On a day with plenty of Yankee exploits, the one that stands out to this Yankee fan is that April 20, 1961, is the day the beloved, the awesome, the best (perhaps?) Yankee, was born. Happy Birthday, Don Mattingly, former Yankee hitting coach and bench coach, now Marlins manager, who unfortunately departed with Joe Torre as Joe Girardi took over as manager. The Hitman stroked 222 jacks and drove in 1,099 runs from 1982-1995, all of it with the team that plays its ball in the South Bronx. Having managed the LA Dodgers for a few years, Donnie was hired as the manager in Miami in 2016.
At first glance, the 9-2 whipping of visiting KC on April 20, 2019, is one of those games that is a delight to share. Masahiro Tanaka went a masterful seven innings, allowing just four hits and a run while coaxing nine ground-ball outs with seven strike outs. Aaron Judge got the fun started with a first-inning tater, with Clint Frazier and Mike Tauchman joining him in the power show, the latter for three runs in the fourth. But this blow came after Aaron Boone had been ejected in the third arguing a booth overrule of an apparent Gleyber Torres three-run homer, a ball originally ruled a homer on which a fan got to the ball before Alex Gordon in left field did, but which seemed to have cleared the wall when touched. But it gets worse, as while starting a two-run rally in the sixth with a single, Judge pulled a core muscle, an injury that would have him out for months, and with which he would not be fully healthy for the remainder of the year.
Two-run leads in the second and third innings were not enough for Sonny Gray in an April 20, 2018, 8-5 loss to Toronto in Yankee Stadium. A messy affair, this one featured wild pitches and Gary Sanchez passed balls that fueled the early-season fiction that it was only when teamed with Sanchez that Gray would struggle. All the home team runs scored on homers off the bats of Tyler Austin, Giancarlo Stanton, and Miguel Andujar; while along with taking extra bases galore on mishandled and errant throws, the Blue Jays responded with long balls from Teoscar Hernandez and one-time Yankee Yangervis Solarte.
A difficult fourth inning ruined what was shaping up as a good start by Nathan Eovaldi in a 5-2 loss to the A’s in the Stadium on April 20, 2016. Following nine up, nine down to start (Nate took care of a leadoff first-inning single by picking off the speedy Billy Burns), the rally that saw five hits and a sac fly from the first seven up in the fourth plated three, more than enough to offset Didi Gregorius and Carlos Beltran home runs. Branden Pinder allowed two more runs in the eighth.
With historic Bombers exploits few and far between in the 1980s, April 20, 1988 stands out. The three homers they slugged were all-time Yankee home runs no. 9,999 (Dave Winfield), no. 10,000 (Claudell Washington), and no. 10,001 (Jack Clark). They were the first team to reach that five-figure amount. Clark made his first Yankee roundtripper count, as his 10th-inning blast powered the Pinstripers over the Twins, 7-6.
In yesterday’s report we marked the anniversary of the opening of Yankee Stadium, the Baseball Cathedral in the Bronx, in 1923. Today, one day later, we mark the premiere major-league games in three great old stadia (two of them still in play): Fenway Park in Boston (1912); the recently abandoned and destroyed Tiger Stadium in Detroit (1912); and Wrigley Field in Chicago (1916). In Boston, the Sox whipped the Yankees, 7-6, behind spitballer Bucky O’Brien, with relief help from Sea Lion Hall.
David Cone was masterful in the Bronx on April 20, 1999, holding the Rangers to three singles through eight frames in a 4-0 win. Paul O’Neill drove in the first three runs with homers in the first and third innings.
Unfortunately, the decision by the Yanks to option Cuban defector and new starter Jose Contreras to AAA Columbus on April 20, 2003, was the first in a series of setbacks in the righty’s stay, which would culminate in his 2004 trade to the White Sox. The team recalled lefty reliever Randy Choate from Triple-A Columbus to take Jose’s spot. Mr. Contreras has since found success in the bigs, a subject for White Sox history.
