Results tagged ‘ hall-of-fame ’

August 7 – Happy Birthday Bill McKechnie

Bill McKechnieDeacon Bill McKechnie wasn’t an especially good baseball player. He played a total of 846 games over eleven seasons as a utility infielder for five different ball clubs, averaging just .251 lifetime. Forty-five of those games were played in a Yankee uniform during the 1913 season. The switch-hitting Wilkinsburg, PA native hit just .134 for that Frank Chance managed New York team that finished in seventh place that season with a horrible 57-94 record. Those mediocre numbers may explain why the Yankees or nobody else seemed to care when McKechnie jumped to the upstart Federal League the following season to play for the Indianapolis Hoosiers. He averaged .304 as the Hoosier’s starting third baseman in 1914 and when the franchise was relocated to Newark, NJ the following year, McKechnie was made the team’s player-manager.

McKechne may have not been a very good big league player but he became an excellent big league manager. After the Federal League went belly up in 1916, he returned to the National League and played five more seasons before landing the Pittsburgh Pirates’ skipper’s job in June of 1922. His 1925 Pirate team won the World Series. His 1928 St. Louis Cardinal team won the NL Pennant. He then won two more Pennants with the 1939 and ’40 Cincinnati Reds and captured his second World Championship with that 1940 Reds team. He was the only big league manager to win pennants with three different teams until Dick Williams accomplished that same feat in 1984. In all he managed for 24 seasons in the National League. In addition to the Pirates, Cards and Reds, he also managed the Boston Braves for eight seasons. In all, he won 1,842 games which placed him in second place on the all-time list, when he retired in 1946, behind only John McGraw. He was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1962. He died three years later at the age of 79.

McKechnie shares his birthday with this World Series legend, this former Yankee DH/outfielder and this one-time Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1913 NYY 45 124 112 7 15 0 0 0 8 2 8 17 .134 .198 .134 .332
11 Yrs 846 3179 2843 319 713 86 33 8 240 127 190 204 .251 .301 .313 .614
PIT (6 yrs) 368 1313 1182 118 278 25 20 5 109 34 71 80 .235 .281 .303 .584
NEW (2 yrs) 276 1179 1021 156 286 46 11 3 81 75 94 67 .280 .345 .356 .700
CIN (2 yrs) 85 285 264 15 70 6 1 0 25 9 10 19 .265 .295 .295 .590
NYG (1 yr) 71 273 260 22 64 9 1 0 17 7 7 20 .246 .269 .288 .557
BSN (1 yr) 1 5 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .200 .000 .200
NYY (1 yr) 45 124 112 7 15 0 0 0 8 2 8 17 .134 .198 .134 .332
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/6/2013.

August 5 – Happy Birthday Jacob Ruppert

Over a half-century before George Steinbrenner came on the scene, another son of a wealthy German-American businessman purchased New York City’s American League baseball franchise and wheeled and dealed his way to World Championships and a brand new Big Apple stadium for his team. But instead of building ships like George’s dad, this guy’s father made beer.

His name was Jacob Ruppert and he took over the family business when his Dad died in 1915 and immediately began looking for ways to get his brewery’s name in the newspapers more often. He accomplished that by purchasing a baseball team. Originally, Ruppert was co-owner of the Yankees along with partner Cap Huston. He bought out Huston in 1923 to become sole owner of the ball club.

In a series of astute business and hiring maneuvers, he turned the Yankees into the most valuable brand in all of sports. He brought Babe Ruth to New York.  He hired Ed Barrow to build baseball’s best farm system and he put managerial legends, Miller Huggins and then Joe McCarthy in the Yankee dugout. During his 23 years owning the franchise, the Yankees won the first ten of their World Series championships. Though I’ve never been a big fan of the guy, I agree with those who felt George Steinbrenner belongs in Baseball’s Hall of Fame but only if they put Jake Ruppert in their first. Rupert received that honor in 2013, when he was the choice of the Hall’s Veterans’ Committee.

