Results tagged ‘ first baseman ’

December 7 – Happy Birthday Tino Martinez

Tino Martinez was a great Yankee. During his seven seasons in New York, this Tampa native who was born in 1967, drove in 739 runs, hit 192 of his 339 career home runs and won four World Series rings. He also happened to be my wife’s all-time favorite baseball player. So instead of spending the rest of this post describing the biggest highlights of Tino’s career in pinstripes, I’m going to tell you a story about how my wife met Tino Martinez. It happened in my Oldsmobile Minivan outside of Yankee Stadium, about ten years ago and to those of you with your minds in the gutter, it was not “that” type of meeting.

My wife and I had taken our kids to a Yankee Game. As we were leaving the Stadium parking garage I was trying to maneuver the van into a certain exit line so I could take a simple right-hand turn and get onto the Major Deegan Expressway heading north toward home. I had driven to Yankee games at least forty times in my life and had parked in that same garage most of those times. From experience I knew if I used any other exit, barricades would block me from taking a right turn and force me to go left which meant I’d have to spend the next two hours riding through the unfamiliar streets of the South Bronx to get back on the Deegan going in the right direction.

That’s when my wife uttered her famous phrase. “Why are we waiting in this long line? There’s no cars over at that exit why don’t we just go out there?” My immediate reaction was to ignore the question and simply hope she wouldn’t ask it again. No such luck. I don’t remember if it was the third or fourth time she repeated her inquiry that I patiently tried to explain that the reason there were no cars at the other exit was because you couldn’t take a right-hand turn from that location. I tried to point out that every driver in the fifty or so cars in front of us and the one hundred or so vehicles behind us knew that if you took a left instead of a right from this side of the parking garage you would spend the next five hours driving underneath elevated subway platforms and past six thousand auto body shops with pit bulls chained to razor-wire-topped chain link fences, as you cruised aimlessly through South Bronx looking for the one and only sign in the entire borough that directs you to the Deegan North.Her response? “That’s stupid. I’m sure you can take a right from that exit too. Just go that way. We are going to be stuck in this line forever. I’d go that way if I were driving.”So what did I do? I gave up my place in line and drove to the other exit and sure enough as we drove through the gate the familiar wooden blue NYPD barricades blocked me from taking the right I needed to make and forced me left.

Why did I listen to my wife? Forgive my chauvinism but I know there are many married male readers out there who follow the same rule I do while driving in heavy traffic. If there’s a choice between doing something you know is stupid or not doing it and then getting in an argument with your wife over it, you just follow her stupid advice. Why? Because in the long run, spending two hours lost in the Bronx was better than spending the rest of the ride home and at least the next five days living with a woman who is mad at you for not taking her bad advice.

So I’m now outside the Stadium garage and I’m being forced to head either the wrong way on the Deegan or head back up River Avenue toward the same Stadium we were trying to leave. Usually there was a cop on duty at that corner forcing cars away from the Stadium but for some reason, that day there was just an empty police car sitting there. So I took the left and then I think another left and perhaps another, and before you know it, I had gotten my van onto Ruppert Place which runs right alongside the Stadium itself. In front of me was the same ramp to the Deegan I normally took when I made the correct right hand turn out of the garage. The only thing blocking my path was a huge bus, sitting right there in the middle of the intersection with its passenger door open. We were so close to the bus that we could actually see through the reflective glass of the closed passenger windows.I was about to ask the question, “Isn’t that Tino Martinez in that window?” when I heard my wife screaming at the top of her lungs, “Teeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeno Marteeeeeeeeeeeeeenez, over here, I love youuuuuu! Teeeeeeno! Teeeeno!”

She was actually standing on the front seat of our minivan and had somehow gotten the entire top three quarters of her body out of the passenger side window yelling as loudly as possible and waving her arms and hands frantically. I had never in my life seen a human being get so excited about seeing a baseball player and evidently, neither had Tino and the rest of the Yankees. My better half (or I should say three quarters of my better half) was making such a commotion that Constantino “Tino” Martinez actually opened his passenger window, laughing at my wife’s enthusiasm, and yelled hello and waved to her. As the bus began to move, me and the kids were able to successfully pull my wife’s contorted body out of the window and get her buckled back into her seat. As we made our way back up the New York State Thruway that evening and I listened to my wife and kids talk and laugh about our encounter with the Yankee player’s bus, I was glad I took that stupid left instead of waiting in line to make my usual right.

