Results tagged ‘ starting pitcher ’

April 26 – Happy Birthday Ray Caldwell

caldwellRay Caldwell was one of the most interesting Yankees to ever play the game. Born on this date in 1888, in a northwestern Pennsylvania town that now lies under water, Caldwell was working as a telegrapher, when he received an offer to pitch for a C-level minor league ball club in McKeesport, PA. He won 18 games for that team in his professional debut and the next year he was pitching for the New York Yankees.

According to baseball historians, this guy was one of the biggest playboys in the history of the game and one of its heaviest drinkers too. He was also a brilliant pitcher, so good that Washington Senator manager Cal Griffith once offered the Yankees the great Walter Johnson for Caldwell even up.

A tall, slender right-hander, his best seasons for New York were 1914, when he went 18-9 with a 1.94 ERA and the following year, when he won a career high 19 games. He also happened to be one of baseball’s best hitting pitchers and frequently played the outfield on days he wasn’t on the mound.

But whenever it looked as if Caldwell was about to achieve greatness, he went on one of his hard-partying binges, often leaving the ball club for days on end and then suddenly reappearing to accept whatever punishment was thrown at him. His erratic behavior drove all his Yankee managers crazy, especially Frank Chance, who  levied close to a thousand dollars worth of fines against his care-free pitcher during the 1914 season. When Caldwell was openly considering jumping to the upstart Federal League, however, Yankee owner Frank Farrell forgave the fines, causing Chance to quit.

When Miller Huggins took over the Yankees, he tried hiring detectives to keep tabs on Caldwell but the pitcher learned how to lose them. Tired of the nonsense, Huggins traded him to the Red Sox after the 1918 season. After half a year with Boston he was dealt to Cleveland, where he had a temporary but glorious rebirth. During the next season and a half he went 25-11 for the Indians and helped get them to the 1920 World Series, which the Tribe won in seven games. After slumping to 6-6 the following year, Caldwell’s big league days were over, but not his pitching career. Somehow, this guy pitched in the minors for 11 more seasons, finally hanging his glove up for good, in 1933, at the age of 45.

As you might expect, Caldwell’s private life was also pretty chaotic. He got married four times and held all kinds of jobs. He lived to be 79 years old, passing away in 1967.

He shares his April 26th birthday with this Yankee relieverthis former Yankee pitcher who gained most of his fame pitching for another team and this one too.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1910 NYY 1 0 1.000 3.72 6 2 2 1 0 1 19.1 19 8 8 1 9 17 1.448
1911 NYY 14 14 .500 3.35 41 26 13 19 1 1 255.0 240 115 95 7 79 145 1.251
1912 NYY 8 16 .333 4.47 30 26 3 13 3 0 183.1 196 111 91 1 67 95 1.435
1913 NYY 9 8 .529 2.41 27 16 9 15 2 1 164.1 131 59 44 5 60 87 1.162
1914 NYY 18 9 .667 1.94 31 23 7 22 5 0 213.0 153 53 46 5 51 92 0.958
1915 NYY 19 16 .543 2.89 36 35 1 31 3 0 305.0 266 115 98 6 107 130 1.223
1916 NYY 5 12 .294 2.99 21 18 1 14 1 0 165.2 142 62 55 6 65 76 1.249
1917 NYY 13 16 .448 2.86 32 29 3 21 1 0 236.0 199 92 75 8 76 102 1.165
1918 NYY 9 8 .529 3.06 24 21 3 14 1 1 176.2 173 69 60 2 62 59 1.330
12 Yrs 134 120 .528 3.22 343 259 65 184 21 8 2242.0 2089 972 802 59 738 1006 1.261
NYY (9 yrs) 96 99 .492 3.00 248 196 42 150 17 4 1718.1 1519 684 572 41 576 803 1.219
CLE (3 yrs) 31 17 .646 3.95 77 51 18 28 3 4 437.1 478 239 192 17 131 180 1.393
BOS (1 yr) 7 4 .636 3.96 18 12 5 6 1 0 86.1 92 49 38 1 31 23 1.425
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/25/2014.

April 25 – Happy Birthday “?” Ford

Russ.Ford.jpgThe last name of today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant is Ford. He was a two-time twenty game winner as a starter for the Yankee franchise and he was famous for scuffing the baseball with a tiny piece of sandpaper. He admitted to that doctoring after his playing days were over. What was this pitcher’s first name?

