The greatest of events sometimes start off in the quietest ways. In a 13-1 hammering at the hands of the White Sox on May 15, 1941, Joe DiMaggio got a single in four trips against Ed Smith, but it was the first hit (and game) in Joe’s unprecedented (and unmatched) 56-game hitting streak.
You just knew that the day after the Yanks and White Sox breezed through a 140-minute game under pleasant conditions that the following May 15, 2016, contest under freezing temps and a cold, wet wind would go on forever, and so it did, approaching four hours before Aroldis Chapman saved the 7-5 pinstriped win. The visitors scored in four frames, the Yanks five, and the home team took the lead for good on a sixth-inning Carlos Beltran home run, the 400th of his marvelous career. Carlos also had a sac fly, Chase Headley had a big rbi pinch-hit double, and Brian McCann closed the scoring with an eighth-inning blast.
If you’ve been questioning my sanity since reading my May 4 report on the dazzling four-hitter Phil Hughes tossed that day in 2013, relax. Phil was more his ’13 self on May 15, a day when he failed to escape the first inning against the light-hitting Mariners. Oddly, a Raul Ibanez grand slam was the only homer Hughes surrendered, but the onslaught continued apace afterward, with a single, fielder’s choice, and rbi double finally driving him from the game. Vernon Wells and (seriously?) Chris Stewart home runs were the only Bomber scores, and two Yankees made their major-league debuts: David Adams, playing third, and righthander Brett Marshall, handed the thankless job of finishing the last six innings of this beast of a game. And he almost made it, giving up another five runs along the way, but needed last out help in the ninth. On his second tour of duty in pinstripes, infielder Alberto Gonzalez came on and retired Robert Andino on a fly ball to right.
Looking to capture the last of three vs. the visiting Red Sox after two losses, the Yanks reached ace John Lester for a 4-1 lead through two innings on Curtis Granderson and Andruw Jones home runs, but Freddy Garcia was not up to the task, giving up a three-run shot to Kevin Youkilis in the third and a solo bomb to David Ortiz two frames later. Jarod Saltalamacchia crowned the visitor counterattack with a homer in the eighth in the 7-5 Boston win.
In an exchange of one failed starter for another, the Yankees recalled righthander Ian Kennedy from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on May 15, 2008, optioning lefty Kei Igawa to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make room. And Kennedy actually had one of his better outings that day, losing 5-2 in Tampa while allowing just five hits in five innings. Unfortunately, two of the hits cleared the fence.
If you read here, you know that I never tire of sharing Mickey Mantle exploits. The Yanks won the first game of a twin bill, 8-4, vs. the A’s on this day in 1955, thanks to Irv Noren‘s inside-the-park grand slam. The New Yorkers had to settle for a split after losing the other contest, 4-3, even though Mickey went 4-for-9 on the day.
Then on May 15, 1963, No. 7 brought the Yanks from behind against Pedro Ramos of the Twins. Trailing 3-0, Mickey Mantle got the Yanks going with a two-run homer. Later, he scored the winning run as the Yanks prevailed, 4-3.
And finally, two years later on May 15, 1965, Mickey Mantle served an opposite-field dinger in Memorial Stadium off Dick Hall in a 3-2 Yankee win over the Orioles.
With Jason Giambi struggling mightily early in the 2005 season, Tino Martinez caught fire in May. On the 15th he homered his first two times up in a 6-4 win over the A’s in Oakland. It was Randy Johnson‘s 250th career victory, and it started a 10-game Yankee winning streak. The loss was Oakland’s eighth straight.
After having added him to the roster for a doubleheader the day before, the Yankees optioned first baseman Rob Refsnyder to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on May 15, 2017.
On May 15, 2014, the Yankees placed right fielder Carlos Beltran on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 13, with right elbow inflammation; and filled the spot by selecting the contract of righthander Chase Whitley from the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Then in as convoluted language as you can hope to find, the club activated righthander Bruce Billings from the 15-day disabled list, and sent him on a rehab assignment to the AA Trenton Thunder. They finally designated Billings for assignment.
It was a move that smacked of desperation and certainly one that fans thought would be of no consequence when the Yankees acquired righthander Tanyon Sturtze from the Los Angeles Dodgers for a player to be named on May 15, 2004. Minor league infielder Brian Myrow would be that player, but Sturtze excelled in long relief and spot starting to a 6-2, one-save season.
