Results tagged ‘ outfielder ’

September 20 – Happy Birthday Tom Tresh

I was seven years old when I heard the news that Tony Kubek was not going to be able to play for the Yankees during the 1962 baseball season because he had to report for National Guard duty. Having just started following the Yankees in 1960, this represented the first time ever that I was about to experience one of my favorite team’s regular players leave the lineup. Up until Kubek’s military call-up, I probably thought only death could separate Skowren from Richardson, from Kubek, from Boyer, from Howard, from Mantle from Maris from Berra, etc.

So who was going to play shortstop for New York? The Yankees answered that question by bringing up Tom Tresh from their Richmond minor league team. Born on September 20, 1937 in Detroit, Tresh was a switch hitter, just like my boyhood hero, Mickey Mantle and his dad Mike had been a catcher for the White Sox in the late thirties and early forties. The Yankees batted Tresh second in the lineup, just like Kubek, and he was having a great year. He had more power than Kubek, hitting 20 home runs in 1962 and he also drove in 93. He wasn’t as good a shortstop as Kubek but not many were. When I learned Kubek would be back in a Yankee uniform in August of that season, I was torn. I liked Tony but this new guy had grown on me. When I heard the Yankees were going to instead use Tresh as their regular left-fielder when Kubek returned, I was an ecstatic young man.

The Yankees ended up winning the 1962 pennant and another World Series and Tresh made the All Star team and was voted the AL Rookie of the Year. I was sure Mantle, Maris and Tresh would be the best outfield in baseball for a long time. Unfortunately, as it turned out, injuries to both Mantle and Maris prevented that from happening. Tresh made the defensive transition to his new position seamlessly, even winning a Gold Glove in 1965. But he never again put together as good an offensive year as he had during his rookie season. Though New York won Pennants in 1963 and ’64, their core group of starting position players got old fast and by 1965, most of their skills had deserted them.  Even the much younger Tresh stopped hitting. His highest single season batting average after 1965 was just .233.

I was shocked back in October of 2008 when a headline at NYTimes.com reported Tom Tresh had died. I was probably more shocked to find out that he was seventy years old at the time. Where have all those Yankee baseball summers gone?

Tresh shares his birthday with another one-time Yankee shortstop prospect.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1961 NYY 9 8 8 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500
1962 NYY 157 712 622 94 178 26 5 20 93 4 67 74 .286 .359 .441 .800
1963 NYY 145 614 520 91 140 28 5 25 71 3 83 79 .269 .371 .487 .857
1964 NYY 153 621 533 75 131 25 5 16 73 13 73 110 .246 .342 .402 .743
1965 NYY 156 668 602 94 168 29 6 26 74 5 59 92 .279 .348 .477 .825
1966 NYY 151 637 537 76 125 12 4 27 68 5 86 89 .233 .341 .421 .762
1967 NYY 130 509 448 45 98 23 3 14 53 1 50 86 .219 .301 .377 .678
1968 NYY 152 590 507 60 99 18 3 11 52 10 76 97 .195 .304 .308 .612
1969 NYY 45 161 143 13 26 5 2 1 9 2 17 23 .182 .269 .266 .534
9 Yrs 1192 4897 4251 595 1041 179 34 153 530 45 550 698 .245 .335 .411 .746
NYY (9 yrs) 1098 4520 3920 549 967 166 33 140 493 43 511 651 .247 .337 .413 .750
DET (1 yr) 94 377 331 46 74 13 1 13 37 2 39 47 .224 .305 .387 .692
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/21/2013.

September 19 – Happy Birthday Hersh Martin

MartinHershHersh Martin serves as a good example of the type of players the Yankees employed during the WWII years, when so many of the guys who constituted Major League Baseball’s regular line-ups were called to service in the military. Martin was New York’s starting left fielder in 1944 and ’45.

