The fact that Cleveland was building a stellar starting rotation in 2015 came as a surprise to many MLB observers, but not to the Yankees, who would lose three of four to the visiting Indians in mid-August, the first a 3-2 defeat on August 20. Righty Josh Tomlin allowed just two hits through seven, one of them an Alex Rodriguez home run in the fourth. Ivan Nova allowed single runs in the second, third, and fourth, enough to withstand a one-run, bottom-of-the-ninth rally, started again by a Rodriguez single. Honoring one-time Yankee President/CEO Al Rosen, a career third baseman with Cleveland who had passed away earlier in the year, Al’s brother Robert Rosen threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
The two-pronged theme of the Yankee doubleheader sweep of the visiting Blue Jays on August 20, 2013, was come from behind, and offense both from the usual places and the unexpected. So when Ivan Nova, pitching the first game, fell behind the Jays 4-0 in the second in a rally keyed by a Rajai Davis two-run double, the three-run Robinson Cano home run in the third was not a surprise. But the three runs delivered when light-hitting catcher Chris Stewart cleared the left field fence in the home sixth was. Cano knocked in another run with a double in the 8-4 win, then he reached Mark Buehrle for a third-inning, game-tying single in the nightcap. But the next two Yankee tallies, including the walkoff rbi single following an Ichiro Suzuki pinch-running stolen base in the ninth, were delivered by Jayson Nix, who also homered in the home seventh in the 3-2 win. The first game of the day/night double dip was a makeup date for an April 19 rainout.
More M&M 1961 fun, as Roger Maris hit no. 49 and Mickey Mantle chipped in with no. 46 in the first game of a doubleheader sweep of the Indians, 6-0 and 5-2, on August 20. The only Yankee homer of the second game was no. 21 by Moose Skowron, but Mickey notched his 101st rbi when he walked to force in a run after Roger was hit by a pitch in the sixth.
Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth had a similar long-ball rivalry over several seasons, and when Lou hit no. 33 in the fourth inning of an August 20, 1931, 7-3 win in St. Louis, he tied the total amassed by the Babe. But Ruth hit a grand slam over the right field roof in the ninth inning to retake the lead. Lefty Gomez got the win, despite weakening and allowing three runs in the bottom of the ninth.
Lou Gehrig got the Yankees off to a great start toward an 11-3 victory over the A’s exactly seven years later, on August 20, 1938, when he hit his 23rd career grand slam in the first inning. It was the last of his unprecedented total, one of baseball’s apparently most unbreakable records, which, like his consecutive-games streak, eventually fell, to pinstriper Alex Rodriguez, currently sitting on 25.
August 20, 1964, was Phil Linz harmonica day as there was a flare-up on the Yankee team bus between Phil and Manager Yogi Berra over his continuing to play once told to stop. Phil was unwittingly egged on, and the scene made headlines. It helped not a bit that the team had just been shut out 5-0 by the White Sox.
For the second straight day, the Yanks took it on the chin from the lowly Astros in a 5-2 loss in the stadium on August 20, 2014. Up 2-1 through six on a Stephen Drew home run and a Jacoby Ellsbury rbi single, David Huff relieved Michael Pineda after a leadoff walk. But a one-out one-base hit and four consecutive singles off Esmil Rogers handed the Astros a four-spot for the final score.
When Yankee DH Bob Watson hit a speaker with a drive in the Seattle Kingdome in a 6-4 Yankee win over the Mariners on August 20, 1980, it was the second day in a row that a speaker was struck.
On August 20, 1954, Yankee outfielder Gene Woodling broke his thumb when he crashed into the outfield wall in Fenway in a 4-3 Yankee loss to the Red Sox, causing him to miss the rest of the season.
