Results tagged ‘ outfielder ’

October 14 – Happy Birthday Bill Renna

rennaBill Renna was the prototypical California “golden boy” high school athlete. Born in Hanford, a city in the central part of the state near Fresno, Renna was a three-sport standout with Hollywood good looks. Baseball was his favorite sport, but being six feet three inches tall and over two hundred pounds, the guy was built for football. He earned a scholarship to the University of San Francisco in 1942 but was then drafted into the military.

After being discharged two years later, he was supposed to play on the gridiron for Stanford but a mix-up of his transcripts nixed that opportunity and he ended up in the lower-profile program at Santa Clara. Still, his ability with a football drew the interest of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams but by that time, Renna had decided he wanted to play professional baseball and the Yankees had decided they wanted to sign Renna.

He got off to a great start in the minors, hitting 21 home runs and batting .385 during his first 76-game season of C ball. That earned him a huge leap to triple A ball the following year and he struggled at that level. For the next couple of years that pattern continued. Renna would hit B level pitching well and then falter when he moved up and faced the minor’s upper tier pitching talent.

That changed in 1952. That year, Renna put together a 28 HR – 90 RBI – .295 season for the Yankees top farm team in Kansas City. A few months later, he found himself battling for an Opening Day  roster spot in the parent club’s spring training camp. That 1953 Yankee team was a great one and its starting outfield was solid. Casey Stengel started Mickey Mantle in center and mixed and matched Hank Bauer, Gene Woodling and Irv Noren in the other two positions depending on the opposing pitcher. Renna also had to compete against fellow Yankee outfield prospects Bob Cerv and Ellie Howard for any remaining roster spot.

In the end, Stengel brought Renna north and it proved to be a good choice. He spent most of his big league rookie season platooning in left field with Gene Woodling. He got just two starts that April, but in his second one, he hit his first big league home run in Comiskey Park off of the White Sox southpaw, Gene Beardon. What made that blast even more memorable for the rookie was that it was also the rear-end of a back-to-backer with Mantle.

He would end up playing in 61 games that year and averaging a very impressive .314. Though he didn’t get a chance to pay in the Yankees fifth consecutive World Series championship that October, he did win his first and only World Series ring. He never got a chance to win a second one because that December, I think George Weiss was bored so he decided to engineer a huge but inconsequential 11-player trade between New York and the A’s. The most notable player the Yankees got in the deal was first baseman Eddie Robinson, who they really did not need. One of the players Weiss sent to Philly was Renna.

He would start in the A’s 1954 outfield and hit a career high 13 home runs. He then moved with the team to Kansas City, but became a part-time player and pinch hitter in the process. Weiss actually got him back in a deal he made with the A’s in June of the 1956 season that ironically sent Robinson back to the A’s, but Renna was sent to the minors and remained there until he was traded to Boston just before the 1957 season. After another year in the minors, he became a valuable Red Sox pinch hitter during the 1958 season, when his 15 pinch hits produced 18 RBIs.

What hurt Renna’s big league career was the late start he got with the Yankees. Military service and then college made him 24-years-old by the time he got signed and  28 when he made his debut in the Bronx. In an interview just five years ago, Renna told the reporter his one year as a Yankee was the best of his career and he loved every second of it. He said Mantle was the greatest player he ever saw. He ended up quitting baseball after the ’59 season to begin a long career in the concrete industry as a job estimator. He’s still alive and living in California and turns 89 years old today.

Renna shares his Yankee birthday with this former Yankee pitcher, this current Yankee skipper and this former Yankee second baseman.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1953 NYY 61 137 121 19 38 6 3 2 13 0 13 31 .314 .385 .463 .848
6 Yrs 370 1035 918 123 219 36 10 28 119 2 99 166 .239 .315 .391 .707
KCA (3 yrs) 256 809 719 97 164 25 7 22 86 2 75 112 .228 .304 .374 .678
BOS (2 yrs) 53 89 78 7 17 5 0 4 20 0 11 23 .218 .315 .436 .751
NYY (1 yr) 61 137 121 19 38 6 3 2 13 0 13 31 .314 .385 .463 .848
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/14/2013.

October 7 – Happy Birthday Russ Derry

rDerryThe Yankees signed this Princeton, Missouri native when he was 21-years-old in 1937 and assigned him to their Class C team in Joplin. During his second year with that ball club he popped 24 home runs and got promoted to the Yanks’ Norfolk, Virginia affiliate in the Class B Piedmont League. That’s when and where Derry really raised some eyebrows by belting 40 home runs during the ’39 season.

