We felt privileged and lucky to be in Tampa on March 8, 1999, when we heard the sad news that Joe DiMaggio had passed on. Had we been home when we heard it, we would have had nowhere to turn, as the Ballpark in the Bronx was not up to speed yet. Things were handled in a pretty dignified manner at Legends Field, and a painting of Joe was placed in front of his number and plaque in the southern wing, if you will, of Monument Park. It made it easier to spend a moment honoring and remembering “the Greatest Living Ballplayer.”
In a nicely pitched game on a fantastically beautiful day, the Yanks outlasted the Nationals in Steinbrenner Field 3-2 on March 8, 2015. Once Michael Taylor homered on Adam Warren‘s very first pitch leading off the first, the Yankees shut down the visitors with some electric pitching from Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Luis Severino, and James Pazos, though of course the Nats batters were far from in midseason form. A Cole Figueroa single in the bottom of the eighth scored the game winner.
Nick Swisher‘s three rbi’s on consecutive-inning doubles, the second of which drove ex-Yank Jose Contreras from the mound, highlighted the Yanks’ Grapefruit League 7-5 victory over the Phillies in George M. Steinbrenner Field on March 8, 2010. Jorge Posada reached and scored twice, and new Yanks Jimmy Paredes and David Adams had rbi hits in the four-run fifth inning. Kevin Russo doubled, singled, walked, and scored a run. Righty Amaury Sanit came on for a fourth inning strike out of Jimmy Rollins to extricate the Bombers from the Phils’ two-run uprising.
It is one of the best-remembered quotes from Babe Ruth in his storied baseball career. After he was signed to a two-year $160,000 contract on March 8, 1930, it was pointed out to him that he would be earning more money than the President. “I had a better year than he did,” the burly slugger replied. The contract had the wily Yankee Business Manager Ed Barrow utter one of his very few shortsighted pronouncements: “No one will ever be paid more than Ruth.”
The Bombers traded valuable infield backup Andy Fox from the ’96 Return-to-Glory team to the D’backs on March 8, 1998, for pitchers Marty Janzen and Todd Erdos. Erdos spent some time in the back end of the Yankee pen (no record and one save in 20 relief outings). Janzen, on the other hand, had at one time been a “can’t miss” Yankee prospect who was traded to Toronto in ’95 for David Cone. Sadly, his promise had borne no fruit, and this return to the Bronx brought no magic either.
On March 8, 2016, the Yankees signed free agent lefthander Preston Jamison to a minor league contract.
On March 8, 2015, outfielder Ben Gamel was assigned to the Yankees.
The Yanks took care of some “minor” stuff by assigning right-handed pitchers Lance Pendleton and Eric Wordekemper; second basemen Jimmy Paredes, Justin Snyder, Damon Sublett, and David Adams, outfielders Austin Krum and Daniel Brewer; and catcher Mitch Abeita to the team on March 8, 2010.
The Yankees reassigned righthanders Steven Jackson, Daniel McCutchen, and Mark Melancon to Minor League camp on March 8, 2008 and optioned righty Steven White to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as well.
It took a willingness by the Special Veterans Committee to waive the rules, but the verbally challenged but charmed and charming ex-Yankee Manager Casey Stengel was inducted into the Hall of Fame on March 8, 1966, after having retired from the helm of the crosstown Mets.
Once the Dodgers blanked the Yankees 1-0 in Havana in 10 innings on March 8, 1947, Brooklyn Manager Leo Durocher complained to sportswriters that mob figures had attended the game, something that would get a player in deep trouble, but apparently not owners or management, the angry field boss (who got his start in the Yankee infield) grumbled. When approached on the matter, Dodger GM Larry MacPhail snapped at the reporters.
The other day we reported that the Yanks had picked up veteran first baseman George Burns from Detroit in 1918. They turned around and traded him to the A’s for outfielder Ping Bodie on March 8. Bodie would hit 16 homers with 196 rbi’s while finishing his big-league career over the next three seasons.
Slated to a short and unsuccessful stint at second base for Yankees in 2005, Tony Womack makes the March 8 history by virtue of having sustained a right forearm fracture on this day in 1999. Hitting for the Diamondbacks in a spring game, Tony was hit by a pitch thrown by White Sox starter Jim Parque.
Prior to the 1999 season when it looked like the Yankees might lose center fielder Bernie Williams to free agency, Bombers skipper Joe Torre expressed confidence that he could manage irascible Cleveland slugger Albert Belle, should the Yanks sign him. Few knew just how fortunate the Yanks were that they and Williams came to an understanding. Belle signed with the Orioles on March 8, 2001, but eventually Baltimore announced that he could no longer play due to a degenerative hip condition.