Yankee fans could be forgiven for losing faith a bit when Andy Pettitte allowed five runs on six hits, one a three-run Garret Anderson jack, in the third inning of an Angels/Yankees game in Yankee Stadium on August 20, 2002. But Derek Jeter scored three runs and Jason Giambi knocked in three and Pettitte lasted long enough for the 7-5 win. Alfonso Soriano received a standing ovation leading off the bottom of the first of this first game of the homestand, as he had reached the 30/30 plateau in both home runs and steals on the just-completed road trip.
Babe Ruth was prevented from making any further use of a four-piece bat he was hitting with on August 20, 1923. The reason given for the ruling was the glue that held the pieces together. It is interesting (and not lost on this Yankee fan for a moment) that this controversy had an effect on the Pine Tar Game more than 60 years later. AL President Ban Johnson ruled that nothing but tape could extend beyond 18 inches from the bat’s handle. The cynic in me has to add that the League deemed it a valid rule until the day it benefited the Yankees.
The Garret Anderson two-run homer in Yankee Stadium on August 20, 2004, was just insurance. It came in the ninth inning and capped the 5-0, five-hit shutout Russ Ortiz and Troy Percival threw at Jon Lieber and the Bombers.
And Bob Turley was on the short end of a 1-0 score against Kansas City on this day in 1957 despite the fact that he threw a two-hitter. This one was made more painful by what was happening in Chicago that day, as the second-place Sox crept a half game closer by splitting two with Washington.
On the same 1957 day, 35-year-old White Sox hurler Bob Keegan threw a 6-0 no-hitter over Washington. Years earlier, Indians pitcher Carl Cashion picked on the Senators too, tossing a six-inning no-hitter on August 20, 1912, in Cleveland’s 2-0 win over Washington in the second of two.
With a leadoff walk, Mo Vaughn keyed a four-run seventh-inning rally off Mike Stanton and Ramiro Mendoza after David Cone departed an August 20, 2000 game vs. the Angels with a 3-0 lead. Cone could have used the victory in that disastrous 4-14 season. Vaughn’s double off Randy Choate that delivered Ed Speizio in the eighth served as necessary insurance once Glenallen Hill‘s eighth inning jack left the Yanks one run short in a 5-4 loss.
In the wake of the Howie Spira/Dave Winfield debacle, George Steinbrenner resigned as managing general partner of the Yankees on August 20, 1990.
The Yankees optioned righthander Bryan Mitchell to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on August 20, 2017.
On August 20, 2015, the Yankees released outfielder/first baseman Garrett Jones, and sent righthander Michael Pineda on a rehab assignment with the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
The Yankees recalled righthanded reliever Preston Claiborne from the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders yet again on August 20, 2013.
On August 20, 2011, the Yanks assigned lefty Aaron Laffey, whom they had grabbed off waivers the day before, to their major league club.
On August 20, 2010, the Yanks assigned Zachary Nuding, Mason Williams, and righthander David Triplet to the GCL Yankees.
Signed a few days earlier, draftee catcher John Murphy was assigned to GCL Yankees on August 20, 2009.
Two years removed from the two stints with the Yankees that would crown his career, first baseman Dale Long became the first lefthander to play as the catcher in the big leagues in 52 years, as the Cubs split a doubleheader with the Pirates on August 20, 1958.
Several guys won their 20th games of the season on August 20: Ferguson Jenkins of the Cubs in 1971, Giants pitcher Gaylord Perry in 1966, and Detroit’s Hal Newhouser in 1945, while New York Giants legend Christy Mathewson won his 25th in 1908, and his 23rd five years earlier, all on this same day.
When Eddie Matthews hit his 28th home run as the Braves beat the Pirates 4-3 on August 20, 1965, the duo of Matthews and Henry Aaron became the top two-teammate tandem in home run-hitting major league history, as their total of 772 eclipsed that compiled by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in New York.
It was a mixed blessing when Sammy Sosa recorded his 100th rbi of the 1996 season in a Cubs 8-1 win over the Marlins on August 20, as it came about when he was struck by a Mark Hutton pitch with the bases loaded. The resulting broken bone in his wrist forced the slugger to miss four to six weeks. A 1988 Yankee draft selection, Hutton was traded by the club to Florida three weeks before he hit Sosa.