Responding to a big bullpen blow, the Yankees placed righty David Robertson on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 12, on May 15, 2012, with a left oblique strain. The team then recalled reliever Cody Eppley from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to fill the roster spot.
Struggling lefty reliever Sean Henn was optioned to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on May 15, 2007, as the Yanks purchased the contract of lefty Ron Villone to take his place. Room on the 40-man roster was cleared when righty Jose Veras was transferred from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list.
It was a bleak day in what would be a glorious season in New York when the Mariners stormed back from a 4-0 deficit and hammered Jimmy Key and most of the New York pen in a 10-5 win over the Yanks on May 15, 1996. Key, who had missed much of the previous season after arm surgery, was placed on the DL following his fifth straight loss. But he would return, rebound to a 12-11 season mark, and get the win in the Yanks’ Game Six deciding triumph in the World Series. In the May 15 tilt, Edgar Martinez led Seattle with four rbi’s, while Mariano Rivera extended his streak to 21.7 innings without allowing a run.
Second baseman Robinson Cano scored the Yanks’s first run and drove in their second, but it wasn’t enough as the Yanks fell 4-2 to Kevin Millwood and the Texas Rangers in a rainy Yankee Stadium on May 15, 2006.
Lou Gehrig stole home 15 times in his illustrious career, all of them as the front end of double steals. He last accomplished the feat on this day in 1935 in a 4-0 win over the Tigers.
On May 15, 2015, the Yankees placed righty Chase Whitley on the 15-day disabled list with a right elbow strain; and replaced him by recalling righthander Jose Ramirez from the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
As reported above in the May 15, 2014 game report, David Adams made his major-league debut with the Yankees on this same day, after having his contract selected from the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. The team designated infielder Chris Nelson for assignment to make room for Adams.
May 15 is the day of two Yankee “lowlights” featuring the legendary Ty Cobb. A disputed base hit (hit or error?) on a grounder to short by the irascible Tiger in a 6-1 Detroit win in Hilltop Park in 1922 resulted in his .401 season mark that year (rather than the .399 that would have resulted from an E-6). And Cobb would earn a suspension in the 1912, 8-4 Tigers win after he charged the stands and attacked a crippled fan.
Union Grounds, the sport’s first-ever baseball enclosure, opened on May 15, 1862, in Brooklyn, New York.
The Yankees took a misstep on May 15, 1996, when they outbid four other teams for Japanese hurler Katsuhiro Maeda, who not only never made it to the parent club, he didn’t appear in the bigs at all.
The Bombers sent two players to St. Louis on May 15, 1950, selling the contract of veteran outfielder Johnny Lindell to the Cardinals, and moving pitcher Clarence “Cuddles” Marshall to the Browns.
The Yanks parted ways with two other players on May 15. Outfielder Dusty Cooke, who had been dispatched to the minors the year before, was grabbed by the Red Sox in 1933, while the parent club in the Bronx sold hurler Russ Van Atta to the Giants in 1935.
We will start a slew of pitching achievements with Nolan Ryan‘s 12-strike out shutout over Kansas City on May 15, 1973 in the first of his seven career no-hitters.
In other May 15 no-hitters, Reds relief pitcher Clyde Shoun made a rare start on this day in 1944, and he made it count and squeaked out a 1-0 victory as he no-hit the Boston Braves. Reserve third baseman Chuck Alevo‘s only home run of the ’44 campaign accounted for the scoring. Virgil “Fire” Trucks was 33 when he no-hit the Tigers on May 15, 1952, also by a 1-0 score, winning on a two-out, ninth-inning home run off the bat of Vic Wertz. And one-time Mets hurler Don Cardwell no-hit the Cardinals as a Chicago Cub on this day in 1960. Finally, Claude Hendrix also threw a no-hit, no-run game on May 15, 1915, for the Federal League Chicago Whales over the Pittsburgh Rebels.
And all the feats in that impressive May 15 pitching streak were topped in 1981 as Indians pitcher Len Barker threw the ninth Perfect Game in major league history, a 3-0 victory over the Blue Jays.
