Results tagged ‘ relief pitcher ’

August 27 – Happy Birthday Jim York

Jim York2Jim York had been a pretty decent reliever for both the Royals and Astros, by the time the Yankees purchased the six foot three inch right-hander from Houston in January of 1976. Although he already had five-plus big league seasons under his belt at the time, New York assigned their “new York” to their triple A team in Syracuse where he started the season with a 6-1 record pitching out of the Chiefs’ bullpen. Even though his triple A ERA was a sky high 5.34, the Yankees called him up that July to serve as a middle reliever.

On July 20 1976, Billy Martin started Ken Holtzman in an afternoon game at Comiskey Park. The Yanks had acquired the veteran right-hander a month earlier in a blockbuster 10-player deal they did with the Orioles. Holtzman had struggled in his first few starts in pinstripes and that didn’t please Martin or Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. Based on what I’ve read about their relationships, if I saw these three guys getting on the same elevator, I’d wait for the next one. They hated each other.

So when Holtzman gave up seven runs in the first inning of that start against Chicago, you know both Martin and the Boss had to be fuming as Jim York was called in to pitch for his very first time in pinstripes. The native of Maywood, California was up to the task. He held the White Sox to just two runs over the next seven innings while the Yankee offense went on a roll. When the game was called on count of rain, with one out in the home half of the eighth inning, the Yankees were ahead 14-7 and York had earned his first and only Yankee victory.

He would make two more relief appearances for Martin that year, getting hit pretty hard in both. After that third appearance, the Yankees released him and he would never again pitch in a big league game. He shares his birthday with a former Yankee backup catcher, who also spent some time playing for Houston. Here’s my all-time lineup of Yankees who also played for the Astros:

1b Bob Watson
2b Andy Stankiewicz
3b Morgan Ensberg
ss Jose Vizcaino
c Cliff Johnson
of Jimmy Wynn
of Joe Pepitone
of Lance Berkman
sp Andy Pettitte
sp Roger Clemens
cl Mark Melancon
mgr Bill Virdon

Here ares Jim York’s Yankee and career stats:

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1976 NYY 1 0 1.000 5.59 3 0 1 0 0 0 9.2 14 7 6 1 4 6 1.862
7 Yrs 16 17 .485 3.79 174 4 80 0 0 10 285.0 290 131 120 19 132 194 1.481
HOU (4 yrs) 9 11 .450 4.19 114 4 55 0 0 7 174.0 201 89 81 9 82 79 1.626
KCR (2 yrs) 6 6 .500 2.93 57 0 24 0 0 3 101.1 75 35 33 9 46 109 1.194
NYY (1 yr) 1 0 1.000 5.59 3 0 1 0 0 0 9.2 14 7 6 1 4 6 1.862
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/27/2013.

August 22 – Happy Birthday David Huff

huffWhat a birthday present today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant gave himself, his teammates and Yankee fans last evening at the Stadium. David Huff turns 29-years-old today and last night Joe Girardi called on him to relieve spot starter Adam Warren in the fourth inning of New York’s game against Toronto. All he did was huff and puff and close the Blue Jays offense down for five innings allowing the Yankee offense to rally and win the game. I got to admit, I wondered why New York put this left-handed reliever on their roster earlier this month and even wondered why Girardi went to him in that game last night, but I’m not wondering any more.

Originally a first round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians in 2006, Huff went 11-9 during his 2009 rookie season with the Tribe but his ERA that year was too high at 5.61. It got even higher in his sophomore year, climbing to 6.21 and this time he paid for it with an abysmal 2-11 record. Cleveland kept him around in their organization for three more years, before giving up on the native of San Diego and placing him on waivers earlier this season.

