Two great men share the day February 12, 1809 (same exact day), as their birthday: Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. The Yankees are about excellence and so were they.
The General Manager of the Baltimore Orioles (of the International League), George Weiss, left that team and joined the Yankee front office on February 12, 1932. He would eventually run the club, and during the 29 years he toiled in the Bronx, the Yanks won 19 pennants and 15 World Championships. He is perhaps most famously credited with bringing in Casey Stengel to manage in 1949. The “Old Perfessor” would lead the club to seven World Titles and 10 AL pennants in the following 12 years.
On February 12, 2015, the Yankees signed nine free agents to minor league contracts: lefthanders Eduardo Peluso, Willy Cruz, and Edintson Naranjo; righthanders Alexander Rosario, Arikson Ramirez, and Freicer Perez; catchers Carlos Gallardo and Felix Nieto; and second baseman Brallan Medina.
On February 12, 2014, the Yankees signed free agent righthander Wilmi Francisco to a minor league contract.
Third baseman Frank “Home Run” Baker toiled for the Yankees from 1916 through 1922, hitting 48 homers and driving in 375 runs during that time, while stealing 63 bases. But he sat out the 1920 season and stayed home to take care of his children after his wife, Ottalee, passed away on February 12 of that year. And by the way, the power-hitting nickname did not derive from a plethora of long balls, as 12 was the most he ever hit in one year. Frank earned his memorable handle in the 1911 World Series, when he hit game-winning home runs on successive days against the Giants’ future Hall of Fame pitchers Rube Marquard and Christy Mathewson.
The Yankee aspect of the huge confrontation between the American and National Leagues on February 12, 1920, was that hurler Carl Mays was reinstated, and that the Yankees’ third-place finish that had been protested that year was upheld.
The Yankees invited righthanders J.B. Cox, George Kontos, and Kanekoa Texeira to Spring Training on February 12, 2009.
February 12 player moves affecting former or future Yankee players include the Royals trading Gregg Jefferies and a minor leaguer to the Cardinals for outfielder Felix Jose in 1993; and the Padres shipping Goose Gossage to the Cubs for Keith Moreland in 1988. Also qualifying for attention in this category is the Braves’ swap of infielder Mike Conlin to Pittsburgh for outfielder Vin Campbell back on February 12, 1912. Donlin hit five long balls with 67 rbi’s for the 1901 Baltimore Orioles. That club would fail in Maryland and relocate to New York as the Highlanders starting with the 1903 season.
I am frustrated that more baseball fans in this country don’t realize the quality of the baseball played in the Caribbean Series, a view that will perhaps change after the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics. The Caribbean teams did not win the Classic, but they played very well. And what could be better timed for avid fans having trouble enduring through the long winter to Spring Training than games in early February? Further evidence of the games’ caliber: On February 12, 1955 Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente hit key homers to lead Santurce (Puerto Rico) over Venezuela in that year’s Series.
They’re called the “Tools of Ignorance.” Frederick Thayer patented the catcher’s mask, the most noticeable tool, on February 12, 1878.
Shaping the Hall of Fame vote five years hence, pitcher Tom Glavine and first baseman/DH Frank Thomas formally retired from the game on February 12, 2010.
Recently fired Mets GM Omar Minaya became the first Hispanic general manager in the game when the League hired him to fill that role with the Montreal Expos on February 12, 2002.
Call it a blessing that on a day when there are so many Yankee birthdays (see below), no Yankee player has died on February 12.
Two players worthy of note who did die February 12: Phillies outfielder Dode Paskert (1959), who reached 42 fences with 577 rbi’s from 1907-1921; and Dodgers (most of the time) righthander Van Lingle Mungo (1985), who won 120, lost 116, and saved six games from 1931-1945. In addition, righthander Bob Rhoads (1967) posted most of his 97-82-2 record from 1902-1909 with Cleveland; and Red Sox and Kansas City manager and catcher, and Boston owner Haywood Sullivan (2003), who hit 13 home runs and drove in 87 runs in the two cities listed from 1955-1963.
