Results tagged ‘ pitcher ’

March 24 – Happy Birthday Ernie Shore

shoreIf first impressions meant everything, Ernie Shore would have never pitched a second big league game and he almost didn’t. Shore was a North Carolina farm boy who hated working his Daddy’s fields so he took the opportunity to attend college and become a mechanical engineer. The school, Guilford College, had a baseball team and Shore became that team’s ace pitcher, winning a total of 38 games during his collegiate career. He was a tall six foot four inch right-hander, who was thin as a rail but he could evidently generate lots of arm speed from that frame because he was known for his fastball.

His success in college got him noticed by the great John McGraw, who sent Shore a ticket to come to New York and pitch for the Giants. McGraw inserted his skinny rookie into a game against the Boston Braves in which the Giants had a 19-run lead. When the kid was finished pitching, that lead had shrunk to nine and he never pitched another inning for a McGraw managed team.

A year later, Shore was pitching for the International League’s Baltimore Orioles, where he was part of the same rotation as a young and promising southpaw named George Ruth. That July, the Boston Red Sox purchased the dynamic duo. It was Shore, who at that time was 23-years-old and 4-years-older than Ruth, who would make the bigger immediate impact on the Boston pitching staff. He went 10-5 during the second half of the 1914 season, while the nineteen-year-old Babe was just 2-1. The following season, Ruth won 19 and Shore won 18 leading the Red Sox to the AL Pennant. But it was again the older more mature Shore that Boston turned to in the 1915 World Series against the Phillies. Ernie got two starts in that Fall Classic and Ruth none, as Boston captured the Fall Classic in five games.

The following year, Ruth won 23 and Shore 16, helping the Red Sox defend their AL title. Shore then won two games in Boston’s five game victory over Brooklyn in the 1916 World Series, while Babe got one of the other two wins.

The Red Sox did not get back to the Series the following year. Ruth won 23 games in 1917 and Shore went 13-10. But in July of that 1917 season, another episode involving the two pitchers once again exemplified the quiet confident nature of Shore versus the much more undisciplined personality of the younger cruder Ruth. Babe had started a game against the Senators and after walking the first hitter on four straight pitches, became so irate at the umpire he actually punched the guy. Shore was inserted to the game and on his first pitch, the runner on first was thrown out trying to steal. Ernie then retired the next 26 hitters he faced, recording one of the most famous two-man no-hitters in baseball history.

That 1917 season was Shore’s last year in Boston. The following season, with the US fully engaged in WWI, he enlisted in the US Navy. When he returned to the game in 1919, it was as a member of the New York Yankees. He had been sold to the Yanks by the Red Sox with teammates Dutch Leonard and Duffy Lewis, the previous December. Unfortunately for both Shore and the Yankees, he caught a very bad case of the mumps at the team’s 1919 spring training camp and blamed the disease for disrupting his training regimen and spoiling his entire season. He would go only 5-8 during his first year in New York.

In January of 1920, the Yankees reunited Ruth and Shore when they purchased Babe’s contract from Boston. The Bambino definitely generated more excitement in the New York sports press that winter but there was still plenty of buzz about how a now-healthy Shore would once again be blazing his fastball by AL hitters.

Turns out, that case of the Mumps was simply hiding the real reason Shore didn’t pitch well in 1919. His right arm was dead. No one was sure how or when it happened but in 1920, it became very clear that Ernie had lost his trademark fastball. He appeared in just 14 games for manager Miller Huggins’ team that year, making just 5 starts and finishing with a 2-2 victory and an ERA of  4.87 runs.

After attempting to pitch his way back to the big leagues via the Pacific Coast League in 1921, Shore retired back to his native North Carolina, where he eventually became a well-known sheriff for Forsyth County.

