Results tagged ‘ outfielder ’

July 28 – Happy Birthday Elmer Miller

The date was October 1, 1921. The Yankees were playing a doubleheader at home in the Polo Grounds against the Philadelphia A’s. New York held a two and a half game lead over the Cleveland Indians and were in first place in the American League standings. The magic number for the franchise’s very first AL Pennant stood at one. When the home team took the field, it was Elmer Miller who positioned himself in center field, between Bob Meusel in left and Babe Ruth in right. Yankee Manager, Miller Huggins had used four different center fielders between his two stars during that ’21 season and Miller was one of those four.

Elmer was born in Sandusky, OH on July 28, 1890. He began his big league career with a twelve-game trial with the Cardinals, in 1912. He then spent the next two years in the minors. He joined the Yankees in 1915, as a utility outfielder and got a chance to start for New York in 1917. He wasn’t much of a hitter but he was good defensively. He was exempted from the draft in WWI because he had a child so he was allowed to continue his baseball career. The problem was the Yankees no longer wanted him on their big league roster. Instead, Miller played the 1919, ’20 and half of the 1921 season with the St Paul Saints in the old American Association. He became a star in that league, averaging well over .300 and developing a decent home run stroke as well. At the end of July in 1921, Miller was hitting .313 for the Saints with 18 home runs. The Yankees were looking for better offense from their center field position and decided to bring Miller back. He had been starting for Huggins in that spot ever since.

The Yankees had a two-run lead in the first game that day as the A’s third baseman, Clarence Galloway came to the plate with two outs and a man on first in the top of the ninth. Galloway had already had three hits that afternoon and it looked as if he was going to get his fourth. According to the New York Times account of that game, Galloway “crashed” a ball to the gap in left center. Elmer Miller ran “full speed” after the ball and at the last second, extended his glove and “snared” the ball. His great catch clinched the first AL pennant ever won by the New York Yankee franchise. Miller also had a great day at the plate. he went 3 for 4 in the opener and then 3 for 5 in the second game. He finished his 1921 half-season in New York with a .298 average and despite his poor World Series showing against the Giants, it seemed Miller had a solid hold on the Yankees’ starting center fielder’s job the following season.

Unfortunately for Elmer, that solid hold did not last long. In July of the following year, Miller was traded to the Red Sox for Jumping Joe Dugan and Elmer Smith. He played terribly in Boston, hitting just .190 and was out of the big leagues for good by October of 1922. What a difference a year can make.

One almost-Yankee was also born on this date.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1915 NYY 26 90 83 4 12 1 0 0 3 0 4 14 .145 .193 .157 .350
1916 NYY 43 170 152 12 34 3 2 1 18 8 11 18 .224 .280 .289 .570
1917 NYY 114 450 379 43 95 11 3 3 35 11 40 44 .251 .336 .319 .656
1918 NYY 67 239 202 18 49 9 2 1 22 4 19 17 .243 .317 .322 .639
1921 NYY 56 270 242 41 72 9 8 4 36 2 19 16 .298 .356 .450 .806
1922 NYY 51 185 172 31 46 7 2 3 18 2 11 12 .267 .311 .384 .695
7 Yrs 413 1601 1414 170 343 43 20 16 151 31 113 140 .243 .307 .335 .642
NYY (6 yrs) 357 1404 1230 149 308 40 17 12 132 27 104 121 .250 .318 .340 .657
STL (1 yr) 12 41 37 5 7 1 0 0 3 1 4 9 .189 .268 .216 .485
BOS (1 yr) 44 156 147 16 28 2 3 4 16 3 5 10 .190 .222 .327 .549
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/28/2013.

