Results tagged ‘ first baseman ’

February 17 – Happy Birthday Wally Pipp

wpippLong before Gladys Knight recorded Midnight Train to Georgia, Wally was the most famous Pipp in America.  He succeeded the notorious Hal Chase as the regular Yankee first baseman and played brilliantly at that position for eleven consecutive seasons.

Pipp established several firsts as a Yankee first baseman.  He was the first Yankee to lead the American League in home runs.  He was the first Yankee starting first baseman to wear the Yankee pinstripes.  He was the first one to play in the World Series.  He was the first Yankee starting first baseman to play in the now-closed original Yankee Stadium and the first one to play on a world championship team, in 1923.

None of those honors mattered, however, when Pipp innocently sat out a game against the Senators on the first day of June during the 1925 season.  Legend has it that he had a headache and asked Yankee skipper, Miller Huggins, for that afternoon off.  Whatever the reason, Lou Gehrig, took his place and every Yankee fan knows the rest of that story.

Pipp broke into the big leagues with the Detroit Tigers in 1913 and was picked up on waivers by the Yankees on January 15, 1915.  He led the American League in home runs in both 1916 and 1917. In fact, the Yankees earned the nickname Murderers Row because of pre-Ruth sluggers like Pipp and Frank “Home Run” Baker. In addition to being a power hitter in the dead-ball era, he was also a good and graceful fielder and smart base runner, stealing 114 bases during his eleven years with the Yanks.

Pipp’s best year in New York was 1922, when he hit .329 with 190 hits, 96 runs scored, and drove in 90 more.  His best World Series performance was the 1922 Fall Classic when he batted .286 in a losing effort against arch rival Giants.

In 1926, the Yankees sold Pipp, outright, to the Cincinnati Reds where he played three more seasons before retiring.  He passed away in Rapid City, MI on January 11, 1965, at the age of 71.

This former Yankee reliever this one-time replacement for A-Rod as Yankee third baseman and this Hall-of-Fame Yankee announcer were each also born on February 17th.

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1915 22 NYY AL 136 560 479 59 118 20 13 4 60 18 66 81 .246 .339 .367 .706
1916 23 NYY AL 151 617 545 70 143 20 14 12 93 16 54 82 .262 .331 .417 .748
1917 24 NYY AL 155 669 587 82 143 29 12 9 70 11 60 66 .244 .320 .380 .700
1918 25 NYY AL 91 386 349 48 106 15 9 2 44 11 22 34 .304 .345 .415 .760
1919 26 NYY AL 138 597 523 74 144 23 10 7 50 9 39 42 .275 .330 .398 .728
1920 27 NYY AL 153 687 610 109 171 30 14 11 76 4 48 54 .280 .339 .430 .768
1921 28 NYY AL 153 669 588 96 174 35 9 8 97 17 45 28 .296 .347 .427 .774
1922 29 NYY AL 152 665 577 96 190 32 10 9 90 7 56 32 .329 .392 .466 .859
1923 30 NYY AL 144 643 569 79 173 19 8 6 108 6 36 28 .304 .352 .397 .749
1924 31 NYY AL 153 663 589 88 174 30 19 9 114 12 51 36 .295 .352 .457 .808
1925 32 NYY AL 62 200 178 19 41 6 3 3 24 3 13 12 .230 .286 .348 .635
15 Yrs 1872 7836 6914 974 1941 311 148 90 997 125 596 551 .281 .341 .408 .749
NYY (11 yrs) 1488 6356 5594 820 1577 259 121 80 826 114 490 495 .282 .343 .414 .757
CIN (3 yrs) 372 1446 1289 151 359 52 24 10 166 11 104 50 .279 .335 .379 .715
DET (1 yr) 12 34 31 3 5 0 3 0 5 0 2 6 .161 .235 .355 .590
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/26/2014.

