Results tagged ‘ coach ’
Jim Hegan’s long career with the Yankees began in 1960. The then 40-year-old, five-time all-star catcher was released at midseason by the Chicago Cubs and signed a month later by New York, when both Yogi Berra and Ellie Howard went down with injuries. But Hegan never caught an inning in pinstripes because that Yankee team had a third catcher on its roster by the name of Johnny Blanchard. Blanchard had been wasting away on Casey Stengel’s bench for two seasons and when he heard New York had signed Hegan, he was irate and let Stengel and the Yankee front office know exactly how he felt. The outburst worked. Stengel finally played Blanchard behind the plate and Hegan sat the bench.
The Yankees replaced Stengel with Ralph Houk after that season and Houk asked Hegan to be his bullpen coach. Thus began Hegan’s fifteen year tenure as a coach with New York. During his seventeen-year playing career, he had established himself as one of the great defensive catchers of all-time. He was the master handler of those phenomenal Cleveland Indian starting rotations of the early 1950s, that included Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Early Wynn, Mike Garcia and later Herb Score. These guys never shook off a sign Hegan put down and each of them credited the catcher for making them better pitchers. Hegan also had perfect technique behind the plate and a shotgun for an arm, which enabled him to throw out 50% of the runners who attempted to steal against him, a phenomenal lifetime average.
The only thing Hegan couldn’t do was hit. His lifetime batting average was just .228. The Yankee relief pitchers and catchers Hegan later coached loved the guy. His son Mike was signed by New York during Hegan’s first season as Yankee coach and was considered a top prospect in the organization for years. In 1973, Hegan followed Ralph Houk to Detroit and became a Tiger coach. He rejoined the Yankee staff in 1979 and coached for New York for two more seasons. He died from a heart attack in 1984. at the age of 63.
If I managed a Dick’s Sporting Goods store in an area with a high demographic of Yankee fans, at the end of the aisle in which the store’s baseball equipment was sold, I’d have a life-sized cutout of Yankee first base coach, Mick Kelleher. Why? Yankee hitters use today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant as their on-the-field locker. Excuse me, I need to elaborate on that statement. I should have started it with “Successful Yankee hitters.” In fact, when I tune into a Yankee game in progress now-a-days, I can sometimes tell how the Yankee offense is doing when a camera shot of Kelleher performing his first base coaching duties comes up on my big screen. If things are going good for NY hitters in that particular inning, Kelleher will be adorned with the hitting accessories of those Yankee players who successfully reached base that inning. He might have A-Rod’s or Cano’s elbow pad on one arm and Mark Teixeira’s ankle guard on the other. Or it could be Jeter’s wrap-around hitting gloves coming out of Mick’s back pocket and Curtis Granderson’s sun glasses resting on top of his hat. Its a good thing for Kelleher that Yankee hitters can run the bases with their jock straps on, huh? In any event, if I managed a Dick’s Sporting Goods store, I’d load up my Kelleher cutout display with every piece of hitting accessory we had in stock.
The ironic thing about that would be that when Kelleher was a big league player himself, he was a horrible hitter. In fact, during his 11-season big league playing career that began in 1972 with the Cardinals and ended in 1982 with the Angels, this native of Seattle averaged just .213 and remains the last big league player who had over 1,000 career at bats without ever hitting a home run. Kelleher made it to the Majors because he was an exceptional defensive infielder, who could play a solid second, short or third. It was also those same defensive skills and Kelleher’s ability to help others learn them that first got Kelleher hired as the Yankees roving minor league infielders coach. His job was to help Yankee prospects like Robbie Cano, Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez become better defensive infielders. His ability to teach defense was also the primary reason the Yankees hired him to replace Tony Pena as the Yankee first base coach in 2009. Its Kelleher who runs all Yankee infield drills for New York including hitting thousands of practice ground balls to Jeter and Cano when the two superstars feel they need the extra work.
I was an oversized kid. My first little league baseball coach kept asking me if I wanted to try catching. We already had a kid on the team doing the catching and I believe his name was John Malec. John had a tendency to get lazy back there and he would sometimes sit instead of squat in in his crouch at which point our coach would scream, “Get your damn rump off the ground Malec. If you’re tired go home!”
