Results tagged ‘ first baseman ’

June 19 – Happy Birthday Lou Gehrig

gehrigIf Yankee Stadium was a church June 19th would be a holy day of obligation for Yankee fans. The “Iron Horse” was Major League Baseball’s all-time greatest first baseman and perhaps the greatest athlete ever to be born in the Big Apple. In 17 years with New York he batted .340 lifetime and in seven World Series, he averaged .361. Lou had thirteen straight seasons in which he drove in and scored at least 100 runs. Along with his achievements on the ball field, his untimely illness, the grace with which he handled his misfortune, and his early death made Gehrig a true American hero.

Ruth, DiMaggio, and Mantle were each truly great Yankees on the field who lived unhappy, personal lives. I always found it ironic that Gehrig, the Yankee legend with an extremely strong marriage and idyllic private life, never got the opportunity to enjoy his retirement years.

Update: I originally wrote the above post in June of 2008. Since that time I learned something I never knew about Gehrig. I had always thought that after he was diagnosed with ALS at the Mayo Clinic, he simply returned to his home in the Bronx and waited to die. But Gehrig, who would live until June 2, 1941, over two years after his fatal diagnosis, actually accepted Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia’s appointment to the New York City Parole Commission in October of 1939. The appointment was for a ten-year-term and the position paid a salary of $5,700 per year. Besides sympathy for one of his city’s sports heroes, LaGuardia’s rationalization for selecting the Iron Horse for this job was sound. The Mayor was quoted in the New York Times after making the announcement, “I believe that he will not only be an able and intelligent commissioner but that he will be an inspiration and a hope to many of the younger boys who had gotten into trouble. Surely the misfortune of some of the young men will compare as something trivial with what Mr. Gehrig has so cheerfully and courageously faced.” LaGuardia went on to say that Gehrig had told him he wanted to dedicate his remaining days to public service and the Yankee legend meant what he said. Gehrig showed up for work regularly and did not stop doing so until just a month before he died, when he became to weak to leave his home.

Gehrig shares his birthday with another former Yankee first baseman.

Here are Gehrig’s incredible regular season statistics as a Yankee player:

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1923 NYY 13 29 26 6 11 4 1 1 9 0 2 5 .423 .464 .769 1.234
1924 NYY 10 13 12 2 6 1 0 0 5 0 1 3 .500 .538 .583 1.122
1925 NYY 126 497 437 73 129 23 10 20 68 6 46 49 .295 .365 .531 .896
1926 NYY 155 696 572 135 179 47 20 16 109 6 105 73 .313 .420 .549 .969
1927 NYY 155 717 584 149 218 52 18 47 175 10 109 84 .373 .474 .765 1.240
1928 NYY 154 677 562 139 210 47 13 27 142 4 95 69 .374 .467 .648 1.115
1929 NYY 154 694 553 127 166 32 10 35 126 4 122 68 .300 .431 .584 1.015
1930 NYY 154 703 581 143 220 42 17 41 174 12 101 63 .379 .473 .721 1.194
1931 NYY 155 738 619 163 211 31 15 46 184 17 117 56 .341 .446 .662 1.108
1932 NYY 156 708 596 138 208 42 9 34 151 4 108 38 .349 .451 .621 1.072
1933 NYY 152 687 593 138 198 41 12 32 139 9 92 42 .334 .424 .605 1.030
1934 NYY 154 690 579 128 210 40 6 49 165 9 109 31 .363 .465 .706 1.172
1935 NYY 149 673 535 125 176 26 10 30 119 8 132 38 .329 .466 .583 1.049
1936 NYY 155 719 579 167 205 37 7 49 152 3 130 46 .354 .478 .696 1.174
1937 NYY 157 700 569 138 200 37 9 37 159 4 127 49 .351 .473 .643 1.116
1938 NYY 157 689 576 115 170 32 6 29 114 6 107 75 .295 .410 .523 .932
1939 NYY 8 33 28 2 4 0 0 0 1 0 5 1 .143 .273 .143 .416
17 Yrs 2164 9663 8001 1888 2721 534 163 493 1992 102 1508 790 .340 .447 .632 1.080
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/19/2013.

