October 23 in Yankee History

  • Jim Leyritz went yard off Mark Wohlers in what may have been the most famous game of the amazing, 13-year, in-the-playoffs string that just ended for the Yanks in 2008. The Yanks and Kenny Rogers fell behind the Braves early, 6-0, but The King’s shot capped the second three-run inning the Yanks posted to get even, and they scored two in the 10th for the 8-6 win. They won back-to-back games in Atlanta and evened a Series they had been given little chance to win, on October 23, 1996.
  • We were in desperate straits at a TV- and radio-less wedding reception on October 23, 1999, until I couldn’t stand it and made our apologies. El duque Hernandez was behind 1-0 even though he was throwing a one-hitter in Atlanta until we got home. But right then the Yanks busted through almost immediately for four in the eighth, to win the World Series opener over the Braves, 4-1.
  • Neither Dave Righetti nor Fernando Valenzuela distinguished themselves, but the Dodgers prevailed over the Yanks 5-4 on October 23, 1981 in the Fall Classic. Yankee reliever George Frazier took the loss and Ron Cey hit a three-run tater.
  • Yankee fans were dumbfounded and crestfallen on October 23, 2003, when David Wells was forced from World Series Game Five by a bad back after one inning. Derek Jeter had singled and scored for the early lead over the Marlins, but Jose Contreras responded poorly to the sudden assignment by allowing three runs right off the bat in the second on two walks, an Alex Gonzalez double, and a single from hurler Brad Penny. The righthander held New York to a 6-2 deficit through seven, and Dontrelle Willis and Braden Looper barely held on for the 6-4 victory, giving Florida a three to two lead in games.
  • The Yanks replaced Gene Michael in the GM position on October 23, 1995, with Bob Watson, though they kept the former Yankee shortstop around too, as a special scout. Good move.
  • Players routinely barnstormed and played exhibition games after the World Series in the early years of the last century. On October 23, 1923, Babe Ruth played with the NL New York team and wore a Giants uni in a benefit game vs. Baltimore in the Polo Grounds.
  • And three years later, the Babe Ruth All Stars beat the South Bend Indians, 7-3, on October 23, 1926.
  • The Yankee General Manager and President Lee MacPhail was named AL President on October 23, 1973.
  • On that same 1973 day, A’s Manager Dick Williams, hoping to move to the Yankees to all reports, was told by owner Charlie Finley that he would not make that move, as Finley would refuse to waive Dick’s contract without compensation.
  • Recent Yankee Manager Joe Torre signed to manage the Braves on October 23, 1981.
  • Billy Martin had the infamous run-in with the marshmallow salesman in Minnesota on this day in 1979.
  • October 23 has twice been the day the baseball writers have honored a player with their National League MVP Award. Gabby Hartnett slipped past Dizzy Dean in 1945.
  • St. Louis Cardinal and future Yankee Johnny Mize came up short in the 1940 selection process, coming in second to Cincinnati’s Frank McCormick. Reds teammates Bucky Walters and Paul Derringer finished third and fourth.
  • Chicago’s Rick Sutcliffe was the unanimous NL Cy Young Award winner on October 23, 1984. Following a Cubs trade for him in early July, the righty reeled off 16 of 17 wins.
  • Also unanimous was Dodger catcher Mike Piazza‘s choice as NL Rookie of the Year on October 23, 1993.
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    Players Who Have Died This Day

  • Super Yankee fan and star baritone of New York’s Metropolitan Opera Robert Merrill passed away on October 23, 2004. He wore a number 1-1/2 Pinstriped uni and sang God Bless America at Old Timers Games for years. Merrill is joined on the list of Yankee lights to pass on on October 23 by two righthanded pitchers, Monk Dubiel (1969), and Bob Grim (1996). Dubiel debuted with the 1944-1945 Yanks by winning 23 and losing 22 in 56 games (48 starts). After pitching with the Phillies (just one year) and the Cubs from 1948-1952, his career mark became 45-53-11. Grim also debuted in New York, winning an impressive 45 while losing 21 and saving 28 games from 1954-1958 in 136 games (37 starts). A 1958-1962 spent mostly with the A’s resulted in an overall 61-41-37 mark.
  • The list of noteworthy nonYankee players who have died on October 23 includes two catchers, a left-hitting infielder, and a righty-hitting, lefthanded pitcher. Backstop Heinie Peitz (1943) hit most of his 16 home runs and drove in 560 runs from 1892-1913 with the Browns, the Reds, and the Pirates; and lefty hitter Buck Crouse (1983) played just with the White Sox from 1923-1930, for whom he had eight homers and knocked in 160 runs. Second baseman/third baseman Sherry Robertson (1970) hit almost all of his 26 long balls with 151 rbi’s from 1940-1952 with the Senators; and Jesse Petty (1971) won 67 games, lost 78, and saved four from 1921-1930, with most of it coming with Brooklyn (four years) and Pittsburgh (two).
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    Players Born This Day

  • Although he anchored the Mets staff for years, lefty starter Al Leiter (1965) already was one of four Yankee players born October 23 before his 2005 return stint in the Bronx. Al actually made his major league debut in the Yankee Pinstripes. A June 1984 free agent signing, he posted a 7-8 mark with a not very good team from 1987 through 1989 before playing in Toronto, with the Marlins, and then with the Mets. The Yanks sent Leiter to Toronto for Jesse Barfield in April 1989. Al’s first Yankee 2005 start was a huge win in Fenway Park, and he turned in some nice relief work from the left side in the abbreviated postseason before retiring early in 2006.
  • Ewell Blackwell (1922) finished his career by going 3-0 with two saves for the 1952-1953 Yanks, and then a few months in KC, after pitching for more than 10 years for Cincinnati. The Yanks got Blackwell from the Reds in August 1952 for Johnny Schmitz, Jim Greengrass, Ernie Nevel, Bob Marquis, and cash. The K.C. A’s took him off New York’s hands in a cash transaction in March 1955.
  • Lefty thrower Lee Grissom (1907) pitched in five games for the 1940 Yanks after six years with the Reds; and outfielder Birdie Cree (1882) played his only big-league ball with New York’s AL representative, where he smacked 11 homers and gathered 332 rbi’s from 1908 through 1915. Grissom arrived in New York in January 1940 from Cincinnati in a trade for Joe Beggs. He was in turn selected off waivers from the Yanks by the Brooklyn Dodgers in May 1940.
  • Other birthdays: Hall of Fame Baseball Executive William Humbert (1832); hurler Jim Bunning (1931), who is also in the Hall, and who fashioned a 224-184 mark over 17 seasons, nine with Detroit and six with Philly; Jim Presley (1961); Kaz Matsui 1975; David Riske (1976); John Lackey (1978); Bud Smith (1979); Ben Francisco (1981); Denny Bautista (1982); Sam Demel (1985); Felix Doubront (1987); and Kyle Gibson (1987).