Young Malec was not alone. That same phrase or words very similar could be heard shouted to boys dressed in oversized catcher’s gear by coaches and parents at thousands of baseball fields across our country. It was against protocol and considered taboo for a catcher to let his buttocks come in contact with the dirt when assuming the catchers’ crouch position to await the next pitch. So every time Coach Aldi would ask me if I wanted to catch, I would quickly say no because I did not want to have anybody yelling at me to keep my rump off the ground.
Now if today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant had started his Major League career in 1960 instead of 1980, either John Malec would be walking around with a lot fewer emotional scars or I myself might have even given the tools of ignorance a shot. Why? Because Tony Pena gave every lazy kid catcher an automatic retort to the phrase ”Get your damn rump off the ground catcher.”
Pena sat on his rump (see photo) waiting to receive every pitch thrown to him during his eighteen-year career as a big league catcher. He sat down back there during his seven years catching for the Pirates, his three seasons as a Cardinal, the four summers he caught in Cleveland and during his eighteenth and final year split between Chicago and Houston. He sat down back there for 1,950 games, the fourth most by any big league catcher in history.
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.
|NYY (13 yrs)||1492||5488||5044||588||1405||211||50||161||733||8||342||717||.279||.324||.436||.760|
|BOS (2 yrs)||113||358||319||31||66||7||0||6||29||1||31||69||.207||.279||.285||.564|
Very slim pickings when it comes to Yankees born on this particular date. I remember when Sammy Ellis was a pretty talented starting pitcher for Cincinnati back in the sixties. He was good enough to win 22 games for the Reds during the 1965 season. After ending his playing career in 1969, Ellis got into coaching and was eventually hired as the Yankee pitching coach three different times between 1982 and 1986, serving under managers Gene Michael, Billy Martin and Sweet Lou Piniella. Since Ellis was born in Youngstown, Ohio, I thought I’d take a look and see what other Yankees were native Buckeyes. Here’s my list of the top five Ohio-born Pinstripers of all time:
Number 1 – Thurman Munson
Number 2 – Paul O’Neill
Number 3 – Miller Huggins
Number 4 – Roger Peckinpaugh
Number 5 – Gene Woodling
Mike Ferraro was given two chances to make his living working for the New York Yankees at third base. Neither ended up very successfully. The first opportunity came in the mid sixties, when Clete Boyer was nearing the end of his career in pinstripes. New York had signed Ferraro in 1962 when he was just 17-years-old and the native of Kingston, NY spent the next six years progressing slowly through the Yankee farm system. When the Yankees traded Boyer to the Braves after the 1966 season, the front office did not think Ferraro was quite ready to take over the hot corner and they gave that job to Charley Smith whom New York acquired from St Louis in their Roger Maris trade.
Smith was a bust in 1967 so when the team’s 1968 spring training camp opened, Yankee Skipper Ralph Houk announced that Ferraro would battle future Braves Manager, Bobby Cox for the position. Ferraro had a fantastic spring, leading the Yankees in hitting with a .353 average during the exhibition season. When the team headed north to begin the regular season, everyone figured Ferraro would start at third, everyone except Ralph Houk. For whatever reason, the Major went with Cox and Ferraro got into just 23 games that season with New York. The following April, he was traded to Seattle. After bouncing around a bit for the next few years, he finally got the opportunity to play regularly for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1972. When he hit just .255 in 124 games that year, the Brewers released him. He returned to the Yankee organization as a free agent but instead of playing, he got into coaching. By ’74 he was managing in the Yankee farm system.
During the ’68 season, while Ferraro was sitting on the Yankee bench watching Cox play third, he’d often sit next to another utility infielder on that same team, the veteran Dick Howser. The two became good friends and when Howser was named Yankee Manager in 1980, he made Ferraro his third base coach. That New York team won 103 games that year and captured the AL East Division crown. Even with that level of success, Steinbrenner had ridden Howser and his coaching staff hard all season long. The Yankees had to face the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS playoffs for the fourth time in five years.