A native of Birmingham, Alabama, he had originally been signed by the Cardinal organization in 1932, at the age of 22. He played the next the next five years in the St Louis farm system and then made his big league debut with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1937. The Philly team he joined was not very good and the switch-hitting Martin became their regular center-fielder. He led that team in runs scored with 102 and hit a solid .283 in his rookie season. He then averaged .298 in 1938 and made the NL All Star team.

In June of 1940, the Phillies sold Martin to the New York Giants and he was sent back to the minors, where he spent the next four years. The Yankees then purchased his contract in June of 1944 and manager Joe McCarthy immediately inserted him into the line-up as New York’s starting left fielder. He was 34-years-old by then. He hit .302 during the second half of that season and then followed that up by hitting .268 in 1945.

Though he was a big guy, at six feet two inches tall and weighing close to two hundred pounds, Martin did not have much power. He also was not noted for his speed. The truth of the matter is that he probably would not have got the opportunity to start or maybe even sub for the New York Yankees under normal circumstances. But WWII was not a normal circumstance, and career minor leaguers like Martin, who had some Major League experience on their resumes, did an admirable job keeping our national pastime functioning at a time when our armed forces and those serving the war effort at home, desperately needed something to cheer about.

Martin returned to minor league ball after the 1945 season and continued playing regularly at that level until 1953. When he finally hung up his spikes he had 2,299 career base hits as a minor leaguer. He then got into scouting and later worked seventeen years in that capacity for the Mets. He passed away in 1980 at the age of 71.

He shares his birthday with this former Cy Young Award winner, this author of a Yankee no-hitter, this oft-injured former Yankee and this teammate of Martin’s on the WWII era Bronx Bombers.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1944 NYY 85 368 328 49 99 12 4 9 47 5 34 26 .302 .371 .445 .816
1945 NYY 117 479 408 53 109 18 6 7 53 4 65 31 .267 .368 .392 .760
6 Yrs 607 2547 2257 331 643 135 29 28 215 33 253 207 .285 .359 .408 .766
PHI (4 yrs) 405 1700 1521 229 435 105 19 12 115 24 154 150 .286 .354 .404 .757
NYY (2 yrs) 202 847 736 102 208 30 10 16 100 9 99 57 .283 .369 .416 .785
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/21/2013.

September 16 – Happy Birthday Tim Raines

In an interview I came across over a year ago, Derek Jeter confirmed that Tim Raines was one of his favorite all-time teammates. “Rock” spent three years as a Yankee, from 1996 through 1998 and was an extremely valuable utility outfielder, DH and pinch hitter in each of those seasons. Jeter loved the fact that Raines was always smiling and always looking on the bright side of every situation.

Raines’ baseball life however, had not always been so rosy. The speedy outfielder shocked all of baseball in his 1981 rookie season with the Expos, when he led the National League in stolen bases by compiling an amazing 71 thefts in just 88 games. He won the next three NL stolen base crowns as well, setting a personal season high of 90, in 1983. His lifetime total of 808 places Raines fifth on the All-Time stolen bases list and the thing that separated him from most other big base stealers was his efficiency. Percentage-wise, Rock was thrown out attempting to steal less than any player in history with 300 or more steals.

Raines  shocked the baseball world a second time in a different way when it was revealed that he had played the first part of his career addicted to cocaine. I still remember reading his revelation that he would make head first slides on stolen base attempts so that he would not break the vials of cocaine he regularly carried in his uniform back pocket during Expos’ games. He credits his Montreal teammate, Andre Dawson, with getting him into rehab and swears he’s been off the stuff since. But cocaine wasn’t the only thing that hurt Raines career.

