Much is made of the Yankees’ current penchant for trading younger prospects for older players, particularly in light of the way they appear to be turning those tables of late. But you can find examples of the Yankees acquiring senior players throughout their history. On February 21, 1904, the Highlanders (as they were called at the time) purchased 40-year-old catcher Deacon McGuire from the Detroit Tigers. McGuire would drive in 67 runs and steal eight bases in New York over the next four years.
And 15 years later, on February 21, 1919, the Yankees reacquired 36-year-old knuckleballer Jack Quinn from Vernon of the Pacific Coast League for hurler Joe Finneran, first baseman Zinn Beck, and cash. Quinn had made his debut with the Yankees from 1909-1912, with a 40-34 win-loss record and three saves, and his numbers from 1919-1921 would be similar, at 41 wins, 31 losses, and three saves. Jack, who helped the Bombers to their first pennant in 1921, was named one of the designated spitballers who could continue to throw the pitch after it was outlawed, but grandfathered. The Yanks used Quinn and three other players in a trade to get pitchers Bullet Joe Bush and Sam Jones and shortstop Everett Scott from the Red Sox. Quinn would pitch until he was 50 years old.
Chalk up yet one more time I was wrong, as I reacted with dismay on February 21, 2012, when the Yankees signed free agent outfielder/DH Raul Ibanez.
February 21 news that affected future and former Yankee players includes Bob Watson replacing Frank Robinson as MLB’s VP in charge of discipline in 2002; the operation one-time Florida Marlin third sacker (and former Yankee prospect) and Red Sox Mike Lowell had to combat testicular cancer in 1999; and Tim Raines being awarded a $1.2 million salary with the Expos by an arbitrator in 1985.
Former Red Sox star Ted Williams signed a five-year contract to manage the Senators on February 21, 1969.
In an ironic twist, another February 21 highlight involving Ted Williams had him failing to win a league MVP for the first of three times in his career in seasons when he won his league’s Triple Crown. Ollie Bejma and teammate Whitlow Wyatt were co-MVPs for the Saint Paul representative of the American Association in the 1937 season while Williams came in first in batting average, home runs, and rbi’s. As would happen to Ted twice later in his career, “most valuable” players turned out to be those who led their teams to great seasons, not players who excelled on clubs that finished out of the money.
The South Carolina House (unsuccessfully) urged major league baseball to reinstate Shoeless Joe Jackson into the game’s good graces on February 21, 1951.
Players Who Have Died This Day
The two Yankee players to have died on February 21 have just three games with the team between them, the first two of which were pitched (one start) for the 1903 Highlanders by righthander Doc Adkins (1934). Adkins did garner a save, after having already won, lost and saved one game each for the 1902 Boston Americans in four games, wrapping up his six-game career. Fellow righty Mark Freeman (2006) pitched seven innings and allowed two runs for no decision in his lone contest for the 1959 Yankees. He amassed a 3-3 record with one save for the 1959 K.C. A’s and the 1960 Chicago Cubs.
In addition, catcher Farmer Vaughn (1914) got most of his 21 home runs with 525 rbi’s from 1886-1899 with the Reds; righthanded pitcher Joe Shaute (1970) compiled the majority of his 99-109 record with 18 saves for Cleveland from 1922-1934; and righty Vinegar Bend Mizell (1999) won 90 and lost 88 pitching from 1952-1963, mostly for the St. Louis Cardinals. Righthander (but switch hitter) Frank Corridon (1941) posted a 70-67-7 record pitching more often than not for the Phillies from 1904-1910; outfielder Paul Radford (1945) homered 13 times good for 462 rbi’s playing for the Senators and the Grays from 1883-1894; and lefty-hitting outfielder Eddie Murphy (1969) cleared four fences and knocked in 195 runs from 1912-1926, most of it with the A’s and the White Sox.
Players Born This Day
Although none of the four Yankee players born February 21 starred in Pinstripes, all of them were born since 1945 and therefore may be familiar with many current fans. Recent Indians coach and manager Joel Skinner (1961) was a good-field, no-hit catcher with the 1986-1988 teams in New York. The Yanks got Skinner from the White Sox with Ron Kittle and Wayne Tolleson for Bill Lindsey, Ron Hassey, and Carlos Martinez in July 1986, and traded him to Cleveland for Mel Hall in 1989. Joel, whose Bronx totals were eight home runs and 54 rbi’s, played with the White Sox for three-plus years, and finished with the Indians for three.
Lefthanded outfielder Oscar Azocar (1965) had a decent stick, but he was more famous in New York for never leaving it on his shoulder. He was a 1983 Yankee draft pick and began his stay in the bigs with the 1990 team, for whom he hit five homers with 19 rbi’s and seven steals before playing two years with the Padres once the Yanks sent him there for outfielder Mike Humphreys. The numbers most emblematic of Azocar’s game were these: two bases on balls in 214, 1990 at bats. But a swinging bat is a dangerous one; on August 3, 1990, Oscar broke up a Tom Candiotti no-hitter with an eighth-inning single, in a game the Yankees would win, 6-4, behind Lee Guetterman.
Lefthander Terry Ley‘s (1947) six games with the 1971 Bombers accounted for all his big-league experience; he finished with no wins, no losses, and no saves. He was a 1967 draft pick, and was traded with Gary Jones to Texas for Bernie Allen in December 1971. And lefty-hitting outfielder Tom Shopay (1945) broke into the majors with the 1967 Yanks (he was drafted in ’65). He hit two dingers and knocked in 62 runs in the Bronx that year and in 1969, and then played five years (over two tours of duty) with the Orioles, once they grabbed him in the rule-V draft.
The early years of the games were not politically correct ones. Jewish players were called “Heinie” whether named that or not, and guys from the country were referred to as “Rube.” Which is why the deaf and dumb Dummy Taylor (1875) has been known that way by players and fans alike, though his given name was Luther Haden Taylor. Taylor went 116-106 in his pitching career, mostly for the New York Giants. Hall of Fame Boston owner Tom Yawkey (1903) comes next on the the list of ballplayers and other baseball people of note born this day. Tom had three pennants (’46, ’67, ’75) to show for his 44 years as owner in Boston. Also: Ted Savage (1936); Joe Foy (1943); Jack Billingham (1943), who went 145-113 from 1968-1980, mostly in Cincinnati; recent Detroit Tigers Manager and former star shortstop Alan Trammell (1958); Jeff Schmidt (1971); Brandon Berger (1975); Adam Greenberg (1981), a good 2012 story in mlb when he came to bat for the Marlins after having been beaned in his premiere (and only) at bat in 2005; and Franklin Gutierrez (1983).