Results tagged ‘ coach ’

February 27 – Happy Birthday Cy Perkins

200px-Cy_PerkinsShortly after Joe McCarthy took over as Yankee manager following the 1930 season, the Philadelphia A’s put their long-time catcher, Cy Perkins on waivers. Seeing an opportunity to take ownership of Perkins’ years of experience as one of the American League’s best defensive catchers, Marse Joe told the Yankee front office to claim the native of Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Perkins had been the A’s starting catcher for six seasons, from 1919 until 1924, which included some of the worst teams in the franchise’s history. In 1925, Mickey Cochrane took over as Philadelphia’s starter behind the plate and Perkins became his backup for the next six seasons, during which Philadelphia developed into the best team in the American League. Cochrane was born a great hitter but when he made his debut with Philadelphia, he was a horrible defensive catcher. It was Perkins who taught the future Hall-of-Famer how to catch and he proved to be an excellent teacher.

His real name was Ralph Foster Perkins which makes me wonder how in the hell he came to be known as “Cy.” He was a pretty good hitter himself, averaging right around .270 during his starting days with the A’s and usually driving in between 60 and 70 runs a year. When he got to the Yankees in 1931, Bill Dickey was firmly ensconced as the team’s number one catcher but just as McCarthy had hoped, Perkins became a huge asset on the Yankee bench. He knew the strengths and weaknesses of every hitter in the league and Dickey and the entire Yankee pitching staff took full advantage of his expert advice. New York’s staff gave gave up 138 fewer runs than they surrendered in 1930 and some of the credit for that improvement had to go to their new third-string catcher.

With both Dickey and Arndt Jorgens in front of him on the depth chart, Perkins didn’t get much of a chance to actually catch during his only season as a Yankee player. He appeared in just 16 games during the ’31 season, collecting 12 hits with 7 RBIs and a .255 batting average. He then spent the next two seasons as a Yankee coach, joining the legendary Art Fletcher to provide McCarthy with a dynamic duo of baseball brainpower that would help him direct New York to a World Championship in 1932. After two seasons of coaching for the Yankees, he rejoined his former student Cochrane, who had become the player-manager of the Detroit Tigers. That Tiger ball club then went to two straight World Series and won the 1935 Fall Classic. Perkins died in 1963 at the age of 67.

He shares his birthday with another Yankee catcher, this former Yankee reliever and this other former Yankee reliever.

1931 NYY 16 49 47 3 12 1 0 0 7 0 1 4 .255 .286 .277 .562
17 Yrs 1171 4022 3604 329 933 175 35 30 409 18 301 221 .259 .319 .352 .670
PHA (15 yrs) 1154 3972 3556 326 921 174 35 30 402 18 300 217 .259 .319 .353 .672
NYY (1 yr) 16 49 47 3 12 1 0 0 7 0 1 4 .255 .286 .277 .562
DET (1 yr) 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 3/2/2014.

January 30 – Happy Birthday Joe Kerrigan

UnknownOne of the last things George Steinbrenner did as the active owner of the New York Yankees to upset me was harping and complaining about Mel Stottlemyre’s coaching style just enough to cause one of my all-time favorite Yankees to resign as the team’s pitching coach. I always thought Stottlemyre was one of the best pitching mentors in the game and his work with the Mets’ staffs of the mid eighties and the Yankee pitchers in the nineties produced outstanding results. Nevertheless, the Boss had a long history of blaming his team’s coaches for the players’ failures and Stottlemyre became part of that history after the 2005 season. The Yankees had hired today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant as a scout that same season.

Joe Kerrigan had an unspectacular three-plus season big-league career as a reliever during the late 1970s and than became the Expos bullpen coach in 1983. After four seasons in that position he became a pitching coach in the Expos farm system and after completing that three-year apprenticeship, he was promoted to the same position with the parent club. He did great work with that Montreal pitching staff for the next few seasons and is credited with helping a young Pedro Martinez become a premier pitcher.

In 1997, Kerrigan was hired as the Red Sox pitching coach and one year later, he was reunited with Martinez, when Boston traded Carl Pavano to the Expos for the ace right-hander. During the next three seasons the two helped Boston’s staff evolve into one of the best in the game and in August of 2001, Kerrigan was rewarded for his good work, when Red Sox GM Dan Duquette hired him as the team’s new Manager and gave him a multi-year contract. In a shocking development, Kerrigan lost the job after his team finished the 2001 season with a lackluster 17-26 record. Larry Lucchino, Tom Werner and John Henry had purchased the franchise during the offseason and wanted to move in a different direction, so they lowered the boom on the just-hired skipper and replaced him with Grady Little.

