“How about that?” Mel Allen, the “Voice of the Yankees” from 1939 through 1964, and the voice of This Week in Baseball, would have zoomed past 100 a few years ago on this day, Valentine’s Day. Mel entered this world on February 14, 1913, but I can still hear him calling another Ballantine Blast to this day.
Two young players who hoped to make an impact in the Bronx later that year had their numbers changed on February 14, 2014. The year would be the end of the pinstriped line for outfielder Zoilo Almonte, but righthander Dellin Betances, newly moved to the pen with new number 68, was about to become a star.
At first look, the Yankee transaction wire for February 14, 2002, looks better on balance than most in a game where a few players achieve tremendous success while so many fail. While the club designated righthanded pitcher Brian Rogers for assignment, ending his relationship the team, outfielder Ruben Rivera, a cousin of Yankee closer Mariano Rivera, was inked to a one-year contract. But the young outfielder was about to make the biggest mistake of his career. Ruben would be released in a matter of weeks once it was determined that he had stolen some of teammate Derek Jeter‘s equipment and sold it to a collector.
Good at Trivia? How about this one? Who was the last Yankee to wear no. 3 before the Bombers retired it in honor of Babe Ruth? Although Cliff Mapes was a valuable backup in the Yankee outfield from 1948-1951, the numbers he wore on his back stand out a lot more than the ones he recorded on the field. He hit 22 homers while driving in 119 runs and stealing eight bases in New York, but he wore the Bambino’s single digit until it was taken away, wore no. 13 for a while, and ended his Bronx stay wearing the no. 7 that Mickey Mantle would immortalize once Cliff was traded. Mapes would be traded again on February 14, 1952, to the Browns from the Tigers for, among others, former Yankee first sacker Dick Kryhoski. Joining Mapes in Detroit in the transaction was pitcher Gene Bearden, who never played in the Bronx because he was one of several players the Yanks packaged to Cleveland in 1946 for Sherm Lollar and Ray Mack.
Baseball Library reports that a February 14, 1911, meeting of the National League allowed both the Phillies and Giants to start wearing home unis with a fine stripe, four years before the Yankees adopted that style. Few today would doubt, however, that the Yankees and the Pinstripes have become one and the same.
Former Yankee star hurler Doug Drabek won a then-record $3 million salary in arbitration on February 14, 1991.
One of the longer baseball careers came closer to an end on February 14, 1945, when President of the Boston Braves Bob Quinn relinquished the GM position on that club to his son John Quinn, though Bob still had a four-year stint as president of the Baseball Hall of Fame in his future. The elder Quinn’s grandson Robert E. Quinn served as general manager of the Yankees, and the Cincinnati Reds, and San Francisco Giants too, between 1988 and 1996. Great-grandson Bob Quinn serves in the front office of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Yankees comings and goings on February 14, 2011: The club designated righthander Brian Schlitter, whom they had claimed off waivers from the Cubs five weeks before, for assignment. Then they signed free agent outfielder Andruw Jones.
It was on February 14, 1887, in Baltimore, that the National Colored League was first organized, with the following teams: Lord Baltimore, the Philadelphia Pythians, the Pittsburgh Keystones, the New York Gorhams, Falls City (Louisville), and the Boston Resolutes.
The Georgia State Senate approved a bill on February 14, 1957 (!) barring blacks from playing baseball with whites, 10 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the major leagues.
Hall of Famer Mike King Kelly was sold to Boston by the Cubs on February 14, 1887. King played every position in a career that spanned 1878 to 1892.
Six noteworthy players have died on February 14, two of them Yanks. Shortstop Bill Stumpf (1966)’s 54 games with 1912-1913 club were his only big-league service; he hit no home runs, but drove in 11 runs. Lefty-hitting third baseman Loren Babe (1984) debuted with the Yanks in 1952-1953, with two homers and six rbi’s in 17 games. He added 20 rbi’s wrapping up the ’53 season (and his career) with the Philadelphia Athletics.
Hall of Famer “Three-Finger” Mordecia Brown (1948) posted most of his 239-130 record with the Cubs from 1903-1916. And Jimmy Johnston (1967) played all around both the infield and outfield, mostly for Brooklyn, from 1911-1926. He hit 22 long balls good for 410 rbi’s. Finally, lefty-hitting third baseman Jumbo Davis (1921) hit most of his 14 homers with 270 rbi’s from 1884-1891 with the Orioles, the Blues, and the Browns. And newest to the nonYankee list is shortstop/third baseman Jim Fregosi (2014), who played most of his games from 1961 through 1978 with California and Texas. Fregosi, who is famed for the wrong reason in New York, as he was traded even up for young hurler Nolan Ryan before the phenom went on to have his Hall of Fame career, once he escaped to California first, cleared 151 fences in his career, and drove in 706 runs.
