Results tagged ‘ shortstop ’

June 30 – Happy Birthday Tony Fernandez

After the 1994 postseason, the Yankees signed this four-time Gold Glove winner as a free agent to become their starting shortstop. He did not have a very good 1995 season, hitting just .245, although he did become the first Yankee to hit for the cycle since Bobby Murcer pulled it off in 1972. But the Yankees thought Fernandez would provide more offense and when he failed to do so, Bucky Showalter started giving Randy Velarde some starts at short. Then Fernandez got hurt late in the year and while he was on the DL, he watched a young prospect named Derek Jeter fill in at his position. New Yankee manager, Joe Torre decided Jeter would be his starting shortstop in 1996 but his plan was to make Fernandez his starting second baseman. That went up in smoke when Tony broke his elbow during spring training and missed the entire 1996 season. The Yankees let him go after his two-year contract expired and he signed with Cleveland. Fernandez played until 2001 and retired with a .288 lifetime batting average and 2,276 hits.

Tony shares his June 30th birthday with this former Yankee utility outfielder this one-time Yankee third baseman and this one-time Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1995 NYY 108 438 384 57 94 20 2 5 45 6 42 40 .245 .322 .346 .668
17 Yrs 2158 8793 7911 1057 2276 414 92 94 844 246 690 784 .288 .347 .399 .746
TOR (12 yrs) 1450 5900 5335 704 1583 291 72 60 613 172 439 493 .297 .353 .412 .765
SDP (2 yrs) 300 1315 1180 165 323 59 9 8 75 43 111 136 .274 .337 .359 .697
NYM (1 yr) 48 204 173 20 39 5 2 1 14 6 25 19 .225 .323 .295 .618
CLE (1 yr) 120 442 409 55 117 21 1 11 44 6 22 47 .286 .323 .423 .746
CIN (1 yr) 104 422 366 50 102 18 6 8 50 12 44 40 .279 .361 .426 .787
NYY (1 yr) 108 438 384 57 94 20 2 5 45 6 42 40 .245 .322 .346 .668
MIL (1 yr) 28 72 64 6 18 0 0 1 3 1 7 9 .281 .352 .328 .680
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/30/2013.

June 26 – Happy Birthday Derek Jeter

derek-jeterThe great Derek Jeter’s Yankee career will end this year, after his twentieth season as a Yankee. Since he put on the pinstripes the team has made postseason play seventeen times, played in seven World Series and won five of them. He passed Lou Gehrig as the all-time leader in career hits as a Yankee during the 2009 season and in 2011 became the first player in franchise history to reach 3,000 hits while wearing the pinstripes. I consider the five-for-five game he put together to reach that magical plateau one of the greatest all-time individual game performances in Yankee franchise history. He is among the top ten Yankees lifetime in just about every offensive category and in most cases among the top five. As of today, the Captain’s 40th birthday, Jeter is in ninth place on the all-time hits list with 3,387. He needs just 49 more to surpass Cap Anson for sixth place on the all-time list and he will vault by Carl Yastrzemski (3,419) and Honus Wagner (3,420), on his way.

He is an extremely gifted player and team leader who somehow copes perfectly with the stresses of being a star athlete in the Big Apple. There are those who claim Jeter was over-rated. Those of us who follow the Yankees on a game-by-game and season-by-season basis ignore such ignorance.

I’m the first to admit that age has impacted Jeter’s overall abilities on the baseball field, especially in this his final season. He’s not the player he was five years ago. But he was still good enough to lead all of baseball in hits during the 2012 season with 216 and if not for the horrendous ankle injury he suffered in that year’s postseason I believe he might have played another season before retiring. Regardless, this guy is the greatest Yankee shortstop ever and one of the top two or three to ever play the game. Its hard to describe the positive impact this man has had on the game of baseball for the past two decades. He’s my favorite player, my children’s favorite player and my grandchildren’s favorite player.

After the final out of his final game in pinstripes, nobody will ever again wear his number “2” jersey and five years later he will be honored with an induction ceremony in Cooperstown. Watching him earn that ceremony has been one of the great pleasures I’ve experienced as a fifty-four-year fan of the Bombers.