Rupert shares his August 5th birthday with this 2002 AL Rookie of the Year and this one-time Yankee first baseman.

March 4 – Happy Birthday Dazzy Vance

Dazzy Vance is in the Hall of Fame even though he did not win his first Major League game until he was 31 years old. What took him so long? He spent almost a decade, from 1912 until 1921 in the minor leagues trying to figure out how to throw his lightening quick fastball over the plate for strikes. Before he came up for good with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1922, Vance spent about four seasons in the Yankee organization. New York brought him up to the big leagues for two look-see’s. The first time was 1915. Vance was a 17-game winner that year pitching single A ball in St. Joseph, MO. He got into eight games for New York, losing all three of his decisions. He didn’t get his next taste of the Big Apple until four years later, in 1918 and it did not taste good. Dazzy got shelled in both his Yankee relief appearances that season and since he was 27 at the time, it seemed as if his chances of making the big leagues were over. But the persistent Vance went back to the minors and toiled for four more years.

In 1922, Brooklyn purchased his contract and dumped him immediately into their starting rotation. Dazzy won 18 games in his full-fledged rookie season and led the NL in strikeouts. For the next ten seasons he was one of the very best pitchers in baseball. He ended up winning seven-straight strikeout titles. In 1924 he had one of the greatest seasons any big league pitcher has ever had, leading the NL in victories (28), ERA (2.16) and K’s (262.) By the time his career was over, in 1935, the 44-year-old right-hander had put together a lifetime record of 197-140. That’s on top of the 139 victories he had accumulated in the minor leagues. In 1955, Vance was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

His real name was Charles. He was born in Orient,IA on March 4, 1891. He passed away in 1961.

Ironically, Dazzy shares his March 4th birthday with this other Major League baseball star with a well-known nickname, who also got big league call-ups as a Yankee early in his career, who also didn’t make it to the major leagues for good until he was 31 years old and when he did, he also became a star for Brooklyn.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1915 NYY 0 3 .000 3.54 8 3 4 1 0 0 28.0 23 14 11 1 16 18 1.393
1918 NYY 0 0 15.43 2 0 1 0 0 0 2.1 9 5 4 0 2 0 4.714
16 Yrs 197 140 .585 3.24 442 349 53 216 29 11 2966.2 2809 1246 1068 132 840 2045 1.230
BRO (12 yrs) 190 131 .592 3.17 378 328 36 212 29 7 2757.2 2579 1135 972 123 764 1918 1.212
NYY (2 yrs) 0 3 .000 4.45 10 3 5 1 0 0 30.1 32 19 15 1 18 18 1.648
STL (2 yrs) 7 3 .700 3.59 47 15 11 3 0 4 158.0 167 68 63 7 42 100 1.323
CIN (1 yr) 0 2 .000 7.50 6 2 1 0 0 0 18.0 28 21 15 1 11 9 2.167
PIT (1 yr) 0 1 .000 10.13 1 1 0 0 0 0 2.2 3 3 3 0 5 0 3.000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/21/2014.

New York Yankees in the Hall of Fame

NB_HOF_logo

The list below identifies New York Yankees who have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as of December 9, 2013. The list is presented in the order of induction date with the most recent inductee listed first and includes players, managers and team executives who played or worked for the Yankees at any time in franchise history, including the 1903-1912 Highlanders and the 1901-1902 Orioles. The year listed along-side each individual’s name is the year that person was inducted.

