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 recently bench coach, who has 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. Donnie is the manager of the LA Dodgers.
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.
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 four noteworthy ballplayers to have died April 20 played with the Yanks.
Three of these guys are righthanded pitchers: 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. Also, lefthanded outfielder Jack Graney (1978) hit all of his 18 long balls with 420 rbi’s from 1908-1922 with Cleveland.
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 three 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.
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 current 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); Jess Todd (1986); and Brandon Belt (1988).
Players Born This Day