There are plenty of Yankee- and baseball-related events to talk about that happened on April 9, including the death of a Hall of Famer. But the most significant item in this Yankee fan’s experience on that day occurred on 1996 Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. The Opener is an event that is longingly awaited every year, but the uplifting and exciting, then excruciating, five-game loss to the Seattle Mariners in the 1995 ALDS had left Yankee fans hungry for big-time winning baseball. So 50,000-plus suffered and froze their way to a 7-3 victory over Kansas City behind the gritty Andy Pettitte through a nonstop snowstorm that day. None realized that the day would have a second highlight with the almost offhand Yankee offer of a free ticket to one of three upcoming games to all who had suffered through the conditions.
Times have changed since then. Not surprisingly, those free tickets were offered only to games against opponents not expected to draw well in the Bronx; at the time, two vs. Oakland, and one vs. Seattle qualified. We felt the choice was obvious, wanting a piece of the Mariners after that dramatic playoff series. So on May 14, 1996, we found ourselves in the front row of the upper deck, albeit out near the right field foul pole. And it was there, using free tickets, that we all got to see Doc Gooden‘s no-hitter!
Following a pattern all too familiar in the work of CC Sabathia the last few years, the Yanks fell to Toronto 6-3 on April 9, 2015, due to a struggle by the big southpaw in one ugly inning. Sabathia struck out two in the first and five in the third and fourth, each one-two-three frames, but four leadoff singles in the second inning all scored to put the home team in a four-run hole. There was one good sign in the home seventh, however, starting a trend that would largely carry the team much of the year, when Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira clubbed singleton homers.
On the first day after the Yanks lost closer David Robertson to an ankle sprain, they poignantly lost a 5-4 home-standing decision to the Baltimore Orioles on April 9, 2014, when Shawn Kelley allowed two runs in the top of the ninth. This was the first ever Yankee start of Masahiro Tanaka, who pitched superbly, striking out seven, even if young third baseman Jonathan Schoop reached him for a three-run homer in the second, leading to a 3-all tie after seven. Carlos Beltran and Kelly Johnson second-inning homers made it close, but the one run the Bombers plated in the bottom half of the ninth after Alfonso Soriano‘s leadoff double was too little, too late.
The Yankee highlight to the 4-3 loss to Cleveland on April 9, 1989, is that Yankee left fielder Rickey Henderson swiped his 800th base that day.
Mike Mussina was masterful on a freezing, damp Wednesday night in the Bronx on April 9, 2003. But he was down 1-0 to an unearned run and young Minnesota righty Kyle Lohse had allowed nothing but Alfonso Soriano‘s infield single through four. Lohse would leave after seven having surrendered only two more safeties, but they were singleton homers by Jorge Posada and then Raul Mondesi in the fifth. It was a 2-1 final in 2:25, with Juan Acevedo cashing in the ninth-inning save.
It was Dave Winfield‘s debut in the Bronx when Tommy John rode Bucky Dent and Bobby Murcer homers and a Willie Randolph triple to a 10-3 bashing of the Rangers on April 9, 1981. Winfield stroked two hits and reached base four times.
Ralph Terry bested Diego Segui and the A’s 8-2 in the opener in Kansas City on April 9, 1963, behind two homers from Joe Pepitone and one from Elston Howard.
The Yankees helped the Astros christen the Astrodome for baseball in an exhibition on April 9, 1965, in a 2-1, 12-inning Houston win. But the Bombers left their mark, as Mickey Mantle blasted the new park’s first-ever home run.
Second-inning homers by Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius got the Yanks started toward their 12-3 victory over the Tigers in a rainstorm in the Yankee Stadium Opener on April 9, 1999.
Jose Contreras was having a trouble-free time with the White Sox order on April 9, 2004, until Magglio Ordonez capped a four-run fifth with his three-run bomb. Joe Crede‘s sixth-inning blast sent Contreras to the showers, and Felix Heredia allowed four more tallies in the frame in the 9-3 Yankees loss. But young Bubba Crosby had Yankee fans buzzing with his two-run blast to the upper-deck in right in the bottom of the ninth.