So when Brian Cashman found himself without a pitching coach after Stottlemyre quit in 2005, the Yankee GM immediately considered his new scout Kerrigan, as the leading candidate to replace him. Instead, the Yanks hired Ron Guidry to fill the slot but did make Kerrigan the  Yankee’s new bullpen coach. Gator was counting on Kerrigan to help him communicate with the ornery Yankee ace, Randy Johnson. Steinbrenner had blamed Stottlemyre for not being able to get Johnson pitching better during his first season in pinstripes and the departing coach agreed that he had a tough time communicating with the multiple Cy Young Award winner. Kerrigan had spent three seasons working with the Big Unit back in the late eighties when Johnson was an Expos’ minor league prospect and the two had a good relationship.

Instead of improving however, Johnson got worse in 2006 and his ERA ballooned to a career-worst 5.00. Both Guidry and Kerrigan were replaced after the 2007 season, as was Torre. Kerrigan became the Pirates’ pitching coach the following year. In February of 2009, Torre’s book, “The Yankee Years” was released. In it he cited the hiring of Kerrigan as one of the examples of Brian Cashman trying to undercut his authority as Yankee Manager. It seems Cashman really wanted Kerrigan and not Guidry to get that pitching coach job in 2006, while Torre insisted on Guidry. According to the former skipper, Cashman made it a point to criticize Guidry’s methods during his entire tenure in the job. Joe Kerrigan had landed himself right in the middle of the famous Bronx Zoo.

Kerrigan shares his birthday with this former Yankee reliever.

January 5 – Happy Birthday Art Fletcher

fletcherI’m writing this post about a month before pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Tampa for the start of the Yankees’ 2013 spring training camp. You’d think at this time of year the only number New York’s front office would be concerned with would be “28,” because that’s the number of World Championships the franchise would have if they can get to and win the 2013 World Series. But instead of “28,” Yankee fans have been reading a whole lot about the number “189,” as in $189,000,000, the amount of money Major League Baseball has established as each team’s salary cap for the 2014 season. If the Yanks can get their payroll down to that level, the team will save millions in penalties. The question is however, can a team that has always spent its way to the top of the standings get there on a reduced budget?

Money has not been the object in Yankee Universe since two filthy-rich Colonels, Rupert and Huston, purchased the franchise in 1915. They immediately began spending their way to the top of the AL standings by looking for, trading for and paying for the best talent money could buy. And it wasn’t just talented proven big league players they coveted, they wanted the best minor league prospects, the best managers and yes even the best coaches. Which brings me finally to today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant.

Art Fletcher had been the outstanding starting shortstop for the New York Giants, during most of that team’s John McGraw-led golden era, from 1909 until 1920. He was a scrappy, singles-hitting, .277 lifetime hitter who knew every trick in the book when it came to winning a baseball game. McGraw traded him to the Phillies in the middle of the 1920 season when Fletcher was 35-years-old. Two years later, he was made manager of that team and he remained in that job for four seasons. In 1926, Miller Huggins approached him with a job offer to become a coach for the Yankees. Fletcher had figured out he was too high strung and aggressive to enjoy the manager’s role, especially for a losing team like the Phillies, so he accepted Hug’s offer. He remained on the New York staff until he suffered a heart attack during the 1945 season and was forced to retire.

During his nineteen seasons in pinstripes, Fletcher became a legend in the coaching box. He was a master at learning and playing the strengths of each Yankee player against the specific weaknesses of each of their opponents. Huggins loved the guy and when the diminutive Yankee skipper died tragically during the 1929 season, it was Fletcher the Yankees turned to as his interim replacement. During his tenure in New York, Fletcher turned down numerous offers to manage other teams and the Yankees made it worth his while to stay in pinstripes. His annual salary rose to $10,000, an unheard of sum for a coach at the time.

Fletcher willingly returned to a coaching role when the Yankees hired Bob Shawkey to manage the club in 1930. But when Shawkey’s team failed to win the Pennant that year, Rupert hired the former Cubs’ skipper, Joe McCarthy to take his place. Since there had been bad blood between McCarthy and Fletcher dating back to the time when they were opposing managers in the senior circuit, the rumor mill was rampant that Marse Joe would fire the coach when he took control of his new team. That didn’t happen. McCarthy recognized Fletcher’s sky-high baseball IQ and the two worked brilliantly together. So brilliantly in fact that by the end of Fletcher’s career with New York, he had cashed $75,000 worth of World Series checks. (The Yankees won ten AL Pennants and nine World Series during Fletcher’s Yankee coaching career.)

