Results tagged ‘ october 31 ’

October 31 – Happy Birthday Paul Zuvella

ZuevellaRemember when Ken Griffey Jr. was in his prime and told everyone that he would never play for the Yankees? That’s because “The Kid’s” father, Ken Griffey Sr. felt the same way. Of course, by the time the elder Griffey had figured that out, he had already been wearing Yankee pinstripes for a year and then had spent the next three and a half seasons with the team begging to be traded.

He would finally get his wish on the last day of June, during the 1986 season when the Yanks sent the unhappy outfielder to the Braves in exchange for Claudell Washington and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. Press reports describing the trade at the time indicated the Yankees expected to start Claudell Washington in left field and Paul Zuvella at short.

I was one of those faithful Yankee fans who really hoped Griffey would be a star in New York and since that hadn’t happened, I wasn’t sorry to see him go. I knew Washington would be an adequate starting outfielder for that Yankee team but I also knew Paul Zuvella had no shot at becoming the team’s starting shortstop.

The shortstop position had been an anomaly for New York since Bucky Dent had been traded in 1983. Lou Piniella was the manager of that ’86 team and he wasn’t exactly known for being patient with his players, especially with an even more impatient owner like George Steinbrenner watching over his shoulder and breathing down his neck.

Zuvella had played his college ball for Stanford and had a good run with the 1978 version of Team USA. That got him drafted by Atlanta and he made his big league debut with the Braves in 1982. It took him four seasons to earn just the utility infielder’s job there and then he lost even that at midseason and spent the second half of 1985 back in the minors.

He started his first season in New York with an 0 – for – 25 slump and and at the end of his first month with the team the guy was hitting .083. Piniella, Steinbrenner and Yankee fans had seen enough and Zuvella was banished to Columbus for the rest of the season. He reappeared at the Yankees 1987 spring training camp and found himself in a battle with Bobby Meacham for the Yankee’s utility infielder slot. Though Meacham outplayed him in every facet of the game that spring, it was Zuvella who headed north with the team for Opening Day. Why? Because George Steinbrenner did not like Bobby Meacham, so the Yankee owner ordered Piniella to demote him and keep Zuvella.

The native of San Mateo, California was able to double his average during his second abbreviated season in the Bronx but that still meant he hit just .176. Zuvella’s Yankee career was over. He was released that October and spent the next couple of seasons with Cleveland. He eventually became a minor league manager in the Rockies’ organization. His claim to pinstriped fame? His name appears at the very end of an alphabetized version of the Yankees’ all-time roster.

Zuvella shares his birthday with this former Yankee outfielder, this former Yankee catcher and this other former yankee infielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1986 NYY 21 57 48 2 4 1 0 0 2 0 5 4 .083 .170 .104 .274
1987 NYY 14 36 34 2 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 .176 .176 .176 .353
9 Yrs 209 545 491 41 109 17 2 2 20 2 34 50 .222 .275 .277 .552
ATL (4 yrs) 97 246 221 18 53 9 1 0 5 2 20 18 .240 .306 .290 .595
CLE (2 yrs) 75 206 188 19 46 7 1 2 13 0 9 24 .245 .283 .324 .607
NYY (2 yrs) 35 93 82 4 10 1 0 0 2 0 5 8 .122 .172 .134 .307
KCR (1 yr) 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/31/2013.

October 31 – Happy Birthday Mickey Rivers

We called him “Mick the Quick.” He was born in Miami, FL on October 31, 1948. Rivers came to the Yankees with Ed Figueroa from the Angels in a December, 1975 trade for Bobby Bonds. That deal was the key that finally fully opened the door to the resurgence of the Yankee dynasty that took place in the mid seventies. Figueroa was himself a big part of that resurgence, winning more games during his first three seasons in Pinstripes than any other AL pitcher. But it was Rivers who provided the missing piece to the Yankee’s offense and during his first two seasons in New York he was one of the most exciting players in baseball.

Billy Martin inserted Mickey at the top of the Yankee lineup and he became a run-scoring machine during the 1976 season. Even though he missed 25 games he still managed to cross home plate 95 times. He stole 43 bases getting caught just seven times. He had 184 hits and batted .312. The only thing he couldn’t do was walk but he also made contact, striking out just 51 times. He also had a great playoff series against the Royals before falling flat along
with most of the rest of the Yankee lineup in that season’s Fall Classic versus the Reds.

1977 brought more of the same from Rivers. He again sat out two dozen games but his regular-season average climbed to .326. Just as importantly, Mickey played a very good center field for the Yankees, using his speed to get to balls quickly, which more than compensated for his just OK arm. He hit over .390 that year against the Royals in the playoffs and the Yankees won their first World Championship in 15 years.

I saw Rivers up close just one time. We were at Yankee Stadium for an Old Timers game, standing behind the police barricades by the Stadium’s player entrance hoping to catch a glimpse of all the past and present Yankees arriving for that day’s games. Rivers pulled into the Yankee parking lot in a beautiful car. I believe it was a Mercedes. What I’ll never forget is how slowly the guy walked. I think it took him ten minutes to cover the hundred feet between the gate of the parking lot to the player’s entrance to the Stadium. I remember another Yankee player, I believe it was Bucky Dent, pulled into the parking lot a full five minutes after Mickey did that day and got inside the stadium before Rivers did. I remember wondering how any human being who moved as slow as Rivers did could possibly lead the American League in stolen bases, which Mickey had done in 1975.

