It was August 6, 1979, in a night game after the funeral for Yankee catcher Thurman Munson that his teammate and friend Bobby Murcer drove in all five runs of a Yankee win. Murcer had a three-run homer and then chipped in with a two-run ninth-inning single to beat the Orioles, 5-4. The loss of Murcer in 2008 to cancer served to make Thurman’s death a poignant experience all over again.
As a long-time baseball fan, I’m almost (but not at all, really) embarrassed at the disrespect the Yanks showed veteran righty John Smoltz as they battered him and the Red Sox 13-6 in Yankee Stadium on August 6, 2009, in essence winning the game as they drove Smoltz from the mound in an eight-run fourth inning. Joba Chamberlain went five for the win, Jorge Posada had three hits and drove in three, Mark Teixeira had three safeties, and Hideki Matsui and Melky Cabrera had three rbi’s apiece as well.
It had to drive Yankee fans crazy when the announcement was posted on the Scoreboard pregame on August 6, 2010 that no Yankee errors had been committed to that point in the season when right-hander Javier Vazquez was on the mound. That lasted an inning, as Francisco Cervelli made an error on Mike Lowell‘s short nubber that should have been the second inning’s second out. A strike out followed, but given the fourth out, the visiting Sox went on to score three runs in their 6-3 win. Derek Jeter‘s first inning single tied him with Babe Ruth in hits at 2,873.
The Yankees defeated Kevin Tapani and the White Sox 9-2 on August 6, 1996, behind the three home runs hit by Darryl Strawberry. That made Darryl the eighth player in baseball history to hit three in a game in both leagues.
Although Mickey Mantle, with three homers and a double, was the hitting star in a doubleheader sweep over the Twins on August 6, 1961, 7-6 and 3-2, the two one-run margins were provided by others. Johnny Blanchard tied the first game at 6 in the 10th with a homer, and Yogi Berra legged out a fielder’s choice to win it in 15. And Clete Boyer knocked in The Mick to win the nightcap.
On a day that Orlando “el duque” Hernandez just didn’t have it on August 6, 2000, Allen Watson and Jason Grimsley were ineffective in relief too, in an 11-1 drubbing by the Mariners. Playing right field and leading off, Stan Javier smacked five hits, including a double.
The Yankees/Indians contest on August 6, 1937, would stand out for the fact that Cleveland outfielders had no putouts, but there’s more. When Tribe third sacker Odell Hale deflected a 10th-inning Joe DiMaggio drive, the left fielder did not react because one umpire called the ball foul. When a fellow umpire overruled the call, the Yanks scored the winner in a 7-6 game because the outfielder had abandoned his chase at the first call. This one, however, would be overturned on a protest to the League.
The death knoll for the chances that the 2008 team would recover and make the playoffs was not yet sounded, but the tune was warming up on August 6 when the Yankees placed righty starter, former reliever, Joba Chamberlain on the 15-day disabled list with rotator cuff tendinitis. The team recalled righty Chris Britton from AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre to fill the spot. Catcher Chad Moeller was optioned outright to AAA as well.
With the Yankees going six-deep for the August 6, 2001 start by sending Sterling Hitchcock to the mound and with the Angels relying on reliever Lou Pote, a lot of runs were expected. But a David Justice home run was all the Yanks could muster, and the two-run Angels rally in the fifth carried the day in a 2-1 Halos win.
In one more proof that numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt, the Yankees promoted righty Jim Brower from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on August 6, 2007, and designated southpaw Mike Myers for assignment. It turned out the minuscule era Brower was carrying was an illusion, while Myers’s putrid numbers were right on.
The fickleness of fame. Bucky Dent was on top of the New York baseball world in October 1978 and for quite some time thereafter, but eventually he struggled at the plate, and lost his starting job to Roy Smalley. The Yanks sent Bucky to Texas for the recent Yankee bench coach Lee Mazzilli on August 6, 1982. When last seen, Mazzilli was broadcasting for the Mets.
In the long run I’m sure Yankee fans were happy with the trade even though righty Jeff Nelson of the big frisbee curve was largely ineffective afterward. Armando Benitez just couldn’t pitch a clean inning in the Bronx, and he was still largely despised for having drilled the beloved Tino Martinez in the back as an Oriole in 1996. So after just a couple of weeks in the Yankee pen, Benitez was traded to Seattle for Nelson on August 6, 2003. Good riddance.
