Considering the two reports that follow this one, Yankee land can utter a sigh of relief that the January 6, 2009 signing of first baseman Mark Teixeira worked out fairly well. Tex was not signed solely for his switch-hitting or power prowess, although it was hardly a surprise that he tied for the American League lead in home runs that year. A wizard at first base with his glove work, solid decision-making and stellar arm, Tex continued to give Yankee ownership and fans alike a good feeling that he signed, even though he has suffered significant injury issues the last few years. But Tex had a huge bounce back year in 2015, even if it, too, ended in injury. Hard-working Shelley Duncan was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster, but Shelley would be back in the Yankee fold shortly, though he was onto Cleveland for 2010.
The Yankees set aside January 6 in two different years to go shopping for a big bopper for the middle of their lineup, with neither purchase lending stellar results. Almost exactly two months after they signed free agent Jack Clark on January 6, 1988, he injured himself trotting to first after homering in his first Spring Training at bat. On the year, he would reach the fences 27 times for 93 rbi’s.
Failing to learn their January 6 lesson, the Yanks inked Danny Tartabull to a five-year deal on this day in 1992. Prone to both the strike out and to injuries, while averse to playing in the outfield, Tartabull would hit 81 Yankee homers and knock in 282 runs until he was traded to Oakland for Ruben Sierra during the 1995 season.
On January 6, 2018, the Yankees signed free agent righthander Renso Mejia to a minor league contract.
Two January 6, 2016, actions by other clubs carried ramifications for the Yankees, the first one being the Washington Nationals’ act of signing free agent second baseman Stephen Drew; Yankee fans could breathe easy that the disappointing lefty bat would not be back. And when the Los Angeles Dodgers designated lefthander Tyler Olson for assignment that same day, it was a small step toward the Dodgers’ trade of Olson and utility infielder Ronald Torreyes for minor league third baseman Rob Segedin of the Yankees a few days later. Olson would pitch in just one game for the ’16 Yanks before being lost on waivers to the Royals in June, but Torreyes proved a valuable piece, particularly late in the 2016 season.
In a bizarre development (of short duration) the Yankees signed free agent and former Red Sox lefty reliever Hideki Okajima on January 6, 2012.
Yesterday’s history included the detail that Don Sutton finally made it into the Hall of Fame on that day in 1998 on his fifth try. On January 6, 1997, former Braves, Yankees, et al, knuckleballer Phil Niekro was voted in, as Sutton fell short by nine votes in his fourth attempt. Phil earned 32 of his career 318 victories with the 1984-1985 Yanks, while suffering 20 of his 274 defeats.
Less than a year after being dismissed from the manager job with the Yankees, Johnny Keane succumbed to a heart attack on January 6, 1967. Keane, crowning his four-year stint managing the Cardinals with a 1964 World Series victory over the Yankees, was hired to replace the fired Yogi Berra a few days later in an ugly turn of events that resonated in the Bronx for decades. The magic the Yankees sought was not to be found, as they fell to sixth place in the 10-team league under Keane in 1965, and were 10th when they replaced Johnny with ex-Manager Ralph Houk at 4-16 in the early stages of the 1966 season. A Pinstriped low point, the Yanks would not turn it around under Houk and finished that year in the cellar, 10th place in a 10-team League.
The Yankees signed two free agents on January 6, 2011, righthander Luis Niebla and outfielder Jose Figueroa.
In two January 6 news items affecting former or future Yankee players, 2004 rubber-armed reliever Paul Quantrill had surgery for a broken leg in 1999; and former Bombers righty Jay Powell signed as a free agent with the Rangers in 1994. Howell went 12-12 with the 1984-1987 Yanks.
Few would question me when I include that Ted Turner purchased the Atlanta Braves on January 6, 1976, but the reported price tag of $12 million sounds incredible four decades later.
Ryne Duren (2011), who led the American League in saves as a Yank with 20 in 1958, increased the family of pinstripers to die on January 6 to six. Duren went 12-15 with 43 saves in the Bronx from 1958-1960, numbers that increase to 27-44-57 from 1954, 1957-1965 with eight clubs, including the Angels and the Phillies. Mentioned above, manager Johnny Keane, who never played in the bigs, is the second of six with Pinstripes on his resume to die January 6. His four years piloting the Cardinals and two in New York represented his entire big-league career. Four other ballplayers with a Yankee connection passed away on January 6, including A’s (mostly) outfielder Bobby Estalella (1991), whose identically named grandson would get a few reps playing catcher in the Bronx about a decade later. The elder Estalella cleared 44 fences and drove in 308 runs. Leonard “King” Cole died at the age of 29 in 1916. Cole finished his career by going 14-12 for the 1914 and 1915 Yankee teams, and he has the distinction of having been the hurler that allowed Babe Ruth‘s first-ever base hit in the first of those two seasons. A 1909-1912 stretch with the Cubs and the Pirates increased his overall record to 56-27-2. Righthander Ralph Buxton (1988) lost one game for the 1938 A’s and one for the 1949 Yankees, the only two seasons he played in the bigs, but he saved two games in New York as well. And catcher Joe Walsh (1967) hit no home runs but drove in two runs in five games for the 1910-1911 Highlanders, in his only major-league service.
