Results tagged ‘ manager ’

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.

June 6 – Happy Birthday Bill Dickey

One of the all-time great catchers in baseball history, Dickey was superb both at the plate and behind it. He hit .300 in ten of his first eleven seasons as the starting Yankee receiver and drove in over 100 runs in a season four times during his Hall of Fame career. This eleven-time All-Star played in eight World Series with New York, winning seven rings in the process. Dickey’s prime was the four-year-period from 1936 through 1939, during which he averaged 26 home runs, and 115 RBIs with a batting average of .326. He entered Military service in 1943, returning to the team in 1946. When Yankee skipper, Joe McCarthy fell ill and resigned, the team made Dickey the player-manager for the balance of the ’46 season. After leading New York to a 57-48 finish that year, he ended both his big league playing and managing career. He then accepted the Yankee’s offer to manage their Minor League team in Dickey’s hometown of Little, Rock Arkansas. After one season there, he was back in the Bronx to begin a decade long career as a Yankee coach. His Hall-of-Fame Yankee successor at catcher, Yogi Berra credits Dickey for teaching him how to play the position.

Dickey was a quiet hard-working professional, much like his close friend and roommate, Lou Gehrig. He played hard on the field and behaved himself off of it. His playing career lasted 17 seasons. The Yankees retired his uniform number 8 (shared with Berra) and a plaque in his honor now rests in the Monument Park of the new Yankee Stadium. It certainly belongs there.

Dickey shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee prospect.

Dickey’s record as a Yankee player:

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1928 NYY 10 16 15 1 3 1 1 0 2 0 0 2 .200 .200 .400 .600
1929 NYY 130 474 447 60 145 30 6 10 65 4 14 16 .324 .346 .485 .832
1930 NYY 109 396 366 55 124 25 7 5 65 7 21 14 .339 .375 .486 .861
1931 NYY 130 524 477 65 156 17 10 6 78 2 39 20 .327 .378 .442 .820
1932 NYY 108 459 423 66 131 20 4 15 84 2 34 13 .310 .361 .482 .843
1933 NYY 130 532 478 58 152 24 8 14 97 3 47 14 .318 .381 .490 .871
1934 NYY 104 438 395 56 127 24 4 12 72 0 38 18 .322 .384 .494 .878
1935 NYY 120 491 448 54 125 26 6 14 81 1 35 11 .279 .339 .458 .797
1936 NYY 112 472 423 99 153 26 8 22 107 0 46 16 .362 .428 .617 1.045
1937 NYY 140 609 530 87 176 35 2 29 133 3 73 22 .332 .417 .570 .987
1938 NYY 132 532 454 84 142 27 4 27 115 3 75 22 .313 .412 .568 .981
1939 NYY 128 565 480 98 145 23 3 24 105 5 77 37 .302 .403 .513 .915
1940 NYY 106 424 372 45 92 11 1 9 54 0 48 32 .247 .336 .355 .691
1941 NYY 109 397 348 35 99 15 5 7 71 2 45 17 .284 .371 .417 .788
1942 NYY 82 295 268 28 79 13 1 2 37 2 26 11 .295 .359 .373 .732
1943 NYY 85 284 242 29 85 18 2 4 33 2 41 12 .351 .445 .492 .937
1946 NYY 54 156 134 10 35 8 0 2 10 0 19 12 .261 .357 .366 .723
17 Yrs 1789 7064 6300 930 1969 343 72 202 1209 36 678 289 .313 .382 .486 .868
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/6/2013.

Dickey’s record as a Yankee manager:

Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
1 1946 39 New York Yankees AL 2nd of 3 105 57 48 .543 3 Player/Manager
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/6/2013.

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 5 – Happy Birthday Roger Peckinpaugh

peck1.jpgHe was the first starting shortstop in New York Yankee team history. Peckinpaugh won the job in 1913, the same year the New York Highlanders officially became the New York Yankees. He kept that position for the next eight seasons, long enough to become the first Yankee starting shortstop to play in the old Yankee Stadium and also to play for New York in a World Series. He was a brilliant fielder, an excellent base runner and a fierce and volatile competitor. In 1914, when team skipper Frank Chance was fired with 20-games left in the regular season, New York made Peckinpaugh player/manager and the Yanks finished the season 10-10 under his stewardship. His lifetime totals in Pinstripes included 1,170 hits, over 1,200 games played, a .257 batting average and 143 stolen bases.

