The Yanks signed Henry Rodriguez to a one-year contract on February 15, 2001. Mercifully for him, Spring stats don’t count, so even though I saw him strike out no less than 20 times, his oh-fer that Yankee year just reads 0-for-8 with 6 K’s. This was one signing that did not work out.
On February 15, 1931, the Yanks renamed their St. Petersburg Spring Training site Miller Huggins Field in honor of the team’s late manager.
The Yanks bought Frank “Home Run” Baker from the A’s on this day in 1916. Times change. He carried that moniker leading the AL in homers from 1911-1914 with totals of 11, 10, 12, and 9! But he earned the name for World Series heroics, not accumulated numbers. A Hall of Fame third sacker, Frank reached 48 fences with the Yanks from 1917-1922, accounting for 385 rbi’s.
On the same February 15, 2001, day that the Yanks signed Henry Rodriguez, they designated free-agent outfielder Mike Frank for assignment. Frank had arrived in the organization in July 2000 with Denny Neagle from Cincinnati in a trade for Ed Yarnall, Drew Henson, and Brian Reith.
Among February 15 transactions affecting former and future Yankee players (including almost-Yankees) are the Red Sox signing of former Bomber draft pick Carl Everett in 2001; Jeremy Giambi joining brother Jason Giambi in Oakland on that same day; the Reds waiving their no-facial-hair policy for newly acquired Greg Vaughn in 1999; and the Padres’ swap of Gaylord Perry to the Rangers for Willie Montanez in 1980.
It is truly unfortunate when politics trump sports. In the last 40-plus years, the only evidence that Cuba is home to some of the best ballplayers is seen when a player defects. When Cuba swept all six of their games to take the Caribbean Series on February 15, 1960, it was their fifth straight Series win. The Dominican Republic joins Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Venezuela in the Series these days, but Cuba showed that they belong in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. Thankfully, Cuba was added back into the (now six-team, with the addition of Panama in 2019) roster in 2014, when they won it all, and in 2015.
The rule stating that a baserunner passing the runner before him on the base paths is out was first passed on February 15, 1910.
A sad episode for Red Sox fans had its worst day on February 15, 1957, when a Beantown newspaper, claiming that Ted Williams had never paid a $5,000 fine assessed against him for having spat at the crowd, referred to Williams mockingly as “The Splendid Spitter.”
Bump Hadley (1963) is the more accomplished of two Yankee righthanders to have died this day. He won 49 games, lost 31, and saved six in the Bronx from 1936-1940, numbers that extend to 161-165-25 for his 1926-1941 career, more often than not spent with the Senators when he wasn’t playing with the Yanks. John Deering (1943) ended his lone big league year by going 4-3 in nine games (seven starts) with the 1903 Highlanders after posting a 3-4 mark in 10 games (eight starts) in Detroit that same year. Switch hitting, righty throwing shortstop Tony Fernandez joined the Yankee list in light of his five homers and 45 rbi’s in 108 games for the 1995 Yankees. Tony, who hit a cycle in New York, is remembered for having injured himself in 1996 Spring Training, opening the position for Hall of Famer-to-be Derek Jeter. Fernandez is warmly remembered in Toronto where he played four tours of duty, including a 1983-1990 mlb debut. He played with the Padres for two years, and four other teams for one each, with an overall mark of 94 home runs with 844 rbi’s.
Outfielder Mike Darr of San Diego died on February 15 in a car accident in 2002; just 26, he had hit five home runs with 26 rbi’s to that point. In other non-Yankee deaths, outfielder Bug Holliday (1910) hit 65 homers with 617 rbi’s with the 1889-1898 Reds; and switch-hitting catcher Duke Farrell (1925) hit 51 long balls with 912 rbi’s for nine different clubs from 1888-1905, including the Giants, the Senators, the Dodgers, and the Boston Americans. Righthander Lynn Nelson (1955) posted most of his 33-42-6 record from 1930-1940 with the Cubs and the A’s; and second Baseman Ray Morgan (1940) played with Washington only from 1911-1918, with four long balls and 254 runs driven in. Righthander Tom Brewer (2018) played exclusively for the Red Sox from 1954 to 1961, posting a 91-82 record with three saves during that time.
