Results tagged ‘ outfielder ’
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant certainly is not a household name, but in addition to playing 54 games in the Yankee outfield during the 1997 season, Scott Pose also had a pretty decent part in Kevin Costner’s 1999 movie, For the Love of the Game. Costner played an aging Detroit Tiger pitcher who throws a perfect game in his final Major League start, which happens to take place in Yankee Stadium against my favorite team. Pose played Yankee outfielder, Matt Crane in that flick.
Pose’s other claim to fame is that he was the very first Florida Marlin in history to make a plate appearance, when he led off that franchise’s inaugural season opener against the Dodgers on April 5, 1993. Moments later, he became the first Marlin in history to get on base safely, thanks to an error by LA first baseman, Erik Karros.
Yankee Manager, Joe Torre took a liking to Pose during the 1997 season. He used the Davenport, Iowa native quite a bit as a utility outfielder that year. He got into 56 games, starting eighteen of them, but he hit just .218. Still, Torre thought enough of Pose to keep him on New York’s 1997 postseason roster. Most long-time Yankee fans remember the play resulting in Pose’s only appearance in that year’s ALDS, very well. That’s because it happened in the fifth and final game of the Cleveland series. The Yankees, who had taken a two-games to one lead in that series, lost the fourth game back in Cleveland and were behind in the fifth, 4-3. In the top of the ninth, both Tim Raines and Derek Jeter had grounded out and it was up to Paul O’Neill to keep the Yankees’ defense of their 1996 World Championship going. Paulie O had been on fire that entire series and his streak continued when he laced a line drive double to center off of Cleveland’s closer, Jose Mesa. That’s when Torre sent Pose into the game to replace O’Neill as the potential tying run at second base. It all became academic moments later, when Bernie Williams flew out to deep left for the final out of the Yankee season.
Pose then spent the next two years in the minors before resurfacing with the Royals in 1999. His last year in the big leagues was 2000.
There have not been too many Yankees born in the state of Iowa, although two who were, starting pitchers Stan Bahnsen and George Pipgras, both put together 20-victory seasons in pinstripes. Former Yankee utility infielder, Fred “The Chicken” Stanley, is also a native Hawkeye.
The only other guy to wear a Yankee uniform and have a February 11th birthday is this former New York pitching coach who also was a 20-game winner in the big leagues.
Nobody was happier than me, when the Yankees acquired Lance Berkman from the Astros at the 2010 inter-league trading deadline. I had followed the career of the Waco, Texas native ever since he made his Major League debut with Houston in 1999. Back then, the Astros killer B duo of Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio were both at the peak of their careers and the addition of Berkman as the third “B” in that hive added even more sting to Houston’s offense.
The switch-hitting first-round draft pick became a full-time starting outfielder for the Astros in 2001 and during the next eight seasons he averaged 35 home runs and 117 RBIs along with a .303 batting average. Injuries plagued the “Big Puma” the next two seasons and with the struggling Astros desperate to shed payroll, Berkman ok’d the trade to the Yankees on July 31, 2010. Houston got Yankee pitching prospect Mark Melancon and minor league infielder, Jimmy Paredes in the deal but they also had to agree to pay $5 million of Berkman’s remaining 2010 salary.
I absolutely loved the move. I was sure that Berkman would deliver some key hits during the Yankees stretch drive and I was really hoping he’d tear it up in the second half so the Yankee would offer him enough money to stick around a second season. As it turned out, he was still not fully recovered from his knee surgery. He struggled at the plate, hitting just .255 during second half of the 2010 season with just 1 home run and 9 RBIs in 37 games. It wasn’t until the ALDS against the Twins that he made an impact, when he broke a 2-2 tie in Game 2 against the Twins with a monster two-run shot in the seventh inning. He then played in every game against Texas in that season’s ALCS but after he hit just .250 in that series and the Yanks were eliminated, any interest on the part of New York’s front office to offer Berkman a new contract, disappeared. I remember being very disappointed that Cashman did not do so. The Yankee GM had already made up his mind that Jorge Posada would never catch again for New York forcing the veteran catcher into the left-handed DH slot for the final year of his final Yankee contract.
