January 5 in Yankee History

  • The politics, signing their new star, or whatever was getting in the way, so even though the Yanks had actually acquired Babe Ruth‘s baseball services from Boston in late December 1919, it wasn’t announced by the ballclub until January 5, 1920, but delaying the announcement of signings is a practice the club maintains to this day. They now had the best general manager (though Ed Barrow‘s title was “business manager”), the best manager in Miller Huggins, and the best player in the Babe. They added the Big Ballpark in the South Bronx for the ’23 season, and the rest is history.
  • The signing of veteran knuckleballer Phil Niekro to a two-year contract on January 5, 1984, had quite a few implications. It gave the Yanks a sixth starter to go with Ron Guidry, Ray Fontenot, Shane Rawley, John Montefusco, and Dave Righetti just when reliever Goose Gossage was making it clear that he would not re-sign to pitch with the club in ’84. Righetti was moved to closer, where he would get 31 saves in 1984, and Niekro posted a 32-20 mark over the next two years. And when Rawley was traded away to Philly for pitcher Marty Bystrom and infielder Keith Hughes in June, lefty Dennis Rasmussen became a rotation cog.
  • If there was any reluctance among the Yankee faithful about acquiring righthander Javier Vazquez in late 2003, it was because they didn’t want to part with Nick Johnson and Juan Rivera. Once the deal had been done, the move to sign Vazquez to a four-year contract on January 5, 2004, was universally applauded. It just goes to show: You can fool all of the people some of the time. Vazquez has good stuff, but he failed to impress in New York, Arizona, and the south side of Chicago since. But a 2009 move to Atlanta led to a great year, luring the Yanks into reacquiring him for the 2010 season via a trade here for Melky Cabrera in December 2009. He was decent midseason, but did not survive a train wreck worth of appearances early and a slew of bad outings late that led to a 10-10 mark, and a ticket out of the Bronx for 2011.
  • The Yankees signed lefty-hitting defense specialist Doug Mientkiewicz to play first base on January 5, 2007. Doug missed much of the season with a broken wrist, but he did provide solid “D” when with the club, and garnered the occasional big hit.
  • On January 5, 2017, the Cincinnati Reds invited non-roster third baseman Eric Jagielo to spring training. Eric had been a key piece in the trade that brought Aroldis Chapman to the Bronx about a month earlier. And in news about a player who would be joining (rather than leaving) the Yankee family shortly, the Cleveland Indians designated righthander Kirby Yates for assignment the same day.
  • The Yankees signed free agent outfielder Slade Heathcott to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training on January 5, 2015. He had been removed from the 40-man roster earlier that year.
  • To assist in the war effort, the major leagues agreed on January 5, 1943, to restrict themselves in 1943 to contained rail travel, which greatly affected the teams’ Spring Training plans. The Red Sox trained at Tufts College in Boston; the Dodgers at Bear Mountain, New York; the Giants at Cape Girardeau in Missouri; while the Yankees held theirs on the Jersey Shore in Atlantic City.
  • Several moves by the Indians and one by the Yankees on January 5, 2010, would affect the Bombers’ roster in the majors and the minors in the 2010 season. First Cleveland signed several-year Yankee backup outfielder and first baseman Shelley Duncan to a free agent contract; then the Indians looked to the NL by signing free agent outfielder Austin Kearns. There would be high hopes when the Yankees later acquired Kearns as a backup righty-hitting outfielder well into the season, but Austin produced disappointing results and did not make the postseason roster.
  • The Yankees gave the free agent draft a shot on January 5, 2011, when they claimed righty Brian Schlitter off waivers from the Cubs, but he ended up back with the Chicago team before the beginning of the season.
  • Also on January 5, 2010, the Yankees signed free agent righthander Zack Segovia.
  • Self-described as “the straw that stirred the drink,” lefty power hitter and former Yankee Reggie Jackson was voted into the Hall of Fame on January 5, 1993. Jackson made his name on the three-homer, Game 6, 1977 World Series decider, so in the opinion of this writer, it was entirely appropriate that he went into the Hall wearing a Yankee cap, despite years of service in Oakland.
  • In other January 5 Hall of Fame selections, Don Sutton was finally voted in on his fifth try in 1998; and on the totally opposite end of the spectrum, January 5, 1999 was a Hall record-setter, as Nolan Ryan, George Brett, and Robin Yount all received recognition and entry in their very first year of eligibility.
  • It would be another 11 years later when Lefty Frank Tanana would finish his career appearing in three games for the 1993 Yankees, but on January 5, 1982, he inked a two-year deal with the Texas Rangers. Another January 5 news item involving a one-time Yankee is the 1944 car accident that injured long-time third sacker Joe Dugan. Dugan hit 22 homers with 320 rbi’s while playing for the Yankees from 1922-1928.
  • Similarly, two January 5 news stories affected one-time Yankees and the Federal League, which operated in the 1914-1915 seasons. As part of a deal that settled the January 5, 1915 suit by the new League against major league baseball, Federal officials switched some better players to beef up teams in key cities, including the transfer of lefthanded outfielder Benny Kauff (see birthdays below) from Indianapolis to the Brooklyn Tip-Tops. And one year later when the League was disbanded, Chicago Whales ownership bought out the Cubs, installing Joe Tinker as manager to replace Roger Bresnahan. Roger played with the Yankees franchise in 1901 and 1902 while they were still the Baltimore Orioles.
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    Players Who Have Died This Day

