With Derek Jeter on the DL, Nick Swisher was the surprise leadoff choice in Yankee Stadium on June 15, 2011, but although he doubled, walked twice, and scored once in the 12-4 Yankee win, he did not lead the way. Mark Teixeira hit two fence clearers, and had three hits, scored three times, and knocked in four. Eduardo Nunez contributed a home run on his 24th birthday (see below), and Robinson Cano hit a three-run bomb. Alex Rodriguez tied Ted Williams for 16th place on baseball’s all-time run scored list, with his 1,799th.
Of the two notable things about Yankee Cliff Johnson‘s trade to the Indians for pitcher Don Hood on June 15, 1979, the one everyone in baseball knew was that the move was a banishment for the injury he had caused to Goose Gossage in a clubhouse fight, as it was a blow from which that year’s Yankee team would not recover. The other thing? The Yanks had traded for Cliff on the same day exactly two years earlier, sending minor leaguers Dave Bergman, Mike Fischlin, and Randy Niemann to the Astros for him.
Of course, the earlier trade that brought Johnson here was barely noticed in New York, as the baseball world centered around the mouth of the Hudson River was in shock over the trade of future Hall of Fame Mets righthander Tom Seaver that 1977 day to the Reds for pitcher Pat Zachry, second baseman Doug Flynn, and outfielders Steve Henderson and Dan Norman.
It was on this day in 1938, that Johnny Vander Meer attained the record that has evaded the game’s best pitchers ever since when he threw his second consecutive no-hitter, beating the Dodgers, 6-0. It occurred in the first ever night game played in Ebbets Field, and Babe Ruth was in attendance.
Right fielder Gary Sheffield provided the insurance with a one-out home run in the ninth inning of a 4-2 Yankee victory over Arizona in their first regular-season visit to The BOB on June 15, 2004. Scoring this one from home while watching the game on YES, I noted that Jim Kaat was keeping track of how many strikes were of the swinging variety, something I had begun doing the year before.
In early 2008, the Bombers failed to capitalize when Mets southpaw Oliver Perez‘s pitch count mounted early, and the Mets came back to pound Chien-Ming Wang and Ross Ohlendorf in an 11-2 Yankee defeat. The June 15, 2007 all-New York battle could have served as a template, as the Yanks failed to score against Perez on four early hits, three of them in the second inning. Derek Jeter‘s eighth-inning double would be the next Yankee hit, tough-luck loser Roger Clemens allowed single runs in the third and the fifth, and the Mets cruised to a 2-0 win.
Mid-June news is dominated by trades, and the one the Yanks made with the Orioles on June 15, 1976, may have helped the Yanks win the pennant in that season in the short term, but it set the Baltimore club up as a contender for years. The Yanks sent pitchers Rudy May, Tippy Martinez, Dave Pagan, and Scott McGregor and catcher Rick Dempsey south for veteran hurlers Doyle Alexander, Ken Holtzman, and Grant Jackson and catcher Elrod Hendricks.
The Pinstripers had acquired Rudy May two years earlier that day from the Angels, and he responded by finishing what was left of the 1974 season by winning eight games while losing only four.
The Yankees gained first place on June 15, 1963, behind Al Downing‘s 9-2 win over the Tigers.
The Yanks also took possession of first place two years earlier, on June 15, 1961, this time with the undefeated Ralph Terry getting the 11-inning, 3-2 win over the Indians. Mickey Mantle had tied the game at 1-1 with a home run and Johnny Blanchard‘s pinch-hit single plated the game winner.
Phil Plantier homered for the only score as John Dopson and the Red Sox bested Scott Sanderson and the Yankees 1-0 on June 15, 1992. By closing the Bombers out, Jeff Reardon assumed first place on the all-time saves list with 342.