You’re wrong if you guessed Whitey. You’re also wrong if you guessed Edward, which was the real first name of one-time Yankee ace Whitey Ford. Whitey was also a two-time twenty-game winner for New York and after he retired in 1967, he also admitted to doctoring the baseball with a small strip of sandpaper attached to his wedding ring. But Whitey Ford wasn’t born on April 25th.

Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant is instead, “Russ” Ford, who was born in Canada on April 25, 1883. He was a right handed pitcher for the New York Highlanders from 1909 until he jumped to the Federal League in 1914. This Ford won 26 games for New York in 1910 and then 22 the following year. According to his New York Times obituary, he invented the “Emory ball” by accident when one of his warm up pitches went flying by the catcher and bounced off a grating. When he got that ball back in his glove, he noticed a scuff mark. He then noticed that every pitch he threw with that scuffed baseball moved much more sharply than even his spitball did. That’s when Ford began concealing and carrying sandpaper with him to the mound.

After his two straight 20-win seasons, Ford lost 21 games for the 1912 Highlanders and then went 12-18 for the 1913 team that by then had officially changed its name to the New York Yankees. Those two bad years helped make Ford’s jump to the upstart Federal League in 1914 much easier for the Yankees to swallow. In fact, when AL President Ban Johnson offered to go to court to protect the Yankee’s contractual rights to the pitcher, Frank Chance, the New York Manager at the time told Johnson not to even bother.

This former Yankee reliever and this Cuban defector also celebrate their birthdays on April 25th.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO WHIP
1909 NYY 0 0 9.00 1 0 1 0 0 0 3.0 4 4 3 0 4 2 2.667
1910 NYY 26 6 .813 1.65 36 33 3 29 8 1 299.2 194 69 55 4 70 209 0.881
1911 NYY 22 11 .667 2.27 37 33 4 26 1 0 281.1 251 119 71 3 76 158 1.162
1912 NYY 13 21 .382 3.55 36 35 1 30 0 0 291.2 317 165 115 11 79 112 1.358
1913 NYY 12 18 .400 2.66 33 28 5 15 1 2 237.0 244 101 70 9 58 72 1.274
7 Yrs 99 71 .582 2.59 199 170 28 126 15 9 1487.1 1340 595 428 45 376 710 1.154
NYY (5 yrs) 73 56 .566 2.54 143 129 14 100 10 3 1112.2 1010 458 314 27 287 553 1.166
BUF (2 yrs) 26 15 .634 2.74 56 41 14 26 5 6 374.2 330 137 114 18 89 157 1.118
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/24/2013.

April 22 – Happy Birthday Jimmy Key

After a solid nine-year career with the Blue Jays, this left-hander was signed as a free agent by New York after the 1992 season to become the ace of the Yankee rotation. For the next two years, Key was exactly that, winning
thirty five games and losing just ten. He got beat out for the AL Cy Young Award during the strike-shortened 1994 season by future Yankee teammate, David Cone. A rotator cuff injury then wiped out his 1995 season. He had an ok 12-11 record in 1996 but then got the opportunity to win the sixth and final game of that year’s World Series against Atlanta in his final performance in pinstripes.

I remember thinking the Yankees had gone crazy after that Fall Classic, when they let both Key and the Series MVP, closer John Wetteland, sign with other teams. Key signed a nice deal with the Orioles but he really wanted to stay in New York. Turns out that rotator cuff injury that sidelined him in ’95 was enough to convince the New York front office they couldn’t match Baltimore’s guarantee of a second year. Key pitched well for the Birds in 1997, going 16-10 but when he fell off to 6-3 the following season he decided to call it quits, doing so with a 186-117 lifetime record.

The retired southpaw made Big Apple back page headlines again during the 1999 preseason when the Yankees approached him about coming out of retirement to pitch in their bullpen. Key had made his big league debut as a closer for the Blue Jays back in 1984, saving ten games in his rookie season. The native of Hunstville, AL quickly threw cold water over the comeback rumors when he insisted he was done with baseball for good.

