The superb Masahiro Tanaka shook off a first-inning unearned run and allowed just four singles while going eight innings in a 3-1 victory over the Twins in Yankee Stadium on May 31, 2014. He retired 10 Minnesota batters on strikes and 10 on ground balls, and probably would have pitched a complete game had rain not caused a delay in the bottom of the eighth. The Yankee runs scored on a Yangervis Solarte home run and eighth-inning, rbi singles by Brian McCann and Kelly Johnson.
Putting aside four straight ugly losses to the Mets, the Yankees beat the visiting Red Sox 4-1 in the Stadium on May 31, 2013. Most fans would be hard pressed to recall this now (because it sadly did not last), but the team welcomed Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis back from the DL for this one; between them they had four strike outs, one hit, one walk, one run scored, and one rbi. CC Sabathia pitched into the eighth for the win, and Ichiro Suzuki reached base three times and scored twice.
Don’t be fooled by the 11-2 final score the Yanks posted over the Indians in Yankee Stadium on May 31, 2010; this was a nail biter. Andy Pettitte had a 2-1 lead over Mitch Talbot until the Yanks ended all drama with a six-run seventh, and three-run eighth. Alex Rodriguez had six rbi’s on a grand slam, double, and single, and Robinson Cano drove in three, with Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and Nick Swisher scoring two runs each.
It was difficult for Yankee fans in the early to mid-70s to believe that the team was finally emerging from the last-place and then non-contending doldrums it had entered in the latter half of the sixties, until they saw some encouraging “signs,” as in the signing of free agent Catfish Hunter. Jim one-hit the Texas Rangers and the Yankees prevailed 6-0 on May 31, 1975, with Cesar Tovar getting the only Texas safety.
Had I made the Billy Crystal movie, *61, I might have titled it The M&M Boys, which is more in line with my recollection of that year. Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris both went yard on May 31, 1961, in a 7-6 win over the Red Sox.
A 4-1 victory over Boston on May 31, 1907, was highlighted by two thefts of home by Kid Elberfeld of the visiting New York Highlanders (Yankees). Kid stole on his own in the sixth, and then on the front end of a double steal with Hal Chase one frame later.
It was bad enough that Andy Pettitte suddenly couldn’t get anyone out in the third inning of a game vs. Boston on May 31, 1998, leaving with six across and two outs. But reliever Darren Holmes threw gas on the fire, as he failed to record the third out until five more Red Sox players reached safely, and 11 had scored. The Yanks fell 13-7.
The only A’s highlight of a doubleheader loss to the Yanks on this day in 1927 was future Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx‘s first major league home run, off Yankee Urban Shocker in Game Two. Lou Gehrig doubled, tripled, and homered in the Yankee 10-3 victory in Game One, and singled twice in the second contest, taken by the Bombers 18-5. Babe Ruth homered in both, and Tony Lazzeri and Mark Koenig joined him in the nightcap.
Red Sox fans will tell you that former Yankee Tony Clark‘s 2002 stint in Boston was a total bust, and it is true that he did not hit well, but the difference in a 5-2 Red Sox victory in the Bronx on May 31 of that year was Tony’s three-run bomb to left off Yankee lefty Mike Stanton.
Perhaps George Steinbrenner used to pick on his team’s coaches so often because he learned early that railing against umpires is just too much trouble. AL President Lee MacPhail suspended him for a week on May 31, 1983, for “repeated problems” in criticizing umpire performance.
The Yanks’ doubleheader sweep of the Senators on this day in 1948 starred a few guys we rarely mention. Spec Shea won on a two-hitter in the opener (10-0), behind homers by Tommy Henrich and George McGuinn, who appeared just two days ago on the May 29 list of Yankee birthdays. Red Embree won Game Two (5-4), as Bobby Brown had seven straight hits on the day.
Nothing went right for Orlando “el duque” Hernandez in a May 31 game against the Cleveland Indians in Yankee Stadium in 1999. In the first two innings he gave up little hits (three singles), big blasts (home runs by Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome), walked three, and even made an error as the Yanks fell behind 8-0. They avoided the shutout on Derek Jeter‘s third-inning triple, but the Tribe cashed in the 8-1 win.