New York lost the first game and were behind by a run with two outs the eighth inning of the second contest when Bob Watson hit a ball against Kauffman Stadium’s left field wall with Willie Randolph on first. Wilson played the carom perfectly but overthrew his cutoff man. In the mean time, third base coach Ferraro was signaling Randolph to try and score. KC third baseman, George Brett was in perfect position to field Wilson’s overthrow and he made a perfect relay to catcher Darrel Porter who tagged Willie just an instant before he made contact with home plate. The Yankees ended up losing that game and according to Bill Madden, author of “Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball,” the irate Yankee owner ran to the section of seats where the Yankee wives were watching the game and screamed at Ferraro’s wife that “her F’ing husband had cost New York the game.” He wanted Ferraro fired immediately and replaced by Don Zimmer. The whole embarrassing episode convinced Howser he could no longer work for Steinbrenner. Ironically, Ferrarro continued on as Yankee third base coach the following season. He later managed the Indians and Royals.
|NYY (2 yrs)||33||121||115||9||19||0||1||0||1||0||5||20||.165||.207||.183||.389|
|MIL (2 yrs)||129||411||385||19||97||18||1||2||29||0||18||41||.252||.283||.319||.602|
Just over a year ago, I was watching one of those fantastic replays of old World Series games the MLB Network broadcasts from time-to-time. This one was the seventh game of the 1952 World Series between the Yankees and Dodgers. The series was tied three games apiece and the final game was being played at Ebbets Field.
Eddie Lopat started for New York against that year’s NL Rookie of the Year, the Dodgers’ Joe Black, who was starting his third game of that World Series. Casey Stengel only let Lopat work three innings and then replaced him with the “Super Chief” Allie Reynolds. The Yankees were holding onto a slim one-run lead with Reynolds due to lead off the top of the seventh inning. The old black & white television camera panned to the on-deck circle and standing there, swinging some warmup bats trying to get loose was a Yankee third string catcher named Ralph Houk.
Even though I hadn’t been born at the time this game was being played and I was actually watching a 58-year-old film of the event, I was shocked when I saw the “Major” getting ready to hit and so too was the booth announcer doing the play-by-play (I can’t remember if it was Mel Allen or Red Barber.) Houk had only got into nine games during the entire 1952 regular season during which he had come to the plate with a bat in his hand a grand total of seven times. Here he was about to get
his eighth plate appearance of the entire year in the seventh and deciding game of the World Series with his team ahead by just one run.
The very savvy Preacher Roe had come in to relieve Black and Houk was the first hitter he faced. Ralph had a great at-bat that lasted about a dozen pitches and he ended up smashing a hot shot down third base which was smothered by the great glove man, Billy Cox and Houk was thrown out at by just a hair at first. Even though he made an out, Houk had battled Roe and hit him hard, justifying Stengel’s faith in him.
I remember thinking what a thrill it was for me, an avid fifty-year Yankee fan, to be able to have seen a guy I knew only as a Yankee manager take an important at-bat in a critical game in Yankee history. I had sort of lost my good feelings for Houk after he took the GM promotion the Yankees gave him in 1963 and he fired Yogi Berra as Yankee Manager after the ’64 World Series. I started liking him again after reading how he had not been afraid to stand up against the bullying tactics of a young George Steinbrenner during Houk’s final year as Yankee Manager. And then, after seeing replays of that long-ago at-bat I actually Googled Houk and read up on his career and was pretty shocked when I realized he had turned ninety.
When he died on July 21, 2010, I immediately thought of the thrill of having seen that 1952 World Series at bat just a few weeks earlier. And every time I saw that black armband on a Yankee player’s uniform for the rest of last season, I thought of the Major who won both a Silver and Bronze star leading his men forward on Omaha Beach and into the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge. I thought of the Yankee Manager who won two World Series during his first two years at the helm. And I thought of that third string catcher and unlikely pinch hitter running as hard as he could down the first baseline of old Ebbets field and just getting nipped by Billy Cox’s throw. RIP Ralph Houk.
