Results tagged ‘ shortstop ’
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the Scooter do Yankee games. In fact, his memorable on-air birthday wishes to Yankee fans inspired this Blog. One evening toward the end of his career in the Yankee booth, Rizzuto was going through his list of birthday announcements when the late Bobby Murcer interrupted him by asking when he was born. The Scooter didn’t answer the question so I grabbed my copy of the Baseball Encyclopedia and looked it up. Then I looked up Murcer’s, Mantle’s, Mattingly’s etc. As I did so I began to wonder if I could find a current or former Yankee born on each day of the calendar year and the task became my hobby for the next few months.
I never saw Rizzuto play the game but I grew up listening to him. I loved the fact that he was an unabashed “homer” rooting the Yankees on through good times and bad. His stories were priceless, entertaining me almost as much as a Yankee victory. I loved the one he told about spending his wedding night in a round room so he couldn’t corner his wife, Cora. Or when Bill White would ask him if he thought traffic would be bad after the game and Rizzuto would answer. “I don’t know White and I don’t intend to find out.” Or when a batter would hit a pop up and Rizzuto would say “While that ball’s up in the air Seaver I wanna wish Sophie DeCarlo up in Mt. Vernon a happy 80th birthday.” His induction speech at the Baseball Hall of Fame is a classic.
On the field, Rizzuto was one of the most valuable members of the Yankee teams that won five straight pennants from 1949 through 1953. In all he had seven championship rings and he won the 1950 AL MVP award when he reached the 200 hit plateau with a .324 average. He was an expert bunter, base runner and a terrific fielder. The great Ted Williams often stated that Rizzuto was one of the most talented players he had ever seen. I’m glad he made it to Cooperstown while he was still alive. He was truly a Yankee legend.
1974 was a good year for the New York Yankees. After falling eight games back in their Division race by that season’s All Star break, Manager Bill Virdon’s team got hot in the second half and battled Boston and Baltimore for first place, finishing in second, just two games behind the Birds. I remember going absolutely crazy when the Yankees swept Cleveland in a four-game series in late September and climbed into first place. Two days later, their time at the top ended when they lost a double header to the Red Sox. This marked the first time since 1964 that New York had been in first place during the month of September. The starting shortstop on that 1974 Yankee team was today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant. Born in Mobile, AL, in 1950, Mason was one of the last draft choices of the old Washington Senator franchise before they moved to Texas. He played 152 games for New York in 1974, batting .250 but committing 26 errors. He played quite a bit of shortstop for the Yankees the next two seasons as well and he pinch-hit the only Yankee home run in the disastrous 1976 World Series against the Big Red Machine.
Mason had succeeded “The Stick,” Gene Michael as New York’s starting shortstop. Fred Stanley then succeeded Mason. When I see New York sportswriters disparage an aging Derek Jeter’s supposed offensive shortcomings I just laugh. These pundits must have not been around when Michael, Stanley and Mason were around. This trio wrote the book on the offensive shortcomings of Yankee shortstops.
Mason shares his birthday with this long ago Yankee first baseman and this former Yankee infielder and one-time Florida Marlins’ Manager.
|TEX (5 yrs)||232||616||554||52||113||17||2||4||39||0||44||117||.204||.262||.264||.525|
|NYY (3 yrs)||339||974||880||75||183||28||9||8||67||1||66||173||.208||.261||.288||.548|
|MON (1 yr)||40||78||71||3||13||5||1||0||6||0||7||16||.183||.256||.282||.538|
|TOR (1 yr)||22||88||79||10||13||3||0||0||2||1||7||10||.165||.233||.203||.435|
Bucky Dent’s historic home run against the Red Sox that just cleared the Green Monster in Fenway to give the Yankees the lead in the 1978 AL East Divison playoff was not the only dramatic blast hit by a Yankee shortstop in Beantown that season. Slightly over three months earlier, the two teams had met under much different circumstances. It was late June, and instead of being tied for first place, Boston then had a commanding seven game lead over the third place Bombers as the two teams squared off for a Tuesday evening game at Fenway. Billy Martin had not yet lost his job to Bob Lemon and the paranoid Yankee Manager was struggling to keep his drinking, his hatred of Reggie Jackson and his fear of being fired by George Steinbrenner all in check. The Yankees had already been pummeled by Boston the night before, losing the series opener 10-4. Dent had been injured in that game so Martin was starting Fred “The Chicken” Stanley at short in this second of what was a three-game series. Boston had Mike Torrez, the same right-hander Bucky Dent would victimize about 14 weeks later, on the mound.
Martin started Don Gullett. It was just the sixth start of the southpaw’s 1978 season. He had spent the first two months of that year on the DL. Just two weeks later, as Gullett was warming up for another start, he would feel something catch in his left shoulder. Afterwards, when trying to shave in the clubhouse, he would not have enough strength in that pitching arm to lift a razor to his face and would never again throw a baseball in a Major League game.
On that evening in Boston, Gullett did not have his best stuff at the start of the game. In the second inning, the second half of the Red Sox lineup had rallied to score four runs off of him, with three of them coming on a home run by Boston’s ninth-place hitter, Butch Hobson. It looked like another crushing blowout in the making for Martin’s team.