Fletcher shares his January 5th birthday with this former AL Rookie of the Year and this former Bronx-born Yankee outfielder.

December 6 – Happy Birthday Larry Bowa

Larry BowaLarry Bowa was not blessed with a huge amount of natural ability. The reasons why he was able to play shortstop in the big leagues for sixteen seasons, win two Gold Gloves and become a five-time All Star were an incredible work ethic and a tremendous amount of passion for the game. He was also a quick study. He realized early on that knowledge was power on a baseball field so he learned everything he possibly could by observing the opposition in every aspect of every game. In 2006, he brought this same work ethic, passion and hunger for knowledge  to the Yankees when he accepted an offer to coach third base and infield defense for Joe Torre.

The thing I loved most about Bowa during his two seasons in New York’s third base coaching box, was his loyalty to Torre and the Yankee players and his obvious intensity. He refused to permit Yankee runners to lose their focus on the base paths. Pity the poor pinstriper who ignored or missed a Bowa delivered signal of any kind. Its been well established that it was Bowa who got a young Robbie Cano to improve his level of concentration whenever he was on the field. The naturally gifted second baseman flourished offensively and defensively under Bowa’s strict tutelage.  Alex Rodriguez told reporters that Bowa was the best in the business and I’ve read that Jeter loved this guy too.

One of the reasons I hated to see Joe Torre leave as Yankee manager after the 2007 season was that he took Bowa with him to Los Angeles. Bowa admired the way Torre managed a ball club and handled players. Once a manager himself, Bowa had a tough time controlling his intensity and some of his players rebelled against his high pressure approach. Torre’s calm demeanor as skipper complemented Bowa’s brash coaching style and made the relationship tick.  When he left for the Dodger job, the Yankee players instantly missed his motivational mentoring and though I respect Robbie Thompson, I wish Bowa was still stationed in New York’s third base coaching box. Bowa shares his December 6th birthday with this Hall-of-Fame Yankee second baseman, this Cuban defector who became a Yankee starting pitcher, this former Yankee catcher and this former Yankee DH.

October 25 – Happy Birthday Mike Harkey

Mike Harkey is currently the New York Yankee bullpen coach, but twenty-five years ago, he was the number 1 draft choice of the Chicago Cubs. In fact, he was almost the number 1 overall pick. Since Mariners’ owner George Arygos lived in Orange County, California, he had taken an active interest in the baseball program at nearby Cal State Fullerton. The Titans had won the NCAA Division 1 baseball title in 1984 and a year later the 6’5″ Harkey joined the program and became a dominant right-handed collegiate pitcher. As draft day approached in 1987, the Mariners owned the top pick overall and Arygos let his front office know he wanted to use it to take Harkey. Seattle’s scouting office had other ideas and they were successful convincing their boss they were right. So Seattle used that top pick on Ken Griffey Jr. and Harkey was selected by the Cubs two picks later.

Harkey’s problem was a chronically weak right shoulder. After putting together a 16-4 record in his first full season in the Cub farm system, his shoulder gave out plus he injured his knee and he missed the entire 1989 campaign. Cubs manager, Don Zimmer made Harkey his fifth starter to open the 1990 season and the rookie responded by winning five of his first six decisions. Frustrated by his team’s mediocre record, Zimmer decided to go with a four man rotation during the second half of that season and Harkey’s shoulder just couldn’t bear the added strain. He managed to finish that season 12-5, good enough to get him a fifth place finish in that year’s Rookie of the Year voting but he would never again pitch as many innings (179) or win as many games (12) during his eight-year big league career.

The San Diego native got into coaching after his playing days were over and in 2006 he was hired by the Marlins as Joe Girardi’s bullpen coach. When Girardi became the Yankee Manager two years later, he hired Harkey to serve in the same capacity with New York and he’s been mentoring the team’s reliever corps ever since.

Harkey shares his October 25th birthday with this former Yankee shortstop, this former Yankee reliever, this former Yankee GM and this former Yankee third baseman turned medical doctor.

