Results tagged ‘ yankees ’

March 13 – Happy Birthday Mariano Duncan

By the time the Yankees signed Mariano Duncan as a free agent in December of 1995, the Dominican middle infielder was already a 32-year-old, 11-year veteran of the big leagues. The Yankees expected to play their rookie, Derek Jeter at short in 1996 and were going to move switch-hitting Tony Fernandez from short to second. They wanted Duncan to serve as a backup for both positions. That plan fell apart when Fernandez got hurt in spring training and was shelved for the year. Manager Joe Torre gave Yankee rookie Andy Fox every chance to win the second base job but the youngster could not get his average up to .200. Then Torre gave Duncan a try. He responded with the best season of his career.

Mariano hit .340 in 109 games that year. He became a leader in that Yankee clubhouse and his popular pre-game pronouncement, “We play today, we win today…dassit” became the slogan of that amazing club. When the Yankees won the 1996 Pennant and World Series, I was pretty certain Duncan would be back to start at second again in 1997. But George Steinbrenner did not feel the same way. He did not think Duncan was good enough defensively and when the Boss’s feeling became public, Mariano was angry and demanded to be traded. The Yankees tried to grant him that wish by reaching a deal with the Padres that would send Duncan and pitcher Kenny Rogers to San Diego in return for slugger Greg Vaughn. When Vaughn failed his physical and the deal was voided, Duncan became even more vocal about his dislike for Steinbrenner. Finally, after the All Star break, the Yankees traded Duncan to Toronto. He played his final 39 big league games as a Blue Jay and then tried Japanese baseball for a year before retiring for good.

Yankee fans will always remember Mariano’s great year in 1996 and he has a ring on his finger to prove it. This former Yankee slugger shares a March 13 birthday with Mariano as does this former outfielder who was the last Yankee to wear uniform number 7 before Mickey Mantle made it famous.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1996 NYY 109 417 400 62 136 34 3 8 56 4 9 77 .340 .352 .500 .852
1997 NYY 50 179 172 16 42 8 0 1 13 2 6 39 .244 .270 .308 .578
12 Yrs 1279 4998 4677 619 1247 233 37 87 491 174 201 913 .267 .300 .388 .688
PHI (4 yrs) 406 1698 1613 208 442 100 9 30 194 40 46 311 .274 .298 .403 .701
LAD (4 yrs) 376 1439 1314 161 307 44 8 20 95 100 85 268 .234 .284 .325 .609
CIN (4 yrs) 299 1089 1011 152 282 41 17 28 121 24 49 179 .279 .316 .436 .752
NYY (2 yrs) 159 596 572 78 178 42 3 9 69 6 15 116 .311 .327 .442 .769
TOR (1 yr) 39 176 167 20 38 6 0 0 12 4 6 39 .228 .267 .263 .531
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/7/2014.

March 12 – Happy Birthday Ray Barker

barkerThe lucrative salaries paid in Major League Baseball nowadays continue to shock me. Those huge bucks have changed the way big leaguers play the game and live their lives. Even the most marginal players today have contracts sizable enough to permit them to not have to worry about working a second career, at least during their playing days. And with decent investment counseling and a much improved MLB pension plan, when these guys retire in their thirties, many can afford to kick back and relax their way through their forties and fifties too. Good for them. I just hope they tell their children and grandchildren the story about Marvin Miller some day.

When I was a kid, guys like Ray Barker, today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant had to scrape to make a living on what they were paid to play the game. Barker, who had grown up a Yankee fan, had been originally signed by the Orioles in 1955 when he was a 19-year-old kid and given a $1,000 bonus. The son of a West Virginia stone quarry worker, that was more money than his family had ever seen.

He then spent the next ten years of his life trying to get to the big leagues and trying to take care of his growing family on the few thousand dollars he would earn playing both minor league and winter baseball. His wife and children lived in a trailer park back in West Virginia and when Barker’s dad was killed while riding his motorcycle, his Mom moved in with them.

After brief big league appearances with the Orioles and Indians, Cleveland traded this left-hand-hitting first baseman to the Yankees for infielder Pedro Gonzalez, in May of 1965. The defending AL Pennant winners were a mess that year under new skipper, Johnny Keane. In addition to rebelling at Keane’s strict disciplinarian management style, injuries began crippling the veteran Yankee lineup. Both Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were out for extended periods, forcing Keane to play his starting first baseman, Joe Pepitone in the outfield. That Yankee misfortune was the piece of good luck Barker needed to finally get an extended stay on a big league roster.

