Results tagged ‘ third baseman ’
Though the transaction took place over four decades ago, I know I screamed in anguish when I heard about the trade. Three weeks before Christmas in 1971, the Yankees sent their 1968 Rookie-of-the-Year-winning right-hander, Stan Bahnsen to the Chicago White Sox. They took a guy who had won the impressive total of 55 games for some mediocre New York teams during the previous four seasons and sent him to the Windy City in exchange for a 25-year-old utility infielder named Rich McKinney.
I knew what Yankee skipper Ralph Houk and the team’s GM, Lee MacPhail were thinking when they pulled the trigger on that one. New York desperately needed a good starting third baseman. They hadn’t had one since they traded Clete Boyer to the Braves in 1966.
McKinney, a native of Piqua, OH, had been in the big leagues for just two seasons and was coming off a decent year in which he had averaged .271 in 114 games as Chicago’s primary utility infielder. There was nothing in his resume that indicated he was going to be anything special, but after trying to win with guys like Charley Smith and Jerry Kenney at the hot corner, Houk and MacPhail figured this kid was worth a shot. But he wasn’t worth Stan Bahnsen!
The veteran right-hander took his “Bahnsen Burner” to Comiskey Park and won 21 games in 1972. Meanwhile, McKinney was a complete bust in the Bronx. He started out slow and never got better. By June he was playing down in Syracuse and the Yanks were using the infamous Celerino Sanchez as their starter at third. That November, McKinney’s Yankee career ended, when he was traded to Oakland in the deal that brought Matty Alou to New York.
|OAK (4 yrs)||147||306||277||22||53||10||0||7||30||0||24||49||.191||.252||.303||.556|
|CHW (2 yrs)||157||546||488||47||120||16||2||12||63||3||46||62||.246||.312||.361||.672|
|NYY (1 yr)||37||128||121||10||26||2||0||1||7||1||7||13||.215||.258||.256||.514|
Before Derek Jeter came along and reserved a spot on the wall of Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park for his pinstriped jersey, the most famous number “2” in Yankee history had been a red-headed graduate of Dartmouth named Robert Abial Rolfe. Though hair-color earned him the workingman’s nickname he made famous, Rolfe was an Ivy League gentleman. An article in “Baseball Digest” once referred to him as “the best-educated, best dressed, politest Bronx Bomber of the thirties.”
Those Joe McCarthy-led Yankee teams put up some incredible offensive numbers during their pre-WWII era of success and it was their great third baseman Rolfe, batting second, who would help light the fuse for the team’s explosive lineup. Here’s some examples: In the three-season period from 1937-to-1939, Rolfe scored a total of 414 runs. In 1937, Rolfe scored the incredible total of 143 runs and didn’t even lead the team in scoring that year because Joe DiMaggio scored 151. In 1938, five different Yankees scored at least 109 runs. The 1939 Yankee team lost Lou Gehrig to ALS disease yet seven members of their starting lineup scored at least 87 runs that year and the team won 106 regular season games and then swept the Reds four straight in the World Series. During Rolfe’s decade-long Yankee career, he averaged 130 runs scored for every 162 games he played.
Rolfe was one of Manager Joe McCarthy’s all-time favorite players because he worked so hard and so smart at getting better and gaining every possible advantage over an opponent on the field. It was Rolfe who was one of the first players in baseball to keep a “book” on opposing hitters that he would use to change his fielding position at the hot corner, based on who was in the batters box. His book on opposing pitchers was just as detailed. He knew and could tell his Yankee teammates what pitch to expect in a pressure situation from every pitcher in the league. He did not ignore opposing fielders either. He would make notes how an outfielder fielded line drives and if they had a tendency to drop to their knee or back up on the ball, you could be sure the next time Rolfe hit one of his patented line drives at them he’d end up sliding safely into second. It may have been because Rolfe did so much thinking as a player he never found time to just relax and enjoy the game he played so well. He developed painful ulcers which were the primary reason he retired at the young age of 33 after New York lost the 1942 World Series to the Cardinals.
Rolfe got back into the big leagues as a Manager with the Tigers in 1949 and led Detroit to a 95-win season the following year, just three games behind the AL Pennant-winning 1950 Yankees. At the time, he attributed his success to cracking the whip on a bunch of Detroit players who he claimed had grown complacent. By 1952, many of those same players turned on Rolfe, claiming he was impossible to satisfy and the Tigers fired him. Born on October 17, 1908 in Penacook, NH, Rolfe returned to Dartmouth as athletic director. He died in 1969. Dartmouth’s baseball stadium is named after him.
