Let’s start April 21′s highlights with a thought about that fireplug player and oftentimes Yankee manager, Billy Martin. Billy has been accused of being feisty, a disrupter, of burning out pitching staffs, of many other things. But he won often, handling several different teams. This day in 1977 he reacted to a 2-8 slump in the previous 10 games by throwing up his hands in despair and choosing the day’s lineup by drawing player’s names out of a hat. First baseman Chris Chambliss was buried in the eight hole, but he drove in five runs with two doubles and a homer in an 8-6 Yankee win.
Never a bad time for another nod to Elston Howard, who was taken from us too early, and therefore never got to come back to the Baseball Cathedral and throw a lot of ceremonial first pitches as did his teammates, and who has missed so many of his daughter’s wonderful renditions of the National Anthem at the Stadium too. On April 21, 1967, Ellie homered to deny Boston rookie Bill Rohr another shutout over the team, just as he had singled with two outs in the ninth the week before to break up the kid’s no-hitter. Rohr and the Sox outpointed Mel Stottlemyre and the Yanks 6-1 that day.
The Blue Jays used six pitchers in eight innings while Roger Clemens was retiring the side in order in five of seven innings in a 9-2 whipping on Sunday, April 21, 2002. Alfonso Soriano waited until Chris Carpenter‘s second pitch to smack one to dead center for a 1-0 lead. He and Bernie Williams scored twice apiece; and Jason Giambi homered as well.
The reason the Indians drew 79,000-plus to a double dip vs. the Yankees on April 21, 1950, is that they were hot, having won nine of 11. But Joe DiMaggio drove in six runs on two homers, including a grand slam, in the first game, and Eddie Lopat and Allie Reynolds got the W’s in a 14-5, 12-4 “Bombers” sweep.
Four years later on this day in 1954, Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle drilled back-to-back jacks off Leo Kiely in the third, and Gil McDougald homered as well in a 5-1 Yankee win over Boston in Yankee Stadium.
Mickey Mantle put the Yanks ahead quickly on April 21, 1965 with a two-run first-inning homer off Camilo Pascual, but it was all Twins from there as the visitors came back to beat the Bombers in the Bronx, 7-2.
The Yankee starting rotation made another of many 2007 changes when they activated Jeff Karstens from the 15-day disabled list on April 21, clearing a spot for him by optioning righty reliever Chris Britton to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Javier Vazquez showed promise (that he would fail to fulfill in the season’s second half) when he beat Jon Garland and the White Sox in Chicago 3-1 on Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada home runs on April 24, 2004. Carlos Lee went yard for the only Palehose tally. Vazquez II in Pinstripes, which took place in 2010, also closed due to bad reviews.
Some fans are eager to sub for the GM and Manager and critique their team’s actions. I generally opt for trying to be positive (though not brain-dead) about their decisions. But it was initially frustrating after seeing outfielder Chris Latham have a great spring to see him designated for assignment on April 20, 2003 in favor of speedy utility player, pinch runner, and former Mariner Charles Gipson, who was recalled from AAA Columbus to take Latham’s place. But it got worse. The numbers seem OK, as Gipson stole two bases and was caught once in 18 games. But concealed in that line is his annoying habit of getting bigger and bigger first base leads — until he would be picked off.
The visiting Orioles used two, three-run uprisings off Chien-Ming Wang to prevail over the Yanks 6-5 on April 21, 2006, with Melvin Mora and Kevin Millar causing much of the damage. The Yanks fell despite home runs by Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano.
Despite the record-tying two triples by Gil Coan of the Senators in the seven-run sixth inning of an April 21, 1951 game against the Yanks in Washington, the New Yorkers prevailed behind Tom Ferrick, 8-7.
Andy Pettitte landed on the Disabled List on April 21, 2002, and the southpaw Randy Choatewas recalled from AAA to fill his roster spot.
After a very good year primarily as a DH for the Yankees in 2004, Ruben Sierra struggled with multiple injuries in 2005. It all began with a stint on the DL due to a strained right biceps muscle on April 21.
Roger Clemens tied an AL record with his 17th consecutive win over two seasons in a 4-2 Yankee win over the Rangers on April 21, 1999, equaling a mark posted by Johnny Allen in 1936-1937 and matched by Dave McNally in 1968-1969.
