January 2 in Yankee History

  • When Casey Stengel‘s stint of managing the Brooklyn Dodgers ended in the winter of 1937 after a seventh-place finish and a three-year winning percentage of .453, he was replaced by Burleigh Grimes. But things did not look up in Brooklyn, as the record in Grimes’s two years was an overall .434, including another seventh-place result in 1938. And this was not the first time the two crafty vets shared an off-season transaction involving the Dodgers. Twenty years earlier on January 2, 1918 (though some give a date one week later), Brooklyn sent Stengel and infielder George Cutshaw to Pittsburgh for pitchers Grimes and Al Mamaux, and infielder Chuck Ward. Starting pitcher Grimes would star in Brooklyn through the 1926 season, going 178-131, while Casey’s playing career ended in 1925 after 31 homers and 243 rbi’s following that swap. The last legal spitballer in major league history, Grimes converted his great stats into a Hall of Fame entrance, while Stengel would ride his nine pennants and seven World Championships managing the Yankees in the fifties to earn his way into that select society.
  • Prior to his trade to the Yankees, Rickey Henderson set a record as he stole his 41st and 42nd bases for Santurce in an 11-4 win over Ponce in the Puerto Rican League on January 2, 1981.
  • Outfielder Lee Magee was one stop away from a two-year stint in the Yankee outfield when the Cardinals tried to prevent him from playing for and managing the Brooklyn Tip-Tops of the Federal League by filing suit on January 2, 1915. Magee, whose contract would be sold to the Yanks after that League folded a year later, hit three home runs with 53 rbi’s in New York in 1916-1917. During that time he also tied the record for outfield assists in a game with four. But his career would end in disgrace when he admitted in court in 1920 to betting against the 1919 Reds while playing for them.
  • The most famous characters created by cartoonist Frederick Opper, born on January 2, 1857, were two friends who were always yielding to one another to the point where nothing got done because of their exaggerated politeness. The most famous example would have both of them deferring to the other while trying to enter a doorway resulting in neither one stepping through. The names Alphonse and Gaston live on until this day, associated with a baseball play where none of several fielders who could make a play actually do, each in deference to the others.
  • Many clamored for the Yankees to trade for closer Mike Williams of the Pirates mid-season in 2003, but once Philly did just that, he failed them repeatedly. Williams was signed by Pittsburgh on January 2, 2002, finished up a 32-54 career with 144 saves by splitting the 2003 season between the Pirates and a return trip to the City of Brotherly Love.
  • The Northwestern League (minor baseball league) was organized in Rockford, Illinois, on January 2, 1879.
    Players Who Have Died This Day

  • Former outfielder Bud Metheny, whose four years playing for the Yanks (1943-1946) during which he hit 31 home runs with 156 rbi’s were his only big-leagues service, died on January 2, 2003.
  • An infielder, two switch-hitting righthanded pitchers and third baseman Denny Lyons (1929), who hit most of his 62 home runs with 755 rbi’s from 1885-1897 with the A’s and the Pirates, comprise the list of noteworthy nonYankee players to die this day. Kid Gleason (1933) won 138 games, lost 131, and saved six for the Phillies, the Browns, and the Orioles from 1888-1895; and Eddie Smith (1994) posted a 73-113-12 mark with the A’s and the White Sox from 1936-1947. Daryl Spencer (2017), who played all around the infield, spent most of his 1952 to 1963 career playing for the Giants, both in New York and in San Francisco, with a couple of years each with the Dodgers and the Cardinals. Spencer hit 105 home runs and drove in 428 runs.
    Players Born This Day

  • Some fans of the Yankees couldn’t abide his 2001 season with the hated Red Sox, particularly after he struggled to a 4-14 mark in the Bronx in 2000, but I was delighted that if one Yankee was going to share January 2 as his birthday with me, it would be David Cone (1963). Over the years he was traded for Ed Hearn, Rick Anderson, Mauro Gozzo, Jeff Kent, Ryan Thompson, Chris Stynes, David Sinnes, Tony Medrano, Marty Janzen, Jason Jarvis, and Mike Gordon, and signed as a free agent a few times. From 1995-2000, he led the Yanks with a 64-40 record in years where they returned to the playoffs after a 14-year absence. He and the Yanks won four Championships in that time.
  • And that was the lone January 2 Yankee birthday, until the 2004 season, when Scott Proctor (1977) made the squad after being acquired with Bubba Crosby from the LA Dodgers for Robin Ventura in 2003. The hard-throwing Proctor posted a 2-1 record in 26 games for the Yankees in 2004, his first season of big-league play, and added a win in 29 appearances in ’05, with one start. After initially penned in to start in ’06, Proctor had his best year out of the pen, going 6-4 with one save. But it all went quickly downhill in 2007, and Scott became the poster boy for an overworked pen, posting a 2-5 mark in 52 appearances in a little more than half a year before the Yanks sent him to LA for Wilson Betemit. Scott was signed by the Yanks to a free agent contract in August 2011, and went 0-3 in nine games down the stretch.
  • A third player born January 2 with a Yankee connection joined the bigs when righty Hansel Izquierdo went 2-0 for the Marlins in 2005. He appeared in 20 games, starting two. The Yankees signed Izquierdo as a free agent in early March 2004, and released him three months later.
  • Other birthdays: third baseman Pinky Whitney (1905), who hit 93 taters with 927 rbi’s for the Phillies and Braves from 1928-1939; and shortstop Red Kress (1907), with 89 long balls and 799 runs driven in from 1927-1946, mostly with the Browns and the White Sox. Players more familiar to today’s fans include Bill Madlock (1951), who wasn’t only a great hitter, but who was traded from the Cubs to the Giants in 1977 for ex- and future Yankee Bobby Murcer; Jim Essian (1951); super Seattle DH Edgar Martinez (1963), who retired before the 2005 season with 309 career homers and 1,261 rbi’s, seemingly most of them against the Yanks; Greg Swindell (1965); Royce Clayton (1970); Garrett Stephenson (1972); 2006 Cardinals postseason hero Jeff Suppan (1975); Ryan Garko (1981); J.D. Martin (1983); Dave Sappelt (1986); Aaron Barrett (1988); Eric Fornataro (1988); and Felix Jorge (1994).