Results tagged ‘ highlanders ’

October 13 – Happy Birthday Walter Blair

blairWalter Blair was a back-up catcher for the New York Highlanders during the first decade of the team’s existence. After playing college ball at Bucknell and spending a couple of seasons in the minors, New York signed him in 1907 to back up their starting receiver at the time, Red Kleinow. By then, the native of Landrus, Pennsylvania was 23-years-old and had developed solid defensive skills behind the plate and a sharp mind for the game. His problem was he couldn’t hit.

It was his offensive inabilities that doomed his one attempt at becoming New York’s starting catcher. In 1911, then manager, Hal Chase pretty much alternated Blair and 22-year-old Jeff Sweeney behind the plate the entire season. Sweeney hit just .231 and still outhit Blair by close to 40 points.

That performance ended Blair’s Highlander and big league career. He went back to the Minors for two seasons and then played in the upstart Federal League for a couple of more. He found he had a knack for helping young ballplayers develop their skills and got into  managing and even purchased an interest in a minor league team back in his home state of Pennsylvania. Then in 1917, he took over as the coach of the University of Pittsburgh’s baseball team. Three years later, he moved into the same position for his alma mater, Bucknell. He passed away in 1948 at the age of 64.

He shares his October 13th birthday with this former Yankee manager, this former Yankee backup catcher this former Yankee reliever and this former Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1907 NYY 7 24 22 1 4 0 0 0 1 0 2 5 .182 .250 .182 .432
1908 NYY 76 230 211 9 40 5 1 1 13 4 11 31 .190 .237 .237 .474
1909 NYY 42 121 110 5 23 2 2 0 11 2 7 17 .209 .269 .264 .533
1910 NYY 6 23 22 2 5 0 1 0 2 0 0 3 .227 .227 .318 .545
1911 NYY 85 254 222 18 43 9 2 0 26 2 16 24 .194 .257 .252 .510
NYY (5 yrs) 216 652 587 35 115 16 6 1 53 8 36 80 .196 .251 .249 .500
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/13/2013.

October 6 – Happy Birthday John Knight

knightI learned a lot about today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant by reading this excellent article authored by Bill Nowlin for the the Society for American Baseball Research. It describes a young man who believed in the power of education and as a high school student in Philadelphia, was genuinely torn between going to college to pursue a career in medicine or playing professional baseball. In the end, the immediate opportunity to start in Connie Mack’s infield for his hometown Philadelphia A’s was just too compelling for John Knight to pass up.

He would become as much of a national sports sensation as one could back in 1905, before radio, television or the Internet were around, when he was the Opening Day nineteen-year-old starting shortstop for Philadelphia and was leading the league with a .400-plus batting average two weeks into the new season. He wasn’t able to maintain that torrid hitting pace and it would be his inability to hit big league pitching that landed him in the minor leagues, playing for the Baltimore Orioles, by 1908. That August, Knight’s contract was purchased by the New York Highlanders.

Knight realized his future in baseball would depend on his ability to become a better hitter and as he joined his new team, he was determined to do so. His efforts certainly bore some fruit. The Highlanders’ first year manager George Stallings made Knight his team’s starting shortstop in ’09 and he hit a career-high .236. In 1910, his offensive epiphany exploded into a .312 batting average and he followed that up by posting a career-high 62 RBIs in 1911. In just six years, he had transformed himself from an offensive liability into one of the game’s better hitting shortstops and Clark Griffith, the former New York manager who now skippered the Senators, noticed. He made it known that he was interested in acquiring Knight and kept poking the Highlander front office with trade offers for the infielder all during the 2011 season. New York finally bit during the 1912 spring training season when they accepted Washington catcher’s Gabby Street for Knight.

His short stay in our nation’s capitol was a disaster. Griffith started Knight at second base and it seemed as if he forgot how to hit and field, both at the same time. He averaged just .161 during the first half of that year and was then sold to a minor league club in New Jersey. He would end up getting a second chance with the Highlanders after he hit .270 for his Jersey City team during the first half of the 1913 season. He did OK with New York, starting at first base and averaging .236 for a very bad Highlander team but it wasn’t good enough to prevent him from getting sold back to the minors at the end of the year. He would remain a minor league player for the rest of his career, finally retiring for good in 1928, at the age of 42.

