There can only be one piece of Yankee history leading off this day’s column, and it is heart-rending. It was on August 2, 1979, that the beloved father, husband, and Yankee captain and catcher Thurman Munson perished in a crash of the plane he was piloting. The Yankees would host a huge crowd in the Stadium on the day after the tragic event. In recent years, it was an inspiring moment when a host of Thurman’s teammates gathered with his widow on the Yankee Stadium field at the 2004 Old Timers Game. The whole tragic event is doubly poignant now with the recent death of Thurman’s great friend, Bobby Murcer.
Twenty-nine years later, on August 2, 2008, the Bombers welcomed 70 Old Timers for the annual Old Timers Game in the Bronx. The Bombers “clipped” the Clippers 5-1 in a one-inning game as (2009 Hall of Famer) Rickey Henderson led Wade Boggs, Dave Winfield, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Luis Sojo, and Chris Chambliss in a parade of singles that did all the damage. In the game that followed, Mike Mussina bested Jered Weaver of the Angels 8-2 on home runs by Wilson Betemit, Bobby Abreu, and Alex Rodriguez. Beloved retired second baseman Bobby Richardson advanced the games-counter in the old Stadium down from 21 to 20 in the fifth inning.
The bizarre 2010 season of A.J. Burnett had one of its signature days in an 8-6 loss to Toronto on August 2. Riding a 2-1 lead on a Nick Swisher, batting second, home run in the first, Burnett had allowed two hits and pounded three strike outs through four innings. But the fifth inning went double, home run, walk, double, fielder’s choice, double, double, strike out, wild pitch, double before Sergio Mitre allowed the double that crowned the seven-run frame. In a move that seems incongruous in 2011, Swisher finished the game in center once Marcus Thames pinch-hit for Curtis Granderson against a lefty in the sixth inning. Swisher hit a second home run in the ninth.
In a bizarre game that I do not remember (and I can’t imagine why I don’t), the Yankees took a 5-0 lead over the Red Sox on August 2, 1978, as they strained to catch Boston. But the Sox tied it in the eighth on three wild pitches, two bases-loaded walks, and a few soft hits. It was 5-5 after 14 innings when play was stopped for the day. How did it get resolved? Don’t ask (though unfortunately, there is more on that tomorrow).
It was August 2, 1975, when Billy Martin first became manager of the Yankees, replacing the 1974 Sporting News Manager of the Year, Bill Virdon.
The Yankees demonstrated some of the offensive resilience that got them back into the pennant race in the second half of the 2007 season on August 2, even if it was in a losing cause. Roger Clemens took the mound against the White Sox with nothing, and the first five Chicago batters had hits in the second inning, a frame in which the visitors scored eight runs and drove Clemens from the mound. But the Yanks responded with a vengeance against Jon Garland, scoring eight second-inning runs of their own, with a three-run home run by newly acquired Wilson Betemit being the big blow. However, the Sox rode a two-run home run by Jermaine Dye off Jeff Karstens to their eventual 13-9 win.
People looking back at the eighties and realizing that the Yanks had the decade’s best record in the AL might wonder why it was such a bitter time for the fans. I would suggest a look at the 6-5 loss to the White Sox in 11 innings on August 2, 1985. In the seventh inning with the score tied at three and no one out, Rickey Henderson singled with two on via an error and a single. As the throw from the outfield came in, Yankee shortstop Bobby Meacham crashed into Carlton Fisk at home plate, but the Chisox catcher held onto the ball for the first out. Meacham’s teammate, third baseman Dale Berra, seeing Fisk staggered and wobbly, kept coming, but the Sox catcher righted himself. When the dust cleared, he had managed to tag both members of the left side of the Yankee infield out on the same play, and the Yanks had turned two singles around a Chicago error into a scoreless inning.
Rollie Fingers, Hal Newhouser, and Tom Seaver, along with Umpire Bill McGowan, were inducted into the Hall of Fame on this day in 1992.
On August 2, 1961, the Yankees blasted Kansas City, 12-5. Mickey Mantle hit his 40th home run of the season, tying him for the moment with teammate Roger Maris.
When Jim Bunning of the Tigers struck out the Red Sox on nine pitches in one inning during a 3-0 win over Boston on this day in 1959, it marked the first time that feat had been achieved in the American League since Lefty Grove did it in 1928.
The Yankees and Red Sox split a double dip on August 2, 1931, and former Boston hurler Red Ruffing beat his old mates 4-1 in the first game. Red was just honored as the winningest Yankee righthander with a plaque in Monument Park on Old Timers Day in 2004, the same day Munson was remembered. But in 1931, it was turnaround, fair play in the second August 2 contest 70-plus years ago, as ex-Yankee Wilcy Moore shut out George Pipgras and his old club, 1-0. The Yankees would go 308 games before they were shut out again.
The Bronx was abuzz with the exploits of young Yankee lefthanded power hitter Kevin Maas on August 2, 1990, as the rookie first sacker hit his 10th home run in his 77th at bat, the fastest anyone had ever reached double digits in dingers. It was a different time, as the fans were excited even though the Bombers fell in 11 innings to the Tigers, 6-5.
When Doc White led the White Sox on a 19-game winning streak that started with his 3-0 win over Boston on August 2, 1906, a streak that carried them from fourth to first, the only game they did not win was a complete-game 0-0 tie with the Highlanders (Yankees).
The beloved Yankee Mickey Mantle was given that first name by his father in honor of the great Philadelphia A’s catcher, Mickey Cochrane. On August 2, 1933, Cochrane hit for his second career cycle in a 16-3 drubbing of the Yankees.