Most of the information for this post was derived from this excellent article about Shore published by SABR. He shares his March 24th birthday with this former Yankee first baseman, this former starting pitcher and this former reliever.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1919 NYY 5 8 .385 4.17 20 13 3 3 0 0 95.0 105 50 44 4 44 24 1.568
1920 NYY 2 2 .500 4.87 14 5 4 2 0 1 44.1 61 31

March 20 – Happy Birthday Joe McGinnity

McGinnity.jpgHe was the first pitcher in the history of the Yankee franchise to win 20 games in a season. He was also the first pitcher in the history of the Yankee franchise to lose 20 games in a season. His name was Joe McGinnity. He had worked in an iron foundry until he was 27-years-old and then started pitching in the minor leagues in 1898. Known as “The Iron Man” because of his pre-baseball career, McGinnity made his big league debut with the 1899 Baltimore Orioles, a team that was then a member of the National League and managed by John McGraw. Joe led the league with 28 wins in his rookie season, which also happened to be the last season the Orioles were part of the NL. In 1900, the ownership of that team merged their club with the Brooklyn franchise and McGinnity pitched the 1900 season for the Brooklyn Superbas. He again won 28 games and again led the NL in wins but his heart was evidently in Baltimore. In 1901, the new American League had formed and awarded a franchise to Baltimore. That team adopted the Orioles name and John McGraw was named their Manager. McGinnity jumped from Brooklyn to Baltimore and went 26-20 for the new AL franchise. The following year, the Orioles had a horrible season, finishing with a record of 50-88. McGinnity did OK himself, going 13-10, but the Orioles had the worst attendance of the eight teams in the league. That contributed to the League decision to move the team to New York in 1903 where they would play first as the Highlanders and eventually, the Yankees.

When Clark Griffith was named manager of the Highlanders, McGraw was out of a job. The Orioles released McGinnity and he signed with the New York Giants, finishing 8-8 in 1902. The following season, McGraw was hired as Manager of the Giants, where he was reunited with McGinnity and a young Giant pitcher named Christy Matthewson. Those three M’s would help turn the Giants into one of the most successful franchises in baseball. McGinnity and Matthewson both won 30 games in 1903 and McGraw’s team went from last place in the NL to second. In 1904, the pitching duo again each won 30 and the Giants captured the NL Pennant. McGinnity pitched in the Polo Grounds until 1908 and finished his big league career with a lifetime record of 246-142. He didn’t stop pitching though. He became a Minor Leaguer again and won 207 more games before he retired for good at the age of 54, in 1925. He was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1946.

Iron Man McGinnity shares his March 20th birthday with this one-time Yankee reliever.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1901 BLA 26 20 .565 3.56 48 43 4 39 1 1 382.0 412 219 151 7 96 75 1.330
1902 BLA 13 10 .565 3.44 25 23 2 19 0 0 198.2 219 100 76 3 46 39 1.334
10 Yrs 246 142 .634 2.66 465 381 73 314 32 24 3441.1 3276 1436 1016 52 812 1068 1.188
NYG (7 yrs) 151 88 .632 2.38 300 237 53 186 26 21 2151.1 1937 774 568 34 464 787 1.116
BLA (2 yrs) 39 30 .565 3.52 73 66 6 58 1 1 580.2 631 319 227 10 142 114 1.331
BLN (1 yr) 28 16 .636 2.68 48 41 7 38 4 2 366.1 358 164 109 3 93 74 1.231
BRO (1 yr) 28 8 .778 2.94 44 37 7 32 1 0 343.0 350 179 112 5 113 93 1.350
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/13/2014.

March 17 – Happy Birthday Tim Lollar

TimLollar.jpgThis tall southpaw is one of the few members of the New York Yankees to be born on St Pattie’s Day. Lollar had already appeared in 13 games out of the bullpen when Manager Dick Howser gave the then 24-year-old rookie his first and only pinstripe start against the Tigers in the very last game of the 1980 season. Lollar responded by pitching six innings of one-run ball and getting the victory. Then on the last day of the 1981 spring training season, Lollar was included in a package of players sent to the Padres for outfielder Jerry Mumphrey. After a bad 2-8 initial season in San Diego, Lollar broke out with a 16-9 record in 1982 and a 3.13 ERA. That turned out to be his one and only great season. He finished his big league career as a Red Sox in 1986 with a career record of 47-52. Lollar shares his St. Patrick’s Day birthday with this very troubled former Yankee reliever.

