On March 23, 1972, the Yankees agreed in principle to continue playing ball in the Bronx. Later that year on August 8, they put it in writing by signing a 30-year lease contingent on a modernization to be completed in time for the 1976 season. Old-time Yankee fans point to this renovation as the true end of the original ballpark, though most of us point to the final game in September 2008.
One more baseball park note: On March 23, 1994, Richard Jacobs bought the naming rights to the new Cleveland Indians ballpark.
Bobby Murcer, for one, stopped reaching the right field fence once the Yanks started playing in Shea as the Bronx Ballpark was modernized during the 1974 and 1975 seasons. Bobby was shipped out, traded in 1974 for Bobby Bonds. Murcer’s exit was eased by the Yankees’ purchase of the contract of Elliot Maddox from Texas to play center on March 23, 1974. Maddox had a good year in the field and hit .303 that season, but suffered a career-threatening injury on Shea Stadium’s outfield grass during the second of two years of the Yankee stop in Flushing. He sued the city and the club and in the bad blood that followed, during a difficult recovery period, he became a nonfactor in the Yankee outfield. Ironically he would finish his career patrolling the same outfield where he was injured, playing for the Mets from 1978 through 1980.
Former Yankees outfielder Tim “Rock” Raines announced his retirement after 21 major league seasons on March 23, 2000. In a far from unprecedented move, he later renounced that decision, opting to extend his career in an attempt to play with his son, Tim Raines, Jr.
A late arrival in Spring Training in 1941 due to a holdout, Joe DiMaggio played his first Grapefruit League game that year on March 23.
When the Dodgers purchased outfielder Frenchy Bordagaray from the Yankees on March 23, 1942, it was a reunion of sorts, as he had played for Brooklyn earlier. Frenchy drove in four runs and stole one base for the Yanks in 36 games in 1941.
On March 23, 2019, the Colorado Rockies traded outfielder Mike Tauchman to the Yankees for lefthander Phillip Diehl. It was a move that much of New York responded to with a shrug, but Tauchman would make a serious contribution to the Yankee effort that year until being lost to injury late in the season. Also on March 23, the Yankees placed lefthander Jordan Montgomery, recovering from Tommy John surgery, on the 60-day injured list, and optioned righthander Jonathan Loaisiga to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Also, righthander Brooks Kriske, who would receive significant reps during the abbreviated 2020 Spring Training session, was assigned to the Yankees on March 23, 2019, as well.
On March 23, 2018, the Yankees optioned righthander Luis Cessa to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
On March 23, 2017, second baseman Billy Fleming was assigned to the Yankees.
On March 23, 2014, righthanded pitcher Manny Barreda was assigned to the Yankees.
To the unfortunately only short-term delight of many Yankee fans, the team signed free agent righthander Chien-Ming Wang on March 23, 2013. The former two-time 19-game winner in pinstripes has not been the same since he suffered a serious foot injury running the bases in an interleague game playing for the Yanks in 2008.
The Yankees made two moves on March 2, 2011, first optioning outfielder Greg Golson to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and then claiming lefthander Jose Ortegano off waivers from the Atlanta Braves.
On March 23, 2012, righthanded pitcher Mariel Checo; third basemen Dante Bichette, Jr. and Kelvin Castro; outfielder Abraham Almonte; first baseman Reymond Nunez; lefthanded pitcher Vidal Nuno; and catcher Jeffrey Farnham were assigned to the Yankees.
When the Yankees optioned reliever Chris Britton to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and reassigned righthander Dan Giese and southpaw Heath Phillips to Minor League camp on March 23, 2008, few fans anticipated that it would be Geise among the three that would have the greatest effect on the coming season.
In what unfortunately became a regular rite of spring over several years, the Yankees reassigned lefthander Kei Igawa to Minor League camp on March 23, 2009.
The Yankees optioned righty T.J. Beam, who had pitched in 18 games for the 2006 club, and won two of them, to AAA Columbus on March 23, 2007. Beam pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008, and signed a minor-league deal with Yankees rival the Toronto Blue Jays for 2009, and later with the D’backs.
Cincinnati Reds first baseman Hal Morris, who broke in with the Yankees, announced his retirement on March 23, 2001. Although there is technically no other news affecting former or future Yankee players on March 23, it’s not hard to include the 1959 trade of Bill White from the Giants to the Cardinals. Bill would become a popular Yankee announcer teamed with the Scooter, Phil Rizzuto, in the seventies.
And catcher Wilbert Robertson and infielder Bill “Wagon Tongue” Keister were sold by Brooklyn to St. Louis on this day in 1900. Both would play the following 1901 season with the American League Baltimore Orioles, the franchise that would fold up its tent after the 1902 season and relocate to New York as the Highlanders.
Other March 23 news affecting former or future Yanks was the “Lip Pass” masterminded by Cubs Manager (and former Yankee shortstop) Leo Durocher. Angered by the rule that an umpire could call a ball anytime one of his pitchers went to his mouth while on the mound, Leo had hurler Jim Ellis do it with a 3-1 count on this day in 1968, as a way to allow a batter an intentional walk without risking the throw to his catcher wide of the plate. The powers that be were not amused, and Durocher abandoned the ruse.
