December 28 in Yankee History

  • Not only was Tim “Rock” Raines a mainstay of the 1996 World Championship team, he was one of the most popular Yankees during his 1996 through 1998 stay. The Yankees acquired the speedy switch-hitting outfielder from the White Sox on December 28, 1995, for a player to be named later (in February 1996 minor leaguer Blaise Kozeniewski was sent to Chicago). Tim contributed 18 home runs, 118 rbi’s and 26 stolen bases to the Yankee cause in part-time duty, and had two particularly big days. On September 30, 1997, in the first game of the ALDS vs. Cleveland, he combined with Derek Jeter and Paul O’Neill on back to back to back home runs that carried the Bombers to victory (though the Indians would prevail in that series). And in a June 10, 1998, interleague tilt with the Montreal Expos, he became the fifth player in major league history to steal his 800th base. Sadly, Bernie Williams would be lost for a month in that same game injuring himself sliding. Continue reading
  • December 27 in Yankee History

  • It is good indeed that two of the three Yankee December 27 birthdays (see below) belong to fondly recalled players who accomplished big things with the team, because the only major transaction involving the club this day before 2006 was a big-time loser. Perhaps fan expectations were more the problem than anything else, because the numbers Ed Whitson put up in New York after signing a five-year free-agent deal with the Bombers on December 27, 1984, were not appreciably worse than those he had when he arrived. Ed had posted a 14-8 mark with the Padres in 1984, but slipped to 15-10 with the Yanks in the next year and a half. Driven from the Bronx by a hostile crowd that booed his mediocre mound outings and threatened him and his family, Whitson was traded back to the Padres in July 1986 for reliever Tim Stoddard. Stoddard, happily, was a solid performer in New York, garnering a 10-6 record with 11 saves through the end of the 1988 season. Continue reading
  • December 26 in Yankee History

  • I’m having a hard time imagining just how good some little kid who rooted for the Yankees must have been throughout the calendar year of 1919, but I couldn’t be happier that he (or she) was. Imagine a better Christmas present, if you can. Although the Yanks and Red Sox would not announce it until January, the Bombers purchased the contract of Babe Ruth on December 26, 1919. Although much of the Babe’s 94-46 pitching mark was accomplished in Boston, the bulk of the 714 homers, 2,213 rbi’s, 233 stolen bases, and .342 career ba from 1914-1935 came with the Yanks. It put major league baseball on the World Map, and it made the Bronx its Capital. Continue reading
  • December 25 in Yankee History

  • The Yankee franchise has more than its share of big names associated with December 25, certainly a big day on the calendars of many people who predominate in the Western Hemisphere of this planet. Unfortunately the first Yankee reference we’ll make is to the death, this day in 1989, of former Yankee manager and player Billy Martin. Billy played with the Yanks from 1950-1957, during which time he stroked 30 home runs with 178 rbi’s and 19 stolen bases; he also made at least one memorable World Series catch. But where Billy shone was on the bench piloting a team. He led the Minnesota Twins to a pennant win in 1969, won a pennant in three years with the Tigers (finishing second and third the other two seasons), coached a second- and third-place team in two full years with the Rangers. And in his four years piloting Oakland after his first two stays with the Yanks, he notched a first and two second places. But it was in New York that Billy posted a 1,252-1,013 win/loss record, won three pennants and two World Titles, and otherwise led the club to a second, two thirds, a fourth and a fifth-place finish. Continue reading
  • December 24 in Yankee History

  • There were two big free-agent signings on December 24, 1986, both of them of great interest to Yankee fans. It was pretty well acknowledged that their ex-slugger Reggie Jackson was on the down side of his career then as he signed a free agent deal for the upcoming season with the A’s, but who knew? Few expected the 133 homers with 374 rbi’s that he contributed to the California Angels’ cause in the preceding five years. Those big numbers (and particularly the 39/101 in 1982) were badly missed in the Bronx. Continue reading
  • December 23 in Yankee History

