Results tagged ‘ january 7 ’
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was the back up catcher on one of the greatest teams in MLB history, the 1927 Yankees. Johnny Grabowski had broke into the big leagues with the White Sox in 1924 and spent three seasons in the Windy City as a backup receiver to Hall of Fame catcher Ray Schalk. In January of 1927, Chicago traded him and a second baseman named Ray Morehart to the Yankees for second baseman, Aaron Ward. Ward had lost his starting position in New York to a rookie phee-nom named Tony Lazzeri in 1926, making him expendable. Grabowski was the key to the deal for New York. He had developed a reputation with the White Sox as a good defensive catcher and the Yankees wanted him to backup their regular receiver, Pat Collins.
Grabowski filled that spot admirably in 1927, getting 56 starts behind the plate that season and averaging a healthy .277. With Ruth and Gehrig providing the punch, that Yankee team set a record for wins in a 154 game season with 110 and then swept the Pirates in four games in the 1927 World Series. The juggernaut continued the following year as the Yankees won their second straight pennant and pulled off their second straight four-game World Series sweep, this time versus the Cardinals. Grabowski actually started more games behind the plate than any other New York catcher during the 1928 regular season, but his batting average plummeted to just .238 and that offensive ineptitude got him left off that year’s World Series roster. When Grabowski’s offensive troubles continued during the first half of the 1929 season, the Yankees released him.
Grabowski eventually returned to the minors and then got a second shot at the big leagues with Detroit in 1931. When he failed to stick there, he turned to umpiring. He was advancing up the ladder as a minor league man in blue when he was tragically killed attempting to fight a fire in his Guilderland, NY home, in May of 1946. Grabowski was only 46 years old at the time of his death. He shares his January 7th birthday with this former Yankee second baseman and this one-time MVP.
I have to admit, when A-Rod’s steroid use and hip injury were revealed before the 2009 season, I wondered what would have happened if the trade that made Rodriguez a Yankee and Soriano an ex-Yankee never happened. The Yankee team that made the trade had just been defeated for the
second time in a World Series in the past three years and Soriano had played poorly in both Fall Classics, especially at the plate and especially against the Marlins in 2003. He was swinging at pitches against Florida in clutch situations that were nowhere near the strike zone. Those of us who watched Yankee baseball regularly, knew this native Dominican was a streaky hitter but after the Marlin series you had to wonder why he never seemed to be on a hot streak in October.
So when the A-Rod/Red Sox deal fell apart and the Yankees stepped in and grabbed him instead, I like most Yankee fans thought New York had just fixed the problem that was causing them to lose World Series. But instead, it seemed as if all we did was give up one guy who couldn’t hit in October for another. Even worse, the Yankees could not make it back to the World Series since Soriano left, until 2009.
I know there’s a whole bunch of other reasons why the Yankees failed to make it to the Big Dance during that time and I did enjoy watching Rodriguez have two of the most incredible regular season performances any player in Pinstripes has ever had. Plus I realize if Soriano was still a Yankee Robinson Cano probably would not be. But until he signed his big free agent deal with the Cubbies, Soriano had put up some pretty respectable offensive numbers himself for a few years after he left New York, with some lineups that really didn’t come close to offering him the protection he would have enjoyed as a Yankee. And we know if the Red Sox had been successful acquiring A-Rod, the Yankees would have pulled the trigger on some signings they have since passed on. Bottom line would be that if the deal never happened, the worst case scenario as far as World Series titles were concerned is that the Yankees would have been just as successful from 2004 until 2008 with Soriano and without A-Rod and saved perhaps fifty million in salary to boot. But once we won it all in 2009 and could not have done so without A-Rod, I no longer need to wonder if the Soriano-for-A-Rod trade worked out best for New York. Especially since Soriano himself has not been near the same level of player since he signed his own “huge” free agent deal with the Cubs in 2007.
How time flies. Soriano is now a 14-year big league veteran, who turns 37 years old in 2013. He finished the 3012 with 372 career home runs and 1035 lifetime RBIs.
Known as “the Big Cat,” Mize was an outstanding hitter and first baseman in the National League with the Giants and Cardinals for a decade, before joining the Yankees in 1949 and helping Casey Stengel win five straight World Championships. Mize had that rare ability to hit for power without striking out a lot. His career on base pecentage as a National Leaguer exceeded .400. He won a batting title with St. Louis in 1939 along with four NL home run titles and three NL RBI crowns. He was also a very good defensive first baseman and an outstanding base runner. The Yankees purchased Mize from the Giants during the 1949 season for $40,000. He became the team’s best pinch hitter. The highlight of his Yankee career was the 1952 Series against the Dodgers, when Johnny hit three home runs, batted .400 and was named MVP in New York’s seven-game victory. He retired after the 1953 season. His career Slugging Average of .592 places him 17th on the All-Time List. It took a while after he retired, but in 1981, the Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee finally recognized just how good this guy’s numbers were and put him in Cooperstown.