Lollar is the only Yankee and only big league ballplayer to have been born in Poplar Bluff, MO. Plenty of Yankees however, have been born in the “Show Me” state. Here’s my top six Pinstriped Missourians of all time:

Yogi Berra – St Louis (in Hall of Fame)
Casey Stengel – Kansas City (in Hall of Fame)
Mel Stottlemyre – Hazelton
Elston Howard – St Louis
Clete Boyer – Cassville
David Cone – Kansas City

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1980 NYY 1 0 1.000 3.34 14 1 5 0 0 2 32.1 33 14 12 3 20 13 1.639
7 Yrs 47 52 .475 4.27 199 131 20 9 4 4 906.0 841 459 430 93 480 600 1.458
SDP (4 yrs) 36 42 .462 4.07 119 106 4 8 4 1 680.2 617 325 308 64 328 454 1.388
BOS (2 yrs) 7 5 .583 5.48 48 11 8 1 0 1 110.0 108 72 67 16 74 72 1.655
NYY (1 yr) 1 0 1.000 3.34 14 1 5 0 0 2 32.1 33 14 12 3 20 13 1.639
CHW (1 yr) 3 5 .375 4.66 18 13 3 0 0 0 83.0 83 48 43 10 58 61 1.699
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/9/2014.

March 4 – Happy Birthday Dazzy Vance

Dazzy Vance is in the Hall of Fame even though he did not win his first Major League game until he was 31 years old. What took him so long? He spent almost a decade, from 1912 until 1921 in the minor leagues trying to figure out how to throw his lightening quick fastball over the plate for strikes. Before he came up for good with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1922, Vance spent about four seasons in the Yankee organization. New York brought him up to the big leagues for two look-see’s. The first time was 1915. Vance was a 17-game winner that year pitching single A ball in St. Joseph, MO. He got into eight games for New York, losing all three of his decisions. He didn’t get his next taste of the Big Apple until four years later, in 1918 and it did not taste good. Dazzy got shelled in both his Yankee relief appearances that season and since he was 27 at the time, it seemed as if his chances of making the big leagues were over. But the persistent Vance went back to the minors and toiled for four more years.

In 1922, Brooklyn purchased his contract and dumped him immediately into their starting rotation. Dazzy won 18 games in his full-fledged rookie season and led the NL in strikeouts. For the next ten seasons he was one of the very best pitchers in baseball. He ended up winning seven-straight strikeout titles. In 1924 he had one of the greatest seasons any big league pitcher has ever had, leading the NL in victories (28), ERA (2.16) and K’s (262.) By the time his career was over, in 1935, the 44-year-old right-hander had put together a lifetime record of 197-140. That’s on top of the 139 victories he had accumulated in the minor leagues. In 1955, Vance was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

His real name was Charles. He was born in Orient,IA on March 4, 1891. He passed away in 1961.

Ironically, Dazzy shares his March 4th birthday with this other Major League baseball star with a well-known nickname, who also got big league call-ups as a Yankee early in his career, who also didn’t make it to the major leagues for good until he was 31 years old and when he did, he also became a star for Brooklyn.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1915 NYY 0 3 .000 3.54 8 3 4 1 0 0 28.0 23 14 11 1 16 18 1.393
1918 NYY 0 0 15.43 2 0 1 0 0 0 2.1 9 5 4 0 2 0 4.714
16 Yrs 197 140 .585 3.24 442 349 53 216 29 11 2966.2 2809 1246 1068 132 840 2045 1.230
BRO (12 yrs) 190 131 .592 3.17 378 328 36 212 29 7 2757.2 2579 1135 972 123 764 1918 1.212
NYY (2 yrs) 0 3 .000 4.45 10 3 5 1 0 0 30.1 32 19 15 1 18 18 1.648
STL (2 yrs) 7 3 .700 3.59 47 15 11 3 0 4 158.0 167 68 63 7 42 100 1.323
CIN (1 yr) 0 2 .000 7.50 6 2 1 0 0 0 18.0 28 21 15 1 11 9 2.167
PIT (1 yr) 0 1 .000 10.13 1 1 0 0 0 0 2.2 3 3 3 0 5 0 3.000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/21/2014.

