Lee MacPhail began his baseball career as a business manager for Reading in the Interstate League in 1941, then graduated to the Yankee organization. He started with an 11-year reign as director of player personnel in 1948, proudly filling that role for a team that was winning nine pennants during the time. He then moved to Baltimore, and built a World Series winner there (1966) before returning to the Yanks as executive vice president until 1973. On January 1, 1974, he replaced Joe Cronin as president of the American League. And in other January 1 League news, Chub Feeney became president of the National League in 1970.
Before being renamed the Nationals and being moved to Washington, the Montreal Expos played in several venues for a few years, and hosted enough games in Puerto Rico for the public to become familiar with Hiram Bithorn Stadium. Former major-league pitcher Hiram Bithorn, who had last pitched in the bigs in 1947, died at the age of 35 under mysterious circumstances in Northern Mexico on January 1, 1952. The stadium in Puerto Rico was named for him.
In other January 1 Stadium news, Detroit changed the name of Briggs Stadium to Tiger Stadium in 1961; and this was the day in 1927 that Charles Ebbets announced he had purchased the land on which he would build his field. Lastly, Cleveland unveiled the new Jacob’s Field with a New Year’s Event in 1994.
The Yankees play in the Bronx while being officially named the New York Yankees due to the event that took place on January 1, 1874, when the Bronx was incorporated into New York City.
The legendary Hall of Fame Negro Leagues power hitter and catcher Josh Gibson had just turned 32 when he suffered a nervous breakdown on January 1, 1943. He recovered in time for the upcoming baseball season, but Gibson’s health problems would continue, and he would succumb to a stroke at the age of 35.
Before listing Yankee players born on the year’s first day, four one-time Yanks passed away this day too. Hall of Famer Wee Willie Keeler, who played for the Highlanders from 1903-1909, died on January 1, 1923; and lefty reliever Paul Lindblad, whose seven relief appearances for the 1978 Champions ended his 14-year career, succumbed on this day in 2006. Keeler hit 10 of 33 career homers, knocked in 128 of 810 runs, and scored 482 of the 1,719 runs he tallied with the Highlanders. Lindblad already had recorded all of his career 68 wins, 63 losses, and 64 saves before arriving in the Bronx. An outfielder from 1923-1933, Harry Rice hit seven homers with 74 rbi’s playing 100 games for the 1930 Yanks; he accumulated 48 long balls and drove in 506 runs after serving five years with the Browns, three with the Tigers, and brief stops with two other teams, before he died on this day in 1971. Finally, Ernie Koy, who was originally a Yank but was traded to the Dodgers before ever playing in Pinstripes, passed away on January 1, 2007. He homered 36 times and drove in 260 runs over five seasons for NL teams.
The list of noteworthy nonYankee players to have died on January 1 is totally made up of three righthanded pitchers. Doug McWeeny (1953) won 37, lost 57, and saved six games from 1924-1930 with the White Sox, the Dodgers, and the Reds; Danny Frisella (1977) pitched from 1967-1972 with the Mets and then four other clubs through 1976, to a 34-40-57 mark; and Carmen Hill (1990) won 49, lost 33, and saved eight games mostly with the Pirates from 1915-1930.
Players Who Have Died This Day
Although there are four January 1 Yankee player birthdays, the most recent is lefthanded first baseman Earl Torgeson (1924), who ended up his 15-year big-league stay by getting two hits in 18 at bats during 22 games for the 1961 Bombers. He played with the Braves (six years), Phillies (2.5), Tigers (2.5), and White Sox (4.5), and signed with New York as a free agent in June 1961. They released Earl the following September.
Righty Charlie Devens (1910) managed five wins in eight decisions with the 1932-1934 Yanks, in his only major-league work. He pitched in 16 games, and started 10 of them.
Outfielder Rudy Bell (1881) also exclusively plied his big-league trade in New York, garnering three rbi’s and stealing four bases in 17 games for the 1907 Yanks.
Ned Garvin (1874) ended his playing days with the 1904 Bombers with an 0-1 mark after pitching for, among others, Philly, Chicago, and Brooklyn from 1896 to 1904. Garvin was selected by the Highlanders off waivers from the Brooklyn Superbas in September 1904.
The list of other players of note who were born on this day starts with what at first sight appears to have been a Yankee blunder. Owner of a 98-68 record and the 1983 American League Cy Young Award winner, LaMarr Hoyt (1955) was originally signed as a free agent with the Yankees, even though he never pitched for the team. But before you mark this one up to another bad Yankee move of trading away young pitching, most Yankee fans would still be OK with the trade, once they learn the details. He was sent to the White Sox as the 1977 season began (along with minor leaguer Bob Polinsky and Oscar Gamble) for eventual 1978 playoff hero Bucky Dent.
Other birthdays: Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg (1911), though from New York, blasted his 331 homers with 1,276 rbi’s, and 58 stolen bases almost totally for the Detroit Tigers — he played his last year for the 1947 Pirates. Others: Carl Scheib (1927); Lynn Jones (1953); Bob Owchinko (1955); and Fernando Tatis (1975). And last, two guys who did not play for the Yanks, but whose careers touched the Yankee logo. Kevin Beirne (1974) was involved in the David Wells trade that sent him to Chicago for Mike Sirotka (before he would return to New York in 2002); and although Bill Bethea‘s (1942) only major-league experience was with the 1964 Minnesota Twins (two runs batted in in 10 games), he was drafted by the Yanks from the Twins in 1965. The Yanks took a shot, but he didn’t make it back to the bigs. Also, Neil Wagner (1984); Nick Hadagone (1986); Dallas Keuchel (1988); Jarrett Parker (1989); and Xavier Avery (1990).
Players Born This Day