Back in the eighties, MLB owners began to privately rebel against free agency. They had grown tired of the system’s bidding wars and dealing with players’ agents and decided among themselves that they were not going to play anymore. As a result, upper tier players like Raines and Dawson, who entered free agency in the late eighties found no demand for their services. The owners collectively simply stopped bidding for stars from other teams and Raines, who had been expecting a huge payday, was forced to re-sign with the Expos for what he felt was a token raise. The courts eventually ruled in the players’ favor and owner collusion ended. Raines finally got the opportunity to shop his talents after the 1990 season and left the tight-fisted Montreal organization to sign a five-year $20 million dollar deal with the White Sox. He did not have his greatest statistical years during his time in the Windy City but his performance was solid and he had a great influence on young White Sox players like Frank Thomas and Robin Ventura. Raines’ Chicago teams won many more games than they lost.

His base-stealing days were behind him by the time he joined New York but he could still handle a bat and get on base, averaging .299 with an on base percentage of close to .400 during his stint in Pinstripes. Like Jeter described in the interview, whenever a television camera panned Raines sitting in the Yankee dugout, he always had a huge smile on his face. Why not? This was a guy who battled cocaine and collusion and was now getting the opportunity in the twilight of his career to win three World Series rings as a member of a great team. His bat, base running and outfield defense were all important parts of that Yankee team’s winning formula and his veteran leadership had a huge influence in that Yankee clubhouse.

Raines was born on September 16, 1959 in Seminole, FL.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1996 NYY 59 240 201 45 57 10 0 9 33 10 34 29 .284 .383 .468 .851
1997 NYY 74 318 271 56 87 20 2 4 38 8 41 34 .321 .403 .454 .856
1998 NYY 109 382 321 53 93 13 1 5 47 8 55 49 .290 .395 .383 .778
23 Yrs 2502 10359 8872 1571 2605 430 113 170 980 808 1330 966 .294 .385 .425 .810
MON (13 yrs) 1452 6256 5383 947 1622 281 82 96 556 635 793 569 .301 .391 .437 .829
CHW (5 yrs) 648 2873 2461 440 697 98 28 50 277 143 359 246 .283 .375 .407 .781
NYY (3 yrs) 242 940 793 154 237 43 3 18 118 26 130 112 .299 .395 .429 .823
OAK (1 yr) 58 164 135 20 29 5 0 4 17 4 26 17 .215 .337 .341 .678
FLA (1 yr) 98 114 89 9 17 3 0 1 7 0 22 19 .191 .351 .258 .609
BAL (1 yr) 4 12 11 1 3 0 0 1 5 0 0 3 .273 .250 .545 .795
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/19/2013.

September 10 – Happy Birthday Roger Maris

Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Blog celebrant is the New York Yankee outfielder, Roger Maris, born in Hibbing Minnesota, in 1934. I can say without a doubt that the home run race between Maris and his teammate Mickey Mantle during the 1961 season is the reason I am such a huge Yankee fan today. Their competition to break Ruth’s single season home run record dominated the sports pages and back then, when their were only three TV stations on the air, even network news anchors like Walter Cronkite and NBC’s Huntley & Brinkley would report how many home runs each of the M&M boys currently had. It seemed as if everyone everywhere was focused on the exploits of this dynamic duo and of course you had to choose sides.

Most of us wanted Mantle to be the one. The Mick had been a Yankee all his career and he was the epitome of a slugger. Every time he swung his bat from either side of the plate he swung as hard as he possibly could and many of his home runs would travel epic distances. 1961 was only Roger’s second season in pinstripes. He had a very smooth and graceful left-handed swing that was perfectly suited for Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch. Up until they became teammates, Mantle had a pretty lousy public demeanor and nobody paid any attention to Maris. When Roger came to New York from Kansas City and started challenging Mantle for MVP Awards and home run titles, New York’s rabid baseball press had someone else to assault in the Yankee locker room and while he helped get reporters off of Mickey’s back, Maris simply hated all of the superfluous attention. All of a sudden, the title of “toughest interview in the Yankee locker room” was passed from Mantle to Maris and Mickey’s public image got a huge boost as a result.

