Several springs ago, much of the Yankee controversy spun around the late George Steinbrenner and his criticism of Derek Jeter regarding his level of intensity and commitment to his game. It seemed a tempest in a teapot when they did a series of Visa commercials together lampooning the alleged late-night partying, and then suddenly, Jeter was named team captain. Although I’m sure no one knew that Alex Rodriguez would be joining him on the left side of the Yankee infield soon, the timing of Derek’s receipt of this honor before that trade was fortuitous. These musings flow from the fact that it was February 28 in 1991 that Don Mattingly became the 10th Yankee captain. Donnie, who served in that capacity through 1995, his last year in Pinstripes, arrived on the scene as hitting coach the same year Jeter began his first full season holding that title. Donnie served as Joe Torre‘s bench coach for the Dodgers in 2007-2009, then took over as manager, and joined the Marlins in that capacity in 2016.
What stands out when I look at the list of Yankee captains is that Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Billy Martin, Roger Maris, and Mickey Mantle never played on a team with a Yankee captain, so Derek’s appointment was by no means a given. I list here the first nine captains, followed by the time during which they held that honorary title: 1. Hal Chase, 1912; 2. Roger Peckinpaugh, 1914-1921; 3. Everett Scott, 1922-1925; 4. Babe Ruth, May 20, 1922-May 25, 1922; 5. Lou Gehrig, April 21, 1935-June 2, 1941; 6. Thurman Munson, April 17, 1976-August 2, 1979; 7. Graig Nettles, January 29, 1982-March 30, 1984; 8. Willie Randolph, March 4, 1986-October 2, 1989; 9. Ron Guidry, March 4, 1986-July 12, 1989.
The Yankees posted yet another victory in their 2017 Spring Training campaign on February 28, pounding visiting Detroit 9-5. Home runs from Gary Sanchez and Chris Carter had the home team up 8-0, and once Jonathan Holder was reached for four runs by the Tigers in his second inning of work (in the seventh), Thairo Estrada homered for the second straight day to blunt the attempted comeback.
The Yanks got their first win in a visit to Lakeland to play the Tigers on February 28, 2014, blanking Detroit through six behind Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley, Mark Montgomery, Danny Burawa, and Fred Lewis, and up 2-0 on Brian McCann and Gary Sanchez home runs. Sixth-inning replacements Austin Romine, Jose Pirela, Francisco Arcia, Addison Maruszak, and Yangervis Solarte pounded Bengals pitching for a five-run seventh, more than enough to make up for the four Brian Gordon allowed in the bottom half, and the Yanks won, 7-4.
Take heart that seven Yankee pitchers allowed just six hits to visiting Toronto in Tampa on February 28, 2013, but the Yanks fell 1-0 to the Blue Jays on the strength of veteran third sacker Andy LaRoche‘s home run in the seventh. Building his case for a spot he would fail to earn, Juan Rivera was the only pinstriper with two hits. LaRoche, coming off injury, would play just one game for Toronto in the 2013 regular season.
Things started well for the Yanks in Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida, on February 28, 2011, as CC Sabathia, Pedro Feliciano (!), Manny Banuelos, and Mark Prior held the Tigers at bay until fifth-inning rbi hits by Mark Teixeira and Andruw Jones gave the visitors a 2-0 lead, but two-run rallies off Daniel Turpen, Robert Fish, and D.J. Mitchell late carried Detroit to a 6-2 win.
On February 28, 2017, the Yankees signed free agent righthander Colten Brewer to a minor league contract and invited him to Spring Training; and outfielder Trey Amburgey had his roster status changed by the team. On the same day, catcher Radley Haddad; shortstop Hoy Jun Park; center fielder Estevan Florial; outfielders Mark Payton, Zack Zehner, and Tito Polo; and righthanders Cale Coshow, Travis Hissong, Eric Ruth, and Andrew Schwaab were all assigned to the Yankees.
