Results tagged ‘ utility infielder ’

December 8 – Happy Birthday Eddie Brinkman

ed_brinkman_autographYoung Yankee fans have been spoiled by Derek Jeter. When I was a kid, having a shortstop who could rap 200 hits a year or average .300 just didn’t happen. In fact, good-hitting shortstops were so rare that when Minnesota’s Zoilio Versailles hit 19 home runs and drove in 77 in 1965, he was awarded the freaking AL MVP award.

The prototypical shortstop of the 1960’s was a great fielder who was paid to prevent runs with his glove and not worry about producing any with his bat. Eddie Brinkman fit that prototype perfectly. A native of Cincinnati who was a pitcher on the same high school team as Pete Rose, the guy I called “Steady Eddie” made his big league debut with the Senators in 1961, when he was just 19-years-old. By 1963, he was starting for Washington and developing a reputation as one of the league’s smoothest fielding shortstops. He failed to hit above .228 during his first eight years as a Senator, than suddenly got his average up to .266 in 1969 and .262 in ’70. In October of 1970, Brinkman was included in a blockbuster trade that brought two-time Cy Young award winner Denny McLain to Washington along with future Yankee Elliott Maddox, third baseman Don Wert, and reliever Norm McRae. The great fielding third baseman, Aurelio Rodriguez and pitchers Joe Coleman and Jim Hannan accompanied Brinkman to MoTown.

Brinkman’s sleek fielding continued with his new team but unfortunately, his batting average reverted back toward just north of the Mendoza line. He remained in Detroit for five seasons before getting traded to San Diego in November of 1974. Perhaps sensing the Tigers were about to get rid of him, Brinkman had left Detroit with a bang by smashing a career high 14 home runs during the ’74 season. San Diego owned his contract for jus a few minutes because they immediately shipped him to St Louis to complete a trade they had made with the Cardinals earlier in that year. St. Louis traded him to Texas on June 4, 1975 and nine days later, the Rangers sold the then 33-year-old Brinkman to the Yankees.

Yankee GM Gabe Paul had been trying to acquire Brinkman since the beginning of that ’75 season. He told a New York Times reporter he had called St. Louis GM Bing Devine at least a hundred times about acquiring the shortstop but couldn’t make a deal. The Yankee starting shortstop during that 1975 season was Jim Mason, who averaged just .152 that year and though strong defensively, was not as good a fielder as Brinkman. Paul was hoping those 14 home runs Brinkman had hit the previous season for Detroit were not an aberration, but that’s exactly what that one-year power display turned out to be. Brinkman hit just .175 in his 44 games in pinstripes that season. New York invited him back to their 1976 spring training camp but he was released a week before the team headed north.

He retired with a lifetime average of .224 and 60 home runs during his fifteen years in the big leagues. He won a Gold Glove with Detroit in 1972. After hanging up his glove, he began a long career as a White Sox scout and coach. He passed away in 2008 at the age of 66. His younger brother Chuck was a big league catcher with the White Sox. Brinkman shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher, this Yankee outfielder and this former Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1975 NYY 44 68 63 2 11 4 1 0 2 0 3 6 .175 .224 .270 .494
15 Yrs 1845 6642 6045 550 1355 201 38 60 461 30 444 845 .224 .280 .300 .580
TEX (11 yrs) 1143 4217 3847 350 868 125 27 31 273 27 289 574 .226 .282 .296 .579
DET (4 yrs) 630 2272 2060 192 458 68 10 28 180 3 145 255 .222 .276 .306 .582
STL (1 yr) 28 85 75 6 18 4 0 1 6 0 7 10 .240 .306 .333 .639
NYY (1 yr) 44 68 63 2 11 4 1 0 2 0 3 6 .175 .224 .270 .494
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/8/2013.

