Results tagged ‘ shortstop ’

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.

October 4 – Happy Birthday Frank Crosetti

The Yankees had their own California Gold Rush in the 1920′s and ’30′s.  New York’s favorite mine for the precious metal was the Pacific Coast League, which back then was the equivalent of Major League Baseball for the western United States. The team’s prospecting began with San Francisco native Tony Lazzeri who the Yanks acquired from his Salt Lake City PCL team in August of 1925. Four years later, they struck gold again when they purchased the contract of pitcher Lefty Gomez from the San Francisco Seals. Their most famous western find of course was the great Joe DiMaggio, also born in the City by the Bay and also acquired from the Seals in 1934. In between the Gomez and DiMaggio additions came Frankie “The Crow” Crosetti, who was born on today’s date in 1910 in San Francisco. He spent more seasons in a Yankee uniform than any other human being. These included ten seasons as a starting shortstop, seven more as back-up shortstop and then a twenty-season tenure as New York’s third base coach. Not a force with the bat, Frankie was a good base-runner, an excellent fielder and one of the game’s all-time great sign stealers. He was also a skilled bunter and turned the act of getting hit by a pitch into an art form. He became one of Joe McCarthy’s favorite players.

The Yankees of the 1920s were a rowdy bunch, led by the greatest partier and biggest kid in big league history, Babe Ruth. The Yankees of the thirties eventually became the team of Lou Gehrig and McCarthy. They were all business on the field and much more quiet and reserved off of it. Crosetti joined the Yankees as the club was in the process of transitioning from being Ruth’s team to being Gehrig’s. Picking a side was an easy choice for the Crow.

Crosetti was a quiet guy off the field. In his New York Daily News obituary, the writer describes an evening after a Yankee game on the road, at the team’s hotel. Crosetti, Lazzeri and DiMaggio all came down to the lobby at the same time and sat next to each other for an hour and twenty minutes and not one of the three players said a word to each other.

He finished his playing career with a .245 lifetime average. His on base percentage during that time was almost 100 points higher. He collected 1,546 hits and scored 1,006 runs. He was not a great World Series performer although in the 1936 Fall Classic he drove in six runs in New York’s four-game sweep of the Cubs and also hit his one and only postseason home run off of the great but past-his-prime, Dizzy Dean.

He was also a no-nonsense Yankee coach. Crosetti often threw Yankee batting practices and he demanded that every player work on a specific hitting skill when it was their turn in the cage. If someone started swinging for the fences, Yogi Berra remembered Crosetti would actually just walk off the mound and refuse to throw the guy any more pitches. In his book “Ball Four,” Jim Bouton claimed that Crosetti was useless as a coach and hardly ever spoke to or attempted to instruct Yankee players. Ellie Howard later refuted that charge in his own book, claiming Bouton loved everybody on the team when he was pitching good and then hated and blamed everybody when his career went bad. Crosetti retired as a Yankee coach in 1968 but returned to the coaching box for a short time with both the Pilots and Twins.

He died in 2002, at the age of 91. He owned 17 World Series rings. Actually, Crosetti had accumulated so many rings, the Yankees finally started giving him engraved shotguns instead. In all, Crosetti received 23 World Series paychecks as a Yankee player (9) and coach (14). They totaled $142,989.30.

The Crow shares his October 4th birthday with this long ago Yankee spitballer.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1932 NYY 116 461 398 47 96 20 9 5 57 3 51 51 .241 .335 .374 .709
1933 NYY 136 513 451 71 114 20 5 9 60 4 55 40 .253 .337 .379 .716
1934 NYY 138 632 554 85 147 22 10 11 67 5 61 58 .265 .344 .401 .744
1935 NYY 87 351 305 49 78 17 6 8 50 3 41 27 .256 .351 .430 .781
1936 NYY 151 738 632 137 182 35 7 15 78 18 90 83 .288 .387 .437 .824
1937 NYY 149 718 611 127 143 29 5 11 49 13 86 105 .234 .340 .352 .692
1938 NYY 157 757 631 113 166 35 3 9 55 27 106 97 .263 .382 .371 .752
1939 NYY 152 743 656 109 153 25 5 10 56 11 65 81 .233 .315 .332 .647
1940 NYY 145 632 546 84 106 23 4 4 31 14 72 77 .194 .299 .273 .572
1941 NYY 50 170 148 13 33 2 2 1 22 0 18 14 .223 .320 .284 .603
1942 NYY 74 328 285 50 69 5 5 4 23 1 31 31 .242 .335 .337 .672
1943 NYY 95 395 348 36 81 8 1 2 20 4 36 47 .233 .317 .279 .596
1944 NYY 55 220 197 20 47 4 2 5 30 3 11 21 .239 .299 .355 .654
1945 NYY 130 524 441 57 105 12 0 4 48 7 59 65 .238 .341 .293 .634
1946 NYY 28 69 59 4 17 3 0 0 3 0 8 2 .288 .382 .339 .721
1947 NYY 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
1948 NYY 17 16 14 4 4 0 1 0 0 0 2 0 .286 .375 .429 .804
17 Yrs 1683 7268 6277 1006 1541 260 65 98 649 113 792 799 .245 .341 .354 .695
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/4/2013.

