Notching their first 2015 win despite struggling with R.A. Dickey‘s knuckleball, the Yanks evened their record at 1-1 by outpointing Toronto 4-3 on April 8. Pinch hitter Chris Young doubled off southpaw Aaron Loup to start the three-run, game-winning, eighth-inning rally to make a winner of Dellin Betances, and Andrew Miller came on to post his first save in pinstripes. Starting the season as fans and manager Joe Girardi hoped they would, table setters Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner scored three of the Yankee runs.
Early indications were great when the New Yorkers handed the ball to young Javier Vazquez for the Yankee Stadium Opener on April 8, 2004. Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, and Whitey Ford got things off to a festive start by tossing ceremonial first pitches to Jorge Posada, John Flaherty, and Bubba Crosby, respectively, and Paul Cartier became the answer to the question, “Who plays the Stadium organ, after Eddie Layton (since departed, sadly) retires?” Gary Sheffield singled in one and another scored on a Posada sac fly in the home first, and Vazquez made it stand up in a 3-1 win for the Pinstripers over Scott Schoenweiss and the Chisox. Gone after a down second half in the Bronx in 2004, Vazquez would spend the 2010 season with the world champion Yanks after arriving via a trade, but unfortunately, this tour would resemble his 2004 second half.
In a, surprisingly, second straight weekday day game to the start their home 2014 season, the Yanks were spanked 14-5 on April 8 by the Orioles, who got 10 rbi’s from the second through fifth spots in their order, including long balls from Adam Jones, Delmon Young, and Matt Wieters. The O’s pounded Ivan Nova and two relievers until recently unheralded one-time prospect Dellin Betances struck out three of six to finally cool the visitors off, in a trend that would continue. Two fans delayed the game by running on the field during a Francisco Cervelli at bat in the eighth immediately before Kelly Johnson gave us false (long-term) hope by homering to right. Third sacker Yangervis Solarte doubled twice and drove in a run.
The second famous Yankee player to fall victim to ALS (named Lou Gehrig Disease after the first), Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter, who played 10 of his 15 years for the A’s in KC and then Oakland, was born on April 8, 1946. More about Catfish’s great career later.
Sayonara! The Magical Mr. Hideki Matsui first flashed his brilliance for the Yankee Stadium faithful on April 8, 2003, as he blasted a grand slam in the Bombers’ Opening Day 7-3 victory over the Twins. Robin Ventura also went yard, Andy Pettitte got the win, and young Jason Anderson thrilled his fans from the Staten Island Yankees by pitching the final frame.
On the other hand, it was just one more blow in a struggling early season when the Yanks placed Hideki Matsui on the disabled list on April 8, 2007, with a hamstring strain. Matsui was disappointed to return to the list after his long stint not playing after the broken wrist the year before. Outfielder Kevin Thompson was recalled from AAA Scranton to take his place.
The Yanks jumped on Baltimore ace Eric Bedard for a quick 3-0 lead that same day, April 8, 2007, scoring in the first on two singles, a sac fly and Alex Rodriguez‘s two-run jolt to right center. But Darrell Rasner fell victim to a second-inning two-run Kevin Millar home run and a three-run jolt from catcher Paul Bako in the fourth. Andy Pettitte pitched in to help the already fried bullp[en with a perfect sixth inning, but the O’s won the game 6-4.
Two season-long trends (until each was interrupted by injury) showed their ugly heads in Yankee Stadium on April 8, 2005. First, new Yankee starter Jaret Wright failed to get an out in the fifth inning while allowing six tallies to the visiting O’s, and at the same time Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts began a monster season battering Yankee pitching. It took a leaping catch from the mound by Paul Quantrill to “hold” Roberts to a 3-for-5 day in which he both scored and drove in four runs in the Orioles’ 12-5 win. He also made a diving, rally-damping stab at a fifth-inning Alex Rodriguez line drive, and included a home run, triple, and walk in his offensive effort. Two other players performed as expected, as O’s closer B.J. Ryan struck out the side in the ninth, but not before Hideki Matsui proved he can handle lefties by homering on a one-out, 3-2 pitch.
If they have their way, it will be a long time before the Blue Jays agree to play the Yankees again on April 8. On that day in 2001, Jorge Posada blasted his first-ever grand slam in a 16-5 win behind former Blue Jay Roger Clemens. Yankee fans barely took notice that the first five Jays to come to the plate in the fourth came around to score, because the Yanks entered the inning with a 12-0 lead.
