The April 6 report starts ignominiously with the foot of snow that forced the cancellation of the Yankees’ 1982 home opener against the Rangers. It stayed cold, and the Yanks cancelled another against Texas, two against the White Sox and opened on Easter Sunday (4/11) by dropping both ends of a double dip to the Pale Hose. It is the last home opener this observer failed to personally attend.
The first Sunday home game in the old Yankee Stadium’s last year, April 6, 2008, filled the 50,000-plus in attendance with optimism, as Yankee ace Chien-Ming Wang bested Tampa’s Steve Shields 2-0 in a pitchers’ duel. Offensive heroics went to DH Hideki Matsui, who highlighted his 3-for-4 day at the plate with a two-run home run to right center in the fourth inning. This came shortly after Wang had retired Willy Aybar at the plate on an attempted suicide squeeze by throwing to catcher Jorge Posada. Injuries to the three Yankees featured in this game would go a long way toward ruining the Bombers’ season. In a rite that was still featuring stars daily, Yogi Berra advanced the home-games-left counter from 76 to 75, after Joe Pepitone had done the honors the day before.
They say a contest in which you’re blown out early produces a “painless” loss, but tell that to young Christian Parker. The righthander was sitting on top of the world, having claimed a spot on the bottom of the 2001 Yankee rotation in Tampa. But Carlos Delgado‘s second multi-run bomb of the night, following Jose Cruz, Jr.‘s two-run jack in the fourth, put the Jays up, 8-0. This outing took place on April 6, 2001, in the Stadium. The few of us who stayed and rooted on might have reconsidered that decision had we foreseen the Yankee arms that would follow Parker to the mound: Carlos Almanzar, Randy Choate, and Todd Williams finished up the eventual 13-4 Toronto romp on a rainy night in the Bronx. And making matters worse, Mr. Parker hurt his arm that night, and has not returned to the majors since.
We’ll mention two more losses on April 6, one to the Red Sox in 2005. The Yanks took a 3-2 lead and with it a chance to sweep a three-gamer into the bottom of the ninth. But Boston loaded the bases with none out in the top of the ninth on a walk and two ground singles. Mariano Rivera recovered to strike out Trot Nixon and got the tailor-made double-play grounder from Manny Ramirez that he craved. But the high hop caromed off Alex Rodriguez‘s glove at third and when the smoke cleared, the Red Sox had a 7-3 win.
The only Yankee highlight of a 6-4 loss to Baltimore on April 6, 2007, was that the Captain, Derek Jeter, doubled off Adam Loewen in the second to skip past Don Mattingly into sixth place on the Yankee hit list. Nick Markakis doubles keyed first- and third-inning rallies off Mike Mussina, who surrendered all six runs in four frames on a bitter-cold Friday night in Yankee Stadium. The bullpen continued to throw most of the innings, very well, but it was soon to implode from the heavy workload.
On April 6, 1974, the Yanks played their first home game in Shea Stadium, beating Gaylord Perry and the Indians, 6-1, behind Mel Stottlemyre. George Steinbrenner was absent, two days after being indicted for making illegal campaign contributions; Graig Nettles‘s two-run homer did the most damage.
One year earlier, Luis Tiant walked Yankee prospect Ron Blomberg with the bases loaded on April 6, 1973, in the first official designated hitter at bat in baseball history. Blomberg got the mention in the history books, while Boston got the win, as the Sox came back to batter Mel Stottlemyre and the Yanks, 15-5.
That battering by the Red Sox closed a rare bad chapter in Yankees/Red Sox history. The Bombers also lost their first game in Fenway in 1972, which thankfully wasn’t the Season Opener, because they had already opened in Fenway and lost in both 1970 and in 1971. In the latter contest, Ray Culp outpitched Stan Bahnsen 3-1. Reggie Smith powered three hits and his throw from right field nailed a runner at home to end the top of the eighth inning of a close game, also on April 6.
The second of two instances of note in which future or former Yankee players made April 6 news is the trade of David Cone from Kansas City to Toronto for Chris Stynes and two minor leaguers in 1995. It was Coney’s last stop before the Bronx. Two years earlier, Braves outfielder Otis Nixon, who briefly got his start with the Yanks, singled off the Cubs’ Jose Guzman with two outs in the ninth to break up a no-hitter. Guzman did get the complete-game, 1-0 win.
