On January 15, 1958, the Yankees became a huge presence on WPIX-TV, as they agreed to have 140 games televised on channel 11 in New York. With the two NL franchises leaving town, the Bombers were making a statement. Philadelphia would cause some consternation when they announced six days later that they would be showing games in New York too, a short-lived threat to the Yankee monopoly that never came to pass. Starting from the point of the Bombers’ $1 million-plus deal, the TV in my home was often found on channel 11, and it was a good bet that I was the one who put it there.
Babe Ruth signed a $35,000 contract (a $17,000 cut) for his final year in Pinstripes on January 15, 1934. He had hit 34 homers with 103 rbi’s in 1933, and would slip to 22 taters with 84 runs driven in during the upcoming season. Once the 1934 season ended, 28 games with the Boston Braves was all that was left of the best major-league career ever.
In the process of executing a three-team trade with the Expos and White Sox on January 15, 2003, the Yankees also appeared to prevent the Red Sox from acquiring Bartolo Colon, which, given the eventual seven-game victory over Boston in that year’s ALCS, may have been huge. Colon was sent from Montreal to Chicago, while the Expos received Orlando “el duque” Hernandez and $2 million from the Yankees, plus Jeff Liefer and Rocky Biddle from the White Sox. New York added Antonio Osuna and minor league righthander Delvis Lantigua from the ChiSox. Chicago also acquired minor league shortstop/second baseman Jorge Nunez from the Expos. None of the principals in this trade would stick with their new teams for more than a year, except Biddle, who would save 45 games in two years in Montreal.
Few fans if any were shocked when the Yankees released outfielder Vernon Wells on January 15, 2014. Acquired with two years remaining on his contract the former season, Wells provided some early heroics, but then reverted to the play that caused Anaheim to make him available in the first place. A low-cost gamble, the Yanks cleared the roster spot rather than trying to coax another decent season out of Wells.
It was puzzling when the Yankees designated infielder Ronald Torreyes for assignment on January 15, 2016, just three days after they had traded for him. And he would be claimed by the Angels, but the Yanks claimed him back in February, a good thing in that he would play in 72 games for the Bombers in the coming year. On the same day, New York claimed outfielder Lane Adams off waivers from the Royals; they would release him at the end of July. The Yankees also signed free agent righthander Wandy Soto and minor league free agent catcher Ysaac Pena to minor league contracts.
In an annual rite of spring (winter, actually), the Yankees signed catcher Jason Brown, second baseman Bernie Castro, righthander Dan Giese, infielder Nick Green, southpaw Heath Phillips, outfielder Gregory Porter, infielder Cody Ransom, righties Darrell Rasner and Scott Strickland, lefty Billy Traber, and third baseman Marcos Vechionacci to minor league contracts with invitations to Spring Training on January 15, 2008. They also invited catcher Kyle Anson, outfielders Justin Christian and Colin Curtis, first baseman Eric Duncan, outfielder Brett Gardner, righthander Alan Horne, outfielder Austin Jackson, righties Steven Jackson, Daniel McCutchen, Mark Melancon, catchers Jesus Montero, P.J. Pilittere, and Austin Romine and outfielder Jose Tabata to Spring Training. Can you name the ones who played significant roles in the 2008 season?
Former Yankee shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh was traded by Washington to the White Sox for pitchers Sloppy Thurston and Leo Magnum on January 15, 1927.
Other January 15 transactions affecting former and future Yankee players include the Braves’ trade of Brian Jordan and Odalis Perez to the Dodgers for outfielder Gary Sheffield in 2002; and former Blue Jay first baseman Cecil Fielder signing a free agent contract with the Detroit Tigers in 1990.
In his first year of eligibility, on January 15, 1981, Bob Gibson was the only player voted into the Hall of Fame.
Horace Stoneham was elected president of the New York Giants on January 15, 1936.
One-time Yankees Eddie Foster (1937) and Jimmy Sheckard (1947) died on January 15, though Sheckard’s claim to the team designation is more tenuous. Third baseman Foster played most of 1910-1923 with the Senators, hitting 10 homers with 451 rbi’s, but his 1910 debut was with the Highlanders, where he played 30 games and earned one of the rbi’s. Sheckard played four games with the 1902 Baltimore Orioles, a franchise one year removed from their impending switch to New York. An outfielder, Sheckard hit 56 long balls good for 813 rbi’s from 1897-1913, much of it with Brooklyn and with the Chicago Cubs.
