You’ll find few neutral opinions on the event that took place in Yankee history more than 40 years ago today, on January 3, 1973. That was the day that a group of investors headed by shipbuilder George Steinbrenner purchased the Yankee team from CBS for $10 million. Players and fans have come and gone, and mistakes have been made, but I’ll let the numbers do the talking when judging George’s ownership of the team: Seven World Championships and 11 American League pennants. Of course, we lost George in the summer of 2010, in a year rife with losses of beloved former Yankees.
The Yankees continued to have great success in harvesting young players from the Boston franchise after Babe Ruth was brought on board. On January 3, 1923, they sent second-string catcher Al DeVormer north for rookie pitcher George Pipgras and young outfielder Harvey Hendrick. DeVormer knocked in 18 runs for the ’23 Sox, while Hendrick blasted four homers with 23 rbi’s and four stolen bases in 1923-1924. But Pipgras was a star, posting a 93-64 record in the Bronx with 11 saves from 1923-1933. Ironically, he finished up in Boston, going 9-9 from 1933-1935.
On January 3, 2019, the Yankees signed free agent outfielder Billy Burns to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
The Yankees signed free agent righthander Tyler Jones to a minor league contract on January 3, 2017.
The Kansas City Royals released reliever Lindy McDaniel on January 3, 1977, effectively ending the at-the-time second longest pitching career in the bigs in terms of game appearances, with 987. Lindy had starred in New York for five years with a 38-29 record with 53 saves, and had brought line-drive hitting outfielder Lou Piniella in trade. McDaniel’s big-league mark: 141-119, with 172 saves.
Coming off a surprising 6-2 season when acquired to fill an emergency spot, righthanded relief pitcher Tanyon Sturtze was re-signed by the Yankees to a one-year contract on January 3, 2005, with a club option for 2006.
The ploy the Yanks had attempted when they tried to pry Dick Williams out of Oakland and owner Charlie Finley failed, so they hired Bill Virdon to take the reins of the team on January 3, 1974. Bill had never played in Pinstripes, but the move was something of a homecoming nonetheless. The Bombers had drafted him as an amateur free agent before the 1950 season, but he was traded with minor leaguer Emil Tellinger and Mel Wright to the St. Louis Cardinals for Enos Slaughter in April 1954. Virdon piloted the Yanks to a 142-124 mark and a second- and a third-place finish in 1974 and 1975.
The National Baseball Commission adopted a rule barring World Series winners from playing postseason exhibition games on January 3, 1911. This would eventually get Babe Ruth into some trouble with Commissioner Kennesaw Landis in 1921.
Although good lefty relief numbers were the result once the Yanks penned Ben Kozlowski to a minor league contract and invited him to Spring Training on January 3, 2007, the fact that he never made the Scranton to New York trip must have indicated that the Yanks did not view him as a major league option.
Even the most optimistic of Yankee fans realized it was quite a gamble when the team signed free agent lefty reliever Pedro Feliciano to a free agent contract on January 3, 2011. He had averaged 90 appearances the three preceding seasons toiling with the crosstown Mets, a toll that proved too much. Pedro went on the DL almost right away once he arrived in Florida, and did not come off it during the coming season.
Ground was broken for the Houston Astrodome on January 3, 1962.
On January 3, 1994, the 35-foot-tall Chief Wahoo logo was taken down from its location at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland in preparation for its move to the newly constructed Jacobs Field.
One of my favorite old baseball movies is It Happens Every Spring. It starred Ray Milland, who was born on January 3, 1905.
Effective lefthanded relief is a key in the Bronx, and the Yanks received it when they garnered Joe Ostrowski from the Browns. Thus Joe won nine and saved 10 while losing seven pitching here three years, with career six-year totals of 23-25-25. Ostrowski passed away on January 3, 2003.