So instead, a now healthy Berkman signed with the Cardinals in 2011 and all he did was smack 31 home runs, drive in 94 and average .301 during that year’s regular season and than followed that up by hitting .423 against the Rangers and winning his first and only World Series ring. The injury bug would hit Berkman again in 2012 and he ended appearing in just 32 games for St. Louis. He then signed a free agent contract to play for the Texas Rangers in 2013. Though I was again hoping the Yankees would consider signing Berkman to DH for them this year, New York was absolutely justified to not pay him the $22 million he will receive from Texas this year and next. After all, he turns 37 years-old today.
When I started following the Yankees in 1960, their best minor league outfield prospects required patience or a willingness to relocate. That’s because the parent club had Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, both in their primes, solidly stationed in center field and right, while in left they used a trio of highly skilled veterans that included Yogi Berra, Hector Lopez and Bob Cerv. There was simply not enough playing time available at the big league level for young promising outfield prospects like today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant to develop. As a result, they either stayed in the minors a very long time or they were traded to other teams to shore up weaknesses New York had in other areas.
Lee Thomas was one such prospect. The Yankees signed him right out of high school in 1954. He spent the next seven seasons climbing up the alphabet ladder of New York’s farm system, impressing everyone along the way with his patience at the plate, his ability to hit for average and his power. In his final two minor league seasons he averaged 27 home runs and 115 RBIs per season with a batting average right around .320. His only negative was a sometimes violent temper that would earn him the nickname “Mad Dog.”
By the 1961 Spring Training season, he was so good and so ready that first-year Yankee manager Ralph Houk had no choice but to put him on the Opening Day roster. But this was the same 1961 Yankee team that most baseball historians consider to be one of the great teams in MLB history, which is why during the first six weeks of the regular season, the only action Thomas had seen was two pinch-hitting opportunities. Finally, Roger Maris approached the rookie and told him he was too good a player to sit on the Yankee bench or get sent back down to triple A. Thomas explained what happened next in an interview documented in the book “The Yankees in the Early 1960′s,” authored by William J. Ryczek. On a flight to LA for a series against the Angels, Maris approached Thomas and told him he and Mantle had a plan to take care of the rookie. When the Yankees started batting practice in LA’s old Wrigley Field, the original home of the expansion team, Mickey, Roger and two other Yankee starters gave up their time in the batting cage so that Thomas could have an extended session in front of the watchful eyes of Angel skipper, Bill Rigney. These extended sessions continued for the next two games as well. Thomas took advantage of the showcase by smashing the ball all over the park. He said he hit at least fifteen home runs during those sessions and sure enough, before the Yankees left town, the Angels made a trade for the rookie.
Even though the deal meant a full-time big league starting position for Thomas, he admitted he hated leaving the Bronx Bombers. He knew that 1961 team was special, he knew they were going to win it all and he wanted to be part of it but it just wasn’t meant to be.
Thomas immediately became a star for the struggling expansion Angels. He hit 24 home runs for them in 1961 and in ’62, he made the AL All Star team and ended the season with 26 HRs, 105 RBIs and a .290 batting average. He appeared to have found a permanent home with the Halos but all of a sudden, he stopped hitting. Thomas’s average fell seventy points in 1963, and his home runs and RBIs that year dropped pretty much in half. When his slump continued into the first part of the 1964 season, the Angels sent him to the Red Sox for Boston outfielder, Lou Clinton.
The change of scenery seemed to help revive Lee’s bat a bit. He hit 13 home ruins for Boston during the final two thirds of the ’64 season and drove in 42 runs. The following year he did even better, with 22 home runs, 71 RBIs and he raised his batting average up to a more respectable .271. He probably thought he had found a new home in Beantown right up until ten days before Christmas in 1965, when he found out he had been traded to Atlanta for Braves’ pitchers Dan Osinski and Bob Sadowski.
