I’m having a hard time imagining just how good some little kid who rooted for the Yankees must have been throughout the calendar year of 1919, but I couldn’t be happier that he (or she) was. Imagine a better Christmas present, if you can. Although the Yanks and Red Sox would not announce it until January, the Bombers purchased the contract of Babe Ruth on December 26, 1919. Although much of the Babe’s 94-46 pitching mark was accomplished in Boston, the bulk of the 714 homers, 2,213 rbi’s, 233 stolen bases, and .342 career ba from 1914-1935 came with the Yanks. It put major league baseball on the World Map, and it made the Bronx its Capital.
The Yankee family lost one of its most beloved sons and most faithful servants when long-time Yankee organist Eddie Layton passed away on December 26, 2004, less than a year after he retired from his perch in the Bronx. Actually quite the Renaissance man, Eddie had a model train collection of some renown, and he was a boater as well. Earlier in his career he played the organ at Nassau Coliseum and at Madison Square Garden, but he remained tickling the ivories at The Baseball Cathedral exclusively as his career dragged on. Layton did not miss a day at the Stadium organ in more than 30 years.
In another December 26 transaction affecting a famed Yankee hero, Dave Righetti signed a free agent contract with the Athletics on this day in 1993. But Dave was ineffective in Oakland in ’94 and was released. He would sign with Toronto where he finished the year with an 0-1 mark, and close out his career with a 3-2 record for the White Sox in 1995.
A December 26 transaction landed David Wells in Baltimore in his last stop before his first of two, two-year stints in the Bronx. The Orioles acquired “Boomer” from Cincinnati for Curtis Goodwin and Trovin Valdez on this day in 1995.
One other player move involving a former or future Yankee (in this case both former and future) on December 26 took place in 2001 when Ruben Sierra signed with the Mariners. And years before he would serve in this capacity in the Bronx, Bob Lemon accepted the managing position with the Seattle Angels of the Pacific Coast League on this day in 1964.
The Yankees signed free agent shortstop Abiatal Avelino on December 26, 2011.
The Senior Professional Baseball Association folded in the middle of its second season on December 26, 1990.
In a marketing move that would have a whole generation of baseball boy fans looking to Gillette once they reached the age to shave, that company and Mutual signed a six-year contract to sponsor World Series and All Star Game coverage on December 26, 1950.
Japan’s first professional baseball team, the Yomiuri Giants, was formed on December 26, 1934. This is the Japanese team Yankee star Hideki Matsui played for.
Hard-throwing righty Allie Reynolds (1994), twice mentioned in Hall of Fame coverage recently when he missed selection by the veterans yet again, but received a lot of mention nonetheless because of his trade from Cleveland to New York for Joe Gordon, the one old-timer the committee did honor, is the most famous of five Yankee players to have died on December 26. Reynolds won 131 games, lost 60, and saved 41 in New York while appearing in 295 games (209 starts), and he threw two no-hitters in one year for the Yanks as well. Added to his 1942-1946 start in Cleveland, Allie’s numbers balloon to 182-107-49. Utility player Clyde Engle (1939) hit three home runs and drove in 71 runs on 140-for-505 hitting playing 140 games debuting with the 1909-1910 Highlanders; his numbers increased to 12 and 318 after spending 1910-1916 with the Red Sox, the Buffeds, and the Indians. Shortstop Roxey Roach (1947), who also debuted with New York, knocked in 24 runs on 57 hits in 260 at bats playing 83 games for the 1910-1911 Highlanders. Playing with Washington in 1912 and in Buffalo in 1915, he managed to hit three long balls and drive in 54 runs overall. And finally, another player who debuted with the Yanks, righthander Tom Gorman (1992) posted a 10-7-9 mark with the 1952-1954 Yankees in 75 games (seven starts). A 1955-1959 stint with the K.C. A’s topped his record off at 36-36-42. Outfielder Paul Blair (2013) did not start his career in New York, playing over 1,700 games slickly patrolling center field in Baltimore from 1964 through 1976. Paul had a huge home run in a 1-0 win over the Dodgers during the O’s 1966 World Series four-game sweep. Reduced as a hitter after a beaning, Paul would make huge postseason offensive contributions once he joined the Yanks in 1977. Blair hit six long balls good for 38 rbi’s mostly in 1977-1978 in New York, but a bit in 1979 and 1980 too. In a 12-year career that included one less-than-a-year stint in Cincinnati, his numbers were 134 and 620.