In the only game in baseball history that featured both Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams, the latter doubled off Red Ruffing, but the Yanks prevailed, 2-0, in the home opener in New York, on April 20, 1939. The Iron Horse suffered through an error in the field and two liners into double plays. Other notables in the lineups that day: Joe DiMaggio; Bill Dickey; Jimmie Foxx, who also allowed an error leading to the second Yankee run; Joe Cronin; Bobby Doerr; Red Rolfe; and losing pitcher Lefty Grove.
Some fans feared their team would show little against the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium on April 20, 2001, as the Yankees had played 17 innings in Toronto the night before, but Hideo Nomo walked the bases loaded in the first and Tino Martinez collected four quick rbi’s in “grand” fashion. Andy Pettitte was the 6-1 winner.
On April 20, 1932, the Yankees drew 55,452 paid attendance for a home opener. Lefty Gomez defeated Lefty Grove and the Athletics 8-3, and Babe Ruth hit a home run.
On April 20, 2007, the old Columbus Shuttle was quickly morphing into the Scranton Shuttle, as Darrell Rasner was optioned to AAA, and reliever Colter Bean was recalled to take his place.
After a moving tribute to the late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt before a delayed opener in Washington held on April 20, 1945, the Yanks pounded Senators pitching for a 6-3 win, their fourth straight.
Yankee rookie hurler Bob Meyer made his debut in Boston on this day in 1964, and came up a 4-0 loser.
Babe Ruth was a hitting star on April 20, 1926, as he homered and doubled twice on a five-for-five night, scored five times, and knocked in eight tallies in an 18-5 shellacking of Washington.
Yankee first baseman Moose Skowron hit two homers off Boston’s Bob Porterfield during a 10-7 Yankee victory on April 20, 1957. He hit his first dinger, in the second inning to left-center, out of Fenway Park.
It was a blow to the season when the Yankees had to place righthander Ivan Nova on the 15-day disabled list on April 20, 2014, with a right elbow ulnar collateral ligament injury. His season would end with surgery. That first baseman Mark Teixeira was activated from the 15-day disabled list was greeted with hope, but the early injury was not a good sign. Reloading a bit, the club designated reliever Matt Daley for assignment, and optioned infielder Scott Sizemore to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders; then, they recalled righties Preston Claiborne and Bryan Mitchell, the former from that same AAA team, and Mitchell from the AA Trenton Thunder.
When the Jersey City Giants, minor league franchise of the New York team identically nicknamed, hosted the Newark Bears, a Yankee minor league club, on April 20, 1939, an attendance record for the minors (over 45,000) was set. The Bears would best the Giants in that year’s playoffs, but then lose to Rochester.
Two April 20 items featuring future Yankee players set or tied records. When Raul Mondesi homered back-to-back with Carlos Delgado (who hit three this day) in a 12-4 romp over K.C. on April 20, 2001, it marked the first time in a year that two teammates went back-to-back twice in the same contest. And when Seattle’s Alex Rodriguez doubled twice and homered in an 8-7 win over the Royals on this day in 1998, he tied Earl Sheehy‘s 1926 record of eight extra base hits in three games.
Yankee fans with nothing but bad memories of Ken Phelps might be surprised to read that playing for the A’s, the lefty batter broke up a Perfect Game bid by Seattle’s Brian Holman on April 20, 1990, by homering with two down in the ninth inning. Holman got the 6-1 win when he retired the next batter, also an ex-Yank, Rickey Henderson.
In a twist on the “Tale of Two Cities” theme, Casey Stengel, who would be so beloved managing in New York years later, was so unpopular piloting the pitiful Boston Braves that when he suffered a broken leg when hit by a taxi on April 20, 1943, the cabdriver was nominated Sportsman of the Year in a local Boston newspaper.
None of the noteworthy ballplayers to have died April 20 played with the Yanks.