June 15 – Happy Birthday Tony Clark

clarkI was pretty pumped when I learned the Yanks had signed Tony Clark in January of 2004. He had put together three consecutive outstanding offensive seasons as a Detroit Tiger first baseman earlier in his career. He was a switch-hitter and even though he was packed in a giant six foot eight inch frame, he was very agile defensively.

Jason Giambi had become a disaster defensively at first for New York and he was about to experience the worst season of his career, physically in 2004. Having Clark on the roster helped the team return to postseason that fall. Though not nearly as productive offensively as a healthy Giambi was in pinstripes, this native of Newton, Kansas had his moments. He belted 16 home runs that year and at the end of May, he had a stretch where he drove in 12 runs over an 8-game period.

By the end of the regular season, I thought maybe New York would bring Clark back, especially when Giambi’s physical problems persisted and rumors of his steroid use got louder and louder. Then the Yanks suffered one of the most devastating postseason defeats in the history of the franchise against Boston in that year’s ALCS during which Clark averaged just .143. He ended up signing with the Diamondbacks and having a stellar 2005 season in Arizona. Clark retired after the 2009 season with 251 big league home runs.

In December of 2013, Clark replaced Michael Weiner as the Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association. Clark shares his June 15th birthday with this Hall-of-Fame third baseman,  one of the members of the famous Yankee core four, this former Yankee infielder and this other former Yankee first baseman.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2004 NYY 106 283 253 37 56 12 0 16 49 0 26 92 .221 .297 .458 .755
15 Yrs 1559 5120 4532 629 1188 233 11 251 824 6 527 1209 .262 .339 .485 .824
DET (7 yrs) 772 3212 2831 428 783 156 7 156 514 6 343 721 .277 .355 .502 .857
ARI (5 yrs) 396 940 831 105 212 37 3 59 178 0 94 234 .255 .330 .520 .850
NYM (1 yr) 125 280 254 29 59 13 0 16 43 0 24 73 .232 .300 .472 .772
BOS (1 yr) 90 298 275 25 57 12 1 3 29 0 21 57 .207 .265 .291 .556
SDP (1 yr) 70 107 88 5 21 3 0 1 11 0 19 32 .239 .374 .307 .681
NYY (1 yr) 106 283 253 37 56 12 0 16 49 0 26 92 .221 .297 .458 .755
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/25/2014.

May 9 – Happy Birthday Eddie Tiemayer

Eddie_Tiemeyer.jpgThe only member of the all-time Yankee/Highlander roster to celebrate his birthday on May 8th is this right-handed first baseman who appeared in just three games during the Highlanders 1909 season. He broke into the big leagues in 1906, in Cincinnati, the city of his birth. A few other former Yankees born in Cincinnati include, Miller Huggins, Dave Justice, and Joe Torre’s former bench coach, Don Zimmer.

Here’s my all-time lineup of Yankees who also played for Cincinnati:

1b – Wally Pipp
2b – Billy Martin
3b – Aaron Boone
ss – Leo Durocher
c – Joe Oliver
of – Ken Griffey Sr.
of – Paul O’Neill
of – Roberto Kelly
sp – Carl Mays (right-hander)
sp – Don Gullett (left-hander)
closer – David Weathers
mgr – Miller Huggins

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1909 NYY 3 9 8 1 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .375 .444 .500 .944
3 Yrs 9 22 19 5 5 1 0 0 0 0 3 3 .263 .364 .316 .679
CIN (2 yrs) 6 13 11 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 3 .182 .308 .182 .490
NYY (1 yr) 3 9 8 1 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .375 .444 .500 .944
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/9/2013.

May 8 – Happy Birthday Orestes Destrade

One of the things that has changed most about the Major League game between the time I started following the Yankees and now is the balance of trade when it comes to Major League Baseball and baseball in Japan.

Before WWII, the people of Japan had fallen in love with the game of baseball and Babe Ruth became just as popular in the Land of the Rising Sun as he was in our country. WWII of course changed the dynamic between the two countries. By the time I was Bradley’s age in the late 1950s, the bitter feelings and suspicions we Americans and the Japanese had for each other still lingered and carried over to each country’s professional baseball leagues. At the same time, however, the game of baseball was a passion shared by both peoples and it was that passion for a common game that would eventually help bring us together again.

