I’m sure it’s just a quirk that December 7 is so rich in Yankee history, and it’s already a pretty big day “in infamy,” what with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on this day in 1941, which ushered the United States into World War II. Two years before that fateful day, the slowly dying Yankee Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig, (who would succumb to his illness in 1941) was ushered into baseball’s Hall of Fame on December 7, 1939. Lou had been forced to retire at the age of 36 after blasting 493 homers and knocking in 1,995 runs in a Yankee career that spanned 1923-1938. He is the rare exception who had the mandatory five-year waiting period for Hall acceptance waived.
In a day chock full of Yankee transactions, the Bombers sent third baseman Russ Davis and lefthander Sterling Hitchcock to Seattle on December 7, 1995, for first baseman Tino Martinez, and righty relievers Jeff Nelson and Jim Mecir. After the trade Tino signed a contract with the Yankees on the same day his wife gave birth to their third child; it was also Tino’s 28th birthday (see below).
The Yankees signed free agent DH Matt Holliday on December 7, 2016.
December 7, 2013, was one of the Yankees’ better days of the offseason, as they re-signed righthander Hiroki Kuroda, who had filed for free agency; and then signed free agent center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year deal. Strong to the finish despite poor run support, Kuroda would not fade down the stretch, as he had the year earlier, and Ellsbury was the Yanks’ most reliable offensive performer while playing a superb center field. However, due to injury and ineffectiveness, Ellsbury has become a millstone around the Yankee offense ever since.
On most days the standout Yankee acquisition would have been the one they made on December 7, 1973. Reliever Lindy McDaniel, who had performed fabulously in the Bronx on a struggling team, was shipped to Kansas City that day for “Sweet Lou” Piniella, a stalwart on the team that would go to three straight World Series — and win two of them — later in the decade. A career .291 hitter, Piniella hit 57 homers and knocked in 417 runs in the Bronx; he batted .319 with three homers and 19 rbi’s in postseason play. The current manager of the Cubs, Lou held the helm over the Yankees, the Reds, the Mariners, and the Devil Rays too; his 1990 team in Cincinnati won the World Series.
A roster move had the Yankees sending infielder Jayson Nix outright to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on December 7, 2012.
The Associated Press voted Yankee shortstop Tony Kubek American League Rookie of the Year on December 7, 1957, with Boston’s Frank Malzone getting the only vote that prevented Tony’s unanimous selection. Malzone had played in 1955 and 1956, and a rule change reached during the 1957 season regarding maximum number of at bats eliminated him from the ROTY running.
On December 7, 2011, the Yankees signed free agent righthanded pitcher Kelvin Perez.
With the arrival of the new millennium, the busy December 7 Yankee transaction wire barely skipped a beat. In the first of two 2001 moves on the day, they appeared to have done well in signing reliever Steve Karsay to a four-year contract. Karsay would provide valuable setup that year, and even subbed effectively for injured closer Mariano Rivera for a while. But after 78 appearances in 2001, the righty would undergo shoulder surgery and toe the mound for New York just 13 more times over the next three years.
It is only the semi-automatic nature of the two signings the Yankees made on December 7, 2010, that keep them from leading off today’s history. After unfortunately acrimonious negotiations and press coverage of the first of the two about to be mentioned, the ballclub re-signed two free agents and beloved Yankees: shortstop Derek Jeter and record-setting closer Mariano Rivera. Months into the season that followed Jeter would reward them with a 3,000th hit in a game for the ages, and then Mo would set the all-time record for saves with 602. All eyes will be on the Bronx in 2013, by the way, as these two stars each try to come back from the worst injury of his career.
Few expected a big swap between two New York teams with little love lost between them in 2001, but Brian Cashman of the Yankees made a superb trade on December 7, 2001, when he shipped David Justice to the Mets for third baseman Robin Ventura. Robin’s 27 dingers and 93 rbi’s in 2002 were a godsend; he chipped in with nine and 42 before being traded in 2003.
Looking at the numbers alone (always a mistake), the Yankee trade of power-hitting first baseman Steve Balboni and pitcher Roger Erickson to Kansas City on December 7, 1983, for reliever Mike Armstrong appears to be a steal for the Royals. “Bye-Bye” slugged 119 taters and 318 rbi’s in KC over the next four-plus years, while Armstrong only posted a 3-3 mark with one save for the Yanks from ’84-’86. But clearing first base for Don Mattingly turned out to be a great move by the Yankees as well.
It was the first time in many years that the Yanks had gone this route to fill a roster spot when they selected first baseman Josh Phelps in the major league phase of the rule-5 draft on December 7, 2006. Phelps did not get a lot of chances to show his stuff in 2007 after a great Spring, but once he did, his middling and disappointing defense ended his stay.
Ending what was at one time a very promising stay in Pinstripes, though one marred with injuries, the Yankees traded righty reliever Brian Bruney to the Washington Nationals on December 7, 2009.