The Yankees subdued the White Sox 11-6 on April 9, 1993, despite the home run Bo Jackson hit on the first swing he took following offseason hip-replacement surgery.
Don Mattingly signed a five-year contract (as a player, of course) for almost $20 million on April 9, 1990. It would be his last player contract.
It was a tough day in the Bronx on April 9, 2017, when the Yankees placed catcher Gary Sanchez on the 10-day disabled list, with a strained right biceps; he would miss a month. The club recalled Kyle Higashioka from the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders to be backup catcher, with Austin Romine taking Sanchez’s place.
On April 9, 2014, already feeling pressure from injuries to their pitching staff, the Yankees recalled righthander Shane Greene from the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, optioning catcher Austin Romine to the same location to create roster space.
On April 9, 2013, the Yankees signed free agent lefty Clay Rapada to a minor league contract, after having released him from his major league one a few days before.
It was just one more attempt at making viable pitching backups available when the Yankees signed veteran free agent righthander Ramon Ortiz on April 9, 2012.
The Yankees optioned Shelley Duncan to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on April 9, 2008 to make room for shortstop Alberto Gonzalez, who was called on to fill the shoes of the injured Derek Jeter at short. It was the beginning of the end of Shelley’s major-league season.
It is an amazing and appalling fact that when the Cincinnati Reds changed their name to Redlegs on April 9, 1953, it was due to the Red Scare sparked by Senator Joseph McCarthy. Thus, baseball’s longest-running active team had their name fall victim to a political scare campaign.
The Yanks picked up outfielder Felipe Alou on April 9, 1971, sending hurlers Rob Gardner and Ron Klimkowski to the A’s for him.
Leaving no source of starting pitching unchecked, the Yankees signed veteran free agent right-hander Carlos Silva to a contract on April 9, 2011. He would be released before ever pitching in the Bronx, but the Yanks had all the help they needed with Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon on board.
Cal Ripken finally surpassed Lou Gehrig‘s consecutive game streak in 1995. And on April 9, 1998, the Orioles infielder moved past the Iron Horse on the all-time hit list with a seventh-inning home run.
We include the tidbit that future Yankee Ron Coomer stroked the first of back-to-back-to-back home runs (followed by shots by Jacque Jones and Matt LeCroy) on April 9, 2000, because when Kansas City’s Carlos Beltran, Jermaine Dye, and Mike Sweeney returned the favor an inning later in the Twins’ 13-7 win, they set a never-before-achieved record (with both teams hitting three home runs in a row in the same game).
Outfielder/second baseman Ed Wilkinson (1918) is the only one-time Yankee player to have died this day. His 10 games with the New York Highlanders was his only service. He went 3-for-13 with one rbi.
Sadly, it was on April 9 in 2001, that “Pops,” Hall of Famer Pittsburgh power hitter Willie Stargell, passed away. He hit 475 long balls with 1,540 rbi’s from 1962-1982, all of it with the Pirates. Righthanders Roxie Lawson (1977); Francisco Barrios (1982); Bill Kennedy (1983); Joe Coleman (1997); and Clay Bryant (1999) also passed away this day. Lawson pitched mostly for the Tigers, the Indians, and the Browns from 1930-1940 to a 47-39-11 mark; and Barrios, strictly a White Sox hurler, went 38-38-3 from 1974-1981. Kennedy posted most of his 15-28-11 mark between 1948 and 1957 with the Browns. Coleman fashioned a 52-76-6 record pitching more often than not for the Philly A’s from 1942-1955; and Briant pitched just for the Cubs from 1935-1940, finishing at 32-20-7. Outfielder Bob Allison (1995) reached 256 fences good for 796 rbi’s, mostly as a Twin, from 1958-1970; outfielder Dick Kokos (1986) hit most of his 59 homers with 223 rbi’s with the Browns from 1948-1954; and also an outfielder, Jimmy Outlaw (2006) hit six long balls and drove in 184 runs from 1937-1949, mostly with Detroit. And finally, first baseman Ed Morgan (1980), playing most often with Cleveland, hit 52 home runs with 473 rbi’s from 1928-1934; and infielder Billy Hitchcock (2006), who cleared five fences good for 257 rbi’s over nine seasons with four teams, notably the Athletics, ending in 1953.
