Results tagged ‘ pitcher ’

March 4 – Happy Birthday Lefty O’Doul

Francis Joseph O’Doul began his pro baseball career as a southpaw pitcher with the New York Yankees in 1919. He failed to win or lose a game in three partial seasons with New York and then hurt his left arm, pitching for the Red Sox in 1923. He spent the next five years in the minors converting himself into an every day player. He resurfaced with the New York Giants in 1928, hitting .319 as a 31-year old second-time rookie. Unfortunately, O’Doul’s defensive skills in the outfield did not match his hitting prowess and New York traded him to Philadelphia after that season. What a mistake that turned out to be for the Giants. All O’Doul did for the Phillies in 1929 was win the NL batting title with an incredible .398 average and a league-leading 254 hits. He belted 32 home runs, drove in 122 and scored 152 times himself and finished second in that year’s MVP voting to the immortal Rogers Hornsby. O’Doul had another great year in 1930, averaging .383 but the Phillies finished 40 games out of first place. Lefty’s defense was still dreadful however, and the Phillies needed pitching so they dealt O’Doul to Brooklyn for a couple of hurlers, a replacement outfielder and some much needed cash. During O’Douls three years with Brooklyn, he averaged .340 and won his second NL batting title with a .368 average in 1932. During the 33 season, he was traded back to the Giants and got the opportunity to play in the only World Series of his career.  By then he was 36-years old and losing his hitting skills. He retired the following year and went back to his native San Francisco to manage the Seals, in the Pacific Coast League.

Lefty died in 1969. He shares a birthday with this other star from the 1920s and ’30s who like O’Doul, was known by his nickname and made brief appearances as a Yankee, early in his career.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1919 NYY 19 17 16 2 4 0 0 0 1 1 1 2 .250 .294 .250 .544
1920 NYY 13 13 12 2 2 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 .167 .231 .250 .481
1922 NYY 8 9 9 0 3 1 0 0 4 0 0 2 .333 .333 .444 .778
11 Yrs 970 3658 3264 624 1140 175 41 113 542 36 333 122 .349 .413 .532 .945
NYG (3 yrs) 275 848 760 125 239 32 8 26 127 12 77 32 .314 .380 .480 .860
BRO (3 yrs) 325 1394 1266 219 431 69 20 33 186 18 113 42 .340 .399 .505 .904
NYY (3 yrs) 40 39 37 4 9 2 0 0 6 1 2 5 .243 .282 .297 .579
PHI (2 yrs) 294 1338 1166 274 456 72 13 54 219 5 139 40 .391 .460 .614 1.074
BOS (1 yr) 36 39 35 2 5 0 0 0 4 0 2 3 .143 .189 .143 .332
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/21/2014.

March 1 – Happy Birthday Ron Klimkowski

In 1970, I remember giving a trio of young Yankee pitchers the nickname “The Three K’s.” They were Steve Kline, Mike Kekich and Ron Klimkowski. Klimkowski was a Jersey City native who was born on March 1, 1944. He grew up a passionate Yankee fan but was signed by the Red Sox out of college. He realized his boyhood dream of becoming a Yankee when he was sent to New York as part of the 1967 trade that sent Ellie Howard to Beantown. After a brief call-up to the Bronx in 1969, the right hander became a permanent part of the Yankee staff the following season. Pitching mainly out of the bullpen with an occasional start, he won 6 of 13 decisions including a complete-game three hit shutout of Detroit and posted a 2.68 ERA in 98 innings of work.

Both Kline and Kekich were first-year starters on that same staff and both matched Klimkowski’s total of six wins. I considered Kline the most talented of the three. He won 28 games in pinstripes over the next two seasons with an ERA well under three runs per game, but pitched too many innings in the process. His arm and career faded quickly and he was out of the big leagues by 1975. Kekich also became a two-time double digit winner for New York, winning ten games in both 1971 and ’72. That’s when he swapped wives with teammate Fritz Peterson, pretty much ruining his career in the process.

After the 1970 season, New York sent Klimkowski to Oakland in their trade for Felipe Alou. The A’s released him after his 2-2, 2-save performance in 1971 and he rejoined the Yankees. When he could not recover from a 1973 spring-training knee injury, he was forced to retire. Klimkowski died in November of 2009 of heart failure at the young age of 55, after seeing his beloved Yankees win their 27th World Series.

Some Klimkowski uniform trivia: Klimkowski was assigned uniform number 51 during his 1969 rookie season. In 1970, he was given number 24. He then got traded to Oakland for Felipe Alou who also wore number 24 for the Yankees. When the A’s released Klimkowski and the Yankees re-signed him for a spell, he wore uniform number 22.