Outfielder Gus Suhr (2004), who spent his entire 11-year career with the Pirates and who hit 84 home runs with 818 rbi’s, is the lone noteworthy nonYankee player to have died on January 15.
Players Who Have Died This Day
After several days of minimal Yankee player birthdays, it feels like the floodgates opened to report that there are six Pinstripers who trace their birth to January 15. Jerry Narron (1956) would have earned the right to be listed first among these guys based on games-as-a-Yankee seniority alone, as his four homers and 18 rbi’s in 61 games for the 1979 team far outstrips that of the first other four. But that was Jerry’s first year in major-league baseball, and he will always be remembered for the role that history thrust upon him. Narron was penciled in to catch (can’t use the word “replace” here) after the tragic and sudden death of team Captain Thurman Munson. Jerry played three years (over two tours) with the Mariners, and four with the Angels, and he piloted the 2001 and 2002 Texas Rangers too. An original Yankee draftee, he was traded with Rick Anderson, Jim Beattie, and Juan Beniquez to the Seattle Mariners for Ruppert Jones and Jim Lewis in November 1979. Narron hit 21 career home runs with 96 rbi’s.
Tony Solaita (1947) comes in fourth in terms of game service, as he played only one game with the Yanks, striking out in his only at bat in 1968, but those of my generation fondly remember hearing the reports of his power and prowess on the Greensboro club in the Yankee minors, and dreaming of the days he would be poking balls over the wall in the Bronx. As it was, he hit 50 big-league taters from 1974-1979, splitting five years between the K. C. Royals and California Angels, and spending the last season with Montreal and then Toronto. Tony was traded by the Yankees to the Pirates in February 1973 for George Kopacz.
Righty Curt Brown (1960) went 1-1 with the 1984 Yanks during 13 games after a season with the Angels and before two with the Expos to close his time out. He was acquired from the Angels for minor leaguer Mike Browning in 1983.
Righthander Don Cooper (1957) ended his big-leagues time pitching in seven games without a decision for the 1985 Bombers after two years in Minnesota and one in Toronto. Cooper had actually been drafted by the Yanks in 1978, was a rule-V draft selection from the Yanks by the Twins, was subsequently traded to the Blue Jays, and was traded by the Blue Jays to the Yankees in 1984 for minor-leaguer Derwin McNealy.
And the list grows entering the 2017 season with the signing of veteran outfielder and DH Matt Holliday (1980), signed in December as a veteran bat to stabilize a young Yankee batting order in ’17. After five years in Colorado, and 7.5 in St. Louis, following a brief stay in Oakland, Matt arrived having stroked 295 big league homers, and having driven in 1,153 runs. Holliday gave the Bronx batting order exactly what was needed, although his season and Yankee stay was eventually derailed by poor health. Still, he delivered 19 homers and 64 rbi’s before getting sick. Matt had two homers with three rbi’s in 25 games playing for the Rockies in 2018 in their failed stretch run attempt to make the playoffs.
And finally, first baseman/DH Tom Robson (1946), whose entire big-league career consisted of 23 games for Texas in 1974-1975, was drafted by the Yankees from the Rangers in the minor league draft in December 1975. Tom hit no homers, but accounted for four rbi’s in the majors.
Other birthdays start with the tragic figure of shortstop Ray Chapman (1891) whose eight-year career with Cleveland was cut short when he did not survive being struck in the temple by a rising fastball from the hand of Yankee Carl Mays in 1920. Others: Righthander Steve Gromek (1920), who fashioned a 123-108 record from 1941-1957, mostly with Cleveland and Detroit; Mike Marshall (1943), who pitched in nine different bullpens from 1967 to 1981; Bobby Grich (1949); Rance Mulliniks (1956); Delino DeShields (1969), whom the Dodgers acquired straight up from the Expos for Pedro Martinez; Wayne Gomes (1973); Ray King (1974); J.D. Closser (1980); and Armando Galarraga (1982), who memorably threw what should have been a Perfect Game in 2010, only to have a blown call on the 27th out snatch it away from him. Also, Melvin Dorta (1982); Mitch Garver (1991); Matt Duffy (1991); Chi Chi Gonzalez (1992); Tim Mayza (1992); and Skye Bolt (1994).
Players Born This Day