December 5 in Yankee History

  • The three-team trade that landed shortstop Didi Gregorius on the Yankees on December 5, 2014, was initially greeted lukewarmly, and five months later was the subject of considerable complaints, as Gregorius started the ’15 season not only struggling with the bat, but in the field and running the bases too. Further, young righthander Shane Greene, whom New York shipped to Detroit, started his Tigers season at 3-0, with a minuscule era. But Detroit, who had traded second baseman Domingo Leyba and lefthander Robbie Ray to the Arizona Diamondbacks (who shipped Didi to the Yanks), would remove a struggling Greene from their rotation, then demote him to the minors as the season passed, and Gregorius blossomed in all aspects of the game in the Bronx. He would hit 20 homers with 70 rbi’s in 2016.
  • The first of two other moves the Yanks made on December 5, 2014, was a no-brainer, applauded by all, though we [correctly] feared it would end the New York stay of closer David Robertson, as the Bombers signed free agent southpaw Andrew Miller to close, something he would do superbly all year. The Yankees also signed free agent righthander Vicente Campos to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training on the same day.
  • The Yankees made two trades on December 5, 1984, one of them a real blockbuster. First they acquired left fielder Rickey Henderson and pitcher Bert Bradley from the Oakland A’s for pitchers Jay Howell and Jose Rijo, outfielder Stan Javier, and minor-league hurlers Tim Birtsas and Eric Plunk. Over the next several seasons Yankee fans learned about the importance of pitching as the team somehow couldn’t manage to get to the postseason with an offense that featured Henderson, Dave Winfield, and Don Mattingly.
  • The swap of catcher Rick Cerone to the Braves for pitcher Brian Fisher that same 1984 day was initially a very good one, even though the wily Cerone would extend his career through the 1992 season, including a return stop in the Bronx in 1990. Fisher would star in the Yankee pen, fashioning a 13-9 mark with 20 saves in 1985 and 1986. Then he was unfortunately included in the Doug Drabek-for-Rick Rhoden trade with the Pirates, which may have ranked as one of Yanks’ worst in the 80s, even if they hadn’t included the talented Fisher.
  • Two days after the Yanks decided to retain catcher Joe Girardi, they shipped World Series home-run-hitting hero Jim Leyritz to the Angels for two minor leaguers, righthanded pitcher Jeremy Blevins and third baseman Ryan Kane, on December 5, 1996. The ensuing development of Jorge Posada into a top-flight receiver justifies sending Leyritz away. And the Yanks had a near miss with the prospects too. Kane lasted in the Yankee system for two seasons and was last seen playing in the Independent Northeast League (the league that includes the Jersey Jackals that play in the Montclair, New Jersey, location of Yogi Berra‘s Museum). Blevins impressed for a while and made a steady climb through the Yankee organization until he made it to AAA Columbus in 2002. Unfortunately, his career atrophied there and he was declared a free agent. And Girardi now serves as Yankee manager, one who copped the team’s 27th Championship in 2009.
  • It’s no longer too soon to weigh in on the December 5, 2007, swap of righthanded pitchers between the Yankees and the Washington Nationals. Reliever Jonathan Albaladejo had barely pushed his way into the Yankee overcrowded bullpen in 2008 when he went down with an elbow injury after seven appearances, while starter Tyler Clippard made just two starts for the Nats, to a 1-1 record. But although Albaladejo lost one game while neither winning nor saving any in New York, his deceptive delivery netted him 13 strike outs in as many innings. Albaladejo went 5-1 in 32 games in 2009, while Clippard won four and lost two in 41 outings, but Clippard was a mainstay in the back of the Washington pen, and now plies his trade in Flushing, while Albaladejo was released by New York in 2010. He pitched three games for the D’backs in 2012.
  • On the other hand, the Yanks did quite well when they signed free agent infielder Jayson Nix on December 5, 2012. Filling in during significant innings due to injuries to Yankee veterans, Nix supplied solid defense along with four home runs and 18 rbi’s playing in 74 games. The younger brother of utility player Laynce Nix, Jayson has hit 34 homers with more than 100 runs batted in five years playing with the Rockies, White Sox, Indians, Blue Jays, and Yankees.
  • We just mentioned that former prospect Blevins had played at the site of the Yogi Berra Museum; it was on December 5, 1959, that the great ex-catcher with the twisted syntax visited Italy as a representative of major league baseball, where he donated some equipment to help in the development of the fledgling leagues in that European country.
  • The Braves made a wily move when they snatched former Yankee first baseman Chris Chambliss from the Blue Jays on December 5, 1979, in a trade for four players of little consequence just one month after Toronto had received Chambliss from the Yanks.
  • The Philadelphia Phillies dropped plans to broadcast their brand of National League baseball into the New York area after the departure of the Dodgers and the Giants on December 5, 1958, backing down after the Yanks had threatened to broadcast their games into Philly.
  • The Yankees have rarely been classified as a socially progressive team, but they were when they made Kim Ng the first female executive raised to the office of assistant general manager in major league baseball. When Ng left the club and signed for a similar position with the Dodgers, New York replaced her with Jean Afterman on December 5, 2001. It was Ms. Afterman who served as the point person in getting Hideki Matsui signed to play in the Bronx.
  • In December 5 moves that involved former or future Yankee players, outfielders Bobby Bonds and Thad Bosley were traded from the California Angels along with minor league pitcher Richard Dotson to the Chicago White Sox for catcher Brian Downing and pitchers Chris Knapp and Dave Frost in 1977; and in a blockbuster, the Blue Jays sent first baseman Fred McGriff and shortstop Tony Fernandez to the Padres for second baseman Robby Alomar and outfielder Joe Carter in 1990.
  • Ron Santo of the Cubs became the first ballplayer to veto his own trade on December 5, 1973.
  • In the 1926 NL MVP vote, Cardinals catcher Bob O’Farrell bested second baseman Hugh Critz of the Reds on December 5.
  • It was the first serious setback in a career that would see many of them when Dodgers (and future Yankees) reliever Steve Howe was suspended for one year for cocaine abuse on December 5, 1983. Howe died in an accident in April 2006.
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    Players Who Have Died This Day

