On a gorgeous day for baseball in the Bronx on Thursday, April 26, 2018, fans suffered through what seemed a slow death, as the Bombers fell behind the Twins 3-0 on a two-run Yunel Escobar homer off Jordan Montgomery in the third and a singleton shot from Robbie Grossman off Domingo German in the sixth. An Aaron Hicks sac fly closed it to 3-1 in the seventh, but once Dellin Betances struck out the side in the top of the ninth, the Yanks immediately responded off Fernando Rodney in the bottom half on two singles and a Gary Sanchez first-pitch home run to left, 4-3 Yankees.
Once ex-Yank Curtis Granderson worked new Yank Nate Eovaldi for a nine-pitch at bat leading off the April 26, 2015, Sunday Night Baseball game with a home run, the visiting Mets looked to have a shot at winning the rubber game of the three-game set. But Alex Rodriguez returned the favor off southpaw John Niese in the bottom half, then hit the fourth Yankee double of the second inning as the home team climbed into a 5-2 lead. Despite striking out seven, Eovaldi would not finish the fifth, but Dellin Betances struck out three in the eighth, and Andrew Miller one in the ninth in the 6-4 Yankee win.
Proving what many fans already suspected, southpaw starter Vidal Nuno just did not have enough game to claim a rotation spot, and the 3-1 lead the Yanks gave him on April 26, 2014 (following a Mike Trout first-inning bomb) on a Hector Santiago balk and John Ryan Murphy‘s two-run second-inning single was gone in the fourth. But Murphy blasted a solo shot in the bottom half of the fifth and stellar relief from four bullpenners carried the day in a 4-2 Yankee win.
It was long man (at the time) David Phelps to the rescue in a 6-4 win in Yankee Stadium on April 26, 2013. Ivan Nova suffered an injury reacting to a Rajai Davis single up the middle that subsequently caromed off the second base bag. Down 2-1 when a run scored on the next at bat, Phelps carried the game through the sixth, when Edgar Encarnacion homered, but by then a Vernon Wells sac fly and Lyle Overbay triple had given the Yanks the lead. Brett Gardner homered in the eighth, and all six runs were scored by different hitters and four of the Yankee rbi’s came from four players. The other two runs crossed the plate on a wild pitch and a passed ball, respectively.
April 26, 1961, was day one in a climb into the history books, as that was the day that Roger Maris hit his first of 61 homers, off Detroit’s Paul Foytack. Mickey Mantle added shots from each side of the plate (his eighth time accomplishing that feat); the second broke a 10-10 tie in the 10th inning of a 13-10 Yankee win.
Signed to set up games for Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano had another bad day on April 26, 2011, earning the 3-2 loss to the visiting White Sox. Smarting from a 2-0 loss the day before, the Yanks were delighted with the 2-1 lead through seven thanks to a dominant outing from Ivan Nova and singleton jacks from Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner. Soriano struck Alexi Ramirez out leading off the eighth, but hit Carlos Quentin with a pitch before surrendering a two-run home run to left center by Paul Konerko.
The best-laid plans were set aside in 2007 when the Yanks purchased the contract of youthful righty Phil Hughes from AAA Scranton and started him against Toronto in the Bronx a year earlier than they would have liked to. A.J. Burnett and Vernon Wells collaborated to beat Phil though, the former by blanking the Yanks on four singles over seven, and the latter because he collected three of the six hits the rookie allowed in five innings. Wells walked his last two at bats for a perfect day at the plate and the Blue Jays won 6-0.
Continuing to experience the kind of April that would not put Championship thoughts into their fans’ heads, the Yankees placed lefthanded reliever Damaso Marte on the 15-day disabled list with left shoulder tendinitis on April 26, 2009.
Bob Turley blanked the White Sox 5-0 on this day in 1955. He surrendered only one hit and whiffed 10.
Due to the strike extending from 1994, the Yanks’ latest home opener ever took place on April 26, 1995. It was Jimmy Key‘s third consecutive Opening Day win, 8-6 over Kenny Rogers and the Rangers. Danny Tartabull and Bernie Williams stroked Yankee homers.
The Yanks lost a 4-2, 10-inning game in the Stadium to the Devil Rays on April 26, 2006. Seth McClung pitched well until Gary Sheffield homered to tie things in the fifth. But the pesky Rays posted a two-spot vs. Mariano Rivera in the 10th inning for the win.
This day in 1931 saw a flaky play that cost Lou Gehrig sole possession of that year’s AL home run title (as it was, he shared it with Babe Ruth) and two rbi’s (he had to settle for a paltry 184). Lou’s teammate on the bases, Lyn Lary, saw Washington’s center fielder Harry Rice catch Lou’s long drive, and didn’t realize it had hit something in the stands and bounced back. Gehrig meanwhile, thinking the ball was still in play, kept running, eventually passing the point where Lary had reached before he retreated to the bench due to what he thought was the third out. Ruling? Lou’s out, with a triple and no runs scored (or driven in, of course). And it was critical to that contest as well, which the Yanks lost, 9-7.