June 29 – Happy Birthday Bobby Veach

Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant was an outstanding ballplayer who struggled to get good press because he always played in the same outfield with Hall of Famers. He started his career in 1912 with the Tigers, playing left field alongside the immortal Ty Cobb and the great Sam Crawford. When Crawford called it quits, Harry Heilmann took his place and Veach remained the third best outfielder on the team. How good was he? He drove in over 100 runs six different times, leading the league in that category in 1915, ’17 and ’18. From 1915 until 1922, no one in baseball had more RBIs or extra base hits than Bobby Veach. He averaged better than .300 in seven of his last eight seasons in Detroit and finished his 14-year big league career with a .310 lifetime mark. He was also an excellent defensive outfielder and one of the game’s best bunters. This guy was a reliable star who played the game hard but not mean. It was this lack of meanness that his mercurial teammate, Cobb did not appreciate. When the Georgia Peach took over as Tiger skipper in 1920, he was bound and determined to trade Veach but Bobby kept playing so well he made it difficult to justify such a move. Finally, in 1923, another future Hall of Fame outfielder named Heinie Manush showed up in Detroit, making Veach expendable. The Tigers sold the St. Charles, Kentucky native, who was by then 35-years-old,  to the Red Sox. He had a very good year in Boston in 1924. In early May of the following season, Veach was traded to the Yankees. He appeared in 56 games for New York and one of his 127 Yankee at bats made history when he became the first and only player to ever pinch hit for Babe Ruth. He ended up hitting .353 during his one partial season in the Bronx but that Yankee team was so loaded with talent, Veach was waived before the end of the year. The Senators picked him up and he ended up playing in his only World Series that year with Washington. 1925 turned out to be Veach’s last season as a big leaguer.

He shares his June 29th birthday with the second player/manager in Yankee history.
Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1925 NYY 56 130 116 13 41 10 2 0 15 1 8 0 .353 .400 .474 .874
14 Yrs 1821 7572 6656 953 2063 393 147 64 1166 195 571 370 .310 .370 .442 .812
DET (12 yrs) 1604 6794 5979 859 1859 345 136 59 1042 189 512 348 .311 .370 .444 .814
BOS (2 yrs) 143 605 524 77 154 35 9 5 101 5 48 19 .294 .359 .424 .782
WSH (1 yr) 18 43 37 4 9 3 0 0 8 0 3 3 .243 .300 .324 .624
NYY (1 yr) 56 130 116 13 41 10 2 0 15 1 8 0 .353 .400 .474 .874
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/29/2013.

June 24 – Happy Birthday Doc Cook

200px-Doc_Cook_(baseball)Every time I watch a Yankee Old Timers Day, it conjures up memories of the event from my 50 plus years as a Yankee fan. Back in 1970, the Yankees honored Casey Stengel by inviting him back to the Stadium for the 1970 Old Timers Day celebration, during which they surprised him by retiring his uniform number 37 during a pre-game ceremony. That was the Ol Perfessor’s first official visit to the House that Ruth built since New York had forced him to retire as Yankee skipper after the 1960 World Series. At the time, Casey was 80 years old and when asked to make some comments during the shin-dig about having his jersey retired he responded “I’m very impressed. I hope they bury me in it.”

The legendary field boss was not the oldest ex-Yankee in attendance on that hot August day in the Bronx. That honor belonged to today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. Doc Cook had just turned 84 earlier that same summer and though he was too old to play in that afternoon’s Old Timers game, photographers covering the event staged a photo-op of Cook standing in front of the Yankee dugout with bat in hand attempting to bunt. A much younger and more celebrated Yankee old-timer named Mickey Mantle was also included in the photo, wearing a catcher’s glove, on his knees behind Cook.

It was an appropriate pose for Cook, who was the speedy starting right fielder for the Yankees during both the 1914 and ’15 seasons. He led the Yankees in hits with 133 during the 1914 season and his .283 batting average was also tops on the club for players with enough at bats to be eligible for that year’s batting title. One problem Doc seemed to have was stealing second base. He tried the feat 58 times during the ’14 season and was thrown out 32 of those times, which was tops in the AL. Though he had another solid season at the plate for NY the following year, he lost his starting job in 1916 and the Yankees sold him to Oakland in the Pacific Coast League in May of 1916. He would never play another inning of big league ball.

Cook was born in Witt, Texas on June 24, 1886. His real name was Luther Almus. There were three Yankees nicknamed “Doc” (Adkins, Newton & Powers) before Cook came along and just four more (Farrell, Edwards, Medich & DOCk Ellis) since he was sold to Oakland almost a century ago. Cook died in 1973.  He shares his birthday with this Yankee starting pitcher who is not yet an old timer and  this former Yankee All Star catcher who is.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1913 NYY 20 87 72 9 19 2 1 0 1 1 10 4 .264 .369 .319 .688
1914 NYY 132 534 470 59 133 11 3 1 40 26 44 60 .283 .356 .326 .681
1915 NYY 132 554 476 70 129 16 5 2 33 29 62 43 .271 .364 .338 .703
1916 NYY 4 10 10 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 .100 .100 .100 .200
4 Yrs 288 1185 1028 138 282 29 9 3 75 56 116 109 .274 .359 .329 .687
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/24/2013.