October 21 – Happy Birthday Whitey Ford

The argument is easy to make that Whitey Ford is the greatest Yankee starting pitcher of all time. “The Chairman of the Board” was a winner from the get-go, helping New York capture the 1950 pennant in his rookie season by winning nine of ten regular season decisions. He then pitched eight and two thirds innings of shutout ball to earn his first of ten World Series victories in that year’s Fall Classic against the Philadelphia Whiz Kids.

After a two-year hitch in the military, Ford rejoined the Yankees in 1953 and began a streak of thirteen consecutive winning seasons. I firmly believe that if anyone other than Casey Stengel managed the Yankees during the fifties, Ford would have had a lot more regular season victories. Stengel liked to manipulate his rotation so he could match up Ford against the opposing team’s best pitcher, which caused Whitey to average about six to eight less starts per season than the aces of other Major League teams during that decade. When Ralph Houk took over from Stengel in 1961, he gave Ford the ball every fourth game down the stretch and the southpaw responded well to the regularity and extra workload. He had his best year in 1961, when he captured the Cy Young Award with a stunning 25-4 record. In 1963, he went 24-7 and in 1964, eight of his seventeen victories were complete game shutouts.

A native New Yorker, Whitey, country bumpkin Mickey Mantle, and the fiery Californian, Billy Martin, formed a friendship triumvirate that created a lot of success for the Yankees on the field but lots of trouble off of it. Since Ford only played once every five games, he could party hard six nights a week and rest up the evening before his scheduled start. As position players, Mantle and Martin didn’t have that luxury and there were many an early afternoon game when Whitey would sit in the dugout laughing at the play of his two hung over drinking buddies while Stengel fumed.

Ford retired in 1967 after spending his entire seventeen-year career in a Yankee uniform. His 236 regular season victories are still number 1 on New York’s all-time list. His incredible .690 career winning percentage is also still the best of any pitcher with 300 or more career decisions.

Back in 2008, during the ESPN television broadcast of the final game at Yankee Stadium, Ford and his longtime battery mate and fellow Hall-of-Famer Yogi Berra, were invited up to the broadcast booth to share their memories of playing in the Stadium. Those thirty minutes listening to two of my heroes talk about their Yankee playing days was the personal highlight of that 2008 baseball season. Whitey turns 84-years-old today. How did all those years come and go so fast?

Whitey shares his October 21st birthday with former Yankee pitcher, Bill Bevens and former Yankee catcher, John Flaherty.

1950 21 NYY AL 9 1 .900 2.81 20 12 5 7 2 1 112.0 87 39 35 7 52 59 1.241
1953 24 NYY AL 18 6 .750 3.00 32 30 2 11 3 0 207.0 187 77 69 13 110 110 1.435
1954 25 NYY AL 16 8 .667 2.82 34 28 4 11 3 1 210.2 170 72 66 10 101 125 1.286
1955 26 NYY AL 18 7 .720 2.63 39 33 4 18 5 2 253.2 188 83 74 20 113 137 1.187
1956 27 NYY AL 19 6 .760 2.47 31 30 1 18 2 1 225.2 187 70 62 13 84 141 1.201
1957 28 NYY AL 11 5 .688 2.57 24 17 2 5 0 0 129.1 114 46 37 10 53 84 1.291
1958 29 NYY AL 14 7 .667 2.01 30 29 1 15 7 1 219.1 174 62 49 14 62 145 1.076
1959 30 NYY AL 16 10 .615 3.04 35 29 4 9 2 1 204.0 194 82 69 13 89 114 1.387
1960 31 NYY AL 12 9 .571 3.08 33 29 1 8 4 0 192.2 168 76 66 15 65 85 1.209
1961 32 NYY AL 25 4 .862 3.21 39 39 0 11 3 0 283.0 242 108 101 23 92 209 1.180
1962 33 NYY AL 17 8 .680 2.90 38 37 0 7 0 0 257.2 243 90 83 22 69 160 1.211
1963 34 NYY AL 24 7 .774 2.74 38 37 1 13 3 1 269.1 240 94 82 26 56 189 1.099
1964 35 NYY AL 17 6 .739 2.13 39 36 2 12 8 1 244.2 212 67 58 10 57 172 1.099
1965 36 NYY AL 16 13 .552 3.24 37 36 1 9 2 1 244.1 241 97 88 22 50 162 1.191
1966 37 NYY AL 2 5 .286 2.47 22 9 7 0 0 0 73.0 79 33 20 8 24 43 1.411
1967 38 NYY AL 2 4 .333 1.64 7 7 0 2 1 0 44.0 40 11 8 2 9 21 1.114
16 Yrs 236 106 .690 2.75 498 438 35 156 45 10 3170.1 2766 1107 967 228 1086 1956 1.215
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/21/2013.