Today is also the birthday of this six-time Gold Glove winner and these two former Yankee outfielders who all played their best baseball before they put on the pinstripes.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1996 NYY 155 671 595 82 174 28 0 25 117 2 68 85 .292 .364 .466 .830
1997 NYY 158 685 594 96 176 31 2 44 141 3 75 75 .296 .371 .577 .948
1998 NYY 142 608 531 92 149 33 1 28 123 2 61 83 .281 .355 .505 .860
1999 NYY 159 665 589 95 155 27 2 28 105 3 69 86 .263 .341 .458 .800
2000 NYY 155 632 569 69 147 37 4 16 91 4 52 74 .258 .328 .422 .749
2001 NYY 154 635 589 89 165 24 2 34 113 1 42 89 .280 .329 .501 .830
16 Yrs 2023 8044 7111 1008 1925 365 21 339 1271 27 780 1069 .271 .344 .471 .815
NYY (7 yrs) 1054 4244 3770 566 1039 189 11 192 739 17 405 546 .276 .347 .484 .831
SEA (6 yrs) 543 2139 1896 250 502 106 6 88 312 3 198 309 .265 .334 .466 .801
STL (2 yrs) 288 1123 987 129 264 50 3 36 144 4 111 142 .267 .345 .434 .778
TBD (1 yr) 138 538 458 63 120 20 1 23 76 3 66 72 .262 .362 .461 .823
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/7/2013.

November 23 – Happy Birthday Dale Sveum

sveumBorn in Richmond, CA, Dale Sveum was the Milwaukee Brewers’ first round draft choice in 1982 and considered to be the heir apparent to the great Robin Yount. By 1987, in just his second year in the big leagues, the 23-year-old switch hitter blasted 25 home runs and drove in 95 as Milwaukee’s starting shortstop. He would continue playing through 1999 and never again come close to matching either of those numbers.

The Brewers gave up on him after the 1991 season and traded him to the Phillies. During the next five years he played for five different teams. The Yankees signed him as a free agent in November of 1997 and the following April, he was on the Opening Day roster of a Yankee team that was about to win more regular season games than any team in franchise history. Sveum spelled Tino Martinez at first base plus saw some occasional time at the hot corner. What he didn’t do was hit. At the All Star break his average was just .155 and the Yanks gave him his walking papers.

After an unsuccessful comeback try with the Pirates the following year, his big league career was over. He got into coaching and in 2008, he became the interim manager of the Brewers for the last 12 games of the season. In 2012, Theo Epstein hired Sveum to manage the Chicago Cubs. Epstein himself had just been hired as the team’s president and given free reign to rebuild the organization from the bottom up. He had chosen Sveum as the new skipper because his plan was to bring Chicago’s best prospects up and play them. That required a manager who could communicate with and develop young talent and Epstein felt those were Sveum’s greatest strengths. Unfortunately, after two years of putting this plan in action, the performances of the Cub prospects had regressed. When Epstein fired Sveum the day after the 2013 regular season ended, he absolved his departing skipper for the failure of those prospects to develop, inferring that the organization may have simply overestimated their abilities.

This former Yankee starting pitcher and this one too were also born on November 23rd as was this one-time Yankee first base prospect.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1998 NYY 30 64 58 6 9 0 0 0 3 0 4 16 .155 .203 .155 .358
12 Yrs 862 2810 2526 305 597 125 13 69 340 10 227 656 .236 .298 .378 .676
MIL (5 yrs) 511 1878 1702 210 413 80 10 46 236 9 137 426 .243 .299 .382 .681
PIT (3 yrs) 187 459 411 46 107 30 2 16 65 0 40 115 .260 .324 .460 .784
PHI (1 yr) 54 153 135 13 24 4 0 2 16 0 16 39 .178 .261 .252 .513
OAK (1 yr) 30 96 79 12 14 2 1 2 6 0 16 21 .177 .316 .304 .620
NYY (1 yr) 30 64 58 6 9 0 0 0 3 0 4 16 .155 .203 .155 .358
SEA (1 yr) 10 29 27 3 5 0 0 1 2 0 2 10 .185 .241 .296 .538
CHW (1 yr) 40 131 114 15 25 9 0 2 12 1 12 29 .219 .287 .351 .638
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/22/2013.