Another reason I probably rooted for Mickey back then was that my older brother was rooting for Maris.  At the time, Big J was my tormentor. This is the guy who when he wasn’t performing what were supposed to be fake pro wrestling maneuvers on me would poke darts through the eyeballs of my collection of 5″ x 8″ glossy photos of the Yankee players. For quite a while, he was the owner of our family’s only transistor radio and when I would sit next to him on the front porch so I could listen to a radio broadcast of the Yankee game, he’d plug-in the earplug and stick the sounds of my favorite team inside his ear. So if Big J liked Maris back then it was all the more reason for me to root for Mantle.

That season-long home run derby remains one of the greatest events in both Yankee and Major League Baseball history. But as all Yankee fans have since learned, Maris was much more than home runs. He was an outstanding defensive outfielder with a shotgun arm. He was an incredibly good base runner and he could do all of the little things both at bat and in the field that helped produce and prevent runs. He appeared in seven World Series and had three championship rings when he retired after the 1968 season.

With the steroid controversy that consumed the achievements of Mark McGuire and Barry Bonds, respect and admiration have grown for Maris in recent years. He was a small town boy who unlike Mantle could never be comfortable with a celebrity’s life in the Big Apple. Maris died in 1985 after a two-year struggle with cancer.

Maris shares his September 10th birthday with another Yankee superstar trade acquisition who could never warm up to the big Apple press. This former Yankee utility infielder was also born on September 10th.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1960 NYY 136 578 499 98 141 18 7 39 112 2 70 65 .283 .371 .581 .952
1961 NYY 161 698 590 132 159 16 4 61 141 0 94 67 .269 .372 .620 .993
1962 NYY 157 687 590 92 151 34 1 33 100 1 87 78 .256 .356 .485 .840
1963 NYY 90 351 312 53 84 14 1 23 53 1 35 40 .269 .346 .542 .887
1964 NYY 141 584 513 86 144 12 2 26 71 3 62 78 .281 .364 .464 .828
1965 NYY 46 186 155 22 37 7 0 8 27 0 29 29 .239 .357 .439 .795
1966 NYY 119 391 348 37 81 9 2 13 43 0 36 60 .233 .307 .382 .689
12 Yrs 1463 5847 5101 826 1325 195 42 275 850 21 652 733 .260 .345 .476 .822
NYY (7 yrs) 850 3475 3007 520 797 110 17 203 547 7 413 417 .265 .356 .515 .872
STL (2 yrs) 225 812 720 89 186 36 9 14 100 0 76 99 .258 .330 .392 .721
KCA (2 yrs) 221 934 834 130 217 35 10 35 125 2 86 105 .260 .331 .452 .783
CLE (2 yrs) 167 626 540 87 125 14 6 23 78 12 77 112 .231 .326 .407 .733
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/18/2013.

September 7 – Happy Birthday Darren Bragg

The first player to do it was pitcher Bob Friend, back in 1966. The last guy to do it was infielder, Angel Berroa, who accomplished it during the 2009 season. In between them, sixteen other guys who at one time played baseball for a Big Apple team have done it during their Major League careers including today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant, Darren Bragg. Bragg was born in Waterbury, CT, on September 7, 1969 and is the only member of the Yankee’s all-time roster to celebrate his birthday on this date. He broke into the big leagues with Seattle, in 1994. The Red Sox acquired him from the Mariners in 1996 and he was a starter in the Boston outfield for the next two-and-a-half seasons. In all, he played for nine teams during his 11 year career in the Majors, including the Yankees, in 2001. The Yankees released him before the end of that season. So the question remains, what feat did Friend, Berroa, Bragg and fifteen other players accomplish during their Major League careers? Each of them appeared in games for both the Yankees and Mets during the same regular season.