February 8 – Happy Birthday Bob Oliver

oliverToday’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant hit 27 home runs in just his second full big league season in 1970 and he also led the Royals that same year with 99 RBIs. After slumping the following season he was traded to the Angels in 1972. A versatile player, in ’73 he started 49 games at third for California, 47 in right field and 32 at first base. Toward the end of the 1974 regular season the Angels traded this native of Shreveport, Louisiana to the Orioles and during the subsequent Winter Meetings, Yankee GM Gabe Paul purchased his contract from Baltimore. The rumor circulating in the press at the time was that Paul was about to trade away Graig Nettles and he wanted Oliver to take over from “Puff” as the Yankee starting third baseman. Fortunately, it was only a rumor because although he was just 31 years old at the time, Oliver’s career was practically over. He hit just .158 during his 18 games in pinstripes and was released by New York at the 1975 All Star break. Nettles of course remained a Yankee and was an outstanding run producer and defensive force at the hot corner for two World Championship teams.

Oliver is the father of big league pitcher Darren Oliver. He shares his birthday with this 20-game-winning Yankee pitcher and this long-ago back-up Yankee second baseman.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1975 NYY 18 39 38 3 5 1 0 0 1 0 1 9 .132 .154 .158 .312
8 Yrs 847 3123 2914 293 745 102 19 94 419 17 156 562 .256 .295 .400 .696
KCR (4 yrs) 422 1550 1442 168 367 46 13 49 200 9 79 300 .255 .296 .406 .702
CAL (3 yrs) 395 1512 1412 120 370 53 6 45 214 7 76 248 .262 .301 .404 .705
PIT (1 yr) 3 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
NYY (1 yr) 18 39 38 3 5 1 0 0 1 0 1 9 .132 .154 .158 .312
BAL (1 yr) 9 20 20 1 3 2 0 0 4 1 0 5 .150 .150 .250 .400
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/22/2014.

February 6 – Happy Birthday Dale Long

longDale Long was born in Springfield, Missouri on February 6, 1926 and then moved to Massachusetts as a young boy. A multi-talented athlete as a youngster, he starred in semi-pro football and turned down an opportunity to sign with the Green Bay Packers to give a career in baseball a shot. That career started in 1944, when Long joined the Milwaukee Brewers, then a non-affiliated double A franchise in the American Association being managed at the time by Casey Stengel. During the next ten seasons, Long spent time with fourteen different minor league ball clubs in the organizations of five different Major League teams. In 1951, he made his big league debut as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, where GM Branch Rickey was determined to convert Long into a left-handed catcher. That experiment lasted two pitches. He ended up on waivers that year and spent four more seasons trying to get back to the big dance.

His second chance came in 1955, again with the Pirates. This time Long was ready. He averaged .291 with 16 home runs, 79 RBIs and led all of baseball with his 13 triples. The following year, Long swung his way into baseball history when he hit home runs in eight consecutive games. That stretch of power made him a national celebrity and his 27 home runs and 91 RBIs that season made him a National League All Star.

After a slow start in 1957, Long was traded to the Cubs and after three seasons in the Windy City, he was sold to the Giants just as the 1960 regular season was beginning. In August of that year, Yankee GM George Weiss was looking for some left-handed power to add to Casey Stengel’s bench and he purchased Long from San Francisco. At the time the deal was made, the big guy was hitting just .167 but when he got to the Bronx, he went on a tear. He hit a robust .366 in his 46 at bats with New York that year and made the Yankees’ postseason roster, getting a hit in three pinch-hitting appearances against his former Pirate teammates in the 1960 World Series.

Long was a left-handed pull hitter who’s stroke was perfect for reaching the short porch down the old Yankee Stadium’s right field line. New York really loved having him as a pinch hitter but they had too many other stars and prospects in their employ to protect Long during the 1960 AL Expansion Draft. Sure enough, the Senators selected the veteran slugger with the 28th pick and he became the new Washington franchise’s first starting first baseman during their inaugural 1961 season. In July of 1962, the Yankees were once again in need of a left-handed pinch hitter and they offered the Senators a very good right-hand-hitting outfielder prospect from their farm system by the name of Don Lock in exchange for Long. Washington jumped at the offer and Lock became their team’s starting center fielder for the next half-decade. Long again came through in his role as a Yankee pinch-hitter and Moose Skowren’s back-up at first base. In 41 games he averaged .298 with 4 home runs and 17 RBIs. He again got to play in a World Series and this time won his first and only ring when the Yankees defeated the Giants in the 1962 Fall Classic.