Lots of personnel decisions were made in New York on December 7, 2002. The offers of arbitration to starter Roger Clemens and infielder Ron Coomer kept a mound stalwart around and got them a draft pick. In retrospect, re-signing catcher Chris Widger to a one-year contract was not a good move as he would be replaced by John Flaherty before opening day. And some sad good-byes were to follow when bullpen guys Ramiro Mendoza and Mike Stanton were not offered arbitration.
History is a living thing. Which may sound like a cliche until you try to write about December 7 Yankee history five days ahead of time, and do not know what to say about the fact that free agent lefthander Andy Pettitte accepted arbitration and returned to the Yankees on December 7, 2007. After a decent first half in a 2008 season marred by Pettitte’s admission of HGH abuse, he struggled to a 14-14 mark in the second half. But Andy had a big comeback year in 2009, and he got the start and the win in the clincher over Philly in the World Series. He followed with a great 2010 campaign, though one in which a side injury shelved him for almost two months. Now the Yankees and their fans await Andy’s decision as to whether or not he will pitch in 2011.
And on the same day it became official: First baseman Andy Phillips declined an outright assignment to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and became a free agent, ending his Yankee career.
And the last December 7 Yankee transaction of note was the release of Charlie “King Kong” Keller on this day in 1949. The power-hitting Bomber had struck 184 homers and driven in 723 runs from 1939 through 1949. He caught on with the Tigers where he played sparingly for two years, and made a brief return to the Yanks for two games in 1952, when he struck out in his sole at bat.
The Red Sox purchased the contract of a kid from San Diego of the PCL on December 7, 1937, but Ted Williams wouldn’t report to the parent club until 1939.
And if all the Yankee transaction activity of the day weren’t enough for you, we follow with a list of December 7 player moves involving former or future Pinstripers: John Olerud disappointed the Mets by signing with hometown Seattle in 1999; The Cubs signed free agent Glenallen Hill on this day in 1998; Boston inked Jose Canseco as a free agent on the same day in 1995; and the Expos sent Scott Sanderson to the Cubs in a three-team deal that saw the Expos get pitcher Gary Lucas from the Padres, and San Diego acquire pitcher Craig Lefferts, first baseman/outfielder Carmelo Martinez, and third baseman Fritz Connally from the Cubbies on this day in 1983.
In addition, the Cardinals used outfielder Jerry Mumphrey and pitcher John Denny to pry outfielder Bobby Bonds from the Tribe in 1979; the Orioles exchanged pitchers Rudy May and Bryn Smith for Don Stanhouse, Joe Kerrigan, and Gary Roenicke of the Expos in 1977; Cleveland sent outfielder Gene Woodling to Pittsburgh for veteran catcher Al Lopez on December 7, 1946. And finally, former Yankee outfielder Roberto Kelly signed a three-year free-agent deal with the Reds on December 7, 1992.
Back on December 7, 1876, the New York Mutuals and the Philadelphia A’s were removed from the National League for having failed to complete their season schedules.
Of the six Yankee players who have died on December 6, three pitched and three played in the field, though lefthanded outfielder Lefty O’Doul (1969) did pitch in 11 games (no starts, no record) for New York during his 1919-1922 major-league debut with the team. After driving in six runs on 9-for-37 hitting playing 40 games for the Yanks, O’Doul posted career numbers of 113 homers and 542 rbi’s by 1934, most of it spent with the Dodgers. Portsided first baseman and right fielder Slats Jordan (1953) makes the list based on his 0-for-7 batting in his only two games, for the 1901-1902 Baltimore Orioles team that would relocate to New York as the Highlanders in 1903. Left fielder Bill Karlon (1964) also played just two big-league games, going hitless in five at bats in them both for the 1930 Yankees. The three pitchers were all righties, starting with Bobo Newsom (1962), who gave the 1947 Champion Yanks a nice bump after being acquired for the stretch run; he went 7-5 in 17 games (15 starts). In a 1929-1953 career spent largely with the Senators, the A’s, the Browns, the Dodgers, and the Tigers, Newsom won 211, lost 222, and saved 21. Bobby Keefe (1964) debuted by going 3-5-3 in 19 games (three starts) for the 1907 Highlanders, and after pitching with the Reds in 1911-1912, he retired at 16-21-8. Finally, Duke Maas (1976) posted a fine 26-12-8 mark ending his time in the bigs with the 1958-1961 Yanks in 96 games (35 starts). A 1955-1957 stint with the Tigers and a few months with the 1958 A’s left him with an overall 45-44-15 record.
The list of noteworthy nonYankee players who have died on December 7 is considerably shorter: two pitchers, one of whom threw from each side. Righty Howie Reed (1984) won 26 games, lost 29, and saved nine from 1958-1971 throwing parts of three seasons each with the A’s, the Dodgers, and the Expos; and southpaw Vic Lombardi (1997) won 50 games, lost 51, and saved 16 for the 1945-1947 Dodgers and the 1948-1950 Pirates.