The predictions that Jeter was destined to become a great Yankee that were made at the beginning of his career turned out to be correct. Similar predictions made for this former Yankee outfielder who shares “The Captain’s” June 26th birthday would turn out to be far less accurate. This one-time Yankee LOOGY was also born on this date.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1995 NYY 15 51 48 5 12 4 1 0 7 0 3 11 .250 .294 .375 .669
1996 NYY 157 654 582 104 183 25 6 10 78 14 48 102 .314 .370 .430 .800
1997 NYY 159 748 654 116 190 31 7 10 70 23 74 125 .291 .370 .405 .775
1998 ★ NYY 149 694 626 127 203 25 8 19 84 30 57 119 .324 .384 .481 .864
1999 ★ NYY 158 739 627 134 219 37 9 24 102 19 91 116 .349 .438 .552 .989
2000 ★ NYY 148 679 593 119 201 31 4 15 73 22 68 99 .339 .416 .481 .896
2001 ★ NYY 150 686 614 110 191 35 3 21 74 27 56 99 .311 .377 .480 .858
2002 ★ NYY 157 730 644 124 191 26 0 18 75 32 73 114 .297 .373 .421 .794
2003 NYY 119 542 482 87 156 25 3 10 52 11 43 88 .324 .393 .450 .844
2004 ★ NYY 154 721 643 111 188 44 1 23 78 23 46 99 .292 .352 .471 .823
2005 NYY 159 752 654 122 202 25 5 19 70 14 77 117 .309 .389 .450 .839
2006 ★ NYY 154 715 623 118 214 39 3 14 97 34 69 102 .343 .417 .483 .900
2007 ★ NYY 156 714 639 102 206 39 4 12 73 15 56 100 .322 .388 .452 .840
2008 ★ NYY 150 668 596 88 179 25 3 11 69 11 52 85 .300 .363 .408 .771
2009 ★ NYY 153 716 634 107 212 27 1 18 66 30 72 90 .334 .406 .465 .871
2010 ★ NYY 157 739 663 111 179 30 3 10 67 18 63 106 .270 .340 .370 .710
2011 ★ NYY 131 607 546 84 162 24 4 6 61 16 46 81 .297 .355 .388 .743
2012 ★ NYY 159 740 683 99 216 32 0 15 58 9 45 90 .316 .362 .429 .791
2013 NYY 17 73 63 8 12 1 0 1 7 0 8 10 .190 .288 .254 .542
2014 NYY 66 292 266 26 71 8 1 2 17 3 20 41 .267 .322 .327 .649
20 Yrs 2668 12260 10880 1902 3387 533 66 258 1278 351 1067 1794 .311 .380 .444 .823
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/26/2014.

June 4 – Happy Birthday Phil Linz

When then Manager, Yogi Berra slapped the harmonica out of Phil’s hands on that infamous 1964 Yankee bus ride, Yankee fans would never had guessed that the seemingly quiet and shy Linz was possible of such defiance. In actuality, Linz  was a whacko. He and the even crazier Joe Pepitone had come up through the Yankee farm system together, leaving a trail of behavioral incidents that would have made Charley Sheen blush.

Linz spent four seasons in pinstripes as a utility infielder. He had a good glove and displayed a good enough bat to see plenty of action during his first three years in the big leagues. In fact, Linz started and led off every game of the Yankee’s 1964 World Series against the Cardinals. The two home runs he hit during that Fall Classic would be the highlight of his Yankee career and also the turning point. In 1965, Linz pretty much stopped hitting, averaging just .207 in 99 games. So when Tony Kubek’s bad back forced the Yankee stating shortstop’s early retirement at the age of 29, Linz was bypassed for the job. Instead, New York traded him to Philadelphia, for their starting shortstop, Ruben Amaro. Linz bombed as a Phillie and then played his final two big league seasons as a backup infielder with the Mets.

Phil shares his June 4th birthday with this Yankee coach who as a big league catcher invented the “sit-down strike.” This long-ago Yankee outfielder was also born on this date.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1962 NYY 71 136 129 28 37 8 0 1 14 6 6 17 .287 .316 .372 .688
1963 NYY 72 209 186 22 50 9 0 2 12 1 15 18 .269 .328 .349 .678
1964 NYY 112 417 368 63 92 21 3 5 25 3 43 61 .250 .332 .364 .696
1965 NYY 99 324 285 37 59 12 1 2 16 2 30 33 .207 .281 .277 .558
7 Yrs 519 1518 1372 185 322 64 4 11 96 13 112 195 .235 .295 .311 .606
NYY (4 yrs) 354 1086 968 150 238 50 4 10 67 12 94 129 .246 .314 .337 .651
NYM (2 yrs) 102 340 316 27 66 9 0 0 18 1 14 51 .209 .248 .237 .485
PHI (2 yrs) 63 92 88 8 18 5 0 1 11 0 4 15 .205 .239 .295 .535
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/3/2013.