His debut season in the Bronx wasn’t spectacular but it was steady and in 1965, steady was good enough for the Yankee front office. In addition to tying a big league record that season by hitting two consecutive pinch-hit home runs, Barker’s 7 total round-trippers and 31 RBIs in 98 games got him invited back for a second season. He returned to West Virginia, bought a home and moved his brood out of that trailer park.

Unfortunately, the Yankees got even worse in 1966, finishing in last place and Barker got worse too. He pretty much stopped hitting, which meant he pretty much stopped getting chances to hit. During most any other season in Yankee history, Barker’s .187 batting average would have got him banished forever but not in 1966.

Ralph Houk brought Barker back to spring training in 1967 as a Mickey Mantle insurance policy. The Yankees had become convinced that in order to extend the switch-hitting legend’s career, they needed to get him out of the outfield and start him at first base. That meant they also had to commit to playing Joe Pepitone in the outfield full-time. Houk needed somebody to serve as a late-inning defensive replacement for Mantle at first. The organization’s bonus-baby heir to that position was Mike Hegan, who was doing Army reserve duty until May of that ’67 season. That gave Barker just a small window of time to impress Houk enough to keep him on the 25-man roster and get Hegan sent back down to the minors.

Barker couldn’t get it done. In the 17 games he appeared during the first part of that ’67 season, he hit an atrocious .077. During that trying period of his career, Barker was interviewed by long-time New York Times’ sports journalist Robert Lipsyte. He explained to Lipsyte that he needed to get hot at the plate in order to stick with the Yankees but he needed more at bats to get in an offensive groove but he would only get those at bats if he could get hot. It was the age-old Catch-22 lament of big-league utility players.

During that interview, Barker said his goal was to get five seasons of service as a Major League player so that he could qualify for the pension plan. If he could make that milestone, Barker would start receiving a retirement benefit of $250 per month when he reached the age of 50. Barker didn’t make that five-year milestone but hopefully, he’s not missing that $250 check every month.

Barker shares his March 12th birthday with this 1994 Rookie of the Year outfielder this 1983 Rookie of the Year outfielder, this former Yankee center-fielder and this former NL All Star.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1965 NYY 98 231 205 21 52 11 0 7 31 1 20 46 .254 .326 .410 .736
1966 NYY 61 82 75 11 14 5 0 3 13 0 4 20 .187 .225 .373 .598
1967 NYY 17 29 26 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 5 .077 .172 .077 .249
4 Yrs 192 356 318 34 68 16 0 10 44 1 29 76 .214 .283 .358 .642
NYY (3 yrs) 176 342 306 34 68 16 0 10 44 1 27 71 .222 .289 .373 .662
CLE (1 yr) 11 8 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 .000 .250 .000 .250
BAL (1 yr) 5 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/5/2014.

March 11 – Happy Birthday Bobby Abreu

Bobby Abreu gave the Yankees two and a half seasons of solid play as their starting right fielder. He averaged .295 while in pinstripes, stole more than 20 bases a season, was never hurt and he both scored and drove in over 100 runs in each of his two full years in New York. I was expecting him to be a better defensive outfielder than he showed as a Yankee but when you look at his overall performance, he did absolutely fine. Unfortunately, fine was just not good enough for a Yankee team that slowly but surely forgot how to win in October.

I liked Abreu’s game but I liked the game of the guy he replaced in right field for New York, even more. That would be Gary Sheffield, who was in my opinion one of the most intimidating hitters in the big leagues. Opposing pitchers respected Abreu but they feared Sheffield. So when the Yankees let Abreu walk after the 2008 season, I was not too upset. He signed with the Angels and had a typical very good Abreu year in 2009 before slumping significantly in 2010. Bobby was born in Venezuela on March 11, 1974.

