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.

May 18th – Happy Birthday Arndt Jorgens

Arndt Jorgens probably holds the record for most retired Yankee uniform numbers worn by a Yankee. During his 11-year career with the Bronx Bombers, the native Norwegian at one time or another wore the numbers 15, 32, 10 and 9. None of those uniforms got too dirty however, because as the back-up catcher to Hall-of-Fame iron-man Bill Dickey, Jorgens played in just 307 games during his Yankee career. In fact, though Jorgen’s Yankee teams played in five World Series and he was kept on the postseason roster for each of them, he did not make a single appearance in any of the 23 games New York played in those Fall Classics.

Better known as “Arnie” to his teammates, the most games Jorgens ever played in a single season was in 1934, when an angry Dickey broke the jaw of an opposing baserunner who had collided with him in a play at the plate. Dickey was suspended and back then, the suspensions of players who intentionally injured opposing players generally lasted for as long as it took the injured player to recover and return to action. Dickey’s fist gave Jorgens the opportunity to appear in 58 games that year and he set career highs with 183 at bats, 14 runs scored, 38 hits and 20 RBIs. Like many Yankee backups before and after him, if he played elsewhere he would have played more but those regular World Series checks he cashed made him more than happy to spend most of his time in pinstripes either riding the pine in the Yankee dugout or catching relievers who needed to warm up in the Yankee bullpen.

Jorgens broke into the big leagues as a Yankee in 1929 and he retired as one in 1939. He was born in Modum, Norway in 1905 and moved to Chicago as a child. He had a brother named Orville, who made it to the big leagues as a pitcher with the Phillies. Jorgens passed away in 1980. Jorgens’ misfortune of not getting to play in so many World Series should have earned him the nickname “Misses October.” He happens to share his May 18th birthday with the former Yankee known as “Mr October.”

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1929 NYY 18 41 34 6 11 3 0 0 4 0 6 7 .324 .425 .412 .837
1930 NYY 16 35 30 7 11 3 0 0 1 0 2 4 .367 .406 .467 .873
1931 NYY 46 112 100 12 27 1 2 0 14 0 9 3 .270 .330 .320 .650
1932 NYY 56 166 151 13 33 7 1 2 19 0 14 11 .219 .285 .318 .603
1933 NYY 21 62 50 9 11 3 0 2 13 1 12 3 .220 .371 .400 .771
1934 NYY 58 207 183 14 38 6 1 0 20 2 23 24 .208 .296 .251 .547
1935 NYY 36 98 84 6 20 2 0 0 8 0 12 10 .238 .333 .262 .595
1936 NYY 31 69 66 5 18 3 1 0 5 0 2 3 .273 .294 .348 .643
1937 NYY 13 25 23 3 3 1 0 0 3 0 2 5 .130 .200 .174 .374
1938 NYY 9 21 17 3 4 2 0 0 2 0 3 3 .235 .350 .353 .703
1939 NYY 3 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
11 Yrs 307 836 738 79 176 31 5 4 89 3 85 73 .238 .317 .310 .627
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

May 13 – Happy Birthday J.R. Murphy

murphyThe J.R. stands for John Ryan. Born on this date in 1991, this native of Bradenton, Florida was a Yankee second round selection in the 2009 amateur draft. During his six years in New York’s farm system, he’s averaged .264, hit right around ten homers per season and driven in between forty and fifty. His defensive skills behind the plate have been OK but nothing exceptional. Most Yankee pundits thought he was behind another young receiver named Gary Sanchez on the organization’s depth chart of young catching prespects, but it was Murphy who got the call-up to the Bronx in September of 2013.

Then the following winter, the Yanks went out and signed free agent catcher Brian McCann to a long term deal, meaning neither Murphy or Sanchez were destined to become New York’s starting catcher. When McCann’s backup, Francisco Cervelli suffered a bad hamstring injury during the second week of the 2014 season, the Yanks again turned to Murphy and not Sanchez to replace him.