September 29 – Happy Birthday Dave Silvestri

sylvestriIt was so nice having the Yankees double A farm team a half hour’s drive away from my back door twenty years ago. We’d put our four kids in the minivan and take them to Heritage Park, which was what they called the home field of the Eastern League’s Albany- Colonie Yankees back then and for less than twenty bucks, my family of six would spend an evening watching players we hoped would some day be on the roster of the big league Yankees. And many were, including the core four of Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte and Posada, the Williams boys, Bernie and Gerald, Roberto Kelly, Jim Leyritz, Andy Stankiewicz, Pat Kelly, Sterling Hitchcock and a host of others who eventually got to play in the Bronx.

One of the Albany-Colonie players who I thought might be a future Yankee star was today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. Back in 1991, Dave Silvestri was the A-C Yankees starting shortstop and leading home run hitter. He belted 19 round-trippers that year and drove in 83 runs. I was hopeful that Silvestri would turn into a pinstriped version of Cal Ripken, a starting shortstop with lots of pop in his bat. He wasn’t perfect. His defense needed work and he struck out a lot but those were common maladies in younger players. He was certainly the organization’s top prospect at short and he continued to pound the ball at the triple A level.  The parent club was terrible back then and had no good shortstops on the roster. Remember Alvaro Espinosa?

But instead of getting a decent shot to play at the top level, the Yanks treated Silvestri like a yo-yo, sending him up and down repeatedly between their big league and Columbus rosters. He played seven games for New York in 1992, seven more in ’93, a dozen in ’94 and his Yankee career high of seventeen in 1995. Meanwhile, Jeter passed him on the organization’s depth chart for shortstops and the Yankees used up all their options on the guy. For a while, it looked as if he would be groomed to play third base, but in the end, the Yankees traded the then 27-year-old native of St. Louis to the Expos for a minor leaguer named Tyrone Horne. Silvestri told a New York Times reporter he couldn’t wait to leave the Yankees so he could play for an organization that would  finally give him a shot at a regular big league job.

The Expos gave Silvestri that shot in 1996, when he appeared in a career-high 86 games for Montreal. But he hit just .204 during that season and he was released at the end of that year. He continued playing, mostly in the minors for three more years.

Silvestri shares his birthday with this former Yankee outfielder, this former starting pitcher and this 1967 Cy Young Award winner.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1992 NYY 7 13 13 3 4 0 2 0 1 0 0 3 .308 .308 .615 .923
1993 NYY 7 26 21 4 6 1 0 1 4 0 5 3 .286 .423 .476 .899
1994 NYY 12 23 18 3 2 0 1 1 2 0 4 9 .111 .261 .389 .650
1995 NYY 17 27 21 4 2 0 0 1 4 0 4 9 .095 .259 .238 .497
8 Yrs 181 401 336 42 68 12 3 6 36 4 56 96 .202 .315 .310 .624
NYY (4 yrs) 43 89 73 14 14 1 3 3 11 0 13 24 .192 .315 .411 .726
MON (2 yrs) 125 283 234 28 52 10 0 3 24 4 43 68 .222 .341 .303 .644
TBD (1 yr) 8 14 14 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .071 .071 .071 .143
TEX (1 yr) 2 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000
ANA (1 yr) 3 11 11 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 .091 .091 .182 .273
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/29/2013.

