Filling in for the ineffective and injured Chien-Ming Wang, young righthander Phil Hughes got the win when the team battered Baltimore in the Bronx 11-4 on May 20, 2009. Another tradition survived the trip across 161st Street as all the predominantly white uniforms in the stands confirmed it was Fleet Week in New York. The big bat belonged to Robinson Cano, who had three hits with a homer, knocked in three runs, and scored two himself.
With the shoe on the other foot, so to speak, the Yanks fell 8-6 in the Stadium on May 20, 2010, to the Tampa Rays when the visitors outhomered them 4-1. Young Yankee DH Juan Miranda had his second round tripper in a week, but it wasn’t enough to match one homer each from Ben Zobrist and B.J. Upton and two from Carlos Pena.
The Yanks dropped the rubber game 5-2 against Cincinnati on May, 20, 2012, Bat Day in the Bronx. CC Sabathia blanked the Reds through six, but Ryan Ludwig homered in the seventh, then doubled off Rafael Soriano in the ninth, driving in three runs.
Doing something the club has often over the years, the Yankees struggled against the knuckleball in a 2-1 loss to R.A. Dickey and the Mets in Yankee Stadium on May 20, 2011. Freddy Garcia had one of his best starts, allowing just five hits and two runs in seven innings, with a Daniel Murphy sixth-inning home run the decisive blow. The Bombers scratched just four hits, including a Mark Teixeira homer, off Dickey over six frames, and no more safeties against the Flushing bullpen.
Eleven years passed between the two games in which Joe DiMaggio hit for the cycle, and he accomplished it for the second time on May 20, 1948. Not only did he single, double, triple, and homer in the 13-2 Yankee win over Chicago, he threw in an extra home run and almost another extra base hit, but he was robbed on a fine play by left fielder Ralph Hodgin.
With all the home runs from both sides of the plate, one can forget that Mickey Mantle was a good hitter aside from all the power. In a 1952 victory over the White Sox on this day, Mickey singled twice from each side of the plate, helping Johnny Sain post a 3-1 win.
The fact that the Yanks fell to Baltimore 12-2 in Yankee Stadium on May 20, 2008, may seem like bad enough news, but it gets worse. Righthander Mike Mussina failed to survive the first inning, and young reliever Ross Ohlendorf‘s stay with the Yanks took an unfortunate turn when he was thrust into the long-man role, going 3.3 innings this game. But worst of all was the hand injury Derek Jeter suffered when Daniel Cabrera hit him with a pitch in the third, an injury that would affect Jeter’s swing for some time. Finally, the games-left counter in Yankee Stadium was moved down from 61 to 60 by a MetLife VP, the first of a half dozen times this would happen in the most famed baseball stadium on the planet.
Actually, there was one highlight to that 12-2 drubbing by the Orioles, as third baseman Alex Rodriguez, just activated from the Disabled List that day, homered for the Yanks’ two runs. The team optioned righthander Chris Britton to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make roster room.
There was some good news in Yankee camp just when it was needed, when on May 20, 2007, the team purchased the contract of righthander Tyler Clippard from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to replace righty Darrell Rasner, placed on the 60-day disabled list once he suffered a first-inning fractured right index finger in a loss to the Mets in Shea Stadium the day before in a Yankee loss. Clippard took the mound in the ESPN Sunday night game and subdued the Mets 6-2.
But for whatever reason, May 20 has not generally been a kind day to the team that plays its home games in the Bronx. The best that can be said for the brawl-filled game the Yankees played against the Red Sox on May 20, 1976, for instance, is that they won the fight. Carl Yastrzemski‘s two homers gave him a record-tying five in two games and Boston belted the Yanks 8-2. The fight began when Lou Piniella tried to break up a play at the plate by barreling into Carlton Fisk, who was tagging him out after having received a throw from Dwight Evans. Both Piniella and Fisk came up swinging, and by the time the altercation came to a close, Red Sox hurler Bill “Spaceman” Lee had a shoulder injury from which he would never really recover.
Yankee Killer Frank Lary of the Tigers improved to an 18-5 mark against them as he and the Tigers knocked the Bombers into last place in a 13-6 drubbing on this day in 1959. One year later, Mickey Mantle‘s two-run jack in the ninth off Early Wynn was too little too late, as the White Sox beat the Yanks 5-3 on Ted Kluszewski‘s four rbi’s on May 20, 1960.
Righthander Hideki Irabu threw 15 of 30 first-pitch strikes and made 99 tosses before leaving in the seventh as the Yanks beat the Orioles 9-6 in the Stadium on May 20, 1998. A Bernie Williams walk, singles from Chuck Knoblauch and Tim Raines, Jorge Posada‘s double and a Derek Jeter triple (not in that order) plated four in the first and the Yanks never looked back. Four ninth-inning runs off Darren Holmes made the game appear much closer than it was.
