Results tagged ‘ may 14 ’

May 14 – Happy Birthday Dave LaRoche

larocheThe Yankees signed Dave LaRoche ten days after the start of the strike-shortened 1981 season. The left-hander had been released by the California Angels two and a half weeks earlier. When he joined the Yanks, he had eleven big league seasons already on his resume, during which he had established himself as a better than average reliever.

His first year in pinstripes was his best as he went 4-1 with a 2.49 ERA and pitched an inning of scoreless relief for New York in the 1981 World Series. I often refer to that 1981 season as George Steinbrenner’s tipping point as a Yankee owner. The players strike coupled with the Yankee defeat to the Dodgers in that year’s Fall Classic seemed to turn the Boss from a hard-to-work for egomaniac into an impossible to please tyrant. Under his complete control, the Yankee front office began making a series of spur-of-the-moment personnel decisions that undermined the team’s field management and filled the roster with anxiety.

Laroche became a victim of that calamity in 1982, when he began being bounced back and forth between the Bronx and Columbus, as the Yankee front office made roster moves with alarming frequency. Despite all the frequent flier miles, the Colorado Springs native continued to pitch effectively for New York, compiling a 4-2 record in his second season with the team. But even LaRoche had limits. When the team tried to send him back to Triple A at the end of the ’83 exhibition season, LaRoche quit instead. At the time his wife was undergoing a very difficult pregnancy and LaRoche wanted a guarantee that if he did go to Columbus, he could remain with the Clippers until the baby was born. When the Yankees refused that request, LaRoche left baseball to be with his wife.

Unable to land a steady job, LaRoche contacted the Yankees after the baby’s birth to see if they still wanted him to pitch for the organization. He returned for one final go-round in 1983, appearing in seven games for Columbus and just one for the parent club.

I remember LaRoche’s Yankee days very well, primarily because he frequently threw a slow, high arching eephus pitch his Yankee teammates had nicknamed La Lob. After he finished his pitching career, the Yankees hired him as a minor league pitching coach and he has spent the last quarter century working in that role for a number of minor league teams. He is also the father of two big league players. They are the Washington National’s slugging first baseman Adam LaRoche and the former Dodger and Pirate infielder, Andy LaRoche.

He shares his may 14th birthday with this Hall-of-Fame Yankee center fielder, this former Yankee reliever and this pennant-winning manager.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1981 NYY 4 1 .800 2.49 26 1 14 0 0 0 47.0 38 16 13 3 16 24 1.149
1982 NYY 4 2 .667 3.42 25 0 15 0 0 0 50.0 54 19 19 4 11 31 1.300
1983 NYY 0 0 18.00 1 0 1 0 0 0 1.0 2 2 2 1 0 0 2.000
14 Yrs 65 58 .528 3.53 647 15 381 1 0 126 1049.1 919 448 411 94 459 819 1.313
CAL (6 yrs) 35 32 .522 3.65 304 10 170 1 0 65 512.1 462 223 208 51 204 386 1.300
CLE (3 yrs) 8 9 .471 2.51 135 0 95 0 0 42 197.1 133 64 55 10 113 216 1.247
NYY (3 yrs) 8 3 .727 3.12 52 1 30 0 0 0 98.0 94 37 34 8 27 55 1.235
CHC (2 yrs) 9 7 .563 5.17 94 4 43 0 0 9 146.1 158 91 84 16 76 83 1.599
MIN (1 yr) 5 7 .417 2.83 62 0 43 0 0 10 95.1 72 33 30 9 39 79 1.164
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/13/2013.

May 14 – Happy Birthday Dick Tidrow

It sort of gets lost in Yankee history, but the April 1974 trade that put Chris Chambliss in pinstripes was one of the best deals a George Steinbrenner-run front-office ever made. Not only did the Yankees obtain the clutch-hitting first baseman in the seven player transaction with the Cleveland Indians, they also got a pitcher named Dick “Dirt” Tidrow. Tidrow was a big, mean-looking right-handed native of San Francisco, who had managed to win 40 games during his first three seasons in the big leagues, pitching for some very mediocre Cleveland teams.

He made an immediate contribution to the Bill Virdon-managed Yankee team of 1974 by going 11-9 as a starter and helping New York finish a surprising second in that year’s AL East Division race. During the next three seasons he evolved into one of the most versatile hurlers in New York’s arsenal, pitching mostly in relief but also starting when necessary. The Yankees would not have won the 1977 East Division pennant without Tidrow. That season he finished with an 11-4 record, with five saves and a 3.16 ERA. The guy was fearless on the mound and he became one of Billy Martin’s favorite go-to choices in crunch time of close games.