The Yankees grabbed him and sent him to their triple A team in Scranton/Wilkes Barre. He didn’t pitch very well there, going 1-6 with an ERA just under four so no one was probably more surprised than Huff himself when he was told he was headed to the Bronx.. In fact, that conversation never would have taken place if Dellin Betances, one of the original Killer B’s, who was called just before Huff had not been abused in his only appearance against the Angels. When the Yanks sent Betances back down they replaced him with Huff,

Truth is that its way too early to tell if Huff can stick in the Yankee bullpen for the rest of this season, but if he can put together a few more outings like the one he had last night against the Jays, he won’t be going anywhere for at least a while. Huff shares his birthday with this former Yankee catcher and this former starting pitcher.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2013 NYY 0 0 6.75 2 0 2 0 0 0 1.1 1 1 1 0 2 1 2.250
5 Yrs 18 26 .409 5.41 60 52 4 1 0 0 289.2 353 198 174 41 100 163 1.564
CLE (5 yrs) 18 26 .409 5.40 58 52 2 1 0 0 288.1 352 197 173 41 98 162 1.561
NYY (1 yr) 0 0 6.75 2 0 2 0 0 0 1.1 1 1 1 0 2 1 2.250
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/22/2013.

August 12 – Happy Birthday Dave Pavlas

The great Mariano Rivera was not used as a closer during his final minor league seasons with the Yankees’ Columbus Clippers Triple A farm team. Instead, that task was handed to today’s much lesser known Pinstripe Birthday celebrant. Dave Pavlas was born in West Germany on August 12, 1962. This tall and lanky right-hander led the Clippers in saves for three straight seasons, from 1995 through 1997. Unfortunately, he was already 33 years-old by the time he joined Columbus.

Pavlas had made his big league debut back in 1990, as a reliever with the Cubs. He got into thirteen games in his first season, won his only two decisions and compiled an impressive 2.11 ERA. But he started the next season back in the minors and when the Cubs gave him another chance at the Big Show it wasn’t much of one. In late July of the ’91 season, Pavlas was given the ball in the top of the ninth, with his team behind 4-0 against the Braves. He was hit hard, gave up a couple of runs and didn’t get another chance to pitch from a Major League mound for the next four years.

The Yankees signed him to a minor league contract in early 1995. He got called up to the Bronx in both 1995 and ’96 and did some effective relief pitching for the World Championship team of 1996. He earned his one and only big league save on August 24th of that season when he came on in the ninth inning with two men on, two outs and New York leading Oakland 5-4. The first batter he faced was future Yankee Scott Brosius, who got an infield single to load the bases. He then struck out another future Yankee, Jason Giambi, to preserve the victory.

He was just one of 14 big league players and the only member of the Yankee’s all-time roster to have been born in West Germany and he will forever hold that distinction since that country no longer technically exists. Pavlas shares his birthday with this Cuban defector who played in pinstripes.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1995 NYY 0 0 3.18 4 0 1 0 0 0 5.2 8 2 2 0 0 3 1.412
1996 NYY 0 0 2.35 16 0 8 0 0 1 23.0 23 7 6 0 7 18 1.304
4 Yrs 2 0 1.000 2.65 34 0 13 0 0 1 51.0 57 18 15 3 13 33 1.373
CHC (2 yrs) 2 0 1.000 2.82 14 0 4 0 0 0 22.1 26 9 7 3 6 12 1.433
NYY (2 yrs) 0 0 2.51 20 0 9 0 0 1 28.2 31 9 8 0 7 21 1.326
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/13/2013.

August 6 – Happy Birthday Luis Vizcaino

luis-vizcainoAfter the Yanks were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round for the second consecutive year in 2006, New York’s front office decided it was time to end the Randy Johnson era in the Bronx. They had brought the “Big Unit” to the Big Apple after the 2003 ALCS debacle with the Red Sox, thinking he would be the stopper they needed to go deep in future postseasons. But his bad back and prickly personality made his two-year stay in pinstripes uncomfortable and unsuccessful, especially in the postseason.

Still, I was upset that the best New York could get in return for their ace was an Arizona Diamondback package of three minor league prospects and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. After all, despite all his problems, Johnson did put together two seventeen-win seasons as a Yankee. In Luis Vizcaino, the Yanks were getting a 31-year-old journeyman right-handed reliever who had yet to distinguish himself during tenures with four different big league teams.