Bragg shares his September 7th birthday with this first woman play-by-play announcer in Yankee broadcast history.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2001 NYY 5 4 4 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .500 .750
11 Yrs 916 2835 2461 341 627 145 14 46 260 56 304 570 .255 .340 .381 .721
BOS (3 yrs) 340 1315 1144 154 302 78 6 20 136 21 139 240 .264 .346 .395 .741
SEA (3 yrs) 129 426 359 60 90 18 2 10 39 17 53 77 .251 .351 .396 .747
ATL (2 yrs) 213 421 374 55 96 20 3 3 24 7 37 90 .257 .329 .350 .680
NYM (1 yr) 18 63 57 4 15 6 0 0 5 3 4 23 .263 .323 .368 .691
COL (1 yr) 71 169 149 16 33 7 1 3 21 4 17 41 .221 .296 .342 .638
STL (1 yr) 93 325 273 38 71 12 1 6 26 3 44 67 .260 .369 .377 .746
SDP (1 yr) 9 9 7 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 .143 .333 .143 .476
CIN (1 yr) 38 103 94 11 18 3 1 4 9 1 8 29 .191 .255 .372 .627
NYY (1 yr) 5 4 4 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .500 .750
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/17/2013.

August 31 – Happy Birthday Claudell Washington

I remember the 1974 baseball season very well because it brought forth a personal and slightly painful milestone. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant made his big league debut as a much-heralded 19-year-old outfielder with the 1974 Oakland A’s. He and the Milwaukee Brewer’s Robin Yount were the first players to start regularly for a Major League team, who were younger than me. There of course have been many more since.

That Oakland team was about to capture its third straight World Championship and there were baseball pundits back then predicting that the multi-talented Washington would lead the team to many more.  It looked like those experts might be right when in his sophomore season, Washington led the A’s with 182 hits and a .308 batting average as Oakland captured its fifth straight AL West Division title. But that was the same season the A’s lost the rights to Catfish Hunter due to their failure to honor an insurance clause in the pitcher’s contract  and within a year, free agency would begin decimating Oakland’s All Star roster.  Surprisingly, it would take Claudell thirteen years to top the .300 batting average barrier again and when it happened, he was wearing Yankee pinstripes.

Claudell played with seven different teams during his seventeen-season big league career including two stops in the Bronx. He first became a Yankee in 1988 when New York traded Ken Griffey Sr and Andre Robertson to the Braves for Washington and Paul Zuvella. After signing with the Angels as a free agent in 1989, the Yankees reacquired Claudell in exchange for outfielder Louis Polonia. His best season in pinstripes was his first, in 1988 when he hit .308. In April of that year, Washington hit the 10,000th home run in Yankee franchise history. Claudell was born on August 31, 1954, in Los Angeles. He shares his birthday with this Hall-of-Fame pitcher, who was traded to the Yankees but never pitched for them.

Here’s my version of the Yankee’s All-Presidential Team followed by Claudell’s Yankee and career stats.

1B – Nick Johnson
2B – Homer Bush
3B – Charley Hayes
SS – John Kennedy
C – Cliff Johnson
OF – Reggie Jackson
OF – Claudell Washington
OF – Otis Nixon or Lou Clinton
SP – Whitey Ford
RP – Grant Jackson

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1986 NYY 54 144 135 19 32 5 0 6 16 6 7 33 .237 .285 .407 .692
1987 NYY 102 339 312 42 87 17 0 9 44 10 27 54 .279 .336 .420 .756
1988 NYY 126 485 455 62 140 22 3 11 64 15 24 74 .308 .342 .442 .784
1990 NYY 33 83 80 4 13 1 1 0 6 3 2 17 .163 .181 .200 .381
17 Yrs 1912 7367 6787 926 1884 334 69 164 824 312 468 1266 .278 .325 .420 .745
ATL (6 yrs) 651 2586 2330 347 647 116 25 67 279 115 213 426 .278 .339 .435 .774
NYY (4 yrs) 315 1051 982 127 272 45 4 26 130 34 60 178 .277 .320 .410 .730
CHW (3 yrs) 249 938 875 127 241 53 12 20 109 28 45 169 .275 .312 .432 .744
OAK (3 yrs) 355 1402 1301 167 371 54 18 15 149 83 75 214 .285 .326 .389 .715
TEX (2 yrs) 141 597 563 64 155 31 2 12 70 21 26 124 .275 .309 .401 .710
CAL (2 yrs) 122 487 452 56 120 19 4 14 45 14 29 92 .265 .312 .418 .730
NYM (1 yr) 79 306 284 38 78 16 4 10 42 17 20 63 .275 .324 .465 .788
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/31/2013.

