Results tagged ‘ outfielder ’

December 8 – Happy Birthday Vernon Wells

vwellsI was one of those Yankee fans who was vociferously against the 2013 preseason deal that made Vernon Wells a Yankee. I understand how and why it happened. When both Granderson and Texeira went down with injuries this spring and it became apparent that Jeter was not ready to play, New York’s front office went into sort of a cheapskate panic mode. They needed to do something fast but they wanted it to also be easy and not too expensive. That explains the Vernon Wells deal in a nutshell. All one had to do to understand this was listen to the incessant bragging the team’s publicity department did about how the Angels had agreed to pick up most of the outfielder’s salary for the next two years.

Still, as a loyal, long-time Yankee fan, once the deal went down, I became a Vernon Wells fan and rooted for him like crazy. My sincere hope was that I would be proven completely wrong about his inability to help this Yankee team make the playoffs. And for about six weeks at the beginning of the season, it looked as if I might have been. Wells got out of the gate quickly and helped the Yankees do the same. By the end of April, he was hitting .300 and was on a pace to hit 30 home runs and drive in 90. Then two weeks later, Wells pretty much stopped hitting. He hit his 10th home run of the season on May 15. He then went three months before he hit another. By the end of June, his batting average had fallen to .223 and it was apparent to me that the move to obtain Wells would definitely not go down in franchise history as one of Brian Cashman’s better ones.

Now that the Yankees have signed Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, one has to wonder if Wells will even be on the Yankee roster when Opening Day 2014 rolls around. He can still play good outfield defense but with Gardner, Soriano and Suzuki all still in Pinstripes, the Yankees have a glut of extra outfielders.

Wells was born in Shreveport, Louisiana on December 8, 1978. As anyone who has ever been his teammate will tell you, this guy is a class act in the clubhouse and during his prime, was one of the top outfielders in the American League. Even though he did not perform well during the 2013 season, he hustled every second he was on the field and handled the critical New York media like the consummate professional he is. That’s why I for one will continue to root for Vernon Wells.

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

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2013 NYY 130 458 424 45 99 16 0 11 50 7 30 73 .233 .282 .349 .631
15 Yrs 1731 7212 6642 930 1794 379 34 270 958 109 472 956 .270 .319 .459 .778
TOR (12 yrs) 1393 5963 5470 789 1529 339 30 223 813 90 406 762 .280 .329 .475 .804
LAA (2 yrs) 208 791 748 96 166 24 4 36 95 12 36 121 .222 .258 .409 .667
NYY (1 yr) 130 458 424 45 99 16 0 11 50 7 30 73 .233 .282 .349 .631
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/8/2013.

November 30 – Happy Birthday Matt Lawton

LawtonMarcus was the first of the two Lawton brothers to make it to the big leagues but it was younger brother Matt who became an All Star. Marcus Lawton made his ten-game Major League debut as a Yankee during the 1989 season and then never played another game in the big leagues. What he did too was spend lots of time with his younger sibling teaching him everything he knew about the game. The lessons paid off.

Matt Lawton enjoyed a solid twelve season career, with his best years coming  with the Twins and the Indians. He was an AL All Star with Minnesota in 2000 and again with Cleveland in 2004. The Yankees got him in a late August trade with the Cubs in 2005, just a few days after Hurricane Katrina demolished Lawton’s hometown of Gulfport,Mississippi and did severe damage to the outfielder’s home. He got off to a horribly slow start with New York but on September 21 of that season, he hit a huge 2-run home run that beat the Orioles and propelled the Yankees into first place.

During Lawton’s short time as a Yankee he tested positive for steroids and immediately admitted he took the drug and apologized. The Yanks released him in late October  He then signed with Seattle and after serving a ten-game suspension at the beginning of the 2006 season, he lasted just two months with  the Mariners, before hanging up his glove for good.

