I can lead off with nothing but the sad fact that it was on April 4, 1968, that Martin Luther King was assassinated.
The Yanks took their second straight exhibition victory over the NL Cubs to open the new Yankee Stadium on April 4, 10-1. Lefty Andy Pettitte and righty A.J. Burnett went four innings apiece for the Yanks, new Yankee first baseman Mark Teixeira foreshadowed his power season with with two home runs, and Derek Jeter and Shelley Duncan would go yard as well.
A two-run first-inning home run by Alex Rodriguez, and another in the second inning by DH Jorge Posada off Scott Baker, gave the Yanks just enough runs in an eventual 4-3 win over the Twins in Yankee Stadium on April 4, 2011. Ivan Nova went six innings to start a great season, and that Mariano Rivera closed for the save was hardly a surprise. But the seventh- and eight-inning setups, though turned in by the expected parties, would not be repeated often, as Joba Chamberlain and Rafael Soriano, respectively, would soon be spending extended stints on the DL.
The only highlight of the Yanks’ 13-4 loss to Tampa Bay in Yankee Stadium on April 4, 2008, was the fact that Hideki Matsui (home run), Jose Molina (double), Derek Jeter (triple), and Alex Rodriguez (single) combined for a team cycle in scoring four runs off Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine (the last scoring on Jason Giambi‘s following double) in the home third inning. Ian Kennedy‘s first season start had put the home team in a 6-0 hole by then, but any hope of the Yankees continuing their comeback disappeared when Latroy Hawkins gave up six runs in the eighth. John Flaherty advanced the home games left counter from 78 to 77 in the fifth inning.
The Yanks’ Tommy John tied a record by playing in his 26th season on April 4, 1989, while disappointing a full Opening Day house in Minnesota by beating their Twins, 4-2, for his 287th (and next-to-last) career win. Frank Viola took the loss, while Roberto Kelly went 4-for-4 with a home run.
David Justice crowned a two-inning, eight-run Yankee onslaught with a grand slam in an 8-1 win over the K.C. Royals on April 4, 2001, in the second game of the season. Andy Pettitte got the win with seven sharp innings, and Brian Boehringer and Todd Williams finished up.
It is a credit to Yankee fans that the team broke its Opening Day attendance record on April 4, 1994, by attracting a crowd of 56,706 to Yankee Stadium. True, they had scrapped to a second-place finish the previous season, but they were seven games back to the eventual World Champion Blue Jays, and had finished second often in the long unsuccessful eighties. The happy throng was treated to a 5-3 win over Texas, with Jimmy Key besting Kevin Brown, whose recent tour of duty in Pinstripes has thankfully come to an end.
That same 1994 day Mets starter Doc Gooden survived a 12-8 win over the Cubs on Opening Day in Wrigley. The only Cub he couldn’t get out was outfielder Tuffy Rhodes, who stroked three home runs. Rhodes went on to star for the Hanshin Tigers in the Japanese Leagues.
The Yanks had accepted $75,000 from the Cal Angels for hurler Duke Maas in the expansion draft, but changed their minds and reacquired him on April 4, 1961, for infielder Fritz Brickell. Maas would finish a four-year stint in Pinstripes that season with a fine 26-12 record with eight saves. Brickell, who had managed four rbi’s in 20 games over two seasons in the Bronx, drove in three runs in 21 contests for the Angels.
Cementing a temporary deal they made with lefty Ron Villone the day before, the Yanks signed him to a conditional minor league contract and assigned him to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on April 4, 2007. Villone was free to leave if not promoted to the parent club in a given amount of time, a clause he would not be required to activate.
The Yankees beat the Mets 6-4 in Yankee Stadium on April 4, 1992 in the first game of the Mayor’s Challenge Series.
Initiating a ton of moves to solidify their 25 heading into the season, the Yankees activated lefty Clay Rapada and righthander David Phelps on April 4, 2012 after promoting both from AAA. Then the team assigned righty Michael Pineda to the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 31 with right rotator cuff tendinitis; righthander Joba Chamberlain on the same list retroactive to March 26 with a dislocated right ankle; southpaw Cesar Cabral, also for 15 days retroactive to March 31 with a left elbow fracture; and catcher Austin Romine on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26 with lower back strain. Far from done, the Bombers designated centerfielder Justin Maxwell for assignment, released second baseman Bill Hall, optioned catcher Francisco Cervelli to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and traded righty George Kontos to the Giants for catcher Chris Stewart. Then the team signed free agent lefty Matthew Bashore; and outfielder Ramon Flores, third baseman Rob Segedin, catcher Hector Rabago, shortstop Jose Mojica, and Brad Meyers were assigned to the Yankees.
April 4, 2012 moves by other clubs having a Yankee angle include when the Pittsburgh Pirates placed righty starter A.J. Burnett on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26 with a fractured right orbital bone; and the Cleveland Indians designated left fielder Thomas Neal for assignment. Burnett had just been traded to the Pirates by the Yanks, and Neal is in the mix for a backup outfield spot on the Yanks in 2013.
On April 4, 2010, the Yankees assigned left-hander Boone Logan to AAA Scranton. Former Yankees in the news that day include Chien-Ming Wang, who was placed on the 60-day disabled list by the Washington Nationals; and Chase Wright, who was assigned to the Nashville Sounds by the Milwaukee Brewers.
