Results tagged ‘ shortstop ’

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.

November 28 – Happy Birthday Roxey Roach

Roach2His real name was Wilbur Roach, but he eventually became known better by the nickname “Roxey.” A native Pennsylvanian, Roach seems to have also been a pretty astute businessman and before Ted Williams came along, perhaps the the best fly-fishing ball player ever born.

He started playing minor league ball in 1906, when he was already 23-years-old. He made his big league debut with the 1910 New York Highlanders, a surprisingly good team that would finish 25 games over five hundred that season. That was only good enough for second place, far behind the powerful A’s of Connie Mack.

George Stallings was the skipper of that Highlander ball club and he might have thought Roach had a decent shot at unseating New York’s starting shortstop at the time, the light-hitting John Knight. Roxey appeared in 70 games that year but hit just .214. Mean whiile, Knight had an offensive epiphany, finishing the 1910 season with a .312 batting average, which was about 100 points higher than his lifetime average had been up to that point.

Getting outplayed by Knight was not the only disruption that occurred in Roach’s career that year. George Stallings had suspected that New York’s starting first baseman, Hal Chase was involved with professional gamblers and was throwing games. When he became convinced his suspicions were true, he went to both the League President and the Highlanders’ ownership and demanded Chase be banned. Instead, the team’s owners, who happened to be big gamblers themselves, not only sided with Chase, they fired Stallings and made the first baseman the team’s new manager.

After appearing in just 13 games for New York in 1911, Roach’s contract was sold to a minor league team. Since he owned both a pool hall and a bowling alley back home in Pennsylvania, Roach didn’t need his baseball salary to survive but he kept playing minor league ball and in 1915 signed a contract to play for the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs. At midseason, however, the Buffalo franchise of the upstart Federal League offered him $1,000 more than the Leafs were paying him and he jumped the team to take the raise.

Roxey's Gray Squirrel Tail

Roxey’s Gray Squirrel Tail

When the Federal League folded, Roach continued playing minor league ball, this time in Louisville. He also continued pursuing his favorite sports, which were fly fishing and hunting. Earlier in his career, he had purchased some land in Michigan to serve as his private fish and game preserve. He moved up there, opened a Ford dealership and pursued his passions. It seems that he was also one of the great fly tiers of all time. Known as “patterns” in the sport, Roxey’s Fox Squirrel Tail and Gray Squirrel Tail fly patterns have become famous worldwide among fly fisherman and are still replicated today.

Roxey was also proficient in another area as well. He fathered 14 children. He suffered a fatal heart attack the day after Christmas in 1947.

Roxey shares his birthday with this former Yankee closer and this one-time Yankee phee-nom.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1910 NYY 70 260 220 27 47 9 2 0 20 15 29 34 .214 .313 .273 .586
1911 NYY 13 48 40 4 10 2 1 0 2 0 6 5 .250 .348 .350 .698
4 Yrs 177 680 608 67 151 31 6 3 54 26 52 73 .248 .311 .334 .645
NYY (2 yrs) 83 308 260 31 57 11 3 0 22 15 35 39 .219 .319 .285 .603
WSH (1 yr) 2 2 2 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 .500 .500 2.000 2.500
BUF (1 yr) 92 370 346 35 93 20 3 2 31 11 17 34 .269 .303 .361 .664
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/28/2013.

October 12 – Happy Birthday Tony Kubek

tony.kubekCan you imagine a rookie coming out of the Yankee farm system today and starting 31 regular-season games in right field, 22 in center, 41 at short and 38 more at third base? Then imagine this same 22-year-old kid is able to hit .297 despite all the switching from position to position, wins the Rookie of the Year Award and even hits .286 with two home runs in his very first World Series. I’ve just described Tony Kubek’s very impressive rookie season for the 1957 Yankees. It is no wonder that this native of Milwaukee, who was born on this date in 1935, became one of Casey Stengel’s favorite players. Stengel, after all, was Baseball’s master platooner. In Kubek, he had a very smart, extremely tough kid who had a shotgun for an arm and a very good bat. The only thing he couldn’t do was hit a lot of home runs. Since Stengel wanted outfielders who could hit with power, he gave up playing Tony in the outfield and decided to make him the Yankees’ next shortstop.

That’s where Kubek and Bobby Richardson became the best Yankee double-play combination in my lifetime until Robinson Cano was introduced to Derek Jeter.  Kubek was a three-time All Star and played a total of nine seasons and seven World Series in a Yankee uniform before a bad back hastened his entry into the broadcast booth, where he became one of baseball’s all-time great television analysts. Kubek was the Ford C Frick Award recipient in 2009, putting him the Baseball Hall of Fame for his broadcasting ability.

