February 17 in Yankee History

  • Righthander Jack Morris had just won a record arbitration amount four days earlier, but it was eclipsed when Yankee first sacker Don Mattingly was awarded $1,975,000 to play the 1987 season with the Yankees on February 17 of that year. With 30 homers, 115 rbi’s, and a .327 batting average, he would prove more than worth the expense.
  • Ironically, on this same wintry day that Wally Pipp was born (see birthdays below), but in 1937, the Yanks purchased Babe Dahlgren from the Red Sox. The day Lou Gehrig‘s streak of consecutive games finally ended, it was Babe who would take his place at first. Dahlgren hit 27 Yankee homers by the time he left after the 1940 season, and he drove in 163 runs and stole three bases in the Bronx too.
  • Joe DiMaggio gave up his Pinstripes and his big salary and enlisted in the Army on February 17, 1943.
  • On February 17, 2014, the Yankees signed two free agents, righthander Dionicio Perez and outfielder Carlos Tatis, each to a minor league contract.
  • Three days after “Voice of the Yankees” Mel Allen would have turned 102, his boothmate and fellow legendary Yankee broadcaster Red Barber would have been celebrating his 107th birthday, on February 17, 2015. Calm and scholarly where Mel was louder and ever the showman, “the old redhead” was born this day in 1908.
  • Former Yankee player/manager and Hall of Famer Frank Chance resigned from his position as White Sox manager due to illness on February 17, 1924, three months after he took the position. A Yankee skipper and part-time first sacker in 1913 and 1914, Chance hoped to return to the Chicago bench once he recovered, but it was not to be, and he would not survive the year.
  • Thanks to a suggestion by U.S. Davis Cup Captain Billy Trabert, the Yankees gave Australian cricket star (and batsman) Norman O’Neill a tryout on February 17, 1959.
  • The first ever broadcast of a sporting event in Japan occurred on February 17, 1931. It was a baseball game, of course.
  • Long-time baseball player and manager Leo Durocher, who originally got his start as a shortstop with the Yankees, was injured in a car accident on February 17, 1989.
  • Former White Sox shortstop Luke Appling was voted into the Hall of Fame by a special vote on February 17, 1964. This election would have been hard to predict, as Appling received just two votes in his first year of eligibility.
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    Players Who Have Died This Day

  • Not too long ago we posted about the surprising coincidence that two of the best all-time Yankee pitchers, Herb Pennock, and Allie Reynolds, shared a birthday (not the year, just the day). Well, two Yankee Hall of Famers, southpaw Lefty Gomez (1989), and righthander Red Ruffing, died this day (1986). Gomez posted a 189-101 Yankee record from 1930-1942, and lost one subsequent game with Washington. Ruffing, who pitched to a mark way below .500 in Boston before he arrived, went 231-114 with the Yanks from 1930-1946. The career mark dips to 273-225 when six Boston years and one with the White Sox are included. Also among those who died on February 17 is Washington outfielder Kip Selbach (1956), who hits 44 home runs with 779 rbi’s from 1894-1906. But Kip rightly earns his spot on the Yankee list because he played on the 1902 Baltimore Orioles club that would be shifted to New York as the Highlanders in 1903. In 128 games that year, Selbach hit three home runs and drove in 60 runs while getting 161 hits in 503 at bats.
  • There are two righthanded pitchers, a lefthanded outfielder, a portsided first baseman, and a versatile utility player who comprise the list of noteworthy nonYankee players to have died this day. Jersey Bakely (1915) won 76 games and lost 125 pitching for nine different teams from 1883-1891; while Steve Bechler (2003), who makes the list due to the row caused when he collapsed and died in Spring Training six years ago, posted no record throwing three games for the 2002 Orioles. Outfielder Tom York (1936) hit 10 home runs and knocked in 315 runs playing from 1876-1885, mostly for the Grays, the Dark Blues, and the Orioles; and first sacker Doc Johnston (1961) smacked 14 roundtrippers and had 381 rbi’s from 1909-1922, playing most of the time with Cleveland. Most recently added to this list is jack of many positions Tony Phillips (2016), a switch-hitting righthanded thrower who played most of his 1982 through 1999 career with Oakland, but also a two-year stint in Detroit. In that time, Tony hit 160 long balls, drove in 819 runs, and stole 177 bases.
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    Players Born This Day