October 31 – Happy Birthday Mike Gallego

The Buck Showalter era in Yankee franchise history began in 1992. New York was coming off of three straight losing seasons under Stump Merrill and I remember wondering if this new guy was the right choice to turn the team around. The Yankee lineup that year featured a potpourri of well-travelled veterans like Danny Tartabull, Mel Hall and Charley Hayes, home grown kids like Roberto Kelly, Pat Kelly, Kevin Maas and Andy Stankiewicz and of course, Donnie Baseball. But it was two role players on that squad, who I thought Showalter took a particular liking to; Randy Velarde and a former Oakland A named Mike Gallego.

Gallego became that team’s primary backup at second and short and Velarde did the same at every other position on the field besides catcher. Neither put together glittering statistics. Velarde averaged .272, Gallego just .254 but whenever I watched a Yankee game that season, one or both of them seemed to make some sort of hustling play or put together a particularly good at bat. That ’92 Yankee team finished ten games under .500 but I clearly remember thinking they were finally on the right track.

The following year, the Yankees finished 14 games above .500 and Showalter started Gallego in 119 games at second, short or third. The Whittier, CA native put together his best big league offensive season, hitting .283 and knocking in 54 runs. By the following year, he had become New York’s de facto starting shortstop. That ’94 Yankee team was running away with their division race when a strike halted play and ended the season. At the time, Gallego’s average was just .239. and the three year free agent contract he had signed with New York was ending. When the strike finally ended and play resumed in 1995, Tony Fernandez was the Yankee shortstop and Mike Gallego was back playing for Oakland.

Gallego shares his October 31st birthday with this former Yankee outfielderthis former Yankee catcher and this other former Yankee infielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1992 NYY 53 201 173 24 44 7 1 3 14 0 20 22 .254 .343 .358 .702
1993 NYY 119 465 403 63 114 20 1 10 54 3 50 65 .283 .364 .412 .776
1994 NYY 89 357 306 39 73 17 1 6 41 0 38 46 .239 .327 .359 .686
13 Yrs 1111 3379 2931 374 700 111 12 42 282 24 326 465 .239 .320 .328 .648
OAK (8 yrs) 772 2151 1863 230 432 63 9 23 168 21 205 295 .232 .313 .312 .625
NYY (3 yrs) 261 1023 882 126 231 44 3 19 109 3 108 133 .262 .347 .383 .730
STL (2 yrs) 78 205 186 18 37 4 0 0 5 0 13 37 .199 .254 .220 .474
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/31/2013.

October 12 – Happy Birthday Casey McGehee

It looks as if Casey McGehee’s Yankee days may already be over. New York GM Brian Cashman was looking for a right-handed corner infielder with some pop to play third or first while A-Rod and Mark Teixeira recovered from injuries, when he sent reliever Chad Qualls to the Pirates for today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant on July 31, 2012. McGehee, a native of Santa Cruz, CA had hit 23 home runs for the 2010 Brewers and driven in over 100 that same year. I joined Cashman in hoping that this guy would get better pitches to hit when he was surrounded by a stronger Yankee lineup. That didn’t happen.

He got a real chance to make an impression in the Bronx during the middle of August, when Girardi started him just about every game. His pinstriped high point came in the second game of a series in Toronto, on August 13th. He hit his first and only home run as a Yankee that day and drove in three runs in New York’s 5-2 victory over the Blue Jays. But it was downhill from there offensively and when A-Rod returned from the DL, probably the only reason the Yanks kept this guy on the team was because the roster expanded to 40 players on September 1. The more crowded Yankee bench, however, meant even fewer chances for McGehee to make a better impression down the stretch and when he went 0-for-September at the plate he lost his ticket on the Yankee’s postseason train to Baltimore.

McGehee turns 30 today, still young enough to contribute to a Major League team. I just don’t think that team will continue to be the Yankees. He shares his October 12th birthday with this outstanding former Yankee shortstop and this one-time Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2012 NYY 22 59 53 9 8 3 0 1 6 0 5 10 .151 .220 .264 .484
5 Yrs 551 2041 1853 211 476 99 5 61 283 2 158 351 .257 .314 .414 .728
MIL (3 yrs) 428 1664 1511 174 403 82 4 52 237 1 129 273 .267 .322 .430 .752
CHC (1 yr) 9 25 24 1 4 1 0 0 5 0 0 8 .167 .160 .208 .368
PIT (1 yr) 92 293 265 27 61 13 1 8 35 1 24 60 .230 .297 .377 .674
NYY (1 yr) 22 59 53 9 8 3 0 1 6 0 5 10 .151 .220 .264 .484
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/12/2013.