The short list of noteworthy nonYankee players who have died on December 26 includes a righthanded pitcher, a southpaw who hit from both sides, and two third basemen. Frank Lange (1945) pitched only with the White Sox from 1910-1913 to a 28-25-3 record; while lefty Jim O’Toole (2015) did most of his hurling with the Reds from 1958 through 1966, to an overall 98-84 record with four saves, numbers reached in a career-capping stint with the White Sox in 1967. Les Bell (1985) reached 66 fences good for 509 rbi’s playing with the 1923-1927 Cardinals, the 1928-1929 Braves, and the 1930-1931 Cubs; and fellow third sacker Chris Brown (2006) hit 38 home runs and drove in 184 runs from 1984-1989 playing mostly with the Giants.
Players Who Have Died This Day
After a 15-year World Series drought, the Yanks returned to the Classic in 1976 after Chris Chambliss (1948), born this day, broke a ninth-inning, Game-Five ALCS tie with a drive high and far to right. Chris was a first-pick, first-round choice of the Indians in 1970, but was shipped by them to the Yanks with Dick “Dirt” Tidrow and Cecil Upshaw for Fritz Peterson, Steve Kline, Fred Beene, and Tom Buskey in 1974. He stayed five years (and returned for one game in 1988), during which the Yanks won three pennants and two World Series. Chris hit 79 homers for the Yanks, with 454 rbi’s and 10 stolen bases before being traded away in a big swap that brought Rick Cerone to fill the at-the-time recently deceased Thurman Munson‘s spot. Chris served in the batting coach position under Joe Torre a few years back, and he remains active in the game.
Four other Yankee players share the day after Christmas as their birthday. Shortstop Doc Farrell (1901) garnered 10 rbi’s in 40 games for the Yanks in ’32-’33. With eight-year career numbers with the Braves, the Cardinals, the Cubs, and the Yanks of 10 homers with 213 rbi’s, Farrell’s most notable player move was when he was traded by the Giants with someone named Showboat Fisher to St. Louis for Wally Roettger in 1930.
Utility player Queenie O’Rourke (1883) knocked in three runs and stole four bases during 34 games for the 1908 Yanks. And submarine righty pitcher Jay Tessmer (1971) gave up 29 hits and 20 earned runs in 22 games for the Yanks from 1998 through 2002. A 1995 Yankee amateur free agent selection, Jay was traded with minor-leaguer Seth Taylor to the Colorado Rockies for David Lee in January 2001. He re-signed with New York as a free agent the following year.
After being drafted by the Reds, then traded to the Angels, for whom he pitched to an 8-7 mark from 2006-2009, free agent Dustin Moseley (1981) became the most recent Yankee birthday when the club signed him for 2010. Although not blessed with a great arm or knockout stuff, Dustin surprisingly held his own through 26 games (nine starts), and pitched to a 4-4 record. He was granted free agency in early December 2010. The hard-lucky righty went 3-10 in 20 starts for the 2011 Padres despite a more-than-respectable 3.30 era.
As happened two days ago, there are several Hall of Fame members among the non-Yankee birthdays, starting with the old-time baseball executive Morgan Bulkely (1837); continuing with Red Sox and White Sox receiver Carlton Fisk (1947); and finishing today’s Hall celebrators with St. Louis shortstop Ozzie Smith (1954). Other birthdayers: Stu Miller (1927); Ray Sadecki (1940); Dave Rader (1948); Mario Mendoza (1950); Jim Traber (1961); Storm Davis (1961); Jeff King (1964); Esteban Beltre (1967); Carlos Valdez (1971); Yoshinori Tateyama (1975); J.C. Boscan (1979); Omar Infante (1981); Yohan Pino (1983); Darin Downs (1984); Cubs and Red Sox righthander Chris Carpenter (1985); Mike Minor (1987); and Sean Nolin (1989).
Players Born This Day