Four days ago, we reported about the untimely death of Yankee owner Colonel Jacob Ruppert in 1939. It was on January 17 of that year that the New York Yankees elected Ed Barrow as president to replace Ruppert in that position. The brilliant Barrow, who had constructed the Yankee dynasty on a slew of canny acquisitions like that of Babe Ruth almost 20 years earlier, would remain Yankee president until 1945, when the team would be bought by Dan Topping and Del Webb.
Lefthanded outfielder Claudell Washington had only middling success on the Yankee team from 1986 through 1988. On January 17, 1989, he left to sign a free-agent contract with the California Angels. He would hit 14 taters and knock in 45 runs for the Angels, while he had hit 26 and 124 for the Bombers. But two of those Yankee homers, both blasted in 1988, were bigger than the rest. First, he hit the 10,000th home run in the history of the Yankee franchise, as they were easily the earliest club to reach that figure. And on September 11, 1988, he hit a two-run, come-from-behind, walk-off, game-winning blast against the Tigers in Yankee Stadium, happily finishing a 5-4, 18-inning Yankee win, the longest game I had ever attended, until they lost a 19-inning affair to Boston in 2015.
On January 17, 2018, the Yankees signed free agent lefthander Wade LeBlanc to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training. The team then signed free agent righties Felix Alonzo, Yon Castro, Sammy Tavarez, and Victor Santana ; and free agent center fielder Madison Santos, to minor league contracts.
On January 17, 2022, the Yankees signed free agent righthander Christian Zazueta to a minor league contract.
Yankee fans found out that first and third baseman Mark Reynolds would not be retained for the 2014 season when Milwaukee signed the free agent to a minor league contract on January 17, and invited him to spring training. Meanwhile, the Yankees signed free agent righthander Javier Calvo to a minor league contract the same day.
Many teams trace their biggest victories and their deepest frustrations to the free-agent draft. The Yankees definitely experienced the yin and yang of the process on January 17, 1970. On the one hand, they drafted but failed to sign young outfielder Fred Lynn at the tender age of 17. And worse, three years later he would sign, and star for, the bitter rival Boston Red Sox. On the other hand, that 1970 draft featured the Indians’ selection of first baseman Chris Chambliss. The Yanks’ swap of Tom Buskey, Steve Kline, Fritz Peterson, and Fred Beene for Chris, Dick Tidrow, and Cecil Upshaw in 1974 was one of the building blocks of the return of Championship baseball to New York.
Fred Beene‘s inclusion in the trade to get Chambliss is not his only connection to January 17, 1970. He would be traded by the Orioles to the Yanks in 1972, but as Oriole property on January 17, 1970, he tossed a 6-0 no-hitter for Santurce over Arecibo in the Puerto Rican League.
January 17, 2002 was a transitional day in the Yankee backup infielder position. On that day they signed Enrique Wilson to a one-year deal, keeping him in the fold once he had performed well in the field after they got him from Pittsburgh for lefty Damaso Marte during the 2001 season. On the other hand, Marte, after a 2008 return to the Pinstripers, performed very well in the postseason for the 2009 Yankee Championship team.
But while the team was welcoming Wilson to return, they were releasing former backup Clay Bellinger. Clay would sign with Anaheim and get one at bat in two 2002 games, but his 12 career home runs with 35 rbi’s were all garnered with 1999-2001 Yankees.
Bump Hadley was clearly the prize from the Yankee perspective in their January 17, 1936, trade for him and outfielder Roy Johnson from Washington for righthander Jimmie DeShong and outfielder Jesse Hill. Hill had only hit four homers with 33 rbi’s for the ’35 Yanks, and would follow with one and four in two years with the Senators after the trade. And although Johnson had driven in 119 runs for the 1935 Red Sox, 25 was all he contributed to the 1936-1937 Yanks. But the pitchers did well. Deshong won 37 games in four years for Washington after a 10-8 mark with the 1934-1935 Yanks, and Hadley went 49-31 with six saves in New York from 1936-1940.
We like to post player moves for a given date that affect former and future Yankee players, but when the Indians packed up outfielder Joe Vosmik, infielder Bill Knickerbocker, and hurler Oral Hildebrand to the Browns for outfielder Moose Solters, shortstop Lyn Lary, and pitcher Ivy Andrews on January 17, 1937, everyone but the two respective outfielders had played for the Yanks, or they would shortly.