October 5 – Happy Birthday Rey Sanchez

When Mariano Duncan stopped hitting in 1997, the Yankees began experimenting with replacements at second base. One was veteran Pat Kelly, who Duncan had supplanted from the position the previous year. Another was the popular former Mariner, Luis Sojo and still another was today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant and former Cub, Rey Sanchez. Sojo ended up seeing the most action of the four and was the best fielder in the group as well, but in 37 games that year, Sanchez hit .312 and also played well in the field. The Yankees released Rey following that season and after spending 1998 with the Giants, he joined the Royals and played the best baseball of his career during his two-plus seasons as Kansas City’s starting shortstop. He then turned into a journeyman infielder, playing for seven different teams during the last six years of his fifteen-year career including a return to pinstripes in 2005, which was his final season as a player in the big leagues. He retired with 1,317 career hits.

Also born on this date is this former Yankee outfielder and this one too.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1997 NYY 38 150 138 21 43 12 0 1 15 0 5 21 .312 .338 .420 .758
15 Yrs 1490 5246 4850 549 1317 193 32 15 389 55 229 508 .272 .308 .334 .642
CHC (7 yrs) 594 1995 1835 185 481 78 8 6 124 22 96 187 .262 .304 .323 .627
KCR (3 yrs) 377 1489 1378 180 398 50 13 3 122 27 61 137 .289 .321 .351 .672
NYY (2 yrs) 61 198 181 28 55 13 0 1 17 0 7 24 .304 .335 .392 .727
TBD (1 yr) 91 307 285 23 70 14 3 2 26 0 12 28 .246 .281 .337 .617
NYM (1 yr) 56 183 174 11 36 3 1 0 12 1 8 18 .207 .240 .236 .476
SFG (1 yr) 109 339 316 44 90 14 2 2 30 0 16 47 .285 .325 .361 .686
ATL (1 yr) 49 163 154 10 35 4 1 0 9 2 4 15 .227 .245 .266 .512
BOS (1 yr) 107 386 357 46 102 12 3 1 38 2 17 31 .286 .318 .345 .662
SEA (1 yr) 46 186 170 22 50 5 1 0 11 1 8 21 .294 .330 .335 .665
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/5/2013.

July 27 – Happy Birthday Enrique Wilson

Enrique Wilson was a valuable utility infielder for the New York Yankees from 2001, when he was first acquired from the Pirates for pitcher Damaso Marte, through the 2004 season. During that span, he appeared in 104 games at second base, 83 at short and 62 at third. He was only a .244 lifetime hitter during his 9 seasons in the big leagues and hit just .216 during his four years in the Bronx. But when long-time Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez was on the mound, the light-hitting Wilson turned into a reincarnation of Rod Carew. He faced Martinez 25 times in a Yankee uniform and had ten hits against him for an average of .400.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Wilson was a switch-hitter. I admired the guy because of his defensive versatility and his ability to come up big whenever the Yankees faced their arch-rivals from Beantown. I remember one Boston-New York game during the 2002 season when Wilson hit a grand slam off of Red Sox reliever Rich Garces to break a 2-2 tie. Joe Torre was a big fan of Enrique’s and when the Yankees traded Soriano for A-Rod, the Yankee manager told the media that Wilson would be his starter at second base. But Wilson’s bat got real cold and by June of the 2004 season he had lost his job to Miguel Cairo. That September, when Torre didn’t start Wilson against Boston with Martinez on the mound, the disappointed second baseman told reporters he would be leaving the Yankees at the end of the season and that’s exactly what happened.