November 1 – Happy Birthday Ham Hyatt

Ham-HyattHis full name was Robert Hamilton Hyatt. Fred Leib, one of a small group of widely read sportswriters who helped give early 20th century New York City baseball its amazing color, described today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant as “one of the game’s greatest pinch-hitters.” If Leib wrote it, it must have been true.

Ham Hamilton was the first player in baseball history to amass 50 pinch-hits during his career. The native of North Carolina made his big league debut with the 1909 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates and instantly exhibited a penchant for coming off the bench in key situations and delivering big hits. He averaged .299 that year and in the process he impressed Fred Clarke enough with his stick work that the Pittsburgh manager tried to make him the team’s starting first baseman the following season. That experiment failed because in addition to being a poor defensive player, Hyatt just didn’t seem to hit as well when he got more than one chance per game to do so.

Probably because the Pirates didn’t think they could afford the luxury of carrying a full-time pinch-hitter, Hyatt went back to the minors in 1911. He would reappear in Pittsburgh the following season however and remained with the team as their primary pinch-hitter for the next three years. When his average took a precipitous dip to just .215 in 1915, the Pirates put him on waivers and he was claimed by the Cardinals. It was in St. Louis that Hyatt met future Yankee manager Miller Huggins, who was the starting second baseman on that 1915 St. Louis team. The two men became good friends.

Three years later, Huggins was in his first season as manager for New York and with World War I causing a shortage of ballplayers, Hug needed a left handed bat for his bench. At the time, Hyatt’s contract was owned by the Boston Braves but he was playing for a minor league team in the Southern Association and leading that league in home runs. When the Yankees were able to purchase his contract from the Braves in June of that 1918 season, the one-time Cardinal teammates were reunited. Huggins gave his old buddy plenty of playing time but Ham was 33-years-old by then and could only manage a .229 batting average during his  first season in New York. There would be no second season. Hyatt would end up playing in the Pacific Coast League until 1923, finally retiring for good at the age of 38.

Ham Hyatt shares his birthday with another WWI era Yankee.

Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
NYY 53 142 131 11 30 8 0 2 10 1 8 8 .229 .273 .336 .609
7 Yrs 465 1012 925 85 247 36 23 10 146 11 63 87 .267 .321 .388 .709
PIT (5 yrs) 306 540 499 51 138 20 14 6 90 7 27 55 .277 .323 .409 .732
STL (1 yr) 106 330 295 23 79 8 9 2 46 3 28 24 .268 .337 .376 .714
NYY (1 yr) 53 142 131 11 30 8 0 2 10 1 8 8 .229 .273 .336 .609
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/31/2013.

October 9 – Happy Birthday Joe Pepitone

Joseph Anthony Pepitone was born on October 9, 1940 in Brooklyn. He came up to the Yankees in 1962 and took over the starting first baseman’s job from one of my favorite players in Pinstripes, Bill Moose Skowron. We long-time Yankee FAN-atics will always consider the November 1962 trade that sent Skowron to the Dodgers for pitcher Stan Williams as the first crack in the crumbling of the original Yankee dynasty.

Pepitone may have had better baseball skills than the Moose but he lacked the unselfishness and professional discipline of his Yankee predecessor. Unlike Skowron, who was extremely self-critical, “Pepi” tended to blame his failures on the field on everyone else but himself. He thought he could work hard during the game and play hard at all other times. As the Yankees continued to lose their veteran players to age and injuries, Pepitone’s lack of maturity and good judgment prevented him from filling that growing vacuum in Yankee team leadership.

Still, in 1966 when my beloved Bombers finished in last place in the American League and Mickey Mantle was officially converted from an “injured superstar” into an “aging has-been,” Joe Pepitone’s 31 home run season gave us Yankee fans hope. His graciousness in switching starting positions with the Mick one season later to help prolong Mantle’s career added luster to Pepitone’s Yankee-fan friendly image. By 1969, however, Pepitone’s diminishing batting average and power numbers along with his continuing off-the-field antics had all worn thin on the fans and few complained when Joe was traded to the Astros for a guy named Curt Blefary. In 1975, Pepitone wrote his autobiography with Barry Stainback. It was called “Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud.” I recommend it to any student of Yankee history and any fan of Pepitone.