Lawton shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher and this former Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2005 NYY 21 57 48 6 6 0 0 2 4 1 7 8 .125 .263 .250 .513
12 Yrs 1334 5570 4763 756 1273 267 17 138 631 165 681 613 .267 .368 .417 .785
MIN (7 yrs) 771 3150 2672 423 739 163 13 72 384 96 408 335 .277 .379 .428 .808
CLE (3 yrs) 363 1593 1381 237 355 63 2 50 180 41 180 165 .257 .352 .414 .767
NYM (1 yr) 48 213 183 24 45 11 1 3 13 10 22 34 .246 .352 .366 .718
PIT (1 yr) 101 445 374 53 102 28 1 10 44 16 58 61 .273 .380 .433 .813
CHC (1 yr) 19 83 78 8 19 2 0 1 5 1 4 8 .244 .289 .308 .597
SEA (1 yr) 11 29 27 5 7 0 0 0 1 0 2 2 .259 .310 .259 .570
NYY (1 yr) 21 57 48 6 6 0 0 2 4 1 7 8 .125 .263 .250 .513
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/30/2013.

November 25 – Happy Birthday Mark Whiten

MWhiten“Hard Hittin” Mark Whiten had his career year in 1993. On the final day of spring training that season, this then, 25-year-old, switch-hitting native of Pensacola, FL was traded by the Cleveland Indians to the Cardinals. He joined a starting outfield in St.Louis that included Bernard Gilkey and Ray Lankford and he led that team with 25 home runs and 99 RBIs. On September 7, 1993 he made baseball history by smashing 4 home runs and driving in 12 runs in a single game.

The Players Strike disrupted Whiten’s second season with the Cards and there would be no third. He was traded to Boston at the start of the ’95 season, which began an odyssey that would put the outfielder in six different big league uniforms over the next four years. The fifth of those uniforms was pinstriped. The Yankees signed Whiten as a free agent in January of 1997. In New York, he was reunited with Joe Torre, the same guy who managed him during his career year with the Cardinals.

Torre began the season by platooning Whiten and Darryl Strawberry in left field. Big Mark got off to a great start at the plate and was still hitting over .300 the first week of June. But when Strawberry went down with a bad knee, it would be Tim Raines who took over as the team’s starter in left. Whiten was left to battle Chad Curtis for the fourth outfielder’s slot and when Curtis won that battle, the Yanks released Whiten that August. He then signed on with Cleveland and appeared in his last big league game as an Indian in 2000.

Whiten shares his November 25th birthday with this former Yankee infielder, this recent Yankee outfielder and  this Hall-of-Fame Yankee center fielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1997 NYY 69 248 215 34 57 11 0 5 24 4 30 47 .265 .360 .386 .746
11 Yrs 940 3523 3104 465 804 129 20 105 423 78 378 712 .259 .341 .415 .756
CLE (5 yrs) 320 1167 1024 142 265 49 8 23 103 22 126 218 .259 .343 .390 .732
PHI (2 yrs) 120 461 394 71 100 18 1 18 58 20 64 125 .254 .361 .442 .802
STL (2 yrs) 244 1000 896 138 240 31 6 39 152 25 95 185 .268 .338 .446 .784
TOR (2 yrs) 79 260 237 24 57 5 4 4 26 2 18 49 .241 .292 .346 .638
ATL (1 yr) 36 107 90 12 23 5 1 3 17 2 16 25 .256 .364 .433 .798
BOS (1 yr) 32 117 108 13 20 3 0 1 10 1 8 23 .185 .239 .241 .480
NYY (1 yr) 69 248 215 34 57 11 0 5 24 4 30 47 .265 .360 .386 .746
SEA (1 yr) 40 163 140 31 42 7 0 12 33 2 21 40 .300 .399 .607 1.006
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/24/2013.

November 10 – Happy Birthday Chick Fewster

fewsterIt would not take too long for just about any Yankee fan to corresctly guess who hit the first World Series home run in franchise history. That would be the one and only Babe Ruth. The Bambino hit the historic blast in Game 4 of the 1921 World Series versus the Yankees’ Polo Grounds landlord at the time, the mighty New York Giants. But even the most astute fan of Bronx Bomber baseball could keep guessing for the next ten years and not come up with the name of the second Yankee to perform that same feat.

The correct answer of course, is today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Wilson Lloyd “Chick” Fewster. His two-run blast in the top of the second inning of that same Fall Classic’s very next game, gave the Yankees a temporary 5-3 lead they would eventually lose. Its no wonder the name “Chick Fewster” means nothing to Yankee fans. After all, his entire Yankee career consisted of just 228 games spread over six lackluster seasons beginning in 1917. Back then, Yankee manager Miller Huggins was predicting great things for his young outfielder, telling the New York sports press that he had never seen a better prospect than this new kid from Baltimore. But Fewster would never fulfill that promise and he almost didn’t live long enough to hit that World Series home run either.