The first American to play professional baseball in Japan after the War was a Japanese American and former NFL running back named Wally Yonamine, who played there in 1951. The first Japanese player to play in America was a left handed pitcher named Masanori Murakami who played for the Giants in 1964 and 65. By the time I was a teenager, the Japanese professional leagues had become a common destination for American players who were not quite good enough to make the rosters of Major League teams. By the time my sons were born in the late seventies and early eighties, Major League veterans, who’s best playing days were behind them in the US were finding new markets for their slowing bats and fast balls on the other side of the Pacific.

It took until 1995 for the pendulum to begin swinging and it was the one-time Yankee, Hideki Nomo who got it going in the other direction, when he signed to pitch with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Yankees first ever Japanese born roster member was pitcher Hideki Irabu, who began his career in pinstripes in July of 2007. The greatest Japanese-born Yankee to date has been Hideki Matsui. The big league successes of guys like Nomo, Matsui and especially Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki, have caused every Major League franchise to both begin and then expand their scouting operations in Japan.

Orestes Destrade was a classic example of a young Major League prospect who struggled to make a big league roster and then traveled to Japan and became a star in that country’s version of the same sport. I can remember when he hit a bunch of homers as a minor-leaguer for the Albany-Colonie Yankees during their 1985 season. The Yankees had predicted this left-hand-hitting Cuban native would be a thirty-home-run hitter, playing in Yankee Stadium. That never happened. He failed to hit a home run during his nine-game, 1987 stint in pinstripes. He had much more success in Japan, leading the league in home runs for three straight seasons from 1990-’92. He then returned to the States and managed to hit 20 round trippers for Seattle in 1993.

This one-time Yankee catcher was also born on May 8.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1987 NYY 9 24 19 5 5 0 0 0 1 0 5 5 .263 .417 .263 .680
4 Yrs 237 866 765 80 184 25 3 26 106 1 87 184 .241 .319 .383 .702
FLA (2 yrs) 192 789 699 73 172 24 3 25 102 1 77 162 .246 .322 .396 .719
PIT (1 yr) 36 53 47 2 7 1 0 1 3 0 5 17 .149 .226 .234 .460
NYY (1 yr) 9 24 19 5 5 0 0 0 1 0 5 5 .263 .417 .263 .680
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/8/2013.

April 20 – Happy Birthday Don Mattingly

mattingly.jpgDon Mattingly’s first game in a Yankee uniform took place in 1982, the season after the Yankees lost a World Series to the LA Dodgers. His career in pinstripes lasted until 1995. One year later the Yankees would finally make it back to the Fall Classic, with their victory over Atlanta. “Donnie Baseball” was the first person I thought about when New York third baseman Charlie Hayes squeezed the foul-popped final out of the 1996 World Series in his glove.

During his first six full seasons with New York, Mattingly averaged 203 hits per year, 27 home runs, 114 RBIs and hit .327. He also made the All Star team each of those seasons, won five Gold Gloves for his outstanding play at first base and was voted AL MVP in 1985. During that period, he was the best and most popular player in baseball and he along with Dave Winfield made the Yankees perennial contenders in the very tough AL East.

Even though they missed the playoffs every year, those Mattingly-Winfield-led Yankee teams played every inning of every game with a hustle and determination that made you proud to be a Yankee fan. In 1990, Mattingly injured his back and it never fully healed. The impact of the injury on his swing and his power was immediate, significant and permanent. Still he persevered, playing six more seasons. I remember feeling so bad for him when a strike ended the 1994 regular season and prevented the Yankees, who were in first place at the time, from playing in Mattingly’s first-ever postseason. Fortunately, New York did get there in ’95. Those of us who followed him closely throughout his career will never forget his outstanding performance during those five October games against the Mariners. He had ten hits in that series with a homer and six RBIs and he averaged .417. Even though New York lost, Mattingly’s farewell effort to Yankee fans was one of the most poignant moments in franchise history. Donnie Baseball turns fifty-two-years-old today. I still miss watching him play the game.