Wilson shares his July 27th birthday with this current Yankee slugger,  this former lippy shortstop and this former Yankee utility infielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2001 NYY 48 108 99 10 24 5 1 1 12 0 6 14 .242 .283 .343 .626
2002 NYY 60 119 105 17 19 2 2 2 11 1 8 22 .181 .239 .295 .534
2003 NYY 63 147 135 18 31 9 0 3 15 3 7 14 .230 .276 .363 .639
2004 NYY 93 262 240 19 51 9 0 6 31 1 15 20 .213 .254 .325 .579
9 Yrs 555 1537 1406 155 343 73 5 22 141 14 89 169 .244 .288 .350 .638
CLE (4 yrs) 190 607 554 72 159 37 1 6 49 9 36 62 .287 .328 .390 .718
NYY (4 yrs) 264 636 579 64 125 25 3 12 69 5 36 70 .216 .261 .332 .593
PIT (2 yrs) 86 269 251 18 56 9 1 4 23 0 14 36 .223 .262 .315 .577
CHC (1 yr) 15 25 22 1 3 2 0 0 0 0 3 1 .136 .240 .227 .467
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/27/2013.

July 4 – Happy Birthday Hal Lanier

The Yankees purchased today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant from the San Francisco Giants during their 1972 spring training season and I could never figure out why. Hal Lanier had been the weak-hitting decent fielding starting shortstop for the Giants for the previous eight seasons but the Yankees already had their own weak-hitting, decent-fielding shortstop in Gene “the Stick” Michael. What that Yankee team really needed was a starting third baseman with some pop in his bat to compete with their AL East rivals. The previous year, New York had started Jerry Kenney at the hot corner while Baltimore had perennial All Star Brooks Robinson and the Red Sox, the hard-hitting Rico Petrocelli as starting third basemen.

Kenney would end up losing his third base job during that ’72 season to a guy named Celerino Sanchez. When Sanchez failed to hit, Ralph Houk tried playing Lanier at third. But when both Michael and Lanier started in the infield, opposing pitchers couldn’t wait to face the bottom of the Yankees’ lineup. Lanier got into 60 games that season and hit a putrid .213. That turned out to be five points higher than he would hit during his second and final season with New York, which also turned out to be his final year as a big league player. It would be during that same 1973 season that the Yankees finally went out and got themselves a premier third baseman by the name of Graig Nettles.

Lanier would go on to a new career as a manager. He won a division title as skipper of the ’86 Astros but besides the three seasons he spent as Houston’s skipper, all of his other managerial assignments have been at the minor league level. Lanier was born on in Denton, NC in 1942. His dad was Max Lanier, an All Star pitcher with the Cardinals during WWII, who won over 100 big league games during his own 14-year career.

Lanier shares his July 4th birthday with this one time Yankee starting pitcherthis former Yankee owner and this long-time Yankee radio announcer.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1972 NYY 60 107 103 5 22 3 0 0 6 1 2 13 .214 .234 .243 .476
1973 NYY 35 90 86 9 18 3 0 0 5 0 3 10 .209 .244 .244 .489
10 Yrs 1196 3940 3703 297 843 111 20 8 273 11 136 436 .228 .255 .275 .529
SFG (8 yrs) 1101 3743 3514 283 803 105 20 8 262 10 131 413 .229 .255 .277 .532
NYY (2 yrs) 95 197 189 14 40 6 0 0 11 1 5 23 .212 .239 .243 .482
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/4/2013.

April 5 – Happy Birthday Ron Hansen

Hansen.jpgThe 1960 AL Rookie of the Year with Baltimore, Ron spent the 1970 and ’71 seasons with the Yankees as their primary utility infielder. During his first season in pinstripes, Hansen was able to hit .297 in his part-time role but when he slumped to .207 the following season New York released him. In 1968, he became the first player to pull off an unassisted triple play since 1927 and the feat wasn’t accomplished again until 1994 (by Boston shortstop John Valentin.) In a very unique vote, when Hansen won his 1960 AL ROY award, two of his Orioles’ teammates finished second (pitcher Chuck Estrada) and third (first baseman Jim Gentile) in the balloting for the first year honor. Hansen shares his April 5th birthday with this former Yankee reliever and the first starting third baseman in Yankee franchise history.