As it turned out, the Dominican native had a surprisingly productive season for the Yankees in 2007. He became a workhorse out of the bullpen for manager Joe Torre, appearing in 77 games and winning eight of his ten decisions in the process. Unfortunately the postseason was a different story. The Yanks were protecting a one-run lead in Game 2 against the Indians in Cleveland after losing Game 1 of that year’s ALDS. Torre went to his rookie phee-nom Joba Chamberlain with one out and two runners on in the home half of the seventh. Chamberlain got the last two outs of that inning but in the bottom of the eighth, a swarm of midges were blown into Jacobs Field with a wind off of Lake Erie and an obviously distracted Joba surrendered the tying run. Three innings later, Torre turned to Vizcaino to start the 11th. He walked the first hitter he faced, gave up a single to the next batter and after an intentional walk and a pop out, gave up a game-winning single to Travis Hafner and the Yanks went down 2-0 in that series. They ended up losing in four games to Cleveland for their third straight first-round exit from postseason play.

The Yanks were interested in re-signing Vizcaino for 2008 but the pitcher was looking to convert his 8-2 record into a three-year deal. New York was only interested in doing one so they let the pitcher sign as a free agent with the Rockies. Unfortunately, the Yankees used the draft pick on a pitcher named Jeremy Bleich, a southpaw out of Stanford who is still trying to make it up to the Bronx. Vizcaino ended up getting a nice seven million dollar two year deal but got rocked during his one and only season in Colorado. He was traded to the Cubs in January of 2009 and was released by both Chicago and the Indians during the ’09 regular season. The Yankees then signed him to a minor league deal but he was suspended in 2011 for using PEDs.

Vizcaino shares his birthday with this former Yankee pitching coach, this DH and first baseman made famous in a Seinfeld episode and this fireballing former Yankee reliever.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2007 NYY 8 2 .800 4.30 77 0 13 0 0 0 75.1 66 37 36 6 43 62 1.447
11 Yrs 35 30 .538 4.33 543 0 156 0 0 8 546.2 495 273 263 79 237 492 1.339
OAK (3 yrs) 2 2 .500 5.61 49 0 17 0 0 1 59.1 66 38 37 11 26 51 1.551
MIL (3 yrs) 13 10 .565 4.22 224 0 72 0 0 6 215.1 180 107 101 34 79 203 1.203
ARI (1 yr) 4 6 .400 3.58 70 0 15 0 0 0 65.1 51 26 26 8 29 72 1.224
COL (1 yr) 1 2 .333 5.28 43 0 13 0 0 0 46.0 48 28 27 10 19 49 1.457
CHC (1 yr) 0 0 0.00 4 0 2 0 0 0 3.2 2 0 0 0 0 3 0.545
CLE (1 yr) 1 3 .250 5.40 11 0 4 0 0 1 11.2 8 7 7 2 12 9 1.714
NYY (1 yr) 8 2 .800 4.30 77 0 13 0 0 0 75.1 66 37 36 6 43 62 1.447
CHW (1 yr) 6 5 .545 3.73 65 0 20 0 0 0 70.0 74 30 29 8 29 43 1.471
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/5/2013.

July 19 – Happy Birthday Phil Coke

phil-cokeYankee fans had little to cheer about at the end of their 2008 season, which took some of the luster off of Phil Coke’s sizzling end-of-the-year pinstriped debut that year. While the Yanks spent the last full month playing just poorly enough to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1993, you couldn’t blame Coke. Joe Girardi called him into 12 September games and he delivered big time. He gave up just a single run in 14.2 innings and walked just two hitters, winning his only decision and getting credited with 5 holds.

That performance rocketed the southpaw native of Sonora, California to the top of the Yankee bullpen’s depth chart when the team’s 2009 spring training camp opened. Coke, however, got off to a horrible start that year and struggled to regain his first year form right through May. He then put together a brilliant June, but was inconsistent in both July and August. Fortunately for New York, Coke was able to put together his second straight brilliant September and this time it helped the Yankee’s make a successful stretch run to the AL East Diivision title.