Key shares his April 22nd birthday with this one-time New York Highlander shortstop.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1993 NYY 18 6 .750 3.00 34 34 0 4 2 0 236.2 219 84 79 26 43 173 1.107
1994 NYY 17 4 .810 3.27 25 25 0 1 0 0 168.0 177 68 61 10 52 97 1.363
1995 NYY 1 2 .333 5.64 5 5 0 0 0 0 30.1 40 20 19 3 6 14 1.516
1996 NYY 12 11 .522 4.68 30 30 0 0 0 0 169.1 171 93 88 21 58 116 1.352
15 Yrs 186 117 .614 3.51 470 389 28 34 13 10 2591.2 2518 1104 1010 254 668 1538 1.229
TOR (9 yrs) 116 81 .589 3.42 317 250 24 28 10 10 1695.2 1624 710 645 165 404 944 1.196
NYY (4 yrs) 48 23 .676 3.68 94 94 0 5 2 0 604.1 607 265 247 60 159 400 1.268
BAL (2 yrs) 22 13 .629 3.64 59 45 4 1 1 0 291.2 287 129 118 29 105 194 1.344
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/22/2013.

April 19 – Happy Birthday Scott Kamieniecki

kamieniecki.jpgWhen this Michigan native went 10-7 as a starter for the 1993 Yankees I thought it was the beginning of what would become a very good pinstripe pitching career for the right hander. Instead, he got fewer and fewer starts over the next two seasons and actually was sent back down to the minors in 1996, when he was 32 years-old. During the 1995 ALDS, with the Yankees up two games to one over the Mariners, Buck Showalter had pegged Kamieniecki to start Game 4 in Seattle. The night before the game, he and his wife received a call from the baby sitter watching their two kids back home in Michigan telling them that their two children were in the hospital being treated for smoke inhalation, victims of a house fire. Scott and his wife decided that he would stay in Seattle and pitch while she returned home to be with the couple’s two young sons, who both ended up being fine.

He did not pitch well the next night, giving up three runs in the first inning as Seattle evened the series. To make a bad off season even worse, doctors found bone chips in his pitching elbow and he underwent surgery to have them removed. In the mean time, Joe Torre had taken over as Yankee skipper and Kamieniecki would soon became part of a small but vocal group of ex-Yankees who did not like the way they were treated by him.

According to the pitcher, he had fully recovered from the elbow surgery and the new Yankee manager had promised him he’d be given an equal shot at one of the starting spots in the Yankees’ 1996 rotation. Just a day later, Torre told the media that Kamieniecki’s off season surgery had put him behind the other candidates. Even though Torre apologized to him, the episode left a bitter taste in Kamieniecki’s mouth. He started the 1996 season on the DL and later claimed the Yankees forced him to fake the injury to avoid an assignment back to the minors. He ended up spending much of the ’96 season back in the Triple A anyway, contributing just one regular-season win to the Yankees’ championship. He was then released after the season. The Orioles evidently saw enough of Kamieniecki to give him a 3-year free agent contract just shy of $8 million in 1997. He went 10-6 for Baltimore that year, helping the Birds make the playoffs. Old wounds were also reopened when an embarrassed Yankee front office admitted they had not ordered World Championship rings for many of the players who had been part of the 1996 squad, including Kamieniecki. He was then measured for the valuable keepsake but never actually received one.

After his 10-6 1997 performance, Scott’s career faded quickly, as he went a combined 4-10 in ’98 and ’99. He was out of the Majors for good after the 2000 season. He shares his birthday with another pitcher who had problems with a manager and this former Yankee shortstop.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1991 NYY 4 4 .500 3.90 9 9 0 0 0 0 55.1 54 24 24 8 22 34 1.373
1992 NYY 6 14 .300 4.36 28 28 0 4 0 0 188.0 193 100 91 13 74 88 1.420
1993 NYY 10 7 .588 4.08 30 20 4 2 0 1 154.1 163 73 70 17 59 72 1.438
1994 NYY 8 6 .571 3.76 22 16 2 1 0 0 117.1 115 53 49 13 59 71 1.483
1995 NYY 7 6 .538 4.01 17 16 1 1 0 0 89.2 83 43 40 8 49 43 1.472
1996 NYY 1 2 .333 11.12 7 5 0 0 0 0 22.2 36 30 28 6 19 15 2.426
10 Yrs 53 59 .473 4.52 250 138 37 8 0 5 975.2 1006 519 490 105 446 542 1.488
NYY (6 yrs) 36 39 .480 4.33 113 94 7 8 0 1 627.1 644 323 302 65 282 323 1.476
BAL (3 yrs) 14 16 .467 4.71 85 44 19 0 0 2 290.1 298 156 152 31 122 173 1.447
CLE (1 yr) 1 3 .250 5.67 26 0 7 0 0 0 33.1 42 22 21 6 20 29 1.860
ATL (1 yr) 2 1 .667 5.47 26 0 4 0 0 2 24.2 22 18 15 3 22 17 1.784
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/18/2013.

