December 3 in Yankee History

  • Two lefthanded free agent pitchers signed contracts with new teams on December 3, 1988. Jesse Orosco, who would later see limited action with the Yankees in the latter stages of the 2003 season, signed with the Cleveland Indians. Lefty finesse starter Dave LaPoint signed with the Bronx Bombers. I saw the Yankees let him face more than 10 batters in the same inning in a Spring Training game once and retire none of them. During the season he was better, but not overly so, on a Yankee team sadly in need of quality arms. His career mark was 80-86, but an even .500 other than his time with the Yanks. The six more games lost than won is a number he picked up in Pinstripes, posting a 13-19 record with the Yanks during the 1989 and 1990 seasons.
  • Following a disastrous offensive season from the backstop position, much was hoped when the Yankees signed free agent catcher Brian McCann on December 3, 2013. Brian would struggle mightily at the plate, though not behind it, for much of the 2104 season, the first of five for which he was signed, but he picked up the pace down the stretch, finishing with 23 home runs with 75 rbi’s, though just a .232 batting average. His 2015 season was better, but as with much of the team, his offense tailed off dramatically in the second half.
  • In another weird transaction in a highly unsuccessful Yankee offseason, on December 3, 2012, the Toronto Blue Jays claimed catcher Eli Whiteside off waivers from the Yankees, who had claimed him from the Giants just a few weeks earlier. The fact that the Bombers never successfully filled the catcher position for 2013 makes this more poignant than it might have been.
  • After failing to offer catcher Jose Molina the day before, the Yanks signed him to a two-year contract on December 3, 2007. Sadly, on the same day, a long slog through the Yankee minors, with a few bright spots in the majors, came to an end when the club designated first baseman Andy Phillips for assignment.
  • After falling to the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS, the Yanks had a busy day on December 3 with three transactions, though none had a great effect on the following season. Although he struggled mightily at the plate, the re-signing of backup catcher John Flaherty to a one-year contract was the best of the moves, based on the rapport Flaherty would establish with free agent signee Randy Johnson.
  • The second of the three December 3, 2004 moves was more good than bad as well, because by re-acquiring former Yankee southpaw bullpenner Mike Stanton from the Mets, they were able to rid the roster of lefty reliever Felix Heredia. Stanton pitched to a 1-2 record in 28 games with a high era before being released, but Heredia was worse. After two ineffective years in the Yankee pen, he barely pitched in Flushing in 2005 due to injury, and he finished the year by testing positive for steroid use.
  • The last of the three December 3, 2004 trades was the least successful, as the Yanks shipped unproductive, unhappy, and under-utilized center fielder Kenny Lofton to the Phillies for a guy they felt would be a rock in their pen. But although he threw hard, Felix Rodriguez showed a disturbing tendency to wildness in spring training, a shortcoming he never succeeded in overcoming.
  • It is interesting that the Milwaukee Brewers shrunk their payroll to baseball’s lowest in 2003, despite the vows they made when getting their partially publicly funded new stadium, Miller Park, built. The more things change, the more they remain the same? On December 3, 1901, the Milwaukee franchise in the fledgling American League was dropped in favor of the St. Louis Browns. It was also around this time that Baltimore would get an AL franchise, by the way, and that team would be shifted to New York as the Highlanders in 1903.
  • Former Yankee draft choice Willie McGee continued an interesting year as he signed a free agent deal with the Giants on December 3, 1990. Earlier he had won the National League batting title, after the Cardinals traded him to the American League Oakland A’s for the stretch run of the ’89 season. He left the NL several places back, but with his NL batting average frozen in place, all the competition for highest batting average slowly fell below his number.
  • Bo Belinsky, who had thrown an early no-hitter and basked in a California life-style that included dating movie stars, was traded by the Angels for minor-league Phillies pitcher Rudy May on December 3, 1964. The lefthanded Mr. May would enjoy some fine seasons in the Bronx and elsewhere later in his career.
  • Making official what we all knew was about to happen, injured right-handed starter Chien-Ming Wang elected free agency on December 3, 2010. Winner of 19 games for the Yanks in back-to-back seasons, we wish the Taiwanese star well in his comeback in Washington.
  • Felipe Alou, who would later play in the Yankee outfield, was traded by the Giants to the Braves on December 3, 1963.
  • Cleveland Indian “Super Joe” Charboneau was named American League Rookie of the Year on December 3, 1980, on the strength of his .289 batting average, 23 homers, and 87 rbi’s.
  • Measures to increase offense that were implemented by the major-leagues rules committee on December 3, 1968, included lowering the mound, shrinking the strike zone, and enforcing rules against illegal pitches.
  • With some very frustrating teams with pretty big salaries in Flushing in the new millennium, it would be easy to forget one of their earlier spectacular trade misfires. Trying to fill a moribund third base slot, they sent Amos Otis to Kansas City for Joe Foy on December 3, 1969. Foy flopped in New York, and Otis starred in K.C. (The next Flushing third base search proved even more disastrous, as two years later they sent Nolan Ryan to California for Jim Fregosi.)
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    Players Who Have Died This Day

