It’s hard to imagine a much bigger day in Yankee history than April 17, 1951. Sure, Babe Ruth certainly performed some pretty historic feats years earlier. But on this day, as the Yankees opened at home and Vic Raschi shut out the Red Sox, 5-0, Mickey Mantle played his first Yankee game, had one hit and scored a run. And if that’s not enough, it was also the debut of Stadium public address announcer Bob Sheppard, The Voice of God to Yankee fans. Unfortunately, we finally lost Mr. Sheppard in 2010.
Why do games on pleasant evenings resolve themselves in less time? The Yanks used a walk, four singles, and a sac fly to score four third-inning runs over visiting Minnesota in an 8-3 Yankee win on April 17, 2012, in a game that came in at exactly three hours. Brett Gardner used two singles and two walks to score three times, and Chris Stewart singled twice to knock in three runs.
Home runs by Robinson Cano, Russell Martin, and Curtis Granderson were barely enough to surpass the visiting Texas Rangers 6-5 in the ESPN Sunday night game on April 17, 2011, as Adrian Beltre crushed three hits with a homer and four rbi’s, and walked as well.
In what unfortunately would not be a typical 2010 A.J. Burnett start, the Yanks jumped on Texas right-hander Scott Feldman for seven early runs and held on to beat the visitors 7-3 despite an eighth-inning Nelson Cruz home run off Alfredo Aceves. Jorge Posada‘s third-inning leadoff single that started a four-run rally climaxed by a Derek Jeter long ball was the 1,500th hit of the Yankee catcher’s career. It was announced before the game that by hitting safely in 27 straight April games, Robinson Cano had set a new AL record, so of course Robbie went hitless in this one.
On April 17, 1953, Mickey Mantle hit the longest home run in Griffith Stadium history, a 565-foot drive in a 7-3 Yankee win over the Senators.
Three years later, Mickey Mantle struck again, as he hit two 500-feet-plus homers off Camilo Pascual in a 10-4 Opening Day win. With the Senators and the Yanks each reaching the fences three times, it was the first time teams combined for six homers on Opening Day, on April 17, 1956.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Yanks earned their first victory in the new Stadium on April 17, 2009, a 6-5 come-from-behind win over Cleveland. Even though Joba Chamberlain failed to finish five innings, Jonathan Albaladejo got his first win with a scoreless seventh when none other than Captain Derek Jeter won the game with a singleton home run with two down in the bottom of the frame. Cleveland threatened Mariano Rivera‘s first serve in the new place with two singles with one down in the ninth, but Mo struck out the next two to send the Faithful home happy.
Following a brutal second half in 2007, many Yankee fans were ready to give up on Mike Mussina when he allowed a two-run bomb to Manny Ramirez during a four-run third inning in a 7-5 loss to the Red Sox on April 16, 2008. It was Ramirez’s second homer on the day, but Moose would shortly be running off a remarkable string of well-pitched games. Tino Martinez got the game counter honors this day, reducing the games left in Yankee Stadium number from 73 to 72.
One imagines that many there did not have their minds on the game on April 17, 1964, as the Yanks lost to the Red Sox in Fenway, 4-1, in a game during which they commemorated the late President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, less than five months after his assassination.
The Yankees optioned David Robertson back to AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre after just one day on April 17, 2009, to make room for slugging first baseman Juan Miranda from Scranton-Wilkes Barre.
Bear with me as I return to the Mickey Mantle fest, as it was the play and the image of this great star that is most responsible for my Yankee fan-ness to this day. On April 17, 1965, the Bombers lived up to their nickname, as they scored all their runs on homers in a 5-2 victory over the KC A’s. The Mick blasted a two-run shot in the eighth with Roger Maris aboard via a walk.
The “Chairman of the Board,” Yankee lefty Whitey Ford, blanked Kansas City 3-0 in front of a tiny Stadium crowd in the freezing rain on this day in 1961. Mickey Mantle drove home all three Yankee runs, including a singleton dinger off Jerry Walker in the very first frame.
It was turnabout/fair play, when Boston’s Tom Brewer shut out the Yankees, 4-0, besting Bob Turley on this day in 1959. Turley had defeated the Sox and Brewer the week before.
The depth of the injury situation with the 2007 Yankee rotation becomes clear when you realize they had to reach down to AA Trenton for April 17 starter Chase Wright. Wright survived back-to-back walks that led to a run to start the game, and eight three-ball counts in five innings to get the 10-3 win. The Yanks staged a six-run second-inning rally, paced by home runs from Doug Mientkiewicz, Alex Rodriguez, and Jorge Posada. The long balls would be on the other foot, so to speak, the next time Wright would take the mound.
On this day in 1912, the Yankees played the Giants at the Polo Grounds in a charity game to raise money for survivors of the Titanic disaster.