March 3 – Happy Birthday Chuck Cary

caryBy 1991 both the Yankees’ front-office decision making and the team’s starting pitching had gotten so bad that we fans were being told today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was the best southpaw starter in the American League. I remember wanting to believe it but having a hard time doing so because I had been watching Cary struggle on the Yankee Stadium mound for two seasons by then. If he was indeed one of the best pitchers in the junior circuit he had been doing a masterful job disguising it.

The six foot four inch native of California had made his big league debut pitching out of the Detroit Tiger bullpen in 1985. He than spent the next four seasons bouncing back and forth between the minors and majors, Detroit had traded him to Atlanta in 1987 and when his inconsistency on the mound continued, the Braves gave him his outright release after the 1988 regular season.

That’s when the Yankees signed him as a free agent. He didn’t make New York’s roster out of spring training in 1989 but he was called up in May to pitch relief for Manager Dallas Green’s club. By late July, it was clear that season’s starting staff of Andy Hawkins, Clay Parker, Dave LaPoint, Greg Cadaret and Walt Terrell were not going to get New York into fall ball so Cary, who was pitching impressively out of the bullpen, was given an opportunity to join the rotation. He put together five consecutive quality starts, including two straight complete game victories. Though he tired in August and was hurt in September, his 4-4 record and his 3.26 ERA were at least something to build on.

Unfortunately, Cary’s building skills were not very good. In 1990 he became part of one of the worst performing starting rotations in Yankee franchise history. All five starters (the other four were Hawkins, LaPoint, Time Leary and Mike Witt) finished with losing records and not one of them won as many as ten games or had an ERA below 4.11. Cary went 6-12 with a 4.19 ERA. That Yankee team finished dead last in the AL Eastern Division.

That’s why the following spring, when Yankee pitching coach Jimmy Connor was telling every Yankee beat reporter who would listen to him that Cary could very well become a 20-game-winner that year, it made you wonder if there was another Chuck Cary on New York’s spring training roster. According to both Connor and Yankee manager Stump Merrill, Cary’s problem during his first two seasons in New York was that he had gotten away from throwing his screwball to right-handed hitters and was trying to overpower everyone with his fastball. The weakness with that rationale was that even when he was throwing the screwball, he had never won more than eight games in a season in the minors or the majors. Why would things be any different now? They weren’t.

Cary had a horrendous 1-6 start for New York in 1991 and an ERA that was just a shade under six runs per game. By June of that year he was back in Columbus and that October, the Yankee released him. He did get one more shot in the big leagues two years later with the White Sox and that was it. His final eight-season big league record was 14-26 (11-22 as a Yankee) with 3 saves and a 4.17 ERA. He may not have been able to start or close a big league game but he certainly was an all star when it came to starting and closing real estate deals. In his post baseball career, Cary has successfully sold billions of dollars worth of properties.

This Hall-of-Fame Yankee outfielderthis WWII hero and this one-time Yankee reliever were each also were born on March 3rd.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1989 NYY 4 4 .500 3.26 22 11 4 2 0 0 99.1 78 42 36 13 29 79 1.077
1990 NYY 6 12 .333 4.19 28 27 1 2 0 0 156.2 155 77 73 21 55 134 1.340
1991 NYY 1 6 .143 5.91 10 9 0 0 0 0 53.1 61 35 35 6 32 34 1.744
8 Yrs 14 26 .350 4.17 134 47 28 4 0 3 410.1 390 206 190 50 158 322 1.335
NYY (3 yrs) 11 22 .333 4.19 60 47 5 4 0 0 309.1 294 154 144 40 116 247 1.325
ATL (2 yrs) 1 1 .500 4.68 20 0 7 0 0 1 25.0 25 13 13 4 8 22 1.320
DET (2 yrs) 1 3 .250 3.42 38 0 12 0 0 2 55.1 49 27 21 5 23 43 1.301
CHW (1 yr) 1 0 1.000 5.23 16 0 4 0 0 0 20.2 22 12 12 1 11 10 1.597
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/21/2014.

