Results tagged ‘ outfielder ’

August 24 – Happy Birthday Brett Gardner

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

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

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

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

August 23 – Happy Birthday Cedric Durst

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 18 – Happy Birthday Marcus Lawton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 13 – Happy Birthday Jay Buhner

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

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

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

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

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

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.