This very flaky former Yankee pitcher and this long-ago outfielder were also born on March 11th.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2006 NYY 58 248 209 37 69 16 0 7 42 10 33 52 .330 .419 .507 .926
2007 NYY 158 699 605 123 171 40 5 16 101 25 84 115 .283 .369 .445 .814
2008 NYY 156 684 609 100 180 39 4 20 100 22 73 109 .296 .371 .471 .843
17 Yrs 2347 9926 8347 1441 2437 565 59 287 1349 399 1456 1819 .292 .396 .477 .873
PHI (9 yrs) 1353 5885 4857 891 1474 348 42 195 814 254 947 1078 .303 .416 .513 .928
LAA (4 yrs) 456 1946 1662 239 443 103 5 43 246 75 261 363 .267 .364 .412 .776
NYY (3 yrs) 372 1631 1423 260 420 95 9 43 243 57 190 276 .295 .378 .465 .843
HOU (2 yrs) 74 234 210 23 52 11 2 3 27 7 23 51 .248 .325 .362 .687
LAD (1 yr) 92 230 195 28 48 8 1 3 19 6 35 51 .246 .361 .344 .704
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/4/2014.

March 10 – Happy Birthday Steve Howe

howe.jpgI was never a big Steve Howe fan, but I remember reading an article about one of Howe’s seven suspensions for substance abuse in which Yankee Captain, Don Mattingly was quoted and suddenly feeling sorry for the one-time NL Rookie of the Year reliever. According to Mattingly, Howe was one of the hardest working members of the Yankee roster and an outstanding teammate.

For whatever reason, George Steinbrenner loved giving former big league star players with drug problems second chances. Howe was one of the Yankee owner’s first reclamation projects and in the strike shortened season of 1994, he repaid the Boss by once again becoming one of the most effective relief pitchers in baseball. He saved 15 games in that abbreviated year and posted an ERA of under two, helping the Yankees build a huge lead in their division only to have the work stoppage destroy their season.

In 2006, Howe was on a highway in California, driving home to Arizona in his pickup truck following a business meeting. Witnesses say the truck just drifted onto the medium and rolled over. The former pitcher was not wearing his seat belt at the time and he was ejected from the vehicle and killed instantly. He was only 48 years old at the time of his death. Tests later revealed that Howe had methamphetamine in his system at the time of the crash.

Having smoked cigarettes for 17 years of my life, I will never wonder why people cannot overcome their addictions to chemical substances that temporarily relax them and provide a buzz. When we are young, we think we are immortal, able to do anything we want without fear of hurting ourselves. When wiser elders warned me I would find it very difficult to quit cigarettes, I laughed them off. But within a few years of taking my first puff, I was so hooked that I would find myself lying to my family so I could sneak away and grab a smoke. The drug of choice first takes over your body and then controls your life. Those that don’t quit fail to reach a point at which they know their lives will be better without the drug until it is too late, or never at all. I’m glad I was able to do so but again, I will never wonder why stars and celebrities like Steve Howe could not.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1991 NYY 3 1 .750 1.68 37 0 10 0 0 3 48.1 39 12 9 1 7 34 0.952
1992 NYY 3 0 1.000 2.45 20 0 10 0 0 6 22.0 9 7 6 1 3 12 0.545
1993 NYY 3 5 .375 4.97 51 0 19 0 0 4 50.2 58 31 28 7 10 19 1.342
1994 NYY 3 0 1.000 1.80 40 0 25 0 0 15 40.0 28 8 8 2 7 18 0.875
1995 NYY 6 3 .667 4.96 56 0 20 0 0 2 49.0 66 29 27 7 17 28 1.694
1996 NYY 0 1 .000 6.35 25 0 4 0 0 1 17.0 19 12 12 1 6 5 1.471
12 Yrs 47 41 .534 3.03 497 0 257 0 0 91 606.0 586 239 204 32 139 328 1.196
NYY (6 yrs) 18 10 .643 3.57 229 0 88 0 0 31 227.0 219 99 90 19 50 116 1.185
LAD (5 yrs) 24 25 .490 2.35 231 0 149 0 0 59 328.2 306 109 86 10 74 183 1.156
MIN (1 yr) 2 3 .400 6.16 13 0 5 0 0 0 19.0 28 16 13 1 7 10 1.842
TEX (1 yr) 3 3 .500 4.31 24 0 15 0 0 1 31.1 33 15 15 2 8 19 1.309
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/4/2014.

March 9 – Happy Birthday Myril Hoag

hoagWhen outfielder Myril Hoag began his Yankee career, he competed for playing time with the likes of Babe Ruth and Earle Combs. By the time he completed it seven years later, he was playing behind names like DiMaggio, Selkirk and Henrich. Thus went the pinstriped career of one of the most effective fourth outfielders in franchise history, good enough to back up those who were better.

Born in California, Hoag began his pro career in the Pacific Coast League and made his Yankee and big league debut in 1931. His best season in the Bronx was 1937, when he appeared in 103 games, had 109 hits and averaged .301. Hoag also put together a solid World Series against the Giants in 1937, starting all five games and batting an even .300.

