A successful lefthanded hurler with a Perfect Game under his belt, Yankee fans were delighted when the team penned free agent Kenny Rogers to a four-year deal on December 30, 1995. And although his regular-season performance didn’t really rise to the level that the numbers show (18-15 in two years in the Bronx), his performance wasn’t disastrous until the 1996 postseason. Amazingly, although the Yanks fell behind by several runs early in each game the Gambler started, they showed enough resilience and won all three Series that year anyway. But after being owned by the Yanks ever since he was traded away, Kenny spun a back-breaking, multi-hit win against his old team in Detroit’s 2006 ALDS win.
To view the swaps that the Yanks made on December 30-31, 1940, a fan needs to realize they were trying to shed players with lessened upsides to make room for new blood. For instance, the trade of stalwart starter Monte Pearson to the Reds for outfielder Don Logan had more to do with moving a sore-armed starter than acquiring a fringe player. So although Logan would not resurface in the bigs until 1948 with the Cardinals, Pearson, with 63 wins and 27 losses in the Bronx from 1936-1940, bombed at 1-3 in Cincinnati.
Bump Hadley had teamed with Pearson to the tune of 49 wins and 31 losses (with six saves) during the same five seasons, but he would finish with a two-year mark of 5-6 after the Yanks sold him to the Giants for the waiver price.
And the swap of infielder Bill Knickerbocker for Ken Silvestri of the White Sox cleared a spot too, as Silvestri would join the military and only manage 33 at bats through 1947, with one homer and five rbi’s. Knickerbocker hit seven homers with 29 rbi’s in Chicago in 1941.
In a swap of “Babes,” the Phils traded first baseman Babe Dahlgren to the Pirates for catcher Babe Phelps on December 30, 1943. Dahlgren had played 327 games for the Yanks from 1937-1940, with 27 homers, 163 rbi’s, and three stolen bases, but his greatest claim to fame was when he replaced Lou Gehrig at first base on May 2, 1939, in the game that ended the Iron Horse’s consecutive-games-played streak. Dahlgren hit one of his homers that day.
A 1907 Commission led by eventual Hall of Fame pitcher and Manager Al Spalding reported on December 30 that Abner Doubleday had invented the game of baseball in the town of Cooperstown, New York, in 1839. The evidence for this was a since-refuted eyewitness account in a letter from a Mr. Graves from Akron, Ohio. Spalding had fashioned a 253-65 record pitching from 1871-1877, and managed the National League-winning 1876 Chicago White Stockings (the eventual Chicago Cubs), and became a sports equipment manufacturer once his playing days were over.
Lefthanded outfielder Wilbur Good (1963), who debuted in the bigs by playing five games for the 1905 Highlanders, is the only Yankee player who has died on December 30. Good had three hits in eight at bats in New York with no rbi’s, but after playing mostly with the Cubs and the Indians from 1908-1918, he had accumulated nine home runs and 187 runs driven in.
Although Hiram Bithorn‘s (1951) 34-31-5 record from 1942-1947, mostly with the Cubs, does not stand out, he is quite famous in Puerto Rico, where many Caribbean Series games and some regular-season games by the Montreal Expos before they moved to Washington as the Nationals were played at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, named in his honor. The list of other noteworthy nonYankee players who have died on December 30 includes another righthanded pitcher and two infielders. Henry Porter (1906) posted most of his 96-107-0 record from 1884-1889 with the Trolley Dodgers; second baseman Reddy Mack (1916) hit six home runs and knocked in 262 runs with the 1885-1888 Colonels and the 1889-1890 Orioles (National League); and shortstop Joe Boley (1962) cleared seven fences and drove in 227 runs from 1927-1932, most of it with the A’s.
Players Who Have Died This Day
There were no Yankee birthdays on December 30 until the 2015 season, and the one added was short-lived, so we’ll drift a bit and focus on ex-Yankee Manager Joe Torre‘s older brother, who played for the Milwaukee Braves, Frank Torre (1931). Frank was a lefthanded first baseman who played five years in Milwaukee and then two for the Phillies, stroking 13 homers, with 179 rbi’s and four stolen bases during that time. A member of the 1957-1958 Braves that waged a seven-game victory and then a defeat of the same length in consecutive World Series with the Yanks, Frank’s gritty style may best be exemplified in his only two top-ten offensive-category finishes in his career; he came in third and then fourth in being hit by a pitch in those same two seasons.
Hard-throwing youngster Danny Burawa (1988) got the briefest chance with the parent club in 2015 after being selected in the 12th round in 2010, but it became a two-hit, one walk, then grand slam to the Phillies’ phenom Maikel Franco in 2/3 inning to break a tie, and his Yankee career was over. Atlanta claimed Burawa on waivers in August, and he pitched to a decent era (3.78) in 12 games down the stretch. It was a brief return of outfielder/first baseman Garret Jones to the 40-man roster that led to Burawa being made available.
Righthander Cesar Vargas (1991) makes the Yankee list because they signed him as a free agent in 2009, his first contract with a big-league club. But granted free agency in November 2015, Vargas was grabbed by the Padres, a team that may believe he has potential, because all seven of his appearances in 2016 were starts. He finished 0-3 with a 5.09 era for a bad team.
Hall of Fame lefty for the Dodgers Sandy Koufax (1935) stands head and shoulders over the other December 30 birthdays. Sandy posted a 165-87 mark pitching for but one team, though in two cities, from 1955-1966. Also: Tom Murphy (1945); Jose Morales (1944); A.J. Pierzynski (1976); Grant Balfour (1977); James Hoey (1982); Sean Gallagher (1985); Drew Rucinski (1988); Bryce Brentz (1988); Tyler Anderson (1989); Erik Johnson (1989); and Cesar Vargas (1991).
Players Born This Day