Knight’s early career start in the big leagues earned him the most appropriate nickname of  “Schoolboy.” At just over six feet two inches tall, Knight was the tallest shortstop in the big leagues.

Knight shares his birthday with this former Yankee outfielder, this former starting pitcher and this other former Yankee starting pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1909 NYY 116 416 360 46 85 8 5 0 40 15 37 68 .236 .311 .286 .597
1910 NYY 117 473 414 58 129 25 4 3 45 23 34 55 .312 .372 .413 .785
1911 NYY 132 542 470 69 126 16 7 3 62 18 42 63 .268 .342 .351 .693
1913 NYY 70 283 250 24 59 10 0 0 24 7 25 27 .236 .310 .276 .586
8 Yrs 767 2988 2664 301 636 96 24 14 270 86 211 448 .239 .300 .309 .609
NYY (4 yrs) 435 1714 1494 197 399 59 16 6 171 63 138 213 .267 .338 .340 .678
PHA (3 yrs) 202 776 717 63 144 26 4 6 61 11 38 157 .201 .244 .273 .517
WSH (1 yr) 32 116 93 10 15 2 1 0 9 4 16 25 .161 .284 .204 .489
BOS (1 yr) 98 382 360 31 78 9 3 2 29 8 19 53 .217 .256 .275 .531
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/6/2013.

September 15 – Happy Birthday Slow Joe Doyle

joe doyleOnly eleven pitchers have started their big league careers with two consecutive shutouts in their first two starts since the 20th century began and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is one of them. His real name was Judd Doyle but he became universally known as “Slow Joe” because when he was on the mound it took him forever to throw a pitch. When he finally got around to it, the results appeared to be pretty good, especially at the beginning stages of his Yankee career.

He made his impressive big league debut in late August of 1906 and finished his one-month-long first season in New York with a 2-1 record. The best year of his career was his second, when he became a member of the team’s starting rotation and went 11-11 with a solid 2.65 ERA. He continued to show flashes of brilliance on the mound. Jack Chesbro even called Doyle “…one of the greatest pitchers there is!”  That probably explains why the Yankees never hired “Happy Jack” as a scout when his playing days were over.

Like Chesbro, Doyle’s best pitch was a spit ball but the only way Slow Joe would have ever had a shot at matching his more famous teammate’s record-breaking 41 wins in a season would be if that season was about 400 games long. That’s because Doyle liked to rest about ten days before each start, which would drive his first New York manager, Clark Griffith crazy.

He lost his spot in the rotation in 1908 and then got it back the following year. But when he got off to a slow start during the 1910 season, New York sold the right-handed native of Clay Center, Kansas to Cincinnati.

Doyle shares his birthday with this Hall of Fame pitcher and this former Yankee third baseman.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1906 NYY 2 1 .667 2.38 9 6 3 3 2 0 45.1 34 15 12 1 13 28 1.037
1907 NYY 11 11 .500 2.65 29 23 5 15 1 1 193.2 169 86 57 2 67 94 1.219
1908 NYY 1 1 .500 2.63 12 4 5 2 1 0 48.0 42 24 14 1 14 20 1.167
1909 NYY 8 6 .571 2.58 17 15 2 8 3 0 125.2 103 49 36 3 37 57 1.114
1910 NYY 0 2 .000 8.03 3 2 1 1 0 0 12.1 19 13 11 0 5 6 1.946
5 Yrs 22 21 .512 2.85 75 50 21 29 7 1 436.1 383 206 138 7 147 209 1.215
NYY (5 yrs) 22 21 .512 2.75 70 50 16 29 7 1 425.0 367 187 130 7 136 205 1.184
CIN (1 yr) 0 0 6.35 5 0 5 0 0 0 11.1 16 19 8 0 11 4 2.382
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/19/2013.