September 25 – Happy Birthday Johnny Sain

When it came to baseball, nothing came easy for Johnny Sain. He was born in Arkansas in 1917, five months after America’s entry into WWI. His dad was a pretty good semi-pro pitcher in his day and a  patient father, who took the time to teach his son the basic mechanics of pitching, including how to throw a curve ball. Although he was a physically big kid ( 6 feet 2 inches tall and close to 200 pounds) Sain never developed a fastball and as a result failed to impress any big league scouts during his high school pitching career. In fact, when Sain’s dad invited fellow Arkansawyer, Bill Dickey to talk to his son about a Major League career after one of Sain’s high school games, the Yankee catcher refused because he didn’t want to have to tell the youngster that he didn’t have what it would take to pitch in the big league.

Despite the lack of interest from big league teams, Sain persevered and got himself signed to a minor league contract in 1935. Seven years later, he made his big league debut with the Boston Braves, one of baseball’s worst teams at the time. That Brave team was managed by Casey Stengel and the “Ol Perfessor” wasn’t shy about using his rookie right-hander, getting Sain into 40 games that year as both a starter and reliever. Sain finished his 1942 rookie season with a 4-7 record and then enlisted in the Navy and went to aviation school. He eventually served as a flight instructor and later credited his flight schooling as a key to his later success as a pitcher because it forced him to improve his concentration skills and he applied what he learned about aerodynamics to improving his curve ball.

He returned to the Braves in 1946 and went 20-14 with an outstanding 2.21 ERA. By 1947, Warren Spahn had joined him as a Braves’ 20-game winner and a year later, the dynamic mound duo pitched Boston into the World Series and the rally cry of “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain!” was born. The Indians beat the Braves in that Fall Classic in six games, but Sain did beat Bob Feller, 1-0 in a classic pitchers’ duel in Game 1. He also pitched a second complete game in Game 4, losing a 2-1 heartbreaker. In 1948, Sain achieved the 20-victory mark for the third season in a row. After slumping to 10-17 the following year, he won 20 again for Boston in 1950. But Sain had developed a sore shoulder during the 1949 season, trying to learn how to throw a screwball. By 1951, it looked as if his career might be over, when he slumped to 5-13. At the end of August during that ’51 season, the Braves jumped at the opportunity to trade “The Man of a Thousand Curves” to the Yankees for New York pitching phee-nom, Lew Burdette. Boston also received $50,000 badly needed Yankee dollars in that deal.

In New York, Sain was reunited with Stengel, his first big league manager. Casey and Yankee pitching coach Jim Turner made the great decision to return Sain to the same role he had filled during his rookie season with the Braves, a reliever and spot starter. He went 11-6 with 7 saves in 1952 and 14-7 with 9 saves in ’53. The Yankees won World Series rings in both those seasons and Sain’s versatile pitching was a big reason why. In ’54, the Yankees converted Sain into a full-time reliever and he led the AL in saves with 22.

When the 1955 season began, Sain was 37-years-old and Yankee GM George Weiss was convinced he was finished as a big league pitcher. The cold-hearted Weiss dealt both him and 39-year-old Enos Slaughter to the Kansas City A’s in May of that year. Sain’s playing career was in fact over. He would retire after the ’55 season with a 139-116 record for his 11 year big league career, with 51 saves. (His Yankee record was 33-20 with 39 saves.)

In 1961, Yankee manager Ralph Houk would hire Sain as his pitching coach and he would perform brilliantly in that role. It was Sain who convinced Houk to go from Stengel’s five-man pitching rotation to a four-man version and Whitey Ford credits that move with rejuvenating his career. In his best selling book, “Ball Four,” Jim Bouton called Sain “the greatest pitching coach who ever lived!” Sain left the Yankees after the 63 season but would later serve as pitching coach for both Minnesota and Detroit. He developed a reputation for being tremendously loyal to and protective of the pitchers under his care. In addition to Yankee hurlers Ford, Bouton and Ralph Terry, he is also credited with helping Denny McLain, Mudcat Grant, Jim Kaat, Mickey Lolich and Earl Wilson become 20-game-winners. Sain was also one of baseball’s best hitting pitchers during his playing career, compiling a lifetime .245 batting average and striking out just 20 times in over 800 career at bats.

