Results tagged ‘ general manager ’

July 3 – Happy Birthday Brian Cashman

I consider Gabe Paul to have been the most successful Yankee GM during the Steinbrenner era, but the guy who has been sitting in that same seat since 1998 would be the choice of many. Brian Cashman turns 46-years-old today. He got his current job when George Steinbrenner’s ranting and raving drove Bob Watson’s blood pressure up into the stratosphere. Certainly, a big reason Cashman is still in the chair is that his reign as Yankee GM coincided with the physical decline of “the Boss.” Let’s face it, the George Steinbrenner of the seventies and eighties would have blamed and fired or driven Cashman away long before now.

But with the legendary Yankee owner first de-clawed and now gone from the scene, Cashman has done a pretty good job of establishing himself as the new decider in the Yankee hierarchy. Don’t get me wrong, if Hal Steinbrenner disagrees with Cashman on any move, that move doesn’t get made. But the truth is that while the Boss’s boy may understand how baseball works, Cashman lives, eats and breathes it.

Cashman began his Yankee career as an intern who got that job because his Dad, who raised harness horses for a living, had a friend who knew the race-horse-loving George Steinbrenner. It was Watson who recommended that Cashman, who was by then Watson’s assistant, be hired as his successor, but not before he warned his ambitious apprentice to consider refusing the promotion.

Cashman’s ascension, however, was blessed by perfect timing. The 1998 Yankee team he inherited was about to put forth one of the greatest seasons in MLB history and because Cashman had little to do with its formation, he got little credit from the media for the achievement. This greatly pleased Steinbrenner, who had a well-publicized mania about any Yankee front office executive being praised for the team’s success. Cashman also was a master at accepting Steinbrenner’s insults, taunts and criticisms. He learned quickly that when things did not work out for the team on the field to act as if it was his fault but if and when they did, to give credit to others, especially the Boss. Then as George got older and sicker, he gradually became less and less involved with the team’s personnel decisions. As the Yankees kept winning, the only real battle for authority Cashman had to fight was with Steinbrenner’s famous Florida-based team of baseball advisors. It appears he won it when in 2005, he threatened to accept the GM’s job for the Washington Nationals if the Yankees didn’t give him authority over George’s sunshine boys.

Cashman has made several adept moves during his tenure. One of his most recent was the trade that put Curtis Granderson in pinstripes. He has also made several errors, especially involving free agent pitchers, which have cost millions upon millions of Yankee bucks. But there’s no doubt that the guy works hard and is well respected by his peers around the league.

So what have I got against Cashman? Believe it or not, his treatment of Derek Jeter during the Captain’s most recent salary negotiation turned me off to the guy. I don’t blame him for being a tough bargainer and trying to sign the living legend for as little as possible. I do however blame Cashman for taking it public, even after Jeter guaranteed the Yankees at the outset that he would not negotiate or sign with any other team. It was as if Cashman was trying to prove to everyone how tough he was by acting that way with a Yankee legend when all he accomplished was to embarrass Jeter for absolutely no good reason.

Oh well, happy birthday Brian Cashman. I wish you a future filled with good health and happiness. He shares his birthday with this former Yankee pitching coach.

May 23 – Happy Birthday Clyde King

Of all the managers George Steinbrenner hired and fired during his tenure as managing owner of the New York Yankees, none were more loyal to the “Boss” than today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Clyde King. The native of Goldsboro, North Carolina began his big league career in 1944 with the Dodgers. During the first six years of his playing career he pitched out of the Brooklyn bullpen. After getting traded to the Reds, where he played his final big league season in 1953, King became a minor league manager, then a big league pitching coach and eventually a manager for both the San Francisco Giants and the Atlanta Braves. But King disliked managing because he had a tough time communicating with modern day ballplayers. He was big on discipline and felt the players union had made it more difficult than necessary for Major League skippers to exercise control over their teams.

In 1976, King joined the Yankees as an advance scout and Steinbrenner took a liking to him. Like George, King was a pessimist who found it much easier to criticize than praise. The two got along famously and King became the only man in history to serve as the Yankee pitching coach, manager and GM. He got his shot at managing the Yankees during their tumultuous 1982 season. Bob Lemon had started that season as the Yankee field boss but was replaced by Gene Michael just 14 games into the season. Michael hated the job because Steinbrenner meddled so much and he asked the Boss to put him back in the front office. “The Stick” got his wish and was replaced by King who led the team to a 29-33 finish.

