There was a stark choice given veteran Yankee reliever Mike Stanton on December 6, 2002. “Take a pay cut and you can stick around; you have 15 minutes to answer.” On the one hand, the eventually signed Chris Hammond failed to make the lefty set-up spot his own that year. And Gabe White, C.J. Nitkowski, and Felix Heredia all failed miserably trying to fill Mike’s role in 2004. The situation did not improve with Stanton (again), Buddy Groom, or Alan Embree in 2005. But on the other hand, Stanton was hurt and ineffective with the Mets in ’03 (2-7 in 50 games, five saves, 4.57 era), and not much better (2-6, 0 saves, 3.16 era) in ’04. Mark Guthrie (the other alternative) was only so-so with the Cubs in 2003, and then didn’t pitch in the bigs. Bottom line: It was not a bad move to not re-sign Stanton, but it was a problem trying to effectively replace him. Mike Myers was effective in 2006, but he took his place on the “disaster” list in 2007.
The Yankee trade for one-handed lefty starter Jim Abbott from California on December 6, 1992, was good for both teams. Although Jim would only post a 20-22 mark in the Bronx the next two years, his presence was welcome on a team transforming itself from struggling to competitive, and his no-hitter vs. Cleveland was a boost and an inspiration. Looking at what the Yanks sent to Anaheim, reliever Russ Springer didn’t excel for the Angels (4-12 from ’93 to ’95), but J.T. Snow gave them solid play at first base, with 65 homers and 256 rbi’s from 1993-1996. Interestingly, Snow would be traded to the Giants in ’96 for future Yankee Allen Watson.
Some felt the Yankees erred in re-signing third baseman Robin Ventura to a one-year contract on December 6, 2002 after getting a productive season from his power lefty bat the year before, but they would not only get nine more home runs with 42 rbi’s from Ventura before the late July trade that sent him to the Dodgers, but the very serviceable players Bubba Crosby and Scott Proctor in return as well.
On December 6, 2013, the Yankees wrongly thought they had plugged a few holes when they signed free agent third baseman Kelly Johnson. Rather than thriving with his lefty power and the Stadium’s short porch, Johnson struggled from the outset, his defense at third and second was not sparkling and, perhaps most injurious of all, he did not make a good conversion to first base in place of the oft-injured Mark Teixeira.
On December 6, 1938, Hall of Fame (at the time with the Dodgers) Executive Larry MacPhail ended his agreement with the Yankees and the Giants to ban broadcasts in the New York area when he sold radio rights to Dodgers games to Wheaties.
There have been lots of player moves involving former and future Yankee players on December 6. The Mariners shipped former (and future) Yankee lefty Sterling Hitchcock to San Diego for Scott Sanders in 1996; the Brewers acquired Jesse Orosco from Cleveland (for a player to be named) in 1991; the White Sox sent 1983 Cy Young Award winner LaMarr Hoyt and two minor leaguers to the Padres for former Yankee lefty Tim Lollar, infielder/outfielder Luis Salazar, and minor leaguers Ozzie Guillen and Bill Long in 1984; and the Pirates traded Mike Easler to the Red Sox for John Tudor in 1983.
Other December 6 transactions in this category: The Senators sent veteran third baseman Eddie Yost, Rocky Bridges, and Neil Christy to the Tigers for infielders Reno Bertoia and Ron Samford and outfielder Jim Delsing (the hidden Yankee) in 1958; the Bees swapped hurler Jim Turner for first baseman Les Scarsella of the Reds and some cash in 1939; and righthander Danny MacFayden was sent from the Bees to the Pirates for Bill Swift and some cash in 1939.
Moving along, the last batch of one-time Yankees to be traded on December 6 include catcher Clint Courtney, who debuted with the Yanks, and who was sent from Baltimore to the White Sox in 1954. And on the other end of the spectrum, two guys with long years in the Show who played just a bit for the Yanks at the ends of their careers were moved on December 6 as well. First the Astros sent eventual Yankee “Toy Cannon” Jim Wynn to the Dodgers for Claude Osteen in 1973; and the Red Sox acquired Bernie Carbo and George Scott, who would play his last 16 games in Pinstripes, from the Brewers for Cecil Cooper on this day in 1976.
In some interesting happenings around the league on December 6, Kenneth Moffett was named to succeed Marvin Miller as executive director of the Players’ Association in 1982; William Eckert resigned from his position as Baseball Commissioner in 1968; a group headed by Gene Autry was awarded a new AL franchise in 1960; and in a move that would never take place, the NL voted to move the San Diego Padres to Washington, DC, in 1973.
We acknowledged the death of “Shoeless Joe” Jackson in 1951 yesterday. On this day in 1990, Jackson’s signature was sold at auction for $23,100, a record figure for a 19th or 20th Century player.