August 24 – Happy Birthday Brett Gardner

brettgardnerI’m a fan of Brett Gardner. It took me a quite a while to figure that out and I’m still not one hundred percent convinced of it, but as of right now this instant, I’m a fan. He plays the game hard all the time and I absolutely love that. He’s an excellent outfielder who covers massive amounts of ground and that’s huge, especially during this up and down 2013 Yankee season when the Yankee starting rotation has been giving up one hard hit fly ball after another. I also love Gardner’s enthusiasm. He’s New York’s biggest cheerleader and his teammates’ biggest defender. You can tell he loves to play the game and cherishes the privilege.

Now permit me to explain why it has taken me so long to become a full fledged member of the Brett Gardner fan club. Sometimes, not as often as he used to but still sometimes, this guy drives me absolutely crazy. Like when he’s on first base with second base open and he doesn’t attempt to steal early in the count. For a while there, he was striking out way too much for a small-ball specialist. I’ve seen him swing at some horrible full count pitches and he doesn’t seem as willing to accept base-on-balls as he used to be. But he has proven to be a much better hitter than I thought he was and Gardner’s great speed can change the dynamic of a game at any point and forces Yankee opponents to throw lots of hit-able fast balls when he is on the base paths. He has also proven to be a good leadoff hitter though when he used to hit ninth, I thought he was one of the best bottom of the lineup guys in all of baseball.

Hard to believe he turns 30-years-old today and even harder to believe he’s playing in his sixth Yankee season already. He’s eligible for arbitration at the end of this year and free agency the next. There was a time when I thought the Yankees might trade Gardner and try to replace him with a power-hitting corner outfielder. I don’t think that any more. The current Yankee management team has a real tough time thinking big these days so I believe Gardner eventually signs at least a three-year deal to remain in pinstripes. And that’s not a bad thing, or is it?

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2008 NYY 42 141 127 18 29 5 2 0 16 13 1 8 30 .228 .283 .299 .582
2009 NYY 108 284 248 48 67 6 6 3 23 26 5 26 40 .270 .345 .379 .724
2010 NYY 150 569 477 97 132 20 7 5 47 47 9 79 101 .277 .383 .379 .762
2011 NYY 159 588 510 87 132 19 8 7 36 49 13 60 93 .259 .345 .369 .713
2012 NYY 16 37 31 7 10 2 0 0 3 2 2 5 7 .323 .417 .387 .804
2013 NYY 125 530 473 65 126 25 7 8 43 21 7 43 107 .266 .332 .400 .732
6 Yrs 600 2149 1866 322 496 77 30 23 168 158 37 221 378 .266 .349 .376 .725
162 Game Avg. 162 580 504 87 134 21 8 6 45 43 10 60 102 .266 .349 .376 .725
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/24/2013.

August 23 – Happy Birthday Cedric Durst

durstIt was the greatest trade in Yankee history. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant was a utility outfielder on the great Murderers Row Yankee teams that won the 1927 and ’28 World Series. With a starting outfield of Babe Ruth, Earle Combs and Bob Meusel, Cedric Durst usually only saw action when the Babe was tired, sick or hung over. He was one of Yankee skipper, Miller Huggins’ spare parts, who had broken into the big leagues with the St. Louis Browns in 1922 and been traded to New York for pitcher, Sad Sam Jones five seasons later.