The following year George brought Billy Martin back to the Yankee dugout and returned King to the front office, where he took part in two controversial moments in franchise history. The first occurred in 1985, when Steinbrenner broke his promise to let Yogi Berra manage the entire season. It was King who did the actual firing. Eleven years later, during the Yankees 1996 spring training camp, King convinced the Boss that the Yankees could not win with Derek Jeter starting at shortstop. Fortunately, Gene Michael defended Joe Torre’s desire to start the talented youngster and Steinbrenner reluctantly relented.

King would remain one of the Yankee owner’s most loyal and trusted advisors until the day Steinbrenner died in July of 2010. King would follow his Boss to the grave just four months later, at the age of 86. King shares his birthday with another former Yankee manager and this one-time back up catcher.

Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
5 1982 58 New York Yankees AL 3rd of 3 62 29 33 .468 5
San Francisco Giants 2 years 204 109 95 .534 2.5
Atlanta Braves 2 years 198 96 101 .487 4.0
New York Yankees 1 year 62 29 33 .468 5.0
5 years 464 234 229 .505 3.6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/23/2013.

February 3 – Happy Birthday Larry MacPhail Sr.

Larry MacPhail Sr.  was anything but an ordinary guy. The son of a prominent banker, Larry attended private schools, went on to get his law degree and then enlisted in the army to fight WWI as an artillery captain. As the armistice was being negotiated, he accompanied his commanding officer on an unsanctioned and unsuccessful mission to kidnap the Kaiser. After the war, he practiced law, ran a department store and became part owner of a minor league baseball team. That team was affiliated with the St Louis Cardinals and through that affiliation, Larry developed a working relationship with the Cardinal’s chief executive, the legendary Branch Rickey. A few years later, the Cincinnati Reds were looking for a new GM and Rickey recommended MacPhail for the job and the game of baseball was never the same. MacPhail was an innovator. He introduced night baseball, air travel and television to the sport and for good measure, he gave the game Red Barber. After leaving the Reds he became GM of the Dodgers and turned a very bad Brooklyn team into a pennant winner within two seasons. Then in 1945, he was brought into a partnership by Dan Topping and Del Webb that purchased the New York Yankees from the estate of Jacob Rupert. Neither Webb or Topping knew anything about running a baseball team and after witnessing MacPhail’s success with Brooklyn, they figured he was the right guy to make baseball decisions.

The problem with MacPhail was he loved the booze as much as he loved running a baseball team and he too often let the two mix. Yankee manager Joe McCarthy quit the team when MacPhail became its President and so did his successor, Bill Dickey. One night while drinking with Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey in Toots Shoor’s restaurant in Manhattan, MacPhail actually traded Joe DiMaggio for Ted Williams. When Yawkey sobered up the next morning, he called old Larry and nixed the deal. After both McCarthy and Dickey quit as Yankee skippers, MacPhail started courting Leo Durocher, who was being investigated by the Commissioner’s office for his association with known gamblers. It soon became clear to Webb and Topping that MacPhail was not a good fit. The situation came to a head after the Yankees beat the Dodgers in the 1947 World Series. MacPhail was already drunk before the final game ended. During a team celebration that followed at Manhattan’s Biltmore Hotel, the seriously inebriated executive insulted every one in his path including Topping. Author Roger Kahn later wrote that MacPhail was actually suffering a nervous breakdown during the event. Whatever the case, Topping and Webb quickly forced him out of the partnership. He never again ran a big league ball club.

MacPhail passed away in 1975 at the age of 85. Three years later he was inducted  into the Baseball Hall of Fame. His son Lee was also a Yankee GM and joined his Dad in the Hall of Fame in 1998, becoming the only father-son tandem in Cooperstown. Larry Sr. shares his February 3rd birthday with this former Yankee pitcherthis one too and this one-time Yankee third-baseman.

October 17 – Happy Birthday Harding “Pete” Peterson

hpetersonA New York Times article from November of 1989, cited a series of letters written by today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant that helped him secure the New York Yankee General Manager’s job that October. The letters were addressed to team owner George Steinbrenner and in them, Harding “Pete” Peterson had stressed that in order to be successful, a big league organization had to have front office job stability. Those letters may have helped Peterson get the position he wanted but they certainly did nothing to stabilize Steinbrenner’s front office.