Sain was born on the very same day as this Hall-of-Fame Yankee shortstop and also shares a birthday with Robinson Cano’s predecessor as Yankee starting second baseman and this one-time Yankee reliever from the 1990’s.

1951 NYY 2 1 .667 4.14 7 4 2 1 0 1 37.0 41 17 17 5 8 21 1.324
1952 NYY 11 6 .647 3.46 35 16 15 8 0 7 148.1 149 70 57 15 38 57 1.261
1953 NYY 14 7 .667 3.00 40 19 19 10 1 9 189.0 189 68 63 16 45 84 1.238
1954 NYY 6 6 .500 3.16 45 0 39 0 0 22 77.0 66 27 27 11 15 33 1.052
1955 NYY 0 0 6.75 3 0 1 0 0 0 5.1 6 4 4 4 1 5 1.313
11 Yrs 139 116 .545 3.49 412 245 124 140 16 51 2125.2 2145 947 824 179 619 910 1.300
BSN (7 yrs) 104 91 .533 3.49 257 206 35 121 15 11 1624.1 1640 733 629 118 502 698 1.319
NYY (5 yrs) 33 20 .623 3.31 130 39 76 19 1 39 456.2 451 186 168 51 107 200 1.222
KCA (1 yr) 2 5 .286 5.44 25 0 13 0 0 1 44.2 54 28 27 10 10 12 1.433
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 9/25/2013.

August 16 – Happy Birthday Rob Thomson

The one guy who beats Manager Joe Girardi to Yankee Stadium on most Game Days is third base coach Rob Thomson. Usually when Girardi rolls into the Stadium’s inside parking garage, Thompson’s SUV has already been there for almost a half hour. The Yankee Manager has told reporters that Thomson is one of the hardest working coaches in baseball.

The native of Ontario, Canada was born on this date in 1963. He played collegiate baseball at the University of Kansas and was selected by the Tigers in the later rounds of the 1985 draft. He played third base and catcher in the minors, but neither well enough to make it to the big leagues as a player. He gave up trying in 1988 and became a minor league coach in the Detroit organization. Two years later he was hired in the same capacity by the Yankees. By 1998 he was working in the Yankee front office and in 2000, he was named the Yankee’s Director of Player Development. He started his big league coaching career in 2008, when the newly hired Girardi made Thomson his bench coach. A year later he took over as third base coach and has been flashing the on-the-field offensive signals for the Yankees ever since. He is also the the team’s outfielders’ coach.

I’ll admit that sometimes, Thomson drives me up the wall. Earlier this season for example, in a game against Tampa, the Yankees were down by a run early and with nobody out, he waved the lumbering Mark Teixeira home on a sharp ground ball single hit directly at a charging left-fielder. The guy had the ball in his glove before Teixeira got to third and the catcher had the ball so early in the play, he could have ate a sandwich waiting for Teixeira to reach the plate. But for the most part, you don’t even notice Thomson during a game which is a sign of an excellent base coach.

Thomson shares his August 16th birthday with this great Yankee outfielder from the late nineteen-forties and early fifties and this WWII era 20-game-winner.

August 8 – Happy Birthday Frank Howard

Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was a legitimate monster of the game during the 1960’s. Nicknamed “Hondo,” he stood six feet eight inches tall, weighed close to 300 pounds and handled his tree-trunk sized bat as if it was a toothpick. Howard played both basketball and baseball at Ohio State and was signed by the Dodgers in 1958. During his two plus seasons in LA’s minor league system, he smashed 84 home runs and then became the NL Rookie of the Year in 1960. Five years later the Dodgers traded him to the Senators in the deal that brought pitcher Claude Osteen to Los Angeles.

During the next seven seasons, Hondo became the Senators first legitimate star player. He led the AL in homers in 1968 (44) and again in ’70 (44), when he also captured the AL RBI title with 126. He was a four-time AL All Star and hit some of the longest home runs in MLB history during his years playing in our Nation’s Capital. When the Senators moved to Texas in 1972, Howard’s stats nosedived and he was sold to the Tigers. Two years later he went to Japan but a knee injury prevented him from becoming the new “Godzilla.” He hit 382 big league home runs during his 16 season career back when reaching the 400 mark in that category meant automatic induction into Cooperstown.