April 8 – Happy Birthday Catfish Hunter

hunter-jim-1979.jpgFrom the moment I started following my Yankees as a six-year-old in 1960 right up until the team’s fifth place finish in the AL Pennant race in 1965, I loved Major League Baseball’s Reserve Clause. It is what had permitted the Yankee’s skillful and ruthless front office to firmly imprison the best baseball talent in America in Pinstripes until they could no longer run, hit, field, or throw or at least until they could be traded for someone who could do these things a bit better.

But after 1966, my stance on the sanctity of this oppressive piece of contract language began to soften. Overnight, the Yankees’ glamorous galaxy of star players seemed to grow old. Compounding the problem was that CBS, the team’s new owner, stopped investing in the Yankee farm system and that thriftiness, combined with the impact of the newly introduced MLB Amateur Draft, caused New York’s cupboard of bonafide home grown prospects to quickly grow bare. Also coming back to bite the team in the rear end was the tendency of the Yankee front office to avoid signing black prospects all throughout the late forties and fifties.

So by the late sixties I was one of the biggest advocates of testing baseball’s reserve clause in the courts and when George Steinbrenner took control of my favorite team, I was actively rooting for Curt Flood’s legal victory.

The New York Yankee’s first signing in Baseball’s new free agent era took place on the very last day of 1974. At the time, Jim Catfish Hunter was the American League’s premier starter. He had just completed a string of four consecutive 20-victory seasons for Oakland, the ace pitcher on a team that had won the last three World Series.

Hunter’s best season in pinstripes turned out to be his first, in 1975. He won 23 of his 37 decisions, threw 7 shutouts and compiled a 2.49 ERA. It wasn’t enough to win the Yankees a pennant but that certainly was not Catfish’s fault. He literally pitched his arm off that year, completing 30 games and amassing 328 innings pitched. In fact, during the three seasons of 1974, ’75 and ’76, Hunter threw 944 innings of baseball and the damage caused to his arm by that strain helps explain why he spent much of his last three seasons with New York on the DL.

What many Yankee fans fail to fully appreciate about Hunter was his ability to pitch effectively and be a clubhouse leader on teams that had rosters full of strong player personalities led by eccentric, very vocal owners. Hunter’s experience with Charley Finley’s Oakland A’s prepared him well for the Bronx Zoo and George Steinbrenner. And even though he had just that one twenty-victory season with the Yankees, Catfish showed his Yankee teammates how to focus on winning while on the field and how to survive the glare of a hyperactive media, monitoring a crazy clubhouse.

I will never forget Catfish’s gutty seven-inning performance in Game 6 of the 1978 World Series. That victory clinched a second straight championship for New York and I felt it was Hunter’s finest moment as a Yankee.

Inducted into Cooperstown in 1987, Catfish died of Lou Gehrig’s disease, twelve years later.

Below is my all-time Yankee free agent lineup. Only players who became Yankees’ originally via free agency are eligible. This disqualifies Yankees like Derek Jeter, who became a free agent while he was a Yankee and re-signed with the team. It also disqualifies free agent signers like Andy Pettitte, who was a Yankee, left and then re-signed with NY as a free agent.

The Pinstripe Birthday Blog’s All-Time Yankee Free Agent Line-Up

1B Mark Teixeira
2B Steve Sax
3B Wade Boggs
SS Tony Fernandez
C Russ Martin/Butch Wynegar
OF Reggie Jackson
OF Dave Winfield
OF Hideki Matsui
DH Jason Giambi
P CC Sabathia
P Catfish Hunter
P Mike Mussina
P David Wells
CL Goose Gossage

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1975 NYY 23 14 .622 2.58 39 39 0 30 7 0 328.0 248 107 94 25 83 177 1.009
1976 NYY 17 15 .531 3.53 36 36 0 21 2 0 298.2 268 126 117 28 68 173 1.125
1977 NYY 9 9 .500 4.71 22 22 0 8 1 0 143.1 137 83 75 29 47 52 1.284
1978 NYY 12 6 .667 3.58 21 20 1 5 1 0 118.0 98 49 47 16 35 56 1.127
1979 NYY 2 9 .182 5.31 19 19 0 1 0 0 105.0 128 68 62 15 34 34 1.543
15 Yrs 224 166 .574 3.26 500 476 6 181 42 1 3449.1 2958 1380 1248 374 954 2012 1.134
OAK (10 yrs) 161 113 .588 3.13 363 340 5 116 31 1 2456.1 2079 947 853 261 687 1520 1.126
NYY (5 yrs) 63 53 .543 3.58 137 136 1 65 11 0 993.0 879 433 395 113 267 492 1.154
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2014.