After the 1938 World Series, New York traded Hoag and back-up catcher Joe Glenn to the St. Louis Browns for pitcher Orel Hildebrand and outfielder Buster Mills. He finally got his chance to be a starting outfielder with his new ball club and took advantage of it, by averaging .295 and making the AL All Star team. That ’39 season proved to be his best. The Browns traded him to the White Sox and after his second season with Chicago, Hoag joined the Army. He was given a medical discharge a year later and ended up playing for Cleveland during the second half of the ’44 season and averaging .285 for the Tribe.

That would be Hoag’s last hurrah as a big leaguer, though he’d continue to play in the minors well into his forties, finally hanging his spikes up for good after the 1951 season. He was only 63 when he passed away in 1971, a victim of an emphysema-induced heart attack.

Hoag shares his March 9th birthday with this Yankee who hit one of the most famous home runs in franchise history,  this former AL MVP, this recent Yankee reliever and one of the great base-stealers in MLB history.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1931 NYY 44 29 28 6 4 2 0 0 3 0 1 8 .143 .172 .214 .387
1932 NYY 46 61 54 18 20 5 0 1 7 1 7 13 .370 .443 .519 .961
1934 NYY 97 275 251 45 67 8 2 3 34 1 21 21 .267 .324 .351 .674
1935 NYY 48 124 110 13 28 4 1 1 13 4 12 19 .255 .328 .336 .664
1936 NYY 45 169 156 23 47 9 4 3 34 3 7 16 .301 .343 .468 .811
1937 NYY 106 404 362 48 109 19 8 3 46 4 33 33 .301 .364 .423 .787
1938 NYY 85 298 267 28 74 14 3 0 48 4 25 31 .277 .344 .352 .696
13 Yrs 1020 3462 3147 384 854 141 33 28 401 59 252 298 .271 .328 .364 .692
NYY (7 yrs) 471 1360 1228 181 349 61 18 11 185 17 106 141 .284 .345 .390 .735
SLB (3 yrs) 206 724 674 78 192 34 4 13 101 11 37 65 .285 .323 .405 .728
CHW (3 yrs) 236 927 840 82 207 32 5 3 85 24 73 51 .246 .307 .307 .615
CLE (2 yrs) 107 451 405 43 106 14 6 1 30 7 36 41 .262 .325 .333 .658
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/4/2014.

March 8 – Happy Birthday Mark Salas

salasIn 1985, a 24-year-old rookie from Montebello, California named Mark Salas surprised just about everyone by hitting .300 as the starting catcher of the Minnesota Twins. Yankee owner, George Steinbrenner, always looking for a good left-hand-hitting catcher who could take advantage of his home Stadium’s short right field porch, took notice of the kid. Two seasons later, he approved a mid-season deal that brought Salas to the Bronx in exchange for the Yankees disgruntled veteran knuckleballer, Joe Niekro.

The Boss ignored the fact that Salas had followed up his stellar rookie performance by hitting just .233 in his sophomore season with the Twins. He also didn’t pay attention to Salas’s below average defensive skills behind the plate. After all, even though Salas had lost Minnesota’s starting catching job to Mark Laudner, he was hitting a robust .379 in his back-up role at the time of the trade and he was a much better hitter than Joel Skinner, who had been serving as the Yankees second string catcher that year.

So Salas came to New York and was forced upon Lou Piniella, who was not a thrilled recipient. The Yankee skipper was struggling to keep his 1987 club in first place at the time and growing increasingly frustrated by having every decision he made as manager second guessed by “the Boss.” When it became apparent that Salas was not very good defensively and he stopped hitting too, Piniella wanted Skinner brought back up from Triple A, where he had been sent to make roster room for Salas. Steinbrenner refused to approve the move. So Piniella decided to refuse to accept any more of Steinbrenner’s phone calls, which served as perfect fodder for some creative back-page headlining in the New York City tabloids.

Eventually, Skinner was recalled and Salas was sent down to Columbus. The Yankees finished that ’87 season in fourth place in the AL East race with an 89-73 record. Salas finished his only half-season as a Yankee with a .200 batting average and then got traded to the White Sox with Dan Pasqua for pitcher Rich Dotson. His big league career would end after the 1991 season. He finished with 319 lifetime hits and a .247 batting average. He then went into coaching.