Mattingly shares his birthday with this long-ago New York outfielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1982 NYY 7 13 12 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 .167 .154 .167 .321
1983 NYY 91 305 279 34 79 15 4 4 32 0 0 21 31 .283 .333 .409 .742
1984 NYY 153 662 603 91 207 44 2 23 110 1 1 41 33 .343 .381 .537 .918
1985 NYY 159 727 652 107 211 48 3 35 145 2 2 56 41 .324 .371 .567 .939
1986 NYY 162 742 677 117 238 53 2 31 113 0 0 53 35 .352 .394 .573 .967
1987 NYY 141 630 569 93 186 38 2 30 115 1 4 51 38 .327 .378 .559 .937
1988 NYY 144 651 599 94 186 37 0 18 88 1 0 41 29 .311 .353 .462 .816
1989 NYY 158 693 631 79 191 37 2 23 113 3 0 51 30 .303 .351 .477 .828
1990 NYY 102 428 394 40 101 16 0 5 42 1 0 28 20 .256 .308 .335 .643
1991 NYY 152 646 587 64 169 35 0 9 68 2 0 46 42 .288 .339 .394 .733
1992 NYY 157 686 640 89 184 40 0 14 86 3 0 39 43 .288 .327 .416 .742
1993 NYY 134 596 530 78 154 27 2 17 86 0 0 61 42 .291 .364 .445 .809
1994 NYY 97 436 372 62 113 20 1 6 51 0 0 60 24 .304 .397 .411 .808
1995 NYY 128 507 458 59 132 32 2 7 49 0 2 40 35 .288 .341 .413 .754
14 Yrs 1785 7722 7003 1007 2153 442 20 222 1099 14 9 588 444 .307 .358 .471 .830
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/20/2013.

April 11 – Happy Birthday Mark Teixeira

teixeira.jpegI believe it was my son Matthew who e-mailed me to let me know the Yankees had signed Mark Teixeira. I was both shocked and smiling when I read his message. It was early January in 2009 and New York had already snagged CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett during that free agent signing season to rejuvenate their starting rotation. The prevailing rumor was that Teixeira was going to sign with the Red Sox but at the last minute, the Yankees swooped in and made the offer that Tex was waiting for and he was on his way to the Bronx.

What surprised me most as I got to watch this guy play every day was how good he really is as a defensive first baseman. I knew he was a quality hitter with good power from both sides of the plate but I had no idea that he would make such a positive impact for New York with his glove. In both 2009 and 2010, his extraordinary range and his ability to catch any ball thrown anywhere near him improved the entire Yankee infield dramatically. In fact, during the 2009 postseason Teixeira was terrible at the plate but was so good in the field I truly doubt the Yankees would have gotten to or won that World Series without him.

Through 2011, his offensive numbers since arriving in the Bronx had also been pretty impressive. During his first three seasons in pinstripes, he averaged 34 home runs and  114 RBIs per season with 102 runs scored per year. He was on his way to similar numbers in 2012 when he suffered a calf injury in late August and missed the last month of the regular season and the playoffs. He managed to hit  24 home runs and drive in 84 runs in the 123 games he played. His 138 HRs as a Yankee put him in 35th place on the all-time list, two behind the late Tom Thresh.

What has been dropping since he came to New York are Teixeira’s batting average, on base percentage and most unfortunately, his playing time. A torn wrist tendon pretty much wiped out his entire 2013 season and he was back on the DL just six games into the 2014  season with a groin pull. One has to start wondering if this guy has become too frail to withstand the rigors of a complete season.

He has also been pretty much an offensive bust during his Yankee April’s and more problematically, his Yankee October’s. This is one of the few guys in baseball history to have hit at least 30 home runs and drive in 100 or more runs for eight straight seasons. When he’s in one of his hitting funks, it really has a negative impact on New York’s ability to score runs. I think one of the big reasons the Yanks signed Carlos Beltran was their uncertainty that Texeira could once again be the effective middle-of-the-lineup slugger they signed five seasons ago.