The Cy Young Award winner from the year before bested the runner-up as Toronto’s Pat Hentgen beat Andy Pettitte and the Yanks 2-0 in Yankee Stadium on May 20, 1997. Tino Martinez‘s sixth-inning miscue led to the first run that broke up a pitcher’s duel.
It was a bullpen collapse that doomed the Yanks on this day in 1925, as the home-standing Indians scored six in the bottom of the ninth to squeak by the Yanks 10-9. Tris Speaker tallied the winner by scoring all the way from first on a single.
On May 20, 2002, the Yanks beat the Blue Jays 6-3 behind some old friends. Sterling Hitchcock left after walking Shannon Stewart to lead off the fifth, but Ramiro Mendoza retired nine of 10 batters, and Mike Stanton closed it out by allowing a harmless single in two frames. Bernie Williams and Robin Ventura homered. Mr. Stanton made a brief and unsuccessful return to the fold in ’05, while Mendoza signed on in a minor-league capacity after a brief injury-riddled stint in Boston. He has not made it back.
The most memorable feature of the now replaced Tiger Stadium was perhaps the deep, deep center field wall. Mickey Mantle reached the seats there with a tremendous homer on May 20, 1967, but it was not enough as Denny McLain beat the Yanks 3-1.
The Pinstripers fell into last place on May 20, 1940, as they managed but three hits off Cleveland’s Al Smith in a 10-2 loss.
Mickey Mantle‘s drive in the gap in Chicago on May 20, 1958 in a 5-1 win went for his second (of three) inside-the-park home runs of the year. Mickey’s career total of six is a Yankee record.
And possibly the worst of many bad May 20′s for the Yankees happened in 1945 as they lost both ends of a double dip in St. Louis, 10-1 and 5-2. The day was a showcase for one-armed Browns outfielder Pete Gray, who had four hits, scored twice, drove in two, and handled nine chances in the outfield.
When Cy Williams of the Phillies smacked three home runs and a triple in a 15-2 win over the Reds in the second of two on May 20, 1927, it gave him nine homers on the season, tying him with major league leaders Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in that offensive category.
A season that featured limited playing time for both players involved continued as Ruben Sierra was activated from the Disabled List on May 20, 2005, and Andy Phillips was sent to AAA Columbus.
On May 20, 2010, the Yankees transferred first baseman Nick Johnson from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list; placed catcher Jorge Posada on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 17, with a hairline fracture in his right foot; and optioned reliever Mark Melancon to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The club also recalled Kevin Russo from AAA.
Athletics catcher Buddy Rosar‘s errorless-game streak ended at 147 when he dropped a pop in an 11-1 loss to the Browns on this day in 1947. Yogi Berra would improve that record streak by one game a decade later, as he went 148 games from 1957-1959.
On May 20, 1913, the Yankees acquired 22-year-old shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh from the Indians in exchange for two players.
The suspensions handed to Babe Ruth and Bob Meusel on October 16, 1921, by Commissioner Landis were lifted in time for them to play on May 20, 1922, but to no avail. Both went hitless in an 8-2 loss to the Browns.
Roger Clemens earned his first major-league win on this day in 1984 for the Red Sox. He recorded seven strike outs in a 5-4 win over the Twins.
One year earlier, Steve Carlton passed Walter Johnson in the career strike out race. His 3,511 left him only 10 short of leader Nolan Ryan, but from that point on, Mr. Ryan opened a big lead for sole possession of second place all-time.
A former Red Sox reliever who pitched to very little success with the Yanks in 2005, Alan Embree, toeing the mound for the Giants on May 20, 2001, became the first pitcher since 1963 to surrender four home runs in one inning.
One more May 20 item involving a future or former Yankee player was turned in by Robin Ventura, who became the first player in history to hit a grand slam in both games of the same doubleheader on May 20, 1999. Sparking a Mets sweep of both ends vs. the Brewers (11-10, 10-1), Ventura managed another first, becoming the first player to hit two grand slams in the same day on two separate occasions. Also in this category, eventual Yankee starter Al Downing shut out Houston 3-0 on two hits pitching for the Dodgers on May 20, 1972. The amazing thing is that the game took just one hour and 30 minutes to complete.
Players Who Have Died This Day
Catcher Pat Collins (1960) is the only Yankee player to have died on May 20. Pat hit 20 long balls good for 85 runs driven in during 264 games he played for the Yanks in 1926-1928. With a 1919-1924 stint with the Browns and 1929 with the Braves added in, his numbers grow to 33 home runs with 168 rbi’s.
Two nonYankee noteworthy players who have died this day: Outfielder Fred Schulte (1983) hit 57 homers and drove in 593 runs playing for the Browns, the Senators, and the Pirates from 1927-1937; and lefty-hitting infielder Pete Runnels (1991) reached 49 fences and drove in 630 runs from 1951-1964 with the Senators, the Red Sox, and the Houston Colt-45′s.