Houk’s record as a Yankee player appears below, followed by his record as Yankee manager:
|1||1961||41||New York Yankees||AL||163||109||53||.673||1||WS Champs|
|2||1962||42||New York Yankees||AL||162||96||66||.593||1||WS Champs|
|3||1963||43||New York Yankees||AL||161||104||57||.646||1||AL Pennant|
|4||1966||46||New York Yankees||AL||2nd of 2||140||66||73||.475||10|
|5||1967||47||New York Yankees||AL||163||72||90||.444||9|
|6||1968||48||New York Yankees||AL||164||83||79||.512||5|
|7||1969||49||New York Yankees||AL||162||80||81||.497||5|
|8||1970||50||New York Yankees||AL||163||93||69||.574||2|
|9||1971||51||New York Yankees||AL||162||82||80||.506||4|
|10||1972||52||New York Yankees||AL||155||79||76||.510||4|
|11||1973||53||New York Yankees||AL||162||80||82||.494||4|
|New York Yankees||11 years||1757||944||806||.539||4.2||3 Pennants and 2 World Series Titles|
|Detroit Tigers||5 years||806||363||443||.450||5.2|
|Boston Red Sox||4 years||594||312||282||.525||4.0|
|20 years||3157||1619||1531||.514||4.4||3 Pennants and 2 World Series Titles|
I have been a huge Willie Randolph fan since 1976, his rookie season with the New York Yankees. When I first heard about the trade with the Pirates that brought Willie to the Bronx I wasn’t thrilled because the Yankees had sent a pretty good starting pitcher named Doc Medich to Pittsburgh, in the deal. It only took me a few games into the 1976 season, however, to realize Randolph was a winner. Though he was only 21 years old at the time, he played like a polished veteran, especially in the field. I loved the way he fluidly brought ground balls hit to him into his body before making the throw. At the plate, Willie was adept at getting on base, stealing important bases, and moving runners into scoring position. The best way I can describe Willie’s impact on the Yankees was that you really noticed how good he was when he wasn’t in the lineup.
Willie was also a great teammate. On a Yankee team that was notorious for clubhouse cliques and animosity, Willie got along with and was respected by everyone and was eventually named Yankee Captain.
I remember the disappointment I felt when Randolph signed with the Dodgers as a free agent after the 1988 season. The Yankees were in the midst of a fifteen-season-long postseason drought and with Randolph leaving, they were losing one of their last links to their glory teams of the seventies. He ended up playing until 1992 and retired with 2,210 lifetime hits (1,731 as a Yankee) 1,239 runs (1,027 with NY) and a .276 lifetime batting average (.275 with NY) over eighteen seasons.
When Willie was named manager of the Mets, I knew he would be a very calm and controlled field boss who treated his players like professionals, respected the skills and opinions of his coaches, and let his team play. He did just that and deserved a much better fate than he received from the team’s front-office.
Willie was born on this date in 1954, in Holly Hills, SC. His family moved to Brooklyn where Willie was raised and played high school baseball. He shares his July 6th birthday with this World War II era Yankee backup catcher and this long-ago Yankee captain.
|NYY (13 yrs)||1694||7464||6303||1027||1731||259||58||48||549||251||1005||512||.275||.374||.357||.731|
|LAD (2 yrs)||171||746||645||77||181||22||0||3||45||8||84||60||.281||.365||.329||.694|
|NYM (1 yr)||90||336||286||29||72||11||1||2||15||1||40||34||.252||.352||.318||.670|
|PIT (1 yr)||30||70||61||9||10||1||0||0||3||1||7||6||.164||.246||.180||.427|
|OAK (1 yr)||93||333||292||37||75||9||3||1||21||6||32||25||.257||.331||.318||.650|
|MIL (1 yr)||124||512||431||60||141||14||3||0||54||4||75||38||.327||.424||.374||.798|
While Yankee fans read a lot about how the Core Four turned the Yankees’ fortunes around in 1996, the free agent signing of Joe Girardi to become the team’s starting catcher that same season, helped quite a bit as well. Girardi had caught for the Cubs when Don Zimmer managed Chicago and it was at the urging of Joe Torre’s first Yankee bench coach that New York signed the Peoria, IL native to replace Mike Stanley.
Girardi turned out to be a solid signal caller for Torre’s pitching staff and a leader on the field and in the clubhouse. He also proved to be an excellent mentor for a young Jorge Posada and gracefully ceded playing time to him as Posada matured and improved his hitting skills. In 1999, Girardi returned to the Cubs as a free agent for three seasons and played his last year with the Cardinals in 2003.