Peterson is a New Jersey native who had grown up rooting for the Yankees and was a good enough ballplayer to play for Rutgers and eventually become a big league catcher with the Pirates. His playing career ended in 1959 when a violent collision at home plate busted his throwing arm so badly that he was never able to recover. Instead, he became a coach and manager in Pittsburgh’s farm system, then director of the organization’s player development and scouting operations and by 1978, the Pirates GM. He reached the apex of his profession in 1979, when his Pittsburgh team won the World Championship. Six years later, Harding’s fortunes and reputation had suffered a complete reversal with the revelation of widespread cocaine use by Pirate players. He shouldered much of the blame for letting the Buc clubhouse run wild and was fired. When he left Pittsburgh, the chance of him ever becoming a big league GM again seemed microscopic.

George Steinbrenner may have been an egomaniacal narcissist but he also believed in giving guys who had been successful and then failed, a chance to be successful again. As  the 1989 season ended, the Boss was embroiled up to his eyeballs in the Dave Winfield-Howie Spira scandal and his Yankee team was falling further and further away from being a playoff contender. He had just fired his 13th Yankee GM when he gave Bob Quinn his walking papers. He decided to give Peterson a shot but instead of handing over all control of personnel matters to his new GM, Steinbrenner hedged his bet by also giving George Bradley, New York’s director of minor league operations at the time, equal say in any player move the Yankees made. This fateful decision was the origin of the Yankee’s infamous two-headed organizational monster. In theory, the New York-based office headed by Peterson was expected to work in conjunction with the Tampa-based office head by Bradley on any and all trades, signings, assignments, etc. In reality, it was the beginning of total chaos.

The one season Peterson semi general-managed the Yankees was a disaster. They finished in last place in the AL East with just 67 wins, not one of the team’s starting pitchers achieved double digits in victories and they had the worst offense in baseball. Peterson was the guy who had to fire Bucky Dent as Yankee skipper, replace him with Stump Merrill and trade Dave Winfield to the Angels for Mike Witt. As expected the dual GM structure was a disaster and it was Peterson who ended up being the sacrificial lamb, when in his last official act before beginning what was supposed to be a lifetime ban from Major League Baseball, Steinbrenner fired the guy and replaced him with Gene Michael. Actually, Steinbrenner demoted Peterson at the time, making him Michael’s assistant.

The one bright spot during Peterson’s tenure as Yankee GM was the 1990 draft. The Yankees selections that year included Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Shane Spencer and Ricky Ledee. Peterson ended up quickly leaving the Yankee organization to become a scout for the Blue Jays and later the Padres. He’s still alive and residing in Florida and turns 84-years-old today.

Peterson shares his birthday with one of the Yankees’ all-time great third baseman and also this former Yankee outfielder.

August 9 – Happy Birthday Ralph Houk

Just over a year ago,  I was watching one of those fantastic replays of old World Series games the MLB Network broadcasts from time-to-time. This one was the seventh game of the 1952 World Series between the Yankees and Dodgers. The series was tied three games apiece and the final game was being played at Ebbets Field.

Eddie Lopat started for New York against that year’s NL Rookie of the Year, the Dodgers’ Joe Black, who was starting his third game of that World Series. Casey Stengel only let Lopat work three innings and then replaced him with the “Super Chief” Allie Reynolds. The Yankees were holding onto a slim one-run lead with Reynolds due to lead off the top of the seventh inning. The old black & white television camera panned to the on-deck circle and standing there, swinging some warmup bats trying to get loose was a Yankee third string catcher named Ralph Houk.

Even though I hadn’t been born at the time this game was being played and I was actually watching a 58-year-old film of the event, I was shocked when I saw the “Major” getting ready to hit and so too was the booth announcer doing the play-by-play (I can’t remember if it was Mel Allen or Red Barber.) Houk had only got into nine games during the entire 1952 regular season during which he had come to the plate with a bat in his hand a grand total of seven times. Here he was about to get
his eighth plate appearance of the entire year in the seventh and deciding game of the World Series with his team ahead by just one run.