  • No Yankee players have died on December 3.
  • The list of noteworthy nonYankee players who have died on December 3 includes a righthanded pitcher, two lefties, two catchers, and an infielder. Guy Hecker (1938) won 173 games, lost 146, and saved one from 1882-1890 throwing mostly for the Colonels; while portsider Frank Killen (1939) posted a 164-131-0 mark pitching mostly with the Pirates (six years), and the Senators (three years) from 1891-1900; and Earl Johnson (1994) won 40, lost 32 and saved 17 games mostly for the Red Sox from 1940-1951. Lefthanded shortstop/infielder Billy Klaus (2006) hit 40 home runs and drove in 250 runs from 1952-1963 playing multiple years with the Braves, the Red Sox, the Orioles, and the Phillies. Catcher/first baseman Mike Grady (1943) cleared 35 fences good for 449 rbi’s playing from 1894-1906 with the Phillies, the Giants, the Senators, and the Cardinals; and backstop John Bateman (1996) hit 81 roundtrippers and knocked in 375 runs for the Colt 45′s (and Astros), the Expos, and the Phillies from 1963-1972.
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    Players Born This Day

  • There are four Yankee December 3 birthdays, and while none of them are superstars or household names, each made a valuable contribution. Lefty first baseman Joe Collins (1922) is that rare bird who played his 10 full years with one team, in this case the Bombers, appearing in 908 games for the club from 1948 through 1957. He chipped in with 86 taters and 329 rbi’s.
  • Righty Butch Wensloff (1915) pitched for the Yanks in 1943 and 1947 to a 16-12 record with one save, and played just one more big-league season, with Cleveland in 1948. The Yanks had sold his contract to the Indians in April 1948.
  • Lefty-hitting outfielder Harry Simpson (1925) knocked seven balls out of the park and drove in 45 for the 1957 and 1958 Yanks; he played five years for the Indians, split his four years with the A’s around his Yankee stint, and ended his career with the White Sox and Pirates in 1959. Harry arrived from Kansas City with Ryne Duren and Jim Pisoni in a June 1957 trade for Billy Martin, Ralph Terry, Woodie Held, and Bob Martyn. Twelve months later, the Yanks sent him back to K.C. with Bob Grim for Duke Maas and Virgil Trucks.
  • After being drafted by the Rangers, Gene Nelson (1960) debuted with the Yanks because he arrived as part of the swap that sent Mickey Rivers to Texas. He went 3-1 for the 1981 Bombers in eight games (seven starts) before extending his career through the 1993 season by playing for the Mariners (two years), the White Sox (three), and the A’s (six), and splitting the last season between the Angels and the Rangers (where he had started in that aforementioned 1978 draft). Nelson was sent to Seattle with Bobby Brown and Bill Caudill in April 1982 for Shane Rawley.
  • And last, although he never played for New York, righthander Gerry Pirtle (1947) was signed as a Yankee amateur free agent before the 1967 season. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Rick Stelmaszek in January 1976. Pirtle posted an 0-2 record for the 1978 Montreal Expos in his only big-league action. Another guy who has not played for the Yanks is righty Matt Childers (1978), who has no record after throwing 11 games split between the Brewers and the Braves, and who the Yanks signed as a free agent in December 2005.
  • Other birthdays: Clay Dalrymple (1936); Chico Salmon (1940); Wayne Garrett (1947); Damon Berryhill (1963); Darryl Hamilton (1964); Paul Byrd (1970); Gary Glover (1976); Chad Durbin (1977); Chris Snelling (1981); Manny Corpas (1982); Tobi Stoner (1984); Andrew Oliver (1987)’ J.T. Chargois (1990); Miguel Gonzalez (1990); Mike Tauchman (1990); and Matt Reynolds (1880).