June 4 – Happy Birthday Lee Magee

MageeWhen Jake Ruppert and TL Huston purchased the Yankees in 1915, they agreed they were going to spend some of their personal fortunes to bring star players to New York. Wally Pipp and Home Run Baker were two of their more successful mutual investments and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was not.

Lee Magee had played his first big league game on July 4, 1911 with the St. Louis Cardinals at the age of 22. The native of Cincinnati put together three solid seasons with the Cardinals and then jumped to the Federal League in 1915 to accept an offer to become the player-manager of the Brooklyn Tip-Tops. He did better as the team’s starting second baseman than as manager, averaging a robust .323 and stealing 32 bases for a Brooklyn ball club that finished the season in seventh place with a 70-82 record. Since the Tip-Tops played their home games just a couple of bridges away from where the Yankees played their’s, Rupert and Huston were well aware of Magee’s good numbers with Brooklyn and decided to go after him hard. They offered the Brooklyn owner $20,000 and he countered with $25K. They compromised at $22,500 and Magee became a Yankee.

The New York skipper during the 1916 season was Wild Bill Donovan and he initially penciled in Magee to be his starting second baseman. But when Opening Day came around, the infielder found himself in the Yankee outfield, where he remained during his entire one-and-a-half year tenure with the team. He hit .257 that first year with the Yankees, which was 11 points higher than the American League’s cumulative batting average that season and he was the Opening Day center-fielder for Donovan in 1917. But after 51 games that year his average was just .220 and he was traded to the St. Louis Browns for another former Federal League outfielder named Armando Marsans.

It was after leaving the Yankees that Magee’s name began getting tossed around in gambling allegations. After spending the second half of the 1917 season with St. Louis, he had been traded to Cincinnati, where he became a teammate and close acquaintance of former Yankee Hal Chase. Chase had been accused of throwing games during his days with New York more than once and had been traded away because of those accusations. In January of 1920, Magee, who was by then playing for Brooklyn, confessed to the National League President that he and Chase had each bet $500 on a 1918 Reds-Braves game with a Boston gambler. The Reds ended up winning the game in extra innings despite two critical errors by Magee. It certainly wasn’t a guilty conscience or noble act of redemption that prompted Magee’s confession. Though he insisted he had bet on his own team to win the game, he had stopped payment on the $500 check he had given to the Boston gambler, who was now suing Magee for non-payment of a debt with Magee’s signed check as evidence. If he in fact had bet on his own team to win, why would he have cancelled a check which represented his wager on his team winning the game? It made no sense and that’s exactly what league officials decided when he was banned from the league.

Magee shares his June 4th birthday with this Yankee coach and this former Yankee shortstop.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1916 NYY 131 581 510 57 131 18 4 3 45 29 50 31 .257 .324 .325 .650
1917 NYY 51 200 173 17 38 4 1 0 8 3 13 18 .220 .278 .254 .532
9 Yrs 1015 4211 3741 467 1031 133 54 12 277 186 265 208 .276 .325 .350 .675
STL (4 yrs) 433 1796 1587 182 443 50 20 4 119 79 123 91 .279 .333 .343 .676
NYY (2 yrs) 182 781 683 74 169 22 5 3 53 32 63 49 .247 .313 .307 .620
BTT (1 yr) 121 494 452 87 146 19 10 4 49 34 22 19 .323 .356 .436 .792
BRO (1 yr) 45 200 181 16 43 7 2 0 7 5 5 8 .238 .262 .298 .560
CHC (1 yr) 79 299 267 36 78 12 4 1 17 14 18 16 .292 .339 .378 .717
CIN (1 yr) 119 514 459 61 133 22 13 0 28 19 28 19 .290 .331 .394 .725
SLB (1 yr) 36 127 112 11 19 1 0 0 4 3 6 6 .170 .212 .179 .390
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/3/2013.

May 31 – Happy Birthday Kenny Lofton

George Steinbrenner probably stopped being a big Bernie Williams’ fan during the 1998 off-season. That was when his All Star center fielder successfully leveraged a free agent offer from the hated Red Sox to get the Boss to reluctantly OK an eight year contract for Bern-Baby-Bern, costing about 100 million Yankee dollars. When the team won the next two World Series after that signing, Steinbrenner must have felt a bit better and in fact, Bernie continued his All Star caliber play for the first four years of his new deal. But in 2003, Williams got hurt and his numbers dropped precipitously. After Florida beat New York in that year’s World Series, it was George Steinbrenner who ordered the Yankee front-office to go out and sign free agent, Kenny Lofton because the Boss felt he was the guy who could replace Williams as the Yankee center fielder. Joe Torre, however, had other ideas.