The very savvy Preacher Roe had come in to relieve Black and Houk was the first hitter he faced. Ralph had a great at-bat that lasted about a dozen pitches and he ended up smashing a hot shot down third base which was smothered by the great glove man, Billy Cox and Houk was thrown out at by just a hair at first. Even though he made an out, Houk had battled Roe and hit him hard, justifying Stengel’s faith in him.

I remember thinking what a thrill it was for me, an avid fifty-year Yankee fan, to be able to have seen a guy I knew only as a Yankee manager take an important at-bat in a critical game in Yankee history. I had sort of lost my good feelings for Houk after he took the GM promotion the Yankees gave him in 1963 and he fired Yogi Berra as Yankee Manager after the ’64 World Series. I started liking him again after reading how he had not been afraid to stand up against the bullying tactics of a young George Steinbrenner during Houk’s final year as Yankee Manager. And then, after seeing replays of that long-ago at-bat I actually Googled Houk and read up on his career and was pretty shocked when I realized he had turned ninety.

When he died on July 21, 2010, I immediately thought of the thrill of having seen that 1952 World Series at bat just a few weeks earlier. And every time I saw that black armband on a Yankee player’s uniform for the rest of last season, I thought of the Major who won both a Silver and Bronze star leading his men forward on Omaha Beach and into the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge. I thought of the Yankee Manager who won two World Series during his first two years at the helm. And I thought of that third string catcher and unlikely pinch hitter running as hard as he could down the first baseline of old Ebbets field and just getting nipped by Billy Cox’s throw. RIP Ralph Houk.

Houk shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee pitcher, and this one too.

Houk’s record as a Yankee player appears below, followed by his record as Yankee manager:

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1947 NYY 41 104 92 7 25 3 1 0 12 0 11 5 .272 .356 .326 .682
1948 NYY 14 29 29 3 8 2 0 0 3 0 0 0 .276 .276 .345 .621
1949 NYY 5 7 7 0 4 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 .571 .571 .571 1.143
1950 NYY 10 9 9 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 2 .111 .111 .222 .333
1951 NYY 3 5 5 0 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 .200 .200 .200 .400
1952 NYY 9 6 6 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .333 .429 .333 .762
1953 NYY 8 9 9 2 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 .222 .222 .222 .444
1954 NYY 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
8 Yrs 91 170 158 12 43 6 1 0 20 0 12 10 .272 .327 .323 .650
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/9/2013.
Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
1 1961 41 New York Yankees AL 163 109 53 .673 1 WS Champs
2 1962 42 New York Yankees AL 162 96 66 .593 1 WS Champs
3 1963 43 New York Yankees AL 161 104 57 .646 1 AL Pennant
4 1966 46 New York Yankees AL 2nd of 2 140 66 73 .475 10
5 1967 47 New York Yankees AL 163 72 90 .444 9
6 1968 48 New York Yankees AL 164 83 79 .512 5
7 1969 49 New York Yankees AL 162 80 81 .497 5
8 1970 50 New York Yankees AL 163 93 69 .574 2
9 1971 51 New York Yankees AL 162 82 80 .506 4
10 1972 52 New York Yankees AL 155 79 76 .510 4
11 1973 53 New York Yankees AL 162 80 82 .494 4
New York Yankees 11 years 1757 944 806 .539 4.2 3 Pennants and 2 World Series Titles
Detroit Tigers 5 years 806 363 443 .450 5.2
Boston Red Sox 4 years 594 312 282 .525 4.0
20 years 3157 1619 1531 .514 4.4 3 Pennants and 2 World Series Titles
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/9/2013.

August 28 – Happy Birthday Lou Piniella

If you’re old enough to remember when Lou Piniella played for the Yankees, you most likely enjoyed watching him do so. He had very little speed and not much power so he mixed every ounce of talent he had with every bit of effort he could muster to play a huge role in helping New York win five pennants and two World Series during his eleven seasons with the team. Oh yeah, he also had a beautiful swing which earned him the nickname “Sweet Lou.” He first donned the pinstripes in 1974, when the Yankees picked up the 1969 AL Rookie of the Year winner from the Royals in a trade for veteran reliever Lindy McDaniel. It turned out to be one of the best transactions in Yankee history. He hit .305 as manager Bill Virdon’s everyday right-fielder during his first year in the Bronx but then he went through a horrible season in 1975, averaging just .186 and helping to get Virdon fired and replaced by the fiery Billy Martin. Billy began playing Piniella a little bit in right field, a little bit in left and a little bit at DH. Lou simply thrived in this semi-utility role, averaging over .300 for the rest of his Yankee career. The play he will always be remembered for in the Big Apple was his famous feint on the Jerry Remy liner that he lost in the sun during the 1978 playoff game against the Red Sox. If he doesn’t make believe he sees that ball, Rick Burleson, who was on first at the time, easily gets to third and might have scored. Then Lou spears the ball on one hop and again prevents Burleson from getting past second.

