Results tagged ‘ second baseman ’

December 2 – Happy Birthday Ray Morehart

morehartIt took the New York Yankees about two decades to learn how to get to the World Series and a couple more to figure out how to win one, but once they created the formula, they applied it more efficiently than any other franchise in the history of professional sports. It required owners who had lots of money at their disposal who were willing to spend it freely; plus a front-office executive who could convert that money into great scouting, shrewd signings and clever trades; plus a manager who had the ability to put those players on the field and in the positions they needed to be to perform most effectively. But most of all, the Yankee formula for success required getting 25 of the best players possible under contract and then somehow motivating them to deliver when called upon.

No one could blame Miller Huggins if he thought his 1924 Yankee team was a cinch to win a fourth straight AL Pennant or even a second straight World Championship. Instead the team finished second to the Washington Senators and then collapsed to seventh place the following year. How could the fortunes of a team with Babe Ruth in his prime in its lineup reverse so rapidly? Huggins blamed complacency and too much partying off the field. He was determined to shake up his roster by getting rid of some of some veterans and bringing in some young talent that was capable of challenging the Yankee starters for playing time. Those new faces included young Yankee infield prospects like Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri and Mark Koenig and it would be those three Baby Bronx Bombers who helped lead the Yankees back to the World Series in 1926.

Determined not to repeat his mistake, Huggins had Barrow make a deal with the White Sox in January of 1927 that brought catcher Johnny Grabowski and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant to New York for veteran second baseman, Aaron Ward. Originally, the Yankee skipper expected Ray Morehart to be his utility infielder during the 1927 season. The native of Abner, Texas had been known for his defensive ability more than his bat, but he raised some eyebrows when he hit .318 during his final season in Chicago. When he bested all of the great Yankees in that legendary Murderers’ Row lineup with a .378 batting average during his first spring training season with the team, Huggins started thinking he could start Morehart at second. That would permit him to move Lazzeri to short and shift Koenig over to third where he would replace Joe Dugan, who was the only starting infielder on the team who had reached the age of 30. That meant every infielder but Gehrig would have somebody behind him pressing for playing time which suited old “Hug” just fine.

Both Dugan and backup third baseman Mike Gazella started the season hitting the ball well as did both Lazzeri and Koenig. This greatly restricted Morehart’s innings and at bats, which helped turn his hot spring training bat ice cold. Eventually, Huggins did begin playing Lazzeri at both third and short and inserted Morehart at second, where the first-year Yankee impressed everyone with his outstanding defense. The more at bats he got, the better he hit too. He raised his average almost two hundred points over the two months he played regularly and became a valuable little piece of that legendary 1927 Yankee team.

Still, there was too much talent on that roster to keep Morehart a part of it and he was let go following his only year on the team. He would never again appear in a big league ball game. He continued playing minor league ball until 1933.

Morehart shares his birthday with this former Yankee pitcher from the 1930s.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1927 NYY 73 230 195 45 50 7 2 1 20 4 29 18 .256 .353 .328 .681
3 Yrs 177 558 487 82 131 21 7 1 47 10 57 40 .269 .347 .347 .694
CHW (2 yrs) 104 328 292 37 81 14 5 0 27 6 28 22 .277 .343 .360 .702
NYY (1 yr) 73 230 195 45 50 7 2 1 20 4 29 18 .256 .353 .328 .681
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/2/2013.

October 19 – Happy Birthday Sandy Alomar Sr.

The 1974 Yankees opened up their season with a double play combination of Gene Michael at second and Jim Mason at shortstop. Decent defensively, new Yankee skipper, Bill Virdon batted the two switch-hitters eighth and ninth respectively because both men were pretty putrid hitters from both sides of the plate. In an effort to get some more offense from their infield, the Yankees acquired a guy named Fernando Gonzalez from the Royals to play second. He responded by hitting .215 that year. Then just before that season’s trading deadline, the Yankee front-office went out and purchased Sandy Alomar Sr, who was the starting second baseman for the Angels at the time. Virdon handed him the second baseman’s job and Sandy responded well by hitting .269 during the second half of 1974.

As a Yankee fan back then, I can personally attest to the fact that after watching Mason, Michael and Gonzalez consistently fail to produce at the plate, having Alomar in the lineup was a huge offensive upgrade for that 1974 Yankee team.  Sandy Sr. continued to start at second for New York for the entire 1975 season but his hitting fell off that year, when he averaged just .239. His offensive regression helped convince the Yankees to make the deal with Pittsburgh in December of 1975 that brought Willie Randolph to the Bronx. Alomar  lost his starting job to the more talented youngster in 1976 and was traded to Texas in 1977. His 15-season big-league playing career ended the following year and Alomar then began a long coaching career . Today, Sandy, who was born on October 19, 1943 in Salinas Puerto Rico, is best remembered for being the Dad of former big league All Stars Sandy Jr. and Roberto.