In honor of recent Yankee first-base coach, now bench coach, we’ll report that Tony Pena was hired to manage the K.C. Royals on May 15, 2002. Also on May 15, two pitchers with Pinstripes on their resumes had big days with their bats two years apart. Rick Rhoden doubled and homered in a nine-run Pittsburgh third inning in their 12-9 win over the Reds in 1982. And Tim Lollar collected all four San Diego rbi’s when they fell 6-4 to the Braves on May 15, 1984. They were done in by light-hitting hurler Joaquin Andujar‘s grand slam. And in one last feat by a future Yankee player on May 15, Wee Willie Keeler drove the ball past startled Phillies left fielder Ed Delahanty for an inside-the-park grand slam in Brooklyn’s 8-5 win on May 15, 1899.
Lefty-hitting catcher Bill Drescher (1968) was the only Yankee player to have died on May 15 until recently. Drescher played only for New York, collecting 16 rbi’s with no home runs in 57 games in 1944 through 1946. He managed 37 hits in 139 at bats. Lefthander Bill Wight joined Drescher in 2007. He debuted by going 3-2 in 15 games (five starts) with the 1946-1947 team. He pitched a long time though, finishing with a 77-99 record and eight saves in 1958 after throwing multiple seasons with the White Sox, Red Sox, Tigers, Indians, and Orioles. The most unique thing about lefthander Bob Kuzava‘s (2017) 1951-1954 stint in pinstripes is that he recorded all 13 of his career saves during those years. Pitching four years with New York, two years each for the Indians, Senators, White Sox, and Orioles, and one each with the Phillies, Pirates, and Cardinals between 1946 and 1957, Bob won 49 and lost 44. He started 99 of 213 games.
We’ll list infielder Patsy Tebeau (1918) first among three noteworthy nonYankee players to have died this day. Tebeau hit most of his 27 home runs with 735 rbi’s from 1887 through 1900 with Cleveland. Lefty-hitting outfielder Goose Goslin (1971) was a thorn in the Yankees’ side from 1921-1938, when he blasted 248 long balls and knocked in 1,609 runs with the Senators, the Tigers, and the Browns. And switch-hitting catcher Johnny Gooch (1975) hit most of his seven long balls good for 293 runs driven in from 1921-1930 and in 1933 with the Pirates.
Players Who Have Died This Day
The first of three Yankee May 15 birthdays belongs to a player familiar to all who have been following the Yanks during the just concluded Joe Torre era, Japanese pitcher Hideki Irabu. He arrived in New York in May 1997 in a deal that was actually agreed upon that April. The Padres sent Irabu, Homer Bush, and minor-leaguers Gordon Amerson and Vernon Maxwell to the Yankees for Rafael Medina, Ruben Rivera, and cash. Irabu posted a 29-20 record in New York while earning the wrath of owner George Steinbrenner, and was shipped to the Montreal Expos for pitchers Jake Westbrook, Ted Lilly, and Christian Parker in December 1999.
And C.B. Burns (1879) is listed with no position in the only big-league game he ever played. Because he stroked a hit in his only at bat in that game playing for the 1902 Baltimore Orioles, he is the rare player who goes down in history with a 1.000 batting average. And those Orioles, of course, are the franchise that moved to New York the following season and became the Highlanders, and eventually the Yankees.
Long hoped to come through as a prospect, infielder David Adams (1987) finally got his chance, and on his 26th birthday no less. Primarily a second baseman, David was pressed into action at third in 2014, had a few moments early, including one of his two home runs, but his play did not progress, his average plummeted, and it was not a good year. He ended up hitting .193, with the two long balls and 13 rbi’s in 44 games. He made just one error, but his defense was not very good. He was released, was signed by Cleveland, and then by Baltimore in March 2014, later by Miami, and lastly by Toronto, a team that released him in ’15.
Other May 15 birthdays: Hall of Famer and Yankee tormentor George Brett (1953) leads off here (even though he batted third and fourth for most of his career); Oakland A Billy North (1948); Steve Dunning (1949); Cleveland Indians hurler Rick Waits (1952), who beat the Yanks on the 1978 season’s last day to force the playoff game that featured Bucky Dent‘s homer over the Green Monster in Fenway; Braves former starter then closer and then starter again John Smoltz (1967), currently rehabbing on a contract with the Red Sox; A.J. Hinch (1974); Steve Woodard (1975); Eric Dubose (1976); Tyler Walker (1976); Josh Beckett (1980); Justin Morneau (1981); Rafael Perez (1982); Everett Teaford (1984); Jim Adduci (19[85); Brandon Barnes (1986); Brian Dozier (1987); Michael Brantley (1987); Rafael Ortega (1991); Trevor Richards (1993); and Alex Verdugo (1996).
Players Born This Day