Former AL hurler Woody Williams had a 2-1 lead on Mike Mussina and the Yanks on June 15, 2003 on Albert Pujols‘s homer to left and Kerry Robinson‘s rbi single. But Williams lost the plate in the sixth as he walked Jason Giambi and Jorge Posada on 11 pitches. Robin Ventura and Ruben Sierra doubles sandwiched around a Hideki Matsui single plated four, and the Yanks closed out a 5-2 Sunday Fathers Day win over the Cardinals.
The Orioles whipped the Yankees 3-2 in 10 innings on June 15, 1989, and executed a triple play while doing so.
Following a brief, and largely unsuccessful, stop in the Bronx, lefthander Wade LeBlanc elected free agency on June 15, 2014. On the same day, the team signed free agent righthander Bringnel Mendez to a minor league contract.
Infielder Andy Phillips took yet another ride on the Columbus Shuttle when he was returned there as the team recalled outfielder Bubba Crosby on June 15, 2005. And one year later, Nick Green was Columbus-bound to make room for Bubba Crosby yet again, this time coming off the DL.
Babe Ruth drove Earle Combs in with his 22nd homer of the season and Lou Gehrig followed with his 15th off Browns lefty Tom Zachary and the Yanks beat St. Louis 8-1 on June 15, 1927. Winning pitcher Waite Hoyt added a solo shot.
Juan Marichal no-hit the Houston Astros 1-0 on June 15, 1963.
Player moves continue to dominate June 15th, as that was the day the last shoe finally fell from the Copacabana incident when Billy Martin was among those shipped out to KC in 1957 for reliever Ryne Duren and others.
The Yankees traded 1954 Rookie of the Year pitcher Bob Grim and Harry “Suitcase” Simpson to the Athletics for pitchers Virgil Trucks and Duke Maas one year later, on June 15, 1958.
Detroit Yankee killers Jim Bunning and Frank Lary lived up to their advance billing and swept the New Yorkers on June 15, 1958, 2-0 and 3-0. Bunning allowed three hits, Lary only four.
The Bombers traded for badly needed lefty reliever Bob Kuzava on this day in 1951, and they signed Rocky Colavito on June 15, 1968, after he was released by the Dodgers.
Johnny Mize recorded the lone Yankee highlight when he drove in their only run with his 2,000th hit in the fifth, as he became the 93rd player to reach that milestone, on June 15, 1953. Duane Pillette of the Browns ended a team record 14-game losing streak while stopping a Yankee run of winning 18 in a row with a 3-1 St. Louis win in Yankee Stadium.
Even though Lou Gehrig stroked four of the 13 hits White Sox rookie ace John Whitehead allowed in a 5-3 Yankee victory on this day in 1935, Red Rolfe delivered the winner with a two-run double in the ninth. Johnny Murphy got the win in relief.
The Yankees signed outfielder Danny Oh, shortstop Austin Aune; lefties Timothy Flight, Eric Erickson, and Dietrich Enns; and righties Andrew Benak and Charles Basford on June 15, 2012.
A Billy Johnson single in the fifth and a walk to Jerry Coleman were all the offense the Yanks could muster when Chisox ace Billy Pierce blanked them in a one-hitter in a rain-delayed game in Comiskey on June 15, 1950.
The Yankees transferred righthander Rafael Soriano from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list, and both added to the 40-man roster and called up Cory Wade from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on June 15, 2011.
The highly unusual took place on June 15, 1976, as the one and only Houston Astrodome rainout was called. The weather was so bad that neither the visiting team nor the umpires could get there.
The Yanks, frustrated in their earlier attempted swap of Dick Wakefield for Browns reliever Joe Ostrowski, succeeded in getting Joe on their second try. He was acquired along with pitchers Tom Ferrick and Sid Schact and third baseman Leo Thomas for hurlers Duane Pillette and Don Johnson, infielder Snuffy Stirnweiss, and outfielder Jim Delsing, plus cash, on June 15, 1950.
The June 15 events affecting former or future Yankee players we’ll share are quite physical. First, Tommy John, pitching for the White Sox, became the ninth AL hurler to hit four batters in one game when he hit a quartet of Tigers in a 7-4 Chisox win on this day in 1968. And laboring in the minors, recent Yankee starter Randy Johnson broke his right hand in a fit of pique after hurting his left hand knocking down a batted line drive on June 15, 1988.