In a 1920 spring training game against the Brooklyn Robins, Fewster was hit in the head by a pitch and nearly died. They put a plate in his head and doctors told him he’d never play baseball again. Miraculously, he was back in action by early July of that same season.

He shares his birthday with this former Yankee pitcher and this one-time Yankee DH.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1917 NYY 11 41 36 2 8 0 0 0 1 1 5 5 .222 .317 .222 .539
1918 NYY 5 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000
1919 NYY 81 295 244 38 69 9 3 1 15 8 34 36 .283 .386 .357 .743
1920 NYY 21 36 21 8 6 1 0 0 1 0 7 2 .286 .464 .333 .798
1921 NYY 66 247 207 44 58 19 0 1 19 4 28 43 .280 .382 .386 .768
1922 NYY 44 162 132 20 32 4 1 1 9 2 16 23 .242 .324 .311 .635
11 Yrs 644 2308 1963 282 506 91 12 6 167 57 240 264 .258 .346 .326 .672
NYY (6 yrs) 228 783 642 113 174 33 4 3 45 15 90 109 .271 .372 .349 .721
BOS (2 yrs) 113 424 367 40 91 14 2 0 24 15 45 45 .248 .337 .297 .634
BRO (2 yrs) 109 397 338 54 82 16 3 2 24 9 45 49 .243 .340 .325 .666
CLE (2 yrs) 194 704 616 75 159 28 3 1 74 18 60 61 .258 .327 .318 .645
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/9/2013.

November 9 – Happy Birthday Harvey Hendrick

hendricksAfter Miller Huggins’ Yankee team lost their second straight World Series to the New York Giants in 1922, the diminutive field skipper spent his offseason trying to figure out what his ball club needed in the way of personnel to finally beat his crosstown rivals in a Fall Classic. He brought his shopping list with him to the Yanks 1923 spring training camp in New Orleans and it included an infielder, two pitchers, a third string catcher and two new outfielders. One of those outfielders ended up being today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant.

Harvey “Gink” Hendrick was born in Mason, TN in 1897 and had played college ball at Vanderbilt University, his native state’s most famous school. He then spent a couple of years in the minors including a solid 1922 season with Galveston in the Texas League during which he belted 16 home runs and averaged .311. The Red Sox signed him to a contract but in early January of 1923, he was traded to New York along with pitcher George Pipgras. Hendrick then performed well enough that spring to earn a spot on Huggins’ Opening Day roster.

He ended up serving as a fifth outfielder and occasional pinch-hitter on that 1923 Yankee squad, which featured a strong starting outfield of Babe Ruth,Bob Meusel and Whitey Witt along with the veteran Elmer Smith as their primary backup. Like fellow rookie and teammate, Lou Gehrig, Hendrick spent most of that season sitting on the Yankee bench. Fortunately for him, however, New York dominated the AL Pennant race that year, beating second place Detroit by a full 16 games. That permitted Huggins to rest his starters the whole final month of his season. That meant lots of playing time for Hendrick and he made the most of it, raising his average by 40 points and hitting all three of his rookie season home runs that September. His strong finish helped convince Huggins to keep the rookie outfielder on the Yanks’ postseason roster. Hendrick made his one and only career World Series appearance in the eighth inning of that Series’ first game as a pinch hitter for Yankee shortstop Everett Scott, flying out to center off of Giants’ reliever Rosey Ryan. He did end up winning a coveted ring.

He spent one more season in New York in 1924, playing about as much and performing about as well as he did the year before. The Yanks released him after that second season and he ended up with the Indians in 1925 and back in the minors in ’26. He got his break in 1927 when he became an often-used utility player for a pretty bad Brooklyn Robins team. For the next three seasons he averaged 120 games played and over 400 at bats playing some outfield, some third base and some first base for Brooklyn. He averaged over .300 in each of those seasons including a career high .354 in 1929.

The Robins traded Hendrick to Cincinnati at the start of the 1931 regular season and he would later also play for the Cardinals and Phillies before his big league career ended in 1936. Evidently, Hendrick struggled in life after his playing days were over because in 1941 he committed suicide by shooting himself in his Covington, Tennessee home. Other former Yankees who have taken their own lives include; Dan McGann, Jake Powell, Hugh Casey and most recently, Hideki Irabu.