Salas shares his birthday with this former Yankee reliever,  this former Yankee starting pitcher and this one too.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1987 NYY 50 130 115 13 23 4 0 3 12 0 10 17 .200 .279 .313 .592
8 Yrs 509 1410 1292 142 319 49 10 38 143 3 89 163 .247 .300 .389 .688
MIN (3 yrs) 233 718 663 87 185 29 9 20 83 3 41 75 .279 .320 .440 .760
DET (2 yrs) 107 247 221 20 43 4 0 10 31 0 21 38 .195 .272 .348 .621
CLE (1 yr) 30 83 77 4 17 4 1 2 7 0 5 13 .221 .277 .377 .654
NYY (1 yr) 50 130 115 13 23 4 0 3 12 0 10 17 .200 .279 .313 .592
STL (1 yr) 14 21 20 1 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 3 .100 .100 .150 .250
CHW (1 yr) 75 211 196 17 49 7 0 3 9 0 12 17 .250 .303 .332 .635
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/31/2014.

March 7 – Happy Birthday Jimmie Hall

hall.jpgLong-time Yankee fans like me can remember the days prior to the onslaught of steroid use by MLB players, when hitting thirty home runs in the big leagues was considered something really special. If a rookie did it, the feat was considered near majestic. That’s why when today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant came up to the Twins during the 1963 season and set an American League record by belting 33 home runs in his first year, it was pretty special. He broke a record that had been set by none other than the great Ted Williams, who had hit 31 during his rookie season of 1939. That 1963 Twins team had one of the best homer-hitting starting outfields in baseball history. Harmon Killebrew was the left fielder and he led all of baseball with 45 circuit blasts. Bob Allison played center and he had 35. The entire 1963 Minnesota lineup had some power, leading the league with 225 home runs, 37 more than the second place Yankees hit that season.

Hall played four years in the Twin Cities, made two AL All Star teams and helped Minnesota win the 1965 AL Pennant. After his average dipped by fifty points in 1966, the Twins traded him to California with big Don Mincher for a very good starting pitcher named Dean Chance. Hall would never again be the hitter he was but I still member getting sort of excited when the Yankees picked him up during the 1969 season. Why? That year’s struggling Yankee team had Bill Robinson starting in the outfield even though he was averaging in the one-seventies. I was hoping Hall’s left-handed swing would be rejuvenated by Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch. It wasn’t. Hall was traded to the Cubs right before the end of the 1969 season. 1970 was his last year in the bigs. He retired with 121 career home runs over eight seasons. He was born on March 7, 1938 in Mount Holly, NC and shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee reliever.

If you put together an all-time lineup of players who played for both the Yankees and Twins, it might look like the following:

1B Doug Mientkiewicz

2B Chuck Knoblauch

3B Graig Nettles

SS Roy Smalley

C Butch Wynegar

OF Dave Winfield

OF Jimmie Hall

OF Cesar Tovar

DH Gary Ward

P Jim Kaat

CL Ron Davis

Mgr Billy Martin

Jimmie Hall’s Yankee and career stats:

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1969 NYY 80 233 212 21 50 8 5 3 26 8 19 34 .236 .296 .363 .659
8 Yrs 963 3167 2848 387 724 100 24 121 391 38 287 529 .254 .321 .434 .755
MIN (4 yrs) 573 2102 1885 282 507 73 16 98 288 23 191 358 .269 .334 .481 .815
CHC (2 yrs) 39 61 56 3 8 2 0 0 2 0 5 17 .143 .213 .179 .392
CLE (2 yrs) 57 133 121 5 22 4 0 1 8 2 12 22 .182 .256 .240 .495
CAL (2 yrs) 175 589 527 69 127 11 3 17 63 5 58 84 .241 .315 .370 .685
ATL (1 yr) 39 49 47 7 10 2 0 2 4 0 2 14 .213 .245 .383 .628
NYY (1 yr) 80 233 212 21 50 8 5 3 26 8 19 34 .236 .296 .363 .659
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/31/2014.

March 6 – Happy Birthday Francisco Cervelli

This native Venezuelan emerged from the Yankee farm system when catchers Jorge Posada and Jose Molina both were hurt during the 2009 season. Cervelli did a surprisingly terrific job, hitting .298 in 42 games and earning the praise of the Yankee pitching staff for his work behind the plate. I use the word surprisingly because at the time, Cervelli seemed to handle big league pitching better than he did minor league stuff. That’s what I most liked about him. He seemed to step up when the pressure got more intense and that caused the expectations I had for the kid to rise up as the 2010 season approached.