Today is also the birthday of another former Yankee infielder named Joe and this up and coming Yankee pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1962 NYY 63 141 138 14 33 3 2 7 17 1 3 21 .239 .255 .442 .697
1963 NYY 157 615 580 79 157 16 3 27 89 3 23 63 .271 .304 .448 .752
1964 NYY 160 647 613 71 154 12 3 28 100 2 24 63 .251 .281 .418 .698
1965 NYY 143 580 531 51 131 18 3 18 62 4 43 59 .247 .305 .394 .699
1966 NYY 152 621 585 85 149 21 4 31 83 4 29 58 .255 .290 .463 .753
1967 NYY 133 544 501 45 126 18 3 13 64 1 34 62 .251 .301 .377 .678
1968 NYY 108 421 380 41 93 9 3 15 56 8 37 45 .245 .311 .403 .714
1969 NYY 135 546 513 49 124 16 3 27 70 8 30 42 .242 .284 .442 .726
12 Yrs 1397 5475 5097 606 1315 158 35 219 721 41 302 526 .258 .301 .432 .733
NYY (8 yrs) 1051 4115 3841 435 967 113 24 166 541 31 223 413 .252 .294 .423 .718
CHC (4 yrs) 268 1049 966 127 274 36 6 39 144 5 60 84 .284 .328 .454 .782
ATL (1 yr) 3 12 11 0 4 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 .364 .417 .364 .780
HOU (1 yr) 75 299 279 44 70 9 5 14 35 5 18 28 .251 .298 .470 .767
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/9/2013.

September 21 – Happy Birthday Cecil Fielder

If you’re a Yankee fan who is at least twenty years old, you probably remember Cecil Fielder well. He was born on today’s date in 1963, in Los Angeles. The Yankees acquired the slugging first baseman from Detroit during the 1996 season in a move designed to get some right-handed power on their bench. Fielder filled that role perfectly, blasting 13 home runs and driving in 68 in just 98 games.

When starting first baseman, Tino Martinez slumped in the AL playoffs and New York fell behind 2-0 in the ’96 World Series against the Braves, Joe Torre started Fielder at first in the DH-less games in Atlanta and benched Martinez. Cecil responded with an overall .391 average in that Series and because Tino ended up hitting just .091 against Atlanta, many Big Apple sports pundits predicted Fielder would see a lot more action at first base for New York, in ’97. That rumor gained even more traction during the off-season, when the Yankee front-office let it be known that they were considering offering the big guy a three-year contract extension.

That’s when Fielder and his agent over-played their hand and started making some hefty demands involving dollars. The Yankees backed off and New York fans responded to Fielder’s whining by turning on the huge slugger when the 97 season got underway. Fielder’s Yankee fate was sealed when he broke his thumb that July while Martinez was simultaneously in the process of putting together the season of his life, hitting 44 homers and driving in 141 runs. The Yankees’ released Cecil following their playoff loss that year to the Indians.

Since that time, published reports alleging Fielder had severe gambling problems certainly help explain why Fielder seemed to behave so greedily during that 1996 off-season negotiation. We also have since learned that Cecil’s look-alike son Prince, now a big league slugger in his own right, had pretty much disowned the elder Fielder years ago, disgusted with his Father’s gambling habits and resulting money problems. I read one article that claimed Cecil took half of Prince’s bonus money when his son signed with the Brewers.

Too bad for the Fielders and too bad for Major League Baseball. After all, these two guys are the only father and son combination to both hit fifty home runs in a big league season. They should be doing commercials together. Cecil earned close to $50 million playing the game and Prince will probably quadruple that amount by the end of his own career. Ordinary fans struggling to pay their property taxes, health insurance premiums and grocery bills have a real difficult time comprehending how money ever gets to be a divisive issue with athletes who have so God darn much of it, especially when those athletes are father and son.

In any event, the Yankees might not have won that 1996 World Championship without Cecil Fielder.  I hope he gets his priorities and his problems straightened out and finds some peace in the years ahead.