Lofton was indeed a great player. During most of first decade as a big leaguer, he had been the starting center fielder in Cleveland, where he had won four Gold Gloves, five consecutive AL stolen base titles, and averaged over .300. He also had a much stronger arm than Bernie and though he lacked Williams power, he was a run-scoring machine.

At the time New York signed him, however,  Lofton was 36 years old. He was also  two years older than Williams. He had failed to hit .300 his previous four seasons and had played on five different teams during the three previous years. Kenny’s best days were clearly behind him by the time he put on the pinstripes.

Torre therefore felt justified in sticking with Williams as his starting center fielder in 2004, but when Bernie did not have the bounce back year he was hoping for, the “play Lofton” lobby in the Yankee front office and media grew louder. Lofton himself tried not to stir the controversy, insisting he would do anything he was told, even park cars at Yankee Stadium, just to be a part of the team. He kept telling reporters he joined the Yankees to win a ring. But before too long, subtle complaints about his lack of playing time were finding their way to the media.

In the end, Lofton played just 83 games during his one season as a Yankee. After the Yankees suffered their historic collapse against the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS, they traded Lofton to Philadelphia for a relief pitcher and probably would have traded Bernie too if they could find a team willing to pay a lions share of the $12 million they still owed him.

Kenny Lofton stuck around for three more seasons, retiring after the 2007 season. He ended his long and distinguished career with a .299 batting average, over 2,400 hits, 622 lifetime stolen bases but no rings.He was born on May 31, 1967, in East Chicago, Indiana.

Update: The above post was originally written in 2011. In 1992, Lofton finished second to a Milwaukee Brewer shortstop named Pat Listach in that season’s AL Rookie of the Year voting. Beginning in 1993, Kenny made six consecutive AL All Star teams and was never again selected to play in another mid-season classic. When he became eligible for Cooperstown consideration in 2013, he received just 3.2% of the vote which caused his name to be dropped from subsequent ballots. When asked about his low vote total, Lofton told a Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter that he blamed steroids for keeping him out of the Hall of Fame, explaining that because so many of his contemporaries used PEDs to pad their lifetime statistics, his own numbers looked less significant. Here’s a lineup of former Cleveland Indians’ players who also played for the Yankees during their big league career:

1b – Chris Chambliss
2b – Joe Gordon
3b – Graig Nettles
ss – Woodie Held
c – Ron Hassey
of – Rocky Colavito
of – Kenny Lofton
of – Charley Spikes
dh – Travis Hafner
p – CC Sabathia
p – Sam McDowell
p – Luis Tiant
p – Bartolo Colon
cl – Bob Wickman
rp – Dick Tidrow
mgr – Bob Lemon

Lofton shares today as a birthday with this former Yankee relief pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2004 NYY 83 313 276 51 76 10 7 3 18 7 31 27 .275 .346 .395 .741
17 Yrs 2103 9235 8120 1528 2428 383 116 130 781 622 945 1016 .299 .372 .423 .794
CLE (10 yrs) 1276 5767 5045 975 1512 244 66 87 518 452 611 652 .300 .375 .426 .800
PIT (1 yr) 84 374 339 58 94 19 4 9 26 18 28 29 .277 .333 .437 .770
SFG (1 yr) 46 205 180 30 48 10 3 3 9 7 23 22 .267 .353 .406 .758
PHI (1 yr) 110 406 367 67 123 15 5 2 36 22 32 41 .335 .392 .420 .811
ATL (1 yr) 122 564 493 90 164 20 6 5 48 27 64 83 .333 .409 .428 .837
TEX (1 yr) 84 363 317 62 96 16 3 7 23 21 39 28 .303 .380 .438 .818
LAD (1 yr) 129 522 469 79 141 15 12 3 41 32 45 42 .301 .360 .403 .763
CHC (1 yr) 56 236 208 39 68 13 4 3 20 12 18 22 .327 .381 .471 .852
NYY (1 yr) 83 313 276 51 76 10 7 3 18 7 31 27 .275 .346 .395 .741
HOU (1 yr) 20 79 74 9 15 1 0 0 0 2 5 19 .203 .253 .216 .469
CHW (1 yr) 93 406 352 68 91 20 6 8 42 22 49 51 .259 .348 .418 .766
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/31/2013.