But in the top of the fourth, the Yankee bats came to life and five of the first six hitters reached base safely against Torrez and produced three runs. With Yankees on second and third, Boston Manager, Don Zimmer ordered Torrez to intentionally walk Jim Spencer. That brought up Stanley with the bases loaded and his team trailing by a single digit. He pulled the third pitch of his at bat over the Monster in fair territory for a grand slam. Though they called him “the Chicken,” teammates said he had his chest puffed out like a rooster when he walked back to the dugout after that bases loaded dinger.
Now with a three-run lead, Gullett settled down and pretty much dominated the Boston lineup the rest of the way. Later in the game, Reggie Jackson would add a three-run blast and the Yankees revenged their 10-4 defeat of the night before with a 10-4 victory of their own.
Yankee fans should always remember that even though Dent’s Fenway home run over the Monster off Torrez got a lot more attention, it never would have happened if Stanley had not hit his over that same wall off of that same pitcher, first.
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant was born in Farnhamville, IA on August 13, 1947. He had to be a superb defensive infielder because he lasted for eight seasons in Pinstripes even though he hit just .223 during his Yankee career. Besides that home run in Fenway, the one other exception to his offensive ineptitude came at another opportune time for New York. Stanley hit .333 for the Yankees during their 1976 ALC series against Kansas City. He now works in the San Franciso Giant front office.
|NYY (8 yrs)||521||1157||1008||116||224||18||4||6||78||6||108||133||.222||.299||.266||.565|
|OAK (2 yrs)||167||427||373||48||72||11||0||2||24||2||44||55||.193||.280||.239||.519|
|CLE (2 yrs)||66||175||141||15||31||5||0||2||12||1||29||28||.220||.355||.298||.653|
|MIL (2 yrs)||23||48||43||3||12||2||1||0||4||1||3||8||.279||.319||.372||.691|
|SDP (1 yr)||39||99||85||15||17||2||0||0||2||1||12||19||.200||.306||.224||.530|
I have read a lot of books about baseball in my lifetime. One of the best was “Nice Guys Finish Last,” the autobiography of Leo “The Lip” Durocher. I was not a fan of Durocher’s but I loved his book. I certainly was not alone in my dislike for the outspoken, ego maniacal native of West Springfield, MA, who started his almost fifty-year career in the big leagues as a Yankee shortstop. Miller Huggins loved the kid’s aggressiveness and the New York skipper gradually gave Durocher more and more playing time at short at the expense of the much more mild mannered Mark Koenig. In “Nice Guys Finish Last,” Durocher claims he used to sit right next to Huggins on the bench and write down every move the manager made in a little black book the shortstop carried with him at all times.Huggins biggest problem as Yankee field boss was trying to instill some sense of discipline in Babe Ruth and a core group of his Yankee teammates who seemed to follow the Bambino’s lead on and off the field, regardless if it was good or bad. Huggins began using Durocher’s willingness to do anything he was told to do by his manager as an example for his teammates to follow. Of course, Durocher’s willingness to comply with Huggins every request was looked upon by those same teammates as the age-old practice of ass-kissing. Compounding the young shortstop’s reputation problems was the fact that he dressed in flashy clothes, ate in fancy restaurants and loved to pal around and gamble with celebrities who did not play baseball for a living, all on a rookie’s salary.
On the field, Leo could not hit but he was above average defensively and always gave you the impression he was hustling and playing hard. He surprised many by hitting .270 during his first full season in pinstripes in 1928. He slumped a bit at the plate the following year but what most likely ended Durocher’s slightly longer than two-year Yankee career was the tragic and sudden death of Huggins during the ’29 season. Durocher also claims in his book that it was his propensity to spend a lot more than he was making that got him sold to the Reds after the 1929 season. Specifically, after Yankee GM Ed Barrow refused to give the shortstop a salary advance, Leo told him to “Go F himself.”
Leo went on to enjoy a 17-year playing career with the Reds, the Cardinal’s Gashouse Gang teams and finally the Brooklyn Dodgers. He transitioned into managing in 1939, while still playing for the Dodgers and during his 26 years as a field skipper his record was 2008-1709 and his teams won two NL Pennants and 1 World Series. If you have not read “Nice Guys Finish Last,” I highly recommend you do so and form your own opinions about “Leo the Lip.”
|BRO (6 yrs)||345||1195||1094||97||267||49||12||3||113||6||88||72||.244||.303||.319||.622|
|STL (5 yrs)||683||2587||2395||272||611||100||20||15||294||18||155||201||.255||.302||.332||.634|
|CIN (4 yrs)||399||1332||1223||106||278||49||13||6||97||3||78||122||.227||.275||.303||.579|
|NYY (3 yrs)||210||715||638||100||164||12||11||0||63||4||56||85||.257||.323||.310||.633|
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.
|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|
His 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.
|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||70||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|
Berroa was awful during his 21-game, early-part-of-the-season tenure with the Yankees in 2009. This Dominican’s best years were spent with the Royals. In fact, he was the 2003 AL Rookie of the Year with Kansas City, when he hit .287, smacked 17 home runs, stole 21 bases and drove in 87 runs as the team’s first-year starting shortstop. With New York during their championship season, he was hitting just .136 when he was released that July. He was quickly picked up by the Mets, enabling him to finish his 2009 season in the same city it began.