  • The numbers lefty-hitting outfielder Cliff Mapes (1996), the only Yankee player to have died on December 5, wore on his back made more of an impression than his play, which was more than passable as well. Mapes wore Babe Ruth‘s number 3 before it was retired, he briefly wore number 13 that potential Yankee Hall of Famer Alex Rodriguez sports into retirement, and when he was traded to the Browns in 1951 to make room for rookie phenom Mickey Mantle, The Mick dropped his number 6 and took over Mapes’s number 7. Debuting in the Bronx playing 317 games from 1948-1951, Cliff hit 22 home runs and drove in 119 runs on 196-for-799 hitting. After finishing the ’51 season in St. Louis and playing for the 1952 Tigers, his numbers stood at 38 and 172.
  • A man whom many believe should be in the Hall of Fame, lefty-hitting outfielder“Shoeless Joe” Jackson passed away on December 5, 1951. He hit 54 home runs and knocked in 785 runs with the A’s, the Indians, and the White Sox from 1908-1920 when the Black Sox scandal brought his career to a screeching halt. He had a .356 career batting average. The list of other noteworthy nonYankee players who have died on December 5 includes another lefty-hitting outfielder, a righthanded pitcher, a shortstop, and a catcher. Bill Bruton (1995) hit 94 long balls and drove in 545 runs with the Braves and the Tigers from 1953-1964; while Russ Christopher (1954) posted a 54-64-35 mark pitching mostly with the A’s from 1942-1947. Shortstop Bill Dahlen (1950) hit 84 roundtrippers good for 1,233 rbi’s from 1891-1911 playing seven years each with the Colts and the Dodgers, four with the Giants, and two with the Doves; and backstop Val Picinich (1942) hit 26 home runs and drove in 298 runs from 1916-1933 playing five years each with the Dodgers and the Giants, three each with the Red Sox and the Reds, and two years with the A’s.
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    Players Born This Day

  • There is an interesting historical perspective to one of the four Yankee players whose birthdays fall on December 5. Pitcher Snake Wiltse (1871) is one of only five ballplayers who were carried over to the 1903 Highlanders ballclub who had also played for the franchise when it was still the 1902 Baltimore Orioles. He made that move along with fellow hurler Harry Howell, infielders Ernie Courtney and Jimmy Williams, and outfielder Herm McFarland. The Orioles purchased Wiltse from the Philadelphia Athletics in July 1902. A lefty thrower, Snake finished his three-year career with the 1903 team in New York, going 0-3 in four games, with one save.
  • Second baseman Joe Gedeon (1893) knocked in 35 runs and stole 18 bases in 155 games for the 1916 and 1917 clubs. The Yankees traded him with Nick Cullop, Fritz Maisel, Les Nunamaker, and Urban Shocker to the St. Louis Browns for Eddie Plank, Del Pratt, and cash in January 1918.
  • Outfielder/DH Gary Roenicke smacked nine homers with 28 rbi’s with the 1986 Yanks in a career that spanned 1976 through 1988, the bulk of which was spent with Earl Weaver‘s Baltimore Orioles for eight seasons. John Lowenstein was the lefty with whom he platooned in many of those seasons. The Yanks got Roenicke and Leo Hernandez from the Orioles for Rich Bordi and Rex Hudler in December 1985.
  • Finally, righthander Jack Urban (1928) was traded from New York to Kansas City in April 1957, and made the opposite trip 12 months later without ever having played for the Bombers. The first trade had the Yanks sending Urban, Irv Noren, Milt Graff, Mickey McDermott, Tom Morgan, Rip Coleman, and Billy Hunter to the Kansas City Athletics for Clete Boyer, Curt Roberts, Art Ditmar, Bobby Shantz, Jack McMahan, and Wayne Belardi. The return trip was a four-teamer with the Yankees sending Mark Freeman to the Kansas City Athletics for Urban; the Milwaukee Braves shipping Humberto Robinson to the Cleveland Indians; and the Indians dispatching Mickey Vernon to the Milwaukee Braves. Freeman was returned to the A’s the next May.
  • Other birthdays: lefthanded catcher Frank Bowerman (1868), who spent eight years of his 1895-1909 career with the Giants; Gus Mancuso (1905), another catcher who spent significant years with the Giants during his 1928-1945 years in the bigs; Chico Ruiz (1938); Cliff Floyd (1972); Hanley Frias (1973); Josh Lueke (1984); Justin Smoak (1986); A.J. Pollock (1987); Ryan Garton (1989); and Christian Yelich (1991).