May 29 – Happy Birthday David Fultz

FultzThe name David Fultz means absolutely nothing to Yankee fans today, but just about a century ago, this native of Staunton, Virginia was Bo Jackson, Tim Tebow and Marvin Miller rolled into one extremely gifted and motivated human being. He played football and baseball at Brown, was named captain of both teams and achieved All-American status in both sports. In fact, his record for career points and touchdowns on the gridiron at the Ivy League school stood for 100 years. In addition to being a superb athlete, Fultz was also the epitome of a perfect gentleman, refusing to drink alcohol, smoke tobacco or curse. He was also a devout enough Christian that he had clauses written into both his pro baseball and pro football contracts that stated he could not be forced to play in games that took place on Sundays.

Fultz began his big league career with the National League’s Philadelphia Phillies in 1898 and eventually moved over to Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s teams in the newly formed American League. In 1903, the New York Highlanders purchased his contract from Mack.

Fultz was considered to be one of the very best outfielders in baseball in his prime. He also wielded a better than average bat. His best year was as an A in 1902, when he averaged .302, led the league in scoring with 109 runs and finished second in stolen bases with 44 thefts. By the time he came to New York, the many leg injuries he had sustained during his football career were taking their toll. He played in just 176 games during his first two seasons as a Highlander and attended Columbia Law School during the offseason. The 1904 Highlander team surprised everyone by winning 92 games and finishing just a game and a half behind the first place Red Sox. Fultz made key contributions to that team’s success as the fourth outfielder, averaging .274 in 94 games of action.  He then became a starter on the 1905 Highlander squad that finished a disappointing sixth in the AL standings as just about the entire lineup including Fultz, slumped badly from the previous year.

That winter, Fultz got his law degree and quit baseball for good. He opened a practice in New York City and in 1912, was the driving force behind the formation of Major League Baseball’s first players union. Called the Players Fraternity, the group threatened to strike in 1917 but the work stoppage was avoided when the team owners granted some concessions demanded by Fultz. The union was disbanded during WWI.

In addition to playing big league baseball, professional football and practicing law, Fultz coached collegiate football at the University of Missouri and NYU and also coached baseball at the US Naval Academy and Columbia. He was a first lieutenant in the US Army Air Service during WWI and later became active in both New York City and New York State politics. Talk about a boring life. He lived until 1959, passing away at the age of 84.

Fultz shares his birthday with this former Yankee first basemanthis former Yankee utility player and this one-time Yankee third baseman.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1903 NYY 79 335 295 39 66 12 1 0 25 29 25 21 .224 .295 .271 .567
1904 NYY 97 382 339 39 93 17 4 2 32 17 24 29 .274 .324 .366 .690
1905 NYY 129 482 422 49 98 13 3 0 42 44 39 47 .232 .308 .277 .585
7 Yrs 644 2713 2393 369 648 84 26 3 223 189 201 185 .271 .332 .331 .664
NYY (3 yrs) 305 1199 1056 127 257 42 8 2 99 90 88 97 .243 .309 .304 .613
PHI (2 yrs) 21 66 60 7 12 2 2 0 5 2 6 7 .200 .273 .300 .573
PHA (2 yrs) 261 1217 1067 204 317 37 14 1 101 80 94 65 .297 .357 .361 .718
BLN (1 yr) 57 231 210 31 62 3 2 0 18 17 13 16 .295 .342 .329 .671
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/29/2013.

May 18 – Happy Birthday Reggie Jackson

I remember it was the middle of the work week because I called in sick the next day. The Yankees were playing the Dodgers in the sixth game of the 1977 World Series at Yankee Stadium. It had been a crazy season because of Billy Martin’s intense dislike for Reggie Jackson. Reggie wasn’t an easy guy to warm up to if you didn’t have a microphone in your hand but every manager in baseball would have loved to had him sitting in the middle of their lineup back then. Every manager except Martin that is. The mercurial skipper and outspoken slugger despised each other.

In any event, on that night over thirty years ago, I witnessed one of the greatest World Series performances in the history of the Fall Classic. After walking on four straight pitches in his first at bat Jackson hit the next three pitches he saw that night from three different Dodger hurlers, for home runs. Bam. Bang. Boom. His last shot was the most prodigious, soaring high into the Bronx nighttime sky to straightaway center field onto the famous black tarp that provided the hitter’s background at the old Stadium.

I will never forget Jackson’s glee as he circled the bases after that third blast. How he patted the back of the helmet of on deck hitter Chris Chambliss as he crossed home plate and bounded down into the steps of the Yankee Stadium dugout being congratulated by teammates who both loved and despised him, including Manager Martin.