One’s an ex-Yankee twice, the other an ex who has returned, but in a game that was everything that was expected, and more, ex-Yankee southpaw David Wells faced Yankee lefty Andy Pettitte in an August 2, 1999 game with Toronto paying a visit to the Bronx. It was a 1-1 tie through seven with Pettitte allowing five hits, and Wells just three, including a fourth-inning Chili Davis home run. But Joe Girardi got the Yanks started with a leadoff eighth-inning double and Chuck Knoblauch‘s sac bunt moved him to third. Joe had a great view from that spot as Derek Jeter crossed up the infield-in Blue Jays defense by blasting a home run to left center, and the Yanks cashed in a 3-2 win.
The Royals jumped on Denny Neagle for three early runs in Yankee Stadium in a noon start on a scorching August 2, 2000, and went on to defeat the Yanks, 4-1.
On August 2, 2015, the Yankees placed righthander Diego Moreno on the 15-day disabled list, with right elbow inflammation; and recalled righty Branden Pinder from the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
The Yankees activated center fielder Curtis Granderson from the 60-day disabled list on August 2, 2013, creating space on the 40-man roster by designating Thomas Neal for assignment, and on the 25-man by optioning center fielder Melky Mesa to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. The team also sent third baseman Alex Rodriguez on a rehab assignment to the AA Trenton Thunder.
In a Negro Leagues game at Yankee Stadium on August 2, 1942, Satchell Paige and Hilton Smith combined to pitch a one-hit shutout over the New York Cubans, leading the Kansas City Monarchs to a 9-0 win. Earlier, in the first of two, the Philadelphia Stars had defeated the Baltimore Elite Giants 7-4 behind a Henry Spearman grand slam.
The Philadelphia A’s were on their way to breaking the Yankees’ three-year reign as AL Champs when they rallied to beat the Tigers 11-10 after allowing Detroit a six-run first on August 2, 1929. Combined with the Bombers’ 9-8 loss to Cleveland, the A’s lead over second-place New York grew to 11.5 games. The Yanks would finish second, but 18 games out, and Philly would win the World Series over the Cubs.
Commissioner Bud Selig announced on August 2, 1999, that Yankee outfielder/DH Darryl Strawberry could be reinstated from substance-abuse probation on August 4 rather than August 11.
It’s not a widely known fact, but Charley Finley wasn’t being as innovative as some suspect when he suggested using yellow game baseballs while serving as Oakland owner in the seventies. Dodgers exec Larry MacPhail had the baseballs to be used in the first of two between the Dodgers and St. Louis on August 2, 1938, painted yellow. The Dodgers won the game 6-2, but Johnny Mize of the Cardinals (and later, Yankees) hit the first “yellow” home run.
In one August 2 highlight featuring a one-time Yankee player, Jackie Jensen notched nine rbi’s in an 18-3 Red Sox win over the Tigers on this day in 1956.
On this day in 1921, a Chicago jury found the eight players involved in the Black Sox scandal not guilty, but to no avail, as Judge Landis banned all eight from baseball for life.
The death of Yankee catcher and captain Thurman Munson, mentioned atop this column, is just one of four Yankee players who have died August 2. A one-time Rookie of the Year and American League MVP, Munson hit 113 home runs and drove in 701 runs from 1969-1979. The other three Yankee players who have passed played just seven games with the team among them, with the four games second baseman Jim Curry (1938) played for the 1911 Highlanders leading the way. Curry went 2-for-11, and he garnered no home runs nor rbi’s that year or in one game with the 1909 A’s and five contests with the 1918 Tigers. Lefty Jess Buckles (1975) posted no record in pitching his only two major league games (no starts) for the 1916 Yankees; and switch-hitting righthander Guy Cooper (1951) pitched his first ever game (not a start) for the 1914 Yankees to no record. After 10 games (one start) with the 1914-1915 Red Sox, his career ended with a 1-0-0 mark.
The only noteworthy nonYankee players to have died this day are lefthanded first baseman Dan Brouthers (1932), who hit 106 long balls good for 1,296 runs driven in from 1879-1896, and in 1904, mostly for the Bisons, the Wolverines, the Trojans, and the Orioles; and southpaw Jack Spring (2015), who batted righthanded. Spring pitched mostly for the Angels from 1955 through 1965, going 12-5 with 8 saves.
Players Who Have Died This Day
The 32 games that infielder/outfielder Angel Aragon (1890), played for the 1914, 1916, and 1917 Yankee teams easily give him the seniority prize among players birthdaying August 2, even though he only notched five rbi’s during that time. Righthander Charlie Caldwell (1901) posted no record for the 1925 Yankees in the only three games of his major-league baseball career. They are the only two Yankee birthdays.
Others: Red Ames (1882) who pitched 17 years for the Giants, Reds, and Cardinals to a 183-167 record; lefty pitcher Tom Burgmeier (1943), who saved 100-plus games for the Royals, Twins, and Red Sox from 1968-1984; knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (1966); lefty reliever Mike Venafro (1973); Joe Dillon (1975); Julio Mateo (1977); Matt Guerrier (1978); Humberto Quintero (1979); Matt Riley (1979); Colby Lewis (1979); Grady Sizemore (1982); Huston Street (1983); Luke Hughes (1984); Juan Jaime (1987); Brett Jackson (1988); Parker Bridwell (1991); and Paul DeJong (1993).
Players Born This Day