Even the most grizzled and veteran Yankee fan will have to admit that April 3, 2009, is a huge day in Yankee history. With the venerable old Stadium being slowly chipped away at across 161st Street, it was on this day that the team opened their new Palace in what would become a Championship season, just as they enjoyed when they opened the original 86 years sooner. Would the magic make it across the street? Most doubts were dispelled when Hideki Matsui hit a two-run home run off the right field foul pole in the third inning and Cody Ransom thudded a high drive off the top of the left field pole for three more runs in the fourth. Chien-Ming Wang started the 8-5 exhibition victory over the NL Chicago Cubs, who started ex-Yankee Ted Lilly. Mariano Rivera pitched a rare sixth inning.
The Red Sox made it two straight, winning the first two games of the season in the Stadium, battering a Yankee starter, and doing so with an early four-run inning, in a 7-4 win over the home team on April 3, 2013. Hiroki Kuroda was the victim this time, while Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells, showing some early promise they would not fulfill, homered for all four Yankee runs.
A pair of two-run home runs by Miguel Cabrera and the need to throw 90 pitches to navigate four innings in a 10-7 loss to the Tigers in Yankee Stadium on April 3, 2011, represented an area of concern in Phil Hughes‘s pitching, a worry that would only grow in the coming weeks. Singleton homers by Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano, grouped with two blasts off the bat of DH Jorge Posada against Detroit starter Max Scherzer, kept the Yanks in the game, but the four runs off Bartolo Colon in a rare relief appearance before he would join that season’s rotation sealed the deal for the visitors.
Anyone attending the frigid Wednesday April 3, 2008, contest vs. the Blue Jays in Yankee Stadium would be surprised to hear that young Yankee righty Phil Hughes was beginning what would be a tough year (but not one as bad as his 2011 season would be), as he battled Jays righthander Dustin McGowan to a 2-2 tie through six innings. Hughes struck out two to close the fourth inning with yet another potential tally standing on third base. Before the game it was announced that Alex Rodriguez had become the ninth Yankee to be named the Sporting News Player of the Year since they started designating that honor in 1936. Bobby Abreu made up for a poor baserunning play in the sixth (he was out at third on a sac fly that barely scored Derek Jeter before the tag) by driving in Melky Cabrera with the winner in the eighth inning. Yankee Warrior Paul O’Neill advanced the games left counter down from 79 to 78 in the fifth inning.
On April 3, 1997, Jimmy Key extended his major-league record of Opening Day victories to seven by beating the Royals for the Orioles, 4-2. Jimmy, who had just signed a free-agent deal with Baltimore after a successful stay in the Bronx, got three with the Blue Jays, three with the Yanks, and the one with Baltimore.
Despite the fact that it was his eighth straight year pitching the Opener for the Tigers on April 3, 1987, Jack Morris was booed by a packed house in Detroit because he had tried to leave the club over the winter. To the Yankees’ chagrin, he pitched a beaut against Dennis Rasmussen anyway, carrying a 1-1 tie into extra innings. But the Yanks scored in the 10th and southpaw closer Dave Righetti was the recipient of the Bombers’ 2-1 win.
The Yanks got the 2006 season off to a great start with a 15-2 win in Oakland by plating seven, second-inning runs against Barry Zito, capped by an Alex Rodriguez grand slam. Hideki Matsui added a three-run jack in the four-run fourth. Randy Johnson, the recipient of all the offense, gave up his first run of the year on a Frank Thomas bomb.
Warming to the Opening Day stage in the Bronx yet again, Hideki Matsui scored three times, knocked in three, and had three hits, including a home run, in a 9-2 Yankee win over the Red Sox on April 3, 2005. Randy Johnson earned his first of five season wins over Boston, while the Yanks slapped around ex-Bomber David Wells to win the game.
On the third day of April in 1984, Ron Guidry failed to finally win his first Opener, as the Royals took the Yanks in Kansas City. Gator allowed a home run to Onix Concepcion on the first pitch he threw, and took the 4-2 loss despite Dave Winfield‘s two-run jack. Fear not, however. Ron would cash in a win on the 1986 Yankee Opener, another 4-2 game, this time over Kansas City.
The Yankees signed free agent catcher Eddy Rodriguez to a minor league contract on April 3, 2017.
On April 3, 2016, Yankee catcher Austin Romine changed his number to 27. (He would change it again a year later.) On the same day, in accordance with a domestic violence ruling from major league baseball, the Yankees placed newly acquired lefty closer Aroldis Chapman on the restricted list. Also on that day, the club placed first baseman Greg Bird, center fielder Mason Williams, and righthander Bryan Mitchell on the 15-day disabled list, the first two retroactive to March 25, and Mitchell to March 31. Bird and Williams were recovering from shoulder and labrum surgery, respectively, and Mitchell had suffered a left great toe tear. The final move the Yanks made that day was to sign free agent shortstop Enrique Pena to a minor league contract.
On April 3, 2013, the Yankees sent righty starter Phil Hughes on a rehab assignment to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. The club also released lefthander Clay Rapada.
On the one hand, Andy Phillips ended the briefest of banishments to AAA Columbus when the Yanks re-called him on April 3, 2005. But righthander Kevin Brown was starting one of several Disabled List stays when he was assigned to make room for Phillips.
First basemen Zachary Wilson and Kyle Roller were assigned to the Yankees on April 3, 2012.
The Yankees signed free agent righty John Van Benschoten on April 3, 2010. In further transaction business that day, shortstop Addison Maruszak, outfielders Jack Rye and Neil Medchill, righthanders Noel Castillo and Jonathan Ortiz, and first baseman Kevin Smith were assigned to the Yankees.