Hendrick shares a birthday with this one-time Yankee second baseman and this former Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1923 NYY 37 69 66 9 18 3 1 3 12 3 2 8 .273 .294 .485 .779
1924 NYY 40 80 76 7 20 0 0 1 11 1 2 7 .263 .291 .303 .594
11 Yrs 922 3219 2910 434 896 157 46 48 413 75 239 243 .308 .364 .443 .807
BRO (5 yrs) 433 1604 1435 236 456 68 28 34 219 61 129 113 .318 .378 .475 .853
CIN (2 yrs) 231 1021 928 130 287 62 12 5 115 6 76 69 .309 .363 .418 .782
NYY (2 yrs) 77 149 142 16 38 3 1 4 23 4 4 15 .268 .293 .387 .680
PHI (1 yr) 59 127 116 12 34 8 0 0 19 0 9 15 .293 .344 .362 .706
STL (1 yr) 28 77 72 8 18 2 0 1 5 0 5 9 .250 .299 .319 .618
CHC (1 yr) 69 208 189 30 55 13 3 4 23 4 13 17 .291 .346 .455 .801
CLE (1 yr) 25 33 28 2 8 1 2 0 9 0 3 5 .286 .355 .464 .819
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/9/2013.

November 4 – Happy Birthday Ryan Thompson

You can consider yourself a solid fan of Yankee baseball if you can remember this Chestertown, MD native, who was born on November 4, 1967. He played his first four seasons of big league ball as a regularly-used spare outfielder with the Mets. In 2000, he was signed as a free agent by the Yankees after that season’s All Star break. He got off to a fast start, driving in five runs during his first two games in pinstripes. In 33 games that year, he hit .260 and drove in 14 runs. The Yankees did not put him on that season’s postseason roster and released Thompson in the off-season that followed.

The only other Yankee I could find who was born on November 2nd is this Yankee pitcher from the late 1930s.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2000 NYY 33 56 50 12 13 3 0 3 14 0 5 12 .260 .339 .500 .839
9 Yrs 416 1385 1257 165 305 71 6 52 176 9 90 347 .243 .301 .433 .734
NYM (4 yrs) 283 1106 997 127 238 53 4 39 126 8 74 276 .239 .300 .417 .717
CLE (1 yr) 8 23 22 2 7 0 0 1 5 0 1 6 .318 .348 .455 .802
NYY (1 yr) 33 56 50 12 13 3 0 3 14 0 5 12 .260 .339 .500 .839
FLA (1 yr) 18 32 31 6 9 5 0 0 2 0 1 8 .290 .313 .452 .764
HOU (1 yr) 12 22 20 2 4 1 0 1 5 0 2 7 .200 .273 .400 .673
MIL (1 yr) 62 146 137 16 34 9 2 8 24 1 7 38 .248 .295 .518 .813
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/4/2013.

October 29 – Happy Birthday Karim Garcia

When I saw that today was Karim Garcia’s birthday it brought back memories of the Yankee’s classic 2003 ALCS series against Boston. I watched and enjoyed every single inning of all seven games in that series and I will never forget the Game Three confrontations that all began when the great but sometimes too emotional Pedro Martinez hit Garcia in the back with one of his fastballs. That started a chain reaction of reactions that included the threatening hand signal communication between Martinez and Posada, Garcia’s hard slide into second, Manny Ramirez ducking away from a Roger Clemens pitch that was nowhere near him followed by a bench clearing scuffle during which Pedro pulled his famous matador move on the bull-rushing “Popye” Zimmer, who had forgotten for a moment that he was 72-years old. Then later on, Garcia and Jeff Nelson got into a surreal fight with a Red Sox groundskeeper in the Yankee bullpen. What tends to be forgotten about that series was how competitive it was. Four of the last five games were decided by a single run and the seventh contest was one of the most dramatic extra inning affairs in big league history, ending with Aaron Boone’s majestic blast off of Tim Wakefield.

Garcia made that postseason roster by hitting .305 for Joe Torre in 52 games of action during the regular season. Torre had made Garcia his starting right-fielder for the remainder of that season, replacing Raul Mondesi, who was traded to Arizona just before the 2003 trading deadline. During the Yankees 2004 spring training, Garcia again paired up with a Yankee teammate in a tussle with a non-baseball player. This time his tag-team partner was Shane Spencer and their opponent was a pizza delivery guy. Shortly after that incident, Garcia was released by the Yankees and he signed with the Mets. He finished his decade-long big league career in 2004 with 66 lifetime home runs and a .241 batting average.