Boston Red Sox star Babe Ruth pitched and hit the Yankees into submission on April 21, 1917. He tossed the 6-4 victory over the Bombers, and also went 3-for-3 at the plate, with a triple and two doubles.
When new Yankee free agent southpaw Kenny Rogers finally debuted in the Homer Dome on April 21, 1996, he carried a no-hitter into the sixth, and left with a 4-0 lead. The Yanks held on for a 9-5 victory.
When Eddie Murray homered from each side of the plate for the Indians on April 21, 1994, it was the 11th time he garnered that achievement, breaking the record formerly held by Mickey Mantle.
On this day in 1963 the Yanks sent pitcher Bob Coates to the Senators for lefty reliever Steve Hamilton. Although many fans confuse Steve’s slow pitch with “La Lob” thrown by Dave LaRoche in the Yankees’ pen almost 20 years later, Steve’s little beaut was called the “Folly Floater.”
Two April 21 items featuring future or former Yanks worthy of mention feature both pitchers and new ballparks. When Sammy Sosa hit the first grand slam at the new PNC Park in Pittsburgh on April 21, 2001, Jon Lieber got the first victory of his only 20-win season. And in the first ever night game at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium on this day in 1954, Bob Turley carried a no-hitter and 1-0 lead over Cleveland one out into the ninth inning. But Al Rosen singled, Larry Doby went yard, and Turley, who K’d 14 on the night, took the 2-1 loss.
Three impressive season-beginning winning streaks have been added to on April 21. It was an NL record when the Dodgers blasted the Phils 14-2 to win their 10th of 10 on this day in 1955. The 4-3 win by the Braves in Atlanta over Cincinnati in 1982 extended that mark to 13, and the White Sox established the AL mark, and tied the Braves for the major-league lead, when they too notched 13 of 13 to start the 1987 season with their 7-1 win over Milwaukee.
The very good Yankee lefty reliever Joe Page (1980) is the only Bomber to die on April 21. Aside from an uneventful seven games with the 1954 Pirates, Joe spent his entire 1944-1950 career in Pinstripes, with a 57-49 record and 65 saves.
Johnny Beazley, who won two World Series games from the Yanks with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1942 (the Cards took the Series four games to one), died on April 21, 1990. He pitched three years each with the Cards and the Braves to a 31-12 mark with three saves. Two other righthanders of note passed this day as well: Hal Schumacher (1993) posted his entire 158 wins, 121 losses, and seven saves with the Giants from 1931-1942, 1946; and Hal White (2001) pitched mostly for the Tigers from 1941-1954; he won 46 and lost 54 with 25 saves.
Players Who Have Died This Day
Yankee Hall of Fame Manager Joe McCarthy (1887) heads the list of April 21 birthdays. McCarthy led the Yanks to eight American League pennants and won seven of eight World Series with the club. He also managed winning teams with the Cubs for five years before arriving in New York, and three years with the Red Sox afterward.
The left-armed baseball Methusaleh Jesse Orosco (1957), who appeared in 15 games in the 2003 Yankee pen, makes the Pinstriped birthday club too. He won 87, lost 80, and saved 144 from 1979-2003. And the list ends with Lefty Weinert (1902), who posted a 2-2 mark as he finished an eight-year career with the 1931 Yanks. Weinert’s career record from 1919-1931, mostly with the Phillies and the Cubs, was 18-33 with two saves.
The newest addition to the Yankee April 21 birthday club, leftt-hander Zach Kroenke (1984), was drafted by them in 2005, but was lost to the Diamondbacks in the rule-5 draft in 2009. He posted a 1-1 mark with Arizona in 2010-2011 in seven games.
Other birthdays: Gary Peters (1937); Dick Green (1941); Al Bumbry (1947); Les Lancaster (1962); Ken Caminiti (1963); Chris Donnels (1966); Carlos Castillo (1975); Aquilino Lopez (1975); Kip Wells (1977); Jack Taschner (1978); Terry Tiffee (1979); Jeff Keppinger (1980); Ronny Paulino (1981); Brent Morel (1987); Ryan Adams (1987); and Josh Rutledge (1989).
Players Born This Day