He then made a total of four scoreless appearances in the 2009 ALDS and ALCS before getting roughed up a bit by Philadelphia in that tear’s Fall Classic. All-in-all, Coke’s sophomore season was a success, as he led the staff in appearances with 72 and was again a force down the stretch. Though his ERA that year climbed to 4.50 runs, after the Yankees won that World Series I never once thought Phil Coke’s Yankee days were over.

That December, Brian Cashman orchestrated a complicated three-team-trade to bring outfielder Curtis Granderson to New York. As part of that deal, Phil Coke ended up in Detroit along with Yankee outfield prospect, Austin Jackson. Like his first year in New York, Coke had a solid first year with Detroit but has not been as effective since, with one significant exception. During the 2012 ALCS against the Yankees, Tiger skipper Jim Leyland lost all faith in Jose Valverde after the closer gave up two crushing home runs in the ninth inning of Game 1. For the rest of that series he used Coke as his closer and he pitched brilliantly in that role.

Coke shares his July 19th birthday with both the starting second baseman and the starting left fielder on the great 1927 Yankee team as well as this excellent Yankee postseason pitcher.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2008 NYY 1 0 1.000 0.61 12 0 0 0 0 0 14.2 8 1 1 0 2 14 0.682
2009 NYY 4 3 .571 4.50 72 0 13 0 0 2 60.0 44 34 30 10 20 49 1.067
6 Yrs 17 25 .405 4.21 302 15 59 0 0 7 331.1 337 175 155 25 121 260 1.382
DET (4 yrs) 12 22 .353 4.35 218 15 46 0 0 5 256.2 285 140 124 15 99 197 1.496
NYY (2 yrs) 5 3 .625 3.74 84 0 13 0 0 2 74.2 52 35 31 10 22 63 0.991
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/18/2013.

July 11 – Happy Birthday Stan Thomas

thomasYou’ve almost certainly never heard of today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant unless you’re a resident of Rumford, Maine. This right-handed pitcher is the only Major League ballplayer ever born in that New England hamlet. But Stan Thomas was also the winning pitcher of a pretty significant victory in Yankee history.

Thomas had played his collegiate baseball at the University of New Haven and was one of the last draft picks ever made by the old Washington Senators team in 1971, just before that franchise relocated to Arlington, Texas and became the Rangers. During the summer of 1974, he was called up to the Rangers, where he pitched for manager Billy Martin for the first time. The following spring, he made the Texas Opening Day roster and became one of Billy’s go-to guys in the bullpen, getting into 46 games, putting together a 3.10 ERA and earning three saves. He also followed orders. During a spring training contest against the Yankees, Martin most likely told his pitchers he wouldn’t be too upset at all if they threw at Yankee outfielder Elliott Maddox. A week earlier, Maddox had called Martin a liar. In 1973, Maddox was a Ranger outfielder when Martin was hired as the team’s manager. According to Maddox, Martin had promised him playing time with Texas but never followed through. Billy’s method of payback for Maddox’s accusation was revealed early on in that 1975 exhibition game, when Ranger starter Jim Bibby hit the outfielder’s shoulder with a pitch in his first at bat. Then in the sixth, it was Thomas’s turn to defend his skipper. He threw a fastball that whistled over Maddox’s head. Naturally, the Yankee pitchers retaliated and an on-field brawl ensued, which was usually a rare occurrence in a big league spring training game, unless Billy Martin happened to be involved.

As fate would have it, Martin was fired by Texas before the 1975 season ended and then hired by George Steinbrenner to replace Bill Virdon as Yankee skipper. That move doomed Maddox’s future as a Yankee and probably paved the way to the Bronx for Stan Thomas. The pitcher had been traded by the Rangers to the Indians after the 1975 season for ex-Yankee Johnny Ellis. Thomas had pitched well for the Tribe during the ’76 season, appearing in 37 games, winning 4, saving 6 and amassing a career low 2.30 ERA. That July, in a game against Martin’s Yankees, he also got another opportunity to prove to his former and future skipper that he wasn’t afraid to send messages with his fastball. The Yankees were teeing off on Cleveland pitching and drubbing the Indians when late in the game, Thomas hit both Thurman Munson and Willie Randolph with pitches.