In addition, outfielder Benny Kauff, who starred in the two years the Federal League was a player, failed in his suit to be reinstated to baseball on this day in 1922. He had been acquitted of auto theft but Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis was not convinced. Kauff broke in with the 1912 Highlanders, scoring four times and knocking in two in five games.
Two one-time Yankee players died on January 17. Catcher Pat McCauley (1917) drove in one run playing six games, with just one hit in 19 at bats, for the 1903 Highlanders to end his career. Earlier stints with Brooklyn and Washington had yielded three home runs and an additional 11 rbi’s. Righthander Marv Breuer‘s (1991) only major-league play was with the 1939-1943 Yankees, for whom he won 25, lost 26, and saved three games.
Detroit Tiger owner Walter O. “Spike” Briggs passed away at the age of 74 on January 17, 1952. It was in honor of this gentleman that the old Tiger Stadium was known as Briggs Stadium for a time. Righthander Hersh Freeman (2004) won 30 games, lost 16, and saved 37 pitching mostly for the Red Sox and the Reds from 1952-1958; and southpaw Ernie Vingard (1977) posted a 29-43-4 mark with the 1924-1927 Browns. Finally, lefty Harry Brecheen (2004) went 133-92 with 18 saves from 1940-1952, mosty with the St. Louis Cardinals. Lefty Roger Samuels (2022) pitched in 20 games, no starts, with the 1988 Giants and the 1989 Pirates, to a 1-2 record with no saves.
Players Who Have Died This Day
Chili Davis (1960), who finished his 19-year big-league career with the 1998-1999 Yankees, is by far the more famous of the two Bombers born on January 17, though there is another celebrant who served with the team. Chili played seven years for both the Giants (with whom he debuted) and the Angels (split between two tours), and played for the Twins and Royals too. He suffered a Spring Training injury with the Yanks in 1998, so most of the 22 homers and 87 rbi’s the switch hitter garnered in the Bronx came during the 1999 season.
Catcher Harry Hanson‘s (1896) two at bats in one game for the 1913 Yankees was his only major league experience.
Also worthy of mention is infielder Tyler Houston (1971), who has not played for the Yanks, but who was with the team briefly in 2004 in between the time that Aaron Boone was lost for third base and Alex Rodriguez was acquired to fill that spot. Houston hit 63 homers with 253 rbi’s from 1996 to 2003, mostly with the Cubs and the Brewers.
Don Zimmer (1931) never managed or played for the Yanks, but he certainly distinguished himself as Joe Torre‘s bench coach in New York from 1996 through the 2003 season. He played for several teams including the Dodgers, and managed a lot too, with near-miss stops in Boston (for the Red Sox) and Chicago (for the Cubs). He has been an advisor to ex-Yankee player and manager Lou Piniella in Tampa Bay, a role he continued in once Piniella left that team. We salute Zim on the 2008 Tampa Bay appearance in the World Series, and mourn that he has left us.
Other birthdays: former managers Mayo Smith (1915); and Lum Harris (1915), ironically born the same exact day as one another; Denny Doyle (1944); Darrell Porter (1952); Pete LaCock (1952); Mark Littell (1953), famous to Yankee fans for being the guy who surrendered Chris Chambliss‘s pennant-winning home run in 1976; Jeff Tabaka (1964); Walt McKeel (1972); Brad Fullmer (1975); Rob Bell (1977); T. J. Bohn (1980); Mike Rabelo (1980); Emmanuel Burriss (1985); Chad Beck (1985); Jai Miller (1985); Tanner Scheppers (1987); Jeff Beliveau (1987); Cody Decker (1987); Taylor Jordan (1989); Dario Alvarez (1989); Blake Beavan (1989); Frank Garces (1990); Trevor Bauer (1991); Colin Poche (1994); Michael Hermosillo (1995); Johander Mendez (1995); Joe Jimenez (1995); Jhon Romero (1995); Dom Nunez (1995); Randy Dobniak (1995); and Kyle Tucker (1997).
Players Born This Day