On April 6, 1989, Orel Hershiser of the Dodgers gave up a run in the first inning of a 4-3 loss to the Reds, thereby ending his record consecutive-scoreless-inning streak at 59, all achieved in the season before.
There are two April 6 trades affecting one-time Yankee players. Ex-Yank Roberto Kelly and future Bomber (briefly) Tony Tarasco were traded by the Braves to the Expos for Marquis Grissom on this day in 1995. Also a guy with Pinstripes in his future, knuckleballer Joe Niekro was purchased from the Braves by the Astros on April 6, 1975.
Kansas City is the common factor in two weird major league baseball occurrences that have taken place on April 6. In a 1989 complete-game win over the Blue Jays, the home-standing Royals’ batters amassed only 20 at bats, one short of the all-time record. (KC played in the game when the record was set too, vs. the Orioles in ’64). In the 1989 game they batted in eight innings, received eight walks, bounced into three double plays, and had a sac bunt and two sac flies. And on this day in 2002, young KC right hander Miguel Asencio appeared in relief vs. the White Sox in his mlb debut, and walked four men on 16 pitches.
Lou Berberet (2004), who managed four hits and five rbi’s in just 10 at bats while debuting with the 1954-1955 Yankees, is one of three catchers and one of two Yankees to have died on April 6. Lou upped his numbers to 31 long balls and 153 runs driven in during a 1956-1960 stretch playing mostly for Washington and Detroit. Righthander John Wyatt (1998) lost two and neither won nor saved any of his seven games (no starts) with the 1968 Yankees. In a 1961-1969 career spent primarily with the Athletics, Wyatt went 42-44 with 103 saves.
Doggie Miller (1909), who hit the better part of his 33 home runs with 567 rbi’s from 1884-1896 for Allegheny; and Al Evans (1979), who from 1939-1950 hit 13 home runs with 211 rbi’s with the Senators and others, are the other two noteworthy catchers to have died April 6. In addition, shortstop Glenn Wright, who reached 94 fences good for 723 rbi’s mostly playing with the Pirates and the Dodgers from 1924-1935, passed away on April 6, 1984.
Players Who Have Died This Day
A few years ago when acknowledging April 6 Yankee birthdays, I reported that there was only one Pinstriper who qualified, and three Hall of Famers too. Yankee pitcher Ken Clay (1954) was selected in the second round of the 1972 draft and went 6-14 from 1977 through 1979. He was traded with minor-leaguer Marvin Thompson to the Texas Rangers for Gaylord Perry on August 14, 1980.
But infielder/first baseman Andy Phillips (1977) joined the fold in 2004, and made noise doing so. Though restricted to part-time duty in just five games (four at third, and one as Designated Hitter), he managed two hits in eight at bats. He played briefly with the 2005 team, then played more than 100 games in 2006 and 60 before being injured in 2007, good for 11 career home runs with 60 rbi’s in Pinstripes. Andy added three dingers and 10 rbi’s with the Mets and the Reds in 2008.
And we got a third Yankee April 6 birthday in 2007, when outfielder Bronson Sardinha (1983) got into 10 games, mostly as a pinch runner, which is what he did in his one postsesason performance. He did play six games in the field, five in the outfield and one at third base. In addition, he posted a fine .333 ba on 3-for-9 hitting, reached on two walks, knocked in two runs, and scored six times as well. He was selected by New York in the first round of the 2001 amateur draft.
The Hall of Famers born April 6 are catchers Ernie Lombardi (1908), and Mickey Cochrane (1903); and Negro League official and player Joe Williams (1885). Lombardi blasted 190 homers and knocked in 990 runs from 1931-1947 with the Reds and the Giants. Mickey Mantle‘s father actually named him after Cochrane, who reached the fences 119 times and delivered 832 runs with Philadelphia and Detroit. Other birthdays: Phil Regan (1937); Marty Pattin (1943); excellent curveballer Bert Blyleven (1951), a near-miss Hall of Famer (so far); Tommy Greene (1967); the recently retired Bret Boone (1969); Lou Merloni (1971); Blaine Neal (1978); Thomas Diamond (1983); and Alexi Amerista (1989).
Players Born This Day