Culminating an insane major league schedule prepared, one assumes, by “professionals” who have never seen a map or a thermometer, the Yanks celebrated 2011 Opening Day in the Bronx on March 31, the first of 20 games played in a frigid, wet stadium before May 1. Recent Yankee retiree Mike Mussina threw out the ceremonial first pitch to one-year-from-retirement Jorge Posada. Behind Mark Teixeira‘s three-run bomb, the Yanks tied the Tigers through six with staff aces CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander pitching, and Curtis Granderson greeted ex-Yank lefty Phil Coke with a leadoff seventh-inning home run that led the way to the 6-3 hometown win.
In the first of two consecutive Opening Day games played outside the United States, Roger Clemens rode a two-run Robin Ventura bomb and an Alfonso Soriano grand slam to an 8-4 Yankee winner in Toronto on March 31, 2003, but the big (and bad) news on the day was that Derek Jeter suffered a badly damaged shoulder in a collision with the knee pads of Blue Jays catcher Ken Huckaby at third base. The Yankee Captain would spend six weeks on the shelf.
Mike Mussina threw just 72 pitches over seven frames in beating the Tampa (still Devil, at the time) Rays 2-1 as the exhibition season ended on March 31, 2005.
On March 31, 2017, the Yankees optioned righthanders Chad Green and Ben Heller, and catcher Kyle Higashioka, to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
On March 31, 2016, righthander Dillon McNamara and lefthander James Reeves were assigned to the Yankees.
On March 31, 2015, outfielder Collin Slaybaugh and righthanded pitcher Kyle Haynes were assigned to the Yankees.
Infielder Andy Phillips was optioned to AAA Columbus on March 31, 2005. Phillips is battling to stick in 2008, but with the Cincinnati Reds, not the Yanks, who released him.
Recent Yankee starter Randy Johnson struck out 14 White Sox players in an at-the-time earliest ever Opening Day Game, a 3-2 Mariners win over Chicago in 12 innings on March 31, 1996.
The Yanks got a win in Tokyo and evened their season record at 1-1 with a 12-1 demolition of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on March 31, 2004. Two-run bombs from Tony Clark and hometown hero Hideki Matsui, followed by the first of two Jorge Posada singleton jacks, staked Kevin Brown to a 6-1 lead.
The March 31, 1971, Mets trade of outfielder and World Series hero Ron Swoboda with infielder Rich Hacker to Montreal for outfielder Don Hahn turned out to be an intermediate step for Swoboda. Three months later, the Yanks would pick him up in exchange for Ron Woods, also an outfielder. Swoboda would manage four homers and 34 rbi’s in his career swan song with the Bombers.
It wasn’t real Yankees that helped open Coors Field on March 31, 1995. The team that lost to the Rockies, 4-1, in an exhibition game that day was made up entirely of replacement players.
Eventual one-time Marlins and Mets closer Braden Looper struck out the side in his debut on March 31, 1998, pitching in his rookie year for the Cards vs. the Dodgers, whiffing former Yanks Todd Zeile and Raul Mondesi, followed by Paul Konerko. Looper went 12-12 as his first year as a starter for St. Louis in 2007.
Timing played a part in the career of recently retired Houston catcher, then second baseman, Craig Biggio, who switched to center field in 2003. On the same 1998 day when Looper struck out the side in his debut, Craig bounced into a double play in his second at bat in a game against the Giants. Biggio had become only the third player in major league history to play an entire season without hitting into a twin killing the year before.
March 31, 2013, was a disabling day for the Yankees, who placed righthander Phil Hughes on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22, with a bulging disc in his upper spine; shortstop Derek Jeter on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22, with a tender left ankle; center fielder Curtis Granderson on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22, with a fractured right forearm; and first baseman Mark Teixeira on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22, with a tendon sheath injury in his right wrist. The team then designated lefthander Clay Rapada for assignment; and paid note as Cleveland did the same with lefty David Huff, who would shortly be brought to the Bronx. The club’s final move of the preseason was selecting the contract of first baseman Lyle Overbay from the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders to take Teixeira’s place on the major league team.
On March 31, 2012, righthanded pitchers Pedro Guerra and Preston Claiborne; lefty Francisco Rondon; and second baseman Anderson Feliz were assigned to the Yankees.
There are a host of news items affecting future and former Yankee players March 31, none more eventful than the four that took place that day in 1998. Wade Boggs hit the first home run in Tampa Bay history in an 11-6 loss to the Tigers; while Travis Lee and Karim Garcia homers provided all the offense in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ premiere in their 9-2 loss to Colorado. Meanwhile pinch-hitter Alberto Castillo drove in the game-winner as the Mets bested the Phillies, 1-0, in 14 for the longest Opening Day game in history; and Bob Wickman took the loss in Milwaukee’s first-ever National League game in a 2-1 loss to the Braves.