He floundered horribly in Atlanta, and was hitting just .188 by the end of May when he was told he had been traded again, this time to the Cubs. After a season and a half in the Windy City and a final year playing with Houston, Thomas was gone from the big leagues for good. Thomas then got into managing at the minor league level for a few seasons before moving up to the big league front office of the Cardinals where he was named the organization’s Farm Director. He then got the Phillies’ GM job in 1988 and kept it for nine years. Thomas then returned to Boston where he served as assistant GM under Dan Duquette. He was born in Peoria, IL on February 5, 1936.
I’ve always loved conspiracy theories and the one I learned about while researching today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is certainly a doozy. When Ban Johnson started his American League in 1901, it created a lucrative new market for players in the National League, who were willing to jump to the new junior circuit. Just about every team in the NL lost some of their best players during the resulting signing war in 1901 and ’02. The only exception strangely was the mighty Pittsburgh Pirates, who escaped pretty much unscathed. With absolutely no negative impact on their roster, the Pirates were able to win the NL Pennants in both ’01 and ’02 by comfortable margins. In fact, in 1902 the Bucs finished a full 27 1/2 games ahead of a heavily depleted second place Brooklyn Superba’s squad.
Some baseball historians surmised that Johnson and his fellow American League franchise owners conspired to not sign any of the Pirate players, instead concentrating their raid-efforts on the stars of the teams that could compete with the Bucs for the pennant. Their purpose was to leave Pittsburgh in such a dominant position that the team would win the flag by such a huge margin, the fans of other NL teams would lose interest and stop buying tickets. Others thought the reason why the Pirate stars were so sticky to Pittsburgh was because the owner of that team, a banker named Barney Dreyfuss, was so good to his players.
That stickiness ended when one of the Pirates’ best pitchers, Jess Tannehill separated his shoulder and while being treated for the injury, was administered ether. Unbelievably, while under the effects of that drug he confessed that he and a group of fellow Pirates had all been offered $1,000 to jump to the rival league. Dreyfuss was both shocked and angered by the news and ended up releasing all the players who were thinking of betraying him. That list included Tannehill, pitcher Jack Chesbro, third baseman Wid Conroy and an outfielder named Alfonzo “Lefty” Davis. All four signed on with the Highlanders.
Davis was an up and coming star for the Pirates who had missed half of the 1902 season wth a severely broken leg. A native of Nashville, TN, Davis had hit .313 for Pittsburgh in 1901 and was averaging .280 the following season, when the injury occurred.
In 1903, he joined the first New York Highlanders’ starting outfield with Willie Keeler and Herm McFarland. Unfortunately, his injured leg had not healed properly and he hit just .237. His loss of speed hindered him on the base paths and in the outfield. He would spend the next three seasons in the minors trying to regain his form but he never did. After one last shot with Cincinnati in 1907, his big league career was over.
Davis shares his birthday with a long-ago Yankee infielder.
Jack Reed was one of the first Yankee outfielders to become “Mickey Mantle’s spare legs.” These were guys who would replace the oft injured, always-in-pain superstar in the late innings of games after The Mick would get his last at-bat. Often times, when Mantle made that final plate appearance, thousands of Yankee Stadium fans would head for the exits so usually, when Reed was coming into a game he’d see huge crowds of people leaving the stands.
As a result of his very specialized role, Reed was one of the select group of position players in Major League history to accumulate more games played than plate appearances during their careers. This Silver City, Mississippi native got into 222 games during his three season career in pinstripes that began in 1961, but came to the plate with a bat in his hand just 144 times. He hit just one home run during that span and I remember it very well.