George Steinbrenner loved players born in his adopted home-town of Tampa and Lou was the first native of that city to play for The Boss. That helps explain why George gave Lou his first manager and general manager jobs with the Yankees. Piniella’s temper and Steinbrenner’s famous impatience with anyone placed in either of those positions ended any chance Lou might have had to retire from baseball as a Yankee. Instead he went on to win three Manager of the Year titles, the 1991 World Series and finally ended his 43-year big league career this month when he walked away from the Wrigley Field dugout to spend time with his ailing Mom and go fishing.

Lou turns 68 years-old today. The guy who gave up the home run to Bucky Dent in that 1978 playoff game, the pitcher who started that playoff game for New Yorkthis former Yankee second baseman and this former Yankee reliever were all also born on August 28th.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1974 NYY 140 567 518 71 158 26 0 9 70 1 32 58 .305 .341 .407 .748
1975 NYY 74 221 199 7 39 4 1 0 22 0 16 22 .196 .262 .226 .489
1976 NYY 100 351 327 36 92 16 6 3 38 0 18 34 .281 .322 .394 .716
1977 NYY 103 369 339 47 112 19 3 12 45 2 20 31 .330 .365 .510 .876
1978 NYY 130 513 472 67 148 34 5 6 69 3 34 36 .314 .361 .445 .806
1979 NYY 130 491 461 49 137 22 2 11 69 3 17 31 .297 .320 .425 .745
1980 NYY 116 355 321 39 92 18 0 2 27 0 29 20 .287 .343 .361 .704
1981 NYY 60 174 159 16 44 9 0 5 18 0 13 9 .277 .331 .428 .759
1982 NYY 102 283 261 33 80 17 1 6 37 0 18 18 .307 .352 .448 .801
1983 NYY 53 160 148 19 43 9 1 2 16 1 11 12 .291 .344 .405 .749
1984 NYY 29 93 86 8 26 4 1 1 6 0 7 5 .302 .355 .407 .762
18 Yrs 1747 6362 5867 651 1705 305 41 102 766 32 368 541 .291 .333 .409 .741
NYY (11 yrs) 1037 3577 3291 392 971 178 20 57 417 10 215 276 .295 .338 .413 .751
KCR (5 yrs) 700 2778 2570 258 734 127 21 45 348 22 153 265 .286 .327 .404 .730
CLE (1 yr) 6 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
BAL (1 yr) 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/31/2013.

June 23 – Happy Birthday George Weiss

George Weiss was not an easy guy to get along with. Even his wife agreed with that, once complaining after he was let go by the Yankees that she didn’t like having him at home too much. The reason George did not make friends easily could be summed up by his business philosophy, which was to never be satisfied with anything. He always felt things could be better and to him, better meant winning more world championships and becoming more profitable. That’s the philosophy he used when he designed and built the Yankee farm system during the thirties and forties and also exactly how he ran the organization when he was named General Manager of the parent club in January of 1948. Weiss managed every detail at every level of the Yankee organization, regardless how small and that usually meant saving or making every penny possible.

My favorite story about “Lonesome George” took place in 1957. Mickey Mantle had won the triple crown in 1956 and finished the ’57 season with a .365 batting average, 34 home runs and 94 RBIs. Weiss sent him a contract with a $17,000 pay cut. Mantle asked why. Weiss pointed out that Mantle had failed to repeat as triple crown winner. Weiss was GM of the Yankees from 1948 until 1961. During that time, New York won ten AL Pennants and seven Fall Classics. His greatest move as GM was hiring Casey Stengel. His biggest failure and the stain on his otherwise brilliant career was his refusal to sign black ballplayers.

Weiss shares his birthday with this Yankee catcher, who he traded to the White Sox for Eddie Lopat in 1948 . This one-time Yankee slugging prospect and this former Yankee pitching prospect were also born on June 23rd.