Mark was born on April 11, 1980, in Annapolis, MD. The Yankees have him under contract through 2016.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2009 NYY 156 707 609 103 178 43 3 39 122 2 81 114 .292 .383 .565 .948
2010 NYY 158 712 601 113 154 36 0 33 108 0 93 122 .256 .365 .481 .846
2011 NYY 156 684 589 90 146 26 1 39 111 4 76 110 .248 .341 .494 .835
2012 NYY 123 524 451 66 113 27 1 24 84 2 54 83 .251 .332 .475 .807
2013 NYY 15 63 53 5 8 1 0 3 12 0 8 19 .151 .270 .340 .609
2014 NYY 6 24 22 2 6 1 0 0 3 0 2 7 .273 .333 .318 .652
12 Yrs 1518 6645 5739 945 1594 357 18 341 1116 21 756 1149 .278 .368 .524 .893
NYY (6 yrs) 614 2714 2325 379 605 134 5 138 440 8 314 455 .260 .355 .500 .855
TEX (5 yrs) 693 3006 2632 426 746 173 12 153 499 11 318 555 .283 .368 .533 .901
ATL (2 yrs) 157 691 589 101 174 36 1 37 134 0 92 116 .295 .395 .548 .943
LAA (1 yr) 54 234 193 39 69 14 0 13 43 2 32 23 .358 .449 .632 1.081
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2014.

April 7 – Happy Birthday John Ganzel

25787_standardLong before the ballfields of Kalamazoo, Michigan produced Derek Jeter, the first Yankee to achieve 3,000 hits in pinstripes, they also produced Johnny Ganzel, the first starting first baseman in the history of the Yankee franchise, after it was relocated from Baltimore to New York. Known as “the first family of Michigan baseball” the Ganzel clan produced a bevy of players. There were five Ganzel brothers and every one of them played big league or minor league ball.

Ganzel had three prior years of experience in the National League, when he accepted Clark Griffith’s offer to play for New York’s new American League franchise in 1903. He had a strong season that year, averaging a solid .277 and finishing second on the team in RBIs with 71. He then slumped in 1904, causing Griffith to refuse the first baseman’s demand for a raise for the ’05 season. Ganzel then demanded a trade but Griffith waited until he had Hal Chase under contract before complying with his request and sending Ganzel to Detroit.

Ganzel would never get to play for Detroit. Instead he became the player manager for a minor league team in Grand Rapids before taking over the same role with the NL’s Cincinnati Reds in 1908. He shares his April 7th birthday with the first manager in Yankee franchise history,  this former Yankee pitcher and this one too.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1903 NYY 129 533 476 62 132 25 7 3 71 9 30 38 .277 .336 .378 .714
1904 NYY 130 502 465 50 121 16 10 6 48 13 24 41 .260 .309 .376 .686
7 Yrs 747 2957 2715 281 682 104 50 18 336 48 136 173 .251 .298 .346 .644
CIN (2 yrs) 257 1002 919 93 232 36 26 3 117 15 48 51 .252 .293 .358 .651
NYY (2 yrs) 259 1035 941 112 253 41 17 9 119 22 54 79 .269 .323 .377 .700
CHC (1 yr) 78 308 284 29 78 14 4 4 32 5 10 10 .275 .316 .394 .710
NYG (1 yr) 138 562 526 42 113 13 3 2 66 6 20 32 .215 .256 .262 .518
PIT (1 yr) 15 50 45 5 6 0 0 0 2 0 4 1 .133 .220 .133 .353
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2014.

April 6 – Happy Birthday Andy Phillips

Jason Giambi’s mediocre defensive talents at first base were a source of constant consternation for Joe Torre and the Yankee front office. When he first joined the club as a prized free agent in 2002, the Giambino’s offensive production was good enough to offset his weakness
in the field but over the years, as his hitting declined, his defensive deficiencies became more of a net negative. So beginning in 2004, the
Yankees began employing what I’ve come to refer to as the “Affordable Gloves for Giambi” initiative. These were first basemen who could field better than Jason and who were willing to play for what the Yankee’s then considered were “modest” salaries. In 2004, Giambi’s glove was Tony Clarke. Then in 2005, the Yankees handed the job to an aging Tino Martinez. In 2006, as Giambi’s contract was nearing its end, the team took a new approach by giving the role to a first base prospect in the Yankee’s Minor League organization. That turned out to be today’s Birthday Celebrant.

Andy Phillips had hit 80 home runs during his three previous seasons in New York’s farm system when he assumed the “Glove for Giambi” role in April of 2006. The Yankees had selected the Tuscaloosa, AL native in the seventh round of the 1999 draft out of the University of Alabama, so he was already 29-years-old when given the opportunity to become the Yankee’s regular first baseman. He turned out to be solid defensively but as a right handed hitter, his power was marginalized by Yankee Stadium. He hit just .240 that first season and his on-base percentage was a very-low .288.