This far in 2014, Murphy has performed well in that role. Through today’s date he was hitting a robust .407 in 11 games of action with a home run and five RBIs. He’s also handled himself well behind the play. If I had to guess how the Yankees were going to handle their catching personnel in the next few years, I think they will end up letting the injury-prone Cervelli go, keep Murphy as McCann’s backup and try to leverage Sanchez’s more attractive power numbers into a deal for a starting pitcher or shortstop at some point in the future.

Murphy shares his May 13th birthday with this  Yankee pitching prospect from over a quarter century ago and also this one from much more recent times.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2013 NYY 16 27 26 3 4 1 0 0 1 0 1 9 .154 .185 .192 .377
2014 NYY 11 28 27 2 11 1 0 1 5 0 1 6 .407 .429 .556 .984
2 Yrs 27 55 53 5 15 2 0 1 6 0 2 15 .283 .309 .377 .686
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/13/2014.

May 12 – Happy Birthday Yogi Berra

My personal memory of this great Yankee took place during a game I attended at Yankee Stadium sometime during the early 1960s, probably 1962. My Uncle always got us field box seats when he took us to the Stadium, somewhere between first base and the right field foul pole. Berra came to the plate and I vividly remember several things about the at bat. The pitch he hit was very high, especially for the short 5’8″ Berra. He hit the ball on a line. It went by me, my Uncle and my older brother like a comet, right at our eye level but still rising. When it hit the drab green painted metal facing of the Stadium’s mezzanine level in right field, it hit it so hard that the clang it made actually echoed throughout the Stadium. I did not see anyone hit a ball as hard as that one until over thirty years later when Jose Canseco hit one out of Fenway that may still have not landed. Of course Jose used steroids and the only juice a urine test might have discovered in Berra’s body was the kind you squeezed out of oranges.

Yogi Berra was a marvelous Yankee catcher who won ten championship rings. He had supreme offensive and defensive skills and his teammates loved him. He was also under appreciated as a manager, being the only field boss to win pennants for both the Yankees and Mets.

There are so many things I cherish about the game of baseball and having had the opportunity to watch number 8 play the game is high on that list. Happy 89th birthday Yogi.

Yogi shares his May 12th birthday with this former Yankee third baseman,  this war-time starting pitcher and this famous older brother.

Berra’s Yankee career record as a player:

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1946 NYY 7 23 22 3 8 1 0 2 4 0 1 1 .364 .391 .682 1.073
1947 NYY 83 306 293 41 82 15 3 11 54 0 13 12 .280 .310 .464 .775
1948 NYY 125 497 469 70 143 24 10 14 98 3 25 24 .305 .341 .488 .830
1949 NYY 116 443 415 59 115 20 2 20 91 2 22 25 .277 .323 .480 .802
1950 NYY 151 656 597 116 192 30 6 28 124 4 55 12 .322 .383 .533 .915
1951 NYY 141 594 547 92 161 19 4 27 88 5 44 20 .294 .350 .492 .842
1952 NYY 142 603 534 97 146 17 1 30 98 2 66 24 .273 .358 .478 .835
1953 NYY 137 557 503 80 149 23 5 27 108 0 50 32 .296 .363 .523 .886
1954 NYY 151 651 584 88 179 28 6 22 125 0 56 29 .307 .367 .488 .855
1955 NYY 147 615 541 84 147 20 3 27 108 1 60 20 .272 .349 .470 .819
1956 NYY 140 596 521 93 155 29 2 30 105 3 65 29 .298 .378 .534 .911
1957 NYY 134 545 482 74 121 14 2 24 82 1 57 24 .251 .329 .438 .767
1958 NYY 122 476 433 60 115 17 3 22 90 3 35 35 .266 .319 .471 .790
1959 NYY 131 521 472 64 134 25 1 19 69 1 43 38 .284 .347 .462 .809
1960 NYY 120 404 359 46 99 14 1 15 62 2 38 23 .276 .347 .446 .792
1961 NYY 119 436 395 62 107 11 0 22 61 2 35 28 .271 .330 .466 .795
1962 NYY 86 263 232 25 52 8 0 10 35 0 24 18 .224 .297 .388 .685
1963 NYY 64 164 147 20 43 6 0 8 28 1 15 17 .293 .360 .497 .856
19 Yrs 2120 8359 7555 1175 2150 321 49 358 1430 30 704 414 .285 .348 .482 .830
G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
NYY (18 yrs) 2116 8350 7546 1174 2148 321 49 358 1430 30 704 411 .285 .348 .483 .830
NYM (1 yr) 4 9 9 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .222 .222 .222 .444
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/12/2013.
Berra’s Yankee career record as a manager:
Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
1 1964 39 New York Yankees AL 164 99 63 .611 1 AL Pennant
6 1984 59 New York Yankees AL 162 87 75 .537 3
7 1985 60 New York Yankees AL 1st of 2 16 6 10 .375 2
New York Mets 4 years 588 292 296 .497 3.0 1 Pennant
New York Yankees 3 years 342 192 148 .565 2.0 1 Pennant
7 years 930 484 444 .522 2.6 2 Pennants
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/12/2013.

