Results tagged ‘ shortstop ’

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.