It was one of the great moments in baseball history, made even more intense by the Martin – Jackson feud and the fact that the always over-dramatic Howard Cosell was in the TV booth. After that game was over I could not go to sleep. It had been sixteen years since the Yankees won their last World Series and for a time there in the late sixties I didn’t think I’d ever see them win another one. But loud brash number 44 took care of all that with three swings of the bat. Reggie, who was born in Wyncote, PA, turns 67 years old today. Nicknamed Mr. October for his ability to dominate games in the postseason (Jackson played in five World Series during his career,) Reggie ironically shares his birthday with a catcher who literally seemed to disappear when his Yankee teams played in World Series.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1977 NYY 146 606 525 93 150 39 2 32 110 17 74 129 .286 .375 .550 .925
1978 NYY 139 581 511 82 140 13 5 27 97 14 58 133 .274 .356 .477 .834
1979 NYY 131 537 465 78 138 24 2 29 89 9 65 107 .297 .382 .544 .926
1980 NYY 143 601 514 94 154 22 4 41 111 1 83 122 .300 .398 .597 .995
1981 NYY 94 382 334 33 79 17 1 15 54 0 46 82 .237 .330 .428 .758
21 Yrs 2820 11418 9864 1551 2584 463 49 563 1702 228 1375 2597 .262 .356 .490 .846
OAK (10 yrs) 1346 5432 4686 756 1228 234 27 269 776 145 633 1226 .262 .355 .496 .851
CAL (5 yrs) 687 2721 2331 331 557 87 6 123 374 14 362 690 .239 .343 .440 .782
NYY (5 yrs) 653 2707 2349 380 661 115 14 144 461 41 326 573 .281 .371 .526 .897
BAL (1 yr) 134 558 498 84 138 27 2 27 91 28 54 108 .277 .351 .502 .853
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

May 12 – Happy Birthday Felipe Alou

falouIf you ask any native of the Dominican Republic currently playing big league ball which of their countrymen did the most to pave the way for them to play in the majors, their answer would be Felipe Alou. Actually, they might say Felipe Rojas. (His Dad’s last name was Rojas and his Mom’s was Alou.) Ozzie Virgil was the first Dominican to play in the MLB, when the New York Giants brought him up in 1956 but Virgil had migrated to the US as a youth and attended high school in New York City.  Alou became the second native of his country (and the first to have lived there all his life) to play big league ball the following year as a member of that same Giants organization.

He was born in the Dominican Republic on May 12, 1935 to extremely poor parents. Felipe was an outstanding athlete and an outstanding student, who had been accepted in the pre-med program at the University of Santo Domingo. But he also played on his country’s baseball team that competed in 1955 Pan American Game. When he led the Dominican Republic to a victory over the US in the finals of those Games the MLB scouts came calling and he signed with the Giants.

It took awhile because the Giant organization in the late fifties was loaded with outstanding black and latino prospects, but Alou finally became a starter in San Franciso’s outfield in the  early sixties. His younger brothers Matty and Jesus later joined him there and the three made history when they became the first three siblings to ever play in one team’s outfield at the same time, in September of 1963.

That was also Alou’s last year with the Giants. After the ’63 season, he was traded to Milwaukee in a seven-player deal. Felipe played for the Braves for the next six seasons, including 1966, when the team relocated to Atlanta and he put together his best year in the big leagues, with 31 HRs, a .327 batting average and leading the league in hits (218) and runs (122.)

He was traded to the A’s in 1970. By then he was 35-years-old and his best playing days were behind him. During the first week of his second season with Oakland, he was traded to the Yankees for pitchers Rob Gardner and Ron Klimkowski, where he was reunited with his brother Matty to become the first set of siblings to wear the pinstripes together since Bobby and Billy Shantz had done so in 1960.

Ralph Houk, the Yankee skipper at the time of the trade loved Felipe and put him in the lineup as a first baseman or outfielder 131 times during his first season in the Bronx. Alou responded with a .289 batting average and 69 RBIs that year. He continued to play a lot for Houk the following year, but his run production took a nose dive. Still, when the Yankees 1973 spring training season came around, Felipe was hammering the ball and Houk was telling the press that the elder Alou would share the brand new DH position with Ron Blomberg and also play a lot of first base. But on September 6th of that season, with his average hovering in the .230′s, Alou was put on waivers and picked up by the Expos. On that same day, the Yankees sold his brother Matty to the Cardinals and the Yankees were suddenly Alou-less.