Francisco got off to a rough start in 2010 when he was beaned on his birthday in spring training and suffered a concussion. When he returned he was wearing a new bulkier batting helmet that protected him better but also made it look like his head had shrunk. The new oversized lid also seemed to be making him a better hitter. When Posada got hurt early in the year, Cervelli took over as starter and had his batting average in the high .300′s well into May. I still remember blinking my eyes a couple of times when I checked a box score of a Yankee Red Sox game I missed that month and saw five RBI’s next to Cervelli’s name.

But the bat cooled off and more disappointingly, so did Francisco’s work behind the plate. The passed balls, errors and horrible throws started appearing in bunches and it convinced me that the kid was not yet ready to be a full-time catcher.

Give him credit though. Cervelli refused to give up on the notion that he and not Russell Martin, Jesus Montero or Austin Romine would be the next great Yankee behind home plate and he spent the winter of 2010 working like mad to get in the better physical shape he knew it would take to compete against that trio. But the injury bug hit him again during the 2011 exhibition season when a foul ball off his own bat fractured his foot. By the time he got back into action, Martin had not only solidified his hold on New York’s starting catching position, he proved to be an iron man back there and did not take many games off. As a result Cervelli played in just 43 games in 2011 and his season ended in early September when he suffered yet another concussion and missed the rest of the regular season and the Yankees’ two postseason series.

He arrived at New York’s 2012 spring camp knowing he was not going to push Martin out of his starting role and that he was going to have to compete with Austin Romine to keep his job as Martin’s backup. Everyone including Cervelli and me was shocked when Yankee GM Brian Cashman traded for San Francisco Giant back-up catcher, Chris Stewart just before Opening Day 2012 and Cervelli ended up getting sent back to Triple A for almost the entire regular season. Francisco actually broke into tears when Manager Joe Girardi gave him the news of his sudden demotion.

But Francisco hung in there. Even though he had a bad 2012 season down on the farm, he came to the 2013 Yankee spring training camp knowing Russell Martin was gone, Hal Steinbrenner was trying to cut the team’s payroll and he’d have his best opportunity ever to win New York’s starting catcher’s job. He actually did beat out Stewart and Romine for the position and was off to a decent regular season start, when a tipped foul ball broke his hand in a late-April game against the Blue Jays. Compounding his inability to stay injury free was his involvement in the now infamous Miami-based PEDs dispensing clinic investigation and subsequent 50-game suspension.

With New York’s off-season signing of Brian McCann emphatically disintegrating any shot Cervelli had of becoming the team’s starting catcher, the just-completed Yankee 2014 spring training season was most certainly his one-last opportunity to prove to New York’s management that he could play a valuable role as the ball club’s back-up catcher. He was certainly up to the challenge. Despite constant questioning about his role in the Biogenesis scandal and incessant rumors that the team had him on the trading block, Cervelli put together one of the best exhibition season performances of any of his teammates and started the regular season as McCann’s back-up.

Cervelli shares his birthday with this former Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2008 NYY 3 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000
2009 NYY 42 101 94 13 28 4 0 1 11 0 2 11 .298 .309 .372 .682
2010 NYY 93 317 266 27 72 11 3 0 38 1 33 42 .271 .359 .335 .694
2011 NYY 43 137 124 17 33 4 0 4 22 4 9 29 .266 .324 .395 .719
2012 NYY 3 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500
2013 NYY 17 61 52 12 14 3 0 3 8 0 8 9 .269 .377 .500 .877
6 Yrs 201 623 542 70 147 22 3 8 79 5 53 94 .271 .343 .367 .710
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/31/2014.

March 5 – Happy Birthday Don Savage

savageDon Savage was a depression-era New Jersey schoolboy athlete who could have played football for a number of major colleges but chose baseball instead. Unfortunately, he suffered two serious knee injuries during his high school playing days and those injuries would haunt him and eventually shorten his big league career.

The Yankees signed him in 1938 and groomed him mostly as a third baseman. He spent the next four seasons following another future Yankee third sacker named Billy Johnson through New York’s farm system. That ascent suddenly got abruptly stalled during the winter of 1941 when Savage, feeling unusually tired all the time, went to the doctor to find out what was wrong with him. He was diagnosed with diabetes and would spend the rest of his life trying to keep the disease under control.