By the time the 1963 season rolled around, Long had reached 37 years of age and his bat and his body were slowing down. He was hitting just .200 that August, when the Yankees released him and his big league career was over. Years later, Long became a sports announcer for a local television station in my viewing area. He died in 1991, a victim of a heart attack at the age of 64.

Long shares his birthday with a Yankee God and this former Yankee pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1960 NYY 26 46 41 6 15 3 1 3 10 0 5 6 .366 .435 .707 1.142
1962 NYY 41 113 94 12 28 4 0 4 17 1 18 9 .298 .404 .468 .872
1963 NYY 14 16 15 1 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 .200 .250 .200 .450
10 Yrs 1013 3430 3020 384 805 135 33 132 467 10 353 460 .267 .341 .464 .805
PIT (4 yrs) 296 1100 970 124 264 40 20 44 176 1 106 170 .272 .339 .491 .830
CHC (3 yrs) 375 1342 1173 157 321 55 7 55 174 3 149 180 .274 .354 .473 .827
NYY (3 yrs) 81 175 150 19 46 7 1 7 27 1 24 18 .307 .398 .507 .904
WSA (2 yrs) 190 636 568 69 140 28 4 21 73 5 57 63 .246 .313 .421 .734
SFG (1 yr) 37 61 54 4 9 0 0 3 6 0 7 7 .167 .262 .333 .596
SLB (1 yr) 34 116 105 11 25 5 1 2 11 0 10 22 .238 .310 .362 .672
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/18/2014.

January 23 – Happy Birthday Johnny Sturm

sturmJohnny Sturm was not your prototypical Yankee starting first baseman. He was instead, a singles hitter. In fact, no Yankee starting first baseman in the history of the franchise ever had a slugging average lower than the .300 figure turned in by Sturm during the 1941 regular season.

Lou Gehrig had set the impossible-to-fill mold all future Yankee first sackers would be measured by. Babe Dahlgren, the Iron Horse’s immediate successor had not hit more than 15 home runs or averaged above .264 during his two seasons in the position. Meanwhile, Sturm was hitting well over .300 and averaging 180 base-hits per year while playing first base for the Yankee’s farm team in Kansas City. At the end of New York’s 1941 spring training camp, Yankee skipper Joe McCarthy made the decision to put Sturm and two other infielders from that Kansas City farm club, second baseman Jerry Priddy and shortstop Phil Rizzuto on the Yank’s Opening Day roster. With an outfield full of home run power (DiMaggio, Henrich and Keller would each hit 30 round-trippers in 1941) plus Joe Gordon, Marse Joe figured any of these rookies and maybe even all three would be perfect table setters for the Yankees’ big bats.

The plan seemed reasonable but during the season a couple of hitches emerged. After getting the Opening Day start at first, Sturm was quickly benched so that Joe Gordon could move to first and McCarthy could play Priddy and Rizzuto together in the middle of the Yankee infield. But Priddy could not get himself untracked at the plate and by mid-May, “Marse Joe” had moved Gordon back to second and was starting Sturm at first. Almost immediately, Sturm went on an 11-game hitting streak and by the end of it, McCarthy had moved him into the leadoff spot of the Yankee lineup where he would remain for the rest of the ’41 season. Like Priddy however, Sturm also struggled with big league pitching, averaging just .239 during his rookie season. As a result, he scored just 58 times in 568 plate appearances. Despite that poor showing, McCarthy stuck with his punchless rookie in that year’s World Series and the then-25-year-old Sturm came through with a .318 average in the Yankees’ victory over Brooklyn, hitting safely in each of that Fall Classic’s five games.