September 20 – Happy Birthday Tom Tresh

I was seven years old when I heard the news that Tony Kubek was not going to be able to play for the Yankees during the 1962 baseball season because he had to report for National Guard duty. Having just started following the Yankees in 1960, this represented the first time ever that I was about to experience one of my favorite team’s regular players leave the lineup. Up until Kubek’s military call-up, I probably thought only death could separate Skowren from Richardson, from Kubek, from Boyer, from Howard, from Mantle from Maris from Berra, etc.

So who was going to play shortstop for New York? The Yankees answered that question by bringing up Tom Tresh from their Richmond minor league team. Born on September 20, 1937 in Detroit, Tresh was a switch hitter, just like my boyhood hero, Mickey Mantle and his dad Mike had been a catcher for the White Sox in the late thirties and early forties. The Yankees batted Tresh second in the lineup, just like Kubek, and he was having a great year. He had more power than Kubek, hitting 20 home runs in 1962 and he also drove in 93. He wasn’t as good a shortstop as Kubek but not many were. When I learned Kubek would be back in a Yankee uniform in August of that season, I was torn. I liked Tony but this new guy had grown on me. When I heard the Yankees were going to instead use Tresh as their regular left-fielder when Kubek returned, I was an ecstatic young man.

The Yankees ended up winning the 1962 pennant and another World Series and Tresh made the All Star team and was voted the AL Rookie of the Year. I was sure Mantle, Maris and Tresh would be the best outfield in baseball for a long time. Unfortunately, as it turned out, injuries to both Mantle and Maris prevented that from happening. Tresh made the defensive transition to his new position seamlessly, even winning a Gold Glove in 1965. But he never again put together as good an offensive year as he had during his rookie season. Though New York won Pennants in 1963 and ’64, their core group of starting position players got old fast and by 1965, most of their skills had deserted them.  Even the much younger Tresh stopped hitting. His highest single season batting average after 1965 was just .233.

I was shocked back in October of 2008 when a headline at NYTimes.com reported Tom Tresh had died. I was probably more shocked to find out that he was seventy years old at the time. Where have all those Yankee baseball summers gone?

Tresh shares his birthday with another one-time Yankee shortstop prospect.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1961 NYY 9 8 8 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500
1962 NYY 157 712 622 94 178 26 5 20 93 4 67 74 .286 .359 .441 .800
1963 NYY 145 614 520 91 140 28 5 25 71 3 83 79 .269 .371 .487 .857
1964 NYY 153 621 533 75 131 25 5 16 73 13 73 110 .246 .342 .402 .743
1965 NYY 156 668 602 94 168 29 6 26 74 5 59 92 .279 .348 .477 .825
1966 NYY 151 637 537 76 125 12 4 27 68 5 86 89 .233 .341 .421 .762
1967 NYY 130 509 448 45 98 23 3 14 53 1 50 86 .219 .301 .377 .678
1968 NYY 152 590 507 60 99 18 3 11 52 10 76 97 .195 .304 .308 .612
1969 NYY 45 161 143 13 26 5 2 1 9 2 17 23 .182 .269 .266 .534
9 Yrs 1192 4897 4251 595 1041 179 34 153 530 45 550 698 .245 .335 .411 .746
NYY (9 yrs) 1098 4520 3920 549 967 166 33 140 493 43 511 651 .247 .337 .413 .750
DET (1 yr) 94 377 331 46 74 13 1 13 37 2 39 47 .224 .305 .387 .692
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/21/2013.

August 3 – Happy Birthday Kevin Elster

Todays Pinstripe Birthday celebrant is best known for his days with the New York Mets. He started at shortstop for the Amazin’s from 1988 through 1991 and set the since broken Major League record for consecutive error-less games at short with 88 straight during the 1988 and ’89 seasons. Kevin’s problem was his offense or lack there-of. He struggled to hit .230 during his days at Shea. When he hurt his shoulder during the 1991 season and underwent surgery, his Met career was all but over. He was then signed and released by respectively, the Dodgers, Marlins and Padres without appearing in a big league game for any of those teams. The Yankees then signed him in May of 1994 and he played in 13 games in pinstripes during the remainder of the 1994 and beginning of the ’95 seasons before he was again released. He signed with Texas in 1996 and suddenly erupted with his bat, hitting 24 home runs and driving in 99 from the bottom spot in the Rangers’ lineup. That one-time spurt got him a $1.6 million dollar one-year contract with the Pirates in ’97 and another $1.5 million in ’98 but he never again approached those lofty numbers.