It happened during a Sunday afternoon game against Detroit at old Briggs Stadium in July of 1962. As usual, Reed was on the bench when the game started. At the end of nine innings, the score was tied 7-7. It stayed that way for the next 12 innings. Reed had entered the game in the top of the thirteenth, to pinch hit for Phil Linz and was then inserted in right field. He was hitless in his first three at bats when he came to the plate in the top of the 22nd inning with one out and Roger Maris, representing the go-ahead run on first base. Reed hit a Phil Regan pitch into the stands for a two-run home run to knock in the winning runs of what was then, the longest game in Major League history. I think I can remember watching that entire game at my Grandmother’s house. It lasted for eight hours. Reed was born on this date in 1933 and still lives in Mississippi.
In addition to being a pretty good baseball player at Ol’ Miss, Reed had also been a real good collegiate football player. This second Yankee utility outfielder, also born on this date, was also good at baseball and football during his college days. He eventually made it into the Hall of Fame. Not the one in Cooperstown, the one in Canton. He also shares his birthday with this former Yankee war-time catcher.
When I saw the name of today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant it instantly brought back good/bad memories. My good/bad memories are reminisces that at the time they originally occurred, gave me agita but now, remembering them decades later, they actually make me smile.
When I first started watching Yankee baseball in 1960, the team was almost unbeatable and when one of New York’s players got old, injured or drafted into military service and a replacement was needed, they’d reach down inside their well-stocked farm system and bring up a talented replacement. In 1962, for instance, rookies Tom Tresh, Joe Pepitone and Jim Bouton all made meaningful contributions to a Yankee team that won its second straight World Championship.
But just a few seasons later, that had all changed. Since almost the beginning of the franchise, the Yankees had been owned by very wealthy individuals with immense personal fortunes who loved winning. They’d pour huge amounts of money into the team’s farm system and sign up the best young talent from around the country. In 1965, however, the Yankees were sold to CBS, a corporation of stockholders concerned with just one thing, profits. At the same time, Major League Baseball instituted its amateur draft, which for the first time rewarded the teams with the worst records the ability to select the rights to sign the best amateur players in the country ahead of the teams with the best records and the most money.
There would be no more 1962′s for a long long time in Yankee universe. The farm system was gutted during CBS’s reign of error and that’s why Ron Woods got to wear pinstripes in the first place. By 1968, the Yankees had become one of the worst teams in the American League. They needed to replace their entire outfield and since prized franchise prospects like Steve Whitaker, Roger Repoz and Ross Moschitto all fizzled, Yankee GM Ralph Houk found himself forced to trade Yankee veterans for the best prospects of other teams. That’s why in 1969, New York traded Tresh to Detroit for a young outfielder named Ron Woods.
There were times during the previous seven seasons in the Tiger farm system that Woods looked like he had the potential to become one of those special five-tool outfielders. Unfortunately for Houk and the Yankees, potential on the farm doesn’t win games in the majors. Ron Woods was a complete bust during his two plus seasons in the Bronx. In 192 Yankee games between 1969 and ’71, he averaged just .208 with 10 home runs and only 36 RBIs. Even his greatest play as a Yankee turned out to be a mirage. Woods had fallen head first into the stands chasing a long fly ball and knocked himself unconscious. His Yankee outfield teammate, the late Bobby Murcer had reached over the wall and held up the ball, as if he had grabbed it out of Woods glove and the umpire signaled the batter was out. Years later, when he was announcing Yankee games, Murcer admitted during a televised broadcast that he had found that ball lying next to and not inside Woods’ glove.
New York gave up on Woods in June of 1971, trading him to Montreal for the ex-Met, Ron Swoboda. Woods remained an Expo through the 1971 season, ending his 582-game big league career there with a .233 lifetime batting average.