April 3 – Happy Birthday Art Ditmar

art.ditmarCasey Stengel fell in love with Art Ditmar during the 1959 and 1960 regular seasons. The “Ol Perfessor” had good reason to. Ditmar won 13 games in ’59 and then surprised everyone by leading the Yankees back to the World Series in 1960 by going 15-9. But that’s when Casey overplayed his hand with the right-hander. He gave the Winthrop, MA native the start in Game 1 against the Pirates instead of Whitey Ford. Ditmar lasted only an inning and took the loss. By holding Ford out of Game 1, Stengel could only pitch his left-handed ace twice if the series went to seven games and that of course is exactly what happened. Ditmar got hit hard and yanked early again in Game 5 while Ford pitched complete game shutouts in Games 2 and 6. After the Yankees lost the Series on Bill Mazeroski’s historic game-winning home-run, Stengel was fired and Ditmar’s Yankee career was on borrowed time. During his four-plus seasons in pinstripes, Art went 47-32 with a 3.24 ERA and 11 saves.

Ditmar may have been a big goat in the 1960 Series but he went to court years later to prove he wasn’t the only goat. When Mazeroski hit his home run, the announcer, Chuck Thompson, mistakingly said that the Pirate second baseman had hit a pitch from Ditmar instead of the actual pitcher at the time, Ralph Terry. When one of those “taste great – less filling” Miller Beer commercials repeated the same error in the 1980’s, Ditmar attempted to sue for damages, claiming the advertisement held him up to undeserved public ridicule and might be costing him autograph, special appearance and memorabilia revenues. The judge hearing the case threw the suit out of court.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA FIP G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1957 NYY 8 3 .727 3.25 3.24 46 11 12 0 0 6 127.1 128 55 46 9 35 64 1.280
1958 NYY 9 8 .529 3.42 3.96 38 13 13 4 0 4 139.2 124 71 53 14 38 52 1.160
1959 NYY 13 9 .591 2.90 3.58 38 25 7 7 1 1 202.0 156 75 65 17 52 96 1.030
1960 NYY 15 9 .625 3.06 4.36 34 28 3 8 1 0 200.0 195 77 68 25 56 65 1.255
1961 NYY 2 3 .400 4.64 4.73 12 8 1 1 0 0 54.1 59 33 28 9 14 24 1.344
9 Yrs 72 77 .483 3.98 4.19 287 156 61 41 5 14 1268.0 1237 649 561 138 461 552 1.339
KCA (5 yrs) 25 45 .357 4.97 4.58 119 71 25 21 3 3 544.2 575 338 301 64 266 251 1.544
NYY (5 yrs) 47 32 .595 3.24 3.89 168 85 36 20 2 11 723.1 662 311 260 74 195 301 1.185
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/16/2014.

April 2 – Happy Birthday Mike Kekich

kekichToday’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant is best known for his involvement in one of the most publicized deals in both Yankee and Major League Baseball history. The trade did not take place between two ball clubs and did not require anyone to switch uniforms. Instead, after a dinner party one evening at the home of New York Post sportswriter, Maury Allen, Yankee pitchers Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson agreed to trade families. Kekich’s wife and two daughters would move in with Peterson and Fritzie’s wife and two sons would live with Kekich. As it turned out, Kekich got the short end of that deal.

The left handed fire-baller was once considered the next Sandy Koufak, when the Dodgers drafted him in 1964. He got a chance to pitch with the great one the following season, when LA brought him up for a look-see as a 20-year-old, just before the All Star break. Kekich’s problem on the mound was control. He walked almost as many as he struck out. The Dodgers used him as a starter in 1968 and when he finished that year with a 2-10 record, he was traded to the Yankees for outfielder Andy Kosco. The only thing I remember about that transaction was that it officially converted my big brother Jerry into an ex-Yankee fan for life because for some reason, Andy Kosco was his favorite player.