So why did McCarthy stick with Sturm’s inefficient bat at first instead of giving Priddy another chance at second? After all, Phil Rizzuto always insisted that Priddy was a much better ballplayer than the Scooter was and could do everything well on a baseball field. From what I’ve read, it seems Priddy was a very cocky kid who thought nothing of mouthing off at his veteran Yankee teammates and vocally insisting he was as good as or better than most of them. Such brashness, especially from a rookie, did not sit well with his teammates. As a result, few if any of them showed any sympathy or offered to help Priddy with his offensive struggles, while reacting in the exact opposite way with the much more likable Sturm. I’m sure McCarthy realized all this and kept Priddy on the bench in part because he didn’t want to antagonize his veteran players.

Sturm’s very good 1941 postseason performance convinced most Yankee observers that he would be back at first base come the following season, but two months later, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. On January 13, 1942, Sturm became the first married big league ballplayer to be drafted into military service. He spent most of his time in the Army playing baseball but he also was part of a detail that built baseball fields on army posts. While driving a tractor on one such detail, Sturm was involved in an accident that resulted in the amputation of two fingers on his non-throwing hand. When he tried to rejoin the Yankees in 1946, that injury destroyed his chances at being successful. Instead, he became a player-manager in the Yankees farm system and one day in 1948, while serving in that role for New York’s Class C Western Association League franchise in Joplin, Sturm’s phone rang. A father of a high school player was calling to request a tryout for his son. Sturm listened to the voice on the other end of the line tell him why this kid was worth looking at and was convinced enough to place a call to Yankee scout Tom Greenwade and arrange a tryout. The name of the dad who called Sturm that day was Mutt Mantle and the rest is Yankee history.

This one-time All Star closer and  this former Yankee number 1 draft pick were also born on this date.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1941 NYY 124 568 524 58 125 17 3 3 36 3 37 50 .239 .293 .300 .592
1 Yr 124 568 524 58 125 17 3 3 36 3 37 50 .239 .293 .300 .592
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/24/2014.

December 29 – Happy Birthday Richie Sexson

It would have been nice to have had this big guy in pinstripes at the beginning of this past decade instead of toward the end of it. He hit 306 home runs during his dozen seasons in the big leagues. They included two 45-home run seasons with the Brewers and six years of driving in over 100 runs. But only one of those home runs and just six RBIs were produced after the Mariners released him in June of 2008 and the Yankees picked him up. I remember thinking it was a good acquisition at the time, hoping the then 33-year-older would be rejuvenated by the pinstripes and motivated to possibly play himself into contention to replace New York’s Jason Giambi, who’s contract was expiring that season. But Sexson, who was also in the final year of a $50 million deal he had signed with Seattle, never really got it going during his short stay in the Bronx, becoming just another move that didn’t work out during New York’s very disappointing 2008 season.

Sexson shares his December 29th birthday with this other former Yankee first baseman, this former Yankee pitcher, and this long-ago Yankee outfielder.

December 15 – Happy Birthday Eddie Robinson

In 1951, ’52 and ’53, first baseman Eddie Robinson was in the peak years of his Major League Baseball career. Like many players of his era, that career was interrupted early by military service in WWII. Three seasons after Robinson returned from the war, the trades that marked his entire career began. He went from the Indians to the Senators in 1949 and then to the White Sox during the 1950 season. By 1952, however, it looked like he had found a home in the Windy City. He had put together two straight 100 RBI seasons for Chicago, making the All Star team both years. But instead of settling in, Eddie was traded again, this time to the Athletics, who were still in Philadelphia at the time. In the “City of Brotherly Love,” he combined with slugger Gus Zernial to provide the A’s with most of their offense as he reached the 100-RBI mark and made the All Star team for the third year in a row. That’s when the Yankees got him as part of a huge ten player deal that turned out not to have much positive impact for either team.

Simply put, the Yankees did not need the guy. George Weiss thought Robinson would replace the lighter hitting Joe Collins as the Yankee starting first baseman. The crafty GM, however, did not anticipate that rookie Moose Skowren, a powerful right hand hitting first baseman would hit .340 in 1954. Stengel ended up platooning Skowren at first base with Collins, who was the best fielder of all three players and used Robinson more as a pinch hitter. Eddie did very well in that role for two plus seasons in the Bronx but it was truly a waste of the overall talents of this four-time All Star.