My first thought when I saw Melky Mesa head back to third base after missing the bag when he attempted to score the winning run in his very first appearance as a Yankee was that he would never get a second appearance in pinstripes. Today’s birthday boy had been sent in to run for third baseman Eric Chavez, who had singled to lead off the bottom of the 14th inning in a huge game versus the A’s on September 22nd of the 2012 season. At the time, New York held a precarious on-game lead over the pesky Baltimore Orioles in the AL East Division race and every was critical. Fortunately for him and the Yankees, Mesa finally scored the winning run with two outs on an error by Oakland first baseman, Brandon Moss and the Yankees went on to win the AL East race too. Nine days later, Mesa got his first big league hit and first RBI in a pinch-hitting role against the Red Sox.
There’s an outside chance that Yankee fans will be seeing a lot more of Melky in 2013. New York needs to replace Andruw Jones as the team’s right-handed DH and Mesa will be given a shot to win that role in spring training. Since signing with the Yankees as an amateur free agent, this native Dominican has spent the past seven seasons in New York’s farm system. Although he’s averaged just .244 during that time he’s got decent power, great speed on the base paths and is a solid defensive outfielder. He hit 23 home runs playing for both Trenton and Scranton in 2012.
Bob Watson was a very talented Yankee GM who hated working for George Steinbrenner. But before the Boss’s constant undercutting and criticism sent his blood pressure through the roof, forcing him to quit, the guy known as “Bull” made some outstanding moves for New York. Take the 1996 Yankee roster as an example. It was the beleaguered Yankee GM who engineered the trade that brought Tino Martinez and Jeff Nelson to the Bronx from Seattle. It was Watson who got Joe Girardi in a deal with the Cubs. Watson’s the guy who signed Mariano Duncan as a free agent that year and it was Duncan who led New York in batting average during the 1996 regular season. Watson got Cecil Fielder from Detroit and he also picked up Charlie Hayes, David Weathers and the indomitable infielder, Luis Sojo. If you followed the Yankees during that 1996 season and you look at the names of the players mentioned above, you realize just how much Watson’s general managing contributed to that year’s World Chamionship. Oh, and I almost forgot, in June of 1996 Watson also acquired today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant.
At the time, the Yankees were looking for another left-handed bat to add to their bench. Watson zeroed in on Mike Aldrete, a ten-year big-league veteran who was then playing for the Angels as a fourth outfielder and hitting just .150. But he was a career .260-ish hitter, who could play the corner outfield positions and first base. Aldrete had come up with the Giants in 1986. His best year offensively was his sophomore season, when he hit .325 and started in the Giants’ outfield. The Yankees would be his seventh and last big league team.
New York manager, Joe Torre used Aldrete efficiently, getting him into 32 games during the second half of the ’96 season during which he got 77 at bats. Though he hit just .250 in pinstripes, he created some timely offense for the Bronx Bombers. In late June he had a key hit and RBI to help beat the second place Orioles. On July 1st, his home run off Roger Clemens was the winning run against Boston and four days later he drove in four runs to lead the Yankees to a rout of the Brewers. Tendinitis in Aldrete’s wrist benched him for pretty much the complete month of August but he was reactivated in September and played well enough to make the Yankees postseason roster as a left-handed pinch-hitter. He went hitless in his two pinch-hitting appearances in the World Series against the Braves, but he did win his first and only ring.
The Yankees released him after the Series and his big league career was over. Watson lasted as Yankee GM until February of 1978, when he resigned and recommended his assistant GM, Brian Cashman, as his replacement. Before doing so, he advised Cashman not to take the job.
Aldrete shares his birthday with this former Yankee second baseman.