In December of 1921, Roger was part a seven player swap with the Red Sox that included Boston’s starting shortstop, Everett Scott. By 1925, Peckinpaugh had been traded to Washington, where he hit .294 and was named AL MVP for leading the Senators to the World Series. But in that year’s Fall Classic against the Pirates, Peckinpaugh committed the unbelievable total of eight errors, which remains a Series record, today. He ended his playing career in 1927 and re-started his managing career the following season as skipper of the Indians. He managed for seven seasons and then took a job in Cleveland’s front office. Roger died in 1977, at the age of 86.

Since today’s post is about the first great shortstop in pinstripe history, let’s take a look at my list of the five greatest Yankee shortstops ever:

Number 1 – Derek Jeter: Five rings, eight pennants, seventeen postseasons, 3,000 hits. Simply the best.
Number 2 – Phil Rizzuto: Ted Williams described Scooter as one of the greatest players of his era. Nine pennants, seven rings, an MVP and Hall-of-Famer.
Number 3 – Frankie Crosetti: The starting shortstop on 6 World Championship teams. A total of nine pennants and eight rings as a player. Reached 1,500 hits and 1,000 runs during his career.
Number 4 – Peckinpaugh
Number 5 – Tony Kubek: His three rings, seven pennants and 1,109 hits during a brief nine-year career easily beats out Bucky Dent for the final spot.

Also born on this date was this former New York receiver, and this one-time prized Yankee prospect.

Peckinpaugh’s Yankee regular season and career playing stats:

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1913 NYY 95 373 340 35 91 10 7 1 32 19 24 47 .268 .316 .347 .663
1914 NYY 157 635 570 55 127 14 6 3 51 38 51 73 .223 .288 .284 .572
1915 NYY 142 625 540 67 119 18 7 5 44 19 49 72 .220 .289 .307 .596
1916 NYY 145 631 552 65 141 22 8 4 58 18 62 50 .255 .332 .346 .678
1917 NYY 148 629 543 63 141 24 7 0 41 17 64 46 .260 .340 .330 .670
1918 NYY 122 516 446 59 103 15 3 0 43 12 43 41 .231 .303 .278 .581
1919 NYY 122 537 453 89 138 20 2 7 33 10 59 37 .305 .390 .404 .794
1920 NYY 139 623 534 109 144 26 6 8 54 8 72 47 .270 .356 .386 .742
1921 NYY 149 694 577 128 166 25 7 8 71 2 84 44 .288 .380 .397 .777
17 Yrs 2012 8383 7233 1006 1876 256 75 48 739 205 814 670 .259 .336 .335 .672
NYY (9 yrs) 1219 5263 4555 670 1170 174 53 36 427 143 508 457 .257 .334 .342 .676
WSH (5 yrs) 639 2566 2180 293 583 72 18 11 261 46 268 146 .267 .349 .332 .681
CLE (3 yrs) 86 308 281 20 59 4 1 1 28 14 17 61 .210 .258 .242 .500
CHW (1 yr) 68 246 217 23 64 6 3 0 23 2 21 6 .295 .360 .350 .710
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/14/2014.

Peckinpaugh’s managerial stats:

Rk Year Age Tm Lg W L W-L% G Finish
1 1914 23 New York Yankees AL 2nd of 2 10 10 .500 20 6
New York Yankees 1 year 10 10 .500 20 6.0
Cleveland Indians 7 years 490 481 .505 975 4.4
8 years 500 491 .505 995 4.6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/14/2014.

November 20 – Happy Birthday Clark Griffith

griffith.bigThe Pinstripe Birthday Blog’s celebrant for November 20 was the first guy to manage the Yankees after the franchise was moved to New York from Baltimore. Clark Griffith was born in Clear Creek, MO, in 1869. One of the legendary names in the history of baseball, Griffith began that legend as a very good right-handed pitcher for the National League’s old Chicago Nationals way back in the 1890s. He was a seven-time 20-game winner during his days in the Windy City, where his cunning on the mound earned him the nickname, “The Old Fox.”  He was also a very shrewd follower of the business of baseball. He became the first NL star player to jump to Ban Johnson’s new American League, when it was formed in 1901. At first, Griffith remained in the Windy City, becoming the player-manager of Charley Comiskey’s new Chicago White Sox franchise and winning the first-ever AL pennant in 1901. When the new league transferred its Baltimore franchise to the Big Apple and re-named it the Highlanders in 1903, Griffith took over as skipper of the New York club. He also continued his pitching career at the same time and won 14 games for the Highlanders during his first season as manager.