Players Who Have Died This Day
December 7 is another day with eight Yankee birthdays, and the beloved lefty-hitting first baseman Tino Martinez (1967) is both the most recent and the most notable. After being drafted by — and playing well for — the Mariners, he blasted 175 homers and 690 rbi’s in the Bronx from 1996 through 2001. His two-run, two-out, bottom-of-the-ninth, game-tying dinger in Game Four of the 2001 World Series will never be forgotten. He has subsequently played two years in St. Louis and one in Tampa Bay, his hometown. Yankee fans welcomed him back in 2005 and he responded with 17 home runs and 49 rbi’s. But much of that came in an early-season spurt, and he has since retired to the broadcast booth. There may be room in the Yankee braintrust for Martinez in the future.
1970 American League batting champ (with California) Alex Johnson (1942) stroked an extra-inning, game-winning home run in his first game with the Bombers in 1974 (he arrived after the ninth inning!), but he would only hit one more, with 17 rbi’s, in his 62 games as an outfielder/DH in New York. Johnson was purchased from Texas in September 1974, and was released almost exactly one year later; he played two seasons with the Phillies, the Cardinals, the Reds, the Angels, and the Rangers, and one each with Cleveland and with Detroit, hitting 78 career dingers with 525 rbi’s.
Lefthanded outfielder Rich Coggins (1950) got one homer and 11 rbi’s with the 1975-1976 Yanks once they signed him as a free agent in December 1993. He played with Baltimore three years, hit 12 home runs and knocked in 90.
Righty Mark Freeman (1930) pitched one big-league game with the Yanks in 1959, going seven innings in a start in which he allowed two runs and did not get a decision. He finished that year with Kansas City, and ended his playing career with the 1960 Cubs. Freeman was swapped in a four-teamer for righthander Jack Urban in April 1958 from the K.C. Athletics; as the Milwaukee Braves shipped Humberto Robinson to the Cleveland Indians; and the Indians dispatched Mickey Vernon to the Milwaukee Braves.
Finally (until 2010, anyway), second sacker Hobe Ferris (1877); catcher Hal Smith (1930); righthander Jim Austin (1963); and utility man Kevin Hooper (1976) spent time with the Bombers while not playing for them. Ferris became a Highlander after playing for the Red Sox from 1901-1907, but was traded with Danny Hoffman and Jimmy Williams to the St. Louis Browns for Fred Glade and Charlie Hemphill in February 1908. The Yanks signed Smith as as an amateur free agent before the 1949 season, but he hit all 58 home runs with 323 rbi’s with Baltimore, K.C., Pittsburgh, Houston, and Cincinnati from 1955-1964. Austin was signed as a free agent in December 1993 after putting up his career numbers with Milwaukee from 1991-1993: 6-4 in 83 games. And Hooper was selected off waivers from the Marlins by the Yankees in May 2004, but released 10 weeks later. He managed one hit in eight at bats for the 2005-2006 Tigers.
Although he was hardly new to the big leagues, the Yanks had a new member of their December 7 birthday club when they signed veteran third baseman/infielder Eric Chavez (1977). Eric’s lefty bat and solid glove was a welcome addition to the 2011 lineup when Alex Rodriguez went down with an injury, but the oft-injured Chavez was hurt for much of the year himself. Eric came through more consistently in 2012, during which his 16 home runs and 37 rbi’s pushed his career numbers to 248 and 850, respectively.
Other birthdays start with the truly historic ballplayer James Deacon White (1847). He played, and lost, against the Cincinnati Red Stockings of 1869, partook in three championship seasons with Harry Wright‘s Boston Red Stockings of the National Association, and served with Cap Anson‘s White Stockings for the first championship of the National League. Other birthdays: Denny Galehouse (1911), who fashioned a 109-118 mark from 1934 through 1949 while pitching five years with Cleveland, six with the Browns, and four with the Red Sox; Dick Donovan (1927), 122-99 from 1950-1965 with the Braves (three years), the White Sox (six), and the Indians (four); Don Cardwell (1935); Bo Belinsky (1936); Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench (1947), who blasted 389 homers and 1,376 rbi’s for the Reds from 1967 through 1983; Ozzie Virgil (1956); Shane Mack (1963); Saul Rivera (1977); Ryan Theriot (1979); Mike Baxter (1984); Kyle Hendricks (1989); Brian Johnson (1990); Yasiel Puig (1990); and Steven Baron (1990). In addition, December 7 was the day given as the birthday of one-time Cleveland righty Fausto Carmona (1983), until it was discovered that he had taken on a false identity. He is actually Roberto Hernandez, who was born August 30, 1980.
Players Born This Day