In June of 1956, Weiss traded Robinson back to the A’s, who by then had relocated to Kansas City. Unfortunately, Eddie was already 35-years old at the time and he never again would be the hitter he was when New York acquired him three years earlier. When Eddie hung up his spikes in 1957, he began a career in baseball’s front offices that continued through 1996 when he finally retired as head of scouting for the New York Yankees.

Another Yankee born on this date was this AL Rookie of the Year winner in 1968. 

September 28 – Happy Birthday Jack Fournier

I remember very well the first time I realized the purpose and power of a good first baseman’s mitt. I was 11 years old and playing for St. Agnello Club, a team in my hometown’s youth baseball league. During our first practice before the season began, the coach of my team had asked me what position I played. Although Mickey Mantle was my favorite player back then I knew center fielders had to do a lot of running and the only running I did at that time was to get to the dinner table before my two older brothers ate all the good stuff. So I told my coach I played first base.

He looked at the “Rocky Colavito” model Rawlings’ outfielders’ glove I was wearing on my left hand and said, “You can’t play first base with that tiny thing, you need the Trapper.” He then picked up and reached into the large burlap equipment bag that was lying alongside the batting cage and pulled out the biggest wad of rawhide leather I’d ever seen in my young life. It was a genuine first baseman’s mitt.

I put that monster on my hand and went over to first base for my first-ever official infielder’s practice. Coach hit the first ground ball to our third baseman, who happened to also be one of the two sons he had playing on that year’s team. He bobbled the grounder a couple of times before finally getting the ball into his throwing hand and making a pretty hard throw toward my direction. I could tell the ball was not going to reach me and it was going to be wide of first toward right field, so I did my best Joe Pepitone impersonation and put my right toe on the side of the first base bag while reaching across my body to attempt a sweeping backhand scoop catch of the misdirected thrown ball. I may have also closed my eyes. Somehow, the ball ended up in the huge webbing of the “Trapper” and a couple of the parents who were watching the practice started clapping. I heard my coach yell “Looks like we found our new first baseman.”

For the rest of that practice and the first six or seven games of that first season, me and the Trapper caught every ball hit or thrown within four feet of first base. That glove was magical. If a baseball touched it anywhere on its palm side surface it seemed to stick to it like an EZ Pass sticks to the inside of a car’s windshield.

Then before one game, I went to the burlap bag to grab the Trapper for infield practice and it wasn’t there. One of my coach’s sons had taken it out of the bag to play with it that week and left it in their garage. I was forced to play first with my tiny Colavito glove. Sure enough, the first ball in play that game was a grounder to our second baseman. His throw to me was hard but true and I still remember the horror of watching that ball bounce off the pocket of my glove and onto the ground in front of me. After picking up the dropped ball and throwing it back to our pitcher, I remember turning toward our bench to see what the coach’s reaction was to my first-ever miscue and seeing him get into his pick-up truck and drive away. He was on his way home to get the Trapper. From that moment on, the glove never left my side. I remember almost crying when I finally was forced to return it to coach when the baseball season ended.

So why am I telling you all this? Because today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant would probably be in Cooperstown today if he had the chance to play first base with the Trapper. In fact, if Jack Fournier had a modern day first baseman’s mitt, Lou Gehrig might have never been signed by New York or might have instead been traded by the Yankees before Wally Pipp got that famous headache. Why?

In 1918, Pipp left the Yankees for WWI military service. New York signed Fournier to take his place. The French-American native from Au Sable, Michigan got into 27 games for Manager Miller Huggins ball club and instantly became one of the best hitters on that team, scorching the ball at a .350 clip during his 27 games of action. After such an impressive offensive performance, you’d figure the Yankees would quickly offer the guy a contract for the following season or at the very least invite him to next year’s spring training. Instead, the Yankees dropped him like a hot potato. How come?