He remained New York’s field boss until a disagreement with the team’s owners during the 1908 season forced him out of the job and he returned to the NL to manage the Reds. Two years later, he was invited to become part owner of the Washington Senators and from that point on, the name “Griffith” became synonymous with the game of baseball in our Nation’s Capitol. Griffith never got over being fired by New York. As a result, he never tried to disguise his hatred of the Yankees which became a primary reason why subsequent trades between the two clubs hardly ever took place. In 1946, Clark Griffith was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

This former Yankee utility outfielder and the only native Italian Yankee were also born on November 20th.

Griffith’s stats as a Yankee pitcher:

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB WHIP
1903 NYY 14 11 .560 2.70 25 24 1 22 2 0 213.0 201 92 64 3 33 1.099
1904 NYY 7 5 .583 2.87 16 11 5 8 1 0 100.1 91 40 32 3 16 1.066
1905 NYY 9 6 .600 1.68 25 7 17 4 2 1 101.2 82 30 19 1 15 0.954
1906 NYY 2 2 .500 3.02 17 2 15 1 0 2 59.2 58 30 20 0 15 1.223
1907 NYY 0 0 8.64 4 0 4 0 0 0 8.1 15 16 8 0 6 2.520
20 Yrs 237 146 .619 3.31 453 372 78 337 22 8 3385.2 3670 1852 1246 76 774 1.313
CHC (8 yrs) 152 96 .613 3.40 265 252 13 240 9 1 2188.2 2445 1249 826 42 517 1.353
NYY (5 yrs) 32 24 .571 2.66 87 44 42 35 5 3 483.0 447 208 143 7 85 1.101
WSH (3 yrs) 0 0 4.50 3 0 1 0 0 1 2.0 3 1 1 1 0 1.500
CHW (2 yrs) 39 16 .709 3.34 63 54 9 46 8 1 479.2 522 231 178 15 97 1.290
STL (1 yr) 11 8 .579 3.33 27 17 10 12 0 2 186.1 195 122 69 8 58 1.358
BOS (1 yr) 3 1 .750 5.63 7 4 3 3 0 0 40.0 47 33 25 3 15 1.550
CIN (1 yr) 0 1 .000 6.00 1 1 0 1 0 0 6.0 11 8 4 0 2 2.167
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/20/2013.

Griffith’s record as Yankee manager:

Rk Year Tm W L W-L% G Finish
3 1903 New York Highlanders 72 62 .537 136 4 Player/Manager
4 1904 New York Highlanders 92 59 .609 155 2 Player/Manager
5 1905 New York Highlanders 71 78 .477 152 6 Player/Manager
6 1906 New York Highlanders 90 61 .596 155 2 Player/Manager
7 1907 New York Highlanders 70 78 .473 152 5 Player/Manager
8 1908 New York Highlanders 1st of 2 24 32 .429 57 8
11 1911 Cincinnati Reds 70 83 .458 159 6
Chicago White Sox 2 years 157 113 .581 275 2.5 1 Pennant
New York Highlanders 6 years 419 370 .531 807 4.5
Cincinnati Reds 3 years 222 238 .483 472 5.0
Washington Senators 9 years 693 646 .518 1364 4.3
20 years 1491 1367 .522 2918 4.3 1 Pennant
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/20/2013.

October 13 – Happy Birthday Wild Bill Donovan

When Jacob Rupert and a man named Tillinghast L’Hommidieu Huston purchased the New York City American Baseball League franchise in 1915 for $1.25 million, the team they bought was a pretty horrible one. At the time, the Yankees were coming off their fourth consecutive losing season and had no home stadium. They were sharing the Polo Grounds with the mighty New York Giants of John McGraw and of course the struggling Yankees’ public image suffered even more by the close proximity comparison.