Further action involving former and future Yanks includes two trades involving starting pitcher Mark Clark. The Mets swapped one-time Yankee outfielder Ryan Thompson and Reid Cornelius to the Indians for Clark on this day in 1996, three years after the Cardinals sent him to Cleveland in a trade for Mark Whiten. In further moves, the Senators shipped prospect Lou Piniella to the Orioles for Buster Narum in 1964; and both outfielder Gene Woodling and pitcher Bud Daley were sent with Dick Williams to the Orioles for outfielder Larry Doby and lefty Don Ferrarese of the Indians on March 31, 1958. Woodling had already played four-plus years in the Bronx, while Daley would win 18 in Pinstripes in finishing his big-league play with the 1961-1964 Bronx Bombers. Lastly in this category, Bill White, among the Yankee family as a broadcaster but not as a player, resigned as President of the National League on this day in 1993.
We have a quite short list of noteworthy players who have died on March 31, four actually, one of them Yankees. Switch-hitting catcher Ken Silvestri (1992) hit one long ball with 12 rbi’s serving on the Yankees in 1941, and 1946-1947. Ken played two years with the White Sox before and three with the Phillies afterward, for overall numbers of five and 25. Another guy who hit one home run in pinstripes (with 20 rbi’s, in 481 at bats), shortstop Ruben Amaro (2017) played 191 games for the Yanks from 1966 through 1968, after having played for the Phillies from 1960 to 1965. One year for St. Louis earlier, and one with Anaheim after his New York stay brought his overall numbers to eight long balls and 156 runs driven in.
Righthander Grover Lowdermilk (1968) pitched four years of his 11-season career between 1909-1920 with the Browns. He won 23 and lost 39. And lefty-hitting outfielder and utility player Tex McDonald (1943) hit 13 home runs with 135 rbi’s with the Reds and the Buffeds of the Federal League between 1912 and 1915. And most recent, lefty-hitting, righty-throwing outfielder Jerry Lynch hit 115 long balls and drove in 470 runs playing for the Pirates and the Reds from 1954 to 1966.
Players Who Have Died This Day
I’m sure I speak for all Yankee fans when I say that in the coming years we hoped that 2005 rookie starting pitcher Chien-Ming Wang (1980) would go on to earn first mention among Pinstriped birthdayers born March 31. Wang was a big star earlier in life playing for a Champion Taiwan team in the Little League World Series. He posted an 8-5 mark with the Yanks in 2005, and won 19 games in both 2006 and 2007. He did have a difficult time in the 2007 postseason though, but rebounded in a fine 2008 season that was abruptly ended by a foot injury at 8-2. Wang did not recover sufficiently from that injury to remain with the Yanks after a tough early 2009 campaign, and the young Taiwanese righty, who signed a free agent deal with the Yanks in May 2000, signed on with Washington Nationals for 2010. Chien-Ming recovered enough to go 4-3 in 11 starts with the Nationals in 2011, but he struggled in 2012 after signing another fee agent contract with that club. He helped his chances of getting future mlb work off stellar work leading the Taipei team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, and the Yanks signed him to a free agent contract briefly, but it did not work out. Chien-Ming went 6-0 in 38 games for the KC Royals in 2016.
Counting loosely, there are four more Yankee players born March 31. Righty Tom Sheehan (1894) went 1-0 in 10 games for the 1921 Yanks, and we’ll take it from a guy whose six-season career mark was 17-39 with five saves. Sheehan also managed the 1960 San Francisco Giants to a fifth-place finish.
Switch-hitting second baseman Frank Truesdale (1884) drove in 18 runs and stole 11 bases in 77 games with the 1914 team. He finished up in Boston in 1918. And lefthander Ernie Ross (1880) enjoyed his two-game big-league career with the 1902 Baltimore Orioles, the franchise that was to fold and be shifted to New York (as the Highlanders, later the Yankees) the following season. Ross went 1-1 in the two games, and we listed him three days ago as a player who died on March 28 (1950).
Righty Balvino Galvez (1964) is the fourth birthdaying player with the team all-time, based on his March 1989 trade from the Twins to the Yankees for Steve Shields, although his only big-league service resulted in an 0-1 mark for the 1986 Dodgers. He had arrived in Minnesota the year before in a trade for current Oakland GM Billy Beane.
Lefthander Charlie Manning (1979), who was a Yankee free agent selection in June 2001, never played for the Yanks but he posted a 1-3 record with the 2008 Washington Nationals. From the Bronx, Manning was traded with Brandon Claussen to the Reds for Aaron Boone in 2003, then back to the Yankees for Gabe White in 2004.
The first non-Yankee March 31 birthday we’ll discuss belongs to a man born in the Bronx although he never played there. Moose Stubing (1938) may hold the record for all-around baseball futility. As a player he went 0-for-5 at the plate for the 1967 Angels with four strike outs; as the Angels manager filling in for the fired Cookie Rojas in 1988, he recorded an 0-8 win/loss record. Also, Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Carson Bigbee (1895), who smacked 17 homers with 324 rbi’s in the Steel City from 1916-1926; Dave Koslo (1920); Tom Hausman (1953); Ryan Rupe (1975); Josh Kinney (1979); and Jeff Mathis (1983); Peter Bourjos (1987); Josmil Pinto (1989); Alfredo Marte (1989); Ryan Cordell (1992); Ty Buttrey (1993); and Ryan Borucki (1994).
Players Born This Day