The Orioles’ Pat Dobson was on top of the world as he took the mound against the Yanks on August 6, 1971. He had a 12-game winning streak, had pitched nine complete games in a row, and his streak of consecutive scoreless innings had reached 23, but the Yanks drove him from the mound in the fourth inning. All three streaks came to a halt in the 12-3 Yankee victory.
When Don Blasingame doubled off the Yanks’ Stan Williams on this day in 1963, it was the only hit his Senators would get in a 1-0 loss to the Yanks, who salvaged a split of their doubleheader with the win. Washington took the first game, 8-5.
Red-hot after going 7-for-11 against the White Sox, Mickey Mantle drilled a home run off Mickey Lolich of the Tigers on August 6, 1965, but Detroit would prevail over the visitors from New York, 5-4.
Buddy Myers of the visiting Senators keyed a 13-9 win over the Yanks in the first of two on August 6, 1929 with four hits, including three doubles. But the Yanks earned the split as Babe Ruth hit a grand slam and homered a second time, and Fred Heimach scattered three hits to win, 8-0.
A Mariano Rivera ninth-inning leadoff walk followed by a Jason Giambi miscue started the Yankee downfall in an August 6, 2003 tilt with the Angels, as Anaheim plated two and garnered a come-from-behind 5-4 win.
Fans in the Bronx did not have much to cheer for in 1990, and their team finished sixth in a six-team race. But young Kevin Maas at least gave them something to root for. Maas set yet another record when he hit his 11th home run in his 86th at bat in a 2-1 win over Cleveland on August 6, 1990.
Cy Young pitched in and won his first game on August 6, 1890.
When former Yankee closer Goose Gossage saved a 7-4 Cubs win over the Phillies on August 6, 1988, he became the second reliever in major league history to reach 300 saves. Exactly one year earlier Goose had moved past Bruce Sutter on the all-time saves list with his 287th in a 7-4 Padres win over the Braves. Sutter has finally made the Hall of Fame, and now Goose has after too long a wait as well.
St. Louis lefty Johnny Lush no-hit the Brooklyn club for the second time on this day in 1908, in a five-inning, rain-shortened contest, 2-0. And Dean Chance of Minnesota threw a no-no of that same length and score against the Red Sox on the same day in 1967.
The day featured some less than glorious moments for ex-Yankees with other teams. On August 6, 1975, the Mets fired Yogi Berra as their manager, replacing him with Roy McMillan on an interim basis. And Twins Manager Billy Martin fought his own pitcher, Dave Boswell, on this day in 1969.
The Hall of Fame had another good day on August 6, 1973, as Roberto Clemente and Warren Spahn were inducted.
Among individual accomplishments earned on August 6 is Hank Aaron‘s 660th and 661st home runs for the Braves in 1972, outpacing the the 659 Babe Ruth had hit with the Yanks, to take the record for a player with one team. Aaron’s second dinger decided matters as future Yank hurler Phil Niekro bested the Reds’ Don Gullett, another guy with Pinstripes in his future.
Three of the four guys featured in the next set of August 6 highlights have Pinstripes on their resumes, as teammates have picked this day to hit back-to-back home runs twice in the same game on two different occasions. Future Yank Jack Clark and Reggie Smith pulled off this daily double in San Francisco’s 7-6 win over the Astros on this day in 1982. One decade later, Gary Sheffield and Fred McGriff of the Padres repeated this rare feat in a 7-5 victory, ironically also over Houston, on August 6, 1992. Both Clark and Sheffield have played for the Yankees, and McGriff was a one-time Yankee prospect.
It comes under the category of just doing business that the Yankees signed free agent righthander Russ Ortiz and gave him a look on August 6, 2009. As a winner of hundreds of games, he was worth a look.
Tony Gwynn of the Padres stroked his 3,000th hit in a 12-10 win over the Expos on August 6, 1999.
It was on August 6, 1981 that major league owners decided to split their strike-interrupted season into halves, granting first-place teams at the time of the work stoppage with half the league crown, and having the winner in the second part join them in the playoffs. The Yankees joined the A’s, the Phillies, and the Dodgers as first-half winners.
