February 16 in Yankee History

  • Pulling off the blockbuster that the Red Sox attempted but failed to complete two months earlier, the Yankees nabbed All Star shortstop Alex Rodriguez on February 16, 2004, from the Rangers. In return, New York sent Texas Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named later. The Rangers also paid part of A-Rod’s mammoth contract, and Alex agreed to slide to third in deference to Yankee Captain and shortstop Derek Jeter. Alex has had some up-and-down times since, with steroid use revelations and a significant hip injury leading into the 2009 season, but he turned it all around with a dominant postseason offensive performance as the Yanks won the World Series. And Alex surprised the baseball world with a solid 2015 return season.
  • He not only played the “hot corner” during his time in the bigs, Frank “Home Run” Baker got into some pretty heated battles with the A’s ownership early on too. He retired on February 16, 1915, rather than agree to what he considered to be Connie Mack‘s unreasonable demands. The Yankees (and their fans) would benefit, as Frank would sign with them after sitting out the 1915 season. Playing with the Bombers in their last years in the Polo Grounds from 1916 through 1922, he blasted 48 homers and drove in 375 runs and stole some 63 bases too. Unfortunately, he didn’t bring his postseason stick with him. He had 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 in the six-game A’s victory. Chance got 31 hits in four Classics with the A’s, but only two in 1921 and 1922 for the Yanks.
  • Righthanded Yankee pitcher Red Ruffing won selection to the Hall of Fame on February 16, 1967. He amassed a 7-2 record in the World Series, appearing in seven (six victories) for the Yanks, and putting together four consecutive 20-win seasons. But he didn’t start out as a Yankee. Before being sold to the Yanks, he was headed toward a very mediocre career in Boston, where his record fell to 39-96, and he lost 47 games in 1928 and 1929 alone. Ruffing was obviously a guy meant to pitch in New York.
  • Speaking of Hall of Fame righthanders (past and present), the Yankees made one of their more significant moves of the new millennium when they signed Mariano Rivera to a four-year deal on February 16, 2001.
  • Even though he had done some decent work in their bullpen in 2016, it was not a big blow when the Yankees designated lefthander Richard Bleier for assignment on February 16, 2017, but the day’s other transaction would turn out to be. I refer to the signing of free agent first baseman Chris Carter. He would be pressed into starting service once Greg Bird was lost to injury coming out of Spring Training, and Chris would have a very forgettable year.
  • On February 16, 2016, the Yankees signed free agent righthander Luis Rodriguez to a minor league contract.
  • The Yankees signed free agent righty Jared Burton to a minor league contract on January 17, 2015, and invited him to spring training.
  • A brief tryout that creeped out fans a bit, a free agent invitation to ex-Boston lefty Hideki Okajima, ended when the Yanks released him on February 16, 2012.
  • The first loser in the “can we add a lefty to the pen?” sweepstakes in 2011 was revealed when the Yankees released veteran portsider Neal Cotts on February 16. He had been inked to a free-agent deal two months before.
  • It seemed a valuable pickup when the Bombers signed Rey Sanchez to be an infield backup on February 16, 2005, but he would be out most of the season with injuries.
  • The voters failed to elevate anyone to Hall membership this day in 1950, but New York Giants Mel Ott and Bill Terry both came close.
  • On February 16, 2010, four free agent selections were assigned to the Yankee minors: third baseman Brandon Laird, first baseman Jorge Vazquez, and right handed pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Ryan Pope.
  • Also on February 16, 2010, the Yanks signed righty and former Angel Dustin Moseley to a free agent contract. He would see more action than expected due to the lingering injury to Andy Pettitte, going 4-4 in nine starts; he also won a game in the ALCS against Texas.
  • In February 16 player moves affecting former or future Yankee players, one occurred in 1953, when the Braves shipped first sacker Earl Torgeson to the Phillies for hurler Russ Meyer. Lefty-hitting Torgeson would end his career with the 1961 Yankees, managing a stolen base and three hits in 18 at bats before hanging up his spikes. And eventual Yankee starter Roger Clemens signed a record-breaking three-year deal with the Red Sox on February 16, 1989.
  • Charlie Finley bought out his partners to become the sole owner of the then-Kansas City A’s on February 16, 1961.
    Players Who Have Died This Day