When Ken “Junior” Griffey hit a game-winning, inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the ninth to secure the Reds’ August 20, 2001, 5-4 win over St. Louis, it was cleverly referred to as a “run-off.”
It’s in a grumbling mood that I report that eventual Yankee outfielder Omar Moreno became the first player in the 20th Century to steal 70-plus bases for three straight seasons when he swiped one in the Pirates’ 5-1 loss to the Astros on August 20, 1980. Why grumbling? Moreno, who would reach 96 steals that year, stole but 20 when he played his only full season in New York, in 1984.
Also on August 20, 1980, long-time Tiger and eventual Yankee third sacker Tom Brookens had one of his best days in Detroit, including a triple and a home run in his five-for-five in an 8-6 win over the Twins. If that was not enough, Tom started a triple play in the field as well. And southpaw Walt Terrell, another veteran Tiger with some Pinstripes on his resume, carried a no-hitter with one down in the ninth in an August 20, 1986, Detroit tilt with the Angels until Wally Joyner doubled to break it up. Terrell settled for a one-hit, 3-0, complete game win.
Catcher Walter Blair (1948), who hit one home run with 53 rbi’s while debuting in 216 games with the 1907-1911 Highlanders, is one of two Yankee players who have died on August 20. After playing in 1914-1915 with the Buffalo Buffeds of the Federal League, the numbers grew to three and 106. Righthander Hank Johnson (1982) also debuted in New York, posting a 47-38-7 record with the Yankees from 1925-1931. After three years with the Red Sox, and one each with the A’s and the Reds his record advanced to 63-56-11.
The only noteworthy nonYankee player to have died this day is southpaw Jake Miller (1975), who won 60, lost 58, and saved three games mostly with the Indians from 1924-1933.
Players Who Have Died This Day
Another day with three Yanks celebrating a birthday, and there is certainly no doubt with which one I should lead: defensive whiz at third base and World Series hero and lefty power hitter Graig Nettles (1944). Consider that along with his superb glove work on the “hot corner” in a 22-year career, he also compiled a lifetime total of 390 home runs, 250 of them with the Yanks. Graig also contributed 834 rbi’s in his 1973-1983 stint in the Bronx once he arrived with Jerry Moses via a November 1972 swap with the Cleveland Indians for John Ellis, Jerry Kenney, Charlie Spikes, and Rusty Torres. But, as Bruce Springsteen would write, the “Glory Days” would end and Nettles was traded to the San Diego Padres for Dennis Rasmussen in March 1984.
Brad Arnsberg (1963) posted a 1-3 record while having his major league debut with the 1986-1987 Yanks. Arnsberg was selected by the Yankees in the first round (ninth pick) of the 1983 amateur draft. He was traded to the Texas Rangers for Don Slaught in November 1987.
Pete Schneider (1895) went 0-1 in seven games for the 1919 Yanks after he was purchased by the club from the Cincinnati Reds, for whom he had thrown five years, in December 1918.
Other birthdays start with Hall of Fame Manager and player Al Lopez (1908). A catcher for the Dodgers, the Braves, and the Pirates for 20 seasons, Lopez piloted the 1954 Cleveland Indians and the 1959 Chicago White Sox to the World Series, though the loss of the former in four to the Giants shocked the baseball world. Others: Fred Norman (1942); Mark Langston (1960); Tom Brunansky (1960); Andy Benes (1967); Jose Paniagua (1973); Todd Helton (1973); Eugene Kinsale (1976); T.J. Tucker (1978); Chris Schroder (1978); Cory Sullivan (1979); Lance Broadway (1983); Jamie Hoffmann (1984), briefly a Yankee rule-5 invitee to Spring Training in 2010; Matt Hague (1985); Blake DeWitt (1985); Taylor Cole (1989); and Justin Williams (1995).
Players Born This Day