Players Born This Day
Of an impressive group of Yankee May 20 birthdayers, Bobby Murcer (1946); and David Wells (1963), comprise the most modern Yanks. Murcer is still much beloved in the Bronx and he did broadcasts for the Yankee network until he died in 2008, but he also provides a link to the glory days, as he was once regarded as the heir apparent to Mickey Mantle in center field. Bobby stroked 175 homers with 687 rbi’s over two tours of duty with the Yanks, the first of which came to an end when he was traded to the Giants for Bobby Bonds in October 1974. Happily (for all involved) the Yanks reacquired him from the Chicago Cubs in June 1979 for minor-leaguer Paul Semall. Yankee land was aghast and concerned when Murcer went under the knife for a brain tumor before the 2007 season. We are lucky to have seen him again in the Bronx before he succumbed.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Yankee performance of “Boomer,” as Mr. Wells is referred to affectionately by his fans, is that he posted a 34-14 record in each of his two-year stints in the Bronx. Although he originally arrived as as a free agent on Christmas Eve in 1996, he was in effect traded for Jimmy Key, who signed with the Orioles before David signed with the Yanks. Wells’s first tour ended in February 1999, when he was traded with Homer Bush and Graeme Lloyd to Toronto for Roger Clemens. He returned for the 2002 campaign as a free agent, and signed with the Padres in that capacity in 2004. He toed the mound for the rival Boston Red Sox in 2005-2006, and is now back in San Diego hoping to get a job.
Outfielder Jimmy Lyttle (1946) and righthander Tom Morgan (1930) will be familiar to more experienced Yankee fans. Lyttle contributed four homers with 25 rbi’s and four steals in a backup capacity for the ’69-’71 teams once he was drafted in the first round of the 1966 amateur draft. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Rich Hinton in October 1971, and then increased his career numbers to nine dingers with 70 rbi’s. Morgan recorded a fine 38-22 mark with 26 saves for the Yanks from 1951-1956, and continued to pitch in the AL through the 1963 season with Kansas City, Detroit, Washington, and LA. He left the Yanks in a blockbuster deal in February 1957 that saw him go to the Athletics along with Rip Coleman, Milt Graff, Billy Hunter, Mickey McDermott, Jack Urban, and Irv Noren for Art Ditmar, Bobby Shantz, Jack McMahan, and Wayne Belardi. Curt Roberts and Clete Boyer would arrive in the Bronx later to complete the trade. Morgan has career numbers to be proud of, with 67 wins to go with 47 losses and 64 saves as well.
Delving deeper into Yankee history, we find utility player Joe Harris (1891), who got his start with the 1914 Yanks, but played most of his ball with Cleveland and Boston. He went 0-for-1 at the plate in two games in New York. Also righthander Wilcy Moore (1897) spent five Yankee years after he was acquired from the Boston Red Sox for Gordon Rhodes in May 1932. He is yet another player whose numbers cause Yankee fans to smile, as he went 15-33 in Boston, but improved to 36-21 with the Yankees. And poor Pete Appleton (1904) had a decent career with the Reds, the Indians, the Senators, and White Sox, but is on the books with the ’33 Yanks as having thrown to an earned run average of infinity in limited appearances.
The two games southpaw Jess Buckles (1890) pitched for the 1916 Yankees were his only two, to no record. But that doubled the experience of righty Walter Bernhardt (1893), whose only big league appearance came with the 1918 Yanks. Lefty-hitting first baseman Dave McDonald (1943), a 1962 amateur free agent signing, knocked in two runs in nine games for the 1969 club. He was traded in May 1970 to the Montreal Expos for Gary Waslewski. And finally, righty Jake Thielman (1879) never played for the Yanks, but the Red Sox purchased him from the Highlanders in August 1908. He won 30 while losing 28 with St. Louis, Cleveland, and Boston from 1905-1908.
Austin Kearns (1980) joined the Yankee May 20 birthday list in late 2010 but, given the chance to play a key role on a playoff team, struggled mightily, stroking just two home runs good for seven rbi’s in 36 games once the Bombers acquired him from Cleveland for Zach McAllister that August. Playing for Cincinnati, Washington, the Yanks, and Cleveland since 2002, the right-handed outfielder has hit more than 100 home runs and driven in almost 500.
Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser leads the gang of other May 20 birthdays. Japanese home run hitter Sadahara Oh (1940) also makes the list; as do Cardinal third baseman (and Clete’s brother) Ken Boyer (1931), Mel’s son Todd Stottlemyre (1965); Ramon Hernandez (1976); Wilson Valdez (1978); Jayson Werth (1979), stepson of former Yankee Dennis Werth; and Adam Rosales (1983).