February 22 – Happy Birthday Karl Drews

kdrewsThe phone rang and he let it ring one more time before picking it up. His family, friends and coaches who were gathered in his Sarasota, Florida living room that early June day in 1993 all fell silent and turned their attention to the expression on the face of the eighteen-year-old high school pitcher who was now holding the receiver tightly to his ear. As soon as they saw the huge grin break out across his face, every person in the room knew not only who was on the other end of that phone conversation but also what he had just said. The caller was Yankee scout Paul Turco, and he had just told the talented teenager that he had been selected with the Yankees first draft pick (13th overall) in Major League Baseball’s 1993 Amateur Draft.

The kids name was Matt Drews and right after he hung up the phone that day, his Dad, Ron Drews handed him a Yankee cap and told him it was his now. But unlike the brand new New Era team lids most modern day top picks get to place on their heads, the Yankee hat Matt’s Dad had handed him looked a bit aged and odd. That’s because at the time, that particular hat was close to a half-century old. It had been given originally to Matt’s grandfather by Joe DiMaggio as a gift for Matt’s Dad. Ron Drew’s Dad and Matt Drew’s Grandfather was former Yankee pitcher and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Karl Drews. In his rookie year of 1947, Karl had gone 6-6 for New York, appearing in 30 games for Yankee skipper Bucky Harris, including ten starts. Six years earlier, Karl was pitching for the Class C farm team that used to play in my hometown of Amsterdam, NY. He had signed with the Yankees in 1939 and was working his way up the minor league ladder when he was called into the military for service in WWII. That’s why he was already 27 years-old during his first full season in the big leagues.

Drews threw very hard but he had trouble finding the strike zone consistently. Still, Harris had enough faith in his rookie to use him twice in the 1947 World Series against Brooklyn. After his first appearance in Game 3 of that Fall Classic, the gracious DiMaggio walked up to him in the clubhouse after the game and handed him the Yankee cap, telling Drews to give it to his boy as a souvenir of his first World Series game.

DiMaggio would return to three more World Series as a Yankee before retiring but unfortuntely for Karl Drews, 1947 would be his one and only appearance in postseason play. The following season, the Yankees found themselves in a year-long and eventually unsuccessful battle with the Red Sox and Indians to defend their AL Pennant. Drews was actually pitching better baseball than he had the season before, walking fewer hitters and lowering his ERA by over a full run, to 3.79. That didn’t prevent the Yankees from selling Drews to the St. Louis Browns in early August of that 1948 season.

Now pitching for one of the worst teams in baseball, Drews went 4-12 for the Browns in 1949 and was sent back to the minors, where he broke his skull in a base path collision. He got back to the big leagues with the Phillies in 1951 and had his best big league season a year later, as a member of Philadelphia’s starting rotation. He went 14-15 with a sparkling 2.72 ERA and threw 5 shutouts. He would last two more years in the big leagues and then settled with his family in Hollywood, Florida. On August 15th, 1963, he was taking his daughter to swimming practice when his car stalled on a Florida highway. When he got out of the disabled vehicle and attempted to wave a passing car down, the drunken driver of the car plowed into Drews and killed him instantly. He was just 43 years old at the time of his death and he would never get to meet his grandson Matt.

matt.drewsUnlike his grandfather, Matt Drews never made it to the mound of Yankee Stadium. His career started out well, as he went 22-13 during his first two seasons in the lowest levels of New York’s farm system, but during the next five he was 16-58. He left baseball after the 2000 season.