August 6 is yet another day on which two Yankee players have died, but there is no confusion about who earns the first mention. The 1926-1937 stint second baseman Tony Lazzeri (1946) spent with the Yankees started his big-league career, and comprised all but two years of it. He cleared 169 fences good for 1,154 rbi’s in New York, numbers that increased to 178 and 1,191 after brief stops with the Cubs, the Dodgers, and the Giants. Catcher Bob Williams‘s (1962) 1911-1913 tour with the Highlanders/Yankees was his whole career. He had 18 hits in 110 at bats, and drove in 11 runs with no home runs in 46 games.
Two righthanded pitchers and two lefty-hitting outfielders are the noteworthy nonYankee players who have died this day. Bob Miller (1993) won 69, lost 81, and saved 51 games mostly with the Dodegrs and the Cardinals from 1957-1974, but played with the Twins, the Cubs, the Padres, the Pirates, and the Mets too; while Tex Hughson (1993) pitched only with the Red Sox from 1941-1949, to a 96-54-17 record. Ducky Holmes (1932) cleared 17 fences and drove in 374 runs mostly with the Colonels, the White Sox, the Orioles, and the Tigers from 1895-1905; and Jimmy Wasdell (1983) hit 29 long balls and knocked in 341 runs from 1937-1947 with the Senators, the Phillies, the Dodgers, the Pirates, and the Indians.
Players Who Have Died This Day
Reliever Ron Davis (1955), who struck out the last eight Angels in a game in 1981, and who posted a 14-2 record with nine saves with the Yanks in 1979, is the first of a group of August 6 Yankee birthdays. He won 27 and lost 10 in New York after they got him from the Cubs to complete the deal that sent Ken Holtzman to Chicago in June 1978. In April 1982, Davis was sent with Paul Boris and Greg Gagne to the Minnesota Twins for Roy Smalley.
Although he got off to a rough start in Pinstripes, reliever Luis Vizcaino (1974) won eight games and lost just two with the team in 2007. He entered the season with a 25-23 mark and seven saves off an eight-year career in Oakland, Milwaukee, Chicago, and Arizona. He has struggled to stay healthy with Colorado in 2008-2009.
Remembered mostly for the disastrous trade that brought him, Ken Phelps (1954) stroked 17 homers with 51 rbi’s for the 1988-1989 Yanks. The infamous swap in July 1988 sent Jay Buhner to Seattle for Phelps. Thirteen months later, New York sent Ken to Oakland for minor-leaguer Scott Holcomb. And Andy Messersmith (1945) tossed six games and recorded three losses for the 1978 team near the end of a 12-year career that had been earlier spent in California, L.A., and Atlanta.
Jim Hardin (1943) went 0-2 in 12 games for the 1971 Bombers after five years in Baltimore. The Orioles sent Hardin to the Yanks in May 1971 in a trade for Bill Burbach. Jim Turner (1903) went 11-9 with 19 saves for the Yanks from 1942 through 1945 after pitching three years for the Braves and three for the Reds. The Yanks got Turner from the Cincinnati Reds in July 1942 for Frankie Kelleher.
The only big-league experience of catcher John Ramos (1965) after he was selected by the Yankees in the fifth round of the 1986 amateur draft was 10 games and 26 at bats with the 1991 team. Former Tampa starter traded by Tampa to the Mets in 2004, Victor Zambrano (1975) was earlier signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent in August 1993. He was an infielder in the Yankee system, and the club released him in February 1996. Eerily, he was in the Yankee minors pitching in 2008. Outfielder Leon Culberson (1919) played four years with the Red Sox and one with the Senators before the latter club traded him with cash to New York for Bud Stewart in May 1948. As with Zambrano, Culberson never played for the Yanks, however.
Former Yankee Club President Mike Burke was born on this day in 1916. And bringing up the rear is Kris Wilson (1976), who pitched to a 14-9 record in Kansas City from 2000 through 2003, and spun some less than successful innings in the 2006 Yankee pen. Kris got one start in five appearances and had no record with an 8.00-plus era.
Other birthdays: Phillies outfielder from 1904-1919, Sherry Magee (1884), owner of 1,136 career rbi’s; Dodgers righty (in both Brooklyn and LA) Clem Labine (1926), with a 77-56 mark and 96 saves from 1950-1962; 218-home run hitter with the Braves Bob Horner (1957); Stan Belinda (1966); Alexis Gomez (1978); Enrique Gonzalez (1982); Justin Germano (1982); Osiris Matos (1984); Jake McGee (1986); and Wilmer Flores (1991).
Players Born This Day