This Yankee outfielder, who came to New York in a 1989 trade for Al Leiter, also celebrates his birthday on today’s date. This former Yankee shortstop also shares Garcia’s birthday.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2002 NYY 2 5 5 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .200 .200 .200 .400
2003 NYY 52 161 151 17 46 5 0 6 21 0 9 32 .305 .342 .457 .799
10 Yrs 488 1561 1463 180 352 44 13 66 212 10 81 330 .241 .279 .424 .703
LAD (3 yrs) 29 67 60 6 9 0 0 1 8 0 6 19 .150 .224 .200 .424
CLE (3 yrs) 95 356 335 45 91 12 0 26 75 0 14 73 .272 .301 .540 .841
NYY (2 yrs) 54 166 156 18 47 5 0 6 21 0 9 33 .301 .337 .449 .786
BAL (2 yrs) 31 89 82 9 14 0 0 3 11 0 4 21 .171 .202 .280 .483
DET (2 yrs) 104 327 305 39 72 10 3 14 32 2 20 71 .236 .282 .426 .708
ARI (1 yr) 113 354 333 39 74 10 8 9 43 5 18 78 .222 .260 .381 .641
NYM (1 yr) 62 202 192 24 45 7 2 7 22 3 10 35 .234 .272 .401 .673
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/29/2013.

October 23 – Happy Birthday Ben Francisco

ben-franciscoDuring the 53 years I’ve been a Yankee fan, I’ve sort of behaved by two rules. The first is that I do not disrespect Yankee players for failing to live up to expectations. Each and every one of them has been skilled and talented enough to accomplish something I know I never could and that is to reach the Major Leagues as a professional ballplayer. Mistakes, slumps and errors are part of the game and as upset as I get when individual Yankees  don’t perform well, I don’t hold it against them and I have never boo’d a Yankee player in my lifetime. The second rule is that despite how “against” I might have been about a transaction that brings a player to the Yankees, once he puts on a Yankee uniform, I root like crazy for the guy.

Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is a perfect example of how I apply these rules in real-life. When I heard Brian Cashman was going to sign Ben Francisco as a right handed DH and spare outfielder, I screamed in anguish. I absolutely knew this native of Santa Ana, California was not the right guy for the slot the Yankees expected him to fill. When I first read reports that Cashman was going after him, I remember yelling out loud. “Go get Alphonso Soriano from the Cubs instead.” But since I was in my home’s basement office at the time, about 1,300 miles north of Cashman’s office in Tampa, the Yankee GM couldn’t hear my suggestion and he signed Francisco.

So I became an instant Ben Francisco fan, hoping with every fiber in my being that I was wrong about the guy and he would evolve into this year’s version of Raul Ibanez. Unfortunately, I seemed to be in a minority of those Yankee fans who were willing to be patient with him.  It didn’t help matters that so many Yankee regulars were physically unable to play on Opening Day of the 2013 season and the pressure on back-up guys like Francisco to perform was abnormally high as a result.

In his first five games,he got a total of eight at bats and failed to get a hit but judging by the boo birds at the Stadium and the vitriol of Yankee bloggers, you’d of thought he went 0-for-80 instead. His first Yankee hit against Arizona, started a three-run come-from-behind rally in a game New York would eventually win. But by the end of April, his average was just .103.

On May 1, Francisco hit his one and only home run as a Bronx Bomber in a 5-4 Yankee victory over the Astros. On June 4th, with his batting average at .114, Francisco was released by New York. A couple weeks later, he was signed by the Padres and spent the remainder of the 2013 season playing for San Diego’s Pacific Coast League affiliate in Tucson.

He was originally a fifth round draft choice of the Cleveland Indians in 2002. After a solid rookie season with the Tribe in 2008, Francisco’s name got thrown into the Cliff Lee trade negotiations and he ended up accompanying the pitcher to Philadelphia in return for four Phillies’ prospects at the 2009 trading deadline. The deal led to Francisco’s first and thus far only World Series appearance that fall against the Yankees (He went hitless in 7 at-bats.) But the outfielder struggled during his entire two-and-a-half season tenure in the City of Brotherly Love. He seemed much more comfortable playing in Cleveland.