 Normally, when an organization’s young prospect hits 40 homers at any level it gets him on a pretty fast track to a Major League trial. Unfortunately for this young outfielder, the Yankee team he was trying to make was anything but normal, especially in the outfield. The only outfield problem NY manager Joe McCarthy had to solve each and every game was figuring out who was not going to play. If you got Joe DiMaggio, Charley Selkirk, Tommy Henrich and George Selkirk on your roster, as McCarthy did when Derry hit those 40 homers in the Piedmont league, you’re not going to be too concerned with what your team’s minor league outfielders are doing. So while that 1939 Yankee team led by its glut of All Star outfielders was winning its fourth straight World Series, all Derry’s 40 home run season got him was a ticket to Class A.

It would take seven years and a World War to get Derry his shot at the Yankee outfield. By then he was 27-years-old. By 1944, DiMaggio, Keller, Henrich and Selkirk were all doing hitches in the military and Derry became the parent club’s fourth outfielder that season. He saw his most big league action the following season when he got into 78 games for New York and hit a career high 13 home runs. But he averaged just .225 that year against the second tier of pitching talent that took over the big league mounds during WWII. When the war ended and all the Yankees returned from military service the following year, Derry was sold to the A’s. He hit just .207 for Philadelphia and after one more brief shot with the Cardinals, finished out his playing career in the minors.

Derry shares his birthday with this former Yankee pitcher and this one too.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1944 NYY 38 135 114 14 29 3 0 4 14 1 20 19 .254 .366 .386 .752
1945 NYY 78 286 253 37 57 6 2 13 45 1 31 49 .225 .312 .419 .731
4 Yrs 187 637 553 68 124 17 7 17 73 2 78 124 .224 .322 .373 .695
NYY (2 yrs) 116 421 367 51 86 9 2 17 59 2 51 68 .234 .329 .409 .738
STL (1 yr) 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000
PHA (1 yr) 69 214 184 17 38 8 5 0 14 0 27 54 .207 .311 .304 .616
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/7/2013.

October 5 – Happy Birthday Aaron Guiel

guielOK, this one is bugging me. How come I have absolutely no recollection of today’s  Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant playing for the Yankees, nothing, zero nada! Heck, if I can vividly remember the brief Yankee careers of  guys like Jack Reed, Marty Perez and Chris Widger, why do I draw such a blank on Aaron Guiel?

After all, it was just seven seasons ago, in 2006 that this short and stocky native Canadian played 33 games for my favorite team, split almost evenly as an outfielder and first baseman. The Yankees had picked him up off the waiver wire that July after his first and only other big league team, the Royals had put him there. That 2006 season was a particularly harsh one on Yankee outfielders. Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui both were shelved for most of the year with major injuries.

Guiel had spent his first four-and-a-half big league seasons as Kansas City’s fourth outfielder, averaging .246 during that span. He had decent power, as was evidenced by the career-high 15 homers he had hit for KC in 2003. At first, New York assigned him to their Triple A Columbus affiliate but when Johnny Damon strained a muscle in his back, the Yankees called Guiel (pronounced Guy-el) up.

He scored three runs in his pinstriped debut against Cleveland and in his first start at Yankee Stadium a week later, his first home run as a Bronx Bomber was the difference maker in a 6-5 win versus the White Sox. New York skipper, Joe Torre played him pretty regularly that first month, but when the Yanks completed their trade for Bobby Abreu from the Phillies at the end of July, Guiel was sent back to Columbus. He didn’t stay there long.

He was called back up two weeks later. Since the Yanks ran away with the AL East Division race that year, winning it by ten full games over second-place Toronto, Torre rested his regular outfielders as much as possible down the stretch and Guiel saw plenty of action as a result. That’s why it bothers me that I have no recollection of him playing for the Yankees. I guess because he did not make that year’s postseason roster and the Yanks ended up releasing him, the  44 games he played for New York just faded from my memory. Those ended up being the final 44 games of Guiel’s big league career.

In 2007, he signed to play for the Yakult Swallows, in Japan’s Central League and played there for the next five seasons. Guiel shares his birthday with this other former Yankee outfielder and this one-time Yankee utility infielder.

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2006 33 NYY AL 44 92 82 16 21 3 0 4 11 2 7 20 .256 .337 .439 .776
5 Yrs 307 1099 970 151 239 58 0 35 128 8 83 218 .246 .322 .414 .736
KCR (5 yrs) 263 1007 888 135 218 55 0 31 117 6 76 198 .245 .320 .412 .733
NYY (1 yr) 44 92 82 16 21 3 0 4 11 2 7 20 .256 .337 .439 .776
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/5/2013.

