Though few historians refer to it this way, the franchise that is the New York Yankees came into existence when the American League Baltimore Orioles ballclub was incorporated on January 4, 1901, with John McGraw as manager and part owner. McGraw would already be in New York piloting the National League Giants by the time the franchise was moved to the city on the Hudson River two years later to start the 1903 season, first as the Highlanders and later as the Yankees.
The Yankees purchased the contracts of shortstop Lyn Lary and infielder Jimmie Reese from Oakland of the Pacific Coast League on January 4, 1928. Lary would blast 21 homers with 237 rbi’s and 42 stolen bases from 1929-1934, and Reese would kick in with six dingers, 44 runs driven in, and three stolen bases over two seasons in New York.
On January 4, 2016, the Pittsburgh Pirates invited non-roster outfielder and (briefly) one-time Yank Antoan Richardson to spring training. Antoan was not with the Yankees in ’15 or ’16, but he earns some love for having scored the run that was the final home rbi of Derek Jeter‘s career, and his last one as a shortstop, a game winner in Yankee Stadium.
Although one player was coming and one going to the Yanks on January 4, 2013, neither played in the the Bronx. The Yankees designated outfielder Chris Dickerson for assignment, on the same day claiming outfielder Russ Canzler off waivers from the Cleveland Indians.
World War II was a difficult time in the land, and in baseball. Yankee Hall of Fame pitcher Red Ruffing, almost 38 years old and minus four toes, was drafted into the Army Air Corps on January 4, 1943. The aging righty had compiled a 219-120 record in New York from 1930-1942; he would earn only 7-3 and 5-1 marks to close his Yankee career once he returned for the 1945 season.
Sunday play was a huge battleground in the early days of the game. When the Highlanders (Yankees) announced plans on January 4, 1904, to play Sunday games at Ridgewood Park on Long Island, the Brooklyn baseball club objected the loudest.
The swap of pitcher Joe Beggs to the Reds for sore-armed lefty Lee Grissom on January 4, 1940, was a real stinker. Grissom would post no record in five games in the Bronx, while Beggs went on to compile a 42-20 mark in Cincinnati from 1940-1947. Ex-Yank Grissom would also make news on this day in 1952, when he was acquitted of manslaughter charges after a barroom fight in 1950.
The first Black baseball league, the National Negro Baseball League, was organized on January 4, 1920.
Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia was dedicated on January 4, 1971. Because of its bunker-like appearance, baseball fans everywhere are rejoicing that it was finally replaced with Citizens Bank Ballpark in 2004.
Casey Stengel returned to the major leagues, this time in a coaching capacity, with the Brooklyn Dodgers, on January 4, 1932. And it is not a well-known fact that Hall of Fame Manager and Executive Branch Rickey actually caught some games for the Yankees back in 1907. He lost his first managing job on January 4, 1916, when the St. Louis Browns were awarded to the former owners of the Terriers of the newly defunct Federal League. Fielder Jones replaced Rickey.
The only other January 4 transaction affecting former or future Yankee players had Pinstriped hurler Hank Johnson (47-36 from 1925-1932) being shipped with Al Niemiec by Boston to the A’s for Doc Cramer and Eric McNair to close out the Jimmie Foxx trade in 1936.
Rogers Hornsby became the 14th player selected to the Hall of Fame when he received 78 percent of the vote on January 4, 1942. Eventual honorees Frank Chance (who played and managed with the Cubs and with the Yankees) and Rube Waddell were near misses that year.
Two players with very short Yankee resumes and one Hall of Famer passed away on January 4. Hurler Foster Edwards (1980) threw to a 6-9 record from 1925-1930, mostly with the Braves, with the last two appearances being for New York. And catcher Tony Rensa (1987) played throughout the 1930s, and he hit seven home runs with 65 rbi’s, but he knocked in just three runs for the 1933 Yankees in eight games. Rensa played the majority of his games for the White Sox.