He then turned to managing in the minor leagues and eventually got big league jobs skippering both the Padres and Mets. Though he didn’t have winning teams in either city he was considered a real good communicator, especially with the younger players. The Yankees hired him as a hitting coach in the late eighties and he served under both Stump Merrill and Bucky Showalter in that capacity. He was a tireless coach who would be the first person to arrive at the park every day of spring training and the last guy to leave at night. He’d hit fungos to Yankee outfielders for hours and stand by the batting cage just as long, helping young Yankee prospects like Bernie Williams work on weaknesses in their swings. He was widely respected by everyone on the team and his huge physical size made young Yankee prospects think twice about trying to skip out early on practice. He was born in Columbus, OH and turns 76 years old today. He shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher,  this other one too, and this former Yankee play-by-play announcer.

August 6 – Happy Birthday Jim Turner

Most of today’s MLB pitching coaches actually manage their team’s pitching staffs. That wasn’t always the case. It was Casey Stengel who revolutionized the role of that position when the Ol Perfessor made today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant his first Yankee pitching coach in 1949. Jim Turner decided who was going to pitch when for the Yankees and for the most part, Stengel never interfered. The arrangement worked, as New York won nine pennants and seven World Series under these two men.

Turner was a special mentor. It didn’t matter if his pitchers were stars, youngsters, grizzly old veterans or journeymen, Turner had the knack for getting them all to pitch better. He was revered by the Yankees’ big three of Vic Raschi, Allie Reynolds and Eddie Lopat. He was the guy who figured out Whitey Ford was tipping his curve ball and the adjustment they made together helped Ford get to Cooperstown. Bob Grim told reporters he wouldn’t have won 20 games or his Rookie of the Year Award without Turner’s guidance. Johnny Kucks and Tom Sturdivant couldn’t win anywhere else but they won in New York. He convinced Bob Turley to pitch without a windup and the rotund right-hander won a Cy Young Award.

Known as the “Milkman,” Turner was a detail sort of guy who took copious notes during each of his pitchers’ outings. He was also a proponent of pitchers acting responsibly off the field as well and would often assign veteran hurlers to room with rookie pitchers on the road to keep the kids on the straight and narrow.

When the Yankees finished a disappointing third in the 1959 AL standings it was Turner who was turned into the sacrificial lamb. He was fired and replaced by Lopat. He later became pitching coach for the Reds, before returning to the Yankees and coaching under Ralph Houk from 1966 until ’73.

A native of Tennessee, Turner pitched in the minors for fourteen years before getting his first shot in the big leagues with the old Boston Braves in 1937 at the age of 33. He went 20-11 in his rookie season and led the NL with a 2.38 ERA, 24 complete games and 5 shutouts. The following year, Stengel took over as manager of the Braves and Turner finished 14-18. He ended up getting traded to the Reds in 1940, where he helped Cincinnati win the NL Pennant with a 14-7 record and also earned his first World Series ring. The Yankees got him in 1942 and Turner became New York’s top reliever during the WWII years, leading the AL in saves with 10 in 1945. That was his last year playing in the big leagues. When he retired from coaching after the 1973 season, Turners professional baseball career had lasted one year more than a half-century. He died in 1998 at the age of 95.

Turner shares his August 6th birthday with this former Yankee reliever, this one too and this outfielder made famous during an episode of “Seinfeld.”

1942 NYY 1 1 .500 1.29 5 0 5 0 0 1 7.0 4 1 1 0 1 2 0.714
1943 NYY 3 0 1.000 3.53 18 0 12 0 0 1 43.1 44 22 17 1 13 15 1.315
1944 NYY 4 4 .500 3.46 35 0 28 0 0 7 41.2 42 23 16 3 22 13 1.536
1945 NYY 3 4 .429 3.64 30 0 26 0 0 10 54.1 45 26 22 4 31 22 1.399
9 Yrs 69 60 .535 3.22 231 119 86 69 8 20 1132.0 1123 482 405 67 283 329 1.242
NYY (4 yrs) 11 9 .550 3.44 88 0 71 0 0 19 146.1 135 72 56 8 67 52 1.380
BSN (3 yrs) 38 40 .487 3.24 93 86 6 55 8 1 682.1 676 286 246 44 157 190 1.221
CIN (3 yrs) 20 11 .645 3.06 50 33 9 14 0 0 303.1 312 124 103 15 59 87 1.223
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/5/2013.