Joe Torre 2014

Bobby Cox 2014

Jacob Rupert 2013

Joe Gordon 2009

Ricky Henderson 2009

Rich Gossage 2008

Wade Boggs 2005

Dave Winfield 2001

Lee MacPhail 1998

Phil Niekro 1997

Leo Durocher 1994

Phil Rizzuto 1994

Reggie Jackson 1993

Tony Lazzeri 1991

Gaylord Perry 1991

Catfish Hunter 1987

Enos Slaughter 1985

Johnny Mize 1981

Larry MacPhail 1978

Joe Sewell 1977

Bucky Harris 1975

Whitey Ford 1974

Mickey Mantle 1974

Yogi Berra 1972

Lefty Gomez 1972

Joe Kelley 1971

George Weiss 1971

Earl Combs 1970

Stan Coveleski 1969

Waite Hoyt 1969

Branch Rickey 1967

Red Ruffing 1967

Casey Stengel 1966

Burleigh Grimes 1964

Miller Huggins 1964

Bill McKechnie 1962

Joe McCarthy 1957

Home Run Baker 1955

Joe DiMaggio 1955

Dazzy Vance 1955

Bill Dickey 1954

Ed Barrow 1953

Paul Waner 1952

Herb Pennock 1948

Frank Chance 1946

Jack Chesbro 1946

Clark Griffith 1946

Joe McGinnity 1946

Roger Bresnahan 1945

Wilbert Robinson 1945

Lou Gehrig 1939

Willie Keeler 1939

John McGraw 1937

Babe Ruth 1936

Hall of Fame voters unfortunately got it right this time

I was not disappointed with the Hall of Fame vote yesterday, just sad. Sad because the lack of an inductee emphasized for me just how much “cheating” has screwed up our sports and our society. Forgive me for the simplicity Bill James, but it used to be that if you hit 400 home runs, got 3,000 hits or won 200 games as a pitcher, you’d have a good shot at getting into Cooperstown. Not any more. Why? Because those numbers and the athletes who compile them can’t be trusted. Just like bicycle race winners, 100 meter dash times, and 260 pound chiseled NFL linebackers with sprinter speed can’t be trusted. We will never again take performance on the athletic field of competition at face value. Why? Because greed and ego have turned the pursuit of victory and honor into anything but that. Now I’m not naive enough to believe that every one of the existing Hall-of-Famers were men of sterling character and I’m certain that if they had the opportunity to take PEDs many would have. But now that we have actual proof that some on the list of eligible candidates did, the absence of honor and honesty is no longer a question and that makes me sad.

November 25 – Happy Birthday Joe DiMaggio

Today is like a holy day of obligation for Big Apple sports enthusiasts. On this date in 1916, the “Great DiMaggio” was born in Martinez, CA.  He was and probably still is one of the most revered athletes in our country and perhaps the world. As a kid growing up, all I knew about DiMaggio was based on his statistics as a player, the nostalgic observations of sportswriters and the often embellished memories of the older generation of Yankee fans who were my neighbors on the west end of Amsterdam. While his stats indeed indicated DiMaggio was a great player, the latter two sources considered him a “God.” In fact, during my childhood, one of the most frequently heard lines in any argument between a young fan of Mickey Mantle and an older fan of Joe DiMaggio was  “Mantle couldn’t carry DiMaggio’s jock strap.”

I’ve since read quite a few books about DiMaggio and about the Yankees during the DiMaggio era. The last one I read was the critical 2001 biography by Ben Cramer. I’ve come to the conclusion that much of the aura that surrounded the Yankee Clipper was based on his amazing baseball skills and achievements. But a large part of it was also due to the fact that the New York and national sports media of his era worshiped the guy and Joe maneuvered that worship brilliantly.  This level of celebrity pandering by the media has become much less possible because today’s athletes get too much exposure. For example, Yankee fans can watch their team play every single spring training, regular and postseason game on high definition, big-screen TVs. Sportswriters are no longer free to embellish something that everyone is seeing with their own eyes. The Internet and the proliferation of sports bloggers has also made hiding a star player’s off-the-field behavior nearly impossible. Just ask A-Rod.

I would have loved to watch Joe DiMaggio play the game but I didn’t get the opportunity. As a die hard Yankee fan, I celebrate his accomplishments. But I believe the truth is that DiMaggio eventually got wrapped up in his own press clippings to the point that he actually believed he was perfect and that everyone else was out to get him. It was the pressure of maintaining that image that made DiMaggio a bitter man, the superstar who would not say a single word to a young Mickey Mantle during the Mick’s rookie season, who thought Casey Stengel was trying to embarrass him into retirement, and who pretty much abandoned his only son. Why is it that people who have so much going for them have such a difficult time just being happy?

