February 22 in Yankee History

  • Opening their Spring Training season at George M. Steinbrenner Field a surprising one day earlier than they had in 2018, the Yankees hosted the Blue Jays on February 22, 2020. Their pitching was good, starting with six up, six down by J.A. Happ, but the bats showed up barely, and late. Rosell Herrera‘s third-inning single stood by itself until a two-out double in the seventh, and first baseman Chris Gittens‘s lead off home run in the bottom of the ninth. Toronto, who strangely brought almost their entire Opening Day lineup on the road for this first exhibition, plated the winning run in a 2-1 victory on a double steal in a four-steal seventh inning against southpaw Luis Avilan. It was just 55 degrees in Tampa; feel sorry for me?
  • The eventual 2021 Yankee roster became closer to taking shape on February 22, when the team placed righthander Luis Severino on the 60-day injured list, and signed free agent outfielder Brett Gardner.
  • I think it’s fair to say that few in the Yankee fanbase batted an eye when the team signed free agent center fielder Shane Robinson to a minor league contract on February 22, 2018, and invited him to spring training. With young outfielders having been traded away, and Clint Frazier and Aaron Judge spending time on the DL, Robinson would play in 25 games with the parent club in the upcoming season, with a home run, two rbi’s, and a stolen base during 54 at bats. Robinson has since been signed by the Phillies.
  • The Yankees signed free agent righthander Leam Mendez to a minor league contract on February 22, 2022.
  • On February 22, 2012, there was yet one more report linked to a mis-“signing” from a year earlier when the Yankees placed lefthander Pedro Feliciano on the 60-day disabled list yet again. Brian Cashman gambled and lost when he signed a guy the Mets had sent out to the mound 266 times from 2009 through 2011. (Oh, and after raking in Yankee money for two years featuring one Spring Training appearance, Feliciano has now signed a 2013 minor league deal with whom? That’s right, the Mets.)
  • On February 22, 2020, righthanders Greg Weissert and Kaleb Ort; lefthanders Anderson Severino and Trevor Lane; second baseman Oswaldo Cabrera; third baseman Armando Alvarez; shortstop Hoy Jun Park; center fielders Pablo Olivares and Brandon Lockridge; right fielder Ben Ruta; and left fielder Zack Zehner were assigned to the New York Yankees.
  • In hopefully a move with a much better upside, the Yankees also signed free agent righthander David Aardsma on February 22, 2012. In this case, Aardsma’s first year in pinstripes was expected to be sent in rehab. He pitched in the bigs in September 2012, and is expected to provide important innings in 2013. It wasn’t meant to be, however, and Aardsma did not make the 25 coming out of Spring Training.
  • The February 22 news affecting former and future Yankee players is unfortunately more involved with courts of law than fields of play. In 2000, the Florida Department of Corrections reported that Darryl Strawberry had tested positive for cocaine yet again. Darryl had only hit three home runs for six rbi’s for the 1999 Yanks. They would be his last.
  • And on February 22, 1996, actress Halle Berry filed for divorce from David Justice. After sitting on top of the baseball world with a World Series-winning home run for the 1995 Braves, David would be part of the ’96 Atlanta team that fell to the Yankees. But once the Yanks acquired him midseason from the Indians (for a package that included Ricky LeDee), he played a huge part in the Bombers’ success in the 2000 Playoffs and then Subway World Series.
  • The first ever game of baseball in San Francisco, after the rules had been refined by Alexander Joy Cartwright, took place on February 22, 1860.

Players Who Have Died This Day

  • No Yankee players have died on February 20.
  • On yet another day where no ex-Yankee players have died, outfielder Chief Wilson (1954) played second furthest back in baseball history of the seven accomplished guys who did. A righthanded glove man who batted from the left, Wilson stroked 59 home runs good for 571 rbi’s from 1908-1916 with the Prates and the Cardinals. Catcher Tom Winslow (1901) hit 12 long balls and drove in 222 runs from 1886-1898, playing most often with the Bridegrooms. Infielder Andy High (1981) played with several clubs from 1922-1934, getting most of his 44 long balls and 482 rbi’s for the Dodgers, the Braves, and the Cardinals; and catcher Andy Seminick (2004) did the bulk of his work with the Phillies from 1943-1957. He hit 164 homers with 556 rbi’s. The unfortunate thing about the passing of righthander Jack Hamilton (2018), who played two years with the Phillies, the Tigers, the Mets, and the Angels from 1962 through 1969, to a 32-40 mark with 20 saves, is the fastball he threw that hit young Boston star outfielder Tony Conigliaro in the face in 1867. It would lead to the end of Tony’s career, and sadly, his life. Proud owner of a long and successful career, switch-hitting/righty throwing second baseman Julio Cruz (2022) hit 23 home runs with 279 rbi’s playing 1,156 games in Seattle from 1977-1983, and with the White Sox from 1983-1986. Outfielder Roman Mejias played 627 games with the 1955-1961 Pirates, the 1962 Houston Colt 45s, and the 1963-1964 Red Sox. Ramon hit 54 home runs and drove in 202.