In ’78, Tidrow was used mostly as a starter, when both Catfish Hunter and Don Gullett went on the DL. When he won just seven of his eighteen decisions it seemed he fell out of favor with the ungrateful Yankee brass. I remember screaming when they traded Tidrow to the Cubs for reliever Ray Burris. I was certain Tidrow was the much better pitcher of the two and he proved it by giving the Cubbies four solid seasons of versatile and effective mound work before getting traded to the cross-town White Sox and finally slowing down in 1983 at the age of 36. He retired the following year. with 100 career victories (and 94 losses) plus 55 saves.

Tidrow shares his May 14th birthday with this Hall-of-Fame Yankee center fielderthis pennant-winning manager and this other former Yankee reliever.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1974 NYY 11 9 .550 3.87 33 25 4 5 0 1 190.2 205 99 82 14 53 100 1.353
1975 NYY 6 3 .667 3.12 37 0 23 0 0 5 69.1 65 27 24 5 31 38 1.385
1976 NYY 4 5 .444 2.63 47 2 24 0 0 10 92.1 80 29 27 5 24 65 1.126
1977 NYY 11 4 .733 3.16 49 7 26 0 0 5 151.0 143 57 53 20 41 83 1.219
1978 NYY 7 11 .389 3.84 31 25 1 4 0 0 185.1 191 87 79 13 53 73 1.317
1979 NYY 2 1 .667 7.94 14 0 10 0 0 2 22.2 38 20 20 5 4 7 1.853
13 Yrs 100 94 .515 3.68 620 138 244 32 5 55 1746.2 1705 807 715 163 579 975 1.308
NYY (6 yrs) 41 33 .554 3.61 211 59 88 9 0 23 711.1 722 319 285 62 206 366 1.305
CHC (4 yrs) 28 23 .549 3.36 263 0 120 0 0 25 397.0 362 169 148 27 154 266 1.300
CLE (3 yrs) 29 34 .460 3.78 85 78 4 23 5 0 531.0 510 250 223 56 178 269 1.296
NYM (1 yr) 0 0 9.19 11 0 5 0 0 0 15.2 25 19 16 5 7 8 2.043
CHW (1 yr) 2 4 .333 4.22 50 1 27 0 0 7 91.2 86 50 43 13 34 66 1.309
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/13/2013.

May 14 – Happy Birthday Dick Howser

I was a Dick Howser fan. The 1979 Yankee team had been a mess. Everybody expected them to compete for a third straight World Series ring and they ended up in fourth place in their division. George Steinbrenner’s indecision about who should manage, Billy Martin or Bob Lemon, kept the players and coaching staff on constant edge. Thurman Munson’s death in a tragic plane crash was the final straw to a season that Yankee fans wanted to forget. Enter Dick Howser.

The Miami, Florida native’s big league playing career had began with an AL Rookie of the Year performance as a shortstop for the 1961 Kansas City A’s. That playing career ended in pinstripes, as a utility middle infielder for the 1967 and ’68 Yankees. When he retired the following season, he joined the Yankee coaching staff for the next ten years. Then in 1979, Howser accepted the head baseball coach’s position at his alma mater, Florida State University.

When it became clear to Steinbrenner that neither Martin or Lemon was the right choice as Yankee skipper, the Boss surprised everyone by hiring Howser for the job. He proved to be up to the task immediately as the 1980 Yankees got off to a fast start and ended up winning 103 games and the AL East Pennant. The Yankee clubhouse under Howser was more harmonious and conflict free than it had been in years. Reggie Jackson loved playing for the guy and responded with his best-ever Yankee regular season. The only hiccup to a perfect year for the team was a slight slump in August and good old George turned it into a giant belch. He started criticizing Howser’s every move and telling the Big Apple sports press that his rookie manager lacked the baseball intelligence of veteran skippers like Baltimore’s Earl Weaver.

Howser somehow kept his composure as did his team and the Yankees ended up facing their old nemesis, Kansas City in the AL Playoffs for the fourth time in five years. But unlike the previous three times, the Yankees lost and as we all now know, George Steinbrenner was a very poor loser. He shocked me and I’m sure, thousands of other Yankee fans by dumping Howser. Of course George explained that Howser had decided on his own not to return as Yankee skipper in ’81 because he had been offered some sort of amazing opportunity in Florida real estate that he simply couldn’t pass up. When New York sportswriters questioned the departing Manager about the opportunity, however, the perplexed and angry Howser didn’t know what they were talking about.

