Results tagged ‘ catcher ’
Hank Severeid was one of baseball’s better catchers during the pre and post WWI eras, when he started behind the plate for the St Louis Browns. Like a fine wine, this native of Iowa seemed to improve with age, especially with his bat. Always considered a good defensive backstop, by 1921, Severeid’s tenth year in the big leagues, he had turned himself into a .300 hitter. He was also an iron man in baseball’s toughest position. He caught 100 games or more in eight of the ten seasons he played in St Louis. In 1917, he became (and remains) the only big league catcher in history to catch no-hit games on consecutive days.
In June of the 1925 season, the Browns traded Severeid to the Senators, where he backed up the popular Washington catcher, Muddy Ruel. After hitting .355 during his first half season in that role, he got off to a horrible start at the plate in 1926 and the Senators put him on waivers.
The Yankees snapped him up and used him as a backup to their primary receiver, Pat Collins. When Collins injured his arm, Severeid found himself playing every day and helped that Yankee team win the 1926 AL Pennant. With Collins still hurting, Severeid was behind the plate in all seven games of that year’s World Series which matched New York against the St. Louis Cardinals. He hit .273 during that Fall Classic and his best moment came during the historic seventh game.
St. Louis had a 3-1 lead in the bottom half of the sixth inning when Severeid came to the plate with two outs and New York’s “Jumping Joe” Dugan on first base. Hank hit a line-drive double to left field off of Cardinal pitcher Jesse Haines, scoring Dugan. In the next inning, Haines loaded the bases with Yankees with two outs. Cardinal manager, Rogers Hornsby brought in Grover Alexander, who struck out Tony Lazzeri to end the threat and then pitched two more innings of hitless relief to seal the game and the Series for St. Louis.
That double Severeid hit against Haines turned out to be his last hit as both a Yankee and a Major Leaguer. He returned to minor league play in 1927 and kept catching until he was 46 years old. During his 15-year big league career he had a .289 lifetime batting average with 1,245 hits. He would eventually become a big league scout.
|SLB (11 yrs)||1182||4289||3865||367||1121||181||36||17||485||34||290||139||.290||.342||.369||.711|
|CIN (3 yrs)||95||193||176||15||44||6||4||0||23||0||12||18||.250||.302||.330||.631|
|WSH (2 yrs)||72||162||144||13||46||9||1||0||18||0||16||8||.319||.388||.396||.783|
|NYY (1 yr)||41||142||127||13||34||8||1||0||12||1||13||4||.268||.336||.346||.682|
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.
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|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|
I can remember thinking the 2002 New York Yankees were going to roll to the team’s fifth World Series championship in seven seasons. They finished 103-58 during the regular season and had Mussina, Clemens, Pettitte and Wells in their rotation. They were loaded offensively as well, with Jason Giambi, Alfonso Soriano and Bernie Williams all driving in 100 runs that year and every member of the starting lineup hitting double figures in home runs.
Yankee catcher, Jorge Posada also had a strong regular season, hitting 20 home runs and driving in 99 while catching 131 games. During those rare games when Posada wasn’t behind the plate for New York, the honor went to today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant.
The Yankees signed Chris Widger to a free agent contract in February of 2002. The Wilmington, Delaware native had broken into the big leagues in 1995 with Seattle and had been the Expos’s starting catcher from 1997 until he was traded back to the Mariners in August of 2000. Widger then hurt his shoulder and was forced to sit out the entire 2001 season.
Back then, Posada was hypersensitive about playing time. He had broken in with New York behind Joe Girardi and hated sitting the bench when Torre gave Girardi his share of time behind the plate. After letting Girardi sign with the Cubs after the 1999 season, the Yankee front-office decided to quell Posada’s anxiety by using only journeymen for his back-ups. That’s why they had signed both Widger and former Met reserve catcher Albert Castillo before the ’02 season.
It was Castillo who started the year behind Posada that April, but when he hit just .135 during the first half of the season, the Yankees decided to give Widger a shot. When he started his Yankee career with a six-game hitting streak that July, one had to wonder if Posada started getting edgy. Widger followed that up with a five game streak in August and finished the reason hitting .297. The Yankees kept him on the postseason roster but he saw no action in the team’s bitterly disappointing loss to the Angels in the first round of the playoffs.