Saint Leo University in St Leo, FL is not exactly a breeding ground for future Major Leaguers. Only six former Lions have made it to the rosters of big league teams. Three of those six were originally drafted by the Yankee organization. These include pitchers Bob Tewksbury and Jim Corsi and today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant. I remember when this hustling outfielder was a promising power-hitting prospect in New York’s farm system. During his final two full seasons as a Yankee minor leaguer, Dayett had smashed 69 home runs. Unfortunately, he could not maintain that power stroke once he got to the big show. After two disappointing part-time seasons with New York in 1983 and 1984, he was traded to the Cubs in 1985 in a fishy deal that brought pitcher Steve Trout to New York. Before the 1987 season, Dayett was scheduled to be Chicago’s starting right fielder. Then during spring training, the Cubs signed free agent Andre Dawson and Dayett found himself back on the bench. His most notable career achievement was that he made just one error during his entire five-year big league career.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about authoring this blog is finding out some incredible things about Yankees that I didn’t know much about. Take today’s birthday celebrant for example. Before becoming a Yankee, Jesse “Jess” Hill was a three-sport starter at USC. Think about that for just a second. This native of Yates, Missouri, was such an exceptional athletic talent that he was able to become a national champion broad jumper on the school’s track squad, a running back on a Rose Bowl-winning football team who averaged 8.3 yards per carry and an outfielder on the Trojans’ baseball team. After graduating in 1929, he signed a contract to play baseball with the Pacific Coast League’s Hollywood Stars, where he averaged .356 in 1930 and .318 in 1931.
Those batting averages got the attention of the Yankees, who purchased Hill’s contract in 1932. He spent the next three years tearing up minor league pitching on Yankee farm teams in Newark and St. Paul. Meanwhile, the 1934 season would be a year of transition for the Yankee outfield. Thirty-nine-year-old Babe Ruth had hoped to become Yankee manager but when Jacob Rupert refused his request, the Bambino asked for and received his unconditional release. The great Yankee center-fielder Earl Combs had run into one too many outfield walls during his outstanding career and he became a part-time outfielder during that 1934 season. That left two Hall-of-Fame-sized holes in New York’s outfield and Jess Hill was invited to the team’s 1935 spring training camp and given the opportunity to try and fill one of them.
He performed well enough to make the team, but with Combs still on the roster, Ben Chapman starting in center and George Selkirk replacing Ruth in right, Hill began the year battling for playing time with fellow outfielders Myril Hoag and Dixie Walker. His turning point came in the Yankees ninth game of the season versus Boston. Combs had gotten off to a horrible start that year with his bat, which was probably one of the reasons Manager Joe McCarthy penciled Hill’s name in on the Yankee lineup card to lead off and play left field. The 28-year-old rookie responded with three hits, his first big league home run, four RBIs and two runs scored. From that point, for the rest of the season, Hill started in the Yankee outfield more often than not and hit a very respectable .293 with 14 stolen bases. Ordinarily, a first year-performance at that level would pretty much assure a welcome-back for a sophomore season with the same ball club, especially since Combs announced that he would not be returning in 1936. That wasn’t the case for Hill however. There was this youngster named Joe DiMaggio joining the Yankees that year who scouts were raving about. The Yankee front-office decided to convert their sudden surplus of outfielders into more depth in their pitching staff and that January, Hill was traded to the Senators for a veteran right-handed hurler named Bump Hadley.
Hill played decently in DC, averaging .305 in 87 games as the Senators’s fourth outfielder in 1936. But after he got off to a slow start at the plate the following season, he was traded to the Philadelphia A’s, where he duplicated his rookie year batting average of .293. That wasn’t good enough to stick with the A’s so he was forced back to the PCL which turned out to be a huge break for Hill.
Back in LA, he started coaching high school sports teams during the offseason. He then joined the Navy during WWII and served with a guy who just happened to be athletic director at Hill’s Alma Mater. After the war ended, the AD hired Hill to coach the Trojans’ freshmen teams in football and track. His next assignment was head coach of USC’s varsity track team. He led them to two consecutive national titles in 1949 and ’50. He became USC’s varsity football coach in 1951 and during his five years in that job, his teams went 45-17-1. His most celebrated player was frank Gifford. In 1957 he accepted an offer to become USC’s Athletic Director and he served in that job for the next fifteen years. During his tenure as AD, USC teams won 29 national titles.
What an incredible athlete and leader Jess Hill must have been, He passed away in 1993 at the age of 86. Hill shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee phee-nom.
RIP Stan Musial and Earl Weaver.