As each Yankee season passed, Durst saw his playing time increase. Its only natural that other teams in need of outfielders would be interested in looking at the one who backed up the greatest all-around player in the game. Unlike previous Red Sox-Yankee trades, no other teams cried “foul” when New York sent Durst to Boston for a 25-year-old pitcher named Red Ruffing, early in the second month of the 1930 regular season. Heck, I bet hardly anybody even noticed the deal.

At the time, Ruffing was just beginning his sixth season as a member of the Red Sox starting rotation and his lifetime record was an abysmal 39-96. That converts to a woeful .289 winning percentage and when you throw in the right hander’s career 4.61 ERA at the time of the trade, you can understand why when the Durst/Ruffing deal went down it got just a two-paragraph mention on the sports pages of the New York Times.

So all Ruffing does after switching his red hosiery for a pinstriped jersey is go 15-5 during the rest of that 1930 season and put together a 231-124 Hall of Fame career for the Bronx Bombers. When he retired, he was the winningest pitcher in Yankee franchise history. How did Durst do in Boston? Well, he did become a starter for the first time in his career, getting into 102 games for the Red Sox during the rest of that 1930 season. But he averaged just .245 and his on base percentage was only .290. Heck, during Ruffing’s last season in Beantown, the great hitting pitcher had averaged .364 and driven in six more runs than Durst did for the Red Sox in half as many games. Boston would have actually been better off keeping Ruffing and switching him to the outfield full time. Instead, they found themselves again on the losing end of one of the most lop-sided trades in history.

That 1930 season would be Durst’s only one as a Red Sox and the final season of his big league career. He went back to the minors in 1931 and continued playing baseball until  1943, when he was 46-years-old. He shares his birthday with baseball’s first-ever DH and this former Yankee catching prospect who became a big league All Star.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1927 NYY 65 142 129 18 32 4 3 0 25 0 6 7 .248 .281 .326 .607
1928 NYY 74 146 135 18 34 2 1 2 10 1 7 9 .252 .289 .326 .615
1929 NYY 92 223 202 32 52 3 3 4 31 3 15 25 .257 .309 .361 .670
1930 NYY 8 19 19 0 3 1 0 0 5 0 0 1 .158 .158 .211 .368
7 Yrs 481 1220 1103 145 269 39 17 15 124 7 75 100 .244 .294 .351 .645
NYY (4 yrs) 239 530 485 68 121 10 7 6 71 4 28 42 .249 .290 .336 .627
SLB (3 yrs) 140 360 316 48 74 10 5 8 29 0 30 34 .234 .303 .373 .676
BOS (1 yr) 102 330 302 29 74 19 5 1 24 3 17 24 .245 .290 .351 .641
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/23/2013.

August 18 – Happy Birthday Marcus Lawton

marcus.lawtonThe most national publicity Gulfport, Mississippi ever got was when Hurricane Katrina practically destroyed the Gulf Coast city of 69,000 people in 2005. Before that, Gulfport’s biggest claim to fame was being the birthplace of Brett Favre, the now retired Super Bowl winning NFL quarterback. Before the “Gunslinger” became an NFL legend, the most notable native athletes of this second biggest city in the state, played baseball.

In1931, Gulfport siblings Gee and Hub Walker both played in the same outfield for the Detroit Tigers. Gee was the older of the two but it would be Hub who would become the more successful big leaguer. Then in the late 1960′s, “Beltin” Bill Melton went north to Chicago and spent almost a decade as a decent home run hitter for the White Sox.

Then there were the Lawton brothers. Marcus and Matt. Like the Walker’s before them , it would be the younger of the two, Matt, who would become the big league All Star, but it was older brother Marcus, who had all of baseball buzzing back in 1985.