Moose Skowron‘s three-run dinger and Bob Turley‘s two-hitter shut down the Senators 3-0 on May 31, 1959. A 438-foot blast by Mickey Mantle was flagged down by center fielder Bob Allison.
Jimmie Foxx‘s grand slam home run might have been a louder hit than Lou Gehrig‘s rbi single on May 31, 1938, but Lou was playing in his 2,000th consecutive game, and his Yanks blasted the Red Sox 12-5 that day. The salami was the first of three Foxx would hit off Joe Beggs that year.
Al Unser‘s only 1944 home run was a pinch-hit, two-out, bottom-of-the-ninth grand slam homer off Walt Dubiel that carried the Tigers to a 6-2 win over the Yankees on May 31, 1944. Unser was batting in place of Joe Hoover.
The 29-game hitting streak fashioned by Yankee center fielder Earle Combs came to an end on May 31, 1931, but the Yanks prevailed 4-2 in a rain-shortened ballgame over the Senators.
On May 31, 2017, the Yankees recalled righthander Giovanny Gallegos from the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders; and optioned fellow righty Bryan Mitchell to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
On May 31, 2015, the Yankees optioned righthander Chris Martin to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders; the club also sent shortstop Brendan Ryan on a rehab assignment to the Tampa Yankees.
As alluded to above, the Yankees activated Kevin Youkilis and Mark Teixeira from the disabled list on May 31, 2013, the 15-day list for Kevin, the 60-day one for Tex. Room was created on the roster by optioning southpaw Vidal Nuno and righty Ivan Nova to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. The club also sent lefty David Huff outright to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
On May 31, 2012, the Yankees signed free agent righthanders Joaquin Acuna, Freddery Arias, Brayan Alcantara, Luis Severino, Dallas Martinez and Rafael Ordaz; lefthander Havid Burgos; catcher Jesus Aparicio; and shortstop Allen Valerio.
Yankee Manager Frank Chance shipped Hal Chase to the White Sox for infielder Rollie Zeider and first baseman Babe Borton on this day in 1913. “Prince Hal” Chase’s reputation for uneven play and dishonesty, prompting unproven suspicions that he threw games, would follow him throughout his career.
Two-sport star Deion Sanders made his New York Yankee debut on May 31, 1989, in Yankee Stadium a good one. He threw a Mariner out on the bases, drove in a run, and triggered a five-run, seventh-inning rally with a single. The Yanks won 9-5 behind Andy Hawkins over Steve Trout.
When the New York Giants’ record leveled to 43-11 after a 5-1 loss to the Cardinals on May 31, 1912, it was an early-season mark that would not be matched until the 1939 Yanks pulled it off.
When you consider that the 11 unassisted triple plays in major league history make it a more rare achievement than a Perfect Game, it is truly amazing that Detroit first baseman Johnny Neun recorded one on May 31, 1927, the day after Cubs shortstop Jimmy Cooney pulled the same trick against the Pirates. And Neun did his to end the game in a 1-0 Tigers win over the Indians.
The Yankees were delighted to get Paul Blair to patrol their center field in the late 70′s, as he was still one of the best at the position, but he wasn’t the hitter he had been when he was younger with the Orioles. This was a direct result of the pitch from California’s Ken Tatum that hit him in the face and gave him a broken nose and facial fractures in a 6-1 Orioles loss on May 31, 1970.
Hall of Famer Ty Cobb got a 35-game hitting streak started when he went 1-for-4 vs. Ray Caldwell in a Detroit 2-0 win over the Yanks on May 31, 1917.
Don Drysdale broke Walter Johnson‘s all-time consecutive-scoreless-inning streak in 1968 (later to be surpassed by Orel Hershiser). Don’s streak survived a scare on May 31, 1968, when umpire Harry Wendelstedt ruled that Dick Deitz, hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, should not take first base because he had made no attempt to avoid the pitch.
Years of erratic Albert Belle behavior made it to the radar screen of all baseball fans when they witnessed the vicious forearm he gave Brewers second baseman Fernando Vina in trying to break up a double play on this day in 1996, seen in high(low?)lights all around the country.