Huston and especially Rupert were determined to turn the franchise’s perilous situation around and one of the very first things they did as owners was look for a new Manager. They found their man in Rhode Island, skippering the International League’s Providence Grays. His name was Bill Donovan and in just his second year as Manager of the Grays, he had turned a losing squad into a Pennant winner. Donovan had been a very good big league pitcher with Brooklyn and the Tigers during the first decade of the 20th century. He had put together 25-victory seasons with each franchise and helped Detroit reach three World Series (all of which the Tigers lost.) The only thing that prevented him from becoming a great pitcher was his propensity to not throw strikes. It was this lack of control on the mound, along with a pretty hot temper off of it that earned Donovan the nickname of “Wild Bill.”

Detroit finally released him in 1912 and Donovan signed on to pitch with Providence that same year and was named the team’s player manager the following season. In his first season as Yankee skipper, New York finished 69-83. Wild Bill even took to the mound that year and earned three of those losses himself. By 1916, the investments in new talent made by Rupert and Huston began paying dividends. With Wally Pipp now at first, Frank “Home Run” Baker at third and Bob Shawkey in the starting rotation, Donovan’s Yankees improved to an 80-74 record and more importantly, almost doubled the attendance at the team’s home games.

Expectations were sky high as the 1917 season approached but the Yankees regressed. Injuries and off years by Shawkey and Pipp helped New york finish in sixth place with a 71-82 record and in the process end Wild Bill’s career as a Yankee Manager. Rupert, who had become much more actively involved in the team’s operations than his co-owner, liked Donovan personally but he was convinced his team needed a new skipper. When Miller Huggins was fired as Manager of the Cardinals, the Colonel snapped him up and fired Wild Bill.

Donovan’s second big league managerial position was an even bigger disaster, when he was hired to manage the Phillies in 1921 and was fired that same year after the team got off to a horrid 25-62 start. Instead of giving up, Donovan returned to managing in the minors. That proved to be a great decision on his part, when after a couple of successful seasons managing in the Eastern League, he was about to become the Washington Senators’ new skipper. That’s when tragedy struck. He was on his way to Baseball’s 1924 Winter Meetings being held in Chicago, when his train crashed and Donovan, along with nine others were killed.

Donovan shares his October 13th birthday with a former Yankee outfielder, a former Yankee catcher, a former Highlander catcher and a former Yankee reliever.

Donovan’s record as Yankee Manager:

Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
1 1915 38 New York Yankees AL 154 69 83 .454 5 Player/Manager
2 1916 39 New York Yankees AL 156 80 74 .519 4 Player/Manager
3 1917 40 New York Yankees AL 155 71 82 .464 6
New York Yankees 3 years 465 220 239 .479 5.0
Philadelphia Phillies 1 year 87 25 62 .287 8.0
4 years 552 245 301 .449 5.8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/13/2013.

Donovan’s record as a Yankee pitcher:

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 4.81 9 1 7 0 0 0 33.2 35 18 18 1 10 17 1.337
1916 NYY 0 0 0.00 1 0 1 0 0 0 1.0 1 0 0 0 1 0 2.000
18 Yrs 185 139 .571 2.69 378 327 49 289 35 8 2964.2 2631 1212 886 30 1059 1552 1.245
DET (11 yrs) 140 96 .593 2.49 261 242 19 213 29 3 2137.1 1862 802 591 27 685 1079 1.192
BRO (4 yrs) 44 34 .564 3.00 90 77 12 70 6 5 704.2 645 318 235 2 294 420 1.333
NYY (2 yrs) 0 3 .000 4.67 10 1 8 0 0 0 34.2 36 18 18 1 11 17 1.356
WHS (1 yr) 1 6 .143 4.30 17 7 10 6 0 0 88.0 88 74 42 0 69 36 1.784
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/13/2013.

September 22 – Happy Birthday Bob Lemon

Only eight men in baseball history have accomplished what Bob Lemon did in 1978, which is managing a New York Yankee team to a World Series Championship. Only five of those former Yankee skippers are now in Baseball’s Hall of Fame and Bob Lemon is one of them. Unlike fellow Hall of Famer’s Miller Huggins, Joe McCarthy, Bucky Harris and Casey Stengel, however, Bob Lemon got into Cooperstown for his pitching accomplishments and not his managing career.