Several years ago, I took my boys to a Yankee game and we were sitting next to a young Yankee fan who loved Don Mattingly. He knew everything about the then current team but not so much about Yankee history so when he told me that Mattingly was a better hitter than Mantle was, I couldn’t help myself. I found myself saying, “Son, Mattingly couldn’t carry Mickey Mantle’s jock strap.” I have to admit the line felt good coming out of my mouth until the completely unfazed kid responded with “What’s a jock strap, mister?”

DiMaggio shares his November 25th birthday with this former Yankee infielder, this Yankee outfielder and this more recent Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1936 NYY 138 669 637 132 206 44 15 29 125 4 24 39 .323 .352 .576 .928
1937 NYY 151 692 621 151 215 35 15 46 167 3 64 37 .346 .412 .673 1.085
1938 NYY 145 660 599 129 194 32 13 32 140 6 59 21 .324 .386 .581 .967
1939 NYY 120 524 462 108 176 32 6 30 126 3 52 20 .381 .448 .671 1.119
1940 NYY 132 572 508 93 179 28 9 31 133 1 61 30 .352 .425 .626 1.051
1941 NYY 139 622 541 122 193 43 11 30 125 4 76 13 .357 .440 .643 1.083
1942 NYY 154 680 610 123 186 29 13 21 114 4 68 36 .305 .376 .498 .875
1946 NYY 132 567 503 81 146 20 8 25 95 1 59 24 .290 .367 .511 .878
1947 NYY 141 601 534 97 168 31 10 20 97 3 64 32 .315 .391 .522 .913
1948 NYY 153 669 594 110 190 26 11 39 155 1 67 30 .320 .396 .598 .994
1949 NYY 76 329 272 58 94 14 6 14 67 0 55 18 .346 .459 .596 1.055
1950 NYY 139 606 525 114 158 33 10 32 122 0 80 33 .301 .394 .585 .979
1951 NYY 116 482 415 72 109 22 4 12 71 0 61 36 .263 .365 .422 .787
13 Yrs 1736 7673 6821 1390 2214 389 131 361 1537 30 790 369 .325 .398 .579 .977
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/24/2013.

October 21 – Happy Birthday Whitey Ford

The argument is easy to make that Whitey Ford is the greatest Yankee starting pitcher of all time. “The Chairman of the Board” was a winner from the get-go, helping New York capture the 1950 pennant in his rookie season by winning nine of ten regular season decisions. He then pitched eight and two thirds innings of shutout ball to earn his first of ten World Series victories in that year’s Fall Classic against the Philadelphia Whiz Kids.

After a two-year hitch in the military, Ford rejoined the Yankees in 1953 and began a streak of thirteen consecutive winning seasons. I firmly believe that if anyone other than Casey Stengel managed the Yankees during the fifties, Ford would have had a lot more regular season victories. Stengel liked to manipulate his rotation so he could match up Ford against the opposing team’s best pitcher, which caused Whitey to average about six to eight less starts per season than the aces of other Major League teams during that decade. When Ralph Houk took over from Stengel in 1961, he gave Ford the ball every fourth game down the stretch and the southpaw responded well to the regularity and extra workload. He had his best year in 1961, when he captured the Cy Young Award with a stunning 25-4 record. In 1963, he went 24-7 and in 1964, eight of his seventeen victories were complete game shutouts.

A native New Yorker, Whitey, country bumpkin Mickey Mantle, and the fiery Californian, Billy Martin, formed a friendship triumvirate that created a lot of success for the Yankees on the field but lots of trouble off of it. Since Ford only played once every five games, he could party hard six nights a week and rest up the evening before his scheduled start. As position players, Mantle and Martin didn’t have that luxury and there were many an early afternoon game when Whitey would sit in the dugout laughing at the play of his two hung over drinking buddies while Stengel fumed.