Sparky Lyle took the 4-3 loss as Earl Williams hit his first AL homer for the Orioles, a three-run blast, on April 17, 1973.
The actress Claire Hodgson and Babe Ruth were married at 5 a.m. to avoid crowds before the Yanks’ scheduled opener on this day in 1929. The eventual rainout allowed the couple to celebrate in style.
The Yankee Polo Grounds (as their home field) experience got off to a losing start as Washington beat the Highlanders and new Manager Frank Chance 9-3 on April 17, 1913.
Free agent righty Nelson Figueroa, who in 2013 would deliver a killer start againet the USA in the 2013 WBC for Puerto Rico, was signed and assigned to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre from the Yankees on Appril 17, 2012.
Long-suffering Andy Phillips got an early taste of the Columbus Shuttle on April 17, 2005, as he was sent down to AAA when Kevin Brown returned from one of his multiple trips to the Disabled List.
Fritz Maisel held the Yankee season lead in stolen bases for about 70 years until Rickey Henderson eclipsed him in the 1980′s. On April 17, 1915, Maisel stole second base, third base, and home in a 9-1 win over Philadelphia, although he did not steal those bases in the same inning.
On April 17, 1936, Lefty Grove led the Red Sox to a two-hit, 8-0 shutout over the Yanks. The two hits were singles by Lou Gehrig.
The Yankees came storming back from a 4-1 deficit on the strength of a seven-run seventh inning in an 8-4 win over the Red Sox on April 17, 1945. The Yankee hitting star was Russ Derry with two homers, one a grand slam, but the Yanks were helped to their big inning and win by four Boston errors, three of them by first baseman George Metkovich, who missed a tag, made a bad throw, and muffed a grounder.
He would toil in the National League afterward, but a one-time Yankee setup man as well, Tom Gordon was pitching for the Red Sox on April 17, 1999, when he sustained a serious elbow injury.
On April 17, 1976, at Wrigley, the Phillies staged the biggest comeback in NL history, beating the Cubs 18-16 in 10 innings after trailing 12-1. Mike Schmidt of the Phillies stroked four consecutive home runs (after singling), good for eight rbi’s.
One-armed outfielder Pete Gray made his major-league debut with the St. Louis Browns on this day in 1945; he collected one hit and handled no chances in the field.
The first professional baseball game had the Cincinnati Reds beating a team of amateurs 24-15 on April 17, 1869.
Jackie Robinson got his first major league hit with a bunt single in a 12-6 Dodgers win over the Braves on this day in 1947.
Montreal’s Bill Stoneman threw a no-hitter in a 5-0 win over the Phillies on April 17, 1969.
Ancient spitballer Jack Quinn (1946), who won 81 and lost 65 with New York in two stints between 1909 and 1921, is the first of two Yankee players to have died on April 17. Extending his eight-team career through 1933 with lengthy stays with the Red Sox and Athletics, Quinn stretched his overall record to 247-218 with 57 saves. Southpaw (go figure) Lefty Weinert (1973) ended his 11-year big-league stay by pitching to no record in 17 games (no starts) with the 1931 Yankees. He posted most of his 18-33 record with two saves for the Phillies and the Cubs.
Other players of note to have passed on April 17 include three righthanders, a catcher, and a third baseman/second baseman. Bobby Matthews (1898) won 166, lost 136 and saved three for the A’s, the Grays, and the Red Caps from 1876-1887; Vic Aldridge (1973) posted most of his 97-80 record with six saves for the Cubs and Pirates from 1917-1928; and long stints with Washington, Brooklyn, and Chicago (the Cubs) earned Dutch Leonard (1983) his 191-181 mark with 44 saves from 1933-1953. Catcher Dick Brown (1970) hit 62 long balls with 223 rbi’s from 1957-1965 with Cleveland, Baltimore, and Detroit; and Bill Serena (1996) played both second base and third base just with the Cubs from 1949-1954; he cleared 48 fences good for 198 rbi’s.
Players Who Have Died This Day
There is a dearth of April 17 baseball birthdays, and no Yankee players make the list at all. Hall of Fame first baseman and manager Cap Anson (1852) was largely responsible for major league baseball getting its start, and was the first player to amass 3,000 hits on the one hand. He also batted better than .300 19 times in his 22-year major league career. On the other hand, he was a bigot who played a role in excluding blacks from the big leagues.
Hall of Fame old-time baseball executive Alexander Cartwright (1820) is the next on a list that includes Solly Hemus (1923); Denny Walling (1954); Craig Worthington (1965); Marquis Grissom (1967); Gary Bennett (1972); Jorge Piedra (1979); Ryan Raburn (1981); Jed Lowrie (1984); and Dan Jennings (1987).
Players Born This Day