Bob Tewksbury was the 6-4 winner in an April 3, 1994, Cardinals contest with the Reds that featured a home run from Ray Lankford in the first at bat of the 1994 season. A former Yankee prospect who was sent to the Cubs in 1987 for Steve Trout in a disastrous trade, Tewksbury was in the sixth year of a seven-year streak where he won more games than he lost six times.
In other April 3 news affecting former and future Yankee players, Doc Gooden was the winning pitcher in the Mets’ 11th consecutive home opener, 8-4 over the Cards, in 1989; Bobby Bonds fractured a finger in an exhibition game vs. L.A. in 1976; and former Yankee catcher (for one game at his career’s onset in 1951) Clint Courtney was sent by the Senators to Baltimore with shortstop Ron Samford in 1960 for second sacker Billy Gardner. It was one step from the Bronx for Gardner, who would play 45 games with the Yanks in 1961 and 1962.
Finally, Bill White, a member of the Yankee family not as a ballplayer but as a broadcaster, was traded from the Phils to the Cards on April 3, 1969. And although it’s a feat he certainly never approached in Pinstripes, Kenny Rogers tied Frank Viola for third-longest home winning streak with 19 consecutive wins when his Rangers pounded the White Sox 10-4 on April 3, 2000.
On April 3, 1992, the Orioles won the first-ever exhibition game at new Camden Yards, by beating the Mets.
Nolan Ryan and his son Reid Ryan pitched against one another on April 3, 1991, as the Texas Rangers took on the University of Texas in an exhibition.
Two of the three Yankee players who have died on April 3 share this: They each played two years in the Bronx. Lefty-hitting outfielder Harry “Suitcase” Simpson (1979) played in the Bronx in 1957 and 1958, and reached seven fences good for 45 rbi’s during that time. After having spent much of his 1951-1959 career with the Indians and the A’s, his overall numbers were 73 and 381. Righty Charley Stanceu (1969) pitched 25 games (two starts) for New York in 1941 and 1946; he won three, lost three, and saved none. In 14 games (11 starts) for the 1946 Phillies, he went 2-4. Finally, shortstop Ray French (1978) debuted by playing two games for the 1920 Yanks; he made the most of his 0-for-2 by knocking in one run and scoring two. After playing with the Dodgers in 1923 and the White Sox in 1924, he had increased his rbi total to 18.
All four noteworthy non-Yankees who have died on April 3 pitched, three from the right side and the southpaw with the colorful nickname, Phenomenal Smith (1952), who posted most of his 57-78 mark from 1884-1891 with the A’s in Philly. Unlike the other two righthanders we’ll mention next, Sugar Cain (1975) largely lands on this list due to the unique handle; he went 53 and 60 with one save from 1932-1938, also mostly for the Philly A’s. Righthander Larry Benton (1953) pitched for the Braves, the Giants, and the Reds from 1923-1935, good for a 127-128 mark with 22 saves. But better still was Alvin Crowder‘s (1972) mark from 1926-1936. Doing most of his damage with the St. Louis Browns, Crowder pitched for Washington and Detroit too to a 167-115 mark with 22 saves.
Players Who Have Died This Day
The Yankee April 3 birthday seniority leader, Art Ditmar (1929) posted a 47-32 record with one save in Pinstripes. He arrived from Kansas City in the same 1957 blockbuster that brought Bobby Shantz and Clete Boyer for a group including Irv Noren, Milt Graff, Mickey McDermott, Tom Morgan, Rip Coleman, and Billy Hunter. Ditmar received a return trip to K.C. with Deron Johnson in 1961 for Bud Daley.
A new member of the Yankee player April 3 birthday club joined in 2008 with the arrival of speedy outfielder Justin Christian (1980). Purchased from the River City club of the Frontier League in 2004, Christain stole seven bases, scored six runs, and drove in seven playing 24 games for the Yankees in 2008, but he became a victim of the numbers game in Spring 2009 and lost his spot on the Yankee roster. Justin reappeared in the bigs in the Giants outfield in 2011.
Lefthander Harry Kingman‘s (1882) only big-league service came in four games for the 1914 Yankees; and southpaw thrower John Frill (1879) got his start in New York with the 1910 club, then referred to as the Highlanders. He went 2-2 with one save in 10 games (five starts) and spent parts of the 1912 season with the Browns and the Reds.
Outfielder Jose Vidal (1940) leads off the list of non-Yankee birthdays because he spent time in the organization after his May 1969 trade from Seattle to the Yankees for Dick Simpson; Jose homered three times with 10 rbi’s for the Tigers and the Pilots. In the same category is southpaw Barry Moore (1943). Moore posted a 26-37 record with three saves playing five years in Washington, and then split the 1970 season between the Indians and the White Sox. The Yanks got him from Chicago that December for Bill Robinson, but he never made the mound in the Bronx.
Also: Alex Grammas (1926); Wally Moon (1930); Rod Gaspar (1946); Gary Pettis (1958); Chris Bosio (1963); Mike Lansing (1968); Quilvio Veras (1971); Koji Uehara (1975); Bobby Hill (1978); Ryan Doumit (1981); Kyle Phillips (1984); Mike McClendon (1985); Luis Martinez (1985); Jay Bruce (1987); Jason Kipnis (1987); Destin Hood (1990); Daniel Wright (1991); Tom Murphy (1991); and Blake Swihart (1992).
Players Born This Day