October 3 – Happy Birthday Armando Marsans

marsansArmando Marsans’ father was a wealthy Cuban merchant who took his family to New York City to live at the turn of the 20th century to shield them from the violence of the Spanish American War. By the time the 13-year-old boy returned to his homeland after the conflict ended, he had learned how to play America’s favorite pastime well enough to eventually become a star outfielder in the Cuban Winter League.

With Major League teams visiting the island country every winter to participate in exhibition games against Cuban native all-stars, it did not take long for Marsans to get signed by a big league organization, the Cincinnati Reds. In 1911, he and his long-time friend and teammate, pitcher Rafael Almeida became the first native Cubans to play in the Majors when they made their debut with the Reds. Marsans was ready for the challenge. He averaged .317 in 1912, his first full big league season and stole 35 bases. It wasn’t long before he was being touted as one of the best young outfielders in baseball.

That’s when Marsans got into a huge and prolonged argument with his Reds’ manager Buck Herzog that culminated in the outfielder’s suspension. An angry and offended Marsans responded by jumping to the newly formed Federal League, signing a sizable three-year contract to play for the St. Louis Terriers. The owner of the Cincinnati team responded by going to court and obtaining an injunction that prevented the Cuban from playing for the Terriers while a judge decided if he had violated the terms of his Reds’ contract. After playing just nine games for his new team and league, Marsans was forced off the field and returned to Cuba to await the judge’s decision. It wasn’t until the end of the 1915 regular season that the court permitted Marsans to resume playing with his new Federal League team while his case was being considered.

By then, the Federal League was staggering under financial difficulties that would force it to disband a few weeks later. Marsans ended up in the American League, playing for the St Louis Browns. He had a decent season for the Brownies in 1916, starting in their outfield, driving in 60 runs and finishing second in the AL with 46 stolen bases. But the almost two-year-layoff forced upon him by the Reds had a negative impact on Marsans overall game and he was never again the same player he had been before he jumped to the Federal League.

After he got off to a slow start with the Browns in 1917, he was traded to the Yankees in July of that season, for outfielder, Lee Magee. In New York, he joined fellow Cuban outfielder Angel Aragon. Unfortunately for Marsans, he broke his leg during just his 25th game in pinstripes. He went back to Cuba to heal and when he failed to report to the Yankees 1918 spring training camp, it looked like he was retiring. Two months later, he changed his mind and rejoined the team. After his first three starts during his second season in New York, Marsans had seven hits in his first 13 at bats and was averaging .538. But it was pretty much all downhill after that and when he left the team that July, the temperamental 30-year-old was averaging just .236.

He would unsuccessfully try to revive his baseball career in America a few years later but remained a force in Cuban baseball as both a player and a manager for years to come.

Marsans, who was a charter member of Cuba’s Baseball Hall of Fame, joins this US Baseball Hall-of-Fame member and this former Yankee pitcher as October 3rd Pinstripe Birthday Celebrants.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1917 NYY 25 100 88 10 20 4 0 0 15 6 8 3 .227 .292 .273 .564
1918 NYY 37 132 123 13 29 5 1 0 9 3 5 3 .236 .266 .293 .558
8 Yrs 655 2547 2273 267 612 67 19 2 221 171 173 117 .269 .325 .318 .643
CIN (4 yrs) 322 1224 1113 141 334 31 15 1 109 96 66 59 .300 .345 .358 .702
SLM (2 yrs) 45 188 164 21 36 3 2 0 8 9 17 5 .220 .293 .262 .555
NYY (2 yrs) 62 232 211 23 49 9 1 0 24 9 13 6 .232 .277 .284 .561
SLB (2 yrs) 226 903 785 82 193 24 1 1 80 57 77 47 .246 .318 .283 .601
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/2/2013.

September 24 – Happy Birthday Dixie Walker

What I love about writing this Blog are the things I learn about Yankee history that I didn’t know. Today’s post offers an excellent example of that. If not for a collision at home plate and some bad knees, Joe DiMaggio might never have been a Yankee and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Dixie “The People’s Cherce” Walker would probably have been the guy who replaced him.