Russell Earl Dent was a very good defensive shortstop who helped solidify the middle of the Yankee infield when New York acquired him from the White Sox in an April, 1977 trade. Bucky was one of those players who never seemed to be featured in the headlines or a post game report. He just gave his team solid and steady play both in the field and at the plate, game after game. But in one brief shining moment, Bucky Dent became a pinstripe legend, and gave all Yankee fans a thrill that will forever be cited as one of the top moments in franchise history. His home run against Red Sox starter Mike Torrez in the 1978 playoff game to decide the AL East division race, just cleared the top of Fenway’s Green Monster, simultaneously bringing Boston’s dejected left fielder, Carl Yastrzemski to his knees and millions of Yankee fans, screaming in sheer ecstasy, to their feet. Dent’s blast gave the Yankees a lead they never relinquished and they went on to capture their second consecutive World Championship that season. Bucky remained hot in that Fall Classic against the Dodgers, hitting .417, driving in 7 runs and winning the Series MVP award.
He continued to start at shortstop for New York for the next three and a half years before getting traded to Texas for outfielder, Lee Mazzilli, during the 1982 season. In all, the Savannah, Georgia native played for twelve seasons in the big leagues, retiring in 1984 with 1,114 career hits and a .247 lifetime batting average. He then got into coaching, started a very successful baseball instructional school and actually piloted the Yankees for parts of the 1988 and ’89 seasons. I personally will never forget sitting in front of my television set on that early October afternoon in 1978 and hearing Yankee announcer Bill White call out the words “Deep to left…”
Here are Dent’s Yankee and career playing stats:
|NYY (6 yrs)||695||2429||2163||229||518||81||10||27||209||4||174||147||.239||.295||.324||.618|
|CHW (4 yrs)||509||1973||1777||168||462||64||11||10||165||10||117||159||.260||.305||.325||.631|
|TEX (2 yrs)||177||614||563||52||131||24||2||3||48||3||36||41||.233||.278||.298||.577|
|KCR (1 yr)||11||10||9||2||3||0||0||0||1||0||1||2||.333||.400||.333||.733|
Here are Dent’s stats as Yankee manager:
The sky was supposed to be the limit for Andre when he first joined the Yankees in 1981. He had good speed, a decent bat and was a great fielder. Some Big Apple sports pundits were calling him the next Rizzuto. By the summer of 1983 he appeared to be coming into his own. He had officially taken over the starting shortstop position from the veteran Roy Smalley and seemed to be growing more comfortable and confident in both the field and batters box with each game he played.
Then after a thirteen-inning August night-game loss to the White Sox, Robertson went home to his Fort Lee, NJ apartment and called a lady friend who happened to be visiting from Robertson’s home state of Texas. Neither could sleep so they decided to meet and go dancing at Studio 54 and then take pictures of the Statue of Liberty. It was on their way to lower Manhattan on the West Side highway that Robertson crashed his car. He broke his neck and his friend sustained injuries that have paralyzed her for life. Although Robertson’s neck healed, the tragedy derailed his baseball career and by 1985 he was out of the game for good. Robertson was born in Orange, TX. He is 53 years-old today.
Andy was already 27 years old when he made his big league debut for Buck Showalter’s 1992 Yankees. He actually took over for Randy Velarde as that team’s starting shortstop. I had first seen “Stanky” play in 1989, when he started at second base for New York’s Albany-Colonie Double A franchise. The thing that stuck out at you when you watched him on the field was his hustle. That’s why Showalter liked him and gave him the opportunity to play. That first big league season turned out to be the highlight of Andy’s seven-year career in the big leagues. Over time, however, Andy proved he couldn’t hit big league pitching well enough to play every day at that level. Andy was born on this date in 1964, in Inglewood, CA.
Also born on this date in the Big Apple in 1933 was Rocco Domenico Colavito. If you saw him play during the late fifties and sixties, you have to remember how he used to point his bat at the opposing pitcher’s head at the end of his warm-up swings. He only played a part of one season in pinstripes and it was the final season (1968) of his 14-year big league career. He hit the last five of his 374 big league home runs in a Yankee uniform. You can read more about Colavito in this post. This second Yankee outfielder and this former Yankee pitcher were also born on August 10.
|MON (2 yrs)||140||207||184||23||46||14||1||1||14||2||10||34||.250||.296||.353||.650|
|NYY (2 yrs)||132||461||409||57||107||22||2||2||25||9||39||43||.262||.333||.340||.672|
|HOU (2 yrs)||80||134||106||16||20||4||0||1||12||5||24||31||.189||.344||.255||.598|
|ARI (1 yr)||77||155||145||9||30||5||0||0||8||1||7||33||.207||.252||.241||.493|