The only actually successful challenge to the monopoly the American and National Leagues in baseball have enjoyed since the AL joined the senior circuit at the turn of the 20th Century was the Federal League, which was organized with six teams on March 8, 1913. It would flourish with eight teams in 1914 and 1915, and many of its players would be absorbed into the other two when it was disbanded.
Cleveland Indian rookie Joe Charboneau was stabbed by a pen-wielding crazed fan on March 8, 1980, during a three-game series the Tribe would play south of the border with the Mexico City Reds. Charboneau would miss some time but recover to win that season’s AL Rookie of the Year Award.
As mentioned above, the Yankee world suffered the loss of Joe DiMaggio on March 8, 1999. Joe smacked 361 home runs with 1,537 rbi’s playing for the Yankees from 1936-1951, clearing lots of fences despite playing in a home ballpark where home runs to left center were virtually unhittable. The only other Yankee player to have passed this day is quite on the other end of the spectrum in terms of success and length of career: Two of the 17 career games in which lefty hitter Ted Sepowski (2002) took part were played in finishing his career with the 1947 Yankees; although Ted had no official at bats and is not listed with a position, he did score one run. Ted knocked in one run with Clevleand in 15 games.
There are four other players of note on the day’s death list: Lefty-hitting (though righty-throwing) hurler Scott Stratton (1939) posted a 97-114-1 record, mostly with the Colonels from 1888-1895; most of catcher Al Todd‘s (1985) 35 home runs with 366 rbi’s from 1932-1943 came with the Phillies, the Pirates, and the Cubs; and lefty-hitting outfielder Bill Nicholson (1996) sandwiched a long stint with the Cubs between a brief stay with the A’s in Philly and a longer one with the Phillies to hit 235 long balls with 948 rbi’s between 1936 and 1953. And third baseman John Vukovich (2007) hit but six home runs with 44 rbi’s mostly for the Phillies from 1970-1981, but he makes the list because of his long service in the City of Brotherly Love as a coach.
Players Who Have Died This Day
Starters Jim Bouton (1939) and Bob Grim (1930) are the most noteworthy Yankees celebrating birthdays today. Jim went 54-51 in the Bronx, highlighted by a 21-7 mark in 1963; Bob posted a great 45-21 mark from ’54-’58. Bouton was signed by the Yankees as an amateur free agent before the 1959 season, and was sold to the Seattle Pilots in 1968. He is probably more famous for having written his behind-the-scenes best-selling book, Ball Four, pretty tame by today’s standards, but quite the sensation when it hit the bookstores. Grim was also an amateur free agent signing, in 1948, and was traded with Harry Simpson to Kansas City for Duke Maas and Virgil Trucks 10 years later. Grim’s overall record in the bigs was 61-41 with 37 saves. Bouton’s career mark: 62-63, with six saves.
Lesser Yankee birthday celebrants include backup catcher Mark Salas (1961), who hit .200 in the Bronx in June 1987 after being acquired from the Twins for Joe Niekro. Then Mark, in turn, was packaged with Dan Pasqua and Steve Rosenberg to the White Sox for Richard Dotson and Scott Nielsen after that season.
Reliever Lance McCullers (1964) notched a 5-3 win-loss record with three saves with New York in 1989 and 1990. He arrived from the San Diego Padres with Stan Jefferson and Jimmy Jones in an October 1988 trade for Jack Clark and Pat Clements, and was shipped with Clay Parker to the Detroit Tigers for Matt Nokes in June 1990.
And finally, lefty Ray Francis (1893) posted no record in four games with the Yanks in 1925 after a year with Washington and one with Detroit. The Bombers traded him with cash to the Red Sox for Bobby Veach and Alex Ferguson in May 1925.
Other March 8 baseball birthdays: Al Gionfriddo (1922); outfielder Carl Furillo (1922), with 192 homers, 1,058 rbi’s, and 48 steals in his career; Dick Allen (1942), who went yard 351 times with 1,119 rbi’s from 1963-1977; Jim Rice (1953) with power numbers some think merit the Hall: 382 taters, 1,451 rbi’s; Justin Thompson (1973); Ryan Freel (1976), who sadly took his own life in 2012; Juan Encarnacion (1976); Craig Stansberry (1982); Mark Worrell (1983); Chris Lambert (1983); Tommy Pham (1988); and Rafael Bautista (1993).
Players Born This Day