Even the most diehard Yankee fans will have a difficult time remembering this starting pitcher from the 1991 Yankee team who happens to share the senior Alomar’s October 19th birthday.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1974 NYY 76 299 279 35 75 8 0 1 27 6 14 25 .269 .302 .308 .610
1975 NYY 151 528 489 61 117 18 4 2 39 28 26 58 .239 .277 .305 .581
1976 NYY 67 178 163 20 39 4 0 1 10 12 13 12 .239 .295 .282 .578
15 Yrs 1481 5160 4760 558 1168 126 19 13 282 227 302 482 .245 .290 .288 .578
CAL (6 yrs) 795 3314 3054 341 758 79 12 8 162 139 209 280 .248 .296 .290 .585
ATL (3 yrs) 117 214 205 23 43 3 1 0 16 13 5 33 .210 .229 .234 .463
NYY (3 yrs) 294 1005 931 116 231 30 4 4 76 46 53 95 .248 .287 .302 .589
CHW (3 yrs) 167 477 436 53 108 10 2 0 16 25 26 48 .248 .290 .280 .570
TEX (2 yrs) 93 128 112 24 28 4 0 1 12 4 9 20 .250 .309 .313 .621
NYM (1 yr) 15 22 22 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 6 .000 .000 .000 .000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/19/2013.

October 1 – Happy Birthday Jimmy Reese

Ron Blomberg appeared in his first Yankee game on August 23, 1968. Incredibly, he was just the second Jew ever to wear a Yankee uniform. The first was today’s birthday celebrant, Jimmy Reese. Reese doesn’t sound like a Jewish name does it? That’s because the second baseman had changed it from Soloman when he was a teenager, knowing he would have better luck making it as a baseball player if he hid his heritage.

In 1929, Reese hit .337 for the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast league. The Yankees paid Oakland $125,000 for the contracts of Reese and his Oakland teammate and double play partner, Lyn Lary. While Lary became the Yankees’ starting shortstop in 1930, Reese sat on the bench behind future Hall of Fame second baseman, Tony Lazzeri. Yankee skipper, Bob Shawkey did manage to get Jimmy into 77 games that year and Reese responded by hitting .346. He also became Babe Ruth’s roommate on the road and one of the Bambino’s best friends and biggest admirers. Ruth’s first question walking into the Yankee clubhouse would often be “Where’s the Jew.” He’d take Reese home for dinner, play cards with him on the long train rides during Yankee road trips, and pull all sorts of pranks on his adoring roommate. When Reese’s average fell to .241 in 1931, the Yankees sold him to the American Association franchise in St. Paul, MN. After a 90-game trial with the Cardinals in 1932, Reese’s big league playing career was over and he headed back to the Pacific Coast League.

After coaching in the Minors for decades, Reese asked the California Angels for a job and was made the team’s conditioning coach in 1972, when he was 71 years old. He spent the next 22 years in that role, becoming one of the most popular personalities ever to wear the Halos’ uniform. He was best known for his incredible skills with a fungo bat. He could hit a ball wherever he wanted to with that bat and would even sometimes pitch Angels’ batting practice with it, hitting one line drive after another right over the plate. The Angels retired his uniform number when he died in 1994. I wonder if that number would have been retired if this New York City native had not made the decision to change his name from Soloman to Reese all those many years ago?

Also celebrating his birthday today is the player the Yankees traded for outfielder Paul O’Neill and this one-time closer who retired with 365 saves.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1930 NYY 77 203 188 44 65 14 2 3 18 1 11 8 .346 .382 .489 .871
1931 NYY 65 265 245 41 59 10 2 3 26 2 17 10 .241 .293 .335 .627
3 Yrs 232 801 742 123 206 39 4 8 70 7 48 37 .278 .324 .373 .697
NYY (2 yrs) 142 468 433 85 124 24 4 6 44 3 28 18 .286 .331 .402 .733
STL (1 yr) 90 333 309 38 82 15 0 2 26 4 20 19 .265 .314 .333 .648
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/1/2013.

July 7 – Happy Birthday Chuck Knoblauch

I had taken my two sons to the second game of the 1998 American League Championship Series against Cleveland. It turned out to be a pitchers’ duel, first between David Cone and Charles Nagy and then each team’s bullpen. The score was tied one to one in the top of the twelfth when Jim Thome led off the inning with a single off of Yankee reliever Jeff Nelson. Enrique Wilson came into run for Thome and the next hitter, Travis Fryman, laid a bunt down the first base line. Knoblauch was covering first when the throw hit Fryman and the ball squirted into foul territory. Instead of going for the ball, Knoblauch decided to argue runner interference with first base umpire John Shulock.