As good as Thomas pitched in ’76, Cleveland still chose not to protect him and he was selected by the Mariners in the 1976 AL Expansion Draft. He was having a horrible year for the first-year Mariners, when in August of 1977 he got the word that he had been acquired by the Yankees. He was sent to Syracuse for a while but got called up in September. That 1977 Yankee team had already clinched the Pennant and was going for the club’s 100th victory in its final game of the regular season versus Detroit. Fourteen years had passed since the Bronx Bombers had achieved the century mark, so the game was significant for many Yankee lovers but Billy Martin rightfully couldn’t care less. He was trying to get his team ready for postseason so he rested half his starting line-up and used rookie Ken Clay as his starting pitcher.

Still, despite the second tier lineup, the Yankees had just taken the lead and were ahead of the Tigers 3-2, entering the top of the sixth inning, when Martin inserted Thomas into the game. It wasn’t pretty. Thomas surrendered the lead twice but New York battled back to regain it both times. You wonder why Martin kept Thomas in to finish the game because with his late-season 40-man roster in effect, he had plenty of other choices. Perhaps it was his way of thanking Thomas for sending Maddox that message two year’s earlier or perhaps it wasn’t. Whatever the reason, it was Thomas who pitched stayed on to pitch a hitless ninth inning to earn his only Yankee victory and New York’s 100th win of the 1977 baseball season. The then 27-year-old Thomas, would never again get to throw a pitch in a Major League game.

Thomas shares his birthday with another former Yankee pitcher and this former Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO HBP WHIP
1977 NYY 1 0 1.000 7.11 3 0 2 0 0 0 6.1 7 7 5 0 4 1 0 1.737
4 Yrs 11 14 .440 3.70 111 17 42 3 0 9 265.1 263 135 109 16 110 123 10 1.406
TEX (2 yrs) 4 4 .500 3.60 58 1 23 0 0 3 95.0 94 46 38 3 40 54 3 1.411
CLE (1 yr) 4 4 .500 2.30 37 7 15 2 0 6 105.2 88 33 27 5 41 54 4 1.221
NYY (1 yr) 1 0 1.000 7.11 3 0 2 0 0 0 6.1 7 7 5 0 4 1 0 1.737
SEA (1 yr) 2 6 .250 6.02 13 9 2 1 0 0 58.1 74 49 39 8 25 14 3 1.697
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/11/2013.

July 10 – Happy Birthday Sam Marsonek

marsonekEven though he had been one of the heroes for the Yankees in their 1999 World Series win over the Braves, Chad Curtis’s days in Pinstripes were numbered following that Fall Classic. Why? In August of that year, he had vocally criticized Yankee idol Derek Jeter for not actively defending his teammates in a brawl that took place during a game between New York and Seattle. Sure enough, that December Curtis was traded to the Texas Rangers for two Ranger pitching prospects, Brandon Knight and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant.

Of the two, Sam Marsonek was considered more likely to make it to the big leagues. He was a six foot six inch right-handed native of Tampa, FL, who had been a Ranger first round draft pick in 1996. His numbers were not impressive during the three seasons he had spent in the Texas farm system and they really didn’t improve much during the next four years he spent with four different Yankee minor league clubs. Still, he was called up to the Bronx just before the 2004 All Star break and made his big league debut in a relief stint against Tampa Bay on July 11 of that season. He pitched 1.1 scoreless innings, New York won 10-3 and after the game the Yankee players scattered to enjoy their 3-day All Star break. Marsonek had planned a fishing weekend but he hadn’t planned on slipping on a pier and straining his knee. The injury landed him on the 15-day disabled list and then the 60-day disabled list and then a reassignment back to the Yankee farm system. He would spend the next three years trying to get back to the majors but he never did. Instead, he retired and started the Score International Baseball organization, a combination baseball camp and Christian mission for teenagers.