By 1978, however, Mick’s on-the-field performance began to suffer. His run production decreased and his batting average dipped by sixty percentage points. He also seemed to be growing a bit more nonchalant on the bases and in the outfield. Remember, this was the height of the Billy Martin era. The boozing and mercurial Yankee skipper had lost the reins of his team and the New York Media was having a field day with all of the controversy. Rivers enjoyed the New York nightlife and the ponies. He needed to be kept on a short leash but with the Yankee dugout a circus, there was no one to hold the other end of that leash.

My favorite off-the-field story about Rivers was when he pulled into the Yankee Stadium players’ parking lot before a game after an overnight spent enjoying the Big Apple night life. Mrs. Rivers happened to be laying in wait for her husband in the same parking lot. She proceeded to use her late model luxury car as a battering ram, repeatedly crashing into the Mick’s own late-model luxury car. God I wish I’d been there to see it. Mickey’s gambling and philandering was also taking a toll on his personal finances. Rumor had it that George Steinbrenner was growing very angry with his center-fielder’s constant requests for salary advances and increases.

By 1979 the Yankees had grown weary of Rivers’ behavior on and off the field and they traded him to Texas to reacquire Oscar Gamble. I still miss the guy. Rivers shares his October 31st birthday with this former Yankee catcherthis former Yankee infielder and this other former Yankee infielder.

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1976 27 NYY AL 137 612 590 95 184 31 8 8 67 43 13 51 .312 .327 .432 .760
1977 28 NYY AL 138 594 565 79 184 18 5 12 69 22 18 45 .326 .350 .439 .789
1978 29 NYY AL 141 604 559 78 148 25 8 11 48 25 29 51 .265 .302 .397 .699
1979 30 NYY AL 74 307 286 37 82 18 5 3 25 3 13 21 .287 .315 .416 .731
15 Yrs 1468 6026 5629 785 1660 247 71 61 499 267 266 471 .295 .327 .397 .724
TEX (6 yrs) 521 2076 1966 276 596 93 13 22 168 48 73 134 .303 .327 .397 .725
CAL (6 yrs) 457 1833 1663 220 466 62 32 5 122 126 120 169 .280 .330 .365 .695
NYY (4 yrs) 490 2117 2000 289 598 92 26 34 209 93 73 168 .299 .324 .422 .746
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/31/2013.

October 31 – Happy Birthday Matt Nokes

It doesn’t seem that long ago that Matt Nokes had his outstanding rookie season with Detroit, when he hit 32 home runs, drove in 87 and helped lead the Tigers to a first place finish in the AL East. Hard to believe that was 1987. I remember pundits predicting he would become baseball’s next great catcher. That didn’t happen.

His rookie season turned out to be the best statistically of Nokes’ 14-year career and since he was nothing special defensively, when his bat cooled off the Tigers decided to deal him. The Yankees gave Detroit pitchers Lance McCullers and Clay Parker for Nokes during the 1990 season. For the next two-and-a-half years, the San Diego native was the Yankees’ starting catcher. His best season in pinstripes was 1991, when he smacked 24 round-trippers and drove in 77 runs. By 1993 he had stopped hitting home runs and he lost his starting position to Mike Stanley.

His teammates will tell you that Matt Nokes was a great guy who loved his family and kept out of trouble. He was always nice to the Yankee batboys and actually helped one of them build a potato cannon that they test-shot together from inside the Yankee dugout. His last big league season was 1995.

Also celebrating a birthday on today’s date is this former Yankee center fielder named Mickeythis former Yankee infielder and this other former Yankee infielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1990 NYY 92 264 240 21 57 4 0 8 32 2 20 33 .238 .307 .354 .661
1991 NYY 135 493 456 52 122 20 0 24 77 3 25 49 .268 .308 .469 .778
1992 NYY 121 430 384 42 86 9 1 22 59 0 37 62 .224 .293 .424 .718
1993 NYY 76 238 217 25 54 8 0 10 35 0 16 31 .249 .303 .424 .726
1994 NYY 28 85 79 11 23 3 0 7 19 0 5 16 .291 .329 .595 .924
11 Yrs 902 2997 2735 310 695 96 4 136 422 8 200 395 .254 .308 .441 .750
NYY (5 yrs) 452 1510 1376 151 342 44 1 71 222 5 103 191 .249 .304 .437 .741
DET (5 yrs) 395 1366 1246 151 334 48 3 61 189 3 91 180 .268 .322 .458 .780
COL (1 yr) 10 12 11 1 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 4 .182 .250 .273 .523
SFG (1 yr) 19 55 53 3 11 2 0 2 5 0 1 9 .208 .236 .358 .595
BAL (1 yr) 26 54 49 4 6 1 0 2 6 0 4 11 .122 .185 .265 .450
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/31/2013.