Jack Fournier might just have been the worst-fielding first baseman in baseball history. During just those 27 games he played as a Yankee, the guy made 7 errors. During his 14 seasons in the big leagues, he made over 200. In Nelson Chip Green’s excellent SABR Baseball Biography profile of Fournier’s career, he quotes from a 1916 LA Times article describing the Chicago White Sox chances for success in the upcoming baseball season. Fournier played his first six big league seasons for the Pale Hose. Here’s that quote: “[t]he only weak defensive point in the infield is at first base,” where “Fournier will again try his hand at playing that position. For every run that he lets in,” suggested Williams, “he will drive in another, making it a so-so proposition.”

It seems that Fournier had hands of stone and played first base like his feet were stuck in cement. Balls thrown or hit directly at him were frequently dropped. Those that passed just a foot to either side of him were considered automatic base runners. Managers tried to hide him in the outfield but he was even worse defensively out there.

The one thing Fournier could do on a baseball field was hit. His lifetime average was .313 and once a livelier baseball was introduced to the game in 1920, Fournier became a power hitter, who was often referred to as the National Leagues “Babe Ruth.” He led the NL with 27 home runs while playing for Brooklyn in 1924. Truth was that Fournier was a great DH before there was a DH in Major League Baseball.

He shares his September 29th birthday with this former Yankee center fielder, this former Yankee relief pitcher and this one-time Yankee pitching prospect.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1918 NYY 27 110 100 9 35 6 1 0 12 7 7 7 .350 .393 .430 .823
15 Yrs 1530 6032 5208 822 1631 252 113 136 859 146 587 424 .313 .392 .483 .875
CHW (6 yrs) 444 1582 1360 192 383 60 43 15 190 61 156 161 .282 .367 .422 .789
BRO (4 yrs) 519 2176 1866 322 629 85 35 82 396 22 242 129 .337 .421 .552 .973
STL (3 yrs) 418 1731 1508 244 478 83 32 29 208 52 138 111 .317 .384 .472 .856
BSN (1 yr) 122 433 374 55 106 18 2 10 53 4 44 16 .283 .368 .422 .790
NYY (1 yr) 27 110 100 9 35 6 1 0 12 7 7 7 .350 .393 .430 .823
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/29/2013.

September 9 – Happy Birthday Frank Chance

These are the saddest of possible words:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double –
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

Known as “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon,” this verse was written by a newspaper reporter who had been born in Chicago but later moved to the Big Apple. He wrote it in 1902, when he was on his way to the Polo Grounds to watch his original hometown’s Cubs play his adopted home town’s Giants. The poem wasn’t published until eight years later, in 1910, inside a New York newspaper. It became an instant nationwide hit; think “Take me Out to the Ballgame” level of popularity without the music.

Tinker, Evers and Chance were respectively the starting shortstop, second baseman and first baseman for Chicago from 1902, when they were still known as the Chicago Orphans, until 1911 (they switched to “Cubs” in 1903). That remains the golden decade of the franchise till this day.Their full names were Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance. All three ended up in Cooperstown but it was Chance, today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, who was the best all-around player of the three and it was Chance who would also become the most successful Manager in the team’s history.

He took over as Skipper during the 1905 season and continued starting at first base. During the next eight seasons, he led the Cubs to a cumulative won-lost record of 768-389, while capturing four NL Pennants and consecutive World Series victories in 1907 and ’08, the latter of which remains the last world championship in that franchise’s history.

No modern ballplayer would have stomached playing for Chance. Why? Put it this way, if Chance were in Joe Girardi’s shoes today, he’d probably have gotten into at least one fistfight with Derek Jeter by now. Why? Because he had a strict rule against “fraternizing” with the opposing team’s players before, during or after a game and if he caught one of his players violating that rule he’d fine him. He was known to go after frequent offenders physically in the clubhouse. Chance was also accused of inciting on-the-field riots to get his players pumped up and on occasion, he was known to throw beer bottles at heckling fans in the stands.

