February 3 in Yankee History

  • In the early years of the Twentieth Century, the game of baseball continued to evolve. One sign of progress was the acceptance of some practices which were then gradually called into question, only to eventually be ruled illegal. The spitball was a famous example of this phenomenon, but a less heralded one was the emery ball, described in one source as “an illegal pitch in which the ball is filed with an emery board for better grip.” This pitch was most often associated with New York Highlander righthander Russ Ford, who introduced it in 1910. Russ put up some good numbers with the Yanks, going 73-56 with three saves from 1909-1913 before spending two years with the Buffalo Blues (later Buffeds) of the Federal League. But he really excelled right after he put his innovation into practice: He posted a 48-17 mark in 1910 and 1911. The American League banned Russ’s brainchild on February 3, 1915.
  • Three guys were voted into the Hall of the Fame by the Special Veterans Committee on February 3 in 1975: Long-time Cub and Dodger Billy Herman; Cleveland stalwart Earl Averill; and Bucky Harris, a second baseman and player/manager who won the World Series his first year in that dual role for the Washington Senators. Bucky also filled the gap in Yankee managers between Joe McCarthy (1931-1946) and Casey Stengel (1949-1960), with two seasons behind the bench, leading the team to a World Series title in the first of his two seasons as Yankee field boss.
  • On February 3, 2023, the Yankees signed free agent righthander Gray Fenter to a minor league contract.
  • On February 3, 2022, the Yankees signed free agent righthanders Carlos Lagrange and Ernesto Disla; and free agent catcher Johan Contreras to minor league contracts.
  • On February 3, 2020, the Yankees invited non-roster righthander Domingo Acevedo to spring training, and signed free agent righty Kevin Gadea to a minor league contract. Then the club signed free agent lefthanders Luis Avilan and Tyler Lyons; righthanders David Hale, Nick Tropeanoto, and Dan Otero; outfielders Rosell Herrera and Thomas Milone; and catchers Chris Iannetta, Erik Kratz, Kellin Deglan, Josh Thole, and Wynston Sawyer to minor league contracts and invited them to spring training. And finally, the Yankees invited non-roster righthanders Clarke Schmidt and Alexander Vizcaino; non-roster left fielder Trey Amburgey; non-roster first baseman Chris Gittens; and non-roster shortstop Kyle Holder to spring training.
  • The Yankees released lefthander Randy Keisler on February 3, 2003.
  • It was big, and happy, postseason news when the Bombers signed catcher Jorge Posada to a four-year extension in 2007. Posada was signed to his last contract, a five-year deal, on February 3, 2002. A return to health after an injured 2008 season was a huge boost in the Bronx in 2009, as Jorge caught more games than most expected, and was his usual, switch-hitting presence in the middle of the lineup. We have closed the latest chapter in his Yankee career, as Jorge has resigned as a player after serving as the team’s primary designated hitter in 2011.
  • On February 3, 1998, current Yankee GM Brian Cashman was introduced as Bob Watson‘s replacement in that often thankless position.
  • On February 3, 2011, the Yankees signed free agent righthanded pitcher Eliseo Batista.
  • The Yankees purchased two players with negligible careers from the A’s on February 3, 1979. Pitcher Greg Cochrane ($100,000) would never play in a major league game; catcher Bruce Robinson ($400,000) managed two hits during 17 at bats in 10 games in 1979 and 1980.
  • For Yankee fans, the unfortunate side-effect of the crosstown Mets’ decision to not retain Tim McCarver as an announcer on February 3, 1999, was that Tim would fill that role with the Yankees, a team with which he was unfamiliar. This led to viewers being regaled with the exploits of players such as “Ramiro Rivera” and “Mario Mendoza.” The Mets would replace McCarver with former Flushing star Tom Seaver, who ironically had spent time in the Yankees’ announcer booth a few years earlier.
  • No one could have anticipated when YMCA by the Village People peaked at no. 2 on the pop charts on February 3, 1979, that it would be a Yankee Stadium fifth-inning staple more than 25 years later.
  • The New York sports scene was in turmoil when Mets (and eventual Yankees) slugger Darryl Strawberry voluntarily entered the Smither Center for alcohol rehabilitation on February 3, 1990. Sadly, it was the beginning of an oft-repeated cycle of failure.
  • The only February 3 transaction affecting future or former Yankee players was the 1987 Montreal trade of reliever Jeff Reardon and catcher Tom Nieto to Minnesota for pitcher Neal Heaton, catcher Jeff Reed, and a couple of minor leaguers. Nieto never played for the Bombers, but he served as Joe Torre‘s catching coach in 2001. And Heaton ended his career with the 1993 Yankees, posting a 1-0 record in 18 games.
  • Negro Leagues star players Martin Dihigo and John Henry Lloyd were voted into the Hall on February 3, 1977.