Francisco shares his birthday with this former Yankee pitcher and this long-ago New York outfielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2013 NYY 21 50 44 4 5 0 0 1 1 0 5 11 .114 .220 .182 .402
7 Yrs 563 1771 1579 199 400 104 3 50 190 30 146 325 .253 .323 .418 .741
CLE (3 yrs) 235 920 817 123 213 58 1 28 99 17 76 164 .261 .332 .437 .768
PHI (3 yrs) 225 594 526 58 136 32 1 17 75 13 52 101 .259 .332 .420 .752
TBR (1 yr) 24 63 57 4 13 5 0 2 8 0 4 16 .228 .270 .421 .691
NYY (1 yr) 21 50 44 4 5 0 0 1 1 0 5 11 .114 .220 .182 .402
HOU (1 yr) 31 90 85 5 21 4 0 2 5 0 5 23 .247 .289 .365 .654
TOR (1 yr) 27 54 50 5 12 5 1 0 2 0 4 10 .240 .296 .380 .676
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/23/2013.

October 20 – Happy Birthday Dave Collins

The Yankees 1981 World Series defeat to the Dodgers was an almost tragic turning point for George Steinbrenner. He had spent loads of Yankee dollars to put together an offense that was driven by home runs only to see that offense sputter and fail in both the second half of the strike-induced split season and the last four games with Los Angeles.  He then seemed to have let his anger over the strike and the pain of that Dodger defeat drive a series of player decisions that would keep the Yankees out of postseason play for the next fifteen years. No move symbolized Steinbrenner’s inept over-reaction more than the signing of Dave Collins.

At the time, Collins was a singles-hitting, base-stealing outfielder who slap-swung his bat from both sides of the plate. He had hit .300 for the Reds in both 1979 and ’80 but what really captured the Boss’s attention was the 79 bases Collins stole during that 1980 season. Steinbrenner was convinced the guy would be a perfect lead-off man for the new small-ball offense he envisioned for his ball club so he blew him over with a three-year, two-and-a-half million dollar free agent offer that was probably twice as much and at least a year-more than any other team would have offered Collins.

A month before that signing the Boss had approved a trade for Collins’ Cincinnati teammate and fellow outfielder, Ken Griffey. Then just before spring training, Steinbrenner must have been feeling sentimental because he gave both Lou Piniella and Bobby Murcer, two more outfielders, three-year contract extensions. The Yankees also already had Dave Winfield, Jerry Mumphrey and Oscar Gamble under contract for the 1982 season. That added up to seven outfielders which didn’t add up to a very confused Bob Lemon, who as Yankee manager was given the responsibility of figuring out where and when to play all of them. When Collins reported to spring training, Lemon told him to work out at first base. As Bill Madden explained the situation in his excellent biography of Steinbrenner, “The Last Lion of Baseball,” Collins spent all that spring asking every reporter who covered the team “Why in the world did they sign me?”

He ended up playing first base in 52 games for New York and split 60 more pretty evenly as the Yankee left, right, and center fielder. He hit just .253 that year, stole only 13 bases and was probably one of the most uncomfortable Yankee players in the history of the franchise. Steinbrenner’s 1982 small ball Yankees finished the season next-to-last in their division with a 79-83 record. New York then mercifully traded Collins to the Blue Jays, where, feeling much more wanted, he averaged .290 and 50 stolen bases during the final two years of the contract he had originally signed with New York. But just to make Steinbrenner regret his signing of Collins even more, the Blue jays insisted that the Yankees include a youngster named Fred McGriff in the trade for Collins

October 20th is also the birthday of “the Commerce Comet” “the Voice of the Yankees” and this former Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1982 NYY 111 393 348 41 88 12 3 3 25 13 28 49 .253 .315 .330 .646
16 Yrs 1701 5507 4907 667 1335 187 52 32 373 395 467 660 .272 .338 .351 .689
CIN (7 yrs) 697 1981 1774 272 504 70 16 9 126 147 168 231 .284 .349 .357 .706
CAL (2 yrs) 192 775 684 86 181 25 5 7 57 56 76 110 .265 .337 .346 .684
TOR (2 yrs) 246 943 843 114 245 36 19 3 78 91 76 108 .291 .355 .389 .744
STL (1 yr) 99 74 58 12 13 1 0 0 3 7 13 10 .224 .366 .241 .608
OAK (1 yr) 112 418 379 52 95 16 4 4 29 29 29 37 .251 .303 .346 .648
NYY (1 yr) 111 393 348 41 88 12 3 3 25 13 28 49 .253 .315 .330 .646
SEA (1 yr) 120 447 402 46 96 9 3 5 28 25 33 66 .239 .299 .313 .613
DET (1 yr) 124 476 419 44 113 18 2 1 27 27 44 49 .270 .340 .329 .670
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/20/2013.