He found himself back in the minors to start the 2007 season as the Yankees opened that year with former Gold Glove winner and World Series Game 4 ball-stealer, Doug Mientkiewicz at first. When Mientkiewicz got hurt in June of that year, Phillips was called up to replace him and he did that rather well. Andy hit .292 in 61 games that year plus he played flawless defense at first base, handling 408 chances without making an error. Despite the improved effort, the Yankee front office decided Phillips was not in their plans for the future and released him after the 2007 season. He was picked up by the Reds and even played a few games for the Mets in 2008 but was back in the minors the following year and playing in Japan, during the 2010 season.

Phillips shares his April 6th birthday with another Yankee prospect who was trying to work his way up New York’s farm team chain the same time as Andy. This Yankee pitching prospect, also born on April 6th tried to make the same climb three decades earlier.


Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2004 NYY 5 8 8 1 2 0 0 1 2 0 0 1 .250 .250 .625 .875
2005 NYY 27 41 40 7 6 4 0 1 4 0 1 13 .150 .171 .325 .496
2006 NYY 110 263 246 30 59 11 3 7 29 3 15 56 .240 .281 .394 .676
2007 NYY 61 207 185 27 54 7 1 2 25 0 12 26 .292 .338 .373 .711
5 Yrs 259 604 557 77 139 25 4 14 70 3 34 110 .250 .294 .384 .679
NYY (4 yrs) 203 519 479 65 121 22 4 11 60 3 28 96 .253 .294 .384 .678
CIN (1 yr) 52 80 73 11 17 3 0 3 10 0 6 14 .233 .300 .397 .697
NYM (1 yr) 4 5 5 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .200 .200 .200 .400
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2014.

March 15 – Happy Birthday Charley Mullen

mullen2AThere was a two-season gap in between the time that Hal Chase, the Yankees’ first great first baseman left the team in 1912 and Wally Pipp, the franchise’s second great first baseman took over that position in 1915. Charley Mullen was one of the interim first sackers New York used to fill that gap.

This native of Seattle was 25 years old when Yankee manager Frank Chance began starting him during the 1914 season. He wasn’t a disaster. Mullen hit .260 that year, which was actually third best among the team’s starting lineup and he drove in 44 runs, which was also third best on the squad during that low-scoring deadfall era.

Just before the 1915 season began, the Yankee franchise was purchased by brewer Jacob Ruppert and his partner Tillinghast Huston.  The two men had been assured by AL President Ban Johnson that the Junior Circuit’s other team owners would help the Yankees become more competitive with their New York City neighbors, the Giants. The plan was to have the other clubs make some of their best players and prospects available to New York for acquisition. One of the first such acquisitions made by the new Yankee ownership was Pipp, a young hard-hitting Detroit Tiger prospect who would start at first for New York for the next decade until his famous headache opened the door for Lou Gehrig.

So what happened to Charley Mullen? He actually remained a Yankee for the next couple of seasons in a utility role before returning to the minors. He played his final season in 1919 with the Seattle Raniers of the Pacific Coast League. He remained in his hometown after he retired and died there in 1963 at the age of 74.

Mullen shares his birthday with this former Yankee outfielderthis one-time Yankee third baseman and this one too.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1914 NYY 93 380 323 33 84 8 0 0 44 11 33 55 .260 .332 .285 .617
1915 NYY 40 102 90 11 24 1 0 0 7 5 10 12 .267 .340 .278 .618
1916 NYY 59 162 146 11 39 9 1 0 18 7 9 13 .267 .310 .342 .652
5 Yrs 253 848 741 77 183 22 3 0 87 28 61 97 .247 .306 .285 .591
NYY (3 yrs) 192 644 559 55 147 18 1 0 69 23 52 80 .263 .328 .299 .627
CHW (2 yrs) 61 204 182 22 36 4 2 0 18 5 9 17 .198 .236 .242 .477
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/8/2014.