Players Who Have Died This Day

  • Shortstop Mike Milesovich (1966) far outstrips three fellow Pinstripers in game seniority among Yanks who died February 3. Milesovich drove in 39 runs in 124 games for the 1944-1945 Yanks in his only major league play. Righthander Happy Finneran (1942) ended a five-year career posting a 3-6 mark in 23 games (13 starts) for New York in 1918 after fashioning much of his career 25-33 record with the Phillies and the Brooklyn Tip-Tops of the Federal League. And although third baseman Mike Donovan (1938) knocked in just two runs in five games for the 1908 Highlanders, it was a longer stay than his debut with the 1904 Blues, for whom he failed to get a hit in two tries. And righthander Bob Friend pitched to an overall mark of 190-237 with 11 saves with the Pirates from 1951 through 1965, and with the Yankees and Mets in 1966. Bob pitched in 12 games (eight starts) to a 1-4 record with the Yankees.
  • There are also five noteworthy nonYankee players to have died this day, starting with outfielder Tom O’Brien (1901), who homered 10 times and drove in 229 runs for the Orioles, the Pirates, and the Giants from 1897-1900. Lefthanded first baseman Jake Virtue (1943) hit seven homers and collected 256 rbi’s playing for the Spiders from 1890-1894; and lefthander Dana Fillingim (1961) won 47 games, lost 73, and saved five pitching mostly for the Braves from 1915-1925. Righty hitting, lefty throwing hurler Willard Hunter (2021) pitched one game with the 1962 LA Dodgers, then 69 games with the Mets in 1962 and 1964 (six starts), finishing with a 4-9 record with five saves. Second baseman Wayne Terwilliger (2021) had significant experience with several clubs: the 1949-1951 Cubs, the 1953-1954 Senators, the 1955-1956 Giants, and the 1959-1960 Oakland A’s. He hit 22 home runs with 162 rbi’s.

Players Born This Day

  • Not only is February 3 the third consecutive day we celebrate a number of Yankee player birthdays, there is also a Hall of Fame Executive with Yankee pedigree born this day, and several players who were at one time part of the organization. In early 2004 before the A-Rod trade, fans were depressed about the third base situation following Aaron Boone‘s injury. They could have looked back to the career of third sacker Celerino Sanchez (1944), who was one of several who failed in trying to fill with distinction the third base gap the club experienced between the careers of Clete Boyer and Graig Nettles. Sanchez played for the Yankees only in 1972 and 1973, during which time he hit one homer, drove in 31 runs, and stole one base.
  • Although Harry Byrd‘s (1925) 9-7, 1954 season with the Yanks was respectable, it was not what they expected when they traded a package including Vic Power for him on December 16, 1953. Byrd had posted numbers in the top 10 in 10 different pitching categories 20 different times for the Philly A’s in 1951-1953 before coming to the Bronx, and he spent one year with the Orioles, two with the White Sox, and one with the Tigers afterward.
  • The Yanks did better trading with the the A’s crosstown rivals, the Phillies: Lefthander Mike Wallace (1951) posted a spotless 6-0 mark in the Bronx in 1974 and 1975 after he was shipped north by the Phillies for Ken Wright in May 1974. The Yanks sold Wallace in June 1975 to the Cardinals, for whom he pitched one year, and then one season in Texas. Colorfully named lefthanded first baseman and outfielder Chicken Hawks (1896) played just two seasons in the bigs: 1921 with the Yanks, when he hit two homers with 15 rbi’s, and 1925 with the Phillies.
  • Next we cover two backstops: Lou Criger (1872), who picked up four rbi’s in 27 games with the 1910 Yanks after 14 years in the bigs, eight of them with the Red Sox; and Mike Garback (1916), who toiled only for the Yanks, for whom he hit two homers with 59 rbi’s in 149 games in 1944 and 1945.
  • Righthander Brooks Kriske (1994) joins the list thanks to four appearances with the Yanks during the bizarro 2020 season. A sixth-round Yankee selection in the 2016 amateur draft, Brooks pitched to no record, but a high era. Kriske went 1-1 in eight games for the 2021 Yanks, then 1-0 in four games with Baltimore once New York released him. Brooks pitched to no record in four games for the 2023 Royals.
  • Hall of fame baseball Executive Larry MacPhail (1890) spent a lot of time with the Dodgers, but he led the 1947 Yankees over that team in the World Series in the year Jackie Robinson joined “Dem Bums.” And there are three other non-Yankees born this day who were affiliated with the club at one time: Sid Schacht (1918) lost his only two decisions for the Browns and the Braves in 1950-1951, and was traded from the Browns with Tom Ferrick, Joe Ostrowski, and Leo Thomas to the Yanks for Jim Delsing, Don Johnson, Duane Pillette, Snuffy Stirnweiss, and cash in June 1950.
  • Freddie Toliver, a third-round, 1979 Yankee amateur draft pick, was traded in 1961 for Ken Griffey, Sr.; Toliver fashioned a lifetime record of 10-16. Lefthander Rich Scheid (1965) was a second-round Bomber draft pick in 1986. His path out of New York was a particularly ignominious one, as he was one of several traded for the ineffective Steve Trout in 1987. Rich’s 1-4 career mark was earned with Houston in 1992 and the Marlins in 1994-1995.
  • The Yankees got more of a lift from second baseman Rougned Odor (1994) in 2021 than many initially expected. Acquired from Texas in April for two minor leaguers, Odor hit 15 home runs with 39 rbi’s in 102 games in New York, but was released in November, then signed by Baltimore. In 858 games with Texas from 2014 through 2020, Rougned hit 146 long balls and drove in 158. He hit 13 long balls with 53 rbi’s for Baltimore in 2022, then four and 18 in 59 games with San Diego in 2023. He has signed to play in Japan in 2024.
  • Other birthdays: Lefthander Slim Sallee (1885), who went 174-143 from 1908-1921, mostly with the Cardinals and the Giants; Dick Tracewski (1935); Joe Coleman (1947); Bake McBride (1949); Fred Lynn (1952), originally drafted by the Yanks as a teenager, at which time he refused to sign; Terry Bradshaw (1969); Eric Owens (1971); Scott Klingenbeck (1971); Skip Schumaker (1980); Lucas Duda (1986); Orlando Calixte (1992); Austin Davis (1993); Kyle Dowdy (1993); Anthony Bender (1995); and Andrew Knizner (1995).