Results tagged ‘ second baseman ’
It didn’t take me long to become a huge Willie Randolph fan after the Yankees acquired the second baseman in a December, 1975 trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates. I did not appreciate how the Mets dumped Randolph as Manager during the 2008 season and I can remember being just as upset when the Yankees signed Steve Sax as a free agent to take over the starting second baseman’s job from Willie, after the 1988 season.
Sax had been the NL Rookie of the Year for the Dodgers in 1982 and because he was good looking and did most of his ball-playing right next to Hollywood, you kept seeing him pop up on TV shows whenever a script called for a real ballplayer. But what he was most famous for was the mysterious case of the “Steve Blass” throwing disease he developed during the 1983 season. For those of you who don’t know, Blass was a Pirate pitcher who woke up one day and could no longer throw a baseball over the plate from the pitchers’ mound. I’m not talking about pitches ending up just a little bit off the plate, Blass’s tosses would regularly sale in all directions, five feet from the catcher. Sax’s throws were doing the same thing to his first baseman and it became such a running joke at Dodger Stadium that fans sitting in the box seats behind first base would show up wearing batting helmets. Dodger Manager, Tommy Lasorda tried everything he could think of to fix Sax’s problem. One of his remedies was a gag. Lasorda had a guy put the head of a greased pig in his second baseman’s hotel bed one night with a note threatening Sax with physical harm if he made another errant throw. Sax insists that pig’s head discovery straightened him out. Whatever.
Sax did enjoy three productive seasons in New York from 1989 through 1991, topping the .300 batting average mark in both his first and final years in pinstripes. He also stole 117 bases as a Yankee. Sax was rewarded for his success in New York with a huge eight-figure, four-year contract with the Chicago White Sox. He was a dud in the Windy City, hitting just .236 in his first season with Chicago and getting released by the club the following season. Steve was born in Sacramento and turns fifty-two years old today.
By the way, that’s former Yankee hitting instructor, Frank “Hondo” Howard, pictured with Sax in the above baseball card. Sax must have been standing on a step stool at the time this photo was taken because at 6’7″, big Frank was at least eight inches taller than Sax. Do you remember this other Yankee second baseman who developed his case of Steve Blass throwing disease while he was wearing the pinstripes?
|LAD (8 yrs)||1091||4745||4312||574||1218||159||35||30||333||290||363||406||.282||.339||.356||.696|
|NYY (3 yrs)||471||2104||1918||243||563||88||7||19||161||117||142||128||.294||.342||.376||.718|
|CHW (2 yrs)||200||759||686||94||162||31||4||5||55||37||51||48||.236||.289||.315||.603|
|OAK (1 yr)||7||24||24||2||6||0||1||0||1||0||0||2||.250||.250||.333||.583|
Back in the second decade of the last century, Eddie Collins was considered to be the best second baseman in the American League and today’s birthday celebrant was thought to be the junior circuit’s second best second sacker. For most of that decade, Del Pratt played for the lowly St. Louis Browns. I say lowly because during Pratt’s six years with the team, the Browns’ cumulative record was 380-542 and their highest finish in the standings was fifth place. Things got so bad for the franchise that the suspicious Browns’ owner, who’s last name happened to be “Ball,” accused several of the team’s players of purposely playing poorly so that they’d be traded to a more successful franchise. Pratt reacted angrily to the accusation and actually sued the owner for slander. While his case was still in the courts, Pratt was ironically traded to the Yankees, which sort of indicated that the best way to get traded was not to lay down on the job but instead, to sue your boss.
In any event, Pratt spent three very productive years patrolling the middle of the Yankee infield. He averaged .295 in pinstripes and drove in 97 runs in 1920, his first and only season as a teammate of the great Babe Ruth. Just before Christmas of that same year, the Yankees dealt Pratt to the Red Sox in a deal that brought Waite Hoyt to New York. After two seasons in Boston and two more in Detroit, Pratt retired with 1,996 career hits and a .292 lifetime batting average. He was born in Walhalla, SC, in 1888. He shares his January 10th birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher and this one-time Yankee outfielder.