  • The baseball family has lost 11 players worthy of mention here on January 5, with four coming from the Yankee fold. Lefty Mike Cantwell, who debuted with the Yanks, tossing two innings in one game (no hits, two walks, no strike outs, two runs allowed) in 1916, before tossing for the Phillies in 1919-1920 to a 1-6 mark, died on January 5, 1953. Ex-Yanks Gene Elliott (1976) and George Washburn (1979) also died on January 5. Both served only with the Yanks, Elliott getting one hit, one rbi, and one run in five games for the 1911 club, and Washburn losing his only game (he started) for the 1941 team while allowing three runs in two innings. Also one who played exclusively with the Yanks, but over a significant span of time, All Star second baseman Jerry Coleman (2013) now has earned Hall of Fame status, due to his long broadcasting career with the San Diego Padres. Jerry, who had a pennant-clinching hit over the Red Sox in his rookie season, played for the Yankees from 1949 through 1957, accumulating 16 home runs with 217 rbi’s during that time. Coleman interrupted his pro career to fly combat missions in World War II and in Korea.
  • Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby passed in 1963, fellow honoree Rabbit Maranville died on this day in 1964, and Houston Astros pitcher Don Wilson successfully committed suicide with carbon monoxide when he was 29 in 1975. Second sacker Hornsby blasted 301 home runs good for 1,584 rbi’s from 1915-1937 playing mostly with the Cardinals, the Cubs, and the Browns; and shortstop Maranville hit 28 long balls and drove in 884 runs playing mostly for the Braves from 1912-1935. Wilson posted his entire 104-92-2 record from 1966-1974 with Houston. Lefty-hitting first baseman Fred Luderus (1961) homered 84 times and knocked in 642 runs playing mostly with the Phillies from 1909-1920; catcher Frank Snyder (1962) cleared 47 fences and drove in 525 runs from 1912-1927 playing the majority of his games with the Cardinals and the Giants; and portsided outfielder Dale Mitchell (1987), a player mostly with Cleveland from 1946-1956, hit 41 roundtrippers and collected 403 rbi’s. Finally, reliever Tug McGraw of the Mets and the Phillies from 1965-1984 passed away on January 5, 2004, with a 96-92-180 record.
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    Players Born This Day

  • It may seem questionable to include Hall of Fame American League Founder Ban Johnson (1864) in the list of Yankee birthdays, but we owe him a lot for his foresight in deciding the league would only survive with a strong New York franchise, and his encouragement to Jacob Ruppert and Cap Huston to purchase it.
  • As a young fan, I could not abide righthanded power hitter Ron Kittle (1958), traded by the White Sox with Joel Skinner and Wayne Tolleson to the Yankees for Ron Hassey, Carlos Martinez, and a player to be named later, Bill Lindsey, in 1986. Kittle hit 16 homers, drove in 40 runs, and stole two bases for the 1986-1987 Yanks, and played seven of his 10 years with the White Sox.
  • Outfielder Henry Cotto (1961) hit only seven homers, with 32 rbi’s and eight stolen bases, in the Bronx before being traded with Steve Trout to Seattle for Lee Guetterman, Clay Parker, and Wade Taylor in December 1987, but one blast Henry hit near the flagpole in Monument Park stands out sharply in my memory. Cotto, whom the Yanks got with Porfi Altamitro, Rich Bordi, and Ron Hassey from the Cubs for Brian Dayett and Ray Fontenot in December 1984, played six years with the Mariners.
  • Righthander Jack Kramer (1918) went 1-3 in 23 games (four starts) with the 1951 Bombers after nine years with the Browns, two with the Red Sox, and two with the Giants. Kramer ended his career in New York.
  • Outfielder Benny Kauff (1890) played his first five big-league games with the 1912 Highlanders, scoring four runs and knocking in two on three safeties in 11 at bats before two years in the Federal League (with Indianapolis and Brooklyn) and five with the Giants.
  • Lastly, shortstop Art Fletcher (1885) never played with the Yankees, but he did manage the club in 11 games (6-5) in 1929. Fletcher hit most of his career 32 homers and 675 rbi’s with the Giants, and he managed the Phillies from 1923-1926.
  • And in a postscript, we have two more guys who were with the team, though they never played with them. Bob Oldis (1928) spent a year in the Yankee organization before being taken by Pittsburgh in the rule-V draft prior to the 1959 season. A catcher, Oldis hit one homer with 22 rbi’s with the 1953-1955 Senators and the 1960-1963 Pirates. And all 13 big-league games played by first baseman Charlie Vinson (1944) came with the 1966 Cal Angels, for whom he hit one long ball and knocked in six. A 1963 Yankee amateur free agent selection, Vinson was taken by the Angels in the first year draft in December of that year.
  • Other birthdays: shortstop Bill Dahlen (1870), who hit 84 homers and drove in 1,233 runs from 1891-1911 for the Chicago Colts (eight years), Brooklyn (seven), the Braves (two), and the Giants (three); catcher Luke Sewell (1901), who played the first 10 years of his 1921-1942 career with the Indians, with stops with the Senators and White Sox too; and recently deceased Minnesota catcher Earl Battey (1935).
  • We continue the list with Charlie Hough (1948), 216-216 for the Dodgers and Rangers from 1970-1994, because Hough is the answer to a tough trivia question: Name a player who played every year of one decade with one team, and every year of the next decade with another. Jim Gantner (1953); Bob Dernier (1957); Milt Thompson (1959); Danny Jackson (1962); Jeff Fassero (1963); Juan Nieves (1965); Chris Nabholz (1967); Mark Redman (1974); Jason Bates (1974); Ryan Minor (1974), who played third base for the Orioles the night Cal Ripken finally broke his streak; Ryan’s twin Damon Minor (1974); Kevin Witt (1976); Ruben Quevedo (1979); Norichika Aoki (1982); J.P. Arencibia (1986); Eduardo Escobar (1989); Jose Iglesias (1990); Danny Ortiz (1990); C.J. Cron (1990); and A.J. Cole (1992).