Hansen hailed from Oxford, NE and is one of 25 members of the Yankee’s All-Time roster to win Rookie of the Year honors, eight of whom did it as Yankees. Here’s my picks for the all-time lineup of Yankees who won the coveted first-year honor. Alongside each player’s name is the year they won the honor and the team they played for at the time:

1B Chris Chambliss (1971 – Indians)
2B Steve Sax (1982 – Dodgers)
3B Gil McDougald (1951 – Yankees)
SS Derek Jeter (1996 – Yankees)
C   Thurman Munson (1970 – Yankees)
OF Lou Piniella (1969 – Royals)
OF Darryl Strawberry (1983 – Mets)
OF David Justice (1990 – Braves)
P   Dwight Gooden (1984 – Mets)
CL Dave Righetti (1981 – Yankees)

Here are Hansen’s Yankee seasonal and MLB career stats:

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1970 NYY 59 113 91 13 27 4 0 4 14 0 19 9 .297 .420 .473 .892
1971 NYY 61 159 145 6 30 3 0 2 20 0 9 27 .207 .245 .269 .514
15 Yrs 1384 4964 4311 446 1007 156 17 106 501 9 551 643 .234 .320 .351 .672
CHW (7 yrs) 769 2875 2488 261 594 95 10 55 282 5 319 318 .239 .325 .351 .676
BAL (5 yrs) 393 1469 1282 136 301 42 7 37 155 4 166 234 .235 .324 .365 .689
NYY (2 yrs) 120 272 236 19 57 7 0 6 34 0 28 36 .242 .317 .347 .665
KCR (1 yr) 16 33 30 2 4 0 0 0 2 0 3 6 .133 .212 .133 .345
WSA (1 yr) 86 315 275 28 51 12 0 8 28 0 35 49 .185 .281 .316 .598
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/14/2014.

November 24 – Happy Birthday Randy Velarde

Velarde started his big league career with the Yankees in 1987 and was the team’s top utility infielder for the better part of nine seasons. He looked like a movie star and as each year passed he seemed to get his body more ripped. His best seasons in pinstripes were 1992, when he played in 121 games and hit .272 and 1992, when he batted .301. When the Yankees finally made it back to the playoffs in 1995 after missing the postseason for the previous fourteen years, Velarde was an important and versatile part of that team’s infield. When the Yankees lost in the first round of the playoffs to Seattle however, Velarde hit just .200 in that series. An overreacting George Steinbrenner then fired Manager Bucky Showalter and also replaced starters Mike Stanley, Don Mattingly, Pat Kelly and Velarde, who became a free agent. Randy then signed a pretty nice four-year deal with the Angels for right around $4 million. He had the three best years of his career as an Angel before being traded to the A’s during the 1999 season. He joined the Yankees a second time in 2001 but appeared in just 15 games. He retired after the 2002 season.

This one-time Yankee pitcher and this former Yankee reliever were also born on this date.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1987 NYY 8 22 22 1 4 0 0 0 1 0 0 6 .182 .182 .182 .364
1988 NYY 48 125 115 18 20 6 0 5 12 1 8 24 .174 .240 .357 .597
1989 NYY 33 111 100 12 34 4 2 2 11 0 7 14 .340 .389 .480 .869
1990 NYY 95 253 229 21 48 6 2 5 19 0 20 53 .210 .275 .319 .594
1991 NYY 80 210 184 19 45 11 1 1 15 3 18 43 .245 .322 .332 .653
1992 NYY 121 461 412 57 112 24 1 7 46 7 38 78 .272 .333 .386 .719
1993 NYY 85 253 226 28 68 13 2 7 24 2 18 39 .301 .360 .469 .829
1994 NYY 77 310 280 47 78 16 1 9 34 4 22 61 .279 .338 .439 .777
1995 NYY 111 432 367 60 102 19 1 7 46 5 55 64 .278 .375 .392 .768
2001 NYY 15 55 46 4 7 3 0 0 1 2 5 13 .152 .278 .217 .495
16 Yrs 1273 4813 4244 633 1171 214 23 100 445 78 463 853 .276 .352 .408 .760
NYY (10 yrs) 673 2232 1981 267 518 102 10 43 209 24 191 395 .261 .332 .388 .720
ANA (4 yrs) 283 1260 1094 168 315 55 8 27 128 27 147 216 .288 .376 .427 .803
OAK (3 yrs) 239 987 873 152 250 41 3 21 77 23 96 169 .286 .363 .412 .775
TEX (1 yr) 78 334 296 46 88 16 2 9 31 4 29 73 .297 .369 .456 .825
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/24/2013.