Marsonek shares his birthday with another former Yankee reliever.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2004 NYY 0 0 0.00 1 0 1 0 0 0 1.1 2 0 0 0 0 0 1.500
1 Yr 0 0 0.00 1 0 1 0 0 0 1.1 2 0 0 0 0 0 1.500
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/9/2013.

June 30 – Happy Birthday Chan Ho Park

parkIt became clear after the Yankees won the 2009 World Series that the team’s front-office was not going to continue it’s free-spending ways. Even though it was their lack of a budget that permitted Brian Cashman to go out and get CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and AJ Burnett the previous year, the Yankee GM was now ready to prove he could play money ball too.

One of Cashman’s first moves after the Bronx Bombers won their 27th World title was to make the Curtis Granderson deal. Every time someone asked him about the trade, he kept reminding the interviewer that Granderson was signed for three years at the relatively minuscule total amount of $17 million. He also wanted to prove that he had been right about Javier Vasquez all along so he put the one-time Yankee disappointment back in pinstripes for just $11.5 million and a one-year deal.

Cashman’s other discount moves that off season included signing Randi Winn and bringing back Nick Johnson as value-based free agents and acquiring today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant to shore up the Yankee bullpen or possibly even the team’s starting rotation. When announcing Chan Ho Park’s free agent signing on February 28,2010, Cashman couldn’t resist reminding reporters that for just $1.2 million, the Yankees were getting the services of the 16-year veteran for less than half of what he had earned in Philadelphia the previous season.

Park’s best years had been as a starter for the Dodgers, for whom he had won 84 games between 1996 and 2001. He then got a huge 5-year, $65 million contract as a free agent with Texas in January of 2002 and proceeded to earn hardly any of it, becoming one of the Rangers’ biggest free agent busts ever. He went to the bullpen full time in 2008 and had just held the Yankees scoreless in four relief appearances against them in the 2009 World Series. Joe Girardi was hoping Park would become one of his most dependable late-inning bridges to Mariano. That didn’t happen.

After 27 appearances for New York, Park’s ERA was 5.60 and the native of South Korea was simply not getting the big outs the Yankees needed him to get. Winn, Johnson and Vasquez also didn’t work out for Cashman. By August, Park was put on waivers and Cashman made a great deal with Cleveland to get Kerry Wood to replace him.

Parks was picked up by the Pirates and finished the 2010 season in Pittsburgh. That turned out to be his final year in the big leagues. Park shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee third baseman, this hero of the 1969 World Series, and Derek Jeter’s predecessor as the Yankees’ starting shortstop.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2010 NYY 2 1 .667 5.60 27 0 15 0 0 0 35.1 40 25 22 7 12 29 1.472
17 Yrs 124 98 .559 4.36 476 287 52 10 3 2 1993.0 1872 1046 965 230 910 1715 1.396
LAD (9 yrs) 84 58 .592 3.77 275 181 20 9 2 2 1279.0 1098 589 536 136 596 1177 1.324
TEX (4 yrs) 22 23 .489 5.79 68 68 0 0 0 0 380.2 423 254 245 55 190 280 1.610
SDP (2 yrs) 11 10 .524 5.08 34 30 0 1 1 0 182.1 196 114 103 23 70 129 1.459
NYM (1 yr) 0 1 .000 15.75 1 1 0 0 0 0 4.0 6 7 7 2 2 4 2.000
PIT (1 yr) 2 2 .500 3.49 26 0 11 0 0 0 28.1 25 14 11 2 7 23 1.129
NYY (1 yr) 2 1 .667 5.60 27 0 15 0 0 0 35.1 40 25 22 7 12 29 1.472
PHI (1 yr) 3 3 .500 4.43 45 7 6 0 0 0 83.1 84 43 41 5 33 73 1.404
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/30/2013.

