January 14, 2009, was the day the Yankees sent out many of their nonroster and minor league invitations to the upcoming Spring Training. Among the invitees: infielders Doug Bernier, Angel Berroa, Justin Leone, Eduardo Nunez, Ramiro Pena, and Kevin Russo; outfielders Austin Jackson, Colin Curtis, Shelley Duncan, Todd Linden, and John Rodriguez; catchers Kyle Anson, Kevin Cash, Jesus Montero, P.J. Pilittere, and Austin Romine; righthanders Jason Johnson, Mark Melancon, and Sergio Mitre; and lefty Kei Igawa.
On January 14, 1954, a world-famous Yankee player made headlines yet again. But this was truly huge news. This was the day that Joe DiMaggio and actress and icon Marilyn Monroe tied the knot.
Yankee management and their fans had to go to school on the game as played by Hideki “Godzilla” Matsui once the Bombers signed him to a three-year contract on January 14, 2003. Expecting a lumbering 40- or 50-home run outfielder, instead they received a heady and skilled outfielder with some power and a dynamite rbi bat. After stroking 70 home runs good for 330 rbi’s in three years, Matsui re-signed for another three, but his ’06 campaign was largely lost to a broken wrist in May. He rebounded to be 2007 AL Player of the Month for July, and another 100-rbi season, but closed weakly on a bad knee. His 2008 season was affected by an injury to the other knee, but not only did he come back ready and healthy for 2009, he had solid rbi numbers, then won the World Series MVP Award in the Yankee six-game triumph over the Phillies, largely on the strength of a six-rbi game in the final game. Hideki moved on to be the DH of the Angels in 2010 and in Oakland in 2011; we will always wish him well.
So many January minor-league free agent signings come to naught, but the inking of first baseman Ji-Man Choi to such a deal, with an invite to spring training, on January 14, 2017, actually led to some important — though limited — reps in the Bronx. The Yanks had a tough 2017 season at first due to the long injury battle of Greg Bird and the ineffectiveness of Chris Carter.
Given the nonsigning of star second baseman Robinson Cano, Yankee fans looked upon the move with some hope when the club signed free agent second sacker Brian Roberts on January 14, 2014. Despite five injury-plagued years in Baltimore, where formerly Brian had proved a valuable two-way ballplayer, a late 2013 surge had him looking healthy and ready to go. His health would hold up, but not his game, and the Yanks were forced to release him midseason.
On January 14, 2016, the Yankees signed free agent righty Anthony Swarzak to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training. Swarzak would spend time with the Yanks, going 1-2 in 26 games with some success, but he gave up back-breaking home runs in several dispiriting losses down the 2016 stretch.
On January 14, 2013, the Yankees signed free agent second baseman Reegie Corona.
On January 14, 1987, the roster of Hall of Fame players grew by two: Billy Williams of the Cubs, and Jim Catfish Hunter, who finished his fabulous career with the Yankees. Catfish posted a career win/loss mark of 224-166 and led the Yanks back to postseason play in 1976. His tremendous stretch run in 1978 was perhaps the biggest factor in New York’s making up the 14-game deficit to Boston. He had a Perfect Game to his credit and five World Series rings. And he died at 53 of Lou Gehrig‘s Disease.
Following up on a season in which he hit 46 homers and drove in 163 runs, Babe Ruth rejected a Yankee offer of $70,000 to play the coming year on January 14, 1932, as the major leagues tried to cut salaries across the board in Depression-rocked America. The Babe would follow that monster year with a 41-homer/137-rbi year once he was successfully signed.
As the teams of the two-year successful Federal League were being disbanded, the Brooklyn Tip-Tops sold the contract of player/manager Lee Magee to the Yanks on January 14, 1916. An outfielder, Lee hit three homers, knocked in 53 runs and stole 32 bases over the next two seasons in American League New York action.
The Bombers traded catcher Doc Edwards, who had hit one homer, stolen one base, and driven in nine runs for the ’65 club, to the Indians for outfielder Lou Clinton on January 14, 1966. Clinton would hit five taters and knock in 23 for the Yanks in 1966-1967. Edwards would not resurface in the bigs until 1970 with the Phillies, with whom he closed out his career by chipping in with six rbi’s.
January 14 player moves that affected former or future Yankees include the Blue Jays trading David Wells to the White Sox in 2001; the Reds signing Hal Morris to a free-agent contract in 1999; the White Sox inking Doug Drabek in 1997; and the Palehose again in a swap of Luis Aparicio and Al Smith to the Orioles for Hoyt Wilhelm, Dave Nicholson, Pete Ward, and Ron Hansen in 1963. And when the Tigers shipped catcher Paul Bako; pitchers Dean Crow, Mark Persails, and Brian Powell; and third sacker Carlos Villalobos to Houston on January 14, 1999, they received one-time Yankee draft choice Brad Ausmus, and lefty C.J. Nitkowski, who pitched in the Bronx in 2004, in return.