  • It is hoped that some of the moves made recently to retool the Yankee team don’t ape the failed attempts made back in the eighties. In response to the regretted decision to let slugger Reggie Jackson go after the 1981 World Series failure, for instance, the Yanks signed outfielder Dave Collins in a sudden attempt to rejigger the offense as one built on team speed. They signed Dave to a three-year deal on December 23, 1981, but he barely lasted the year. And although the three homers and 25 rbi’s in 111 games were disappointingly low figures, it was the lack of speed on the basepaths (only 13 stolen bases in all that time) that doomed the plan. Continue reading
  • December 22 in Yankee History

  • The free-agent signing of David Cone by the Yankees on December 22, 1995, is the biggest single event of the day from the Pinstriped perspective. Cone had earlier starred for the Mets after they got him in a steal of a deal from K.C., but by this point in his career he had developed the reputation as a “hired gun,” after being traded to Toronto down the stretch twice in close pennant races. But he appeared to find a home in the Bronx, and his part in the resurgence that carried the Yanks to the playoffs every year and to four Championships by the time he left after the ’00 season can’t really be overestimated. He posted a 64-40 mark in that time despite dipping to 4-14 in that last year, and he recorded the first of the Yanks’ amazing 14 World Series game wins in a row when he halted the Braves in Game Three in 1996. He threw a Perfect Game against the Montreal Expos in Yankee Stadium in July 1999. His subsequent time in Boston and with the crosstown rival Mets tarnished his Yankee reputation with some, but not from this scribe’s perspective. Continue reading
  • December 21 in Yankee History

  • Recent steroids/HGH controversy notwithstanding, Yankee fans were delighted when former Pinstriped southpaw Andy Pettitte signed a one-year deal, with a one-year player option, to return to the Bronx on December 21, 2006. And for good reason. Pettitte pitched better than his 15-9 record, and his gutsy start in Game Two of the 2007 ALDS gave the team an excellent chance to advance to the next round, until a swarm of gnats ruined the evening. Andy struggled in the second half of a 14-14, 2008 season, but after mulling a Yankee offer came back in 2009, and only won the clinching games in all three playoff series on the way to Championship No. 27, that’s all. Happily, he signed on to play in 2010, had another very good year, but missed six weeks with an injury. And the saga continues, as Andy called it quits after 2010, then unretired and pitched well before being injured in 2012, then signed again and pitched well in 2013. As it was assumed, he has now joined his “core four” teammates Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and Derek Jeter, the last domino to fall, in retirement. Continue reading
  • December 20 in Yankee History

  • On December 20, 1966, the Yanks acquired shortstop Dick Howser from the Indians for minor leaguer Gil Downs. Although Dick would only garner 13 rbi’s during 148 games in ending his playing career with the 1967 and 1968 Yanks, he would establish a relationship that would eventually lead to his guiding the club. He would manage one game (a loss) for the ’78 World Champion winners, spanning the transition from fiery Billy Martin to the calmer Bob Lemon. Howser piloted the 1980 club that achieved a 103-59 record, although they would lose to the Royals in the ALCS. Continue reading
  • December 19 in Yankee History

  • The Bombers solved a long puzzle when they signed Japanese professional baseball star Hideki Matsui to be their left fielder on December 19, 2002. To many he was the MVP of the 2003 team, then he almost doubled his power numbers in ’04, and he was a consistent run producer in 2005, though he struggled in the post. “Godzilla” began the 2006 season with a new three-year contract to play in the Pinstripes, but lost most of the season when he broke his wrist trying to make a catch. The 25 homers and 103 rbi’s in 2007, highlighted by a July AL Player of the Month designation, would have been even better if he was not slowed at the end by a bad knee. Another bad knee in 2008 had the fanbase concerned, but Hideki fooled us all and saved the best for last, with a solid season at DH in 2009, capped by winning World Series MVP in the six-game victory over the Phillies. He has served as a guest instructor in spring training the last few years. Continue reading