Fielder shares his September 21st birthday with another former big league star who got traded to the Yankees late in his career and who also had to do battle with a debilitating personal demon. This long-ago Yankee outfielder was also born on this date.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1996 NYY 53 228 200 30 52 8 0 13 37 0 24 48 .260 .342 .495 .837
1997 NYY 98 425 361 40 94 15 0 13 61 0 51 87 .260 .358 .410 .768
13 Yrs 1470 5939 5157 744 1313 200 7 319 1008 2 693 1316 .255 .345 .482 .827
DET (7 yrs) 982 4252 3674 558 947 141 4 245 758 2 519 926 .258 .351 .498 .849
TOR (4 yrs) 220 558 506 67 123 19 2 31 84 0 46 144 .243 .308 .472 .781
NYY (2 yrs) 151 653 561 70 146 23 0 26 98 0 75 135 .260 .352 .440 .793
CLE (1 yr) 14 37 35 1 5 1 0 0 0 0 1 13 .143 .189 .171 .361
ANA (1 yr) 103 439 381 48 92 16 1 17 68 0 52 98 .241 .335 .423 .757
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/21/2013.

August 14 – Happy Birthday Babe Borton

bortonWell what do you know? There is yet another Yankee nicknamed Babe on the team’s all-time roster. This one’s real name was William Borton, a native of Marion, IL who made his big league debut as a 23-year-old first baseman with the 1912 Chicago White Sox. He only appeared in 31 games that season but he caused quite a stir in the Windy City by averaging .371 in his rookie year. That earned him a spot on the team’s 1913 roster, but thanks to the unsavory behavior of one of the most notorious players in Yankee team history, he would not finish his second season as a White Sox.

Hal Chase had been the Yankee’s best player and a fan favorite during the franchise’s first decade in New York. Unfortunately, he was also a gambler and a con man. Chase would do anything for money including throwing baseball games and by 1913, he had worn out his welcome in New York. The Yankees traded him to Chicago for today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant and a White Sox infielder named Rollie Zeider on June 1, 1913. While Chase hit .286 for the White Sox during the second half of that season, Babe Borton floundered badly in New York, averaging just .130. As a result, he was not invited back by the Yankees the following year.

Instead, Borton played minor league ball in 1914 and then signed on with the St Louis Terriers of the upstart Federal League in 1915. He became a star for the Terriers, averaging a robust .286 and leading the new league in both runs and walks. When the Federal League went belly up at the end of that 1915 season, Borton signed on with the St. Louis Browns. He again struggled against American League pitching, averaging just .224 for the Browns in 1916 and would never again play in a big league ball game. He spent the next four years putting up some very decent numbers in the Pacific Coast League. Ironically, the guy the Yanks got for Hal Chase ended up getting suspended from that league when he admitted to accepting money to throw games.

Borton shares his birthday with this former Yankee shortstop and this onetime Yankee infielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1913 NYY 33 131 108 8 14 2 0 0 11 1 18 19 .130 .260 .148 .408
4 Yrs 317 1141 940 139 254 31 17 4 136 21 160 110 .270 .381 .352 .734
CHW (2 yrs) 59 224 185 24 61 8 1 0 30 2 31 14 .330 .429 .384 .812
SLM (1 yr) 159 668 549 97 157 20 14 3 83 17 92 64 .286 .395 .390 .785
NYY (1 yr) 33 131 108 8 14 2 0 0 11 1 18 19 .130 .260 .148 .408
SLB (1 yr) 66 118 98 10 22 1 2 1 12 1 19 13 .224 .350 .306 .657
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/14/2013.

July 15 – Happy Birthday Dan McGann

mcgannWhen Hideki Irabu was found dead in his California home in July 2011, he became the third ex-Yankee franchise player who’s death was ruled a suicide. The two other suicide victims were both born on July 15th.

Dan McGann was a very good switch-hitting big league first baseman who became best friends with the legendary John McGraw when the two were National League teammates and starting infielders on the 1898 Baltimore Orioles. A native of Shelbyville, Kentucky, McGann was considered one of the league’s better first basemen.