March 12 – Happy Birthday Ray Barker

barkerThe lucrative salaries paid in Major League Baseball nowadays continue to shock me. Those huge bucks have changed the way big leaguers play the game and live their lives. Even the most marginal players today have contracts sizable enough to permit them to not have to worry about working a second career, at least during their playing days. And with decent investment counseling and a much improved MLB pension plan, when these guys retire in their thirties, many can afford to kick back and relax their way through their forties and fifties too. Good for them. I just hope they tell their children and grandchildren the story about Marvin Miller some day.

When I was a kid, guys like Ray Barker, today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant had to scrape to make a living on what they were paid to play the game. Barker, who had grown up a Yankee fan, had been originally signed by the Orioles in 1955 when he was a 19-year-old kid and given a $1,000 bonus. The son of a West Virginia stone quarry worker, that was more money than his family had ever seen.

He then spent the next ten years of his life trying to get to the big leagues and trying to take care of his growing family on the few thousand dollars he would earn playing both minor league and winter baseball. His wife and children lived in a trailer park back in West Virginia and when Barker’s dad was killed while riding his motorcycle, his Mom moved in with them.

After brief big league appearances with the Orioles and Indians, Cleveland traded this left-hand-hitting first baseman to the Yankees for infielder Pedro Gonzalez, in May of 1965. The defending AL Pennant winners were a mess that year under new skipper, Johnny Keane. In addition to rebelling at Keane’s strict disciplinarian management style, injuries began crippling the veteran Yankee lineup. Both Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were out for extended periods, forcing Keane to play his starting first baseman, Joe Pepitone in the outfield. That Yankee misfortune was the piece of good luck Barker needed to finally get an extended stay on a big league roster.

His debut season in the Bronx wasn’t spectacular but it was steady and in 1965, steady was good enough for the Yankee front office. In addition to tying a big league record that season by hitting two consecutive pinch-hit home runs, Barker’s 7 total round-trippers and 31 RBIs in 98 games got him invited back for a second season. He returned to West Virginia, bought a home and moved his brood out of that trailer park.

Unfortunately, the Yankees got even worse in 1966, finishing in last place and Barker got worse too. He pretty much stopped hitting, which meant he pretty much stopped getting chances to hit. During most any other season in Yankee history, Barker’s .187 batting average would have got him banished forever but not in 1966.

Ralph Houk brought Barker back to spring training in 1967 as a Mickey Mantle insurance policy. The Yankees had become convinced that in order to extend the switch-hitting legend’s career, they needed to get him out of the outfield and start him at first base. That meant they also had to commit to playing Joe Pepitone in the outfield full-time. Houk needed somebody to serve as a late-inning defensive replacement for Mantle at first. The organization’s bonus-baby heir to that position was Mike Hegan, who was doing Army reserve duty until May of that ’67 season. That gave Barker just a small window of time to impress Houk enough to keep him on the 25-man roster and get Hegan sent back down to the minors.

Barker couldn’t get it done. In the 17 games he appeared during the first part of that ’67 season, he hit an atrocious .077. During that trying period of his career, Barker was interviewed by long-time New York Times’ sports journalist Robert Lipsyte. He explained to Lipsyte that he needed to get hot at the plate in order to stick with the Yankees but he needed more at bats to get in an offensive groove but he would only get those at bats if he could get hot. It was the age-old Catch-22 lament of big-league utility players.

During that interview, Barker said his goal was to get five seasons of service as a Major League player so that he could qualify for the pension plan. If he could make that milestone, Barker would start receiving a retirement benefit of $250 per month when he reached the age of 50. Barker didn’t make that five-year milestone but hopefully, he’s not missing that $250 check every month.

Barker shares his March 12th birthday with this 1994 Rookie of the Year outfielder this 1983 Rookie of the Year outfielder, this former Yankee center-fielder and this former NL All Star.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1965 NYY 98 231 205 21 52 11 0 7 31 1 20 46 .254 .326 .410 .736
1966 NYY 61 82 75 11 14 5 0 3 13 0 4 20 .187 .225 .373 .598
1967 NYY 17 29 26 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 5 .077 .172 .077 .249
4 Yrs 192 356 318 34 68 16 0 10 44 1 29 76 .214 .283 .358 .642
NYY (3 yrs) 176 342 306 34 68 16 0 10 44 1 27 71 .222 .289 .373 .662
CLE (1 yr) 11 8 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 .000 .250 .000 .250
BAL (1 yr) 5 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/5/2014.