April 13 – Happy Birthday Kid Elberfeld

elberfeld.jpgHis real name was Norman Arthur Elberfeld and back when he played professional baseball at the turn of the twentieth century, he was considered to be one of the meanest players in uniform. He was so hot-tempered that he was given the nickname “The Tabasco Kid.” Elberfeld’s meanness was not limited to the ball field. He also owned a farm in Tennessee. He was accused of stealing a calf from a neighboring farm. The case ended up in a local court and the ruling went against “The Kid” and he was forced to let his neighbor have the calf. A week later the animal was found poisoned to death.

As far as we know, Elberfeld never poisoned a human being but he did do a tap dance on an opposing player’s back wearing his razor-sharp baseball cleats. He also once threw a handful of mud INSIDE the mouth of an umpire he happened to be arguing with. He poked another ump in the stomach with his finger so many times that the guy started beating Elberfeld over the head with his mask. He would actually get so mad at umpires that he was known to chase men-in-blue around baseball diamonds trying to physically assault them.

This maniac was the first starting shortstop in Yankee (Highlander) history. He played that position from 1903 until he was sold to the Washington Senators after the 1909 season. As hot-tempered as he was, Elberfeld evidently was a pretty skilled player who knew how to get on base. During his seven seasons playing for New York, he batted .268 and had a .340 on base percentage.

At the beginning of the 1908 season, New York Manager, Clark Griffith got into a dispute with the team’s owners and was dismissed. Elberfeld happened to be injured at the time so since he was being paid anyway, the Highlander brain trust made him the team’s Manager. The results were disastrous. The umpires hated him and so did his own players. He piloted the team to an almost comical 27-71 record during the rest of that 1908 season and his big league managerial days were over forever. He played one more season for New York before getting sold to Washington where he was reunited with Clark Griffith.

Also born on April 13th is this older brother of a former Yankee pitcher and this WWII era third baseman.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1903 NYY 90 385 349 49 100 18 5 0 45 16 22 12 .287 .346 .367 .713
1904 NYY 122 511 445 55 117 13 5 2 46 18 37 20 .263 .337 .328 .665
1905 NYY 111 449 390 48 102 18 2 0 53 18 23 16 .262 .329 .318 .647
1906 NYY 99 393 346 59 106 11 5 2 31 19 30 19 .306 .378 .384 .763
1907 NYY 120 505 447 61 121 17 6 0 51 22 36 7 .271 .343 .336 .678
1908 NYY 19 69 56 11 11 3 0 0 5 1 6 3 .196 .328 .250 .578
1909 NYY 106 431 379 47 90 9 5 0 26 23 28 17 .237 .314 .288 .601
14 Yrs 1292 5273 4561 647 1235 169 56 10 535 213 427 165 .271 .355 .339 .694
NYY (7 yrs) 667 2743 2412 330 647 89 28 4 257 117 182 94 .268 .340 .333 .674
DET (3 yrs) 286 1219 1052 175 305 43 20 4 159 48 123 33 .290 .376 .380 .757
WSH (2 yrs) 254 1022 859 111 224 28 6 2 89 43 100 23 .261 .363 .314 .677
BRO (1 yr) 30 71 62 7 14 1 0 0 1 0 2 4 .226 .304 .242 .546
CIN (1 yr) 41 166 138 23 36 4 2 0 22 5 15 6 .261 .378 .319 .697
PHI (1 yr) 14 52 38 1 9 4 0 0 7 0 5 5 .237 .420 .342 .762
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2014.

March 26 – Happy Birthday Brendan Ryan

ryaLast September, the Yankee front office was about to announce that Derek Jeter’s frustrating 2013 season was over. Before they did, they acquired another big league shortstop by the name of Brendan Ryan. At the time of the announcement, I had never heard of Ryan, which was odd because he had been the starting shortstop for both the Cardinals and Mariners for two seasons each.