Similarly, although the Cardinals’ decision to bring slugger Bob Horner back from Japan and sign him on January 14, 1988, had nothing directly to do with the Yankees, the Bombers’ inking of Jack Clark to be their DH/first baseman had created the opening in St. Louis.
Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis gave free agency to 91 Detroit Tigers players and farmhands on January 14, 1940 due to poor business practices in the team’s front office. The group included outfielder Roy Cullenbine, who would play 14 games with the 1942 Yanks, and Johnny Sain, who would post a 35-35 record in the Bronx from 1951-1955.
William Bendix, the film actor who played Babe Ruth in The Babe Ruth Story, and who also starred as umpire “Two Call” Johnson in the zany Kill the Umpire!, was born on January 14, 1906.
Johnny Murphy was the Mets general manager when they ran the table in 1969, but he was even more effective in the Yankee bullpen as a player from 1932-1946, during which time he fashioned a 93-53 record and notched all but three of his 107 career saves (he earned three with the Red Sox in 1947). To consternation and mourning in both New York clubhouses, Murphy died of a heart attack on January 14, 1970. John Ganzel (1959) and Tex Neuer (1966) join Murphy as Yankees who died on January 14. First baseman Ganzel hit nine homers with 54 rbi’s playing in 259 games for the 1903-1904 Highlanders, extending to 18/136 over his seven years, much of it with Cincinnati. Lefty Neuer’s 4-2 mark in seven games (six starts) for the 1907 team was his only action.
Ray Kroc, founder of McDonalds and owner of the San Diego Padres, passed away on January 14, 1984. Also lost January 14: second baseman Hardy Richardson (1931) of the 19th Century Buffalo Bisons, who hit 70 homers with 822 rbi’s in 14 years; and Boston Brave (much of the time) outfielder Les Mann (1962), who hit 44 dingers with 503 rbi’s from 1913-1928. Second baseman Pep Young (1962) hit 32 long balls and drove in 347 runs mostly with the Pirates from 1933-1945; and catcher Silver Flint (1892) cleared 21 fences good for 294 rbi’s with the White Sox from 1878-1889. The list wraps with two righty hurlers, and two southpaws. Righthander (but lefty hitter) Totie Pittinger (1909) won 115, lost 113, and saved three games with the 1900-1904 Beaneaters and the 1905-1907 Phillies; and Ted Blankenship (1945) posted his entire 77-79-4 mark from 1922-1930 with the White Sox. Portsider Irv Young (1935) went 63-95-4 with the Beaneaters, the Doves, and the White Sox from 1905-1911; and Lloyd Brown won 91, lost 105, and saved 21 games mostly with Washington and Cleveland from 1925-1940.
Players Who Have Died This Day
There are no Yankee birthdays for January 14, though we will throw in a mention of outfielder Mike Frank (1974). Mike knocked in seven runs while playing for the 1998 Cincinnati Reds, but he came to the Yanks in the July 2000 trade that brought Denny Neagle here for Ed Yarnall, Drew Henson, Brian Reith, and minor leaguer Jackson Melian. Mike received a lot of innings filling in during Spring Training in 2001 and 2002.
And a player still in the organization in 2018, righthander J.R. Graham (1990) was purchased from Minnesota in early 2016, and has gone 4-2 with seven saves on three minor league levels in two years, pitching in 67 games (just one start). J.R., who went 1-1 with the Twins in 39 games in 2015 (and one more in ’16), was a fourth round pick by Atlanta in the 2011 amateur draft, and was then taken by Minnesota in the 2014 rule-5 draft.
And second baseman Billy Parker (1947) was drafted by the Yanks in the 1973 rule-V draft after he had hit three homers and knocked in 21 runs playing intermittently during the three previous seasons for the California Angels.
Other birthdays: Sonny Siebert (1937); Sandy Valdespino (1939); Dave Campbell (1942); Ron Clark (1943); Derrel Thomas (1951); Wayne Gross (1952); Terry Foster (1952); Steve Cooke (1970); Mike Pelfrey (1984); Erick Aybar (1984); Logan Forsythe (1987); Adam Kolarek (1989); Stephen Piscotty (1991); Aaron Altherr (1991); Dovydas Neverauskas (1993); and Boog Powell (1993), an outfielder in the Oakland organization who is not related to the former power-hitting Baltimore first baseman, though the “Boog” is because the younger man is a big fan of the older..
Players Born This Day