Elster was considered a “hunk” by the ladies who used to swoon over him wherever he played. Married and divorced twice, the native of San Pedro, CA once hoped to use those good looks to establish a film career. He did get cast in a small part in the film “Little Big League” in 1994. In 1995,  just before he started his second season with the Yankees, he told a New York Times interviewer that he kept making excuses for his below-average play, especially his poor hitting during the first part of his career. He actually retired after the 1998 season and was working on opening a bar in Las Vegas. An amateur drummer himself, Elster’s plan was to invite musicians to jam there whenever they wanted. Before the idea got off the ground, he accepted an offer to play for the Dodgers in 2000. His one last thrill as a big league player occurred on April 11th of that season, when the Dodgers travelled to San Francisco to face their arch-rival Giants in the first game ever to be played in Petco Park. Elster hit three home runs in that game to lead LA to a win.

Other Yankees born on August 3rd include this one-time phee-nom and  this long-time New York bullpen coach.  I’d also like to wish my oldest son Matthew John, who also happens to be a great Yankee fan, a very happy 35th birthday.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1994 NYY 7 22 20 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 6 .000 .048 .000 .048
1995 NYY 10 18 17 1 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 5 .118 .167 .176 .343
13 Yrs 940 3225 2844 332 648 136 12 88 376 14 295 562 .228 .300 .377 .677
NYM (7 yrs) 537 1765 1584 166 355 75 6 34 174 10 142 242 .224 .288 .343 .631
TEX (2 yrs) 241 932 812 112 199 42 3 32 136 4 85 204 .245 .315 .422 .738
NYY (2 yrs) 17 40 37 1 2 1 0 0 0 0 2 11 .054 .103 .081 .184
LAD (1 yr) 80 259 220 29 50 8 0 14 32 0 38 52 .227 .341 .455 .796
PIT (1 yr) 39 164 138 14 31 6 2 7 25 0 21 39 .225 .327 .449 .776
PHI (1 yr) 26 65 53 10 11 4 1 1 9 0 7 14 .208 .302 .377 .679
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/3/2013.

June 2 – Happy Birthday Gene Michael

michaelIf you weren’t around during the 1960′s when the great New York teams led by Mantle and Maris were doing their thing, you missed a great era of the Yankee dynasty. Fortunately, you also missed the second-half of that decade as well, which means you didn’t see that dynasty crumble, as the players who comprised it grew old or got hurt seemingly all at once. What was left were a bunch of prospects who would never become good big league players along with a few who weren’t yet ready to do so. That forced the Yankees to fill in the holes and gaps with acquisitions from other teams and one of those deals was for a switch-hitting Dodger shortstop named Gene Michael.

The resident of Akron, Ohio had only been in the big leagues for a couple of seasons when the Yanks purchased his contract from Los Angeles, yet Michael was already 30 years old. He was considered a decent fielding shortstop but what had kept him in the minor leagues for so long was his inability to hit. He might have been a switch-hitter but the problem was he really couldn’t swing the bat very well from either side of the plate. In fact, after he averaged just .202 trying to replace Maury Wills as the Dodger shortstop in 1967, Michael spent the following winter in the Florida Instructional League, determined to become a pitcher. That’s when his phone rang and it was Yankee GM Larry MacPhail telling him he was coming to New York where Ralph Houk hoped to make him his starting shortstop. That plan looked like it had flopped decisively after Michael played 61 games at short during the ’68 season and hit just .198. That forced Houk to bring Tom Tresh back in from the outfield to once again play the position at which he had won the 1962 Rookie of the Year Award.

When the 1969 spring training season rolled around, Houk had penciled in Tresh to remain at short but was also hoping Bobby Murcer or Jerry Kenney might win the job in camp. Both players were returning from military service that spring but neither could handle the position and when Tresh started the regular season in a horrible slump, Houk again turned to Michael.

Even though this all happened over 45 years ago, I can remember feeling not-to-thrilled when I heard that Michael was being given the job again. If he had been with the Yankees just a half dozen seasons earlier and hit .198, he’d have been released or buried so deeply in the Yankee farm system his family would have needed a backhoe to find him. So what’s Michael do? He goes out and hits, 272 and fields the position close to brilliantly. Could I have been wrong? Was the player sarcastically nicknamed “Stick” actually evolving into a good stick? Unfortunately no. Houk and Yankee fans like me spent the next four years waiting for Michael to replicate the offense he generated during that 1969 season and he never did.