Four righthanded pitchers lead off the list of noteworthy nonYankee players who have died January 6. Joe Haynes (1967) won 76 games, lost 82, and saved 21 mostly for the White Sox and the Senators from 1939-1952; Larry Cheney (1969) posted a 116-100-19 mark with the Cubs and the Dodgers from 1911-1919; Tom Poholsky (2001) went 31-52-1 for the Cardinals primarily from 1950-1957; and Dick Donovan (1997), who batted lefty, won 122, lost 99, and saved five games with the White Sox, the Indians, and the Braves between 1950-1965. Shortstop Charley O’Leary (1941) hit three home runs and drove in 213 runs mostly for the Tigers from 1904-1913, then went 1-for-1 two decades later in one game for the 1934 Browns; and infielder Ed Abbaticchio (1957) cleared 11 fences good for 324 rbi’s with the Pirates, the Beaneaters, and the Phillies from 1897-1910. Finally, there are three outfielders: Cinncy’s Wally Post (1982) homered 210 times and drove in 699 runs from 1949-1964; Jake Stenzel (1919) hit 32 roundtrippers and knocked in 533 runs mostly for the Pirates and the Orioles from 1890-1899; and Marty Sullivan (1894) cleared 26 fences and had 220 runs batted in from 1887-1891 mostly with the White Sox and the Beaneaters.
Players Who Have Died This Day
One of the nine Yankee birthdays that fall on January 6 is a surprise, and the other eight are evenly divided: Four spent at least a few years with the club, and four just a few games. The leader in terms of years of service is Ruben Amaro (1936), but he only had a part-time roll for the 1966-1968 Bombers, getting one homer, 20 rbi’s, and three stolen bases during that time. Amaro arrived via a November 1965 trade with the Philadelphia Phillies for Phil Linz. His contract was sold to the California Angels three years later.
The other three guys played in the Bronx two years apiece, with the most recognizable being Don Gullett (1951), who was injured for much of his time in New York, but who played a big part in the first of the two consecutive crowns in 1977 and 1978. Don went 18-6 in the Bronx in 30 games (all starts) after pitching for the Reds from 1970-1976. New York signed him as a free agent in November 1976, and released him in 1980.
Righty Joe Lake (1881) posted a 23-33 mark with the 1908-1909 club in his debut, was traded to the Browns by the Highlanders for Lou Criger in December 1909, and finished his career in St. Louis and Detroit.
Tom Ferrick (1915) won nine while losing five for the 1950-1951 Yanks near the end of a 12-year career. Ferrick was acquired along with Joe Ostrowski, Sid Schacht, and Leo Thomas from the Browns in June 1950 for Jim Delsing, Don Johnson, Duane Pillette, Snuffy Stirnweiss, and cash. One year later, the Yankees traded Ferrick with Bob Porterfield and Fred Sanford to the Washington Senators for Bob Kuzava.
And now the one-year-in-Pinstripes group:
Reliever Dan Naulty (1970), who went 1-0 in Pinstripes in 1999 after three years in Minnesota, arrived and left New York in trades for minor leaguers. The Yanks got him from the Twins for Allen Butler in November 1998, and sent him to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Nicholas Leach 13 months later.
Righthander Bob Davidson (1963) pitched in his only big-league game for the 1989 team after the Bombers took him in the 24th round of the 1984 amateur draft.
Third sacker Roy Staiger (1950) managed four hits in four games in the Bronx in 1979. The Yanks got him from the Mets in December 1977 for Sergio Ferrer.
Outfielder Elivia Jimenez (1940) played just a singeton too, with two hits in six at bats in 1964. He was a 1959 amateur free agent selection.
And the surprise of the group: long-time Dodger hero but victim of the Miracle of Coogan’s Bluff, Ralph Branca (1926). Ralph went 1-0 in five games for the 1954 Yanks, with three starts.
Hall of Fame 300-game winner (exactly) Early Wynn (1920) leads the list of other notables. Others: Outfielder Lee Walls (1933), who hit 66 dingers with 284 rbi’s from 1952-1964 with the Pirates, the Cubs, the Phillies, and the Dodgers; Norm Charlton (1963); Jose DeJesus (1965); Alvin Moorman (1969); Marlon Anderson (1974); Casey Fossum (1978); Scott Thorman (1982); Brian Bass (1982); Anthony Slama (1984); Cody Hall (1988); Kevin Gausman (1991); Kevvius Sampson (1991); and Reyes Moronta (1992).
Players Born This Day