He shares his birthday with this former 20-game-winning pitcherthis one-time Yankee closerthis new Yankee infielder and this former Yankee phee-nom.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1946 NYY 0 1 .000 8.53 3 1 1 0 0 0 6.1 6 6 6 0 6 4 1.895
1947 NYY 6 6 .500 4.91 30 10 9 0 0 1 91.2 92 57 50 6 55 45 1.604
1948 NYY 2 3 .400 3.79 19 2 8 0 0 1 38.0 35 17 16 3 31 11 1.737
8 Yrs 44 53 .454 4.76 218 107 44 26 7 7 826.2 913 493 437 72 332 322 1.506
PHI (4 yrs) 25 25 .500 3.74 93 60 9 22 5 3 453.0 478 221 188 43 117 187 1.313
NYY (3 yrs) 8 10 .444 4.76 52 13 18 0 0 2 136.0 133 80 72 9 92 60 1.654
SLB (2 yrs) 7 14 .333 6.94 51 25 10 3 1 2 177.2 223 148 137 14 104 46 1.841
CIN (1 yr) 4 4 .500 6.00 22 9 7 1 1 0 60.0 79 44 40 6 19 29 1.633
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/1/2014.

February 12 – Happy Birthday Walter “Monk” Dubiel

dubielDue to an eye ailment, Walter “Monk” Dubiel was not considered healthy enough to serve in WWII and with a sore hip and chronically aching back, there were times he was just barely healthy enough to pitch for the Yankees. New York signed this native of Hartford, Connecticut in 1941 and he spent the next four seasons moving up the organization’s farm system. By 1944, most of the front-line big league pitchers were in the military and Dubiel, who had gone 16-9 for the Yankees’ double A affiliate in Newark the year before, was ready to make his debut in the Bronx. The six foot tall right-hander went 13-13 in his rookie year, threw three shutouts and posted a very respectable ERA of 3.38. But he also pitched 232 innings for Manager Joe McCarthy’s third place ball club, which was fifty more than he had ever pitched in a single season in the minors. He couldn’t match that workload in his sophomore season in pinstripes and his ERA in 1945 climbed to 4.64, but he did manage to post a 10-9 record, which would turn out to be his only winning season as a big league pitcher.

Since the war had ended, all of the Yankee pitchers who had served in the armed forces returned en-masse to New York’s 1946 spring training camp. Dubiel couldn’t make the cut and he was sent back to Newark by McCarthy. Accompanying him to the minor league club that spring was a short stumpy Yankee catcher by the name of Lawrence Berra. Yogi would end up back in pinstripes one day but Monk never did.

In 1947, he became the property of the pitching poor Philadelphia Phillies via the Rule 5 Draft, which eased his path back to the big leagues. He went 8-10 for Philadelphia in 1948, with 2 shutouts and 4 saves. That December he was traded to the Cubs. He would pitch the next three seasons and a tiny part of a fourth in the Windy City and then return to the minors for good. He ended his seven-year career as a Major League pitcher with a 45-53 record and an ERA of 3.87 with 11 saves and 9 shutouts.

Dubiel wore uniform number 14 with New York. Here are my picks for the top five number “14′s” in Yankee history:
Moose Skowron
Lou Piniella
Curtis Granderson
Gene Woodling
Pat Kelly

Dubiel shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcherthis one-time Yankee utility infielder and this one-time New York first-baseman.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1944 NYY 13 13 .500 3.38 30 28 1 19 3 0 232.0 217 93 87 12 86 79 1.306
1945 NYY 10 9 .526 4.64 26 20 4 9 1 0 151.1 157 88 78 9 62 45 1.447
7 Yrs 45 53 .459 3.87 187 97 41 41 9 11 879.1 854 436 378 65 349 289 1.368
CHC (4 yrs) 14 21 .400 3.85 94 32 26 7 3 7 345.2 341 171 148 31 143 123 1.400
NYY (2 yrs) 23 22 .511 3.87 56 48 5 28 4 0 383.1 374 181 165 21 148 124 1.362
PHI (1 yr) 8 10 .444 3.89 37 17 10 6 2 4 150.1 139 84 65 13 58 42 1.310
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/26/2014.