When Steinbrenner took over the team, Houk left to manage in Detroit and when the Yankees released Michael in January of 1975, he joined the Major in Mo-Town for his final season as a big league player. Steinbrenner may have not respected the Stick as a player but he valued his baseball smarts so he kept giving Michael jobs in the Yankee organization. In 1981, Steinbrenner made him Yankee manager and he had the Yankees in first place when baseball went on strike that June. When play resumed that August, Michael grew so sick of Steinbrenner’s meddling with his handling of the team that he told the Boss to either fire him or shut up. Steinbrenner felt he had no choice but the latter and replaced him with Bob Lemon. The following April, when Lemon’s decision making irked the Boss, he fired him too and replaced him with the Stick.

He would eventually ask Steinbrenner to relieve him as manager because the two argued too much when Michael was in that job. He wanted to work in the Yankee front office and fortunately for the Boss, he gave Michael his wish. So when Faye Vincent suspended the Yankee owner for his roll in the Dave Winfield-Howie Spira episode in 1990, Michael took over control of the organization and is credited with building the team that won four World Series between 1996 and 2000. So the shortstop who signified the end of one Yankee dynasty became the architect of another.

The Stick shares his birthday with this effective Yankee reliever from the late 1990′s, this postseason hero from 2012 and  this former Yankee second baseman.

Michael’s Yankee playing record:

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1968 NYY 61 119 116 8 23 3 0 1 8 3 2 23 .198 .218 .250 .468
1969 NYY 119 464 412 41 112 24 4 2 31 7 43 56 .272 .341 .364 .705
1970 NYY 134 491 435 42 93 10 1 2 38 3 50 93 .214 .292 .255 .548
1971 NYY 139 513 456 36 102 15 0 3 35 3 48 64 .224 .299 .276 .576
1972 NYY 126 430 391 29 91 7 4 1 32 4 32 45 .233 .290 .279 .568
1973 NYY 129 446 418 30 94 11 1 3 47 1 26 51 .225 .270 .278 .547
1974 NYY 81 193 177 19 46 9 0 0 13 0 14 24 .260 .313 .311 .623
10 Yrs 973 3092 2806 249 642 86 12 15 226 22 234 421 .229 .288 .284 .572
NYY (7 yrs) 789 2656 2405 205 561 79 10 12 204 21 215 356 .233 .296 .289 .585
PIT (1 yr) 30 33 33 9 5 2 1 0 2 0 0 7 .152 .152 .273 .424
LAD (1 yr) 98 245 223 20 45 3 1 0 7 1 11 30 .202 .246 .224 .470
DET (1 yr) 56 158 145 15 31 2 0 3 13 0 8 28 .214 .253 .290 .543
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/1/2013.

Michael’s Yankee managing record:

Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
1 1981 43 New York Yankees AL 1st of 2 56 34 22 .607 1 First half of season
2 1981 43 New York Yankees AL 1st of 2 26 14 12 .538 6 Second half of season
3 1982 44 New York Yankees AL 2nd of 3 86 44 42 .512 5
New York Yankees 2 years 168 92 76 .548 4.0
Chicago Cubs 2 years 238 114 124 .479 5.5
4 years 406 206 200 .507 4.6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/1/2013.

May 19 – Happy Birthday Gil McDougald

bd6e9fb2-765d-41c5-a3fb-3ff54c36ef4aThe Yankee teams of the 1950s were among the best in the elite franchise’s illustrious history. Managed by Casey Stengel, they won eight of the decade’s ten possible Pennants and six World Championships. One of the key members of those great teams was a Scottish-American infielder, born in San Francisco by the name of Gil McDougald. Signed by the Yankees out of the University of San Francisco in 1948, McDougald tore up Minor League pitching, averaging .340 during his three-year climb through the Yankee farm system. He was brought up to the Bronx in 1951 along with a much more heralded Yankee rookie named Mantle. It was McDougald who won that season’s Rookie of the Year award with a .306 average. In that year’s World Series against the cross-town Giants, McDougald became the first rookie to hit a grand slam home run in Fall Classic history.

Stengel loved McDougald’s defensive versatility and took full advantage of it. During his career in the Bronx, the infielder played 599 games at second, 508 at the hot corner and another 284 at shortstop and was selected as an All Star at all three positions. He had a lifetime batting average of .276 and hit 112 regular season and seven World Series home runs.