May 29 – Happy Birthday Jerry Hairston

I will always be a Jerry Hairston fan. You know why? After the Yankees beat the Phillies in the 2009 World Series, they did not try to re-sign the utility player and he ended up playing with the Padres in 2010. The Yankees had announced they would hand out the team’s 2009 World Series rings during a ceremony before their April 12th afternoon home game against the California Angels. That happened to be an off day for the Padres. Hairston flew all the way from San Diego to New York, paid for his own airline ticket, just so he could get his 2009 World Series ring with the teammates he had won it with. When Jorge Posada saw Hairston come out of the dugout in his street clothes, he asked his ex teammate what he was doing there. When Hairston told him he came to get his ring, Posada asked him “Why?”

Here’s the reason. Up until he joined the Yankees, Hairston had been playing Major League baseball for a dozen seasons and had never even been on a team that reached the postseason. His grandfather, dad, uncle and brother all played big league baseball and only his father, Jerry Sr. ever participated in fall ball and that was just two games worth for a 1983 White Sox team that got knocked out of the ALCS that year by the Orioles. And Jerry Jr. had done more than just play. His pinch-hit single to lead off the bottom of the thirteenth inning in Game 2 against the Angels led to him scoring the winning run in that contest.

So there he was, six months later in his street clothes, back in Yankee Stadium with the Angels again occupying the visitors dugout, patiently waiting to receive the sacred souvenir that no other Hairston had ever claimed. And when Joe Girardi handed him his ring case on that Tuesday afternoon in the Bronx, he opened it up, smiled, said good bye to his ex teammates and took a cab to the airport and got back on a plane for the cross country trip to San Diego, where his new team was playing the following evening. In my opinion, Posada asked Hairston a stupid question that day. He was there to pick up that ring because he had worked all his life to earn the right to be there. Maybe Posada has won too many rings and made too many millions to understand that but I sure do.

Hairston was born on May 29, 1976, in Des Moines, IA. He now plays for the Nationals. 2011 is his 14th big league season and Washington is his seventh big league ball club. He has a .256 lifetime batting average and he currently needs 41 more base hits to reach the 1,000 mark, lifetime. He will again be the first of the five Hairston’s who played Major League ball to accomplish that feat.

Jerry shares today as a birthday with this former Yankee outfielderthis third baseman and this first baseman.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2009 NYY 45 93 76 15 18 5 0 2 12 0 11 8 .237 .352 .382 .733
16 Yrs 1367 4803 4238 568 1097 228 22 69 404 147 362 555 .259 .327 .372 .699
BAL (7 yrs) 530 2086 1825 241 477 98 12 26 160 94 162 229 .261 .334 .371 .705
TEX (2 yrs) 136 284 247 39 48 10 1 3 22 7 20 44 .194 .262 .279 .541
LAD (2 yrs) 99 329 293 24 79 15 1 5 32 1 26 32 .270 .334 .379 .713
CHC (2 yrs) 152 522 462 59 116 28 2 4 34 11 35 60 .251 .322 .346 .668
CIN (2 yrs) 166 637 568 94 163 38 3 14 63 22 44 82 .287 .342 .438 .780
SDP (1 yr) 119 476 430 53 105 13 2 10 50 9 31 54 .244 .299 .353 .652
WSN (1 yr) 75 238 213 25 57 11 1 4 24 2 22 30 .268 .342 .385 .727
NYY (1 yr) 45 93 76 15 18 5 0 2 12 0 11 8 .237 .352 .382 .733
MIL (1 yr) 45 138 124 18 34 10 0 1 7 1 11 16 .274 .348 .379 .727
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/29/2013.