He tried broadcasting for a few seasons and then joined Joe Torre’s coaching staff as Yankee bench coach in 2005. He got the Florida Marlins’ managerial position a year later. He was named NL Manager of the Year in 2006 for keeping the club with the lowest payroll in baseball in contention for a playoff spot for most of the season. Ironically, by the time he received the actual award, he had already been fired by Marlins’ owner, Jeff Loria.
You know the rest of the story. After getting his dream job of managing the Yankees, New York missed the postseason for the first time in Joe’s first year as skipper but won their 27th World Series in his second. He has managed them back into postseason play three times since but they’re still trying to return to another World Series. I think Girardi has done an above average job managing New York for the past five seasons. It is evident that he works very hard at his craft, is very intelligent and serves as an effective spokesperson on the team’s behalf. He never disses his players in public and his behavior in the dugout has been impeccable.
Also born on this date was the first pitcher of Puerto Rican descent to win 20 games in a season, this former Yankee outfielder and this former Yankee second baseman who was once a teammate of Girardi’s.
Here are Girardi’s seasonal stats as a Yankee player and his MLB career totals:
|CHC (7 yrs)||578||1880||1719||161||446||74||6||13||148||12||122||266||.259||.310||.332||.642||72|
|NYY (4 yrs)||379||1412||1283||147||349||72||9||8||153||20||80||172||.272||.317||.361||.678||75|
|COL (3 yrs)||304||1217||1102||145||302||40||11||15||120||12||74||165||.274||.323||.371||.694||69|
|STL (1 yr)||16||26||23||1||3||0||0||0||1||0||3||4||.130||.231||.130||.361||-1|
Here are Girardi’s Yankee and career stats as a manager:
|2||2008||43||New York Yankees||AL||162||89||73||.549||3|
|3||2009||44||New York Yankees||AL||162||103||59||.636||1||WS Champs|
|4||2010||45||New York Yankees||AL||162||95||67||.586||2|
|5||2011||46||New York Yankees||AL||162||97||65||.599||1|
|6||2012||47||New York Yankees||AL||162||95||67||.586||1|
|7||2013||48||New York Yankees||AL||162||85||77||.525||3|
|Florida Marlins||1 year||162||78||84||.481||4.0|
|New York Yankees||6 years||972||564||408||.580||1.8||1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title|
|7 years||1134||642||492||.566||2.1||1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title|
With the Bronx Bombers in another postseason, fans will hear the name of Yankee batting coach, Kevin Long mentioned several times during New York’s current playoff run. This year, he’s being credited with helping Curtis Granderson get more effective at bats against lefthanders and helping Derek Jeter end his long slump in the second half of the just completed regular season. Last night during his post game interview, the great Andy Pettitte indicated that Yankee teammate Lance Berkman told him that he had spent some time with Long the last few days and adjusted his hitting stance. Berkman then went out and hit a homer and double to help put New York up 2-0 in their 2010 LDS against the Twins.
Giving hitting coaches credit and press is relatively new in baseball. I believe it really got started with Charley Lau. Lau coached hitting for several teams, including the Yankees but he seemed to gain most of his attention when he tutored hitters in the very good Kansas City Royal lineups that used to challenge New York for the AL Pennant every year in the mid-to-late seventies. Before that, about the only time you might have heard or read a hitting coach’s name in the media would have been when they were hired or fired.
The 1961 Yankees were considered by many to be one of the great offensive teams of all times. So who was the hitting coach for that powerful bunch of home-run hitting sluggers? You have to be a pretty loyal and long-time pinstripe fan to remember him. His name was Wally Moses and the most remarkable thing about him coaching hitting on that particular team was that Wally himself was a singles hitter during his 17 year career as an AL outfielder with the A’s, White Sox and Red Sox. But upon closer inspection, even though he averaged just 7 home runs per year during his career, he did figure out how to develop a power stroke in 1937, when he hit 25 round-trippers for Philadelphia. The Yankee hitters he coached absolutely loved Wally because he made them feel so good about themselves as hitters. A grateful Ralph Houk once begged him never to leave.
If one of the reasons today’s Yankees are winning postseason series is because they’ve learned to play “Long” ball, I guess you could also say that Moses helped lead those 1961 Yankee bats to the promised land. Wally was born on October 8, 1910 in Uvalda, GA and passed away in 1990.