He went to spring training in Tampa the following February and in an ungraceful move, the Yankees waited until the first week of April to release him. He did get to play that season with the Cardinals and remained in the big leagues until 2006. Widger shares his birthday with a former Yankee third baseman who should be getting into the Hall-of-Fame in the next few years. This long-ago Yankee pitcher was also born on May 21.
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|SEA (3 yrs)||41||73||67||4||12||0||0||2||3||0||4||18||.179||.233||.269||.502|
|CHW (2 yrs)||72||241||217||24||48||11||0||5||18||0||19||42||.221||.285||.341||.626|
|STL (1 yr)||44||112||102||9||24||9||0||0||14||0||6||20||.235||.279||.324||.603|
|NYY (1 yr)||21||68||64||4||19||5||0||0||5||0||2||9||.297||.338||.375||.713|
|BAL (1 yr)||9||20||17||0||2||0||0||0||2||0||2||4||.118||.211||.118||.328|
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.”
As the Yankees’ 2000 season approached, Jorge Posada was entering his prime. The one thing Joe Torre had learned about his sensitive catcher was that he hated not playing. That helps explain why the Yankees had let his predecessor, Joe Girardi sign with the Cubs as a free agent after the 1999 season. Torre knew there were not enough games or innings available in a season to keep both guys happy so he fully committed to Posada and the Yankees began their search for a backup catcher who was good enough to catch a game when necessary but not good enough to pose a consistent threat to Jorge’s playing time.
During the 2000 spring training season, it looked as if Tom Pagnozzi would be the guy. But he had a horrible spring and a sore shoulder to boot. Today’s Birthday Celebrant, Chris Turner was Pagnozzi’s primary competition in camp and he had not set the world on fire while in Florida either. So when the team headed north it went without either guy and Jim Leyritz was designated Jorge’s backup as the season started. Then when Nick Johnson got hurt at the end of April and went on the DL, the Yanks brought up Turner and he was ready.
The Bowling Green, KY native had spent his first five big league seasons as a reserve catcher with the Angels. In 1998, he caught four games for the Royals and the following year, he got into twelve games with the Indians. Now with the Yankees, Turner got off to a hot start with his bat. At the end of July, he was hitting .360 and had an on base percentage of .418. Torre figured out how to get him into games by making him David Cone’s personal catcher. “Conie” was having a horrible 2000 season but had pitched pretty well the two times he was matched up with Turner as his battery mate. Torre made the pairing permanent.
Unfortunately for both the pitcher and his catcher, it didn’t help. Cone finished the season 4-14 and Turner finished it in a horrific slump that saw his .360 average of July fall to just .236 by season’s end. Compounding Turner’s difficulties was the fact that with Cone on the mound, base runners ran frequently and Turner was only able to prevent three of the twenty-two runners attempting to steal against him.
After the Yankees beat the Mets in that year’s Series (in which Turner did not play) New York’s brain trust decided that despite Posada’s sensitive side, they had to shore up the back up catcher’s spot with somebody who could more effectively replace Jorge, both offensively and defensively, in case he got hurt. They released Turner and signed veteran Bob Oliver. Turner’s playing career was over at the age of 31.
This native Venezuelan emerged from the Yankee farm system when catchers Jorge Posada and Jose Molina both were hurt during the 2009 season. Cervelli did a surprisingly terrific job, hitting .298 in 42 games and earning the praise of the Yankee pitching staff for his work behind the plate. I use the word surprisingly because at the time, Cervelli seemed to handle big league pitching better than he did minor league stuff. That’s what I most liked about this kid. He seemed to step up when the pressure got more intense and that caused the expectations I had for the kid to rise up as the 2010 season approached.
Francisco got off to a rough start in 2010 when he was beaned on his birthday in spring training and suffered a concussion. When he returned he was wearing a new bulkier batting helmet that protected him better but also made it look like his head had shrunk. The new oversized lid also seemed to be making him a better hitter. When Posada got hurt early in the year, Cervelli took over as starter and had his batting average in the high .300′s well into May. I still remember blinking my eyes a couple of times when I checked a box score of a Yankee Red Sox game I missed that month and saw five RBI’s next to Cervelli’s name.