|SLB (6 yrs)||905||3763||3394||386||957||179||72||21||455||174||239||305||.282||.332||.396||.728|
|NYY (3 yrs)||420||1775||1578||218||465||83||22||10||208||46||121||74||.295||.348||.394||.743|
|BOS (2 yrs)||289||1248||1128||153||352||80||17||11||188||15||97||30||.312||.369||.442||.811|
|DET (2 yrs)||222||827||726||99||222||50||6||1||117||12||56||19||.306||.362||.395||.757|
A Big Apple native and the son of a New York City policeman, Stirnweiss was a superb athlete who became an All-American running back at North Carolina but chose baseball as his career when he signed with the Yankees in 1940. By 1943 he was New York’s starting second baseman and the following year he led the AL in runs, hits, triples and stolen bases. He did even better in 1945, repeating as league leader in all those categories while adding the AL batting crown to his portfolio. But when WWII ended and the Major League rosters were replenished with returning players who had served their country, Snuffy’s production suffered. He was never again the offensive force he had been during the War years but he did evolve into one of baseball’s best defensive second baseman.
He eventually lost the starting second base job to Jerry Coleman. In 1950, the Yankees traded Stirnweiss to the Browns who in turn traded him to Cleveland. When his playing career ended after the 1952 season, Snuffy tried his hand at managing in the minor leagues. When an opportunity in banking opened up in New York City, Snuffy jumped into the new career. He was on his way to a Manhattan luncheon meeting on September 15, 1958 when he was killed in a commuter train wreck in Bayonne, NJ. He was just 40 years old and the father of six young children at the time of the tragedy.
|NYY (8 yrs)||884||3800||3281||562||899||140||66||27||253||130||468||373||.274||.366||.382||.747|
|CLE (2 yrs)||51||111||88||10||19||1||0||1||4||1||22||25||.216||.373||.261||.634|
|SLB (1 yr)||93||381||326||32||71||16||2||1||24||3||51||49||.218||.324||.288||.612|
I remember when the Yankees signed Tony Womack as a free agent to become their starting second baseman for the 2005 season. He was coming off a career year with the NL Champion Cardinals but he was 35 years of age, had no real pop in his bat and didn’t seem to me to be the kind of player Yankee fans would embrace. I was right and Joe Torre evidently agreed with me because Womack lasted only a couple of dozen games as New York’s starting second baseman.
I have to admit, at first, I wasn’t a big fan of Womack’s successor either. When the Yankees brought Robinson Cano up and installed him at second base, he started off pretty slow at the plate, experienced rookie-type-lapses of concentration in the field and he had the most annoying nail-biting habit of any Yankee in history. I was screaming for the Yankees to make a deal to bring back Soriano, confident that “Canoe,” Derek Jeter’s nickname for his new teammate, would be back in Triple A before the 2005 season was over.
This fully underscores why the Yankees paid Joe Torre millions of dollars to make field decisions and never responded to my written offer to manage their team for free. Torre’s patience with his young second baseman was rewarded, when Cano did start hitting, finishing his rookie season with a .297 batting average. He also fielded brilliantly and became a key reason why the Yankees made it to the 2005 postseason.
Cano then got better in both his second and third seasons in the Bronx before he digressed in 2008. I’m not sure what happened to him that season. He made more mistakes in the field and seemed to concentrate less at the plate. Cano had always been an undisciplined hitter, swinging at nearly everything pitchers threw him but during that ’08 season, he was swinging at literally everything.
Fortunately for New York, Cano has been superb ever since, making a gigantic leap during the past three seasons to becoming the best all-around second baseman in the Major Leagues. He makes plays in the field that I’ve never seen made by any second baseman, ever. He has also become one of the game’s great offensive forces, with that special ability to both score and drive in 100 runs per season. Cano is so good and so gifted, it has become easy for fans like me to take some of the extraordinary things he does both at the plate and defensively at second base, for granted. But I don’t think I’m being unfair when I call him out for his propensity to not hustle on the base paths. When he hits a field-able ground ball he often jogs to first and when he hits fly balls deep that have a chance to go out of the park, he goes into his home run trot much too soon. If he’d get rid of both bad habits, he’d be an absolute perfect second baseman. But even if he doesn’t, he’s pretty damn close to perfect anyway.
I first saw Pat Kelly play when he was the starting second baseman for the Albany-Colonie Yankees, New York’s old double A affiliate in the Eastern League. The year was 1990 and Kelly along with Bernie and Gerald Williams helped lead that team to an Eastern League pennant. He was solid defensively, was very quick on the base paths but he had a propensity for striking out too much for a non-power-hitter. Still, by the following season, Kelly found himself in the big leagues as a member of a very mediocre 1991 Yankee team.