Felipe Alou would retire as a player the following year and became a minor league manager in the Expos organization. He would later become a highly successful big league skipper of the Expos and also manage the Giants. His son Moises became a big league all star outfielder who played for his Dad with both Montreal and the Giants.

This Hall-of-Fame Yankee catcher and this former Yankee Murderer’s Row third baseman and this WWII era Yankee pitcher were also born on May 12th.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1971 NYY 131 501 461 52 133 20 6 8 69 5 32 24 .289 .334 .410 .744
1972 NYY 120 351 324 33 90 18 1 6 37 1 22 27 .278 .326 .395 .721
1973 NYY 93 293 280 25 66 12 0 4 27 0 9 25 .236 .256 .321 .577
17 Yrs 2082 7907 7339 985 2101 359 49 206 852 107 423 706 .286 .328 .433 .761
G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
SFG (6 yrs) 719 2478 2292 337 655 119 19 85 325 51 138 308 .286 .328 .466 .794
ATL (6 yrs) 841 3604 3348 464 989 163 20 94 335 40 188 284 .295 .338 .440 .778
NYY (3 yrs) 344 1145 1065 110 289 50 7 18 133 6 63 76 .271 .311 .382 .694
OAK (2 yrs) 156 627 583 70 158 26 3 8 55 10 32 32 .271 .307 .367 .674
MON (1 yr) 19 50 48 4 10 1 0 1 4 0 2 4 .208 .240 .292 .532
MIL (1 yr) 3 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/12/2013.

May 7 – Happy Birthday Steve Whitaker

The 1966 Yankee spring training camp was the first one in my lifetime in which anxiety about the upcoming season competed with confidence in the minds of most Bronx Bomber fans, myself included. The team’s outfield situation was a perfect example. Mickey Mantle had just experienced the worst season of his illustrious career in 1965 and Roger Maris had spent most of that same year on the DL. Tom Tresh had been about the only offensive bright spot in that ’65 lineup and it would again be him and the M&M Boys who would be penciled in to start in manager Johnny Keane’s second Yankee Opening Day outfield.

With the Mick’s crippled knees and Maris’s chronically sore wrist, Keane’s choices for reserve outfielders on that ’65 roster were especially important. Long-time Yankee Hector Lopez was pretty much guaranteed one of those three spots. Four other players were in that 1966 camp to compete for the other two. One was the recently acquired Red Sox veteran Lou Clinton and the other three were the Yankee’s top prospects at the time, Roy White, Roger Repoz and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant.

Steve Whitaker, a 22-year-old left-hand-hitting slugger from Tacoma, Washington had been in the Yankee farm system since 1962. He had hit 27 homers for Greensboro in 1964 but he had two big chinks in his resume. In order to hit a home run, your bat has to make contact with the ball and Whitaker’s bat did not do that very often. Compounding the youngster’s propensity to strike out was an explosive temper that just happened to peak whenever the kid struck out. So after an exhibition-season filled with slammed down batting helmets, knocked over water coolers and punched walls, the Yankee brain trust thought it best to send Whitaker back down to the farm for more “seasoning.”

By August of that ’66 season, however, everything had changed. By then it had become clear to everyone that the Yankee team  that had won that decade’s first five AL Pennants was no more. After a horrible start, Houk had replaced Keane as skipper and Whitaker had hit 25 more minor league home runs. The Yankees brought him up that August and told the kid he was a huge part of their future.

Houk threw him into the fire and Whitaker responded pretty well, belting 7 home runs in just 31 games. But his temper hadn’t improved, he still struck out too much and the Yankees still finished in the basement of the AL’s 1966 standings. But I do remember thinking the guy was good enough to help make my Yankee’s winners again and Ralph Houk agreed with me. He started Whitaker in the Yank’s 1967 outfield pretty much the whole season. When that year was over, New York was in ninth place and Houk had seen enough of his young outfielder to decide that he was not the future of the franchise. The Yankees left him unprotected in the 1968 AL expansion draft and he was the 23rd pick of the new Kansas City Royals team. Before he ever played a game for the Royals, KC traded him to Seattle for Lou Piniella. After a year with the Pilots and one more with the Giants, Whitaker’s big league career was over. He and his son, who was also a prospect in the Cleveland Indians’ organization, now operate Whitaker Realty in southern Florida.