June 22 – Happy Birthday Jim Bronstad

This 6’3″ right-hander made his big league debut in 1959, as a member of the Yankee bullpen. He lost all three of his decisions but picked up two saves in his 16 appearances that season. He was sent back down to the minors in July of that season and the next time he pitched in the Majors was as a member of the Senators’ 1963 staff.

As I researched Bronstad’s career, I came across newspaper articles from the winter and spring of 1960 that talked about how the Yankees were really expecting this guy to make their big league roster that season. Then I came across a list of Yankee “prospects” who had been invited to the team’s 1960 spring training camp.The pitchers on that list were Bronstad, Bill Bethell, Tom Burrell, Frank Carpin, Ed Dick, Mark Freeman, John Gabler, George Haney, Johnny James, Billy Short, Bill Stafford, Hal Stowe and Don Thompson. Fritz Brickell was the only infield prospect invited to that camp and there were two catchers brought in by the names of Dan Bishop and Joe Miller. The outfielder invitees were Kent Hunt, Deron Johnson, Don Lock, Jack Reed and Roy Thomas. Of these 21 youngsters, only Stafford would end up making what I considered to be a significant contribution to the parent club during their subsequent careers. Deron Johnson and Don Lock would both become solid big leaguers with other organizations and Ken Hunt would have a couple of decent seasons as a member of the Angels. Remember, this was back in 1960, when Major League Baseball had just 16 teams so it was even tougher for a prospect to earn a roster spot with their parent club than it is today. Coincidentally, I was researching this information about the Yankees’ 1960 prospects last evening as I watched one of their 2013 prospects, outfielder Zoilio Almonte, hit his first big league home run against Tampa Bay. The odds are so stacked against these young kids, it truly has been and always will be a huge accomplishment for a young kid to become a star with the same big league organization that signs him.

Bronstad was born in Ft. Worth, TX. Just like “All my Ex’s” there have been some famous Yankees who have lived in Texas. There have not, however been many great Bronx Bombers who were born in the Lone Star State. Mickey Mantle moved his family to Dallas during his playing days. Roger Clemens was born in Ohio but moved to Texas when he was in high school. Andy Pettitte moved there from Louisiana. The honor of being the best-ever Texas-born Yankee is probably currently between Don Baylor, Chuck Knoblaugh and pitcher Ron Davis. Davis, in fact, is the only native born Texan to make an All Star team while wearing the Yankee uniform.

Jim Bronstad’s Yankee and career stats:

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1959 NYY 0 3 .000 5.22 16 3 8 0 0 2 29.1 34 19 17 2 13 14 1.602
3 Yrs 1 7 .125 5.48 45 3 20 0 0 3 93.2 110 61 57 11 37 45 1.569
WSA (2 yrs) 1 4 .200 5.60 29 0 12 0 0 1 64.1 76 42 40 9 24 31 1.554
NYY (1 yr) 0 3 .000 5.22 16 3 8 0 0 2 29.1 34 19 17 2 13 14 1.602
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/22/2013.

June 16 – Happy Birthday Ken Johnson

k.johnsonWhen I first started following the Yankees back in 1960, Major League Baseball was still in the two-league, sixteen-team format that it had been in since 1901. To finish last in an American or National League Pennant race had always meant your team had ended up in eighth place. By 1962 however, both the AL and then the NL had expanded to ten teams and suddenly finishing eighth no longer sounded as forlornly horrible as it had for big league franchises since the turn of the twentieth century. In fact, your team could actually finish ninth and still not be considered the worst team in the league.

The Yankees of course had developed a reputation for finishing in first place but in 1962, their new crosstown rivals, the Mets would begin battling their NL expansion brothers, the Houston Colt 45′s for ninth place bragging rights in the senior circuit. Neither team finished ninth in their 1962 inaugural seasons because Houston was able to surpass a woeful Chicago Cubs team that year and finish in eighth. But for the next four seasons, it was baseball’s first-ever-team based in Texas that won the NL race for ninth place over the Amazin’s and the reason was Houston had much better starting pitching than the Mets.

Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was in the original starting rotation of that Houston expansion team. He joined Turk Farrell and Bob Bruce to give the Colt 45′s a solid trio of starters that made it tough to sweep a series against the early versions of this ball club. That 1962 Houston pitching staff had a 3.83 cumulative ERA (the Mets first year ERA was 5.04.)

Ken Johnson was the ace of that first Houston pitching staff. The native of West Palm Beach, FL had made his big league debut with the Kansas City A’s in 1958 and spent his first three years struggling to establish himself with that very bad A’s team. He ended up in Toronto in 1961, picking for an unaffiliated minor league team in the American Association, when he caught the eye of the Reds, who were at the time in the thick of the NL Pennant race. He joined the Cincinnati starting rotation and finished 6-2 for that NL Championship club. He actually got to pitch two-thirds of an inning of scoreless relief against the Yankees in the ’61 Series. Johnson thought he had found a home but the Cincinnati front office left him unprotected in the NL expansion draft and he became Houston’s 29th pick.

His four-year record with the Colt 45′s was 32-51 but his ERA while there was a very respectable 3.41. The Milwaukee Braves, in search of starting pitching during the 1965 season, acquired Johnson for Lee Maye. With a solid offense finally supporting him, the six foot four inch right hander went 40-25 during his first three seasons with the Braves. He slumped to 5-8 during his fourth year with the team and by 1969 he was 35-years-old.

The Yankees happened to be looking for a right-hander they could add to Ralph Houk’s bullpen and Johnson’s name came up. The Braves sold him to New York on June 10, 1969. He made his pinstriped debut one day after his 36th birthday, pitching two scoreless innings against the Tigers in relief of Mike Kekich. Four days later, Houk inserted him in the tenth inning of a game against the Red Sox and he got shelled and took the loss. It took him a couple of weeks to get used to his new surroundings but by July he had settled down and allowed just one earned run in his six appearances that month. Just as he was getting comfortable working in the Bronx however, Johnson was sold to the Cubs on August 11th.

Johnson’s most famous moment as a big leaguer took place on April 24, 1963, when he became the first MLB pitcher in history to toss and lose a nine-inning no-hitter. In the ninth inning of that Houston-Cincinnati Reds game, Pete Rose tried to break up the hitless performance by bunting for a hit. Johnson fielded the ball cleanly and quickly but his throw to first was wild and Rose advanced to second on the pitcher’s error. After Rose was sacrificed to third, he scored when Houston second baseman, Nellie Fox booted a ground ball and when his team couldn’t score in the bottom of the ninth, Johnson lost the game 1-0.

Johnson shares his June 16th birthday with this other former Yankee reliever and this former Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1969 NYY 1 2 .333 3.46 12 0 8 0 0 0 26.0 19 11 10 1 11 21 1.154
13 Yrs 91 106 .462 3.46 334 231 50 50 7 9 1737.1 1670 778 668 157 413 1042 1.199
ATL (5 yrs) 45 34 .570 3.22 130 104 13 26 3 3 769.2 746 317 275 72 155 390 1.171
KCA (4 yrs) 6 15 .286 5.03 52 9 19 2 0 3 143.0 148 92 80 21 60 96 1.455
HOU (4 yrs) 32 51 .386 3.41 113 106 4 19 3 1 690.2 660 311 262 49 151 471 1.174
MON (1 yr) 0 0 7.50 3 0 2 0 0 0 6.0 9 6 5 1 1 4 1.667
CHC (1 yr) 1 2 .333 2.84 9 1 3 0 0 1 19.0 17 8 6 2 13 18 1.579
CIN (1 yr) 6 2 .750 3.25 15 11 1 3 1 1 83.0 71 33 30 11 22 42 1.120
NYY (1 yr) 1 2 .333 3.46 12 0 8 0 0 0 26.0 19 11 10 1 11 21 1.154
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/16/2013.