And the Yankees followed that performance by battering Toronto pitching to the tune of 16 runs and 22 hits on April 8, 2002, in a 16-3 thrashing. Alfonso Soriano gathered a double and three-run homer among his five hits and Robin Ventura drove in six in this contest.
Phil Niekro at 46 was the second oldest hurler in major league baseball history to start on Opening Day when he took the mound for the Yanks against Oil Can Boyd of the Red Sox on April 8, 1985. No respecters of their elders, the Sox blasted the Yanks 9-2, as Niekro set a record by losing seven Openers in a row (the first six with Atlanta). The Yankee knuckleballer was just one year younger than spitballer Jack Quinn, who got his big-leagues start with the Yanks but who was pitching for Brooklyn when he set the record for oldest Opening Day starter in 1931.
Two teams, aside from the Yankees themselves, have opened the season in the Baseball Cathedral as World Champs, the Washington Senators in 1925 and the Kansas City Royals on April 8, 1986. Like their predecessors, the Royals would lose, as Ron Guidry bested Bud Black 4-2 on the strength of a second-inning three-run homer off the bat of catcher Butch Wynegar. The Royals scoring was a two-run shot by Hal McRae. Rod Scurry and Dave Righetti finished up Gator’s first Opening Day victory.
Ron Guidry‘s glorious 1978 season began with a no-decision in a 2-1 loss to the Rangers on April 8. Gator dueled Jon Matlack to a 1-1 tie through seven, but Goose Gossage allowed a game-winning solo home run by Richie Zisk in the bottom of the ninth. Five years later Zisk would beat the Yanks with another late-inning Opening Day home run, this one with Seattle. But in 1978, Guidry would win his next 13 decisions.
In an early season beset by pitching injuries, the Yankees placed closer David Robertson on the 15-day disabled list with a left groin strain on April 8, 2014, retroactive to the day before. The corresponding move, recalling lefty Cesar Cabral from the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, would solve nothing.
The Yankees sent catcher Austin Romine outright to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on April 8, 2015.
Although he was a pleasant surprise with the 2008 Yankees, his days were numbered with the team when the A’s claimed righthander Dan Geise off waivers on April 8, 2009.
The Yankees assigned outfielder Reid Gorecki to AA Trenton on April 8, 2010.
Hammering Hank Aaron homered off former Yank Al Downing on this day in 1974 to supplant Babe Ruth as career home-run leader with 715.
One year later Frank Robinson became the first black manager as he led the Indians against the Yanks, and he homered as the designated hitter as well in his team’s 5-3 victory. His eighth Opening-Day blast was a record for Frank. Just as unhappily for Yankee fans, Carlos Baerga became the first player to homer from both sides of the plate in the same inning on April 8, 1993, in Cleveland’s 15-5 win over the Yanks.
First baseman Hal Chase of the Highlanders contracted smallpox at Spring Training on April 8, 1909, causing the whole ballclub to be vaccinated and quarantined while traveling north. “Prince Hal” recovered and fashioned a failry typical, four-homer, 63-rbi campaign that season.
Jim Slaton and the Brewers blanked the Yankees and Catfish Hunter, 5-0, behind Hank Aaron‘s three rbi’s on April 8, 1976.
Two of four pitchers who made history involving the number 300 on April 8 had formerly pitched in the Bronx. When Steve Carlton, pitching for the Indians, relieved Phil Niekro after five in a 14-3 win over the Blue Jays that would become the knuckleballer’s 312th win in 1987, it was the first time two 300-game-winners pitched in the same game for the same team. And when Goose Gossage relieved Texas Ranger Nolan Ryan four years later in 1991 in a 5-4 loss to the Brewers, a 300-game-winner and a guy with 300 saves appeared in the same game for the same team for the first time as well.
Braves fifth starter (at the time) Kent Mercker no-hit the Dodgers 6-0 on April 8, 1994.
On April 8, 1984, one of baseball’s uglier beanings occurred when former Yank Mike Torrez hit Astros shortstop Dickie Thon in the face with a pitch. In other April 8 news affecting future or former Yankee players, Darryl Strawberry checked himself into the Betty Ford Clinic on this day in 1994 for 18 days of treatment for substance abuse; one-handed hurler Jim Abbott made his major-league debut in California’s 7-0 loss to Seattle in 1989; and Jesus Alou was the first batter up as baseball opened for business in Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego on April 8, 1969. What’s that you say, Jesus was never a Yankee? Right you are, but brothers Felipe Alou and Matty Alou were, and they too were leadoff batters in the first games of new stadiums, Matty in Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium in April 1966, and Felipe in Busch Stadium in St. Louis one month later.