Five times in baseball history a player has been caught stealing twice in the same inning, and two of them took place on June 15. Pirates base runner Jim Morrison was ruled caught stealing when he broke for home vs. the Cardinals in the eighth inning in 1987, but he made it back to third base on an error. Undaunted, Morrison tried again and was tagged out on the second attempt. Five years later but on the same day, Jeff King (of the Pirates again) was ruled out stealing but restored to his place at first base because pitcher Terry Mulholland had impeded his return when they collided. Later King was pegged out trying to steal third.
The Mets finished off their 1969 championship pie when veteran Donn Clendenon agreed to go to New York when he was traded by Montreal on June 15.
Former Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler died of a stroke at age 92 on June 15, 1991. Any tribute to Chandler would have to include the fact that he served as commissioner when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947.
Stellar southpaw Eddie Lopat (1992) is the only one of six noteworthy ballplayers who have died on June 15 who played for the Yankees. After four years with the Chisox, Eddie pitched in New York from 1948-1955, finishing the latter season with Baltimore. Although his 186-112-3 career record computes to an impressive winning percentage, it doesn’t match the 113 wins, and 59 losses (with two saves) earned in Pinstripes.
Among nonYankee notables who have died this day, the careers of lefthanded outfielder Sam Crawford (1968) and third baseman/second baseman Jimmy Dykes (1976) span the first four decades of the 20th Century, though only Crawford made the Hall of Fame. Crawford hit 97 long balls with 1,525 rbi’s from 1899-1917 primarily with the Tigers after a few seasons in Cincinnati; Dykes cleared 108 fences and knocked in 1,071 with the Philly A’s and the White Sox from 1918-1939. One of two ballplayers with the same name, righty Bill Lee (1977), nicknamed “Big Bill” (and not “Spaceman”), won 169, lost 157, and saved 13 games with the Cubs, the Phillies, and the Braves from 1934-1946. Outfielder Darby O’Brien (1893) hit 20 home runs with 394 rbi’s with the Bridegrooms from 1887-1892; and lefty-hitting catcher Nig Clarke (1949) hit six long balls with 127 rbi’s for the Indians from 1905-1920. Also a catcher, Stan Lopata (2013) played all but two years of his 1948-1960 career with the Phillies. Stan hit 116 long balls and drove in 397 home runs.
Players Who Have Died This Day
Blanked of Yankee birthdays for several days, June 15 offers a veritable plethora. We start off with two former but recent pitching stalwarts, both of whom have returned: lefty starter Andy Pettitte (1972) and Yankee reliever through 2002 Ramiro Mendoza, born the same day and year. Pettitte won 149 while losing 78 from 1995 to 2003 in the Bronx once he was signed as a free agent in May 1991. And known as “el brujo” (the witch doctor), Mendoza signed in November seven months after Pettitte, and he won 54, lost 34, and saved 16 before being allowed to leave after the 2002 season. Mendoza signed a minor-league deal with the Yankees in 2005, but his big-league days appear over. And even though Pettitte struggled through the second half of the 2008 season to a 14-14 record, he posted a 15-9 mark in New York after returning to start for the 2007 team, was a big-time contributor to the 2009 Championship, and his return in 2012 has inspired the whole rotation.
Next we fete future Hall of Famer and long-time Red Sox third baseman Wade Boggs (1958), who played the hot corner for the 1996 Yankee champions. With a career batting average of .328 from 1982-1999, Wade stroked 24 homers and knocked in 246 with the Yanks once he signed free agent contracts with them in the winters of 1992 and 1995. That completes the contemporary Yankee baseball list.