Ford retired in 1967 after spending his entire seventeen-year career in a Yankee uniform. His 236 regular season victories are still number 1 on New York’s all-time list. His incredible .690 career winning percentage is also still the best of any pitcher with 300 or more career decisions.

Back in 2008, during the ESPN television broadcast of the final game at Yankee Stadium, Ford and his longtime battery mate and fellow Hall-of-Famer Yogi Berra, were invited up to the broadcast booth to share their memories of playing in the Stadium. Those thirty minutes listening to two of my heroes talk about their Yankee playing days was the personal highlight of that 2008 baseball season. Whitey turns 84-years-old today. How did all those years come and go so fast?

Whitey shares his October 21st birthday with former Yankee pitcher, Bill Bevens and former Yankee catcher, John Flaherty.

Year Age Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1950 21 NYY AL 9 1 .900 2.81 20 12 5 7 2 1 112.0 87 39 35 7 52 59 1.241
1953 24 NYY AL 18 6 .750 3.00 32 30 2 11 3 0 207.0 187 77 69 13 110 110 1.435
1954 25 NYY AL 16 8 .667 2.82 34 28 4 11 3 1 210.2 170 72 66 10 101 125 1.286
1955 26 NYY AL 18 7 .720 2.63 39 33 4 18 5 2 253.2 188 83 74 20 113 137 1.187
1956 27 NYY AL 19 6 .760 2.47 31 30 1 18 2 1 225.2 187 70 62 13 84 141 1.201
1957 28 NYY AL 11 5 .688 2.57 24 17 2 5 0 0 129.1 114 46 37 10 53 84 1.291
1958 29 NYY AL 14 7 .667 2.01 30 29 1 15 7 1 219.1 174 62 49 14 62 145 1.076
1959 30 NYY AL 16 10 .615 3.04 35 29 4 9 2 1 204.0 194 82 69 13 89 114 1.387
1960 31 NYY AL 12 9 .571 3.08 33 29 1 8 4 0 192.2 168 76 66 15 65 85 1.209
1961 32 NYY AL 25 4 .862 3.21 39 39 0 11 3 0 283.0 242 108 101 23 92 209 1.180
1962 33 NYY AL 17 8 .680 2.90 38 37 0 7 0 0 257.2 243 90 83 22 69 160 1.211
1963 34 NYY AL 24 7 .774 2.74 38 37 1 13 3 1 269.1 240 94 82 26 56 189 1.099
1964 35 NYY AL 17 6 .739 2.13 39 36 2 12 8 1 244.2 212 67 58 10 57 172 1.099
1965 36 NYY AL 16 13 .552 3.24 37 36 1 9 2 1 244.1 241 97 88 22 50 162 1.191
1966 37 NYY AL 2 5 .286 2.47 22 9 7 0 0 0 73.0 79 33 20 8 24 43 1.411
1967 38 NYY AL 2 4 .333 1.64 7 7 0 2 1 0 44.0 40 11 8 2 9 21 1.114
16 Yrs 236 106 .690 2.75 498 438 35 156 45 10 3170.1 2766 1107 967 228 1086 1956 1.215
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/21/2013.

February 18 – Happy Birthday Joe Gordon

My favorite story about “Flash” came from his Yankee teammate, Tommy Henrich. According to Old Reliable, reporters were questioning Yankee manager Joe McCarthy in New York’s locker room after a game and asked him why he liked Joe Gordon as a player so much. McCarthy had frequently claimed Gordon was the “best player in baseball.” Instead of answering the question, McCarthy called his second baseman over and asked him what his batting average was. Gordon replied that he did not know. Next, McCarthy asked Joe how many home runs he had hit so far that season and again the Flash told his skipper that he had no idea. McCarthy then excused the infielder and after he walked away, answered the reporters original question. “That’s what I like. All he does is come to beat you.”