Over the next four seasons, Kekich evolved into a decent starter for some pretty mediocre Yankee teams. In fact, by 1971, the Yankees had put together a five-man rotation that looked as if it could help get the Yankees back into the pennant picture for seasons to come. In addition to Kekich and Peterson, it included ace Mel Stottlemyre, Stan Bahnsen and Steve Kline, all of whom were younger than 30 and each of whom won in double figures during that ’71 season. Instead, the Yankees proceeded to inexplicably trade Bahnsen for some guy named Rich McKinney and then Peterson and Kekich made that infamous trade of their own.

The family swap worked out for Fritz and Susanne Kekich. The two are still married today. Marilyn Peterson and her two boys left Kekich days after the exchange took place and the pitcher’s personal life and baseball career were pretty much turned upside down. After starting the 1973 season as a Yankee, Kekich was traded to Cleveland for a pitcher named Lowell Palmer. He lasted just one season with the Indians and then started pitching on any team and in any country that would have him. During that period of his life Kekich almost died when he ruptured his spleen trying to break up a player brawl in a Venezuelan league game and almost died again when his motorcycle struck a police car in California. By 1980 he was playing baseball in Mexico by day and enrolled in a course to become a medical doctor, at night. That didn’t work for him either.

Eventually, Kekich did remarry and now lives in New Mexico. He was born in San Diego on this date in 1945. He shared his wife with Peterson and he shares his April 2nd birthday with another former Yankee starting pitcher and this former Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA FIP G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1969 NYY 4 6 .400 4.54 4.07 28 13 6 1 0 1 105.0 91 58 53 11 49 66 1.333
1970 NYY 6 3 .667 4.83 4.65 26 14 4 1 0 0 98.2 103 59 53 12 55 63 1.601
1971 NYY 10 9 .526 4.07 3.87 37 24 5 3 0 0 170.1 167 89 77 13 82 93 1.462
1972 NYY 10 13 .435 3.70 3.84 29 28 0 2 0 0 175.1 172 77 72 13 76 78 1.414
1973 NYY 1 1 .500 9.20 6.18 5 4 0 0 0 0 14.2 20 15 15 1 14 4 2.318
9 Yrs 39 51 .433 4.59 4.16 235 112 48 8 1 6 860.2 875 485 439 80 442 497 1.530
NYY (5 yrs) 31 32 .492 4.31 4.09 125 83 15 7 0 1 564.0 553 298 270 50 276 304 1.470
LAD (2 yrs) 2 11 .154 4.38 3.49 30 21 2 1 1 0 125.1 126 66 61 11 59 93 1.476
TEX (1 yr) 0 0 3.73 4.21 23 0 8 0 0 2 31.1 33 16 13 2 21 19 1.723
CLE (1 yr) 1 4 .200 7.02 5.19 16 6 4 0 0 0 50.0 73 47 39 6 35 26 2.160
SEA (1 yr) 5 4 .556 5.60 4.91 41 2 19 0 0 3 90.0 90 58 56 11 51 55 1.567
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/16/2014.

April 1 – Happy Birthday Phil Niekro

Talk about a perfect birthday celebrant for April Fools’ Day, this five-time All Star’s legendary knuckleball fooled thousands of Major League hitters during a 24-year career. The late Bobby Murcer once said that trying to hit Niekro’s signature pitch was like trying to eat jello with chopsticks. The Pitcher once told a Baseball Digest columnist that his goal was to throw the knuckler right down the heart of the plate and let the ball do the rest. He confessed to having no idea where his pitches would end up but either did the hitter. “Knucksie” spent 21 seasons pitching for the Braves before signing with the Yankees in 1984, as a free agent. In his two seasons in pinstripes, he won 32 games including his 300th career victory in 1985. Only five other Major League hurlers won more games than Niekro did during the two seasons he pitched in the Bronx.

Following the 1985 season, New York signed Phil’s younger brother Joe, also a knuckleballer, as a free agent. The Neikro’s were looking forward to pursuing and eclipsing Gaylord and Jim Perry’s record for most ML victories by two brothers, as Yankee teammates. That didn’t happen. Right before their 1986 spring training camp broke, the Yankees played a cruel and early April Fools joke on the Niekro siblings when they unexpectedly released Phil. Both Niekro’s were bitter about the decision claiming the New York front office knew the only reason Joe signed with the team was the opportunity to pitch with his older brother. Phil pitched for two more seasons, retiring in 1987 with a lifetime record of 318-274. He also won five Gold Gloves and made five All Star teams during his long career. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1997. The Niekro boys did become the winning-est set of siblings in league history with 538, surpassing the Perry’s by nine victories.