Taking care of some bookkeeping, the Yankees assigned infielder Kevin Mahoney, righthander Graham Stoneburner, and lefthander Shaeffer Hall to their minor leagues on February 28, 2013. The team also signed free agent righty Chris Bootcheck.
The Yankees signed free agent righthander Fernando Jose on February 28, 2012.
In February 2003, Darryl Strawberry announced he would not be serving in the Yankee Player Development office, and he has been gravitating more to his original ballclub in Flushing ever since. But he wore the Yankee Pinstripes back on February 28, 2000, when Bud Selig handed Darryl his third cocaine-related suspension.
Dave Kingman‘s name appears twice in the list of February 28 news affecting former and future Yankee players, as the Cubs sent Steve Henderson to the Mets for him in 1981 six years from the day in 1975 that the Mets purchased him from the Giants. Further, Cleveland pitcher George Uhle slept through a train derailment this day in Florida in 1926. George would appear with the Yankees in 1933 and 1934, to an 8-5 record.
Former Yankee infielder Dale Berra was one of seven players handed stiff fines for drug abuse by Peter Ueberroth on February 28, 1986. Although Dale was in the middle of his two-year stint in the Bronx at the time, the penalized behavior occurred before he arrived on the scene when he was still playing in Pittsburgh.
The Yankees said adieu to one pitcher, probably for good, on February 28, 2010, and welcomed another hurler aboard, unfortunately not for long. Righthander Edwar Ramirez was designated for assignment, and then the club signed free agent righty Chan Ho Park, who had impressed them as a Phillie in the 2009 World Series. But Park struggled in Pinstripes and would be released.
Former major-league umpire Al Barlick was named to the Hall of Fame on February 28, 1989, as was former second baseman and Manager Red Schoendienst.
Righty Roy Sherrid (1982) was the lone Yankee player to have died on February 28 until recently. The 87 games (44 starts) Sherrid pitched in New York from 1929-1931, to a 23-24 record with seven saves, was his only major league play. Roy was joined in this small fraternity by left fielder Alex Johnson (2015), who in 62 games for the 1974-75 Yankees knocked in 17 runs and hit two home runs, including an extra-inning game winner the day the Yanks acquired him from Texas, in a game at which he arrived after the ninth inning. From 1964 through 1976, Alex hit 78 long balls and drove in 525 for the Phillies, the Cardinals, the Reds, the Angels, the Yanks, and the Tigers; he won the 1970 AL batting title with California with a .329 batting average.
We’ll start the February 28 nonYankee baseball deaths list with that of controversial American League originator and leader Ban Johnson, who died in 1931; there would be no American League team in New York, and by extension, no American League, without Johnson, so Yankee fans would be wise to acknowledge him. Also, former major-league hurler Ken Robinson died in a car crash on February 28, 1999. Robinson had a 2-2 record over three years. And Cubs standout Dizzy Trout, who posted most of his career 170-161 record with 35 saves with Detroit, succumbed in Chicago in 1972. Among his survivors was his at-the-time 14-year-old son, Steve Trout, who would briefly — and disastrously — pitch for the Yankees in the 1980′s. Lefthander Eppa Rixey won 266 games while losing 251 and saving 14 from 1912-1933, mostly with the Phillies and the Reds; and although utility player Harvey Kuenn (1988) hit 87 home runs and knocked in 671 tallies from 1952-1966 for the Tigers, Giants, and others, he is perhaps better known as the manager of the 1982 Brewers who lost the World Series to the Cardinals. Finally, lefthanded utility player Lou Chiozza (1971) hit 14 home runs and drove in 197 runs with the 1934-1936 Phillies, and the 1937-1939 Giants.
