Even many Yankee fans of my (older) generation tend to think back only to the marvelous Joe DiMaggio when ruminating on the line of great Yankee center fielders that Mickey Mantle and Bernie Williams managed to continue (with an honorable mention going to Mickey Rivers). But the string actually began back in 1924 with the Bombers’ acquisition of lefty-hitting Earle Combs from the minor-league Louisville Colonels on January 7. A slick defensive outfielder who was nicknamed the Kentucky Colonel, Earle would play only for the Yanks, and anchor the outfield through the 1935 season, amassing 58 homers, 632 rbi’s, and 96 stolen bases during that time.
The Tigers waived Wally Pipp on January 7, 1915, and the Yankees scooped him up. Most famous for being the guy whom Lou Gehrig replaced at first base on the Yanks when he started his “Iron Horse” streak, Wally actually played very well in New York. From 1915 through 1925 he smacked 80 homers, collected 826 rbi’s, and stole 114 bases.
On January 7, 2017, the Yankees signed free agent catcher Wilkin Castillo to a minor league contract.
As they had done with lefty Tyler Olson the day before, the Los Angeles Dodgers designated infielder Ronald Torreyes for assignment on January 7, 2016, clearing the way for the trade of both players to the Yankees for minor league third baseman Rob Segedin a day or two later. Torreyes has been a valuable pickup in the Bronx, as was Segedin for LA.
When asked on January 7, 1920, to comment on the Boston owner after he had been sold to the Yankees, Babe Ruth replied, “Frazee is not good enough to own any ballclub, especially one in Boston.”
January 7 player moves affecting former or future Yankees include the Tigers signing Cecil Fielder to a five-year deal in 1993; and L.A.’s signing of F.P. Santangelo in 2000. Fielder contributed to the 1996 World Series victory, and Santangelo spent 2002 Spring Training with the Yanks. Also on January 7, 2000, was the Arizona trade of outfielder Jack Cust and catcher J.D. Closser to Colorado for lefty specialist Mike Myers, who brought his southpaw slinging to the Yankees in 2006.
And a 1924 Cleveland/Red Sox seven-player trade featured four players with Pinstripes on their resumes. Among Steve O’Neill, Bill Wambsganss, Joe Connolly, and Danny Boone whom the Tribe shipped to Boston only catcher O’Neill would be a Yankee, but all three players the Indians received, Chick Fewster, George Burns (see 1/7 deaths below), and Al “Roxy” Walters, would play for New York.
In 2003, a great deal of hoopla accompanied the arrival of Pete Rose‘s new book in stores. It’s interesting to note that January 7 is the anniversary of his release from federal prison after serving five months for tax evasion.
Going from the ridiculous to the sublime, January 7 Hall of Fame inductions include Tom Seaver and Rollie Fingers in 1992; and Lou Brock and Hoyt Wilhelm in 1985.
First baseman George Burns, who hit 72 home runs with 851 rbi’s from 1914-1929, scored one run while playing 13 games for the Yankees in 1928-1929. George, who did much of his playing with the Tigers, the Indians, and the A’s, died on January 7, 1978.
Former Giants owner Horace Stoneham died at the age of 86 on January 7, 1990. In addition, three righthanded pitchers, two lefthanded pitchers, and catcher/first baseman Jack Boyle (1913), who hit 23 home runs with 569 rbi’s from 1886-1898 with the Phillies and the Browns, comprise the list of other noteworthy nonYankee players to die this day. Righty George Mullin (1944) won 228, lost 196, and saved eight games mostly with the Tigers from 1902-1913; and George Smith (1965) posted a 41-84-4 mark with the Phillies and the Giants from 1916-1923. Fellow righthander Bill Champion (2017) pitched for the Phillies from 1969 through 1972, and the Brewers from 1973-’76, fashioning an overall 34-50 record with two saves during that time. Southpaw Ad Brennan (1962) went 37-36-3 pitching more often than not with the Phillies from 1910-1918; and Jumbo Elliott (1970) won 63, lost 74, and saved 12 games from 1923-1934, the better part of it with the Dodgers and the Phillies.
Players Who Have Died This Day
Of the four Yankee January 7 birthdays, two are stars, well-known to all. For Alfonso Soriano (1976), the sky appeared to be the limit, his struggles during the 2003 postseason notwithstanding. Signed as a Yankee free agent in September 1998, Soriano did not debut with the team until the end of the ’99 season, but he had already compiled 98 homers, driven in 270 runs and stolen 121 bases by the time the Yanks reluctantly shipped him to Texas for Alex Rodriguez in February 2004. He continued to hit, with 64 homers and 195 rbi’s in two years. He played the first year in a long-term deal with the Cubs in 2007, playing outfield as he had with the 2006 Washington Senators, and he remained there into 2013. The Yanks reacquired him for that stretch run, and he produced big time, but not in 2014, when he was eventually released, then retired.
And as for Hall of Famer Johnny Mize (1913), it could be said that his days in Pinstripes did not reflect the best days of his career. During his six years in St. Louis and his eight years with the Giants, he recorded the following firsts in league offensive stats: OPS, three times; batting average, once; slugging percentage, four times; runs, once; times on base, three times; doubles, once; triples, once; home runs, four times; rbi’s, three times; and extra-base hits, four times. A lefty hitter, he only hit 44 homers with the Yanks while driving in 179, stealing two bases, and failing to make the Top Ten in any of those categories. But there is one thing he did do as a Yankee that few can ever claim: He played on the team five years, all Yankee World Championship seasons. The Yanks bought Johnny’s contract from the Giants in August 1949.
Shortstop Dick “Ducky” Schofield (1935) had long stints in St. Louis and in Pittsburgh early in his 19-year career, but he played with seven different clubs in his later years, including the 1966 Yanks, where he had two rbi’s in 25 games. The Yanks shipped him to the Dodgers for Thad Tillotson.
And catcher Johnny Grabowski (1900) hit one home run and stole one base while driving in 48 runs for the 1927-1929 Yankees. He came to the Bombers from the White Sox for Aaron Ward in January 1937.
Allan Anderson (1964) was signed as a free agent by the Yankees after he had compiled a 49-54 record for Minnesota from 1986-1991, but he never played for the Bombers. Likewise, righthander Jose Garcia (1985) signed as a Yankee free agent in 1999, but his 11 innings in the Marlins pen in 2006 is his only big-leagues experience so far. Garcia was traded to Texas in 2004 for third baseman Mike Lamb after Aaron Boone broke his leg playing basketball, though this move became unnecessary after the aforementioned Yankees swap of Soriano for Alex Rodriguez.
Other birthdays: Pittsburgh outfielder from 1948-1958 Ted Beard (1921); Alvin Dark (1922); Jim Lefebvre (1942); Tony Conigliaro (1945); Ross Grimsley (1950); Jeff Montgomery (1962); Craig Shipley (1963); Frank Menechino (1971); Jorge Toca (1975); Eric Gagne (1976); Kevin Mench (1978); Brayan Pena 1982; Francisco Rodriguez (1982); Edwin Encarnacion (1983); Jon Lester (1984); Carlos Corporan (1984); Kyle Hudson (1987); Jhoulys Chacin (1988); Phillippe Aumont (1989); Tucker Barnhart (1991); and Ozzie Albies (1997).
Players Born This Day