February 4 in Yankee History

  • In just one more sign that the eighties were not “The Glory Years,” on February 4, 1984, the Yanks traded righty reliever George Frazier, who looked a lot like a tall Ron Guidry until he threw the ball, and a young Otis Nixon, in his first year in the bigs, to Cleveland for Toby Harrah. Toby never really warmed to the opportunity to replace the traded and much beloved Graig Nettles. Harrah hit just .217 in 84 games and was shipped out a year later to Texas for minor leaguer Eric Dersin and outfielder Billy Sample. Harrah hit one home run, drove in 26 runs, and stole three bases in the Bronx, while Frazier split his 1984 season between Cleveland and Chicago (the Cubs) to a 9-5 mark. Nixon patrolled outfields for 15 years, through the 1999 season, with significant stopovers in Cleveland, Montreal, Atlanta, and Toronto. Harrah holds two odd (and unenviable) fielding records: He accepted no chances at shortstop in a June 25, 1976, doubleheader, a first and only occurrence for a major league shortstop. And on September 17, 1977, he played 17 innings in a game at third base without recording an assist.
  • Once the Yankees got the news that they had no third baseman after Aaron Boone blew out his knee and the Drew Henson experiment came to an end, they made a quick move to fill their hot-corner hole on February 4, 2004. They dealt minor-league righthander Jose Garcia to the Rangers for Mike Lamb, a potential stopgap at third. Lamb would remain with the club through the Spring, but third base would look differently much sooner.
  • Probably ending a one-time promising Yankee career on February 4, 2020, the Texas Rangers signed free agent first baseman Greg Bird to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
  • On February 4, 2016, the Yankees signed free agent center fielder Jared Mitchell to a minor league contract.
  • The Yankees signed free agent righthander Isaac Padilla to a minor league contract on February 4, 2015.
  • From a Yankee perspective, the February 4 Hall of Fame selections are highlighted by the elevation of Manager Joe McCarthy on this day in 1957. McCarthy was good everywhere he managed, as it was the National League pennant he copped with the 1929 Cubs that egged the Yankees into pursuing him for their bench in the first place. From 1931-1946 in the Bronx, the Yanks won eight American League pennants and seven World Titles with Joe at the helm. Even when Joe was signed with the rival Red Sox from 1948-1950, that team produced two second-place finishes and a winning percentage over .600 — good, though not quite as lofty as the .627 he had accumulated in New York. Detroit outfielder Sam Crawford, who hung up his spikes in 1917 after 19 seasons, was honored with Joe that day.
  • Former Yankee outfield prospect Shane Spencer signed his last contract with the club when he was inked for one year on February 4, 2002. He would contribute six home runs with 34 rbi’s in 94 games in the upcoming season.
  • Things were just beginning to take a turn for the better for the Yankees on February 4, 1915, when the club, under new ownership, purchased the contracts of Wally Pipp and Hugh High from the Tigers.
  • February 4 was the day in both 1958 and 1960 that Hall of Fame selections were announced, but it was the first shutout of new players since 1950 in the first vote, and nobody made it in the latter year either, though the close votes on outfielders Edd Roush of Cincinnati, and Sam Rice of Washington, and on Phillies and Reds hurler Eppa Rixey, prefigured each’s eventual successful assault on Hall membership.
  • First baseman Joe Harris, who had been classified as ineligible for major league competition after having played with too many ineligible players in independent games, was reinstated into baseball’s good graces on February 4, 1922, because he had served his country so valiantly in World War I. Harris had begun his career earlier by playing two games with the 1914 Highlanders (Yankees).
  • The St. Petersburg Pelicans routed the West Palm Beach Tropics, 12-4, behind home runs from Lamar Johnson and ex-Yankee Steve Kemp on February 4, 1990, for the first-ever championship of the Senior Professional Baseball Association.
  • Other February 4 items affecting future or former Yankee players include the federal court decision in 1976 upholding the free agent status awarded Andy Messersmith by an arbitrator. He would pitch two years in Atlanta after Ted Turner outbid the field for his services, then suffer through an ineffective 1978 season in Pinstripes, going 0-3 in six games. Also Jose Canseco signed a contract with Toronto on this day in 1998.
  • It was decreed by the 12 members of the Board on February 4, 1991 that Pete Rose would be barred from the Hall of Fame ballot. The ruling was that he would need to be reinstated by December 2005 if he were ever to be allowed in.
  • Baseball announced the introduction of a special wing in the Hall of Fame for players from the Negro Leagues on February 4, 1971.
  • Bowie Kuhn replaced William Eckert to become the fifth Commissioner of Baseball on February 4, 1968.
  • It’s hard to believe that news from the bleak days of the Cold War could eventually bring a wry smile, but it was 50-plus years ago today (in 1962) that Nedelya, a supplement of the Soviet newspaper Izvestia, claimed that, “baseball is an old Russian game.”
  • The first recorded version of Take Me Out to the Ballgame hit the charts on February 4, 1893. The more popular version by Dewolf Hopper wouldn’t be released until October 1906.