As Knoblauch stood there arguing, Wilson rounded third and scored the go-ahead run as me and my boys and about 57,000 other fans in the Stadium that evening screamed at the clueless Yankee second baseman to get the damn ball. The incident turned what could have been a baseball classic into an extra inning nightmare and I was never ever able to completely forgive Chuck for that bonehead play.

As it turned out, Knoblauch was just not a good fit for the Yankees. The artificial turf in Minnesota had helped him average better than .300 with the Twins and he was never the same hitter on Yankee Stadium turf. He also developed that horrible case of the “Steve Blass” throwing disease that eventually forced Joe Torre to play him at designated hitter.Knoblauch was born on this date in 1968, in Houston.

Knoblauch shares his July 7th birthday with the only former Yankee player to become a big league umpire.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1998 NYY 150 706 603 117 160 25 4 17 64 31 76 70 .265 .361 .405 .765
1999 NYY 150 715 603 120 176 36 4 18 68 28 83 57 .292 .393 .454 .848
2000 NYY 102 457 400 75 113 22 2 5 26 15 46 45 .283 .366 .385 .751
2001 NYY 137 600 521 66 130 20 3 9 44 38 58 73 .250 .339 .351 .691
12 Yrs 1632 7387 6366 1132 1839 322 64 98 615 407 804 730 .289 .378 .406 .783
MIN (7 yrs) 1013 4573 3939 713 1197 210 51 43 391 276 513 453 .304 .391 .416 .807
NYY (4 yrs) 539 2478 2127 378 579 103 13 49 202 112 263 245 .272 .366 .402 .768
KCR (1 yr) 80 336 300 41 63 9 0 6 22 19 28 32 .210 .284 .300 .584
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/7/2013.

November 9 – Happy Birthday Jerry Priddy

Robinson Cano is the latest in a long and illustrious line of great New York Yankee second basemen. The first was Hall of Famer Tony Lazzeri and then Joe Gordon. Later on, both Billy Martin and Bobby Richardson became All Stars for New York at that position, as did the great Willie Randolph. One name not on that list is Jerry Priddy and the late, great Phil Rizzuto was always astonished by that omission. Why? Because Scooter was Priddy’s teammate and double-play partner during their climb through the Yankee’s Minor League organization. During his days in the broadcast booth, Rizzuto would often tell listeners that Priddy had been a much better all-around player than he was and that he could not believe his Los Angeles-born former teammate did not make it big in pinstripes.

Priddy and Rizzuto were so good that when they joined the Yankees in 1941, Manager Joe McCarthy moved Gordon from second base to first so that the two rookies could take over the middle of New York’s infield. Rizzuto held his own at short but Priddy struggled to hit big league pitching. The Yankees might have been more patient with a less cocky rookie, but Priddy was anything but. He told Gordon in spring training that he was a better second baseman than the future Hall of Famer so when he got off to a slow start, his veteran teammates offered no assistance, shed no tears and spared no criticism of the outspoken rookie.

Priddy hit just .213 in 56 games during that rookie season. He did better the following year, hitting .280 as Gordon’s backup but when he complained about a lack of playing time, the Yankees decided to give up on their loud-mouthed prospect and traded him to Washington. He had a good year there and then spent the next three seasons in military service. When he returned, Jerry did evolve into one of the league’s better second baseman, playing eleven seasons in all and averaging .265 lifetime. In the mean time, Scooter played himself into the Hall of Fame and was left wondering why his old teammate wasn’t in there with him.

This former Yankee outfielder and this one too were also born on November 9.

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1941 21 NYY AL 56 194 174 18 37 7 0 1 26 4 18 16 .213 .290 .270 .560
1942 22 NYY AL 59 222 189 23 53 9 2 2 28 0 31 27 .280 .385 .381 .766
11 Yrs 1296 5427 4720 612 1252 232 46 61 541 44 624 639 .265 .353 .373 .725
DET (4 yrs) 451 1933 1677 228 448 77 17 26 176 8 223 216 .267 .355 .380 .735
WSH (3 yrs) 434 1787 1576 164 390 73 14 13 169 21 186 228 .247 .328 .336 .665
NYY (2 yrs) 115 416 363 41 90 16 2 3 54 4 49 43 .248 .341 .328 .668
SLB (2 yrs) 296 1291 1104 179 324 66 13 19 142 11 166 152 .293 .387 .428 .815
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/9/2013.