Unlike Jeter, who was one of baseball’s all-time best-hitting shortstops, Ryan was not a good hitter, averaging just .237 during his almost 700 games in the big leagues. Also unlike Jeter, Ryan was considered one of the very best defensive  shortstops in the game. The Yankees then signed their new acquisition to a two-year contract for $4 million.

I was a bit puzzled by the contract until the Yankees went on their free agent signing spree during the offseason and reloaded their offense with Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. So even if Jeter could not make it back in 2014, the rejuvenated Yankee lineup could score runs without his offense and by using Ryan at short, they could prevent more runs on defense. It seemed a sound strategy.

Ironically, as we approach the end of the first month of the 2014 season, it is Ryan who is on the DL and unable to play, while Jeter looks like he will do just fine in this final year of his brilliant playing career.

Ryan was born in Los Angeles on this date in 1982 and was selected by the Cardinals in the 7th round of the  2003 draft. He bats and throws right-handed and can play second and third in addition to short. He shares his birthday with this former Yankee infielder and  this pacifist WWII era pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2013 NYY 17 62 59 7 13 2 0 1 1 0 2 13 .220 .258 .305 .563
7 Yrs 783 2645 2368 288 562 106 16 19 187 67 189 424 .237 .299 .320 .619
STL (4 yrs) 415 1332 1206 165 312 56 10 9 95 39 88 166 .259 .314 .344 .658
SEA (3 yrs) 351 1251 1103 116 237 48 6 9 91 28 99 245 .215 .286 .294 .580
NYY (1 yr) 17 62 59 7 13 2 0 1 1 0 2 13 .220 .258 .305 .563
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/14/2014.

March 25 – Happy Birthday Woodie Held

One of the Yankees most impacted by the infamous Copa Cabana Nightclub incident wasn’t even there celebrating that night. I’m referring to Woodie Held, a rather free spirited middle infield prospect for New York in the fifties who along with alleged troublemaker Billy Martin, pitcher Ralph Terry and an outfielder named Bob Martyn were traded to Kansas City for reliever Ryne Duren and outfielders Jim Pisoni and Harry “Suitcase” Simpson. Both Martin and Terry would get a chance to return to New York and capture glory in pinstripes. Bob Martyn would never enjoy much success in the big leagues. But Held would go on to play fourteen years in the big leagues and belt 179 home runs.

Back when I was a kid, I collected baseball cards, which in addition to the annual Street & Smith’s Baseball Preview issue were my primary information conduit for the performances and stats of non-Yankee players. I remember checking the backs of cards of every player to find out what teams they played for. It was most likely on the back of the 1961 Woodie Held card pictured with this post that I found out he used to be a Yankee. Once you were a Yankee, I continued to root for your success except when your team happened to be playing the Yankees. That is how and why I became a fan of Woodie Held. I loved his name and I loved the fact that he played in the middle of the infield but could still hit for power. I remember the year I got this card, Maris and Mantle were chasing Ruth but Skowren, Berra, Howard and Blanchard all had more than 20 home runs that season while Clete Boyer (11), Bobby Richardson (3) and Tony Kubek (8) didn’t reach that milestone. I remember looking at Held’s card and seeing he had hit 21 home runs as a shortstop for the Indians in 1960 and 27 the season before. He would hit 23 during the ’61 season. I remember hoping some day he’d return to New York and hit all those home runs as a Yankee shortstop. Of course back then, I didn’t realize that would have been pretty difficult for Held to do since he was a right-handed pull hitter and probably, just like Clete Boyer ended up doing, many of Woodie’s blasts would have been turned into outs by Yankee Stadium’s cavernous left field.

In any event, Held never did come back to the Yankees. He hung on in the big leagues until 1969, quitting when he was 37 years old. He then enjoyed one of the most erratic retirements of any big league player in history. He opened a pizza parlor, ran a lumber yard, he raced snowmobiles, became an iron worker, he worked as a bartender and an electrician. Woodson George Held died in June of 2009 in his adopted home of DuBois Wyoming at the age of 77. He shares his March 25th birthday with this former Yankee outfielder and coach.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1954 NYY 4 5 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 .000 .400 .000 .400
1957 NYY 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
14 Yrs 1390 4647 4019 524 963 150 22 179 559 14 508 944 .240 .331 .421 .753
CLE (7 yrs) 855 3227 2800 372 698 105 16 130 401 10 351 629 .249 .339 .438 .777
KCA (2 yrs) 139 518 457 61 106 16 3 24 66 4 47 109 .232 .308 .438 .746
CAL (2 yrs) 91 219 186 19 36 4 0 4 17 0 23 56 .194 .296 .280 .575
NYY (2 yrs) 5 6 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 .000 .333 .000 .333
BAL (2 yrs) 82 145 123 10 23 6 1 2 13 0 18 42 .187 .301 .301 .602
CHW (2 yrs) 96 141 117 14 18 3 0 3 8 0 18 33 .154 .275 .256 .532
WSA (1 yr) 122 391 332 46 82 16 2 16 54 0 49 74 .247 .345 .452 .797
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/13/2014.