Yankee Manager, Stump Merrill had been starting Jim Leyritz at third and was not happy with his defense at the hot corner. New York brought Kelly up in May and Stump inserted him as his everyday third baseman. Playing out-of-position, Kelly did not turn out to be much of an improvement defensively over Leyritz, but he did OK at the plate, hustled his rear end off and remained on the big league roster.
The following season, Buck Showalter replaced Merrill as Yankee skipper and he switched Kelly back to second base. Despite hitting just .226 that year, he started twice as many games at second as Mike Gallego. The following year, the Philadelphia native put together his best big league season, hitting .273 in 127 games for New York in 1993 and setting career highs in just about every offensive category. I remember thinking that Kelly had arrived as a bonafide big league player that season and expected him to enjoy a long and successful career as the Yankee’s starting second baseman.
By 1994, Showalter had Kelly and that entire Yankee team humming on all cylinders, as they streaked to a commanding lead in their Division and Kelly’s average rose to .280. But then the strike happened in August and the rest of the season was cancelled. When the players finally returned to the field in 1995, Kelly hurt his wrist, slumped at the plate and began losing his second base starts to Randy Velarde. But he did come through with the biggest hit of his Yankee career in the third-to-last game of the 1995 season. At the time, the Yankees were battling the Angels for the AL Wild Card spot and were trailing the Blue Jays by a run in the top of the ninth inning in Toronto. Kelly came to the plate with Velarde on first and hit a go-ahead home run. It was a huge hit at the time because Toronto was horrible that year and if the Yankees had lost that game I seriously doubt they would have hung on to finish ahead of the Angels.
As most Yankee fans remember, that team went on to lose to the Mariners in the 1995 ALDS and Steinbrenner then fired Showalter and replaced him with Joe Torre. When Kelly hurt his shoulder that spring and it required surgery, Torre announced that he was going to start Tony Fernandez at second base in 1996. Fernandez then broke his elbow. A scrambling Yankee front office brought in Mariano (We play today, we win today, das eeet) Duncan to play second and he responded by hitting a career-high .340. Kelly’s Yankee career was pretty much over at that point. Even before his big league playing days ended, he had become deeply involved in Australian baseball and he still today serves as a scout specializing in finding playing talent “Down Under” and throughout the entire Pacific rim area.
Kelly shares his October 14th birthday with his former Yankee teammate and current Yankee Manager, this former Yankee outfielder and this former 20-game-winning Yankee pitcher.
|NYY (7 yrs)||591||1937||1719||218||431||97||11||26||183||56||122||354||.251||.309||.365||.674|
|STL (1 yr)||53||170||153||18||33||5||0||4||14||5||13||48||.216||.284||.327||.611|
|TOR (1 yr)||37||130||116||17||31||7||0||6||20||0||10||23||.267||.318||.483||.801|
I have been a huge Willie Randolph fan since 1976, his rookie season with the New York Yankees. When I first heard about the trade with the Pirates that brought Willie to the Bronx I wasn’t thrilled because the Yankees had sent a pretty good starting pitcher named Doc Medich to Pittsburgh, in the deal. It only took me a few games into the 1976 season, however, to realize Randolph was a winner. Though he was only 21 years old at the time, he played like a polished veteran, especially in the field. I loved the way he fluidly brought ground balls hit to him into his body before making the throw. At the plate, Willie was adept at getting on base, stealing important bases, and moving runners into scoring position. The best way I can describe Willie’s impact on the Yankees was that you really noticed how good he was when he wasn’t in the lineup.
Willie was also a great teammate. On a Yankee team that was notorious for clubhouse cliques and animosity, Willie got along with and was respected by everyone and was eventually named Yankee Captain.
I remember the disappointment I felt when Randolph signed with the Dodgers as a free agent after the 1988 season. The Yankees were in the midst of a fifteen-season-long postseason drought and with Randolph leaving, they were losing one of their last links to their glory teams of the seventies. He ended up playing until 1992 and retired with 2,210 lifetime hits (1,731 as a Yankee) 1,239 runs (1,027 with NY) and a .276 lifetime batting average (.275 with NY) over eighteen seasons.