As his record as Cubs’ manager indicates, Chance’s tactics were effective. His players may have hated him but they also respected him. That’s probably because as player manager, Chance was able to prove he was only asking his teammates to play the game the same hard-nosed, take no prisoners way he played it himself. One of the toughest brawlers in baseball, Chance actually took off-season boxing lessons from former heavyweight champion John Corbett. As a hitter, he would famously crowd the plate and dare opposing pitchers to try and back him off it. Many of the National League’s  mounds-men certainly tried, because he was hit by pitches 137 times during his playing career and was a victim of head beanings so frequently that blood clots formed in his brain and he was forced to undergo emergency surgery during the 1912 season to save his life. It was while he was in the hospital recovering from that surgery that he was dismissed as Cubs manager for arguing with the owner about player trades being contemplated.

That’s when the Yankees hired the man who by then had become known as “the Peerless Leader.” Still considered a player manager, Chance would only appear in 13 games during his almost two full seasons in New York. He was relatively successful during his tenure. By the second year, his 1914 Yankee team had won 20 more regular season games than the 1912 Yankee team had won just before he became the team’s skipper. The problem was that 1912 Yankee team had only won 50 games. He was replaced as skipper by his shortstop, Roger Peckinpaugh during the final month of his second season. He would later manage the Red Sox and be hired to skipper the White Sox as well. But before he managed his first game for Chicago’s southside team, he came down with pneumonia and died at the age of 48.

I found much of the information used in this post in Frank Ryhal’s article on Frank Chance, published by the Society for American Baseball Research.

Chance shares his birthday with this Yankee Hall-of-Fame pitcherthis former Yankee center fielder and this one-time New York third baseman.

Here’s Chance’s limited player stats as a Yankee plus his more impressive lifetime totals:

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1913 NYY 12 33 24 3 5 0 0 0 6 1 8 1 .208 .406 .208 .615
1914 NYY 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
17 Yrs 1288 5103 4299 798 1274 200 79 20 596 403 556 320 .296 .394 .394 .788
G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
CHC (15 yrs) 1275 5070 4275 795 1269 200 79 20 590 402 548 319 .297 .394 .395 .789
NYY (2 yrs) 13 33 24 3 5 0 0 0 6 1 8 1 .208 .406 .208 .615
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/17/2013.

Here’s Chance’s managerial record:

Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
9 1913 36 New York Yankees AL 153 57 94 .377 7 Player/Manager
10 1914 37 New York Yankees AL 1st of 2 137 60 74 .448 6 Player/Manager
Chicago Cubs 8 years 1178 768 389 .664 1.8 4 Pennants and 2 World Series Titles
New York Yankees 2 years 290 117 168 .411 6.5
Boston Red Sox 1 year 154 61 91 .401 8.0
11 years 1622 946 648 .593 3.2 4 Pennants and 2 World Series Titles
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/17/2013.

September 6 – Happy Birthday Jack Phillips

Most of today’s Yankee fans can very easily remember the era of Jason Giambi in pinstripes. He was signed to be New York’s full-time first baseman but during the seven seasons he played in the Bronx, he started as many as 100 games at that position just once, in 2008, his final season as a Yankee. The Great Giambino got all that Yankee money for his hitting prowess because if he was paid based on his ability to defend his position, the guy would have qualified for food stamps. It was during the Giambi years that Yankee fans grew used to a committee approach of starting first basemen. Now of course, we have the great glove of Mark Teixeira patrolling there game in and game out and prior to Giambi, Yankee first basemen tended to be full-time first basemen, like Tino, Mattingly, Chambliss, Pepitone, Moose and of course the guy who epitomized full-time first basemen the great Lou Gehrig.

Most of you (including myself) don’t remember the Yankees of the late 1940’s and early 50’s. That was really the last lengthy era of multiple Yankee starting first basemen. In 1949 for example, six different guys made starts at that position. “Old Reliable,” Tommy Henrich, was one of them. The former outfielder led the team with just 51 starts at first that season. Former Amsterdam Rugmaker, Dick Kryhoski was next with 47 starts and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Jack Phillips, was Casey Stengel’s starting choice at first base 37 times, before he was sold to the Pirates on August 6th of the 1949 season.