March 19 – Happy Birthday Fritz Brickell

brick.jpgYou’d have to be close to my age to remember a shortstop by the name of Freddie Patek, who started for the very good Kansas City Royal teams of the 1970s. Patek’s nickname was “the Flea” because he was tiny, just 5’5″ tall and also a real pest for Royal opponents to deal with. He had good speed, was a heck of a bunter and every time you looked up he was moving a runner into scoring position, beating out a slow grounder or stealing a base. Patek was the guy I thought about as I completed my research on today’s pretty obscure Pinstripe Birthday celebrant named Fritz Brickell. Like Patek, Brickell was a 5’5″ shortstop. But unlike Freddie, Fritzie never became a real pest for Yankee opponents at the big league level.

Brickell’s dad, also named Fred, had been a Major League outfielder back in the twenties who played against the Yankees in the 1927 World Series. In addition to being short, Brickell had the additional misfortune of being a middle infielder in a Yankee organization during the fifties that was loaded with great middle infielders. Nevertheless, when Fritzie took over for Tony Kubek as starting shortstop for the Yankee’s AAA team in Denver in 1957, he banged 170 hits and averaged .295. That performance convinced the Yankees he deserved some look-sees at the Major League level. The 1959 Yankee club was one of the most disappointing teams in the franchise’s history. They finished in third place in the AL that season with a 79-75 record. They were playing .500 baseball in June when Brickell was called up. Manager Casey Stengel played him in 18 games during the next six weeks and Fritz hit his one and only big league career home run off of Detroit’s Tom Morgan. Unfortunately, given his small strike zone, Brickell did not like to walk. Kubek’s job was safe.

The Yankees sent Fritz back down to Denver at the end of July. The next time he played in Yankee Stadium was 1961 and he was wearing the uniform of the Los Angeles Angels. The Yankees had traded him to LA in April of that year to reacquire Duke Maas. Maas had been a valuable member of the Yankee pitching staff during the previous three seasons but when New York left him unprotected in the AL Expansion Draft of 1960, the Angels snatched him. Brickell was the Angels’ first ever Opening Day starting shortstop but after 21 games he was hitting just .122 and was released. Four years later he was dead, a victim of cancer, at the age of 30.

Fritz was born in Wichita, Kansas on March 19, 1935. Only a small handful of Yankees were born in the home state of the Wizard of Oz. The three most notable are Johnny Damon (Ft. Riley) Ralph Houk (Lawrence) and Mike Torrez (Topeka.)

Brickell shares his birthday with this long-ago starting outfielder for the New York Highlanders.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP
1958 NYY 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1959 NYY 18 41 39 4 10 1 0 1 4 0 1 10 .256 .275
3 Yrs 41 96 88 7 16 1 0 1 7 0 7 19 .182 .242
NYY (2 yrs) 20 41 39 4 10 1 0 1 4 0 1 10 .256 .275
LAA (1 yr) 21 55 49 3 6 0 0 0 3 0 6 9 .122 .218
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/13/2014.

February 19 – Happy Birthday Alvaro Espinosa


The 1989 season was a bad one for Yankee fans. That year’s team became the first New York club in fifteen seasons to lose more regular season games than it won, (74-87.) It was a season of transition for my favorite baseball team but unfortunately, that transition was moving in the wrong direction. That year would be the last time Don Mattingly would average .300 in a full regular season in pinstripes. It was the first time in almost a decade that Dave Winfield wasn’t a Yankee outfielder and the last season Ricky Henderson was. It was the first year of Ron Guidry’s retirement and the final year George Steinbrenner would officially have dictatorial control over all organizational and personnel moves before being suspended for his role in the Howie Spira scandal. The Yankee managers that season were Dallas Green and then Bucky Dent, both of whom were fired, clearing the way for the Stump Merrill era to begin one season later or as I like to refer to it as “the era of being completely Stumped.”