Players Who Have Died This Day

  • You can get the details on outfielder Lefty Davis‘s (1919) Yankee career below, as he is one of the rare people who died on the same date they were born. Davis is the first of four Yankee February 4 deaths. Third baseman Harry Wolverton (1937) ended his career by driving in four runs for the 1912 Highlanders in 34 games. His overall total of seven home runs with 352 rbi’s was largely achieved from 1889-1904 with the Phillies and with the Chicago Orphans. Outfielder Jim Pisoni, who passed in 2007, ended his playing days with the Yanks too, knocking in one run in nine at bats over 20 games in 1959 and 1960. His six home runs and 19 additional rbi’s were garnered with the Dodgers in 1953 and the Athletics from 1956-1960. February 4, 2007, was a pretty bad day in Yankee land as it was on that day that former Pinstriped lefthander Steve Barber passed as well. Barber won 12 and lost 14 for the 1967-1968 Yankees in 37 games (36 starts), and recorded a career 121-106-13 mark from 1960-1974, most of it with the Orioles.
  • Hall of Fame righthander John Clarkson (1909), the first of nine noteworthy nonYankee players to die this day, went 328-178 with the Chicago White Stockings, the Boston Beaneaters, and the Cleveland Spiders from 1882-1894; and Reds righty Frank Dwyer (1943) won 126 while losing 152 and saving six games from 1988-1999. Southpaw Ed Siever (1920) both won and lost exactly 83 games, with two saves, from 1901-1908, mostly with Detroit; and righthander Dixie Davis (1944) posted a 75-71-2 record with the Browns (more often than not) from 1912-1926. Outfielder George Tebeau (1923) hit 15 roundtrippers and drove in 311 runs from 1887-1895, most of it with the Red Stockings and the Spiders; and lefty-hitting outfielder Nemo Leibold (1977) went yard three times playing almost all of his 1913-1925 career with the White Sox, with 284 total rbi’s. Righty hitting, lefty throwing outfielder Gil Coan (2020), who played with Washington from 1946-1953, but also played two years with the Cal Angels and the New York Giants, with one other stop, hit 39 home runs with 278 rbi’s. Catcher/first baseman Pete Koegel played in 62 games split between the 1970-1971 Brewers and the 1971-1972 Phillies. Koegel hit one home run and drove in five. Righthander Ron Tompkins pitched in 40 games (one start) for the 1965 KC A’s and the 1971 Cubs to a 0-2 record with two saves.

Players Born This Day

  • The slew of Yankee birthdays in early February not only slows down to a trickle on February 4, the time the few representatives of the club played in New York is minimal as well. Outfielder Lefty Davis (1875) played the game predominantly with the hand one would assume from his nickname. He battled in Brooklyn in 1901, and in Pittsburgh that same year and 1902 as well, before he jumped from the Pirates to the New York Highlanders for the 1903 season. With the Yankees that year, he knocked in 25 runs and stole 11 bases. He next appeared in the bigs with Cincinnati in 1907, his last year in the majors.
  • Utility player Germany Schaefer (1877) culminated a career that spanned 20 years with a stop in Cleveland in 1918. Prior to that he failed to reach safely in his only at bat with the 1916 Yankees. He played four years in Chicago, five in Detroit, six in Washington, and one with the Newark Pepper in the Federal League before he joined the Yankees. His greatest claim to fame is that he is probably the only player ever to steal first base. On the back end of a double steal with runners on first and third, he slid into second as the player on third scurried back to his base. Not to be denied, Schaefer went back to first on the next pitch, announcing the intention to double steal again. The rattled catcher threw to second as the run scored. Germany’s bizarre play prompted a rule change that ensures his feat will never be duplicated.
  • New to the list due to 2021 play is first baseman Chris Gittens (1994), a 12th-round Yankee selection in the 2014 draft, who hit one home run with five rbi’s in 16 games with the Yanks that year. Released in November, Gittens headed to Japan to play in 2022.
  • Righthanded offspeed specialist Greg Weissert (1995) posted a 3-0 record in 12 games (nostarts) with the 2022 Yankees. The club selected him in the 18th round of the 2016 draft. He made 17 appearances out of the Yankee pen in 2023 to no record, and was traded following the season to the Red Sox with a couple of minor leaguers for Alex Verdugo.
  • Other birthdays include a couple of more old-timers: outfielder Possum Whitted (1890), who played most of his 1912-1922 career with the Phillies; and backstop Eddie Ainsmith (1892), who spent much of his 1910-1914 as a batterymate to the staff of the Washington Nationals. More recent birthdaying players: Steve Brye (1949); Stan Oaoi (1951); Rob Picciolo (1953); Rusty Kuntz (1955); Chris Bando (1956); Dan Plesac (1962); John Frascatore (1970); Chris Coste (1973); Steve Schmoll (1980); Doug Slaten (1980); Tom Mastny (1981); Doug Fister (1984); Jordan Smith (1986); Raimel Tapia (1994); and George Kirby (1998).