Hank Aaron hit his 714th homer this day in 1974, thereby tying Babe Ruth‘s all-time record.
In a bizarre story, 84-year-old Connie Mack challenged 78-year-old Clark Griffith to a race from home to first on April 4, 1948, a contest that ended in a tie. Mack was associated with the Philadelphia A’s for many years, and Griffith with the Washington Senators. But Griffith also served as the first ever manager of the New York Highlanders.
Eventual 2003 Yankee reliever Juan Acevedo was traded from Milwaukee to Colorado on this day back in 2001 for former Yank Mark Leiter, infielder Elvis Pena, and Mike DeJean, who was a 1992 Yankee draft choice. The Yanks dealt him to the Rockies in 1995 for catcher (and now Yankee manager) Joe Girardi. Also on April 4, 2001, Denny Neagle got the win in the Rockies’ 13-9 victory over the Cards in his first start after the middling 7-7 record he posted with the Yanks at the end of 2000.
One ex-Yank tied the record of another on this day in 1998. When Minnesota’s Mike Morgan took the mound against Kansas City, he tied the record shared by ex-Yank Ken Brett and Bob Miller by appearing in a game with his 10th team.
When Boston’s Hideo Nomo, who spent time working out for the 2005 Yankees in the minors, tossed a no-hitter in defeating the Orioles on April 4, 2001, he eclipsed the record for earliest no-no in a season. On that same day, the Indians’ consecutive sellout record at Jacobs Field came to an end in an 8-4 win over the White Sox. They had sold all their seats for 455 straight games, and had opened the park that same day in 1994.
The legendary Carl Mays (1971), who threw the only fatal pitch in major league history, is one of three Yankee players to have died on April 4. With a 79-39 mark with 11 saves in the Bronx from 1919 through 1923, Mays’s overall mark grows to 207-126 with 31 saves when his four earlier years with the Red Sox and six years mostly spent with the Reds afterward are added in. Righty Mel Queen (1982) pitched the first four years of a a career that ended in 1952 with the Yanks to an 8-4 mark. After five-plus years with the Pirates the record was 27-40 with one save. Right-hander Herb McQuaid (1966) threw 17 (10 starts) of 29 career games in ending his big-leagues experience with the 1926 Bombers with a 1-0-0 record, the same mark he posted with the 1923 Reds in the other 12 games.
Three (of seven) other noteworthy players to have passed on April 4 all played outfield, and all before the Yankee franchise came into existence. Dick Johnston(1934) collected 33 homers good for 286 rbi’s for the Beaneaters from 1884-1891; Pop Corkhill (1921) played in Boston too from 1883-1892, but with the Red Stockings, good for 31 long balls and 631 rbi’s; and George Wood (1924) reached 68 fences good for 601 runs driven in from 1880-1892, mostly playing for the Wolverines and then the Phillies. The final four April 4 deaths are led off by Hall of Famer Early Wynn(1999), who hung on to win 300 while losing 244 and saving 15 for the Senators, Indians, and White Sox from 1939-1962. Fellow righthander George Suggs (1949) posted most of his 99-91 record with 17 saves from 1908-1915 for the Reds; and outfielder Johnny Moore (1991) hit 73 long balls with 452 rbi’s from 1928-1937 and in 1945, mostly with the Cubs and the Phillies. And although George Bamberger (2004) pitched just 10 games to no record, he makes the list as the manager of the 1978-1980 Milwaukee Brewers that battled the Yanks, Red Sox, and Orioles gamely in those pivotal years.
Players Who Have Died This Day
John Hummel (1883), who played with Brooklyn from 1905-1915, leads off the birthday list because he played 22 games for the Yanks, mostly in the outfield, in 1918. Primarily a second baseman and outfielder, Hummel hit 29 homers with 390 rbi’s in Brooklyn and drove in an additional three runs with the Yanks.
Neither Carlos Reyes (1969) nor Pedro Hernandez (1955) played for the Yanks but both were with the team in New York for a while. Righthander Reyes, who notched most of his 20-36 record and four saves with the A’s and the Padres from 1994-2003, signed with the Yanks in February 1997, and was among the last cuts going into that season. Utility infielder Hernandez played 11 games in 1979 and 1982 in Toronto. The Yanks purchased his contract in August 1982, but he never played in the majors again.
Of greater historical significance, perhaps, are the birthdays of Hall of Famer Tris Speaker (1888) and former commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti (1938).
Other birthdays: Joe Vosmik (1910); Mickey Owen (1916), whose passed ball on Hugh Casey‘s strike-three pitch extended Game 4 of the 1941 World Series, until the Yanks staged a comeback for a 7-4 win (and another the following day to close out that Fall Classic); Gil Hodges (1924); Gary Geiger (1937); Eddie Watt (1941); Jim Fregosi (1942); Ray Fosse (1947); Tommy Herr (1956); Brad Komminsk (1961); Jeff Sparks (1972); Scott Rolen (1975); Eric Valent (1977); Jason Ellison (1978); Casey Daigle (1981); Louis Coleman (1986); Cameron Maybin (1987); and Martin Perez (1991).
Players Born This Day