Results tagged ‘ may 14 ’
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.
|162 Game Avg.||162||725||640||132||208||34||17||6||70||11||75||31||.325||.397||.462||.859|
The 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.
|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|
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.
|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|