October 18 – Happy Birthday Roy Cullenbine

cullenbineThe next time I hear James Taylor sing “Walking Man,” I’m sure the name of today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant will cross my mind. Roy Cullenbine refused to swing at any pitch that was not in the strike zone. If he played today, he’d probably be an Oakland A and praised profusely in the sports media for his ability to get on base. But Cullenbine played in the 1940’s, during an era when ballplayers were expected to swing their bats at any pitch they could reach and taking too many “walks” was even considered by many to be a sign of laziness. Few paid much attention to on base percentage until Bill James promoted the stat as the sport’s Holy Grail decades later. So when Cullenbine’s OBP reached .477 in 1946, nobody noticed and even though he got on base four out of every ten times he came to the plate the following season and finished second on the Tigers in runs scored, he was still released at the end of the season and forced into retirement.

Cullenbine was born in Tennessee in 1913 but raised in Detroit, where he became a switch-hitting star of the City’s sandlot leagues. The Tigers signed him but then lost him in 1939, when Kenesaw Mountain Landis ruled that Detroit had violated roster manipulation rules and the Commissioner penalized the organization by declaring several of their prized prospects free agents. Cullenbine then signed for a hefty bonus with the Dodgers, got traded to the Browns and in 1942, got traded again, this time to the Senators.

With WWII raging, every big league team was losing players to military service and when Tommy Henrich joined the Coast Guard in August of the 1942 season, Yankee GM Ed Barrow checked the waiver wire to see if he could pick up another outfielder. He found Cullenbine’s name on the list and claimed him on the last day of August.

Since that season’s Yankee team also had George Selkirk on its roster as the fourth outfielder, it wasn’t clear how much playing time Cullenbine would get from New York’s skipper Joe McCarthy. As it turned out, with the Yanks comfortably ahead of the Red Sox in the AL Pennant race at the time, Marse Joe started Cullenbine just about every game down the stretch so he could give his regulars plenty of rest for the postseason.

Cullenbine took advantage of the opportunity by hitting .364 in the 21 games he played in pinstripes that month, while producing a sky-high .484 OBP. That performance guaranteed him a spot on the Yankees World Series roster. He then played in all five games of the 1942 World Series, batting .263 in New York’s losing effort to the Cardinals.

Most Yankee fans and pundits probably expected to see Cullenbine return to the Bronx on Opening Day 1943. But one week before Christmas in 1942, the Yanks traded him and catcher Buddy Rosar to Cleveland for infielder Oscar Grimes and outfielder Roy Weatherly. The “Walking Man” played real well for the Indians the next two seasons and then got traded back to Detroit, where his big league career ended in the same town it began.

Cullenbine passed away in 1991 in Michigan at the age of 77. He still holds the 38th highest MLB career on base percentage. He shares his birthday with this former Yankee third baseman and this former Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1942 NYY 21 97 77 16 28 7 0 2 17 0 18 2 .364 .484 .532 1.017
10 Yrs 1181 4786 3879 627 1072 209 32 110 599 26 853 399 .276 .408 .432 .840
DET (5 yrs) 501 1952 1561 268 421 76 11 63 259 10 373 164 .270 .412 .454 .865
CLE (3 yrs) 300 1288 1072 167 304 59 9 24 136 7 194 107 .284 .395 .423 .817
SLB (3 yrs) 273 1080 867 138 239 47 12 18 143 6 201 97 .276 .414 .420 .834
WSH (1 yr) 64 285 241 30 69 19 0 2 35 1 44 18 .286 .396 .390 .787
BRO (1 yr) 22 84 61 8 11 1 0 1 9 2 23 11 .180 .405 .246 .651
NYY (1 yr) 21 97 77 16 28 7 0 2 17 0 18 2 .364 .484 .532 1.017
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/18/2013.