Noteworthy May 31 items involving future or former Yankee players start with the 13-3 Toronto romp over Oakland in 1997 that made Roger Clemens, at 10-0, the first double-digit winner in the AL that year. In the same category, when Montreal’s Scott Sanderson shut Philly out 1-0 on May 31, 1979, it completed a three-gamer where the Expos blanked the Phillies in three straight.
And one more highlight in an eventual Yankee’s career this day: When the Mets fired Joe Frazier as their manager on May 31, 1977, they replaced him with a guy manning third base, Joe Torre.
The 32 innings and elapsed time of nine hours, 50 minutes that it took the Mets to lose two to the Giants on May 31, 1964, are all-time doubleheader records, as are the 47 strikeouts between the two teams.
No Yankee players have died on May 31.
Our list of noteworthy nonYankee players to have passed this day includes a righthanded pitcher, a first baseman, two catchers, and a shortstop/second baseman. Righty Case Patten (1935), posted most of his 105-128-5 record from 1901-1908 with the Senators; and first sacker John Reilly (1937) hit all of his 69 home runs with 740 rbi’s from 1880-1891 with Cincinnati. Catcher Jimmie Wilson (1947) reached 32 fences good for 621 runs driven in from 1923-1940 mostly with the Phillies, the Cardinals, and the Reds; and lefty-hitting backstop Jake Early (1985) also hit 32 long balls, in his case leading to 264 rbi’s, from 1939-1949, mostly with the Senators. And shortstop/second baseman Jerry Adair (1987) hit 57 long balls and knocked in 366 runs from 1958-1970, mostly with Baltimore, but with the White Sox, the Red Sox, and the Royals as well.
Players Who Have Died This Day
When I compiled Yankee history for May 31 in 2003, technically long-time Orioles reliever Tippy Martinez (1950) was the only Yankee I found who was born today, as the lefty posted a 3-2 record with 10 saves in New York before he was traded to Baltimore in 1976. But Marty Janzen (1973), whose only major league action came with the Blue Jays, was a Yankee no. 1 pick. New York shipped Janzen to the Blue Jays for David Cone in July 1995 in a much better trade than the one in which Martinez was involved. The trade that sent Tippy south was a June 1976 blockbuster that sent Martinez, Rick Dempsey, Rudy May, Scott McGregor, and Dave Pagan to the Baltimore Orioles for Ken Holtzman, Doyle Alexander, Grant Jackson, Ellie Hendricks, and Jimmy Freeman. Although the Yanks would make three straight World Series appearances and win two of them, the trade stocked a Baltimore team that won two AL pennants and one Series the next seven years.
The 2004 season introduced one more player to the Yankee birthday club, center fielder Kenny Lofton (1967). In the league since 1991 just like Bernie Williams, the Bombers’ at-the-time other veteran center outfielder, the two started the 2004 season just seven apart in their career hit totals, as Lofton’s 1,943 stood at seven less than Williams’s 1,950. Lofton played for the Phillies in 2005 after hitting three home runs with 18 rbi’s and seven steals in New York in ’04. He has played with the Dodgers, the Rangers, and the Indians since, and and played his last big-league ball in 2007.
Taking the long and optimistic view, we’ll include righty reliever Andrew Bailey (1984) on the Yankee May 31 birthday list, in light of his being signed to a contract prior to the 2013 season. Recovering now from a serious arm injury, the Yanks apparently hope Andrew, who saved 75 games for Oakland from 2009-2011, will add strength to the back of the bullpen when he is healthy. With an 11-12 record and 89 saves now after two injury-plagued years in Boston, Bailey won the 2009 AL Rookie of the Year award. The Yankees released him at the end of 2015. He has since pitched 33 games for the Phillies and 16 games for the Angels in 2016 and 2017.
Other birthdays: Roy “Peaches” Davis (1905), 27-33 with 11 saves for the Reds from 1936-1939; Ray Washburn (1938), 72-64 with the Cardinals in the sixties; Joe Orsulak (1962); Dave Roberts (1972); Mac Suzuki (1975); Ray Olmedo (1981); Jake Peavy (1981); Matthew Bowman (1991); and Gerson Bautista (1995).
Players Born This Day