When Willie was named manager of the Mets, I knew he would be a very calm and controlled field boss who treated his players like professionals, respected the skills and opinions of his coaches, and let his team play. He did just that and deserved a much better fate than he received from the team’s front-office.
Willie was born on this date in 1954, in Holly Hills, SC. His family moved to Brooklyn where Willie was raised and played high school baseball. He shares his July 6th birthday with this World War II era Yankee backup catcher and this long-ago Yankee captain.
|NYY (13 yrs)||1694||7464||6303||1027||1731||259||58||48||549||251||1005||512||.275||.374||.357||.731|
|LAD (2 yrs)||171||746||645||77||181||22||0||3||45||8||84||60||.281||.365||.329||.694|
|NYM (1 yr)||90||336||286||29||72||11||1||2||15||1||40||34||.252||.352||.318||.670|
|PIT (1 yr)||30||70||61||9||10||1||0||0||3||1||7||6||.164||.246||.180||.427|
|OAK (1 yr)||93||333||292||37||75||9||3||1||21||6||32||25||.257||.331||.318||.650|
|MIL (1 yr)||124||512||431||60||141||14||3||0||54||4||75||38||.327||.424||.374||.798|
For long-time Yankee fans it was the “Dark Ages.” It was the interval of time that lasted from the day CBS fired Yogi Berra after the Yankees lost the 1964 series to the Cardinals, until the very final day of 1974, when George Steinbrenner signed Catfish Hunter as a free agent. It also happened to be pretty much the same exact period of time that Horace Clarke played second base for the New York Yankees.
We called him “Hoss” back then and I can remember screaming at him through my TV set during the early part of his career, “You stink Hoss!” He really didn’t though. He just had the misfortune of being a Yankee leadoff man in front of young hitters named Bill Robinson, Frank Tepedino and Steve Whitaker instead of young hitters named Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Elston Howard. Clarke amassed over 1200 career hits and 140 stolen bases while with the Yankees. I saw him recently at a Yankee old-timer game with that familiar number 20 on his pinstriped back. I’ve now come to the conclusion that those Dark Age days of rooting for the Yankees would have been even darker if it wasn’t for Hoss. Clarke was born in the Virgin Islands on today’s date in 1940. He shares his June 2nd birthday with his old double play partner with the Yankees, this effective Yankee reliever from the late 1990′s, and this more recent Yankee postseason hero.
|NYY (10 yrs)||1230||5143||4723||543||1213||149||23||27||300||151||357||356||.257||.309||.315||.624|
|SDP (1 yr)||42||99||90||5||17||1||0||0||4||0||8||6||.189||.255||.200||.455|
When the Yankees signed Tony Womack as a free agent after the 2004 season, I was not too excited. He had just completed arguably his best Major League season, hitting .307 and smacking 170 hits and helping to lead St Louis to an NL Championship, but he had hit only.182 in that year’s World Series as the Cardinals got swept by the Red Sox and even though he had lot’s of speed, his ability to get on base was far from impressive. Evidently, Joe Torre was not too excited either because by May of the 2005 season, Robinson Cano was the Yankees’ starting second baseman and the only action Womack was seeing was in the Yankee outfield. During his one and only season in the Bronx, Womack hit .249 and had just a .279 on base percentage. He was shipped to the Reds the following December. Even though it did not work out in New York, Womack had a very good 13-season big league career, winning a ring with Arizona and amassing over 1,300 hits.