It would be great to follow that loss with a highlight featuring the Iron Horse, and fortunately we have one. On April 26, 1936, the Yanks came storming back from a 6-0 first-inning deficit in Boston and won, 12-9. Jimmie Foxx homered for the Sox, while Lou Gehrig did the same for the Yanks. Frank Crosetti went 5-for-6 and Bill Dickey 4-for-5.
Andy Pettitte, Jeff Nelson, Mike Stanton, and Mariano Rivera combined to hold the Minnesota Twins to five singles and no runs on April 26, 2000. The Yanks only managed six safeties, but two were singleton homers off starter Joe Mays in the home sixth by Derek Jeter and Tino Martinez in the 2-0 Yankee win.
When the Mariners had their great regular-season record in 2001, they got it off to a great start on their first trip to the Bronx, as their 7-3 victory over Mike Mussina and the Yanks on April 26 polished off a three-game sweep.
On April 26, 2019, the Yankees signed free agent righthander Luis Velasquez to a minor league contract.
Continuing what would be a season of frustration, the Yankees sent left fielder Clint Frazier on a rehab assignment to the Tampa Tarpons on April 26, 2018.
Starting a gradual process, the Yankees sent second baseman Jose Pirela on a rehab assignment to the A level Tampa Yankees on April 26, 2015.
On April 26, 2014, the Yankees played a little pitching musical chairs, optioning righthander Shane Greene to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, and selecting the contract of righty Chris Leroux from that same location. Being one short in “chairs” after the moves, the club released lefthander Nik Turley to make room.
The Yankees continued to try to fix a banged-up team when they recalled Shelley Duncan from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on April 26, 2008; they optioned lefty Billy Traber to AAA to create room.
Despite allowing singleton homers to Rafael Palmeiro and Alex Rodriguez and a two-run blast by Ruben Sierra on this day in 2003 in Texas, David Wells survived as Alfonso Soriano and Jason Giambi equaled things with blasts of their own. The Yanks won it, 7-5, with two in the tenth, one on a Soriano double.
One of Hideki Irabu‘s most dominating performances for the Yanks was washed out in a fourth inning rainout on April 26, 1998. He had struck out eight Tigers, including whiffing the side in both the second and third innings, when the game was called.
Fritz Maisel, who held the Yankee single-season stolen base record for some 70 years until Rickey Henderson broke it, was thrown out trying to swipe a base by the A’s three times on this day in 1916, but the Yanks blanked the Philly-based club anyway, 9-0.
As you can see, April 26 has been a mostly good day in Yankee fortunes, but alas, not so in 1959. The Baltimore Orioles scored two in the ninth in both ends of a double dip to come from behind and win, 5-4 and 3-2. The two teams used a record 10 pinch-hitters between them in the first tilt.
Designated hitter Cecil Fielder went 5-for-5 with two doubles and a home run in the Yanks’ 10-2 demolition of the White Sox on April 26, 1997.
The only Yankee highlight on this day in 1940 were the nine assists garnered by third sacker Red Rolfe, as the Red Sox beat the Bombers, 8-1.
With a bow to the incomparable and recently deceased Eddie Layton, I report that on April 26, 1941, the Cubs introduced the first Stadium organ to major league baseball.
Outfielder Jack McCarthy of the Cubs nailed three runners at home to complete double plays in the same game in a 2-1 win over the Pirates on this day in 1905. McCarthy would only play 37 games in the outfield in his career.
The New York Highlanders (Yankees) originated as the American League’s Baltimore Orioles in 1901. That team defeated the visiting Boston Americans 10-6 on April 26, with “Iron” Joe McGinnity striking out nine. Mike Donlin contributed two triples off loser Win Kellum.
Although the Baseball Records Committee advised on April 26, 1969, that a July 9, 1918 Babe Ruth triple should have been ruled a home run, their call to increase his career tater total to 715 went ignored.
The one April 26 feat by a future Yankee player that we’ll mention is the home run that Gary Sheffield, playing for the Marlins, stroked in the first inning of a 3-2 loss to the Giants on this day in 1996. By doing so, Shef tied the at-the-time major league record for April home runs with his 11th. The first to reach that number in baseball’s season-opening month was Yankee third baseman Graig Nettles.
An amazing six one-time Yankee players have died on April 26, three righty pitchers and three position players. Debuting with the 1924 Yanks, Milt Gaston (1996) won five and lost three with one save in 29 games (two starts). After throwing for the Browns, the Red Sox, and the White Sox from 1925-1934, he finished at 97-164-8. Alex Ferguson (1976) pitched 39 games (nine starts) for the 1918, 1921, and 1925 Yanks, to a 7-3 record with two saves. After significant stops with the Red Sox and Phillies from 1922-1929, the mark was 61-85-10. Don Brennan (1953) got his start with the 1933 club, for whom he won five, lost one, and saved three in 18 games (10 starts). Continuing to pitch through 1937, mostly with the Reds, his final numbers were 21-12-19. Catcher Doc Powers (1909) notched two rbi’s in 33 at bats during 11 games with the 1905 Highlanders; an 1898-1909 career largely spent with the Philly A’s netted him four home runs and 199 rbi’s. Second baseman Hack Simmons (1942) drove in 41 runs in 110 games with the 1912 Highlanders; stints with the 1910 Tigers and the Federal League Baltimore Terrapins in 1914-1915 brought two home runs and a total of 102 rbi’s. And finally, shortstop Yats Wuestling (1970) collected three rbi’s in ending his career playing 25 games with the 1930 Yanks. He played with Detroit for a year and a half earlier, with final totals of 0 home runs with 19 rbi’s.