Players Who Have Died This Day
After several days with just a smattering of Yankee birthdays, we hit the big time with 11 on February 12. Among the guys with significant experience in the Bronx, Pat Dobson (1942) came to New York after having already been a member of Baltimore’s crew of four 20-game winners in 1971. He threw three years for the Tigers, one for the Padres, two for the O’s, and part of a season with the Braves before going 39-37 with the Yanks from 1973-1975. Dobson arrived in New York via a June 1973 trade from Atlanta in which the Yanks sent Frank Tepedino, Wayne Nordhagen, Al Closter, and Dave Cheadle to the Braves. Pat closed out his career with two years in Cleveland after the Yanks sent him there for Oscar Gamble in November 1975.
Righthander Mark Dubiel (1918) posted a 23-22 mark upon starting his career with the 1944-1945 Bombers, and went on to pitch one year with the Phillies and four with the Cubs. Lefty first baseman Don Bollweg (1921) hit six homers, with 24 rbi’s and a stolen base, for the 1953 team. He started in St. Louis until the Yanks sent Billy Johnson to the Cards for Bollweg and cash in May 1951. About 18 months later, New York shipped Don with Jim Finigan, Johnny Gray, Vic Power, Bill Renna, and Jim Robertson to the Philadelphia Athletics for Harry Byrd, Eddie Robinson, Tom Hamilton, Carmen Mauro, and Loren Babe. That was Don’s last team, but not his last city; he traveled with the club to Kansas City.
Players whose stops were more cup-of-coffee-like include second sacker Juan Bonilla (1955), who hit a homer and drove in six in 31 games in 1985 and 1987 after the Yanks signed him to a free-agent contract in each of those seasons, and then released him at season’s end. Lefty-hitting first baseman Dave Revering (1953) hit two bombs and nine rbi’s for New York in 1981-1982 along with part-time play in Oakland, Seattle, and Toronto. Dave was acquired from the Oakland Athletics with minorleaguer Chuck Dougherty and Mike Patterson for Jim Spencer and Tom Underwood in 1981, and was shipped with minor leaguer Jeff Reynolds and Tom Dodd to the Blue Jays for John Mayberry in 1982.
Infielder Lenny Randle (1949) played 12 years with the Senators, the Rangers, the Mets, the Cubs, the Mariners, and the Yanks, for whom he drove in three runs in 20 games in 1979, but he’ll always be best known for getting on his knees and blowing a slow roller foul in the Kingdome while playing with Seattle. The Yanks purchased Lenny’s contract from the Pirates in August 1979 and released him three months later.
The Pinstriped birthday list continues with the one game outfielder Kiddo Davis (1902) played in starting his career with the Yanks in 1926; and the five contests righty Tom Rogers (1892) tossed for the 1921 Yanks, in which he posted an 0-1 record with one save, his final action in the bigs. The two homers and 28 rbi’s Harry Arndt (1879) hit while with the 1902 Baltimore Orioles qualify him too, as that team would relocate to New York as the Highlanders the following season.
Righthander Tim Redding (1978) leads off the final pairing. Redding was one of several vets pushed into emergency starts by the Yanks in 2005 due to a starting staff depleted by injuries. He failed badly, allowing four hits, four walks, and six runs in that start, a Yankee loss in Redding’s only Pinstriped game. And we close with righty Woody Main (1922), who posted his entire 4-13 record with two saves with the Pirates from 1948-1953, because Pittsburgh plucked him from the Yankee roster in the November 1947 rule-V draft.
Other birthdays: Sweetbreads Bailey (1895); Hall of Fame outfielder Chick Hafey (1903), who hit 164 dingers, drove in 833 runs, and stole 70 bases from 1924-1937, mostly with the Cards and the Reds; Joe DiMaggio‘s brother, Dom DiMaggio (1917); Yogi Berra‘s childhood friend and fellow catcher Joe Garagiola (1926); Houston hurler Don Wilson (1945), who went 104-92 for an expansion club; Enzo Hernandez (1949); Don Stanhouse (1951); White Sox and Tigers outfielder Chet Lemon (1955), wih 215 homers, 884 rbi’s, and 58 steals from 1975-1990; knuckleballer Dennis Springer (1965); Ruben Amaro (1965); Gary Knotts (1977); Adam Stern (1980); Chris Snyder (1981); Brandon Allen (1982); Cole de Vries (1985); Todd Frazier (1986); Argenis Diaz (1987); David Cooper (1988); Josh Phegley (1988); Reymond Fuentes (1991); and Jordan Patterson (1992).
Players Born This Day