He had been drafted out of high school in the 6th round by the New York Mets in 1983. Two years later, he had played his way up to Class A ball and was starting in the outfield of the South Atlantic League’s Columbia Mets. In just 128 games, he stole 111 bases, getting caught only 8 times! He only had 126 base hits that season but he walked 83 times and scored 113 runs. He would put two more consecutive solid minor league seasons together, but they were happening during a time when the Met’s parent club was fielding some of the best teams in that franchise’s history. There was no room or no need for a base-stealing, singles-hitting outfielder who also struck out a bit too much and Marcus Lawton never got his chance to play at Shea Stadium.

In July of 1989, the Yanks traded pitching prospect Scott Nielsen to the Mets for Lawton. He finally made his big league debut in August of the 1989 season, striking out in his first two at bats as a Yankee in a game against the Twins. He stole his one and only big league base three days later. His first Major League hit didn’t happen until September 21st of that season, when he singled in the ninth inning off of the Brewers’ Paul Mirabella in a 14-1 Milwaukee rout of the Yankees. He ended up hitting just .214 in that 10-game trial and the Yankees waived him after the season. He would never again play in a big league game, eventually returning to Gulfport where he dealt cards on a riverboat casino and together with his dad, helped his younger brother Matt get better prepared than he had been for big league success.

This former Yankee infielder and coach and this Hall of Fame pitcher both share Lawton’s birthday.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1989 NYY 10 14 14 1 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 3 .214 .214 .214 .429
1 Yr 10 14 14 1 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 3 .214 .214 .214 .429
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/18/2013.

August 13 – Happy Birthday Jay Buhner

51N428B9USL._SY300_The most correct answer to the now-famous question Frank Costanza shouted at George Steinbrenner during that classic episode of Seinfeld was “on-base-percentage.” That’s why the Boss traded today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant to the Mariners for Ken Phelps in July of the 1988 season. Phelps had put together OBP’s of .400 plus during his last four seasons in Seattle at about the same time Bill James was emerging as baseball’s new statistician guru and preaching that players who could get on base were more important to a team’s success than players who could drive in runs. Unfortunately for the Yankees, Jay Buhner became very good at doing both.

Buhner had originally been drafted by the Pirates in 1984. The Yankees acquired the Louisville, Kentucky native along with Dale Berra in a December 1984 trade with Pittsburgh in exchange for Steve Kemp and Tim Foli. He caught the attention of lots of Yankee fans when he hit 31 home runs in 1987 for New York’s Triple A team in Columbus. He would get two call-ups to the Bronx, including one in May of the 1988 season, when Billy Martin gave him his only real shot at making an impression in pinstripes. He wasn’t successful, averaging just .228 and striking out almost every other at-bat.

Unfortunately for Yankee fans, the team’s impatience with their young outfielder was not rewarded because Phelps turned out to be a failure as a Yankee while Buhner quickly evolved into an offensive force as a Mariner. He went on to become a legend in Seattle, reaching his peak by 1995 when he began a stretch of three-straight 40-homer, 100 RBI seasons. The man who came to be known as “Bone” played until 2001, retiring with 310 career home runs and a lifetime OBP of .359. Buhner made headlines in 2012 when he told an interviewer that he would “vomit” if Seattle re-signed his successor as Mariners’ starting right fielder, Ichiro Suzuki to another contract.

Buhner shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher, this former shortstop and this current Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1987 NYY 7 23 22 0 5 2 0 0 1 0 1 6 .227 .261 .318 .579
1988 NYY 25 76 69 8 13 0 0 3 13 0 3 25 .188 .250 .319 .569
15 Yrs 1472 5927 5013 798 1273 233 19 310 965 6 792 1406 .254 .359 .494 .852
SEA (14 yrs) 1440 5828 4922 790 1255 231 19 307 951 6 788 1375 .255 .360 .497 .857
NYY (2 yrs) 32 99 91 8 18 2 0 3 14 0 4 31 .198 .253 .319 .571
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/13/2013.