It appeared as if the only good thing happening in Yankee Stadium in 1989 was the introduction of a flashy Venezuelan-born starting shortstop. But alas, even that turned out to be an illusion. When I think of Alvaro Espinosa during his Yankee playing days I’m reminded of a line that comedian Billy Crystal used on Saturday Night Live whenever he impersonated the actor, Fernando Lamas, with one slight modification. “It is better to look good than to play good.”

At first appearance to Yankee fans, Alvaro Espinosa looked like a classic Major League shortstop. He hit .282 his first full year as a Yankee and played shortstop with a flair that often thrilled us.  As time and Yankee seasons wore on however and the team’s losses mounted, it became clear that Espinosa’s defensive skills, though not horrible were far from great and his propensity to swing at terrible pitches on 3-0 counts and his lack of run production made him a liability in the Yankee lineup. When Buck Showalter replaced Stump Merrill in 1992, Espinosa’s three-year reign as New York’s starting shortstop was officially over. There was of course Espinosa’s great gold necklace. I could be wrong but I do believe it was Alvaro who first introduced bling to big league baseball in the Bronx. In any event, happy 52nd birthday to Mr Espinosa and may he enjoy many more. He shares his birthday with this Yankee catcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1988 NYY 3 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
1989 NYY 146 544 503 51 142 23 1 0 41 3 14 60 .282 .301 .332 .633
1990 NYY 150 472 438 31 98 12 2 2 20 1 16 54 .224 .258 .274 .532
1991 NYY 148 509 480 51 123 23 2 5 33 4 16 57 .256 .282 .344 .626
12 Yrs 942 2659 2478 252 630 105 9 22 201 13 76 324 .254 .279 .331 .610
CLE (4 yrs) 344 802 749 88 189 36 2 11 74 4 22 103 .252 .276 .350 .626
NYY (4 yrs) 447 1528 1424 133 363 58 5 7 94 8 46 171 .255 .281 .317 .598
MIN (3 yrs) 70 107 99 9 24 3 0 0 10 0 2 19 .242 .265 .273 .537
NYM (1 yr) 48 144 134 19 41 7 2 4 16 0 4 19 .306 .324 .478 .801
SEA (1 yr) 33 78 72 3 13 1 0 0 7 1 2 12 .181 .213 .194 .408
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/27/2014.

February 13 – Happy Birthday Jim Brideweser

brideweserAs the 1953 season approached, New York’s veteran shortstop, Phil Rizzuto was not enjoying his offseason. Two years removed from his MVP year of 1950, Scooter was getting on in years and slumping at the plate. Yankee GM George Weiss had sent Rizzuto a contract for the ’53 season that included a significant pay cut and to make matters worse, the future Hall of Famer had spent time in the hospital that winter, being treated for some sort of stomach disorder.

Observing all this from his home in California, Yankee skipper Casey Stengel was making plans just in case he did not have the services of Rizzuto on Opening Day of that ’53 season. The Ol Perfessor had two young Yankee shortstop prospects attend his baseball school in Glendale that winter. The first was Andy Carey, who was considered number one in line to succeed Scooter. The second was a University of Southern California graduate by the name of Jim Brideweser.

Brideweser had put himself into contention for the job with a solid 1951 season with the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League. Then in 1952, he saw significant action with the parent club as Rizzuto’s backup. When Carey showed up at the Yanks 1953 spring training camp with a sore arm, Stengel told the Yankee press he was going to start Bridweser at short and give him a “thorough trial” that spring.

Casey was true to his word and as late as March 22nd of that year, he was still telling anyone who’d listen that he was thrilled with Brideweser’s effort that spring.  As the situation played out however, Rizzuto was finally signed and got healthy enough to play 134 games that season and put together a fine bounce-back performance. Carey was switched over to third, where he’d play the rest of his career. Brideweser started the year on the Opening Day roster but spent most of that ’53 season in Syracuse playing for the Yanks Triple A team there. New York GM George Weiss purchased switch-hitting utility infielder Willy Miranda from the Browns that June and he became Rizzuto’s primary backup.

The following May, Brideweser was traded to the Orioles. He would get big league at bats with Baltimore, the White Sox and the Tigers before retiring as a player in 1957 and becoming a high school math teacher and baseball coach.