There have been a total of four 300-game-winning pitchers who wore the Yankee pinstripes during their careers. They are listed below in order of their lifetime victories:

Roger Clemens – 354
Phil Niekro – 318
Gaylord Perry – 314
Randy Johnson – 303

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA FIP G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1984 NYY 16 8 .667 3.09 3.51 32 31 1 5 1 0 215.2 219 85 74 15 76 136 1.368
1985 NYY 16 12 .571 4.09 4.71 33 33 0 7 1 0 220.0 203 110 100 29 120 149 1.468
24 Yrs 318 274 .537 3.35 3.62 864 716 83 245 45 29 5404.0 5044 2337 2012 482 1809 3342 1.268
ATL (21 yrs) 268 230 .538 3.20 3.46 740 595 81 226 43 29 4622.1 4224 1922 1645 392 1458 2912 1.229
CLE (2 yrs) 18 22 .450 4.90 5.04 56 54 1 7 0 0 334.0 383 209 182 42 148 138 1.590
NYY (2 yrs) 32 20 .615 3.59 4.11 65 64 1 12 2 0 435.2 422 195 174 44 196 285 1.419
TOR (1 yr) 0 2 .000 8.25 7.79 3 3 0 0 0 0 12.0 15 11 11 4 7 7 1.833
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/16/2014.

March 31 – Happy Birthday Chien-Ming Wang

wang.jpg

He’s back and I wish I could honestly end this sentence with the phrase “he’s better than ever,” but that would be a stretch. That’s because in 2006 and 2007 when this elegant Taiwanese right-hander was throwing his hard sinking slider every fifth day in the Yankee rotation, he was one of the very best pitchers in baseball.

If it had been any other player in that fateful day’s Yankee lineup besides Jorge Posada on first base when Chien-Ming Wang laid down that bunt against the Houston Astros, Wang might still be a Yankee today.

At the time, Wang was on his way to earning his eighth victory of the 2008 season against just two defeats. Because it was an inter-league game being played at the NL team’s home park, there was no DH and Wang had to take at bats. Leading 3-0 in the sixth, Wang came to the plate with men on first and second with one out. He attempted a sacrifice but Astro pitcher Roy Oswalt was able to field the bunt and make the throw to third in time to nail the very slow Posada. The play forced Wang to become the baserunner at first. That’s when the floodgates opened for the Yankee offense as they proceeded to score six runs. Unfortunately for Wang and the Yankees, as he was running the bases to score the second of those six runs, he tore a tendon in his right foot and his season was over. As it turned out, so was the Yankees’ thirteen year streak of playoff appearances and effectively, so was Wang’s Yankee career.

My point is this. If its Jeter or A-Rod or Abreu on second at the time, Oswalt probably forgets about the play at third and goes to first for the second out of the inning.

I was a big fan of Wang despite the fact that he never seemed to pitch well in the playoffs. He had a 55-26 career record with New York. Five years ago at his time I was hoping he’d settle in as the number three starter behind CC and AJ and have a great year. That didn’t happen. When he did come back from his foot injury, probably a bit too early, he wasn’t able to replicate his old delivery and hurt his throwing shoulder.  He underwent shoulder surgery and signed with the Nationals, finally making it back to a big league mound in late July of 2011. He got 11 starts for Washington during the second half of that season. He finished with a 4-3 record and the Nats re-signed him to a $4 million deal to pitch for them in 2012. He then regressed and Washington let him walk at the end of the 2011 season. I thought his career was over. But then came the 2013 World Baseball Championships during which Wang pitched 12 effective innings for his native Taiwan.