Born in San Bernardino, CA on September 22, 1922, Lemon was one of the best starting pitchers in baseball from 1947 through 1956. During that span he compiled seven 20-victory seasons and a won-loss record of 197-111 for the Cleveland Indians. He started his managing career in the minors in Hawaii, in 1964 and got his first big league skipper assignment with the Royals in 1970. That lasted for two and a half seasons. Bill Veeck then hired him to manage the White Sox in 1977 and Lemon led the team to a 90-72 record. His Windy City success was short-lived, however and when the Sox got off to a 34-40 start the following year, the guy everyone called “Meat” was fired.

The timing couldn’t have been any better. Billy Martin was then feuding with Yankee superstar, Reggie Jackson and drinking heavily. Between the booze, the constant probing of the Big Apple sports media and the pressure of working for George Steinbrenner, Martin seemed to be on the verge of suffering a nervous breakdown. Lemon’s old Cleveland Indian teammate, Al Rosen, was then working for Steinbrenner as Yankee President and the Boss had grown up in Cleveland and loved hiring ex-Indian stars. When Martin made his famous “One’s a born liar and the other’s a convicted one.” charge, Rosen called Lemon and asked him to take over the Yankees. At the time, New York’s record was a decent 52-42 but they were fourteen games behind the wickedly hot Red Sox.

Lemon employed the exact opposite managing style of the mercurial Martin. He pretty much made out a lineup card and then sat back in the dugout and watched his players play. The Yankee team responded to his almost grandfatherly approach by winning 48 of their next sixty-eight games including the legendary playoff game at Fenway and went on to win their second straight World Series that year. Author Maury Allen wrote in his book “All Roads Lead to October,” that Neville Chamberlain would have loved Lemon because he “brought peace in our time” to the Yankee clubhouse. Never-the-less, afraid of a fan backlash for his removal of the popular Martin, Steinbrenner had already orchestrated the now-famous announcement during the 1978 Yankee Old Timer’s Day that Lemon would be promoted to the GM position after the 1979 season and Billy Martin would again be Yankee manager.

That winter, Lemon’s youngest son was killed in automobile accident. Al Rosen claimed the tragedy took the life out of his old teammate. Lemon started drinking heavily and didn’t seem focused when he returned to manage the Yankees in 1979. When New York got off to a lackluster 34-31 start that season, Steinbrenner fast forwarded the return of Martin and the Yankee managerial position became a game of musical chairs that would continue for the next fifteen years. Lemon would get one more shot at Skippering the Yankees in 1981, replacing Gene Michael with just 25 games remaining in that crazy, strike shortened, split-in-two-parts season.. The Yankees made it to the World Series but they lost to the Dodgers in six games. Lemon’s second tenure as Yankee field boss ended 14 games into the 1982 season when he was replaced by Gene Michael and the game of musical chairs continued. Lemon passed away in January of 2000 at the age of 79.

He shares his September 22nd birthday with this former Yankee pitcher and this former Yankee catcher.

Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
6 1978 57 New York Yankees AL 3rd of 3 68 48 20 .706 1 WS Champs
7 1979 58 New York Yankees AL 1st of 2 65 34 31 .523 4
8 1981 60 New York Yankees AL 2nd of 2 25 11 14 .440 6 AL Pennant Second half of season
9 1982 61 New York Yankees AL 1st of 3 14 6 8 .429 5
Kansas City Royals 3 years 425 207 218 .487 3.3
Chicago White Sox 2 years 236 124 112 .525 4.0
New York Yankees 4 years 172 99 73 .576 4.0 2 Pennants and 1 World Series Title
8 years 833 430 403 .516 3.8 2 Pennants and 1 World Series Title
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/22/2013.

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 4 – Happy Birthday Dallas Green

Dallas Green became the 16th Yankee Manager hired by George Steinbrenner, when he was named to that position prior to the 1989 season. Before that year was over, Green had become the 17th Yankee Skipper to be fired by “The Boss.”