Hall of Famer infielders Bid McPhee (1943) and Luke Appling (1991) lead the long list of noteworthy nonYankee players who have died on January 3. Second sacker McPhee hit all 53 of his home runs good for 1,067 rbi’s from 1882-1899 for the Reds; as did shortstop Appling with the White Sox, in this case 45 long balls and 1,116 runs driven in from 1930-1950. Righthander Charlie Smith (1929) won 66, lost 87, and saved three games for the Senators, the Cubs, and the Red Sox from 1902-1914; and southpaw Mickey Haefner (1995) posted a 78-91-13 record mostly with Washington from 1943-1950. The outfielders are: Lefty-hitting Leon Wagner (2004) reached 211 fences good for 669 rbi’s mostly for the Indians, the Angels, and the Giants from 1958-1969; Al Smith (2002) was playing more often than not with the Indians and the White Sox from 1953-1964 while he was hitting 164 roundtrippers and driving in 676 runs; portsided George Stone (1945) hit most of his 23 homers and knocked in 268 runs with the Browns from 1903-1910; and lefty hitter Chuck Workman (1953), who also played some shortstop too, homered 50 times and drove in 230 runs between 1938 and 1946, mostly with the Braves and the Indians. Finally, second baseman Connie Ryan (1996) played the majority of his games from 1942-1954 with the Braves, and he hit 56 home runs and collected 381 rbi’s. And new to the list is Rob Picciolo (2018), an infielder who hit 17 home runs and drove in 109 runs from 1977 through 1985, mostly with Oakland.
Players Who Have Died This Day
The first of four Yankee January 3 birthdays we must mention, because of his almost unparalleled popularity in the Stadium to this day, is that of infielder Luis Sojo (1965). Luis played with Toronto, California, and Seattle before the Yanks snatched him in 1996 once the Mariners released him, and he also played for Pittsburgh in 2000 before the Yanks spent minor leaguer Chris Spurling to reacquire him. Sojo served as Joe Torre’s third-base and infield coach with the 2004 and 2005 Yanks, and he hit six homers, drove in 86 runs, and stole seven bases for the Bombers. But Luis will always be fondly remembered for driving in the World Series-winning runs vs. the crosstown Mets in 2000.
Outfielder/third baseman Frenchy (Stanley) Bordagaray (1910) drove in four runs and stole one base in 36 games for the 1941 Yankees, played for the White Sox, the Cardinals, and Reds too, but had his longest stay in Brooklyn over two tours of duty, 1935-1936 and 1942-1945. New York sold his contract to the Boston Braves in April 1942.
Shortstop John Dowd (1891) played all 10 of his major-league games with the 1912 Highlanders (Yankees), managing six hits in 31 at bats.
With the 2009 season, righthander A.J. Burnett (1977) joined the Yankee fold, and his gutsy dominant start over the Phillies in Game Two of the ’09 World Series has cemented his place more so than the whipped cream pies he thrust into the walkoff heroes from that magical season. But despite those October heroics, A.J.’s play lagged badly to a 10-15 mark in 2010, with three costly years left on his contract. With an 87-76 record over 12 campaigns, Burnett had been a member of the 2003 Marlins team that beat the Yanks in the World Series, though A.J. missed the post and much of that year due to injury. He started 2011 with a 110-100 record, and drove Yankee fans crazy with a string of subpar performances in an 11-11 campaign to a 5-plus era, but pitched well and won a game in the ALDS. In a salary dump, Burnett was traded to the Pirates prior to the 2012 season.
Other birthdays: First baseman for the Pirates from 1930-1940 Gus Suhr (1906); righthander Sid Hudson (1915), 104-152 with the Senators and Red Sox from 1940-1954; Gary Lavelle (1949); Jim Dwyer (1950); Darren Daulton (1962); Mark Dewey (1965); Mike Crudale (1977); Carlos Maldonado (1979); Rosman Garcia (1979); Michael Restovich (1979); Carlos Maldonado (1979); Brad Salmon (1980); Alex Meyer (1990); Hunter Cervenka (1990); Mike Wright (1990); Sam Moll (1992); and Jose Suarez (1998).
Players Born This Day