The Yankees signed him to a minor league deal after that tournament but released him so he could pitch for the Blue Jays. He put together two great starts for Toronto in 2013 but then faltered and got released. The Reds signed him to a minor league contract and he began the 2014 season pitching in their farm system.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2005 NYY 8 5 .615 4.02 18 17 0 0 0 0 116.1 113 58 52 9 32 47 1.246
2006 NYY 19 6 .760 3.63 34 33 1 2 1 1 218.0 233 92 88 12 52 76 1.307
2007 NYY 19 7 .731 3.70 30 30 0 1 0 0 199.1 199 84 82 9 59 104 1.294
2008 NYY 8 2 .800 4.07 15 15 0 1 0 0 95.0 90 44 43 4 35 54 1.316
2009 NYY 1 6 .143 9.64 12 9 2 0 0 0 42.0 66 46 45 7 19 29 2.024
8 Yrs 62 34 .646 4.37 136 126 3 4 1 1 792.1 858 407 385 59 234 364 1.378
NYY (5 yrs) 55 26 .679 4.16 109 104 3 4 1 1 670.2 701 324 310 41 197 310 1.339
WSN (2 yrs) 6 6 .500 4.94 21 16 0 0 0 0 94.2 117 59 52 13 28 40 1.532
TOR (1 yr) 1 2 .333 7.67 6 6 0 0 0 0 27.0 40 24 23 5 9 14 1.815
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/16/2014.

March 28 – Happy Birthday Vic Raschi

VicRaschiCard.jpgI will always have a special affinity for Victor John Angelo Raschi, even though I never saw him throw a pitch in a single big league game. That’s because he started his professional and Yankee career in my home town of Amsterdam, NY, pitching for the Amsterdam Rugmakers in 1941. At the time, the Rugmakers were New York’s minor league affiliate in the old Canadian American League.

Notice that year, 1941 again. Raschi was born on March 28, 1919 in West Springfield, MA. That was not a particularly good time to be born if you turned out to be an aspiring big league baseball player. Why? Because just as you reached the age at which most professional baseball careers began, your country got involved in WWII and you were called to serve. So after going 10-6 for the Rugmakers that first season and becoming a legend in my home town, Raschi got to spend just one more season in the Yankee farm system before  joining the air force for the next three years.

By the time he returned, in 1946, the Springfield, Massachusetts native was already 27-years-old and by the time he became a starter for New York he was 29. For a half-dozen seasons from 1948 to 1954, this fire-baller was as good as any pitcher in baseball. Raschi was a three-time twenty-game winner for the Yankees, compiling a .706 winning percentage and a 120-50 record during his nine years in pinstripes. He combined with Allie Reynolds and Eddie Lopat to give New York one of the top trio of starters to ever pitch in the same Yankee rotation and that rotation led them to five straight World Series victories from 1949 to 1953.

Unfortunately, Raschi’s Yankee career ended on a sour note when he complained vociferously about a pay cut the Yankees forced upon him after he went 13-6 in 1953. Yankee GM George Weiss sold the then 34-year-old veteran to the Cardinals. It turned out to be the right move by the heartless Weiss as Raschi never again had a winning season in the big leagues. If military service had not stalled the start of his career, I feel Raschi would be in Cooperstown today. He died in 1988 at the age of 69. It was Yankee announcer, Mel Allen who gave this great Yankee right-hander the nickname, “The Springfield Rifle.”

Raschi shares his March 28th birthday with this former Yankee reliever and this one too.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1946 NYY 2 0 1.000 3.94 2 2 0 2 0 0 16.0 14 7 7 0 5 11 1.188
1947 NYY 7 2 .778 3.87 15 14 0 6 1 0 104.2 89 47 45 11 38 51 1.213
1948 NYY 19 8 .704 3.84 36 31 2 18 6 1 222.2 208 103 95 15 74 124 1.266
1949 NYY 21 10 .677 3.34 38 37 0 21 3 0 274.2 247 120 102 16 138 124 1.402
1950 NYY 21 8 .724 4.00 33 32 1 17 2 1 256.2 232 120 114 19 116 155 1.356
1951 NYY 21 10 .677 3.27 35 34 0 15 4 0 258.1 233 110 94 20 103 164 1.301
1952 NYY 16 6 .727 2.78 31 31 0 13 4 0 223.0 174 78 69 12 91 127 1.188
1953 NYY 13 6 .684 3.33 28 26 2 7 4 1 181.0 150 74 67 11 55 76 1.133
10 Yrs 132 66 .667 3.72 269 255 5 106 26 3 1819.0 1666 828 752 138 727 944 1.316
NYY (8 yrs) 120 50 .706 3.47 218 207 5 99 24 3 1537.0 1347 659 593 104 620 832 1.280
STL (2 yrs) 8 10 .444 4.88 31 30 0 6 2 0 180.2 187 103 98 24 72 74 1.434
KCA (1 yr) 4 6 .400 5.42 20 18 0 1 0 0 101.1 132 66 61 10 35 38 1.648
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/16/2014.