Lefthanded outfielder Faye Throneberry (1999), who cleared 29 fences good for 137 rbi’s for the Red Sox and Senators from 1952-1961, died on April 26, 1999.
Players Who Have Died This Day
The first birthday I’ll report for April 26 is that of Bernard Malamud (1914), author of The Natural. It’s a great baseball book, but be forewarned: Its ending is a good deal darker than the one you’ve seen in the Robert Redford-starring movie.
Yankee birthdays feature some strange numbers for veteran hurlers Sal “the Barber” Maglie and Virgil Trucks. Both were born on April 26, 1917. Both toiled mostly for other teams (the Giants and Tigers, respectively), both pitched for the Yanks in 1958 at the end of their careers. Sal went 3-1 in 13 games; Virgil 2-1 in 25. The Yanks selected Maglie, whose colorful nickname had to do with his tendency to give opposing batters a close “shave” with his pitches, off waivers from the Dodgers in September 1957, and traded him to St. Louis for Joe McClain and cash in June 1958. In that same month, the Yanks picked up Trucks with Duke Maas from Kansas City for Bob Grim and Harry Simpson.
Ray Caldwell (1888), on the other hand, played for the Yanks for nine years starting with the 1910 season and pitched just under .500 (96-99) in almost 200 decisions. He was shipped with Frank Gilhooley, Slim Love, Roxy Walters, and cash to the Boston Red Sox for Ernie Shore and Duffy Lewis in December 1918.
Third baseman Jim Cockman (1873) drove in two runs and stole two bases in 13 games for the 1905 team. And middle infielder Granny Hamner (1927) signed with the Yanks as a free agent in 1960 briefly after stroking 104 homers with 708 rbi’s for the Phillies from 1944-1959, but he never played for the Yanks. New York shipped him to Kansas City in 1961.
The Yanks added a new body to their birthday list when they traded minor leaguer Abraham Almonte to Seattle for righthander Shawn Kelley (1984) in February 2013. Having fashioned a 10-9 record over four years with the Mariners in 120 games with an effective slider, Shawn was great in the Bronx in 2013, with 71 strike outs in 53.33 innings, and a 4-2 record in 57 games. Kelley struggled through an injury-marred 2014 season, when he went 3-6 with a 4.53 era, but he recorded four saves too. He was traded to San Diego for minor league pitcher Johnny Barbato following the season. He went 7-4 with 11 saves in the Washington bullpen from 2016 into 2018, won one game with Oakland the latter year, and went 5+2 with 11 saves in 50 games with Texas in ’19.
Were I to describe what happened to the day’s birthday list here as I did with Kelley — just above — I would have to at least render “added a new body to their birthday list” in ALL CAPS, perhaps in boldface, as the 6’7″, 282-pound Aaron Judge (1992) sported not only plenty of body, but also potential, when he homered in his first big-league at bat in 2016. Furthermore, with the concerning tendency to strike out often apparently left behind, but not the awesome power, watching Judge in the coming years could truly be a Yankee fan pleasure. He homered four times in 84 at bats in ’16, then compiled a 52-homer, 114 rbi 2017 season, good for second in the AL MVP race, and a runaway winner of the Rookie of the Year honors. The 2018 numbers dipped to 27 and 67 around an injury, and his 27th birthday found him on the extended Injured List again in 2019, He would hit 27 home runs with 55 rbi’s in 102 games. Thirteen games into the 2021 season, he has homered 123 times with 276 rbi’s in 437 games.
The Coronavirus will have a huge say as to whether I was right to shift righthander Chad Bettis (1989) to the Yankee list given his free agent signing by the club in February 2020. A second-round draft choice of Colorado in 2010 once he did not sign with Houston after being selected in 2007, Bettis posted a 31-31 record with the Rockies with one save from 2013 through 2019. He had started 92 of 164 games, though just three of 39 in 2019. He has not played since 2019, and never did take the field with Bombers.
Other birthdays: Hall of Fame outfielder with the Giants, Cubs, and Dodgers Hack Wilson (1900); Amos Otis (1947); Mike Scott (1955); Steve Lombardozzi (1960); Curtis Wilkerson (1961); Felipe Lira (1972); Brian Anderson (1972); Francisco Cordova (1972); Geoff Blum (1972); Scott Strickland (1976), who tried to earn a Yankee job in 2008; Chris Magruder (1977); Kosuke Fukudome (1977); Joe Crede (1978); Mike Wood (1980); Brian Omogrosso (1984); Sean Rodriguez (1985); Johnny Davis (1990); Joey Wendle (1990); Nomar Mazara (1995); and Evan White (1996).
Players Born This Day