Hall of Fame Dodger (and Yankee and four other clubs) spitballer Burleigh Grimes passed away on December 6, 1985. With a 270-212, 19-year career, Grimes went 1-2 with the Yanks in 10 games in 1934, his last year. Two other Yankee players have died on December 6. First, third baseman Wid Conroy (1959), who spent significant time manning shortstop and the outfield as well, played almost 800 games with the Highlanders from 1903-1908. He drilled 12 home runs and drove in 266, numbers that grow to 22 and 452 when one-year stops with the Brewers and the Pirates beforehand, and three seasons with the Senators afterward, are included. Outfielder Lou Clinton (1997) ended his career playing 86 games for the 1966-1967 Yankees. He hit five home runs with 23 rbi’s on 37-for-163 hitting in that time. A five-year stint with the Red Sox, and brief stops with the Angels, the A’s, and the Indians resulted in overall career totals of 65 and 229.
The list of noteworthy nonYankee players who have died on December 6 includes two righthanded pitchers, an infielder who played lots of both shortstop and second base, and a lefthanded first baseman, but first mention goes to Hall of Fame shortstop Honus Wagner (1955), who in three years with the Colonels and 18 with the Pirates from 1897-1917 hit 101 home runs and drove in 1,732 runs. Fellow Hall honoree Amos Rusie compiled most of his 245 wins, 174 losses, and five saves from 1889-1901 with the Giants; and Charley Hall (1943) posted a 54-47-12 mark pitching mostly with the Red Sox and the Reds from 1906-1918. Shortstop/second baseman George Magoon (1943) hit three long balls and drove in 201 runs from 1898-1903, mostly with the Reds; and first sacker Don Hurst (1952) played almost exclusively with the Phillies from 1928-1934, during which time he hit 115 roundtrippers and drove in 610 runs.
Players Who Have Died This Day
Hall of Famer Tony Lazzeri (1903) stands head and shoulders above the other six Yankees born December 6. The second sacker started with the Yanks in 1926 and by the time he left after the 1937 season (he would play with the Cubs in ’38, and play for both Yankee New York rivals — the Dodgers and the Giants — in ’39), he had amassed 169 dingers, 148 stolen bases, and 1,154 rbi’s. He finished in the Top Ten in MVP voting three times, peaking at third place in 1928.
A defector from Cuba who signed initially with New York, righthander Jose Contreras (1971) pitched to a respectful 15-7 mark with the Yanks in 2003 and 2004 until he was traded to the White Sox for Esteban Loaiza during the latter year’s stretch drive. But he wilted in Yankee/Red Sox games, a failure which led to his trade, and a shortcoming he overcame with Chicago in 2005. Interestingly, his 2005 regular-season mark when he and the Sox won the World Series, was the same 15-7 win-loss record he had posted while with the Yanks.
Outfielder Gary Ward (1953) socked 20 homers as a Yankee while driving in 103 from 1987-1989, after three years in Texas; he finished up upon leaving the Bronx with a year and a half in Detroit. Ward, who was signed by the Yankees as a free agent in December 1986 and released 30 months later, hit 130 career home runs with 597 rbi’s.
Catcher Gus Niarhos (1920) recorded 27 rbi’s during his 1946-1950 major-league debut in New York, and played two seasons with the White Sox, the Red Sox, and the Phillies. Gus was lost on waivers to the White Sox in June 1950.
Harry Wolverton (1873) hadn’t played in seven years when he was hired as player/manager to take over running the Yankees in 1912 from Frank Chance. Wolverton played some third base (four rbi’s, a stolen base, 50 at bats in 34 games), and the team plummeted to a 50-102, eighth-place record. Earlier Wolverton had amassed seven dingers with 352 rbi’s from 1898-1905 with the Cubs, the Phillies, the Senators, and the Braves.
Larry Bowa (1945) makes the Yankee list after having serving with them as third base coach in 2006 and 2007. He traveled with former Yankee Manager Joe Torre to the Dodgers in 2008.
Long-time Mets minor league infielder Chris Basak (1978) had just one at bat in five games for the 2007 Yankees, after winning a big (?) game for them in Spring Training. The Twins grabbed him when the Yanks left him unprotected that August.
By virtue on 26 at bats in 10 games, backup 2010 catcher for a short time Kevin Cash (1977) crashes the Yankee December 6 birthday list. Kevin arrived having hit 10 home runs with 50 rbi’s after years with Toronto, Tampa, and Boston since 2002, and added three rbi’s to that list while playing in Pinstripes. The spirited play of Francisco Cervelli while the Yanks were short on catchers eliminated the need for Cash.
Other birthdays: Hall of Fame Umpire Jocko Conlan (1899), who also played a little outfield with the White Sox; lefty-hitting catcher from 1932-1947 for the Cubs Stan Hack (1909); Tony Horton (1944); Steve Bedrosian (1959); Larry Sheets (1959); Kevin Appier (1967); Adam Hyzdu (1971); Jason Bulger (1978); Ehren Wassermann (1980); Ryan Tucker (1986); Adam Eaton (1988); Mike Mayers (1991); Cam Gallagher (1992); and Allen Cordoba (1995).
Players Born This Day