January 27 – Happy Birthday Milt Gaston

gastonOne could sum up today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant’s career with three words, “strange but interesting.” It started out late but promising. Though this right-handed hurler never played an inning of minor league ball, he was already 28-years-old when he signed with the Yankees in 1924. Up until then, he had been playing semi-pro baseball for a company-sponsored team back in his native New Jersey. Such teams were common throughout the country during much of the first half of the 20th century and the competition was certainly, in many cases, minor-league quality. In fact, Gaston’s semi-pro team regularly played exhibition games versus Major League clubs and through the years, he had offers from several of them to pitch for their organizations. But it wasn’t until the Yankees offered him a contract that he decided to make the move.

That happened in 1924. Gaston joined a Yankee team that had won the franchise’s first World Series the year before. Miller Huggins was his manager and a fellow rookie, Lou Gehrig, his first big league roommate. Huggins liked Gaston a lot and got him into 29 games during his rookie season, mostly as a reliever. In fact, he won his first four straight big league decisions coming out of the bullpen, before Huggins gave him a chance to start. Gaston’s signature pitch was a fork ball that moved so much, there were times he had no idea where the ball was going. As a result, he would often walk an awful lot of hitters, and in his first ever big league start, he issued eight bases on balls against the St. Louis Browns in six-plus innings and suffered his first loss. But all-in-all, his rookie season had been a success. He finished it with a 5-3 record and a save, a budding friendship with the Iron Horse, plus Huggins liked his stuff. Gaston was certainly in a good place to be with his baseball career. But not for long.

The 1924 Yankees had failed to make it back to the World Series for the first time in three years, and New York owner Jacob Rupert, who was George Steinbrenner before George Steinbrenner was even born, wanted better pitching. He heard the St. Louis Browns wanted to trade their four-time 20-game winner, Urban Shocker and he went after him hard. The deal between the two teams was reached a week before Christmas in 1924. The Yanks sent Gaston, starting pitcher Bullet Joe Bush and another pitcher named Joe Giard to the Browns for Shocker. When Huggins told Gaston he had been traded, the Yankee manager also told the departing pitcher he hated to lose him.

Thus, Gaston’s pinstriped career ended but he would go on to establish a few unusual Major League firsts. He holds the record for giving up the most hits in a shutout, 14. He also owns the record for taking part in the most double plays as a pitcher in a single game, 4. Though he was teammates with 17 different future Hall of Famers during his eleven-year career, they all must have been in hitting slumps on the days Gaston pitched because his career record was 97-164, which gives him the record for most games below the .500 mark for pitchers with at least 100 decisions. In addition to the Yankees and Browns, he also pitched for the White Sox, Senators and Red Sox, and while with Boston, he got the opportunity to pitch to his older brother, catcher Alex Gaston, during the 1929 season. Milt Gaston kept setting records after he retired in 1934. He became the only former player with at least ten years of service to live to 100. He died in his sleep in a Massachusetts nursing home in 1996.

This other Yankee pitcher and this former AL Rookie of the Year were also born on January 27th as was this other Yankee pitcher as well.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1924 NYY 5 3 .625 4.50 29 2 20 0 0 1 86.0 92 48 43 3 44 24 1.581
11 Yrs 97 164 .372 4.55 355 269 63 127 10 8 2105.0 2338 1277 1064 114 836 615 1.508
SLB (3 yrs) 38 49 .437 4.60 111 87 15 51 1 2 707.0 786 439 361 39 302 200 1.539
CHW (3 yrs) 21 48 .304 4.95 87 78 6 24 3 1 527.2 607 353 290 35 217 131 1.562
BOS (3 yrs) 27 52 .342 3.95 100 80 18 44 3 4 635.2 674 335 279 34 220 215 1.406
WSH (1 yr) 6 12 .333 5.51 28 22 4 8 3 0 148.2 179 102 91 3 53 45 1.561
NYY (1 yr) 5 3 .625 4.50 29 2 20 0 0 1 86.0 92 48 43 3 44 24 1.581
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/29/2014.