Lefty-hitting first baseman Roger Connor (1931), enshrined in the Hall, may have been the most feared power hitter in baseball before Babe Ruth, with 138 home runs (and 1,322 rbi’s) from 1880 to 1897, much of it with the Giants, the Browns, and the Trojans. The four other noteworthy nonYankee player deaths include a lefty-hitting catcher, a portsided outfielder who made his name in Flushing, New York, and two righthanded pitchers. Backstop Billy Sullivan (1994) played significant stretches with the White Sox, the Browns, the Indians, and the Tigers between 1931 and 1947, with 29 home runs and 388 runs driven in; John Milner (2000) cleared 131 fences and knocked in 498 runs playing seven seasons with the Mets and parts of four years with the Pirates and Expos from 1971-1982; and Harry Gumbert (1995) won 143 games, lost 113, and saved 48 from 1935-1950 playing most of the time with the Giants, the Reds, the Cardinals, and the Pirates. And while Stu Miller (2015) posted impressive career numbers (105-103, with 154 saves) from 1952 through 1968, mostly with the Giants, the Orioles, and the Cardinals, he is perhaps best known for balking when he was blown off the mound in the 1961 All Star game in Candlestick Park.
Players Who Have Died This Day
We’ll lead off the January 4 birthdays with lefty Ted Lilly (1976), stolen from the Expos in the Hideki Irabu trade, then (sadly, to many) shipped west for Jeff Weaver later. (Needless to say, the eventual trade of Weaver for Kevin Brown before the 2004 season has not appeased those fans.) Lilly pitched well in the Bronx, but in bad luck, leaving after posting an 8-12 mark from 2000-2002. He pitched several years for the NL Cubs, then the Dodgers, and retired in 2013.
Based on playing time and achievements, however, lefty-hitting outfielder George Selkirk (1908) really should have received first mention here. George’s entire 1934-1942 career was spent with the Bombers, during which time he blasted 108 homers, drove in 576 runs, and stole 32 bases. A two-time All Star, Selkirk blasted two home runs in the Yankees’ six-game World Series win over the Giants in 1936. He played in six October Classics, and the Yankees won five of them.
Righty Tom Gorman (1925) debuted in the Bronx with a 10-7 mark and nine saves from 1952-1954 before finishing things with five years for the A’s after the Yankees sold his contract to K.C. in March 1955.
Lefty thrower Paul Gibson (1960) made no starts in his 54 games for the 1993-1996 Yanks, with a 3-1 win/loss record. Paul had already thrown three years for the Tigers and two for the Mets. He finished up his career in the Bronx after signing free agent contracts with the Bombers in 1993, 1995, and 1996.
Lefthanded outfielder Daryl Boston (1963) played for both New York teams too, finishing a career that featured seven years with the White Sox and one with the Rockies by hitting four homers and driving home 14 for the 1994 Yankees after inking a free agent deal with them that January.
Infielder Blondy Ryan (1906) knocked in 11 runs for the 1935 Yanks and played one year each with the Phillies and the White Sox and four with the Giants. The Yankees purchased Ryan from the Phillies in August 1935.
Lefthanded outfielder Klondike Smith (1887) played for the New York AL team only, appearing in seven games for the 1912 Yanks, with five hits in 27 at bats.
The 2013 season brought a new pinstriped birthdayer, infielder Scott Sizemore (1985), signed as a free agent in January 2014. Unfortunately, Scott suffered injuries in Spring Training, delaying his callup, and he ended up playing just six games, during which he drove in four runs, before being released. Following two seasons in Detroit and in Oakland, he entered the 2015 season, signed by the Marlins, with 14 career home runs, and 74 rbi’s, but he did not play.
Other birthdays: Giants Manger Herman Franks (1914); Don McMahon (1930); recent Mets Manager Charlie Manuel (1944); Tito Fuentes (1944); Kevin Wickander (1965); Chris Michalak (1971); Jailen Peguero (1981); Jason Bourgeois (1982); Kevin Pillar (1989); Raisel Iglesias (1990); Daniel Stumpf (1991); Kris Bryant (1992); Michael Lorenzen (1992); and Reynaldo Lopez (1994).
Players Born This Day