In the last three days, we’ve had two Pinstripe Birthday Celebrants who were born in Jersey City (Klimkowski & Willie Banks). Over the years, more Yankees have lived in New Jersey than any other state, especially during baseball season. Oddly, there have not been that many Bronx Bombers born in the Garden State. Here’s my top five list of Jersey-born Yankees:

1. Derek Jeter – Pequannock

2. Billy Johnson – Montclair

3. Jim Bouton – Newark

4. Rick Cerone – Newark

5. Elliott Maddox – East Orange

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1969 NYY 0 0 0.64 3 1 2 0 0 0 14.0 6 1 1 0 5 3 0.786
1970 NYY 6 7 .462 2.65 45 3 10 1 1 1 98.1 80 36 29 7 33 40 1.149
1972 NYY 0 3 .000 4.02 16 2 3 0 0 1 31.1 32 15 14 3 15 11 1.500
4 Yrs 8 12 .400 2.90 90 6 26 1 1 4 189.0 155 71 61 13 76 79 1.222
NYY (3 yrs) 6 10 .375 2.76 64 6 15 1 1 2 143.2 118 52 44 10 53 54 1.190
OAK (1 yr) 2 2 .500 3.38 26 0 11 0 0 2 45.1 37 19 17 3 23 25 1.324
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/2/2014.

February 26 – Happy Birthday Rip Collins

rcollins.jpg1920 was an historic year for the New York Yankee franchise. Major League baseball was in the throes of scandal over the alleged involvement of several Chicago White Sox players in a concerted effort to lose the 1919 World Series against Cincinnati. Fans all over the country were turning away from the game in disgust. That wasn’t the case in the Big Apple thanks to the Yankees’ acquisition of Babe Ruth from Boston in January of 1920. In his first season as a Yankee, Ruth stunned the nation by hitting the then unbelievable total of 54 home runs. That would be like someone hitting 180 home runs during the 2010 season, without the help of any pharmaceuticals.

New York set a franchise record by winning 95 games that year and although Ruth was clearly the driving force behind that success, New York had also assembled an outstanding pitching staff. Three veterans on that staff, Carl Mays, Bob Shawkey and Jack Quinn combined to win 64 games that season. The fourth starter was a young, whiskey drinking rookie from Texas named Rip Collins. He was a former Texas Aggie football player who was as tough as they come and he put together a fourteen-victory season during his first year in pinstripes. The following year, Ruth hit 59 bombs and the Yankees won the first AL Pennant in their illustrious history. Collins went 11-5 in his sophomore season and although he had a tendency to walk too many hitters, it looked as if he was in the infant stages of what promised to be a long and successful career with New York. But Yankee manager Miller Huggins had different ideas. From the moment Ruth came to New York, Huggins found it impossible to control this slugging wild man off the field. The manager knew he couldn’t trade Ruth so he did the next best thing. He started getting rid of the Yankee teammates that Ruth enjoyed partying with. Young Rip Collins was one such teammate. In December of 1921, the pitcher was part of a seven player swap with the Red Sox. He went 14-7 during his one season in Beantown but the same control issues that he had experienced as a Yankee followed him to Boston as he led the AL in bases-on-balls. Collins then spent the next five years in Detroit pitching for the Tigers. He then pitched in Canada in 1928 and then signed with the Browns, where he finished his big league career in 1931. Lifetime, Collins was 108-82. After he left baseball he began a career in law enforcement which included a job as a Texas Ranger. He died in Texas in May of 1968 at the age of 72.

Other Yankees born on February 26th include this most famous third string catcher in the team’s history and this former first base prospect.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1920 NYY 14 8 .636 3.22 36 18 12 10 2 1 187.1 171 83 67 6 79 66 1.335
1921 NYY 11 5 .688 5.44 28 16 4 7 2 0 137.1 158 103 83 6 78 64 1.718
11 Yrs 108 82 .568 3.99 311 219 49 84 15 5 1712.1 1795 926 760 73 674 569 1.442
DET (5 yrs) 44 40 .524 3.94 137 102 14 34 6 1 743.0 787 415 325 25 240 214 1.382
SLB (3 yrs) 25 18 .581 4.09 78 54 17 18 2 3 434.0 460 224 197 32 174 156 1.461
NYY (2 yrs) 25 13 .658 4.16 64 34 16 17 4 1 324.2 329 186 150 12 157 130 1.497
BOS (1 yr) 14 11 .560 3.76 32 29 2 15 3 0 210.2 219 101 88 4 103 69 1.528
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/2/2014.