  • Tougher trivia than you would think: When Lou Gehrig began his consecutive-game streak in 1925, whose spot in the lineup did he take? Actually, he pinch-hit for shortstop Paul Wanninger. The question is posed in honor of power-hitting Wally Pipp (he hit only 21 homers across 1916 and 1917, but led the league both years), who was born on February 17, in 1893. The day after the Iron Horse’s string began, of course (and for so very many afterward), Lou played first for the headache-stricken Pipp. Wally blasted 80 dingers while knocking in 826 runs and stealing 114 bases with the Yanks; he was drafted off the roster of the Detroit Tigers in 1915, and was shipped to Cincinnati in 1926.
  • Until 2004, the only other February 17 Yankee birthday belonged to catcher Eddie Phillips (1901), who hit two homers with four rbi’s and one stolen base while recording 31 at bats in nine games for the 1932 Yankees. He played a year with the Braves, the Tigers, and the Pirates before his Bronx stop, and one season each with the Senators and the Indians afterward.
  • The 2004 addition to the Pinstriped birthday list was righthander Juan Padilla (1977), who pitched in six games to no record in the Bronx, then finished the year with the Reds, with one win in 12 appearances. Juan spent the 2005 season in the Mets’ organization.
  • And there was hopefully a more significant addition to the February 17 Yankee birthday list, and to their pen, with the acquisition in 2006 of righthander Brian Bruney (1982). After going 4-7 in Arizona in 2004 and 2005, the hard thrower won one and lost one while throwing in 19 games for the Yankees to an unreal era of 0.87. Bruney slipped in 2007, walking 37 batters in 50 innings, though he went 3-2, and then badly injured his foot early in the 2008 season. He finished strong though, with a 3-0 record and one save, and went 5-0 around an arm injury in 2009. But it was a wildly inconsistent campaign for Brian, and he was traded to Washington after the World Series victory. Brian struggled in Washington, going 1-2 with no saves, and won one game with a high era in 23 games with the White Sox in 2011, and pitched one game for them in ’12.
  • One of the long shots to have an impact on the Yankee 2008 season in Spring Training perhaps was nonroster invitee and veteran journeyman infielder Cody Ransom (1976). But he homered in his first few games after a late-season call to the big club, and cleared four fences good for eight rbi’s in 33 games. In four seasons as a Giants backup and one with Houston Ransom had hit three long balls in 133 at bats. Things were looking up for Cody after surprise hip surgery delayed Alex Rodriguez‘s arrival on the scene in 2009, but the journeyman struggled mightily starting at third, and he was injured, then later released after A-Rod’s return. Cody hit two home runs and drove in 5 runs playing in 22 games with the 2010 Phillies, and has signed a 2011 free agent contract with Arizona.
  • Danny Farquahr (1986) joined the day’s Yankee list in 2012 even though his only major league action came in relief in three games for the 2011 Blue Jays. The A’s took him on waivers in June 2012 and the Yanks claimed him two weeks later, then packaged him in a trade with D.J. Mitchell to Seattle for Ichiro Suzuki in July. Through 2015, Danny has a 4-12 record with 18 saves, with a solid 16-save season in Seattle in ’13, but a disastrous 1-8 campaign in 2015.
  • NonYankee birthdays: Player of two professional sports (and NBA star) Danny Ainge, who also played for the Toronto Blue Jays from 1979-1981, was born 2/17/59, exactly one year after former Padre and Oriole Alan Wiggins. Aside from those two, lefty first baseman Dave Roberts (1951); Marlins outfielder Josh Willingham (1979), the other February 17 birthdays we find noteworthy all belong to pitchers: Roger Craig (1930); Dick Bosman (1944); Danny Patterson (1971); Scott Williamson (1976); and Andrew Brown (1981) from the right side; with Mike Cosgrove (1951); and Jamie Easterly (1953) on the left.