He had replaced Lou Piniella in New York’s dugout and was himself replaced by Bucky Dent. What I remember most about Green is that he lived by Steinbrenner’s sword and then was banished by it. When he first joined the Yankee organization in an advisory role, Steinbrenner suddenly had a soul mate who shared George’s favorite hobby of publicly criticizing Yankee players and staff. Green got what he wished for when he was handed the reins to that 1989 team but part of that wish included perhaps the worst Yankee starting rotation in the history of the franchise. The frustrated new Skipper quickly started blaming the team’s inability to win consistently on the Yankee front office’s inability to get him some decent arms. Steinbrenner did not agree. The soon-to-be-suspended owner would conduct impromptu press conferences during which he would compare his existing team. position-by-position with AL East opponents who were then ahead of New York in the standings and conclude that his current roster was better than its current record. Naturally, that translated into a Manager and coaching staff that was not doing its job.

The Boss also started taking public pot shots at Green’s coaches. When Green reacted angrily, George had his beleaguered field boss right where he wanted him. After a few more weeks of exchanging insults in the sports pages of Big Apple’s tabloids, Steinbrenner put Green out of his misery on August 17, 1989. At the time of his firing, the Yankees were in sixth place in their division with a 56-65 record.

Leaving quietly was not in Green’s nature of course. Instead he blasted Steinbrenner and all the “parasites” and “yes men” the Yankee owner surrounded himself with. I guess that sort of explains why Dallas was never called back to manage a Yankee’s Old Timers’ Day squad.

I was ambivalent about Green when he managed in the Bronx but my eventual dislike for the guy was sparked by his decision to fire Mel Stottlemyre as the Mets’ pitching coach when Green became that team’s manager in 1993. We of course all felt horribly sad for him when his beautiful granddaughter was murdered during the assassination attempt of Gabby Gifford in Tucson, in January of 2011.

Green had a mediocre eight-season career as a big league pitcher, mostly with the Phillies. When his playing days ended in 1968, he went into coaching. He got his first managerial gig with the Phillies at the end of the 1979 season and then led that team to a World Series title the following year. His career record as a big league manager was 454 – 478.

Green shares his birthday with this former Yankee pitcher and this one too and this one as well.

Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
5 1989 54 New York Yankees AL 1st of 2 121 56 65 .463 5
Philadelphia Phillies 3 years 299 169 130 .565 2.3 1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title
New York Yankees 1 year 121 56 65 .463 5.0
New York Mets 4 years 512 229 283 .447 4.0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/4/2013.

June 9 – Happy Birthday Bill Virdon

Although he spent almost all of his playing career as a Pittsburgh Pirate outfielder, Bill Virdon was originally signed by the Yankees in 1950 and spent his first five seasons as a pro climbing his way up New York’s minor league ladder. Then in 1954, he was included in a package of players and prospects the Yankees traded to St Louis for veteran outfielder Enos Slaughter. Virdon enjoyed a solid 12-season playing career in the NL, retiring for good in 1968. He then got into coaching and in 1972 he became skipper of the Pirates, leading Pittsburgh to a Division title in his first year as their field boss. When the team slumped the following season, Virdon was dumped. George Steinbrenner hired him to pilot the Yankees in 1974 and he led them to an 89-73 record and second-place finish in their division. “The Boss” was not truly a fan of Virdon’s low-key managing style and when the fiery Billy Martin became available during the second half of the 1975 season, Virdon was dumped again. He immediately got the manager’s job in Houston where he remained for the next seven seasons. Virdon then completed his managerial career with a two year stint as Montreal Expo skipper, finishing with a 995-921 lifetime won-loss record during his 13-seasons. I always felt it was the acquisitions of Willie Randolph, Ed Figueroa and Mickey Rivers that won the Yankees’ the 1976 pennant and not the switch from Virdon to Martin. Imagine how different Yankee history would have been if Steinbrenner kept Virdon in the Yankee dugout instead of hiring Billy.

Virdon shares his June 9th birthday with this one-time Yankee outfielder and this former Yankee GM.

Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
3 1974 43 New York Yankees AL 162 89 73 .549 2
4 1975 44 New York Yankees AL 1st of 2 104 53 51 .510 3
Pittsburgh Pirates 2 years 291 163 128 .560 2.0
New York Yankees 2 years 266 142 124 .534 2.5
Houston Astros 8 years 1067 544 522 .510 3.2
Montreal Expos 2 years 294 146 147 .498 4.0
13 years 1918 995 921 .519 3.1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/9/2013.