Phillips was very competent defensively and at six feet four inches tall, he provided a big target for the throws of his fellow Yankee infielders. Hence the nickname “Stretch,” which of course was made more famous later by the great Giant first sacker, Willie McCovey. Phillips, a native of Clarence, NY, was a right-handed contact hitter and since both Henrich and Kryhoski batted from the left side, Stengel would frequently start him against southpaws.

Stretch had made his Yankee debut in August of 1947, hitting .278 in fourteen games and impressing then manager, Bucky Harris enough to make New York’s World Series’ roster and get two at bats and his one and only ring against the Dodgers that fall. Two seasons later, Phillips’ was hitting .308 for New York when Pittsburgh made a purchase offer for him that Yankee GM George Weiss did not refuse. He remained with the Pirates for the next three years and in 1950, he hit the first pinch-hit “ultimate” home run in Major League history. What’s an “ultimate” home run? A walk-off blast that occurs when the home-team is down by three runs.

Jack Phillips would later also play a few seasons for the Tigers and then retire in 1957. He would eventually become head baseball coach at Clarkson University in New York State, his alma mater and serve in that capacity for 24 years. That school’s baseball field is named in his honor. Phillips died in 2009 at the age of 87.

This former Yankee back-up catcher and this one-time Yankee catching coach were also born on September 6th.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1947 NYY 16 39 36 5 10 0 1 1 2 0 3 5 .278 .333 .417 .750
1948 NYY 1 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000
1949 NYY 45 106 91 16 28 4 1 1 10 1 12 9 .308 .388 .407 .795
9 Yrs 343 990 892 111 252 42 16 9 101 5 85 86 .283 .344 .396 .740
PIT (4 yrs) 158 464 421 43 111 17 10 5 49 3 39 40 .264 .326 .387 .713
NYY (3 yrs) 62 147 129 21 38 4 2 2 12 1 15 15 .295 .368 .403 .771
DET (3 yrs) 123 379 342 47 103 21 4 2 40 1 31 31 .301 .356 .404 .760
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/17/2013.

September 5 – Happy Birthday Buddy Hassett

After spending six seasons in the National League with the Dodgers and Braves, the Yankees acquired Hassett to play first base in 1942, replacing the light-hitting Johnny Sturm. The New York City native who was born September 5, 1911, did OK in Pinstripes, hitting .284 and scoring 80 runs for a Yankee team that won 103 regular season games and captured the AL Pennant. After hitting .333 in a losing effort against the Cardinals in that season’s World Series, Hassett never appeared in another big league ball game.

He was called into military service the following year and the Yankees went out and got Nick Etten to play first base during the ’43 season. By the time Hassett returned from the Navy he was one of over 500 big league and more than 4,000 minor league players coming back from the armed services to reclaim or try to win a limited number of big league roster spots. Though Hassett had been one of a small group of players in history to have compiled at least 375 plate appearances during each season of his major league career before joining the service, he failed to make a post- WWII big league roster (even though the commissioner had expanded those rosters from 25 to 30 players to accommodate returning players.)

September 5 is also the birthday of Bill Mazeroski. My first vivid memory of being a Yankee fan was running all the way home from school as a first grader on an October afternoon in 1960 so I could watch the end of the seventh game of the 1960 World Series. I got in front of our family’s black & white Sylvania just in time to see Yogi Berra staring up at the top of the ivy-covered left field wall at Pittsburgh’s old Forbes Field, watching Mazeroski’s series-winning home run fly over it. So I won’t be wishing the former Pirate second baseman a happy birthday, ever.

Another Yankee born on September 5th is this former Yankee reliever and this long ago starting pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1942 NYY 132 581 538 80 153 16 6 5 48 5 32 16 .284 .325 .364 .689
7 Yrs 929 3807 3517 469 1026 130 40 12 343 53 209 116 .292 .333 .362 .695
BSN (3 yrs) 389 1572 1453 190 409 43 11 3 120 27 90 45 .281 .324 .332 .656
BRO (3 yrs) 408 1654 1526 199 464 71 23 4 175 21 87 55 .304 .346 .389 .734
NYY (1 yr) 132 581 538 80 153 16 6 5 48 5 32 16 .284 .325 .364 .689
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/5/2013.