This long-ago Highlander outfielderthis former University of Michigan quarterback and this first great Yankee first baseman were each also born on February 13th.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1951 NYY 2 8 8 1 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .375 .375 .375 .750
1952 NYY 42 41 38 12 10 0 0 0 2 0 3 5 .263 .317 .263 .580
1953 NYY 7 4 3 3 3 0 1 0 3 0 1 0 1.000 1.000 1.667 2.667
7 Yrs 329 700 620 79 156 22 6 1 50 6 63 78 .252 .322 .311 .633
NYY (3 yrs) 51 53 49 16 16 0 1 0 5 0 4 6 .327 .377 .367 .745
BAL (2 yrs) 164 392 346 34 92 14 3 1 30 3 36 43 .266 .336 .332 .668
CHW (2 yrs) 44 75 69 6 14 4 2 0 5 0 3 10 .203 .247 .319 .565
DET (1 yr) 70 180 156 23 34 4 0 0 10 3 20 19 .218 .307 .244 .550
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/23/2014.

February 1 – Happy Birthday Erick Almonte

almonteI still remember the play. Opening Day 2003, Yanks are playing the Jays in Toronto and leading 1-0 when Derek Jeter walked with one out in the third inning. The next Yankee hitter, Jason Giambi hit a dribbler between the mound and third base. Jay third baseman Erik Hinske, shortstop Chris Woodward and pitcher Roy Halladay all went after the ball with Halladay reaching it first and  nailing Giambi with a good throw to first. Meanwhile, Jeter raced to second and when he saw that neither Hinske or Woodward was covering third he kept running. Ken Huckaby, the Toronto catcher also saw that third base was uncovered and he ran like hell to get there before Jeter. In the mean time, first baseman Carlos Degado threw a bullet to the third base bag, hoping Huckaby would get there before both the ball and Jeter did. Jeter got their first and was safe on the play but a millisecond later, Huckaby arrived and when he tried to catch the ball and stop at the same time, he barreled into the Yankee shortstop, separating his shoulder in the process. Jeter went on the DL for the first time in his career and everyone wondered, what will the Yankees do without their shortstop.

The immediate options to take his place were Enrique Wilson, who was the utility infielder on that year’s Yankee roster or Erick Almonte, who was considered the organization’s top minor league shortstop at that time. The Dominican native had put together some decent offensive seasons in the Yankee farm system up to that point but his bat had actually been regressing more recently. In fact, the year before Jeter’s injury occurred, New York had demoted Almonte from triple A to double A because of his inability to hit.

That’s why everyone was pleasantly surprised when the Yanks decided to go with Almonte and he got off to a torrid start at the plate when he was called up to the Bronx. In his first game he homered, went 2-for-5 and drove in three runs. He hit safely in six of his first seven games and was averaging .333 after his first ten days as the Yankee shortstop. He would tail off a bit but was still hitting .272 when Jeter returned to the lineup in early May and the Yankees were in first place with a three game lead and a 26-10 record. While Yankee fans had missed the Captain, the truth is the Yankee team hadn’t. Erick Almonte had stepped up big time in Jeter’s absence. He would never get another chance to do so.

He was sent back down to Columbus for most of the rest of that 2003 season. He would later sign as a free agent with the Rockies and then play ball in Japan for a few years. He did not get back to the big leagues until 2011, when he made the Milwaukee Brewer roster as a spare outfielder. Unfortunately, he was beaned pretty severely and didn’t get a chance to play much. As of 2013, he was still playing minor league baseball. He turns 36-years-old today.

He shares his birthday with this former Yankee relieverthis Gold-Glove-winning center fielderthis one-time Yankee prospect and the player the Yanks got when they traded Tom Tresh.

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2001 23 NYY AL 8 4 4 0 2 1 0 0 0 2 0 1 .500 .500 .750 1.250
2003 25 NYY AL 31 111 100 17 26 6 0 1 11 1 8 24 .260 .321 .350 .671
3 Yrs 55 144 133 18 31 7 0 2 14 3 8 29 .233 .282 .331 .613
NYY (2 yrs) 39 115 104 17 28 7 0 1 11 3 8 25 .269 .327 .365 .693
MIL (1 yr) 16 29 29 1 3 0 0 1 3 0 0 4 .103 .103 .207 .310
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/1/2014.