The new expansion Florida Marlins began selling tickets for their inaugural 1993 season on March 23, 1992.
The lone Yankee player to have died on March 23 was righthander Steve Sundra (1952), who made a spectacular debut with the Pinstripers from 1936-1940. After a 6-4 mark in his first year, Sundra won 11 games with just one loss in 1938. He won 21 games, lost 11, and saved two in 76 games (27 starts) for New York from 1936-1940, and following two years with the Senators and five with the Browns, he finished with a 56-41-2 record. This group doubled in size when righthander Virgil Trucks (2013) passed away. Virgil made his last 25 career appearances with the 1958 Yankees, with a 2-1 mark. But most of his fine 177-135-30 record pitching 17 years came with Detroit, for whom he threw two no-hitters in 1952, one of them against the Yanks.
As reported yesterday, Cleveland reliever Tim Crews was in a fatal boating accident with teammate Steve Olin in 1993, though Crews is listed as having succumbed on March 23. Crews won 11, lost 13 and saved 15 with the Dodgers from 1987-1992. Lefthander Slim Sallee (1950), who hit righthanded, posted a 174-143 mark with 36 saves from 1908-1921, with the first nine years coming with the Cardinals. A new entrant to the list, southpaw Dennis Bennett (2012) pitched mostly for the Phillies and the Red Sox during his 1962-1968 career to a 43-47 mark with six saves. And lefty-hitting catcher Ed Bailey (2007) hit 155 home runs with 540 rbi’s from 1953-1966. He played eight years with the Reds and four with the Giants. Lefty-hitting outfielder Oris Hockett (1969), who hit 13 home runs with 214 rbi’s with the Dodgers, the Indians, and the White Sox from 1938-1945, precedes two righty pitchers on this list. Harry Kelley (1958) won 42 games, lost 47, and saved five with the Senators and the A’s between 1925 and 1939; and Roger Wolff (1994) posted a 52-69-13 mark in reverse order, with the A’s and the Senators, from 1941-1947. And newest to the list is catcher and broadcaster Joe Garagiola (2016), who hit lefthanded but threw righty. A childhood (and lifelong) friend to beloved Yankee catcher Yogi Berra, Garagiola spent most of his 1946 to 1954 career with the Cardinals, though he played with the Cubs and the Pirates too. Joe hit 42 home runs and collected 255 rbi’s, and stole five bases too.
Players Who Have Died This Day
Until 2011, Yankee March 23 birthdays included just Chris Turner (1969), who served as Yankee backup catcher in 2000 when he hit one homer and recorded seven rbi’s; and first baseman George Scott (1944). After playing almost his entire career with the rival Red Sox and then with the Brewers (who were pretty strong rivals themselves in those days) from 1966-1979, George finished off the latter season, and his career, by playing 16 games with the Yanks after signing as a free agent in mid-September. He blasted a home run, knocked in six runs, and even stole a base. Scott suffered a strange bout of being unable to handle throws at first in the middle of his career. Turner, on the other hand, signed a free agent contract with the Yankees in December 1999, and was let loose 11 months later.
The Yankee birthday list received a huge infusion in 2011 with the arrival in September of Dellin Betances (1988). A nervous Betances walked six in 2.66 innings over two games as the 2011 season wound down, but it was hoped that this 6’8″, 260-pound righty, drafted in the eighth round in 2006, would be starting in the Bronx in 2013 or 2014. He was moved to the bullpen, from where he pitched six games in 2013 after a start and a relief appearance in 2011; he looked sharp in Tampa in March 2014, and excelled as a righthanded setup in the Bronx all year, and again in 2015. And in 2016, he claimed a spot among the trio of shutdown guys in the Yankee pen, Dellin, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman. Despite an ugly dustup with Yankee management over his arbitration hearing before the 2017 season, and a few bouts with poor control, the four-time All Star continued plying his trade in the Yankee pen, although he was lost for almost all of the 2019 season with injury. Newly married and a father in 2019, there were hints that the team was seeking to sign “Marshall Dellin” to a long-term deal, but an additional injury ended that. He signed a contract to pitch for the Mets in 2020.
Other baseball birthdays: Outfielder Gravvy Cravath (1881), who hit 119 taters with 719 rbi’s from 1908-1920, mostly with the Phillies; Pittsburgh Pirates righty Ray Kremer (1893), with his 143-85 mark in the Steel City from 1924-1933; Jim Lemon (1928); Lee May (1943), an excellent hitter for the Orioles who is often the subject of Ken Singleton stories while he broadcasts Yankee games; Bo Diaz (1953), a good-hitting catcher for the Indians and Reds who died tragically in a freak accident while trying to mount a satellite dish on his home; Mike Remlinger (1966); Joel Peralta (1976); Mark Buehrle (1979); Anderson Garcia (1981); Kansas City infielder Tony Pena (1981), the one of two current major leaguers who is not the son of like-named Yankee coach and long-time big-leagues catcher Tony Pena; Jon Link (1984); Art Warren (1993); and Isiah Kiner-Falefa (1995).
Players Born This Day