Two line drives had tremendous impact upon McDougald’s career. The first came off the bat of Yankee teammate, Bob Cerv during batting practice before a game in August of 1955. McDougald was standing near second base and the ball struck him in the left ear. Even though no one realized it at the time, the resulting damage caused a gradual hearing loss that resulted in McDougald being almost completely deaf early on in his retirement years. In 1957, another line drive, this one off McDougald’s bat, hit Cleveland Indian pitching sensation, Herb Score square in the face. Score was never again the same pitcher and McDougald later admitted that the incident impacted his play as well.

After the Yankees suffered their heartbreaking loss to the Pirates in the 1960 World Series, the front office informed Gil that he would not be protected in the upcoming AL expansion draft. McDougald decided to call it quits at that time. He died in November of 2010, at the age of 82.

Gil shares his May 19th birthday with this one-time Yankee catcher and this former Yankee starting pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1951 NYY 131 473 402 72 123 23 4 14 63 14 56 54 .306 .396 .488 .884
1952 NYY 152 633 555 65 146 16 5 11 78 6 57 73 .263 .336 .369 .705
1953 NYY 141 614 541 82 154 27 7 10 83 3 60 65 .285 .361 .416 .777
1954 NYY 126 474 394 66 102 22 2 12 48 3 62 64 .259 .364 .416 .780
1955 NYY 141 615 533 79 152 10 8 13 53 6 65 77 .285 .361 .407 .768
1956 NYY 120 518 438 79 136 13 3 13 56 3 68 59 .311 .405 .443 .848
1957 NYY 141 625 539 87 156 25 9 13 62 2 59 71 .289 .362 .442 .804
1958 NYY 138 578 503 69 126 19 1 14 65 6 59 75 .250 .329 .376 .705
1959 NYY 127 481 434 44 109 16 8 4 34 0 35 40 .251 .309 .353 .661
1960 NYY 119 387 337 54 87 16 4 8 34 2 38 45 .258 .337 .401 .737
10 Yrs 1336 5398 4676 697 1291 187 51 112 576 45 559 623 .276 .356 .410 .766
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/19/2013.

April 22 – Happy Birthday Neal Ball

There must have been a slight but confusing communication problem in the New York Highlander clubhouse during the 1908 season. The manager of that team at the start of the season was Hall of Famer, Clark Griffith, who would go on to become the patriarch of baseball in our nation’s capital. Griffith’s ’08 Highlanders were not a very good team. In fact they were so bad, Griffith voluntarily resigned as skipper in early June, telling the press that he had tried everything possible to fix what was wrong with the squad and was simply giving up, indicating that perhaps he himself was a jinx.

I’m sure one of the “everything possible remedies” the bewildered skipper used was regular pep talks to his team. If these were like most managerial pep talks through the ages, Griffith would end his oratories with the battle cry “Now let’s play ball!” Therein may have lied the problem. The Highlander players would probably just sit there looking at each other and thinking to themselves; “We are playing Ball already at shortstop and we’re still losing!”

They would be referring to one Cornelius “Neal” Ball, their 5 foot 7 inch teammate from Grand Haven, MI. Ball started 132 games at shortstop for the Highlanders in that ’08 season, hitting .247 and leading the league in strikeouts with 91. It was the 27-year-old Ball’s first full big league season and it would be his last one with the Yankees. In May of 1909, New York sold Ball to the Cleveland Nats. Two months later, he became the first Major League player in history to execute an unassisted triple play.

Ball and this very good former starting pitcher are the only two members of the Yankee roster I could find who celebrate a birthday on April 22.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1907 NYY 15 47 44 5 9 1 1 0 4 1 1 11 .205 .222 .273 .495
1908 NYY 132 484 446 35 110 16 2 0 38 32 21 91 .247 .284 .291 .575
1909 NYY 8 34 29 5 6 1 1 0 3 2 3 10 .207 .281 .310 .592
7 Yrs 502 1776 1613 163 404 56 17 4 151 92 99 323 .250 .295 .314 .609
CLE (4 yrs) 306 1092 991 99 260 34 13 4 96 49 62 194 .262 .306 .335 .641
NYY (3 yrs) 155 565 519 45 125 18 4 0 45 35 25 112 .241 .278 .291 .569
BOS (2 yrs) 41 119 103 19 19 4 0 0 10 8 12 17 .184 .276 .223 .499
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/22/2013.