The one and only advantage of the diagnosis was that it made Savage permanently ineligible for military service. That meant, once he felt  well enough to resume his career, the Yankees could count on him being available for the remainder of the war years. He got the OK from his doctors to play for the New Jersey Bears in 1943 and put together a good enough season there to get invited to the Yankees’ 1944 spring training camp. With most of the Yankee veterans and top prospects in military service by then, New York manager Joe McCarthy had plenty of time to pay attention to the team’s new arrivals. He liked Savage enough to bring him north and start him at third base on Opening Day, replacing Johnson who had an outstanding rookie season in 1943 but had then been called into the service.

After getting off to a hot start, Savage’s fragile knees failed him and he began missing games and valuable at bats. The injuries also disrupted his fielding work and before he knew it, he was spending most of his time sitting in the Yankee dugout, watching another Yankee wartime third baseman, Oscar Grimes take his position away.

Savage ended up playing just 71 games during his rookie season and averaging .261. His offensive numbers were decent enough, especially considering his injuries, but it was his mediocre defensive play at the hot corner that eventually caused McCarthy to give up on him.

Savage got to play in 34 games for New York in his second season but after averaging just .224, his big league playing days were over. He ended up working as an elevator mechanic back in his New Jersey hometown and then tragically losing his two-decade battle with diabetes at the age of 42, on Christmas Day in 1961.

Savage shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee outfielder and this former Yankee relief pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1944 NYY 71 262 239 31 63 7 5 4 24 1 20 41 .264 .323 .385 .708
1945 NYY 34 61 58 5 13 1 0 0 3 1 3 14 .224 .262 .241 .504
2 Yrs 105 323 297 36 76 8 5 4 27 2 23 55 .256 .312 .357 .668
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/31/2014.

March 4 – Happy Birthday Lefty O’Doul

Francis Joseph O’Doul began his pro baseball career as a southpaw pitcher with the New York Yankees in 1919. He failed to win or lose a game in three partial seasons with New York and then hurt his left arm, pitching for the Red Sox in 1923. He spent the next five years in the minors converting himself into an every day player. He resurfaced with the New York Giants in 1928, hitting .319 as a 31-year old second-time rookie. Unfortunately, O’Doul’s defensive skills in the outfield did not match his hitting prowess and New York traded him to Philadelphia after that season. What a mistake that turned out to be for the Giants. All O’Doul did for the Phillies in 1929 was win the NL batting title with an incredible .398 average and a league-leading 254 hits. He belted 32 home runs, drove in 122 and scored 152 times himself and finished second in that year’s MVP voting to the immortal Rogers Hornsby. O’Doul had another great year in 1930, averaging .383 but the Phillies finished 40 games out of first place. Lefty’s defense was still dreadful however, and the Phillies needed pitching so they dealt O’Doul to Brooklyn for a couple of hurlers, a replacement outfielder and some much needed cash. During O’Douls three years with Brooklyn, he averaged .340 and won his second NL batting title with a .368 average in 1932. During the 33 season, he was traded back to the Giants and got the opportunity to play in the only World Series of his career.  By then he was 36-years old and losing his hitting skills. He retired the following year and went back to his native San Francisco to manage the Seals, in the Pacific Coast League.

Lefty died in 1969. He shares a birthday with this other star from the 1920s and ’30s who like O’Doul, was known by his nickname and made brief appearances as a Yankee, early in his career.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1919 NYY 19 17 16 2 4 0 0 0 1 1 1 2 .250 .294 .250 .544
1920 NYY 13 13 12 2 2 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 .167 .231 .250 .481
1922 NYY 8 9 9 0 3 1 0 0 4 0 0 2 .333 .333 .444 .778
11 Yrs 970 3658 3264 624 1140 175 41 113 542 36 333 122 .349 .413 .532 .945
NYG (3 yrs) 275 848 760 125 239 32 8 26 127 12 77 32 .314 .380 .480 .860
BRO (3 yrs) 325 1394 1266 219 431 69 20 33 186 18 113 42 .340 .399 .505 .904
NYY (3 yrs) 40 39 37 4 9 2 0 0 6 1 2 5 .243 .282 .297 .579
PHI (2 yrs) 294 1338 1166 274 456 72 13 54 219 5 139 40 .391 .460 .614 1.074
BOS (1 yr) 36 39 35 2 5 0 0 0 4 0 2 3 .143 .189 .143 .332
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/21/2014.