Also born on this date was this former Yankee pitcher who’s most famous pitch in Yankee Stadium took place while he was wearing an opposing team’s uniform. Still another May 7th pinstripe birthday belongs to the first guy George Steinbrenner ever hired to manage the Yankees.

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1966 23 NYY AL 31 124 114 15 28 3 2 7 15 0 9 24 .246 .306 .491 .798
1967 24 NYY AL 122 472 441 37 107 12 3 11 50 2 23 89 .243 .283 .358 .641
1968 25 NYY AL 28 68 60 3 7 2 0 0 3 0 8 18 .117 .221 .150 .371
5 Yrs 266 824 758 73 174 20 6 24 85 4 54 174 .230 .283 .367 .650
NYY (3 yrs) 181 664 615 55 142 17 5 18 68 2 40 131 .231 .281 .363 .644
SFG (1 yr) 16 30 27 3 3 1 0 0 4 0 2 14 .111 .167 .148 .315
SEP (1 yr) 69 130 116 15 29 2 1 6 13 2 12 29 .250 .323 .440 .763
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/7/2013.

April 27 – Happy Birthday Enos Slaughter

enosslaughterfront.jpgBy most accounts, when Enos Slaughter joined the Yankees in 1954, many of his new Yankee teammates weren’t to fond of him. That group included and was probably led by the temperamental Billy Martin, who thought Slaughter ‘s habit of running hard to first on every hit ball and even after bases on balls, was an attempt to show up his teammates. Martin considered Slaughter and for that matter most teammates who had not come up through the Yankee organization, as outsiders who could not be trusted on the field or in the clubhouse. Fortunately for Slaughter, Casey Stengel did not share that sentiment, probably because he was an old National Leaguer himself.

Slaughter explained the real reason he hustled every second while on the field in his autobiography. He was playing on a Cardinal farm team in Columbus, GA in 1932, hitting in the low .200′s and thinking he was going to be released any minute when in between innings during a game, he walked backed to the dugout from his right field position. Burt Shotten happened to be his Manager at the time and when Slaughter finally got to the dugout, Shotten told him if he was too tired to run back to the bench that maybe he was too tired to play in the game. Slaughter said that not-too-subtle hint from Shotten forever changed the way he approached the game. He vowed that he would never ever loaf on a baseball field again and he kept that promise for the next 27 years.

The saddest day of his life was August 11, 1954, the day the Cardinals traded him to the Yankees. He actually burst into tears after hearing the news but not because he had any particular animosity toward the Bronx Bombers.  Slaughter absolutely loved playing in St. Louis and never dreamed getting traded was even a remote possibility.

As hard as it was for him to do so, Slaughter brought all of his experience and enthusiasm for the game with him to New York. From 1954 until he was traded to Kansas City in 1955 and then again after he was reacquired by New York a season later until 1959, Casey used the aging veteran frequently as both a pinch hitter and outfield substitute. He also treated Slaughter as his bench coach. The two veterans would often sit next to each other in the dugout, constantly discussing strategy and possible moves.

Slaughter contributed on the field as well. He was a star in the 1956 World Series, hitting .350 as the Yankees beat Brooklyn. His best regular season in pinstripes was 1958, when he hit .304 in 160 plate appearances. Enos retired after the 1959 season, at the ripe age of 43 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame, 26-years later. He passed away in 2002 at the age of 85.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1954 NYY 69 154 125 19 31 4 2 1 19 0 28 8 .248 .386 .336 .722
1955 NYY 10 10 9 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 .111 .200 .111 .311
1956 NYY 24 89 83 15 24 4 2 0 4 1 5 6 .289 .330 .386 .715
1957 NYY 96 255 209 24 53 7 1 5 34 0 40 19 .254 .369 .368 .737
1958 NYY 77 160 138 21 42 4 1 4 19 2 21 16 .304 .396 .435 .831
1959 NYY 74 114 99 10 17 2 0 6 21 1 13 19 .172 .265 .374 .639
19 Yrs 2380 9086 7946 1247 2383 413 148 169 1304 71 1018 538 .300 .382 .453 .834
STL (13 yrs) 1820 7713 6775 1071 2064 366 135 146 1148 64 838 429 .305 .384 .463 .847
NYY (6 yrs) 350 782 663 90 168 21 6 16 98 4 108 69 .253 .356 .376 .732
KCA (2 yrs) 199 570 490 86 148 26 7 7 57 3 69 37 .302 .387 .427 .814
MLN (1 yr) 11 21 18 0 3 0 0 0 1 0 3 3 .167 .286 .167 .452
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/27/2013.