It 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.
|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|
A few years from now, today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant will certainly be one of the more difficult-to-remember answers to the trivia question; “Can you name someone who played third base for the Yankees during the 2013 regular season?” Brent Lillibridge’s first day in pinstripes was a sad one in Yankee Universe. He was called up from Scranton/Wilkes Barre to take the place of Derek Jeter in July, after the Yankee Captain’s first attempt to play in 2013 ended with a strained quad and a return trip to the DL.
Unfortunately for Lillibridge, he hit just .171 during his 11-game sojourn at the Yankees’ hot-corner position and quickly lost the job. Ironically, Lillibridge was one of the White Sox players traded to Boston in 2012 for Kevin Youklis, who was supposed to be the Yankees’ starting third baseman in 2013 until A-Rod returned from his offseason hip surgery.
Don’t feel too sorry for this native of Everett, Washington who turns 30 years old today. Despite the fact that the Yankees were the sixth team he’s played for during his six seasons in the big leagues and despite the fact that as of today his lifetime average in the Majors is just .205, the guy has earned over $2 million in salary during that time. That’s about double what the Yankees paid Hall-of-Famer, Mickey Mantle for his eighteen years of service in pinstripes.
|CHW (4 yrs)||256||499||442||76||96||13||3||15||50||28||38||150||.217||.291||.362||.653|
|ATL (1 yr)||29||85||80||9||16||6||1||1||8||2||3||23||.200||.238||.338||.576|
|BOS (1 yr)||10||16||16||0||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||5||.125||.125||.125||.250|
|CHC (1 yr)||9||24||24||0||1||0||0||0||2||0||0||9||.042||.042||.042||.083|
|CLE (1 yr)||43||123||111||15||24||5||0||3||8||6||7||40||.216||.276||.342||.619|
|NYY (1 yr)||11||37||35||2||6||1||0||0||3||1||1||8||.171||.194||.200||.394|
Todd Zeile had a very impressive first game as a Yankee. The Bronx Bombers had signed this native of Van Nuys, California in December of 2002, when he was a 37-year-old, fourteen-year veteran coming off a strong year with the Colorado Rockies. New York intended to use him as a back-up to Robin Ventura at third base. Ventura had done better than any body expected during his first season in the Bronx, smashing 27 home runs and driving in 93, but he too was getting up there in years. Having the right-hand hitting Zeile spell him against the occasional southpaw seemed like a great idea at the time.
He made his first start for New York in Game 3 of that 2003 season against the Blue Jays in Toronto. He homered against the huge left-hander Mark Hendrickson, in his first-ever pinstriped at bat. He also hit two doubles and drove in three runs that night. That debut performance turned out to be the highlight of his single-season Yankee career. When the Yankees released him that August, he was hitting just .210, with 6 home runs and 23 RBI’s in 66 games. Worse yet was the fact that Ventura also had stopped hitting that season, leaving the Yankees scrambling to come up with offense from the third base position. They solved that problem at the trading deadline when they acquired Aaron Boone from the Reds. The rest of course is Yankee history.
Zeile was picked up by the Expos and then finished his big league career the following year in a Mets’ uniform. He shares his September 9th birthday with this Hall of Fame pitcher, this Hall of Fame manager and this former Yankee center fielder.
|STL (7 yrs)||757||3087||2694||356||719||149||13||75||394||33||346||410||.267||.349||.415||.764|
|NYM (3 yrs)||441||1631||1423||163||368||77||4||41||176||4||191||270||.259||.348||.405||.753|
|TEX (2 yrs)||208||869||768||106||219||55||2||30||126||2||84||126||.285||.355||.479||.834|
|LAD (2 yrs)||200||842||733||111||194||23||1||38||117||9||95||136||.265||.352||.454||.806|
|COL (1 yr)||144||580||506||61||138||23||0||18||87||1||66||92||.273||.353||.425||.778|
|PHI (1 yr)||134||572||500||61||134||24||0||20||80||1||67||88||.268||.353||.436||.789|
|MON (1 yr)||34||127||113||11||29||2||2||5||19||1||10||18||.257||.331||.442||.773|
|CHC (1 yr)||79||325||299||34||68||16||0||9||30||0||16||53||.227||.271||.371||.642|
|NYY (1 yr)||66||214||186||29||39||8||0||6||23||0||24||36||.210||.294||.349||.644|
|FLA (1 yr)||66||270||234||37||68||12||1||6||39||2||31||34||.291||.374||.427||.801|
|BAL (1 yr)||29||132||117||17||28||8||0||5||19||0||15||16||.239||.326||.436||.762|