|ARI (5 yrs)||629||2744||2521||392||677||98||37||21||200||182||159||303||.269||.314||.362||.676|
|PIT (5 yrs)||351||1475||1362||190||379||55||17||9||103||122||92||210||.278||.325||.363||.688|
|CHC (2 yrs)||40||109||101||10||26||3||1||1||4||3||5||15||.257||.292||.337||.629|
|COL (1 yr)||21||81||79||9||15||2||0||0||5||3||0||9||.190||.200||.215||.415|
|STL (1 yr)||145||606||553||91||170||22||3||5||38||26||36||60||.307||.349||.385||.735|
|CIN (1 yr)||9||23||18||1||4||2||0||0||3||0||4||3||.222||.364||.333||.697|
|NYY (1 yr)||108||351||329||46||82||8||1||0||15||27||12||49||.249||.276||.280||.556|
I remember being pretty happy hearing the news that Andy Fox had made the Yankee’s big league roster coming out of spring training in 1996. Living just a half-hour outside of Albany, I had become a big fan of the Albany Colonie Yankees, New York’s Double A franchise at that time. It was fun watching Fox and teammates like Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mo Rivera play for Albany and having all four of them playing in the Bronx in 1996, made rooting for that Yankee team not just easy, but special. Manager Joe Torre gave Fox quite a bit of playing time that first year, mostly at second base. The guy just loved to play the game and his hustle and enthusiasm was impossible to ignore. Unfortunately, he could not get his average above the .200 mark. At the same time, teammate and fellow second baseman Mariano Duncan was having a career year at the plate relegating Andy to a strict utility role. When he got traded to the Diamondbacks after the 1997 season and hit .277 his first year in Arizona, I thought he was on his way to a solid career. That turned out to be the best year of an otherwise mediocre nine season big league stay that ended when Texas released him in 2004. Andy was born on this date in Sacramento in 1971.
|FLA (4 yrs)||326||905||788||94||185||23||9||10||66||41||89||177||.235||.326||.325||.651|
|ARI (3 yrs)||269||974||862||111||227||37||8||16||87||20||80||174||.263||.343||.381||.724|
|NYY (2 yrs)||135||259||220||39||44||5||0||3||14||13||27||37||.200||.290||.264||.554|
|TEX (1 yr)||12||13||12||2||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||3||.083||.154||.083||.237|
|MON (1 yr)||34||43||43||2||4||0||0||1||1||0||0||16||.093||.093||.163||.256|
If I was given the choice of a back seat to sit in on a historical car ride, I’d have a tough time not selecting the 1936 cross-country trip taken by three members of the New York Yankees. The Yankee front office had just purchased the contract of a young Pacific Coast League ballplayer named Joe DiMaggio. The kid lived in San Francisco as did the two players who composed New York’s starting middle infield back then, shortstop Frankie Crosetti and today’s birthday celebrant, second baseman, Tony “Poosh em Up” Lazzeri. The Yankee front office had arranged to have the two veterans pick up DiMaggio at his home and drive him the three thousand or so miles to St. Petersburg, FL, where the Yankees conducted Spring training.
Lazzeri is still considered to be by many, the greatest second baseman in Yankee franchise history. Born in 1903 in San Francisco, his first year in the Bronx was 1926 and he started fast by belting 18 home runs and driving in 114 runs. He would drive in 100 or more runs seven different times and he finished his fourteen-season career with a .292 lifetime batting average and 1,191 RBI’s. Like Crosetti and DiMaggio, Lazzeri was an Italian-American and before the Yankee Clipper joined him in New York, he had become the number one sports hero of the 1 million plus Italian-Americans who were living in the Big Apple. Perhaps the most amazing thing about his accomplishments on the ball field was the fact that he achieved them while being afflicted with epilepsy, at a time when the disease was poorly treated and very misunderstood.
He played in six World Series as a Yankee and won five rings. He was unceremoniously dumped by New York after hitting a career-low .244, in 1937. He signed with the Cubs in 38 and made it back to the World Series for a seventh time as a part-time player for Chicago. In a bittersweet moment for Tony, the Cubbies lost that Fall Classic to the Yankees. After trying to hang on with Brooklyn and then the New York Giants, Lazzeri retired after the 1939 season. He then became a Minor League Manager for a few years before buying a tavern in his native San Francisco. In 1946, Lazzeri’s wife came home from a vacation to find her husband dead. He apparently fell down the stairs in their home and was killed when his head banged against the bannister. The Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee put Tony’s plaque in Cooperstown, in 1991.
Lazzeri shares his December 6th birthday with this Cuban defector who became a Yankee starting pitcher, this former Yankee coach, this former Yankee catcher and also with this former Yankee outfielder.
|NYY (12 yrs)||1659||7068||6094||952||1784||327||115||169||1157||147||830||821||.293||.379||.467||.847|
|NYG (1 yr)||13||51||44||7||13||0||0||1||8||0||7||6||.295||.392||.364||.756|
|BRO (1 yr)||14||51||39||6||11||2||0||3||6||1||10||7||.282||.451||.564||1.015|
|CHC (1 yr)||54||144||120||21||32||5||0||5||23||0||22||30||.267||.380||.433||.814|