He did end up returning to Florida where he began collecting the final two years of his three-year Yankee contract but he didn’t stay their long. The team that had just beat him in the playoffs decided to make their own managerial change during the strike-shortened 1981 season and the Royals hired Howser to replace Jim Frey. During his first five years at the helm, Kansas City finished second twice, won three AL West Division titles and a World Championship. It all ended tragically for Howser a year later, when he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. He fought the disease valiantly, but lost his battle in June of 1987 at the age of 51.

Howser shares his May 14th birthday with the Yankee’s first great center fielder, this former reliever and this versatile Yankee pitcher from the 1970s.

Howser’s record as a Yankee player

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1967 NYY 63 179 149 18 40 6 0 0 10 1 25 15 .268 .381 .309 .689
1968 NYY 85 189 150 24 23 2 1 0 3 0 35 17 .153 .321 .180 .501
8 Yrs 789 2937 2483 398 617 90 17 16 165 105 367 186 .248 .346 .318 .664
CLE (4 yrs) 385 1464 1246 191 307 45 7 7 72 48 170 105 .246 .336 .311 .646
KCA (3 yrs) 256 1105 938 165 247 37 9 9 80 56 137 49 .263 .359 .351 .710
NYY (2 yrs) 148 368 299 42 63 8 1 0 13 1 60 32 .211 .350 .244 .594
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/13/2013.

Howser’s record as Yankee manager

Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
1 1978 42 New York Yankees AL 2nd of 3 1 0 1 .000 1
2 1980 44 New York Yankees AL 162 103 59 .636 1
New York Yankees 2 years 163 103 60 .632 1.0
Kansas City Royals 6 years 770 404 365 .525 1.7 1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title
8 years 933 507 425 .544 1.5 1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/13/2013.

May 14 – Happy Birthday Earle Combs

Earle Combs was born on May 14, 1899, in Pebworth, KY. Nicknamed the “”Kentucky Colonel”” he was the first great Yankee center fielder. When he left his parents’ farm at the age of seventeen, his career goal was to become a school teacher.  He attended what is now Eastern Kentucky University to pursue a teaching degree. He got involved in a baseball game between the students and the faculty of the college. The guy pitching for the teachers that day had some big league experience and was impressed enough by Combs’ ability that he urged him to try out for the school’s baseball team. He did and quickly became an elite player on that team. Soon he was playing semi pro and minor league ball.

In 1924, he signed a contract to play for the Kentucky Colonels of the American Association. The team’s manager was future Yankee skipper, Joe McCarthy, who converted Combs from a shortstop to a center fielder. After two outstanding seasons with the Colonels, the Yankees outbid a slew of other big league teams and purchased his contract for $50,000. He than began his twelve-season career in Pinstripes in 1924.

He batted .325, lifetime. That mark places Combs third on the list of highest Yankee lifetime batting averages with a minimum of 1,500 plate appearances. Combs scored at least 113 runs for eight straight seasons hitting in front of Ruth and Gehrig. During the 1934 season, he ran into an outfield wall in Sportsmen’s Park in St Louis, chasing a fly ball at top speed. He broke his skull and almost died from the resulting injuries. He attempted a comeback in 1935 but after crashing into another wall, he called it quits for good.  Combs was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1970.

Combs shares his May 14th birthday with this former Yankee Manager and this former Yankee reliever and this other former Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1924 NYY 24 39 35 10 14 5 0 0 2 0 4 2 .400 .462 .543 1.004
1925 NYY 150 674 593 117 203 36 13 3 61 12 65 43 .342 .411 .462 .873
1926 NYY 145 670 606 113 181 31 12 8 55 8 47 23 .299 .352 .429 .781
1927 NYY 152 725 648 137 231 36 23 6 64 15 62 31 .356 .414 .511 .925
1928 NYY 149 709 626 118 194 33 21 7 56 11 77 33 .310 .387 .463 .850
1929 NYY 142 666 586 119 202 33 15 3 65 12 69 32 .345 .414 .468 .881
1930 NYY 137 617 532 129 183 30 22 7 82 16 74 26 .344 .424 .523 .947
1931 NYY 138 636 563 120 179 31 13 5 58 11 68 34 .318 .394 .446 .840
1932 NYY 144 675 591 143 190 32 10 9 65 3 81 16 .321 .405 .455 .860
1933 NYY 122 472 417 86 125 22 16 5 64 6 47 19 .300 .372 .465 .837
1934 NYY 63 295 251 47 80 13 5 2 25 3 40 9 .319 .412 .434 .847
1935 NYY 89 335 298 47 84 7 4 3 35 1 36 10 .282 .359 .362 .722
12 Yrs 1455 6513 5746 1186 1866 309 154 58 632 98 670 278 .325 .397 .462 .859
162 Game Avg. 162 725 640 132 208 34 17 6 70 11 75 31 .325 .397 .462 .859
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/13/2013.