Kubek shares his October 12th birthday with this former Yankee pitcher and this Yankee utility infielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1957 NYY 127 475 431 56 128 21 3 3 39 6 6 24 48 .297 .335 .381 .716
1958 NYY 138 597 559 66 148 21 1 2 48 5 4 25 57 .265 .295 .317 .612
1959 NYY 132 553 512 67 143 25 7 6 51 3 3 24 46 .279 .313 .391 .704
1960 NYY 147 618 568 77 155 25 3 14 62 3 0 31 42 .273 .312 .401 .713
1961 NYY 153 657 617 84 170 38 6 8 46 1 3 27 60 .276 .306 .395 .701
1962 NYY 45 184 169 28 53 6 1 4 17 2 1 12 17 .314 .357 .432 .789
1963 NYY 135 592 557 72 143 21 3 7 44 4 2 28 68 .257 .294 .343 .637
1964 NYY 106 447 415 46 95 16 3 8 31 4 1 26 55 .229 .275 .340 .615
1965 NYY 109 370 339 26 74 5 3 5 35 1 3 20 48 .218 .258 .295 .553
9 Yrs 1092 4493 4167 522 1109 178 30 57 373 29 23 217 441 .266 .303 .364 .667
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/12/2013.

October 6 – Happy Birthday John Knight

knightI learned a lot about today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant by reading this excellent article authored by Bill Nowlin for the the Society for American Baseball Research. It describes a young man who believed in the power of education and as a high school student in Philadelphia, was genuinely torn between going to college to pursue a career in medicine or playing professional baseball. In the end, the immediate opportunity to start in Connie Mack’s infield for his hometown Philadelphia A’s was just too compelling for John Knight to pass up.

He would become as much of a national sports sensation as one could back in 1905, before radio, television or the Internet were around, when he was the Opening Day nineteen-year-old starting shortstop for Philadelphia and was leading the league with a .400-plus batting average two weeks into the new season. He wasn’t able to maintain that torrid hitting pace and it would be his inability to hit big league pitching that landed him in the minor leagues, playing for the Baltimore Orioles, by 1908. That August, Knight’s contract was purchased by the New York Highlanders.

Knight realized his future in baseball would depend on his ability to become a better hitter and as he joined his new team, he was determined to do so. His efforts certainly bore some fruit. The Highlanders’ first year manager George Stallings made Knight his team’s starting shortstop in ’09 and he hit a career-high .236. In 1910, his offensive epiphany exploded into a .312 batting average and he followed that up by posting a career-high 62 RBIs in 1911. In just six years, he had transformed himself from an offensive liability into one of the game’s better hitting shortstops and Clark Griffith, the former New York manager who now skippered the Senators, noticed. He made it known that he was interested in acquiring Knight and kept poking the Highlander front office with trade offers for the infielder all during the 2011 season. New York finally bit during the 1912 spring training season when they accepted Washington catcher’s Gabby Street for Knight.

His short stay in our nation’s capitol was a disaster. Griffith started Knight at second base and it seemed as if he forgot how to hit and field, both at the same time. He averaged just .161 during the first half of that year and was then sold to a minor league club in New Jersey. He would end up getting a second chance with the Highlanders after he hit .270 for his Jersey City team during the first half of the 1913 season. He did OK with New York, starting at first base and averaging .236 for a very bad Highlander team but it wasn’t good enough to prevent him from getting sold back to the minors at the end of the year. He would remain a minor league player for the rest of his career, finally retiring for good in 1928, at the age of 42.

Knight’s early career start in the big leagues earned him the most appropriate nickname of  “Schoolboy.” At just over six feet two inches tall, Knight was the tallest shortstop in the big leagues.

Knight shares his birthday with this former Yankee outfielder, this former starting pitcher and this other former Yankee starting pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1909 NYY 116 416 360 46 85 8 5 0 40 15 37 68 .236 .311 .286 .597
1910 NYY 117 473 414 58 129 25 4 3 45 23 34 55 .312 .372 .413 .785
1911 NYY 132 542 470 69 126 16 7 3 62 18 42 63 .268 .342 .351 .693
1913 NYY 70 283 250 24 59 10 0 0 24 7 25 27 .236 .310 .276 .586
8 Yrs 767 2988 2664 301 636 96 24 14 270 86 211 448 .239 .300 .309 .609
NYY (4 yrs) 435 1714 1494 197 399 59 16 6 171 63 138 213 .267 .338 .340 .678
PHA (3 yrs) 202 776 717 63 144 26 4 6 61 11 38 157 .201 .244 .273 .517
WSH (1 yr) 32 116 93 10 15 2 1 0 9 4 16 25 .161 .284 .204 .489
BOS (1 yr) 98 382 360 31 78 9 3 2 29 8 19 53 .217 .256 .275 .531
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/6/2013.