Three of the five noteworthy big leaguers to have died on April 8 played for the Yankees, starting with third baseman George Moriarty (1964), who drove in 93 runs playing for the Highlanders in 1906-1908. He played from 1903-1916, largely with Detroit, with final numbers of five home runs and 376 rbi’s. Righty Al Gettel (2005) debuted with the 1945-1946 Yankees, for whom he went 15-15-3 in 53 games (28 starts). His record ended at 38-45-6 after he played largely with Cleveland and the White Sox from 1947-1951 and in 1955. Lefty-hitting but righty-throwing catcher Gus Fisher (1972) played his last four games for the Yanks in 1912; he went 1-for-10 with no homers or rbi’s. He had played for Cleveland in 1911, during which he accumulated his career numbers of no homers and 12 rbi’s.
Third baseman Lee Handley (1970) played mostly with the Pirates from 1936-1947, and hit 15 long balls with 297 runs driven in. Finally, utility player Eddie Miskis (2005) played the preponderance of his games from 1944-1958 with the Dodgers and the Cubs; he hit 44 home runs with 228 rbi’s.
Players Who Have Died This Day
The numbers on the birthdaying Catfish Hunter (1946) are 224-166 overall, with a 63-53 mark in the Bronx. The miracle 1978 season pitched by Ron Guidry notwithstanding, the Yankees would never have overcome the Red Sox from 14 games back without Hunter’s 6-0 August.
Birthdaying Yankees aside from the great Catfish include switch-hitting second baseman Roger Holt (1956), who played both of his big-league games with the 1980 team before being sent to Texas for Tucker Ashford that October. Lefty thrower Ted Kleinhans (1899) recorded a win, a loss, and a save in 19 games for the 1936 Yankees. He split the 1934 season between Philly and Cinncy, and returned to the latter city for the 1937 and 1938 campaigns.
Righthander Rich Batchelor (1967) was a 1990 Yankees amateur free agent signing, and posted a 5-1 record with the Cardinals and Padres after being traded to St. Louis for Lee Smith in 1993. The Yanks lost righthander Lloyd Merritt (1933) to the Cardinals in the rule-V draft in December 1956. Merritt posted a 1-2 mark with St. Louis in 1957, his only big-league season. And lastly, Frank Foutz (1877) stroked two homers and drove in 14 runs in his only major-league season, with the 1901 Baltimore Orioles, the franchise that would fold up its tent in 1903 and relocate to New York.
Although chances he heads north are slim, the Yanks added to their birthday list by signing free agent catcher Bobby Wilson (1983) in December 2012 to join the competition for jobs in the Bronx along with Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart and Austin Romine. Wilson has played all 191 of his major league games since 2008 with the Angels, hitting eight home runs and driving in 37 runs in that time.
One might feel for the strangely nicknamed Lady Baldwin (born April 8, 1859) until you discovered that his actually given name was Charles Busted Baldwin. Nicknamed as he was because he refused to smoke, curse, or drink in the manner of his teammates, Baldwin threw almost half his career total of 1,000 innings in a 42-13 career year in 1886. His National League Detroit Wolverines would win the World Series, 10 games to five, over Charles Comiskey‘s AA St. Louis Browns in 1887. Elected to the Hall of Fame a few years ago after a long wait, Gary Carter (1954) leads the list of the other April 8 birthdays. Philly righthander Turk Farrell (1934) won 106, lost 111, and saved 83 from 1956-1969. Broadcaster Jim Lampley (1949); Kirby Higby (1915); Charlie Maxwell (1927); John Hiller (1943), who posted an 87-76 record with Detroit from 1965-1980; Pete Walker (1969); the Alex Gonzalez who long held the shortstop position in Toronto; former Mets outfielder Timo Perez (1975); Jeremy Fikac (1975); Jeremy Guthrie (1979); Brian Burres (1981); Kason Gabbard (1982); Eric Patterson (1983); Chris Iannetta (1983); Diory Hernandez (1984); Matt Antonelli (1985); Felix Hernandez (1986); Carlos Santana (1986); Eddie Kunz (1986); Jeremy Hellickson (1987); Yonder Alonso (1987); Lendy Castillo (1989); and Zach Eflin (1994) round out the list.
Players Born This Day