 85 runs and led the league by throwing out 52% of the runners attempting to steal against him. He was a huge reason why that 1980 Yankee team won 103 regular season games and the AL East Division title. He was also one of the few Yankees who played well in the three game loss to the Royals in that season’s playoffs.

Like many players on many teams, Cerone’s Yankee fortunes began to turn sour during the strike shortened 1981 season. He hit just .244 and his run production per game was less than half of what it had been a season earlier. He gave up more steals as well and for the balance of his eighteen-year big league career, he would never again put up anything even close to the numbers he posted during that 1980 season. Cerone’s most widely publicized moment in pinstripes happened during the weirdly configured 1981 post-strike postseason, after the Yankees lost Game Four to fall into a two-two tie with the Brewers. George Steinbrenner came into the Yankee clubhouse after the game and started berating his players. Cerone screamed right back at the Boss, telling the owner his rants were of no value whatsoever to the team’s performance.Cerone was also not a fan of Yankee skipper Billy Martin and the feeling was definitely mutual.

The Yankees let him go a first time in a 1984 postseason trade with the Braves, for pitcher Brian Fisher. They signed him back as a free agent during the 1987 spring straining season. He was the starting catcher for manager Lou Piniella’s team that year and then caught a lot of games for the Red Sox in 1988 and ’89. New York picked him up a third time, in 1990 and Cerone had the first and only .300 batting average of his career that year, even though his season was comprised of just 149 plate appearances.

After he retired as a player, Cerone formed and owned the Newark Bears Minor League team in his New Jersey hometown. He sold the Bears in 2003.

Cerone shares his birthday with the AL Rookie of the Year Award winner in 1951 and this one-time Yankee pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
1980 NYY 147 575 519 70 144 30 4 14 85 1 32 56 .277 .321 .432 .753 107
1981 NYY 71 254 234 23 57 13 2 2 21 0 12 24 .244 .276 .342 .618 79
1982 NYY 89 329 300 29 68 10 0 5 28 0 19 27 .227 .271 .310 .581 61
1983 NYY 80 266 246 18 54 7 0 2 22 0 15 29 .220 .267 .272 .540 52
1984 NYY 38 132 120 8 25 3 0 2 13 1 9 15 .208 .269 .283 .553 56
1987 NYY 113 327 284 28 69 12 1 4 23 0 30 46 .243 .320 .335 .654 75
1990 NYY 49 146 139 12 42 6 0 2 11 0 5 13 .302 .324 .388 .713 99
18 Yrs 1329 4504 4069 393 998 190 15 59 436 6 320 450 .245 .301 .343 .644 78
NYY (7 yrs) 587 2029 1842 188 459 81 7 31 203 2 122 210 .249 .297 .351 .648 80
TOR (3 yrs) 255 931 851 79 195 39 6 11 91 1 66 84 .229 .285 .328 .613 68
BOS (2 yrs) 186 630 560 59 143 29 2 7 75 0 54 72 .255 .323 .352 .675 86
CLE (2 yrs) 14 30 28 2 5 1 0 0 1 0 1 2 .179 .207 .214 .421 23
NYM (1 yr) 90 258 227 18 62 13 0 2 16 1 30 24 .273 .360 .357 .717 104
ATL (1 yr) 96 316 282 15 61 9 0 3 25 0 29 25 .216 .288 .280 .568 57
MON (1 yr) 33 68 63 10 17 4 0 1 7 1 3 5 .270 .313 .381 .694 96
MIL (1 yr) 68 242 216 22 56 14 0 4 18 1 15 28 .259 .304 .380 .683 83
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/19/2014.