Players Who Have Died This Day
April 9 is the birthday of at least five guys who spent part of their careers as Yankees: Lefty Graeme Lloyd (1967), who performed so beautifully at the end of the glorious 1996 season, which held much more magic after Gooden’s no-hitter discussed above. Graeme was acquired that year with Pat Listach (injured, and eventually replaced by Ricky Bones) for Gerald Williams and Bob Wickman. After posting a 4-2 record with a save through 1998, Lloyd was packaged with David Wells and Homer Bush to Toronto for Roger Clemens.
A 1996 Yankee free agent, Hal Morris (1965), played but 30 games for New York as an outfielder, a DH, and a first baseman in 1988 and 1989; he drove in four runs. But once he was shipped with a minor-leaguer to Cincinnati in December 1989 for Tim Leary and Van Snider, he would amass 76 long balls and 513 rbi’s through 2000 in a career dominated by an eight-year stint with the Reds.
Backup catcher Brian Dorsett (1961) came from California for minor-leaguer Eric Schmidt in a November 1988 transaction; Dorsett would match Morris’s four rbi’s before his release two years later. Lefty thrower Hippo Vaughn (1888) was 23-31 for the 1908 to 1912 Highlanders. But once he was lost to the Senators via waivers in June 1912, he reached the Cubs, who reaped much of the benefits of his 178-137 career record.
Righty reliever David Robertson (1985) was a welcome addition both to the birthday list and to the Yankee pen once he made it there in 2008. Roberston, who seemed to have a big Yankee future ahead of him, won all four of his 2008 decisions in 25 games, with 36 strike outs in 30 innings. He was better in 2009, with a 2-1 mark and a save, as he played a big part in the pen in the postseason. Following a 4-5, 2010 season with one save, David was a key member of the 2011 pen, entering the season with a 10-6 mark with two saves, then making the All Star game and setting up games for Mariano Rivera. David battled through injuries to a 2-7 mark with two saves in 2012, and performed very well picking up the closer mantle from Mariano during the 2014 season, collecting 39 saves while posting a 4-5 record. But David signed with the White Sox for the 2015 season, as the Yanks counted on Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances to solidify the back of the bullpen. Robertson’s first two years on the South Side of Chicago netted his new team 71 saves. Happily, David returned to the Yankees in July 2017, and he would go 5-0 with one save and an era of 1.03 over 30 games.
Non-Yankee April 9 baseball birthdays start with a group of four old-timer pitchers. Lefthander Doc White (1879) won 189 games while losing 156 for the White Sox franchise from 1901-1913; Fred Frankhouse (1904) went 106-97 from 1927-1939 for the Cardinals, the Braves, and the Dodgers; righty Claude Passeau (1909) posted 162 wins while suffering 150 losses throwing for the Pirates, the Phillies, and the Cubs from 1935-1947; and Vic Sorrell (1901) went 92-101 with the Tigers from 1928-1937. Also: Nate Colbert (1946); Kirk McCaskill (1961); Jose Guzman (1963); Mike Brumley (1963); Oscar Robles (1976); Kyle Peterson (1976); Dennis Sarfate (1981); A.J. Ellis (1981); Chris Smith (1981); Chad Reineke (1982); Adam Loewen (1984); Bryan Petersen (1986); Eric Campbell (1987); Simon Castro (1988); and Tommy Medica (1988).
Players Born This Day