Perhaps most notable among the next three guys is Babe Dahlgren (1912), whose greatest claim to fame during the four years, in his 10 in the bigs all told, that he played in the Bronx is that he took Lou Gehrig‘s place at first base when “the streak” ended. Babe smacked 27 homers with 163 rbi’s and three steals in New York; he was purchased from the Red Sox in February 1937, and his contract was sold to the Boston Braves in February 1941. Next, we discuss lefty Al Closter (1943), 2-2 in 16 games for the ’71 and ’72 clubs. Closter was an original Yankee draft choice in 1965, was lost on waivers to Cleveland, and then reacquired in 1966. He was later sent with Don Cheadle to complete the September 1973 Yankee trade of Frank Tepedino and Wayne Nordhagen to the Braves for Pat Dobson. Rounding out this trio, lefty outfielder Bud Stewart (1916) appeared in six games for the 1948 club in the middle of a 14-year career, with no homers or rbi’s. He was traded to Washington for Leon Culberson and cash in May 1948.
Highlighting our last Yankee bunch is ex-Yankee prospect and fomer Expos starter Zach Day (1978). A June 1996 Yankee draft choice, Day was traded with Ricky Ledee and Jake Westbrook to the Indians for David Justice in June 2000, and a year later was swapped to Montreal for Milton Bradley. Bret Prinz (1977), 4-3 in Arizona, pitched in two games in the Bronx in 2003 and another 26 in 2004 as well. And Tony Clark (1972), who did yeoman work at first base in 2004 once Jason Giambi became injured until John Olerud was signed late in the year, was signed as an amateur free agent by the Tigers in 1990. Tony hit 175 home runs and drove in 586 runs through the 2003 season and added 16 dingers with 49 rbi’s in Pinstripes in 2004. He’s added 53 long balls and 154 rbi’s (and counting) in Arizona since. The final mention goes to lefty Mike Cantwell (1894), who posted no record in one game for the 1916 Yankees. He would go 1-6 in 1919 and 1920 for the Phillies.
The Yankee June 15 list grew by one more with the addition of southpaw reliever Matt Smith (1979), who pitched to no record in 12 appearances with New York in 2006. A fourth-round selection by the Yanks in the 2000 amateur draft, Smith was part of the package of players sent to Philadelphia in July 2006 for Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle. Matt suffered one loss with the Phillies in 2007.
Yankee fans have been excited about the future of young infielder Eduardo Nunez (1987), who joined the June 15 birthday parade primarily pinch running during 30 games in 2010, although he did hit a home run and drive in seven that year. He was a more regular performer off the bench in 2011, with a lively bat, and a somewhat shaky glove and arm, problems he seemed to be eclipsing filling in for the injured Derek Jeter in 2013 until Eduardo became injured himself. Nunez lost out in a roster shuffle at the end of 2014 Spring Training to rising switch hitter Yangervis Solarte, and was subsequently traded to Minnesota. where he has largely operated as a sort of 26th man from AAA to the big club, and a solid contributor. They love him in San Francisco now.
Other birthdays: Hall of Fame Cubbie Billy Williams (1938), who accummulated 426 taters with 1,475 rbi’s from 1959-1976; Lou North (1891), 21-16 with the Cardinals about 80 years ago; and Monte Weaver (1906), 71-50 over 19 seasons with the Senators and the Red Sox. Yesterday’s history reveals that Weaver died one day before this birthday in 1994. Also on the list: Ty Cline (1939); Bruce Dal Canton (1942); and Champ Summers (1946). Outfielder Ken Henderson (1946) hit 122 homers with 576 rbi’s for the Giants from 1965-1980; Dusty Baker (1949) hit 242 and 1,013 until 1986 with the Braves and the Dodgers, and has had success behind the bench too; Lance Parrish (1956) reached 324 fences and knocked in 1,017. Brett Butler (1957); Erik Kratz (1980); Seattle center fielder Jeremy Reed (1981); Tim Lincecum (1984); Cliff Pennington (1984); Michael Fiers (1985); Trevor Plouffe (1986); Sean West (1986); Jake Elmore (1987); Josh Lindblom (1987); and Travis Jankowski (1991) end the June 15 list.
Players Born This Day