Johnny Mize and Rube Foster were elected to the Hall of Fame on March 11, 1981. Rube was a star pitcher, manager, and organizer in the Negro Leagues; Johnny finished his career as a part-time first baseman, super sub, and pinch hitter for the Yanks in 1949-1954. Mize was the World Series MVP in 1952, hitting .400 with three home runs in the seven-game series. He played for the Bombers five years, and earned five Championship rings.
On March 11, 1956, Mickey Mantle hit a spring training homer off Larry Jackson in Al Lang Field (where you could still see spring games through 2008, and where Tampa’s new ballpark was projected to be built for a while) in St. Petersburg over the left field wall and into the bay. Stan Musial claimed that, “no home run has ever cleared my head by as much…”
Given his poor performance once he returned from the DL, the fact that Yankee starter Chris Capuano was hurt covering first base on the second play of the day in a spring game vs. the Red Sox on March 11, 2015, wasn’t too big a blow. But it did get the day started off on the wrong foot, with visiting Boston crushing the Yanks 10-6; first baseman Travis Shaw, who would have some big at bats vs. the Yanks later that year, homered and doubled his first two times up. There was some good news though, as Alex Rodriguez and Slade Heathcott cleared the fence as well.
On March 11, 2001, the Yanks, flush from their success with Orlando el duque Hernandez, made a misstep in scouting and recruiting efforts among Cuban defectors when they signed third baseman Andy Morales to a four-year contract. Disappointed with his performance in the minor leagues, he would be waived in July. The Yankees have tried to void his contract because Andy was 29 when signed rather than the 26 years old he claimed to be.
It was a good day in camp on March 11, 2012, as the Yankees blanked the Phillies 3-0 in George M. Steinbrenner Field behind a three-inning start from CC Sabathia and a three-batter fourth inning from Mariano Rivera. All three Yankee runs came courtesy of outfielders occupying the ninth spot in the order, a two-run single by Chris Dickerson in the fourth inning before Justin Maxwell was awarded home plate in the home seventh on a balk. Dickerson and Maxwell are both guys the Yanks might like to have around in 2013 as they face starting the season with Curtis Granderson out with a broken forearm.
On March 11, 2001, ex-Yankee Tim Raines got things started against Randy Keisler in Legends Field with a leadoff double, and Francisco Seguignol, who had been drafted by the Bombers and would later return to them, contributed too, as Keisler took the loss to the Expos in Legends Field by allowing five runs in two-plus innings.
We all know that spring games mean nothing. In addition, even a blowout in one game of the 162-game schedule is just one win. Nevertheless, it’s fun on those days when things go so in favor of the home team, as they did in a 23-7 dismantling of the Braves in Legends Field on March 11, 2000. Derek Jeter, Shane Spencer, Jorge Posada, and Jim Leyritz kicked in with Yankee home runs.
On March 11, 2013, the Yankees optioned lefthanded pitcher Francisco Rondon; righthander Dellin Betances; and catcher Austin Romine to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. The club also optioned righty Jose Ramirez and lefthanders Nik Turley and Manny Banuelos to the AA Trenton Thunder. Outfielder Ramon Flores had his roster status changed the same day; and finally, the Yankees signed free agent left fielder Ben Francisco.
More future-oriented bookwork took place on March 11, 2012, as outfielders Dan Brewer, Raymond Kruml, and Austin Krum; first baseman Luke Murton; second baseman Walter Ibarra; lefthanded pitcher Josh Romanski; shortstop Jose Pirela; third baseman Kevin Russo; and righthanded pitcher Ryan Flannery were assigned to the Yankees. In addition, the club signed four free agents, third baseman Victor Rey; and outfielders Wascar Rodriguez, Barfil Munoz, and Abraham Pierret.
Shortstop Carmen Angelini, outfielder Zoilo Almonte, and catcher Jhorge Liccien were assigned to the Yankees on March 11, 2011.
The Yankees continued to pare their roster on March 11, 2008, removing some prospects with higher profiles. Infielder Juan Miranda was optioned to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and reassigned him to Minor League camp. Also reassigned to Minor League camp were outfielders Colin Curtis, Austin Jackson, and Jose Tabata and catcher P.J. Pilittere.
There were several strange things swirling around the 1901 Baltimore Orioles, an AL club supplanting what had been an NL club a few years before. Eventually the team would fail and be moved north and become the Highlanders in 1903. It was strange, for instance, that the first manager they had was John McGraw, who rose to fame as the longtime pilot of the New York Giants, the Highlanders’ (Yankees) bitter rivals in New York. Another strange tale unraveled on March 10, 1901, when it was revealed that the Cherokee Indian named Tokohama whom McGraw signed to play second base was actually a black player named Charlie Grant.
On March 11, 2007, the Yankees took care of some pretty important business, as they renewed the contract of righty starter Chien-Ming Wang; they then signed second baseman Robinson Cano, outfielder Melky Cabrera, and reliever Scott Proctor to one-year contracts.
Lots of good ballplayers with big-time stats have passed away on March 11, but none of the three Yankees fit that description. Second baseman Roy Schalk (1990) hit no homers with no rbi’s while debuting with the 1932 Yankees; in three games he had three hits in 12 at bats. Roy hit two home runs and drove in 109 runs for the 1944-1945 White Sox. Southpaw Bots Nekola (1987) threw to no record in nine games (one start) in getting his start with New York in 1929; two games with the 1933 Tigers added no numbers to his record. Catcher Pi Schwert (1941) played all 12 games of his career for the 1914-1915 Yankees: He notched six rbi’s in 24 at bats.