Joe played for the Yankees from 1938 until 1943 and then served in WWII. During those six seasons the Yankees won five World Series, Gordon made five All Star teams and he won the 1942 AL MVP award. He was also a magnificent second baseman. When Scooter joined the Yankees in 1941 he and Flash formed a terrific middle infield until Pearl Harbor blew it apart. When Gordon returned to the Yankees from military service after the war, he hit just .210 and New York’s front office, thinking his best playing days were behind him, traded Joe to Cleveland for pitcher Allie Reynolds. It turned out to be one of those transactions that worked well for both teams. The hits and power returned to Gordon’s bat and he teamed with Indians’ player manager Lou Boudreau to lead Cleveland to a 1948 World Series victory. Gordon blasted 32 home runs and drove in 124 that season. He played for Cleveland until 1950, retiring after 11 big league seasons. He eventually became a manager, skippering Cleveland, the Athletics and the Royals.

Joe died in 1978 and was voted into Cooperstown by the Veterans Committee in 2009. I listened to his daughter make the acceptance speech and the loving words she shared about her Dad made it clear that Gordon was much more than just a great ballplayer. Joe was born in LA on February 18, 1915.

This former Yankee bullpen star, this long-ago Yankee starting pitcher and this former Yankee catcher also celebrate birthdays on February 18th.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1938 NYY 127 521 458 83 117 24 7 25 97 11 56 72 .255 .340 .502 .843
1939 NYY 151 648 567 92 161 32 5 28 111 11 75 57 .284 .370 .506 .876
1940 NYY 155 677 616 112 173 32 10 30 103 18 52 57 .281 .340 .511 .851
1941 NYY 156 665 588 104 162 26 7 24 87 10 72 80 .276 .358 .466 .824
1942 NYY 147 625 538 88 173 29 4 18 103 12 79 95 .322 .409 .491 .900
1943 NYY 152 649 543 82 135 28 5 17 69 4 98 75 .249 .365 .413 .778
1946 NYY 112 431 376 35 79 15 0 11 47 2 49 72 .210 .308 .338 .645
11 Yrs 1566 6538 5707 914 1530 264 52 253 975 89 759 702 .268 .357 .466 .822
NYY (7 yrs) 1000 4216 3686 596 1000 186 38 153 617 68 481 508 .271 .358 .467 .825
CLE (4 yrs) 566 2322 2021 318 530 78 14 100 358 21 278 194 .262 .354 .463 .817
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/28/2014.

October 20 – Happy Birthday Mickey Mantle

Mickey Mantle was my idol growing up as a kid in the west end of Amsterdam, NY.  I can still remember the feeling of euphoria that would come over my entire body on those very rare moments when I would tear open a pack of Topps baseball cards and there hiding in the gum-smelling stack of five pieces of glossy cardboard would be a Mickey Mantle. He was the very best player on the very best baseball team in the world and during my first five years as a Yankee fan, he led New York to five consecutive World Series appearances.

I had a poster of Mantle on my bedroom wall until I was about sixteen years old. I memorized his hitting statistics for each of his 18 regular season and 12 World Series performances. Watching him hit a home run in a televised Yankee contest was as enjoyable for me as seeing the Beatles for the first time on Ed Sullivan, watching the last episode of MASH and the first episode of the Sopranos all in one.

The first time I saw Mantle in person was a Sunday morning outside Yankee Stadium. Me and my brothers were altar boys when we were kids and we never skipped church on Sunday except for the two or three times each summer when our Uncle would take us to Yankee games. I may have been brought up to love Jesus but Mantle was a better hitter.

In any event, on this particular Sunday we were standing behind the police barricades outside the Yankee Stadium player entrance watching the Yankees arrive for that day’s game. All of a sudden, someone much taller than me screamed, “It’s him! It’s him! Here comes Mickey!”

He walked by just five feet in front of me wearing a short-sleeved golf shirt and kaki pants and the first thing I noticed were the muscle lines in his arms. The guy was ripped. People all around me were screaming his name but I was speechless and in total awe. My stupor didn’t matter because Mickey ignored us all. Most of the other Yankee players would wave as they walked by these barricades and some would even stop to shake a fan’s hand or sign an autograph. Not Mantle. He kept his head down and a frown on his face and walked straight inside the Stadium.

