January 23 in Yankee History

  • The Yanks last pulled off a big trade on January 23 way back in 1904, when they shipped pitchers “Long” Tom Hughes and Bill Wolfe to Washington for Al Orth. It can be assumed that Al didn’t have much of a breaking ball, as he was nicknamed “The Curveless Wonder.” Al changed speeds off his fastball (Greg Maddux‘s style comes to mind) and though he only amassed 72 wins and 73 losses with the 1904 through 1909 Yanks, those numbers were negatively affected by his 16-34 on two bad teams in ’07 and ’08. In 1906, he led the American League with 27 wins, 36 complete games, and 339 innings pitched. Hughes had been a 7-11 bust in New York in 1903 after they had sent Jesse Tannehill to Boston for him, but the change of scenery to Washington did not help, as he compiled an 83-125 mark with the Senators by the end of the 1913 season. Wolfe only pitched one game in the bigs, which he lost for the 1902 Phillies. Continue reading
  • January 22 in Yankee History

  • On January 22, 1997, baseball officially lost its most faithful and worthy practitioner, when Don Mattingly retired. He said it best himself: “I never felt I was as talented as some other players, but I was willing to try some things other players weren’t willing to do. I played from the heart.” Yankee fans everywhere welcomed him back as hitting coach in 2004. He filled that same role through 2006, served as Joe Torre‘s bench coach in 2007, and sadly headed to Los Angeles with Torre for the 2008 season after being passed over in favor of Joe Girardi as the new Yankee manager. Continue reading
  • January 21 in Yankee History

  • As a Yankee fan, I have often expressed pique at what I consider to be Hall of Fame snubs. I feel Don Mattingly was on top of his games long enough to merit entrance. Thurman Munson‘s career was tragically cut short, but the Rookie of the Year Award, All Star appearances, MVP, and two rings should entitle him more than some in the Hall. And in my opinion, Roger Maris‘s incredible feat in 1961 qualifies him for the honor all by itself. The argument for the enshrinement of a home run king who held the season record longer than Babe Ruth is stronger than ever in this sad baseball era. But those three really are minor irritations when you compare them to what happened on January 21, 1971, when Yogi Berra was denied entry in his first year of eligibility. In recent years, Kirby Puckett has made it, and Ozzie Smith and Willie Stargell were voted in on their first tries. How is it possible that the three-time American League Most Valuable Player Yankee catcher wasn’t? Continue reading
  • January 20 in Yankee History

  • The Yankees picked up a valuable player at a key time when they traded outfielders Elliott Maddox and Rick Bladt to Baltimore for center fielder Paul Blair on January 20, 1977. Effective in center after replacing Bobby Murcer until he tore his knee up in Shea Stadium’s outfield, Maddox hit four homers with 71 rbi’s, and 15 stolen bases in New York from 1974-1976; Bladt had hit one tater with 11 rbi’s and six stolen bases in spot duty with the Yanks in 1975. The latter never played in the bigs again, and Maddox only hit two homers with nine rbi’s and two stolen bases in 49 games for the O’s in 1977. Not a lot of production for Blair to replace. A smooth fielder who could track a long fly with the best of them, Paul had been judged to be on the downside after having had trouble overcoming an ugly beaning with the O’s, but his timely offense was huge for two Yankee World Series-winning teams. He hit six homers with 38 rbi’s and four stolen bases in ’77-’78 (plus two games in ’79, and 12 in a brief ’80 return), but he added six postseason hits in 23 at bats as the Yanks won the ALCS and World Series two years running. And the Blair file holds one more surprise. He was initially drafted by the New York Mets (in 1962) before the Orioles drafted him from New York’s NL representative that same year. Continue reading
  • January 19 in Yankee History

  • One of the highlights about January from a baseball fan perspective is that it is the month during which great players are often honored by being named to the Hall of Fame. And on January 19, one of those honorees was New York Yankee catcher Yogi Berra, joined on the dais in 1972 by the legendary Sandy Koufax and by 300-game winner Early Wynn. Yogi played for the Yanks from 1946 through 1963 (we won’t mention the handful of at bats for the Mets in 1965). He smacked 358 home runs, drove in 1,430 runs, and even stole 30 bases, and won three American League Most Valuable Player Awards. Continue reading
  • January 18 in Yankee History

  • The Yankees signed infielder Wilson Betemit to a one-year contract on January 18, 2008. Betemit’s switch-hit power intrigued the club, but it wasn’t much in evidence in the coming campaign. Unfortunately, his less than stellar defense around the infield was. Eventually, however, Wilson was one of the chips the Yanks used to pry Nick Swisher from the Chisox, and Nick had a great year for the 2009 Yankee champs. Continue reading
  • January 17 in Yankee History

  • Four days ago, we reported about the untimely death of Yankee owner Colonel Jacob Ruppert in 1939. It was on January 17 of that year that the New York Yankees elected Ed Barrow as president to replace Ruppert in that position. The brilliant Barrow, who had constructed the Yankee dynasty on a slew of canny acquisitions like that of Babe Ruth almost 20 years earlier, would remain Yankee president until 1945, when the team would be bought by Dan Topping and Del Webb. Continue reading
  • January 16 in Yankee History

  • There is just no precedent for it in baseball, and maybe none in the history of sport. On January 16, 1974, Mickey Mantle became the seventh player to be voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. He had played for the Yankees only from 1951-1968, during which time he blasted 536 homers, knocked in 1,509 rbi’s, and sped to 153 stolen bases. He was the AL MVP three times, came in second in that vote another three times, and in third once. He came in first in offensive categories time and time again: batting average in 1956; rbi in 1956; home runs in 1955, 1956, 1958, 1960; triples in 1955; extra-base hits in 1952, 1955, 1956; total bases in 1956, 1958, 1960; runs in 1954, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1960, 1961; on-base percentage in 1955, 1962, 1964; slugging percentage in 1955, 1956, 1961, 1962; OPS in 1952, 1955, 1956, 1960, 1962, 1964; and walks in 1955, 1957, 1958, 1961, 1962. Continue reading
  • January 15 in Yankee History

  • On January 15, 1958, the Yankees became a huge presence on WPIX-TV, as they agreed to have 140 games televised on channel 11 in New York. With the two NL franchises leaving town, the Bombers were making a statement. Philadelphia would cause some consternation when they announced six days later that they would be showing games in New York too, a short-lived threat to the Yankee monopoly that never came to pass. Starting from the point of the Bombers’ $1 million-plus deal, the TV in my home was often found on channel 11, and it was a good bet that I was the one who put it there. Continue reading
  • January 14 in Yankee History

  • January 14, 2009, was the day the Yankees sent out many of their nonroster and minor league invitations to the upcoming Spring Training. Among the invitees: infielders Doug Bernier, Angel Berroa, Justin Leone, Eduardo Nunez, Ramiro Pena, and Kevin Russo; outfielders Austin Jackson, Colin Curtis, Shelley Duncan, Todd Linden, and John Rodriguez; catchers Kyle Anson, Kevin Cash, Jesus Montero, P.J. Pilittere, and Austin Romine; righthanders Jason Johnson, Mark Melancon, and Sergio Mitre; and lefty Kei Igawa. Continue reading