The collision at home plate took place between Dixie and a Chicago White Sox catcher named Charley Berry during Walker’s 1933 rookie season with the Yankees. Earlier that year, Walker had been knocked down twice in the same game by a Chicago pitcher. After he got up from the ground after the second brushback, Walker told Berry he’d be coming in hard at home the next chance he got. Sure enough, later that same year Dixie found himself rounding third and bearing down on Berry. There were three problems for Dixie with this scenario. Berry outweighed Dixie by ten pounds, he was wearing protective catcher’s gear, and he knew Walker was coming to get him. With the element of surprise gone, Berry braced himself for what was a violent collision at the plate. Not only did Berry hold onto the ball but it was Dixie who ended up getting injured on the play, suffering a separated shoulder that would keep getting dislocated for the rest of the outfielder’s years in the Yankee organization.

Fred Walker was born in Villa Rica, Georgia on September 24, 1910. His Dad had been a pitcher with the Senators who went 25-31 during his four years in the big leagues. His Father, who’s real first name had been Ewart, had thankfully been given the nickname Dixie and the son inherited it. The Walker family had baseball in its blood. Dixie Sr.’s brother Ernie had been an outfielder with the Browns and Dixie’s own kid brother, Harry, would one day win an NL Batting title and later become one of the great hitting instructors in the history of the game.

The Yankees had purchased Dixie Walker’s contract from a minor league team in 1930. For the next three years, he tore up minor league pitching at every level and the Yankees front office took notice. With Babe Ruth growing older and ornery, New York needed to groom his replacement and by 1933, the prime candidate for that role had become Walker. He was given his first real chance to show what he could do at the big league level in 1933. Yankee Manager Joe McCarthy played his rookie in center field and often batted him lead-off. Walker was just 22-years-old at the time and responded with a strong season. In 98 games of action, he hit .274 and proved his left-handed swing was well-suited for Yankee Stadium by drilling 15 home runs and driving in 51. But he also tore up that shoulder and McCarthy had little respect or use for players who would not play hurt. Knowing that, Walker tried to play through his injury, which only exasperated his condition. He could no longer throw the ball and if you played center field for a big league club you had to be able to throw the ball.

As Walker tried to play through his shoulder problems in the Minors, the Yankee front office began taking notice of this DiMaggio kid playing out in San Francisco. He had put together a 61-game hitting streak in the Pacific Coast League but most big league teams were leery of him because he had suffered some knee injuries and the rumor was, he could not stay healthy. The Yankee’s minor league development guy was the tight-fisted genius, George Weiss. With few other suitors to compete against, Weiss was able to purchase the future Yankee Clipper’s contract for just $25,000 and as soon as he did, Walker was no longer the chosen one to replace Ruth as the next Yankee franchise outfielder.

The Yankees then traded Dixie to the White Sox where he once again dislocated that bum shoulder. That’s when it was determined that surgery was Walker’s only option and in what was a pretty experimental procedure back then, a bone graft was done to rebuild a chip in his shoulder and from that point on in his career, it never dislocated again. He hit .302 for the White Sox in 1937. He got traded to Detroit the following season and hit .308 in MoTown. But he hurt his knee while playing for the Tigers and when Detroit’s front office told him he needed another operation, Walker refused and was sold to the Dodgers.

Dixie would spend the next nine seasons becoming the star outfielder for “Dem Bums.” He would average .311 during that time and win the 1944 NL Batting title in the process. Dodger fans adored him until he threatened to not play if Jackie Robinson was made his Brooklyn teammate. His prejudice got him banished to Pittsburgh, where he played out his career and retired after the 1949 season.

Walker shares his September 24th birthday with former Yankee pitcher Jeff Karstens and former Yankee DH, Erik Soderholm.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1931 NYY 2 10 10 1 3 2 0 0 1 0 0 4 .300 .300 .500 .800
1933 NYY 98 359 328 68 90 15 7 15 51 2 26 28 .274 .330 .500 .830
1934 NYY 17 19 17 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 .118 .167 .118 .284
1935 NYY 8 13 13 1 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 .154 .154 .231 .385
1936 NYY 6 21 20 3 7 0 2 1 5 1 1 3 .350 .381 .700 1.081
18 Yrs 1905 7670 6740 1037 2064 376 96 105 1023 59 817 325 .306 .383 .437 .820
BRO (9 yrs) 1207 5094 4492 666 1395 274 56 67 725 44 539 185 .311 .386 .441 .827
NYY (5 yrs) 131 422 388 75 104 18 9 16 58 3 28 39 .268 .319 .485 .803
PIT (2 yrs) 217 677 589 65 180 23 4 3 72 1 78 29 .306 .387 .374 .760
DET (2 yrs) 170 704 608 114 187 31 11 10 62 9 80 40 .308 .389 .444 .833
CHW (2 yrs) 180 773 663 117 198 30 16 9 106 2 92 32 .299 .385 .433 .818
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/24/2013.

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.