Other noteworthy players to have died on March 11 include five infielders, two outfielders, and three righthanded pitchers. Fred Toney (1953) won 139, lost 102, and saved 12 games with the Cubs, Reds, Giants, and Cards from 1911-1923; Ed Poole (1919) posted a 33-35-1 mark with the Pirates, the Reds, and the Dodgers from 1900-1904; and Jock Menefee (1953) went 58-70-0 from 1892-1903 with the Pirates, the Colonels, the Orphans, and the Cubs. Hall of Fame Brooklyn (mostly) outfielder Zack Wheat (1972) hit from the left side to gather 132 long balls with 1,248 rbi’s from 1909-1926. A cog on Kansas City teams that lost often in the playoffs to the Yankees, outfielder Al Cowens (2002) reached 108 fences good for 717 runs from 1974-1986. The infielders played around the diamond with Washington lefty Joe Judge (1963) at first; Giants second sacker Joe Gerhardt (1922); Philly’s (the A’s) Eric McNair at short; and both Cleveland’s (also with the Blues) Bill Bradley (1954) and lefty Larry Gardner (1976) of the Browns and the Indians representing third base. Judge hit 71 home runs and drove in 1,034 runs from 1915-1934; Gerhardt went yard seven times for 347 runs from 1876-1891; 82 and 633 were McNair’s numbers from 1929-1942; Bradley smacked 33 homers with 552 rbi’s from 1899-1915; and Gardner rounds it out with 27 long balls good for 934 rbi’s from 1908-1924.
Players Who Have Died This Day
Former Pirate, Yankee, etc., starting pitcher Dock Ellis was born March 11, 1945. The Yanks had a blockbuster day on December 11, 1975 when they acquired Dock, pitcher Ken Brett, and second baseman Willie Randolph from the Pirates for pitcher Doc Medich; they also got outfielder Mickey Rivers and pitcher Ed Figueroa from the Angels for outfielder Bobby Bonds that same day. Ellis would go 17-8 in 1976 and win an ALCS game, and then he was traded for Mike Torrez the next year. (Mike would do well for the Yanks in 1977, and lose game No. 163 to them as a Red Sox starter in the 1978 season, a la Bucky %$!&% Dent.)
The only other March 11 Yankee birthday when I posted this column in 2005 belonged to lefthanded-hitting outfielder Herm McFarland (1870), one of five players to travel north from the 1902 Baltimore Orioles when that franchise was declared defunct (see above), and brought to New York by new ownership as the New York Highlanders. Herm, who also played a year in Louisville, one in Cincinnati, and one in Chicago, ended his career with the 1903 Yankee club, for whom he hit five home runs, with 45 rbi’s and 13 steals, in 103 games. Baltimore had gotten McFarland from the White Sox in May 1902.
Lefty-hitting outfielder Kevin Reese (1978) joined the Yankees 3/11 birthday parade when he played two games in New York in 2005, one each in left and center field. He had just one at bat (two plate appearances), going 0-for-1 with a strike out and a walk. He recorded one putout in each of those two games. And in 2006 he played 10 more games, knocked in a run, and stole a base. The Yanks traded Bernie Castro to San Diego for Reese in December 2001.
The March 11 Yankee mojo grew again in 2006, when right fielder Bobby Abreu (1974) was acquired from Philadelphia midseason for lefty reliever Matt Smith and three minor leaguers. With better than 240 career home runs on his resume and an rbi figure just over 1,400, Abreu won the All Star home run derby in 2005, but has shown considerably less power ever since. He is a good defender, has a terrific on-base percentage, and was particularly effective in the Yanks’ five-game sweep in Fenway in 2006. He hit seven home runs with 42 rbi’s and 10 stolen bases in Pinstripes in that season. Abreu pulled a rib muscle and missed Spring Training in 2007, and struggled mightily at the plate once the games started to count, but picked it up down the stretch, enough for New York to pick up his option. Although he was arguably the Yanks’ best offensive player in 2008, he has been allowed to leave as a free agent. Amazingly, Abreu saw time with the Mets in 2014.
And there is a lesson for the Bombers in the career of Cesar Geronimo (1948), who was originally a Yankee draft pick in 1967, though he never played for them. New York lost Cesar to the Astros in the first year draft in 1968, and he went on to hit 51 home runs with 392 rbi’s and 82 stolen bases for Houston, Cinncy, and Kansas City from 1969-1983. The lesson? Well, Geronimo hit over .300 in the four-game 1976 World Series sweep the Reds inflicted on the Yanks, kicking in two doubles, one rbi and three runs scored.
Although he was a long shot to play in the Bronx, the interesting thing about new pinstriped birthday boy Brian N. Anderson (1982), who signed a free agent contract with the team in November 2010, is that he was trying to latch onto the Yanks as a righty reliever, even though all 355 of his major league games, 21 with Boston and the rest with the White Sox, over five seasons, had been played as an outfielder. He hit 22 home runs and collected 80 rbi’s entering the 2011 season, but failed to make the Yanks.
The Yankee list grew in 2014 with the signing, midseason, of southpaw reliever Rich Hill (1980), who posted no record or saves in 14 games out of the pen, but came through them with a 1.69 era. Hill, who was declared a free agent in October 2014, has a 24-22 record since 2005, pitching for several clubs, with the longest stint on the north side of Chicago, and in Boston too. Hill had some impressive outings with the Red Sox down the stretch in 2015, going 2-1 with a 1.55 era in four starts. After a stop in Oakland, Hill pitched for the Dodgers in 2016 and ’17, going an impressive 12-8 in the latter, and getting four starts in the postseason, with no record, for the eventual World Series losers.
Other birthdays: Phil Bradley (1959); Steve Reed (1966); Salomon Torres (1972); Chris Burke (1980); Dan Uggla (1980); Frank Mata (1984); Jeremy Hefner (1986); Pedro Baez (1988); and Ryan Rua (1990).
Players Born This Day