May 14 – Happy Birthday Dick Howser

I was a Dick Howser fan. The 1979 Yankee team had been a mess. Everybody expected them to compete for a third straight World Series ring and they ended up in fourth place in their division. George Steinbrenner’s indecision about who should manage, Billy Martin or Bob Lemon, kept the players and coaching staff on constant edge. Thurman Munson’s death in a tragic plane crash was the final straw to a season that Yankee fans wanted to forget. Enter Dick Howser.

The Miami, Florida native’s big league playing career had began with an AL Rookie of the Year performance as a shortstop for the 1961 Kansas City A’s. That playing career ended in pinstripes, as a utility middle infielder for the 1967 and ’68 Yankees. When he retired the following season, he joined the Yankee coaching staff for the next ten years. Then in 1979, Howser accepted the head baseball coach’s position at his alma mater, Florida State University.

When it became clear to Steinbrenner that neither Martin or Lemon was the right choice as Yankee skipper, the Boss surprised everyone by hiring Howser for the job. He proved to be up to the task immediately as the 1980 Yankees got off to a fast start and ended up winning 103 games and the AL East Pennant. The Yankee clubhouse under Howser was more harmonious and conflict free than it had been in years. Reggie Jackson loved playing for the guy and responded with his best-ever Yankee regular season. The only hiccup to a perfect year for the team was a slight slump in August and good old George turned it into a giant belch. He started criticizing Howser’s every move and telling the Big Apple sports press that his rookie manager lacked the baseball intelligence of veteran skippers like Baltimore’s Earl Weaver.

Howser somehow kept his composure as did his team and the Yankees ended up facing their old nemesis, Kansas City in the AL Playoffs for the fourth time in five years. But unlike the previous three times, the Yankees lost and as we all now know, George Steinbrenner was a very poor loser. He shocked me and I’m sure, thousands of other Yankee fans by dumping Howser. Of course George explained that Howser had decided on his own not to return as Yankee skipper in ’81 because he had been offered some sort of amazing opportunity in Florida real estate that he simply couldn’t pass up. When New York sportswriters questioned the departing Manager about the opportunity, however, the perplexed and angry Howser didn’t know what they were talking about.

He did end up returning to Florida where he began collecting the final two years of his three-year Yankee contract but he didn’t stay their long. The team that had just beat him in the playoffs decided to make their own managerial change during the strike-shortened 1981 season and the Royals hired Howser to replace Jim Frey. During his first five years at the helm, Kansas City finished second twice, won three AL West Division titles and a World Championship. It all ended tragically for Howser a year later, when he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. He fought the disease valiantly, but lost his battle in June of 1987 at the age of 51.

Howser shares his May 14th birthday with the Yankee’s first great center fielder, this former reliever and this versatile Yankee pitcher from the 1970s.

Howser’s record as a Yankee player

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1967 NYY 63 179 149 18 40 6 0 0 10 1 25 15 .268 .381 .309 .689
1968 NYY 85 189 150 24 23 2 1 0 3 0 35 17 .153 .321 .180 .501
8 Yrs 789 2937 2483 398 617 90 17 16 165 105 367 186 .248 .346 .318 .664
CLE (4 yrs) 385 1464 1246 191 307 45 7 7 72 48 170 105 .246 .336 .311 .646
KCA (3 yrs) 256 1105 938 165 247 37 9 9 80 56 137 49 .263 .359 .351 .710
NYY (2 yrs) 148 368 299 42 63 8 1 0 13 1 60 32 .211 .350 .244 .594
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/13/2013.

Howser’s record as Yankee manager

Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
1 1978 42 New York Yankees AL 2nd of 3 1 0 1 .000 1
2 1980 44 New York Yankees AL 162 103 59 .636 1
New York Yankees 2 years 163 103 60 .632 1.0
Kansas City Royals 6 years 770 404 365 .525 1.7 1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title
8 years 933 507 425 .544 1.5 1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/13/2013.