But the bat cooled off and more disappointingly, so did Francisco’s work behind the plate. The passed balls, errors and horrible throws started appearing in bunches and it convinced me that the kid was not yet ready to be a full-time catcher.
Give him credit though. Cervelli refused to give up on the notion that he and not Russell Martin, Jesus Montero or Austin Romine would be the next great Yankee behind home plate and he spent the winter of 2010 working like mad to get in the better physical shape he knew it would take to compete against that trio. But the injury bug hit him again during the 2011 exhibition season when a foul ball off his own bat fractured his foot. By the time he got back into action, Martin had not only solidified his hold on New York’s starting catching position, he proved to be an iron man back there and did not take many games off. As a result Cervelli played in just 43 games in 2011 and his season ended in early September when he suffered yet another concussion and missed the rest of the regular season and the Yankees’ two postseason series.
He arrived at New York’s 2012 spring camp knowing he was not going to push Martin out of his starting role and that he was going to have to compete with Austin Romine to keep his job as Martin’s backup. Everyone including Cervelli and me was shocked when Yankee GM Brian Cashman traded for San Francisco Giant back-up catcher just before Opening Day 2012 and Cervelli ended up getting sent back to Triple A for almost the entire regular season. Francisco actually broke into tears when Manager Joe Girardi gave him the news of his sudden demotion.
But Francisco has hung in there. Even though he had a bad season down on the farm, he came to the 2013 Yankee spring training camp knowing Russell Martin was gone and he’d have his best opportunity ever to win New York’s starting catcher’s job. He needs to beat out Stewart and Romine and I’d say his odds for doing so are fifty-fifty. I have to admit, however, that I found his alleged involvement in the recent Miami-based PEDs dispensing clinic investigation very disturbing. To me, Cervelli could serve as a classic example of a desperate ballplayer, at the crossroads of his career turning to performance enhancing pharmaceuticals to help him get to the next level. I hope my concern is proven to be completely unfounded when the results of the MLB investigation into this clinic are divulged.
During his five seasons in pinstripes, Cervelli has averaged .271.
Cervelli shares his birthday with this former Yankee outfielder.
I was a huge Elston Howard fan when I was a kid. He never seemed to get the amount of media attention accorded to his more famous Yankee teammates but he certainly got the attention of Yankee opponents. In 1961 he hit .348, a ridiculously high average for an everyday big league catcher. In 1962 he drove in 91 runs from the six-hole of the Yankee lineup. In 1963, he was selected the AL MVP and in 1964 he played in 150 games, hit .313 and was named to his seventh consecutive AL All Star team.
The Yankees were slow to integrate their team, waiting till 1956 to do it with Howard, who by then was already 26 years old. Compounding Ellie’s delayed development was a Yankee roster loaded with talent and his first Yankee manager, Casey Stengel’s platoon system, which combined to relegate Howard to less than 375 at bats in five of his first six big league seasons.
It wasn’t until Ralph Houk replaced Stengel in 1961 that Howard became a full-time part of the Yankee lineup and by then, he was already 32 years old. Give him those 450 at bat seasons beginning when he was 22 or 23 and Howard would have hit closer to 300 lifetime home runs instead of 167, he’d have easily added perhaps 700 more hits to his career total of 1,471, he’d have seven world series rings instead of four and perhaps he’d be in Cooperstown today.
Over the five decades I’ve been a Yankee fan, there have been a lot of back-up catchers come and go on the Yankee roster. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant held that position for New York back during the strike shortened season of 1981. But Barry Foote wasn’t always a back-up. In fact, when he came up to the big leagues in 1974, he was good enough to beat out future Hall-of-Famer, Gary Carter for Montreal’s starting catcher’s position. That season he hit 11 home runs, drove in 60, averaged .262 plus displayed a strong arm and great defensive ability behind home plate. He was named to the Topp’s All-Rookie team. The following year, however, Foote pretty much stopped hitting and his putrid .194 batting average in 1975, opened the door for Carter to begin his legendary career as one of the best backstops of his era.
Foote remained with Montreal as “The Kid’s” backup until 1977, when he was dealt to the Phillies. He got one more chance at a starting job in 1979, after Philadelphia traded him to the Cubs. He put together a strong debut season in Chicago, hitting a career high 16 home runs and averaging a respectable .256. Then in ’80, he lost his starting job to Tim Blackwell. The following April, the Yankees traded for Barry.