He and McGraw were split up in 1899 when McGraw was traded to St Louis and McGann went to Brooklyn. Two years later they were reunited in St Louis. Then in 1901, McGraw was wooed back to Baltimore to manage that city’s first American League franchise, also called the Orioles. One year later, Little Napoleon convinced McGann to join him there and become the team’s starting first baseman in 1902. He did well in that role, averaging .316 during the 68 games he played for the team that season. But when McGraw couldn’t get along with or trust AL President Ban Johnson, he decided to leave the O’s to accept the New York Giants’ field skipper’s position, McGann again packed his bags and accompanied his old friend. In New York, McGraw made McGann his starting first baseman in a move that just may have changed the course of Giants’ history. Before McGann arrived, Christy Matthewson had been playing first base for the team in between his starts on the mound. After McGann showed up, McGraw made the then 21-year-old Matthewson a full-time pitcher and he would go on to win 373 big league games.

Meanwhile, McGann’s bat, glove and speed on the base paths helped the Giants capture the 1904 and ’05 pennants and the first-ever World Series, with their victory over the A’s in ’05. But as McGann aged he lost a step and in the Dead Ball era, when a player’s speed was especially critical to his offensive value, his average plummeted by over 60 points in 1906, his last full season as a Giant starter. His failure to produce on the field also had a negative impact on his relationship with McGraw off of it. They went from best drinking buddies to barely speaking to each other and in 1908, McGraw traded McGann to the Braves.

Two years later, on December 10, 1910, McGann’s lifeless body was found in a Louisville hotel room, the victim of a gunshot to the chest. The death was ruled a suicide. Two of McGann’s sisters disputed that finding, citing a missing diamond ring as evidence their brother had been murdered during a robbery attempt. Others however pointed to the deterioration of his playing skills and tragic family history as reasons why they thought the coroner had ruled correctly. One of McGann’s brothers had killed himself the previous year, another brother had died from an accidental shooting and one of his sisters had also killed herself.

Thirty eight years later, this Yankee outfielder who shares McGann’s birth date, also shot and killed himself. This former Yankee catcher was also born on July 15th.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1902 BLA 68 285 250 40 79 10 8 0 42 17 19 13 .316 .378 .420 .798
12 Yrs 1437 6051 5226 842 1482 181 100 42 727 282 429 334 .284 .364 .381 .744
NYG (6 yrs) 682 2835 2430 360 678 94 42 16 290 151 224 151 .279 .358 .372 .730
BSN (2 yrs) 178 740 646 77 169 14 12 4 85 11 50 40 .262 .338 .339 .677
STL (2 yrs) 224 976 867 152 247 25 18 10 114 43 48 72 .285 .356 .390 .745
WHS (1 yr) 77 321 284 65 96 9 8 5 58 11 14 12 .338 .405 .479 .884
BLN (1 yr) 145 635 535 99 161 18 8 5 106 33 53 30 .301 .404 .393 .796
BRO (1 yr) 63 259 214 49 52 11 4 2 32 16 21 16 .243 .362 .360 .722
BLA (1 yr) 68 285 250 40 79 10 8 0 42 17 19 13 .316 .378 .420 .798
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/15/2013.

June 28 – Happy Birthday Len Boehmer

boehmerlBy 1969, getting a Yankee in a pack of Topps Baseball cards wasn’t as much a thrill for me as it had been just a few years earlier. First of all, I was fifteen years old by then and the allure of collecting those cardboard mini posters was losing its pull on me. Secondly, by that year the Yankees had evolved into pretty bad baseball team. Mickey Mantle had finally retired and Joe Pepitone was the only remaining starting position player on the club to have also started for the last Yankee team to play in a World Series five years earlier. So it was most likely in one of the very last individual packs of Topps baseball cards I would purchase (until I started buying them for my own sons fifteen years later) that I got the card pictured here. I’m sure that when I took a look at the two prospects pictured on it I hoped to myself that the card’s title, “Rookie Stars” would prove to be appropriate. It would not, in either player’s case. I’m also sure that at the time I did not realize that Topps had misspelled Jerry Kenney’s first name and I’m positive I mispronounced Len Boehmer’s last name, pronouncing it Bo-mer instead of the correct way, which is Bay-mer.