Players Who Have Died This Day
We had a new ballplayer leading off the Yankee birthday list following the 2007 season, as righty Tyler Clippard (1985) debuted with a big win against the crosstown rival Mets in May 2007. Although the era (6.33) is ugly, Clippard did manage to win three while losing just one of the six games in which he appeared, all of them starts. What’s more, he had a double and a successful sac bunt in three plate appearances in Shea Stadium his first night. The young righty, who was traded by the Yanks after the 2007 season to the Washington Nationals for righthander Jonathan Albaladejo, went 1-1 in two games for the 2008 Nats. He posted a 4-2 mark in ’09, in 41 games, only now all as a reliever. But he had a breakout season in 2010, going 11-8 with one save, all out of the bullpen, and continued to do well in the Nats pen. He was traded to Oakland for the ’15 season, then was sent midseason to the Mets to shore up their pen for the stretch drive. A return trip to the Bronx in late 2016 was initially a success, but his 2017 season was horrible, and he was traded after posting a 1-5 mark in 40 games, featuring a string of late-inning failures.
Larry Milbourne (1951) had a fine 1981 postseason with the Yanks, filling in at short for the injured Bucky Dent. A reserve infielder his whole career, the currently 50-plus-year-old journeyman hit .316 in the ALDS and .462 in the ALCS (three rounds of playoffs before its time in the strike-affected 1981 season), but fell, along with the Yanks, in the six-game loss to the Dodgers in the World Series (he hit .250). Larry arrived in a 1979 trade from Seattle for catcher Brad Gulden, and was traded with Pete Filson and John Pacella to the Twins for Butch Wynegar and Roger Erickson in 1982.
Milbourne is one of only six Yankees born on Valentine’s Day. More recognizable today is Kelly Stinnett (1970), signed to be Jorge Posada‘s 2006 backup at catcher. Stinnett stroked one home run with nine rbi’s in 34 games before being released in favor of Sal Fasano. Kelly has played for seven teams in 13 seasons, two of them twice.
Next comes recently traded southpaw prospect Brad Halsey (1981). Brad posted one win with three losses in the Bronx in 2004 while pitching in eight games, seven of them starts. He was traded to Arizona with fellow prospect and catcher Dioner Navarro and Javier Vazquez as the Yanks finally acquired Randy Johnson for the 2005 season.
Third on the bb list is lefthanded first baseman Tim Jordan (1879), who played two games with the 1903 Highlanders (Yankees), managing one hit and two runs scored during his eight at bats.
Rounding out the list is former White Sox and Pirates lefty Damaso Marte (1975), who had pitched to some success in Pittsburgh and on the south side of Chicago once the Yanks traded him to the Pirates for Enrique Wilson in June 2001. An original Seattle draftee, Marte was on this list because he had been signed by New York as a free agent in November 2000. Marte never played with the Yanks, however, until he was acquired with Xavier Nady for pitchers Jeff Karstens, Ross Ohlendorf, and Daniel McCutchen, and outfielder Jose Tabata in July 2008. Signed to a two-year addition to pitch in the Bronx, Marte went 1-3 in 25 games in New York in 2008. Struggling through a series of injuries and ineffectiveness in 2009, Marte bounced back strong with a stellar string of postseason outings for the eventual World Champion Yanks. But Damaso had no record or saves in 30 appearances during an injury-marred 2010 and did not play in 2011, after he had surgery. He was not retained for 2012.
Although catcher Juan Graterol (1989) has never played for the Yankees, he was a member of the franchise for a full year once he was signed as a free agent in November 2014. Having been taken since for periods of time by Anaheim, Cincinnati, and Arizona, he finally made his major league debut with the Angels in nine games in 2016, during which he drove in three runs on four hits in 14 at bats. Juan was signed to yet another free agent contract by the Blue Jays in January 2017.
Other birthdays: Earl Smith (1897), who caught with the Giants and the Pirates from 1919-1930; Len Gabrielson (1940) with an even 69-69 mark for the Braves and Cards from 1937-1949; Will McEnaney (1952); Dave Dravecky (1956), who tragically suffered a broken arm on the mound; catcher John Marzano (1963); Scott Scudder (1968); Takashi Saito (1970); Daniel Garibay (1973); Callix Crabbe (1983); Paul Clemens (1988); Derek Norris (1989); Juan Graterol (1989); and Nick Pivetta (1993).
Players Born This Day