I was shocked when just about two hours later, listening to Bob Sheppard announce the Yankee’s starting lineup for that day’s game, I discovered Mickey would not be playing. In fact, Mantle not playing was a pretty common occurrence for me after many of those long drives my Uncle made to Yankee Stadium during the sixties. Instead we’d watch Hector Lopez, Bob Cerv or Jack Reed take the oft-injured Commerce Comet’s spot in the lineup. In fact, not once during the seven seasons we traveled to the Stadium during Mantle’s playing career did I see Mickey hit a home run. I began to think that my being at Yankee Stadium was somehow jinxing Mantle.

I was speechless and in awe the second time I saw Mantle, as well. The span between encounters was about twenty years. I had just landed at the airport in West Palm Beach, Florida with my wife Rosemary and two young children and we were walking to the baggage claim area. Unlike today, the West Palm Beach airport was not very crowded and I was pushing my youngest son in a stroller when I saw a pilot, two stewardesses, and a guy dressed up in a suit carrying a garment bag walking toward us. The guy turned out to be Mickey.

I mumbled to my wife “That’s Mickey Mantle!” and then froze as they continued to walk toward us. Rosemary kept telling me to ask him for an autograph but I couldn’t move or talk. I just stood there with my hands frozen on the stroller handles watching Mantle get closer and closer.  That’s when my bolder better half sprang into action. She walked right up to him and said very nicely, “Mr. Mantle, that’s my husband standing over there and you were his idol growing up as a kid. Could you do me a huge favor and sign this for him?” With that she handed him the US Air Ticket Envelope and a blue Flair marker.

Mantle’s response went something like this. “Did they announce I was in this f _ _ _ _ _ g airport! I hate this God d _ _ _ _ _ d   s_ _ t!  Give me that pen lady.”

My wife and I just stood there speechless, she holding the signed ticket envelope. We realized Mantle’s life must have been filled with these annoying requests but the bitterness and anger in his reaction indicated the man was either deeply disturbed or he lacked even an ounce of humanity, compassion, or plain and simple class. At that moment, Mantle was no longer a hero of mine. When we left the airport I tossed the signed envelope into the garbage container just before I got inside my father-in-law’s Lincoln.

It wasn’t until another fifteen years passed and I watched a news report showing a dying Mantle apologizing to his fans for being such a selfish uncaring jerk all those years, that he became my hero again. I remember after Mantle finished speaking from the hospital press room that day, getting up from my chair in the living room of our house, going to my bedroom and pulling out my metal storage box from the top shelf of my clothes closet. I pulled out that US Air ticket envelope and just stared at that patented Mickey Mantle signature. I finally knew why I had made my Father-in-Law return to the arrival loop of the West Palm Beach Airport that day and why I scrimmaged through that filthy trash can to find the discarded, begrudgingly signed envelope.