Players Born This Day

  • I cannot tell a lie. The most memorable Yankee whose birthday coincides with that of the Father of Our Country (George Washington was born this day in 1732!) is hard-throwing, sight-challenged reliever Ryne Duren (1929), or “Blind Ryne,” as some dubbed him. Certainly part of his antics was an act of intimidation as he scared batters from standing in while he glared in with the extra-thick glasses. Duren notched 12 wins and 42 saves in the Yankee bullpen from 1958 through 1961. He arrived in New York in June 1957, when he was traded with Jim Pisoni and Harry Simpson from Kansas City to the Yankees for Billy Martin, Ralph Terry, Woodie Held, and Bob Martyn. Ryne’s eyes were apparently tested at 20/70 and 20/200, and long before he had made his name in the bigs he did hit a guy in the on-deck circle with a pitch when he was still in the low minors. And he wasn’t a stable character either, as he was fined $250 for giving an umpire the “Choke” signal during a World Series game in 1958. Ryne was no teetotaler, and he was traded with Johnny James and Lee Thomas to the Angels for Tex Clevenger and Bob Cerv in May 1961.
  • The report on February 21 Yankee birthdays (10 of them!) led off with three outfielders. Three pitchers take center stage on this day, February 22. Following up on Duren’s heels, lefty Steve Barber (1938) had started his career with eight years with the rival Orioles. Steve was acquired from Baltimore for Ray Barker and minor-leaguers Chet Trail and Joe Brady and cash in June 1967, and he won 12 games while losing 14 during the bleak 1967-1968 seasons in New York. Once he was drafted by the Seattle Pilots in the expansion draft in October 1968, he also pitched for the Cubs, the Braves, the Angels, and the Giants. Barber passed away in February 2007, just short of his 69th birthday.
  • The third of the pitchers is righthander Karl Drews (1920), who posted an 8-10 mark with two saves as he started his big-league career with the Yanks from 1946-1948. He made appearances with the Browns and the Reds, respectively, on the opposite ends of a four-year stint with Phillies from 1951-1954.
  • Although lefty-hitting outfielder Joe Lefebvre (1956) played only 74 games with the Yanks in his debut year of 1980 (he was drafted in 1977), he’ll long be remembered for hitting home runs in his first two big-league at bats. He added six dingers to that total and knocked in 21 runs in the Bronx, and finished out his career playing three years each with the Padres and the Phillies. He left the Yanks with Ruppert Jones, Tim Lollar, and Chris Welsh in a trade to San Diego for Jerry Mumphrey and John Pacella in April 1981.
  • Rounding things out, switch-hitting second baseman Johnny Lucadello (1919) and righthander Ed Monroe (1895) played only 12 games and 10 games for the Yanks, respectively. Ed got a win and a save with no losses for the 1917-1918 club in his only major-league service, and Johnny got one hit in 12 at bats ending his career with the 1947 team after spending 10 years with the Browns in St. Louis. An amazing stat regarding Lucadello is that, while playing 107 games with the Browns in 1941, he hit the only two home runs he would bash that year in the same game, one from each side of the plate.
  • And the flexible backup Russ Johnson (1973) joined the Pinstripe birthday parade in 2005, when he stroked two doubles among his four hits in 18 at bats. He appeared in 22 games, mostly on defense, but as a pinch runner too, as he scored five runs too. The Yanks signed Russ as a free agent on November 17, 2004. Splitting seven years from 1997 to 2002 between the Astros and the Devil Rays, Johnson arrived in the Bronx with 14 home runs and 97 rbi’s to his credit.
  • And 2014 brings another new pinstriper, veteran infielder Kelly Johnson (1982), signed over the winter to provide game reps at second and third base; third is likely to be his primary position, with Brian Roberts hopefully healthy enough to hold down second, with all-world Robinson Cano lost to free agency. The righty throwing, lefty hitting Johnson has some pop (124 home runs and 400-plus rbi’s in eight seasons, mostly in Atlanta), but he has played 800-plus games at second, and only 16 at third. If the position was not a great fit, it was hoped the short porch in Yankee Stadium right field would be, but alas, it was not to be. Johnson hit .219 in 77 games, with six home runs and 22 rbi’s, before he was traded to Boston for Stephen Drew on July 31.
  • But there could be a high ceiling on the newest Yankee birthdayer, infielder Thairo Estrada (1996). Even having unfortunately lost a year of his career as a victim of a 2018 shooting, Thairo showed promise filling in for the 2019 Bombers, hitting three homers with 12 rbi’s in 35 games, many of them as a defensive replacement. Estrada, who was signed by the Yankees as a free agent in 2012, hit one long ball with three rbi’s in the bizarro 2020 season, but was then sold to San Francisco in April 2021. Thairo had seven home runs with 22 rbi’s with the Giants in 52 games that year, then 14 bombs driving in 62 in 140 games in 2022, and 14 long balls with 49 rbi’s in 120 games in 2023.
  • Other birthdays feature Hall of Fame Umpire Bill Klem (1874); and Manager Sparky Anderson (1934) of the Reds and the Tigers, also honored by the Hall in his own right. Deserving of Hall of Fame mention perhaps is the irascible late owner of the Oakland A’s Charles O. Finley (1922). Others: Lefty Clarence Mitchell (1891), who posted a 125-139 mark from 1911-1932, mostly with the often hapless Phillies; Tom Griffin (1948); Kazuhiro Sasaki (1968); John Halama (1972); J.J. Putz (1977); Steve Colyer (1979); Carlos Fisher (1983); Casey Kotchman (1983); Brian Duensing (1983); Daniel Nava (1983); Thomas Field (1987); Carlos Peguero (1987); Rocky Gale (1988); Chris Bassitt (1989); Tim Peterson (1991); Dixon Machado (1992); Braden Shipley (1992); Kevin McCarthy (1992); Brett Sullivan (1994); German Marquez (1995); Cody Bradford (1998); and Kyle Nicolas (1999).