January 26 – Happy Birthday Hector Noesi

As the 2012 season approached, more and more Yankee fans were beginning to wonder if Yankee pitching prospect, Hector Noesi was really ready to become a part of the team’s starting rotation. That’s because it looked like New York’s front office was electing to stand pat with the pitching arms the team already had on its roster during this offseason and not test the trade or free agent market for a solution. That meant if Phil Hughes and AJ Burnett or the aging Freddie Garcia were not able to deliver during the first few weeks of the upcoming regular season, Joe Girardi’s first option was most likely going to be inserting Noesi in the Yankee rotation.

This Dominican right hander had appeared in 30 games for New York in 2010 after being called up from Scranton in mid-May, almost all of them as a reliever. He made a good first impression when he got the win with a four-scoreless-extra-inning stint against Baltimore the very first time he pitched in the big leagues. He also had pitched well during his ascent through the Yankee minor league organization. Noesi has a fastball in the lower nineties and has already developed a very good change up. His delivery has been described by scouts as “smooth and fluid” and he has shown very good command of the strike zone.

My problem with the guy was that he had already tested positive for steroids in 2007 and served a 50-game suspension. He’s tested clean since but he’s also experienced some serious problems with his pitching arm. Still, the Yankees were very high on this guy coming into 2012 and were telling everyone who would listen that he was ready to start in the big leagues right now.

Some of that praise may have been hype to increase his trade value because in January of 2012, the Yankees included Noesi with Jesus Montero in the package they sent to the Mariners for Michael Pineda and a Mariner pitching prospect named Jose Campos. To date, Noesi has not pitched well for Seattle. He went 2-12 mostly as a starter for the M’s in 2012 and then spent large parts of his 2013 season pitching in Tacoma.

Hector shares his January 26th birthday with this one time Yankee World Series hero.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2011 NYY 2 2 .500 4.47 30 2 14 0 0 0 56.1 63 29 28 6 22 45 1.509
3 Yrs 4 15 .211 5.53 64 21 22 0 0 0 190.1 212 121 117 30 73 134 1.497
SEA (2 yrs) 2 13 .133 5.98 34 19 8 0 0 0 134.0 149 92 89 24 51 89 1.493
NYY (1 yr) 2 2 .500 4.47 30 2 14 0 0 0 56.1 63 29 28 6 22 45 1.509
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/26/2014.

January 25 – Happy Birthday Steve Roser

phillpsroserHe was considered the best pitcher in the history of Clarkson University, a small engineering school in northwestern New York State. Born in Rome, New York in 1918, his real first name was Emerson but his Clarkson coach started calling him “Steve” instead because it was easier to both say and remember. Roser had a choice to make in 1940. He could either finish his senior year at Clarkson or sign a contract with the Yankees. He signed the contract and spent the next four years pitching his way up  New York’s minor league ladder.

Joe McCarthy put him on the parent club’s roster for the first time in 1944, and Roser pitched well enough to stick around the entire season. His big league debut came on May 5th of that year against the Red Sox. He relieved starter Atley Donald in the top of the fifth inning with the score tied and finished the game, which the Yankees won, earning him his first career victory. He got his first career start two months later and earned a complete game 8-2 win over the Tigers. He would finish that first season with a 4-3 record and one save and he earned good marks from McCarthy who kept Roser on the roster the following season.

In 1946, his slow start combined with the mass return of Yankee pitching talent from military service in World War II got the right-hander sold to the Boston Braves in early May. He pitched OK but sparingly in Beantown for a few weeks and then spent the second half of the season with the Braves triple A team in Indianapolis. Despite a good record in Indy, he failed to make the Braves roster the following spring and when he pitched poorly during the 1947 season in the minors, he quit the game for good. Roser returned to upstate New York where he and his wife opened a sporting goods store and a restaurant. Roser passed away in 2002.

He shares his birthday with this long-ago Yankee starting catcher and this one-time Yankee reliever.