A native of Flint, Missouri, Boehmer had been signed by the Reds out of St Louis University in 1961, and spent almost all of the next seven years playing minor league ball in Cincinnati’s farm system. He had one minuscule mid-season two-game call-up with the Reds in 1967. The Yankees had picked him up in a trade in September of that same year. After one decent year with New York’s triple A team in Syracuse, he made New York’s parent club’s roster out of spring training in 1969 as Pepitone’s primary back-up at first base. He got off to a horrid start at the plate that year and he was 0-26 as a Yankee and 0-29 as a big leaguer when he was called in to replace Pepitone in the eighth inning of a game against the Red Sox, after the whacky first baseman had been ejected from the game. The Yankees were trailing 2-1 in the ninth when Boehmer’s first big league hit, a single tied the game. Advancing to second on the throw to home plate, he scored the winning run when Roy White singled him home.

Back in 1969, the Yankees often flew regularly scheduled commercial flights to road games. It was customary for the team’s managers, coaches and front line players to be given all the first class seats on those flights and the subs would be assigned to coach. Boehmer’s reward for his big hit that night in New York was seeing his named cross of the coach-section on the seating list for that evening’s impending flight to Detroit which was posted in the Yankee locker room after the game and instead penciled in the first class section.

Boehmer would go on to get 18 more base hits for New York that season and then spend most of the next two years back in Syracuse. After one more brief three-game mid season call-up to the Bronx in 1971, the Yankees released Bohmer and his big league career was over.

Boehmer shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher, this former reliever, and this power-hitting DH.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1969 NYY 45 116 108 5 19 4 0 0 7 0 8 10 .176 .233 .213 .446
1971 NYY 3 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
3 Yrs 50 124 116 5 19 4 0 0 7 0 8 10 .164 .218 .198 .416
NYY (2 yrs) 48 121 113 5 19 4 0 0 7 0 8 10 .168 .223 .204 .427
CIN (1 yr) 2 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/28/2013.

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 Babe Dahlgren

dahlgrenTo understand the size of the target that was on the back of today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant when he got his chance to play for the New York Yankees, I need you to picture a fictional modern-day scenario. Imagine if Derek Jeter comes back from his broken ankle this summer and after struggling at the plate for a few games, tragically breaks his ankle again. While they are carrying the Yankee Captain off the field the Stadium’s PA announcer introduces the new Yankee shortstop, a young prospect Brian Cashman has just traded for who’s name happens to be Billy Mattingly. Not only does this poor kid have to replace one Yankee legend, he’s got a last name that will remind every Yankee fan of another one every time it is seen or heard. Then to make that target on this young guy’s back even bigger, after he plays decently for the rest of the season, the Yankees trade him to the Braves, even though they have nobody any better than him to take over at short. When another big league GM asks Cashman why he got rid of Mattingly, Cashman tells him its because the just-traded player has a drinking problem.

Now let’s turn the above fictional scenario into a non-fictional historical account of what actually happened to today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant’s baseball career. Substitute Lou Gehrig for Derek Jeter, instead of the new replacement player having the same last name as Donnie Baseball give him the same nickname as Babe Ruth. Now replace Brian Cashman’s name with the Yankee Hall-of-Fame managing legend, Joe McCarthy and instead of using alcohol as the substance being abused, make it marijuana. Do all that and you now will understand what happened to the once promising career of former Yankee first baseman, Babe Dahlgren.

This native of San Francisco had broken into the big leagues with the Red Sox in 1935, when he was just 23-years-old and put together a strong rookie season in Beantown. Then that winter, Boston acquired Philadelphia A’s slugging first baseman, Jimmie Foxx and Dahlgren spent almost all of his sophomore season on the Boston bench. Dahlgren probably realized his days as a Red Sox were numbered with Foxx playing his position, so imagine how he felt when he found out that his contract had been purchased by the Yankees just before the 1937 spring training camps opened. At least in Boston, Foxx liked to take a day off every once in a while. The first baseman Dahlgren would now be backing up over in the Bronx hadn’t missed a game a dozen years. Gherig’s streak would continue for the next two years and that meant more time on the pine (and in the minors) for Dahlgren who played in just 1 Yankee game in 1937 and then 27 more in 1938.

