February 29 in Yankee History

  • The Yankees hosted, and won, a Spring Training game against visiting Detroit on February 29, 2020, shortly before the Covid 19 pandemic struck, suspending all professional baseball activity for several months. In the 8-2 Yankee victory, Gerrit Cole went almost three innings, with a three-run homer off the bat of Gleyber Torres being the biggest blow. But also of note, continuing a great Spring, Rosell Herrera had another three hits.
  • It will come as no surprise to any reader that, as with any other field of interest, there is a lack of huge moments in baseball history for February 29. And Yankee history, specifically, is virtually nonexistent. Despite numerous frustrating attempts, research did come up with the fact that it was the day that former Cleveland third baseman Al Rosen, who served as Yankee General Manager for a number of years, was born in 1924. As a member of that dying breed of combatant who spent their entire playing careers wearing one uni, Al hit 192 home runs, drove in 717 runs, and stole 39 bases for the Cleveland Indians from 1947 through 1956. And he served as Yankee President, the guy who hired ex-teammate Bob Lemon to replace Billy Martin, in the memorable 1978 season.
  • On February 29, 2020, righthanders Shawn Semple and Yoendrys Gomez; catcher Donny Sands; third baseman Angel Aguilar; infielder Dermis Garcia; shortstop Oswald Peraza; outfielder Josh Stowers; and center fielder Ryder Green were assigned to the Yankees.
  • On February 29, 2012, the Yankees signed free agent lefthander Rigoberto Arrebato and free agent righty Alex Smith. Arrebato is no longer with the organization, but Smith pitched for Tampa and Trenton in 2015.
  • There was a leap year in 2008, allowing the Yankees to start their Spring Training games on February 29. One aspect that would have decidedly mixed results in the coming season got off to a good start; another a predictably horrible one. A fanbase excited about the impending turn to a youthful rotation were thrilled when Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, and Phil Hughes blanked South Florida University on one hit through five innings, with Kennedy being laughably chided for allowing the lone safety. Not enough attention was paid to the quality of the competition, which may have been somewhat understandable because they jumped on Kei Igawa for four runs in the sixth. He walked the second batter, wild pitched him to second as he walked the next, hit the fifth batter to load the bases after a strike out. Then pinch hitter Eric Baumann drove a 1-2 bp fastball over the wall in left. Happily, Jeff Marquez, Alan Horne, and Chase Wright retired the last nine batters in the 11-4 Yankee win, though all three of those hurlers are no longer wearing Pinstripes now.
  • On February 29, 1896, Western League President Ban Johnson claimed major league status for his fledgling group. He would rename the group of teams the American League in four years, and history acknowledges that they did indeed become the partner of the National League in 1901.
  • On February 29, 2000, Sparky Anderson, Bid McPhee (who starred in the 19th Century), and Negro Leagues player Norman “Turkey” Stearnes were named to the Hall of Fame.

Players Who Have Died This Day

  • Lefty-hitting third baseman Ernie Courtney (1920), who hit one home run with eight rbi’s for the 1903 Highlanders, died on February 29. Courtney’s 1902-1908 career, the majority of which he spent with the Phillies, netted five homers and 200 rbi’s overall.
  • Former big-leagues infielder and manager Lena Blackburne passed away on February 29, 1968. Blackburne, who hit four long balls good for 139 rbi’s from 1910-1929, much of it with the White Sox, was also involved in the business of supplying major league baseball with the mud with which the baseballs are rubbed up before games. The only other player to have passed on February 29 is lefty-hitting outfielder Rebel Oakes (1948), who hit most of his career four home runs and 397 rbi’s with the Cardinals from 1909-1915.

Players Born This Day

  • As listed above, Cleveland third sacker Al Rosen heads the Yankee February 29 birthday list by virtue of having served as General Manager in the Bronx for several years. But we got our first Pinstriped player birthday of the day in 2006 by virtue of the signing of Terrence Long (1976). Long, who has accumulated most of his 69 home runs and 376 career rbi’s for the Oakland A’s from 2000 to 2003, knocked in two runs for the Yankees in 12 games.
  • We begin a listing of other player birthdays born on February 29 with John “Pepper” Martin, who slugged 59 home runs, knocked in 501 runs, and stole 46 bases as a member of the St. Louis Browns from 1928-1944. Pepper led the National League in stolen bases in 1933, 1934, and 1936. Other birthdays of note: Steve Mingori (1944); Stefan Crichton (1992); and Bligh Madris (1996).