  • One of the two Yankee players to have died February 16 is outfielder Cedric Durst (1971), who hit six home runs with 28 rbi’s in New York from 1927-1930. Adding those to what he accrued in his three years with Brooklyn and one with the Red Sox brings him to 15 and 22. The Hall of Fame career of righty Dazzy Vance (1961) is telling. He was ineffective early in his career, including three losses with the 1915 and 1918 Yanks in 10 games (three starts). But once he was given more time to rest between starts Vance soared to 197-140 through 1936, much of the time pitching for Brooklyn.
  • The list of nonYankee players to die on February 16 grew in 2012 when ex-Expos and Mets catcher Gary “Kid” Carter passed that day. An 11-time All Star in 19 seasons who amassed 324 home runs and 1,225 rbi’s, Carter was beloved by many for his joy in playing the game, and derided by a few who felt he tried for the limelight too much, ahead of his team. After an excruciating wait he was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2003. Boston Braves shortstop Tony Boeckel became the first major-league ballplayer to die in an auto accident when he succumbed to injuries he suffered the day before on February 16, 1924. White Sox third baseman Lee Tannehill (1938) hit three long balls with 346 rbi’s from 1903-1915; first baseman Stuffy McInnis (1960) gathered much of his 20 dingers with 1,062 runs delivered from 1909-1927 with the A’s in Philly; fellow third sacker Tony Boeckel (1924) cleared 27 fences good for 337 rbi’s for the 1917-1919 Pirates and the 1920-1923 Braves; and righthander Bob Buhl (2001) posted the majority of his 166 wins and 132 losses with the Braves from 1953-1967.
    Players Born This Day

  • Catcher Barry Foote (1952) is one of two ex-Yankees who celebrates his birthday on February 16. He did not put up great numbers in his brief stint with the Yankees once he was traded to the Bombers in 1981 by the Chicago Cubs for Tom Filer and cash. He hit six homers and drove in 12 runs for the Pinstripers (and struck out in his only plate appearance of the 1981 Series), but to me his acquisition will always be emblematic (in a less Yankee-friendly time) of George Steinbrenner‘s will to field a competitive team and to win. The veteran arrived in the Bronx less than 48 hours after Rick Cerone had sustained a serious injury in ’81, and the Yanks needed a catcher. Foote played with the Expos, the Phillies, and the Cubs, and with the Yanks he ended a career that netted 57 dingers and 210 rbi’s.
  • Righthander Alex Ferguson (1897) got his start in the Polo Grounds with the Yanks in 1918 and again in 1922 until he was selected off waivers by the Boston Red Sox. The Yanks got him back in 1925 from the Red Sox with Bobby Veach for Ray Francis and cash. During those three individual seasons in New York he posted a 7-3 mark with two saves, and was then purchased by the Washington Senators in August 1925. He played for Philadelphia (the Phillies) and Brooklyn too, finishing up with a 61-85 mark, with 10 saves.
  • Free agent righthander Sergio Mitre (1981) had not only never pitched for the Yanks entering the 2009 season, he was banned from the game for 50 games for using a banned substance shortly after the Yanks signed him before that year, basically as a rehab minor-league gamble. Mitre carried a genuine “prospect” tag pitching for the 2003-2005 Cubs until he was sent to Florida in a deal for center fielder Juan Pierre. Mitre struggled to a 5-8 record in 27 games with Florida (all starts) before arriving in the Bronx. But he showed some signs of recovering from the surgery when tried as a fifth Yankee starter. Eventually his era ballooned and Sergio was removed from any more starts, but he went 3-3 for the 2009 Champion Yankee team, to a high era, then 0-3 to a much lower era in 2010. Ironically, he appeared in exactly 27 games that year too, but just three of them were starts. Finally, one assumes the poor numbers he put up in 2011 has probably ended the pinstriped portion of his career. He had been traded to Milwaukee that March for Chris Dickerson, was reacquired in June, but the 11-plus era in four games sent him packing.
  • Other birthdays: Hall of Fame outfielder William “Sliding Billy” Hamilton (1866), who stole 912 bases along with his 40 homers and 736 rbi’s and hit .344 over 14 seasons playing on Philadelphia and Boston NL teams from 1888-1901; Cubs righthander Carl Lundgren (1880), who toed the rubber in Chicago only from 1902-1909, to a 91-56 record with six saves; Don Landrum (1936); Bobby Darwin (1943); Orioles hitter Terry Crowley (1947); catcher Bob Didier (1949); Glenn Abbott (1951); White Sox infielder (and father to Jerry Hairston, Jr., of the Cubs, and of the 2009 Yankees) Jerry Hairston (1952); Bill Pecota (1960), whose name is carried on in baseball research now; Eric Bullock (1960); Duwayne Henry (1962); Tim Costo (1969); Cubs catcher Mike Hubbard (1971); former Oakland outfielder Eric Byrnes (1976); Jerry Owens (1981); Manny Delcarmen (1982), who the Yanks signed to a minor-league free-agent deal, then released, in2012; Roman Troncoso (1983); Clint Robinson (1985); Tommy Milone (1987); Jorge Rondon (1988); Eduardo Sanchez (1989); John Gast (1989); and Marco Gonzales (1992).