Because we only celebrate Leap Year just once every four years, we’ll include the only two February 29 player deaths of note, one on the Yankee list, and one not. (During Leap Years, this graph will appear in both February 28 and February 29 Yankee Histories.) Lefty-hitting third baseman Ernie Courtney (1920), who qualifies for the Yankee list because he played one game for the 1902 Baltimore Orioles, who would be moved to New York as the Highlanders one year later, and because he played 25 games with that 1903 Highlanders team. Courtney drove in one run hitting 2-for-4 in Baltimore, then hit a home run and knocked in eight runs in New York. He achieved his overall count of five homers and 200 rbi’s with a 1902 stop with the Beaneaters, 1903 with the Tigers, and 1905-1908 with the Phillies. Lefthanded outfielder Rebel Oakes hit 15 long balls and knocked in 397 runs with the 1909 Reds, the 1910-1913 Cardinals, and the 1914-1915 Rebels.
Players Who Have Died This Day
Yankee sixth-round 1996 draft pick Brian Reith (1978) is one of only three members of the Yankee family to be born on February 28. He actually has only pitched for the Cinncy Reds in the bigs, compiling a 4-12 mark in 73 games in 2001, 2003, and 2004. He became Cincinnati property on July 12, 2000, when he was traded along with minor leaguer Jackson Melian, Ed Yarnall, and Drew Henson to the Reds for outfielder Mike Frank and lefthanded starter Denny Neagle.
Although infielder Marty Perez (1947) enjoyed a 10-year big-league career with the Angels, the Braves, the Giants, and the A’s, his stay in New York was brief once he arrived from San Francisco during the spring of 1977 in a swap for outfielder Terry Whitfield. He got in one April game during which he went 0-for-4 with a strike out, then was packaged with Dock Ellis and Larry Murray to the Oakland A’s for Mike Torrez.
Also secured in a trade from Cincinnati, closer Aroldis Chapman (1988) figures to have a much more impressive Yankee resume since his December 2015 acquisition for Caleb Cotham and minor leaguers Rookie Davis, Eric Jagielo, and Tony Renda. Since his signing in January 2010, Chapman has posted a 27-24 record with 204 saves, including 20 with the Yanks and 16 with the Cubs after the Yanks traded him to the North side of Chicago for ex-Yank Adam Warren and uber prospect Gleyber Torres (and two other minor leaguers) in July 2016. Aroldis, who was measured to have thrown more than 90 of the fastest traveling pitches in the 2015 mlb season, was re-signed by the Yankees in December 2016, and added in 2017 a 4-3 mark with 22 saves to come up with those numbers just listed, his career mark entering the 2018 season.
Other birthdays: Infielder Terry Turner (1881), who smacked eight homers with 528 rbi’s and 256 steals from 1901-1919, mostly with Cleveland; lefty Jake Miller (1898), who also notched most of his 60-58 record with the Tribe from 1924-1933; and Howie Krist (1916), who did all his fine pitching for the Cardinals from 1937-1946 to the tune of a 37-11 mark with six saves. Also Frank Malzone (1930); Jim Wohlford (1951); Ricky Stone (1975); Bobby Madritsch (1976); Brain Bannister (1981); Jeff Niemann (1983); Trent Oeltjien (1983); Tug Hulett (1983); Aaron Thompson (1987); Neftali Soto (1989); Chad Bell (1989); and Nico Goodrum (1992).
With leap year occurring just once in four, we’ll quickly list some February 29 birthdays (which, during Leap Years, we’ll include in February 29 Yankee History too). As listed above, Cleveland third sacker Al Rosen heads the Yankee list by virtue of having served as General Manager in the Bronx for several years. But we got our first Pinstriped player birthday of the day in 2006 by virtue of the signing of Terrence Long (1976). Long, who accumulated most of his 69 home runs and 376 career rbi’s for the Oakland A’s from 2000 to 2003, knocked in two runs for the Yankees in 12 games.
Other February 29 player birthdays: John “Pepper” Martin, who slugged 59 home runs, knocked in 501 runs, and stole 46 bases as a member of the St. Louis Browns from 1928-1944. Pepper led the National League in stolen bases in 1933, 1934, and 1936. Other birthdays of note: Steve Mingori (1944).
Players Born This Day