Mickey shares his October 20th birthday with this former Yankee PA announcerthis former Yankee outfielder, and this former Yankee bullpen pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1951 NYY 96 386 341 61 91 11 5 13 65 8 43 74 .267 .349 .443 .792
1952 NYY 142 626 549 94 171 37 7 23 87 4 75 111 .311 .394 .530 .924
1953 NYY 127 540 461 105 136 24 3 21 92 8 79 90 .295 .398 .497 .895
1954 NYY 146 649 543 129 163 17 12 27 102 5 102 107 .300 .408 .525 .933
1955 NYY 147 638 517 121 158 25 11 37 99 8 113 97 .306 .431 .611 1.042
1956 NYY 150 652 533 132 188 22 5 52 130 10 112 99 .353 .464 .705 1.169
1957 NYY 144 623 474 121 173 28 6 34 94 16 146 75 .365 .512 .665 1.177
1958 NYY 150 654 519 127 158 21 1 42 97 18 129 120 .304 .443 .592 1.035
1959 NYY 144 640 541 104 154 23 4 31 75 21 93 126 .285 .390 .514 .904
1960 NYY 153 643 527 119 145 17 6 40 94 14 111 125 .275 .399 .558 .957
1961 NYY 153 646 514 131 163 16 6 54 128 12 126 112 .317 .448 .687 1.135
1962 NYY 123 502 377 96 121 15 1 30 89 9 122 78 .321 .486 .605 1.091
1963 NYY 65 213 172 40 54 8 0 15 35 2 40 32 .314 .441 .622 1.063
1964 NYY 143 567 465 92 141 25 2 35 111 6 99 102 .303 .423 .591 1.015
1965 NYY 122 435 361 44 92 12 1 19 46 4 73 76 .255 .379 .452 .831
1966 NYY 108 393 333 40 96 12 1 23 56 1 57 76 .288 .389 .538 .927
1967 NYY 144 553 440 63 108 17 0 22 55 1 107 113 .245 .391 .434 .825
1968 NYY 144 547 435 57 103 14 1 18 54 6 106 97 .237 .385 .398 .782
18 Yrs 2401 9907 8102 1676 2415 344 72 536 1509 153 1733 1710 .298 .421 .557 .977
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/20/2013.

Mantle.jpg

March 3 – Happy Birthday Wee Willie Keeler

willie-keeler.jpgOf all the incredible things I’ve learned about Wee Willie Keeler during my research for today’s post, I was most impressed by the fact that it is now called a third strike when a Major League hitter fouls off a two-strike bunt attempt because of this guy. Evidently, Willie never ever failed to make contact with the ball when bunting so he could just foul two strike bunts off all day long and run the opposing team’s pitcher and infield ragged in the process.

At just 5’4″ tall, Willie had to learn how to bunt, slap-hit and high-hop his way into baseball immortality. He developed and refined these skills as a member of the great Baltimore Oriole clubs of the 1890s, where he teamed with future Hall of Famers, John McGraw, Wilbert Robinson, Hughie Jennings and Dan Brouthers to win three straight NL Pennants.

Keeler joined Brooklyn in 1899 and jumped to the Yankees (then called the Highlanders) in 1903 before retiring as a player with the Giants and his old friend McGraw, in 1910. His record of eight straight seasons with 200 or more hits was only just broken in 2009, by the great Ichiro Suzuki. Willie batted a remarkable .341 lifetime and was considered one of the baseball’s all-time great base-runners and defensive right-fielders. He died in Brooklyn in the same apartment he was born in, at the age of fifty, in 1923. He was one of the most beloved figures in Big Apple sports during his era.

Wee Willie shares his birthday with this WWII hero, this one-time Yankee reliever and this former Yankee starting pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1903 NYY 132 584 512 95 160 14 7 0 32 24 32 12 .313 .368 .367 .735
1904 NYY 143 612 543 78 186 14 8 2 40 21 35 12 .343 .390 .409 .799
1905 NYY 149 650 560 81 169 14 4 4 38 19 43 13 .302 .357 .363 .719
1906 NYY 152 672 592 96 180 8 3 2 33 23 40 5 .304 .353 .338 .691
1907 NYY 107 467 423 50 99 5 2 0 17 7 15 9 .234 .265 .255 .521
1908 NYY 91 380 323 38 85 3 1 1 14 14 31 10 .263 .337 .288 .625
1909 NYY 99 427 360 44 95 7 5 1 32 10 24 6 .264 .327 .319 .647
19 Yrs 2123 9610 8591 1719 2932 241 145 33 810 495 524 136 .341 .388 .415 .802
NYY (7 yrs) 873 3792 3313 482 974 65 30 10 206 118 220 67 .294 .347 .341 .688
BRO (5 yrs) 566 2594 2367 469 833 64 43 8 219 130 113 28 .352 .389 .425 .815
BLN (5 yrs) 644 3124 2824 751 1097 107 71 14 372 238 180 36 .388 .434 .492 .926
NYG (3 yrs) 40 100 87 17 28 5 1 1 13 9 11 5 .322 .404 .437 .841
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/21/2014.