It was only after ALS disease struck the Iron Horse in April of 1939 that he got his chance to start in New York and as he had done in his rookie season with the Red Sox, Dahlgren performed well. Though he averaged just .235, he did bang 15 home runs and drive in 89 to help New York win its fourth straight pennant. He then appeared in his only World Series that year and hit a home run as the Yankees captured their fourth straight ring with their victory over Cincinnati in that Fall Classic.

The second Yankee “Babe” then began a streak of his own in 1940, appearing in all 155 of New York’s games that season and he got his average up to .264. But by that time, according to a book self-published by Dahlgren’s grandson in 2007 and based on an unfinished manuscript written by the player himself, an incident had already occurred that led Joe McCarthy to believe he couldn’t trust Dahlgren. The Yankee skipper and Dahlgren had both attended Joe DiMaggio’s wedding to Hollywood starlet Dorothy Arnold a month after the 1939 World Series. Also in attendance was former big leaguer Lefty O’Doul, who was then in the process of building a reputation as baseball’s best hitting instructor. Dahlgren later explained that his manager had seen him and O’Doul discussing the first baseman’s swing at the affair and McCarthy was worried that Lefty was trying to undermine him and possibly take his job. Far-fetched on the part of Dahlgren? Perhaps, but so was the explanation McCarthy gave the press when the Yankees sold the first baseman to the Boston Braves during the 1941 spring training season. Marse Joe told reporters that Dahlgren’s arms were too short to play his position even though Babe was by all accounts an excellent defensive first baseman. Since baseball insiders knew this couldn’t have been the real reason McCarthy traded his staring first baseman, Dahlgren says his skipper made one up and the lie he concocted ruined the player’s career. According to Babe, McCarthy told “baseball-insiders” that the reason Dahlgren had committed a costly error in a late-season 1940 Yankee game was because the player was a “marijuana smoker.”

Now-a-days, I wouldn’t be surprised if half of the players (and coaches & managers) in the big leagues toked an occasional joint but back in the 1940′s, using marijuana was a societal taboo that left a deep and dark stain on a person’s reputation, especially if that person was a professional athlete. According to Dahlgren, McCarthy’s false accusation would become the reason why he would play for seven different teams during the final seven seasons of his big league career and his grandson’s book does a very good job of validating this claim.

Babe Dahlgren’s big league playing career ended after the 1946 season. I wonder what went through his head just a few years later, when another Joe McCarthy became specifically infamous for making false accusations that ruined peoples’ careers? Dahlgren lived until 1996, passing away at the age of 84. By the way, his real name was Ellsworth Tenney Dahlgren.

He shares his birthday with this great Yankee pitcher, this Hall-of-Fame third baseman and the guy who just might actually replace  Jeter should he re-injure his ankle in a late-season game this year (though trust me, that’s not going to happen!)

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1937 NYY 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
1938 NYY 27 44 43 8 8 1 0 0 1 0 1 7 .186 .205 .209 .414
1939 NYY 144 603 531 71 125 18 6 15 89 2 57 54 .235 .312 .377 .689
1940 NYY 155 622 568 51 150 24 4 12 73 1 46 54 .264 .325 .384 .709
12 Yrs 1137 4508 4045 470 1056 174 37 82 569 18 390 401 .261 .329 .383 .713
NYY (4 yrs) 327 1270 1143 130 283 43 10 27 163 3 104 115 .248 .314 .374 .688
CHC (2 yrs) 116 463 415 54 113 21 1 16 65 2 47 41 .272 .348 .443 .791
PIT (2 yrs) 302 1252 1130 124 306 52 15 17 176 3 98 107 .271 .333 .388 .722
SLB (2 yrs) 30 91 82 2 14 1 0 0 9 0 8 13 .171 .244 .183 .427
BOS (2 yrs) 165 661 582 83 154 30 8 10 70 8 63 68 .265 .340 .395 .735
BRO (1 yr) 17 23 19 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 4 5 .053 .217 .053 .270
PHI (1 yr) 136 565 508 55 146 19 2 5 56 2 50 39 .287 .354 .362 .716
BSN (1 yr) 44 183 166 20 39 8 1 7 30 0 16 13 .235 .306 .422 .728
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/15/2013.