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.

April 16 – Happy Birthday Frank Fernandez

fernandez.jpgToday’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant was a back up catcher during his days in pinstripes. Many have served in that role through the ages. The current guy in that position, Chris Stewart, was a surprise choice at the very end of the 2012 spring training season, a move that ended the popular Francisco Cervelli’s two-year hold on the same job. The first backup catcher in franchise history was Jack O’Connor. Known as Rowdy Jack, he was already 37 years old when he spent the 1903 season backing up Monte Beville behind home plate. O’Connor batted just .203 that season but that was nine points better than Beville hit. Benny Bengough was the Yankees’ first long-term second catcher. He started his pinstripe career in 1923 behind Wally Schang on the depth chart and finished it eight seasons later behind Hall-of-Famer, Bill Dickey. Dickey’s longtime backup was the Norwegian receiver, Arndt Jorgens, who spent all eleven of his big league seasons in that role. Yogi Berra’s backup during the first half of his Yankee careeer was Charley Silvera. Elston Howard took over from him and gradually took over the starting catcher’s job from Berra. During the fabled 1961 Yankee season, the Yankees had three catchers, Howard, Berra and Johnny Blanchard all hit more than 20 home runs in the same season. Former Yankee Manager, Ralph Houk had been a backup catcher for New York during his playing days and the team’s current Manager, Joe Girardi, ended his Yankee playing days in that supporting role behind Jorge Posada. Some of the better known Yankee backup catchers included Rick Dempsey, Fran Healy, and Ivan Rodriguez.

I can clearly recall when today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant took over as the Yankee backup receiver. It was during the 1967 season. Elston Howard had broke completely down physically that year and the Yankees inserted his backup, Jake Gibbs as starting catcher and brought up Frank Fernandez from their farm system to become the new number two receiver. The native of Staten Island held onto that backup role for three seasons until Thurman Munson arrived in the Bronx in 1969. Fernandez was then traded to the A’s. He was decent defensively and had some power in his bat, hitting 12 home runs for New York in 1969 and then 15 for the A’s a season later. He also had a keen batting eye. His biggest problem was that when he did swing the bat he usually missed the ball. Frank averaged about one strikeout every three times at bat during his Yankee career and averaged just .199 during the six seasons he played in the big leagues.

Fernandez shares his birthday with one of the only five Yankee players to have collected three thousand base hits during their big league careers and this former Yankee utility infielder.

Year Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1967 NYY AL 9 32 28 1 6 2 0 1 4 1 1 2 7 .214 .281 .393 .674
1968 NYY AL 51 171 135 15 23 6 1 7 30 1 0 35 50 .170 .341 .385 .726
1969 NYY AL 89 298 229 34 51 6 1 12 29 1 3 65 68 .223 .399 .415 .814
6 Yrs 285 903 727 92 145 21 2 39 116 4 4 164 231 .199 .350 .395 .744
OAK (2 yrs) 98 304 261 31 55 6 0 15 45 1 0 41 79 .211 .322 .406 .728
NYY (3 yrs) 149 501 392 50 80 14 2 20 63 3 4 102 125 .204 .372 .403 .775
CHC (2 yrs) 20 61 44 11 7 1 0 4 4 0 0 17 17 .159 .393 .455 .848
WSA (1 yr) 18 37 30 0 3 0 0 0 4 0 0 4 10 .100 .194 .100 .294
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/15/2013.