Players Who Have Died This Day
Unfortunately, the only fond memory most Yankee fans have of Melido Perez (born this day in 1966) is that the Steve Sax to the White Sox trade for him, Bob Wickman, and Domingo Jean was one of the team’s better ones. Younger than brother (and ex-Yank) Pascual Perez and older than former Dodger Carlos Perez, Melido went 33-39 for the Yanks in 1992-1995. He tossed a six-inning, rain-shortened no-hitter vs. the Yanks for the White Sox in July 1990, but a later rule change removed this from the no-hitter list. Ironically, Pascual also tossed a shortened no-no, which subsequently went away too. Melido was a Kansas City signer in 1983, and went to the White Sox in 1987 for Floyd Bannister. Despite the losing record in New York, the bottom line is that he was a steadying influence in the Yankee rotation as they morphed from bottom feeders into playoff contenders.
Yankee fans were happy to welcome former Dodger catcher Russell Martin (1983), who was signed to a 2011 Yankee catching corps that included Jorge Posada, whose final season was relegated to DH duty, Francisco Cervelli, and superstar to be Jesus Montero, who would be traded prior to the 2012 season for pitching. Martin, who appeared to be on his way to holding the starting job for a long time his first three years in LA, had struggled the last two years including suffering serious injury in 2010. A solid 2011 season in the Bronx netted him 18 homers with 65 rbi’s, and stellar defense that has merited a new contract with the Yanks. He finished strong in 2012 with 21 homers (39 in two years), but his season-long struggle to stay above .200, coupled with the Yankees’ desire to go younger (and cheaper) behind the plate made him available. He signed with the Pirates for 2013, then for the AL East rival Blue Jays, for whom he would play for four years, in 2015. He played 83 games back with the Dodgers in 2019.
Other February 15 Yankee birthdayers include outfielder Ross Moschitto (1945) who, after signing with the Bombers as a free agent in 1964, got into 110 games with the 1965 and 1967 Yankee teams, the only two he ever played on in the majors. Primarily a defensive and late-innings replacement for aging star Mickey Mantle, Ross only got 36 at bats in all of those games, during which he hit one home run with three rbi’s.
And lefthander Buck (Bill) Henry (1942), who also played only for the Yanks, had even less experience in the Bronx. Another 1964 free agent signing, he was traded by the Yankees to the Cincinnati Reds for Len Boehmer in September 1967 after posting no record and throwing three innings in two games in 1966.
Rafael Medina (1975) leads off another list, Yankees-signed players who plied their trade for other teams. A 1992 Yankee amateur free agent selection, Medina was sent to San Diego with Ruben Rivera for the rights to Hideki Irabu in April 1997. Rafael posted a 3-7 record with the Marlins in 1998-1999, his only big-leagues experience. Terry Jones (1971) was picked up from the Dodgers in January 2000, but was selected off waivers by the Montreal Expos at the end of that season’s Spring Training. He hit one homer with 34 rbi’s for Colorado and Montreal from 1996-2001. And Tommy Cruz (1951) was received in a package along with minor leaguer Bob Polinsky and Jim Spencer on December 12, 1977, from the White Sox for Stan Thomas, minor leaguer Ed Ricks, and cash. Cruz had only two at bats, during seven games split between the 1973 Cardinals and the 1977 White Sox.
Other birthdays: Righthanded hurler Jimmy Ring (1895), who won 118 while losing 149 from 1917-1928, mostly with the Reds and the Phillies; righty George Earnshaw (1900), 127-93 from 1928-1936, primarily with the A’s; Chuck Estrada (1938); Joe Moeller (1943); “The Penguin” Ron Cey (1948); Joe Hesketh (1959); Barry Jones (1963); Brian Williams (1969); Ugueth Urbina (1974); the younger Alex Gonzalez (1977) of the Marlins (who played with the Red Sox in 2006); Luis Ugueto (1978); Don Kelly (1980); Mitchell Boggs (1984); Nate Schierholtz (1984); Russ Mitchell (1985); Fautino de los Santos (1986); Johnny Cueto (1986); Rob Scahill (1987), who was actually drafted by the Yanks in 2008, though he did not sign until the Rockies chose him in the draft the next year; Mark Canha (1989); Michael Roth (1990); Tzu-Wei Lin (1994); Meibrys Viloria (1997); and Elvis Luciano (2000).
Players Born This Day