Rick Cerone had become New York’s starting catcher in 1980 and the veteran, Johnny Oates had been his backup that first year. The Yankees had signed Oates to another one-year contract just three weeks before they traded for Foote but it was Barry who became Cerone’s primary backup in that whacky strike-shortened 1981 split season. Foote hit just .208 his first year in pinstripes, appearing in 40 games and producing six home runs. He also got the opportunity to appear in his one and only World Series that fall against the Dodgers. He failed to get a hit in his only at-bat. He remained with the Yankees in 1982 and retired as a player after that season. The Yankees then hired Foote to manage in their Minor League system.
He shares his February 16th birthday with this former Yankee pitcher.
His name was Nathaniel Michael Garbark but everybody called him “Mike.” Growing up in Texas, he was a great all-around athlete and after completing an outstanding football career at Villanova University, he followed his older brother Bob into a career in professional baseball. When he signed with the Yankees in 1938, New York hoped he might some day replace the great Bill Dickey. But Garbark’s weakness was his hitting. He struggled at the plate for the next six years, at every level of the Yankee farm system. By 1944, however, Garbark and 37-year-old Rollie Hemsley were the two best catchers left in the Yankee organization who had not yet been drafted. Yankee Manager Joe McCarthy, promoted Garbark to the big league roster that year and as the 1944 season started, he served as Hemsley’s backup. Then in mid-August of that year, Hemsley was drafted and the 28-year-old Garbark became the starter. He caught 29 straight games and earned the admiration of his Manager, teammates and the Big Apple sports media by doing a decent job behind the plate and surprising everyone by hitting a solid .261 in 89 games of action.
That performance earned him a second season as the Yankee starting catcher and that’s when his offensive problems returned. He was hitting .038 at the end of April. Incredibly, he went hitless in May and lowered his average to .020. At one point, Garbark went on an 0-49 streak at the plate. After one fruitless at bat, the frustrated Garbark returned to the Yankee dugout and did his Paul O’Neill interpretation by smashing the water cooler, destroying the bat rack and kicking the bench. McCarthy actually had to physically sit him down, rub the guy’s shoulders and tell him not to worry about his hitting because he was going to keep catching for the team, no matter what. That assurance probably helped because Garbarak did start hitting a bit and by the end of August, he had his average back up to .218. But the Yankees had also brought in new catchers like Aaron Robinson and Bill Drescher. By the end of the 1945 season, the war was over and so was Garbark’s big league career. He went on to become a Manager in the minor leagues.
So why wasn’t Garbark drafted also? He was declared 4-F by his draft board but I couldn’t locate the reason cited for that classification. He passed away in 1990, at the age of 80. Garbark shares his February 2nd birthday with this outfielder who was known as “Mickey Mantle’s legs” and this one-time Yankee outfielder nicknamed Papa Bear.
Les Nunamaker was the second starting catcher in New York Yankee history. He succeeded a guy named Jeff Sweeney who in addition to being the first starting catcher for the Yankees in 1913, had also been the last starting catcher for the New York Highlanders the season before. The Yankees purchased Nunamaker from the Red Sox during the 1914 season and immediately put him in the starting lineup. He set a record that first season with New York that can never be broken, when he threw out three runners attempting to steal second base all in the same inning. Not a great hitter, Nunamaker was a big burly guy who was fearless behind the plate. He caught for New York for four years until Miller Huggins took over for Bill Donovan as Yankee skipper after the 1917 season. Huggins included Nunamaker in a package of five players that he traded to the Browns for future Hall of Fame hurler Eddie Plank and Del Pratt, in January of 1918.
After one season in St Louis, Nunamaker was traded to the Indians where he became best buddy with and a regular fishing and hunting partner of the great Tris Speaker. He was also involved in a whacky moment off the field during the 1920 season. One morning he awoke in his hotel bedroom to find a wad of bills wrapped up under his pillow. Since this was just one season after the Black Sox scandal, Nunamaker immediately turned over the cash to then baseball commissioner, Ban Johnson. When the wad was unrolled it was found to consist of sixteen Confederate one dollar bills. Nunamaker played until 1922 and then became a coach and manager in the minor leagues. He passed away in his native Nebraska in 1938 at the very young age of