Three of these guys are righthanded pitchers, and one a southpaw: Jack Lynch (1923), who won 110 and lost 105 from 1881-1890, mostly with the New York Metropolitans; Bucky Walters (1991), with a 198-160 mark with four saves from 1934-1948, largely with the Phillies and the Reds; and Orval Grove (1992), who pitched for the White Sox only from 1940-1949 with a 63-73 record and four saves. Lefty Harry Perkowski (2016) pitched to a 33-40 mark with five saves from 1947 through 1955, mostly with Cincinnati, and lefthanded outfielder Jack Graney (1978) hit all of his 18 long balls with 420 rbi’s from 1908-1922 with Cleveland. And most recently, outfielder George Alusik (2018) played 19 games with the Tigers from 1958 through 1962, then 279 with the A’s from 1962 through 1964, stroking 23 home runs with 93 rbi’s overall.
Players Who Have Died This Day
Returning to the subject of this being the birthday of Yankee first baseman, then hitting coach, and recent bench coach Don Mattingly in 1961 (a magical Yankee year), he had not only those 222 home runs and 1,099 rbi’s from 1982-1995, all of it with the team that plays its ball in the South Bronx, but he did it after being selected in the 19th round in the 1979 amateur free agent draft. He won the 1985 AL MVP, and led the league in doubles three times; in extra base hits, total bases, and hits twice; and slugging percentage and batting average once. He was denied the deserved 10 Gold Gloves in a row by the (I demand a recount!) one slugger Mark McGwire was given in 1990.
Aside from Donnie Baseball, there are four other Pinstriped players birthdaying this day. Jimmy Jones (1964) went 3-3 in 28 games (13 starts) for the 1989-1990 Yanks after the club shipped Jack Clark and Pat Clements to San Diego for Jones, Stan Jefferson, and Lance McCullers in October 1988. Jones was allowed to leave as a free agent after the 1990 campaign.
Catcher Mike O’Berry (1954) drove home five runs during 13 games for the 1984 club after being inked to play in New York in December 1983. Mike’s overall career numbers from spot duty with Boston, the Cubs, the Reds, the Angels, the Twins, and the Expos from 1979-1985 increase to three home runs, 27 rbi’s, and one stolen base.
Charlie Hemphill (1876), a lefty outfielder for the St. Louis Browns, finished up his career playing that position for the Yanks (the Highlanders) from 1908-1911, during which time he hit one homer and collected 90 rbi’s. The club traded Jimmy Williams, Hobe Ferris, and Danny Hoffman to the Browns in 1908 for Hemphill and Fred Glade.
Catcher Kyle Higashioka (1990) joined this fraternity thanks to the early-season shoulder injury to Yankee starter Gary Sanchez in 2017. Although Kyle got no hits in nine games while with the club, he walked twice, and scored two times. New York drafted Higashioka in the seventh round of the 2008 draft, then released and re-signed him in 2015. Again on board due to injury, Kyle hit three home runs with six rbi’s in 29 games in New York in 2018, then another three with 11 rbi’s in 18 games in 2019. Kyle became even more integral to Yankee fortunes in the bizarro 2020 season, as he went yard four times in 16 games, and homered and drove in two in that postseason, as starter Sanchez struggled on both sides of the ball. He has an rbi in three games in 2021 as of this writing.
Hal Peck (1917), who hit 15 homers and garnered 112 rbi’s with the Dodgers, the A’s, and the Indians from 1943-1949, leads a second list of others with a Yankee connection. Peck was purchased by the Yanks from the Athletics in 1946; then he was shipped with Gene Bearden and Al Gettel to Cleveland for Sherm Lollar and Ray Mack later that year. Finishing off this list is former first baseman and (now retired) broadcaster Tommy Hutton (1946), who at one time served in that latter capacity for the Yankees.
Other birthdays start off with old-time Hall of Fame shortstop Dave Bancroft (1915), who plied his trade for the Phillies, the Giants, the Boston Braves, and the Brooklyn Dodgers. Also: Manager Preston Gomez (1923); Milt Wilcox (1950); Masato Yoshii (1965); Scott Winchester (1973); Todd Hollandsworth (1973); Sean Green (1979); Chris Duffy (1980); Donovan Hand (1986); Jess Todd (1986); Ian Thomas (1987); Dusty Coleman (1987); Brandon Belt (1988); Garin Cecchini (1991); and Drew Robinson (1992).
Players Born This Day