January 21 in Yankee History

  • As a Yankee fan, I have often expressed pique at what I consider to be Hall of Fame snubs. I feel Don Mattingly was on top of his games long enough to merit entrance. Thurman Munson‘s career was tragically cut short, but the Rookie of the Year Award, All Star appearances, MVP, and two rings should entitle him more than some in the Hall. And in my opinion, Roger Maris‘s incredible feat in 1961 qualifies him for the honor all by itself. The argument for the enshrinement of a home run king who held the season record longer than Babe Ruth is stronger than ever in this sad baseball era. But those three really are minor irritations when you compare them to what happened on January 21, 1971, when Yogi Berra was denied entry in his first year of eligibility. In recent years, Kirby Puckett has made it, and Ozzie Smith and Willie Stargell were voted in on their first tries. How is it possible that the three-time American League Most Valuable Player Yankee catcher wasn’t?
  • But it gets worse. On January 21, 1953, Dizzy Dean and Al Simmons were feted by the Hall, but Joe DiMaggio, the man who would be honored as the “greatest living ballplayer” for more than 30 years, did not get the votes to enter on his first try either. With a lifetime ba of .325, 361 homers playing in a home ballpark as a righty batter where a homer to left was virtually unreachable, and 1,537 career rbi’s, the Yankee Clipper was acknowledged to be the most graceful and natural fielder and runner of his time. A three-time AL MVP Award winner, Joltin’ Joe also recorded the following offensive firsts in yearly stats: batting average, twice; triples, once; home runs, twice; rbi’s, twice; extra base hits, twice; and slugging percentage, twice. He played on eight World Championship teams, and also had the unmatched 56-game hitting streak.
  • Free-agent outfielder Gary Roenicke left the Yankees after one season when he signed a deal with Atlanta on January 21, 1987. He had hit three taters, with 18 rbi’s and one stolen base in 69 games for the ’86 Yanks, and would blast 10 homers with 35 rbi’s for the Braves in 1987-1988 in roughly twice the games.
  • Player movement was frantic in 1916 as the Federal League disbanded. The Yanks bought the contracts of lefthander Nick Cullop and Germany Schaefer from that League’s Kansas City and Newark franchises, respectively, on January 21, 1916, and snatched infielder Joe Gedeon from Salt Lake City of the PCL that day too. Cullop would go 18-15 in New York in 1916-1917 (with a 13-6 mark in 1916), with two saves, and Gedeon would add 35 rbi’s and 18 stolen bases to the Yankee effort in the same years. But Schaefer would come to bat but once as a Yankee, going 0-for-1 in one game for the 1916 club.
  • On January 21, 2020, the Yankees signed free agent shortstop Hans Montero to a minor league contract.
  • On January 21, 2019, the Yankees made a convoluted move, trading righthander Sonny Gray and lefty Reiver Sanmartin to Cincinnati for second baseman Shed Long and future considerations, then exchanging Long with Seattle for outfielder Josh Stowers.Then the Yankees signed free agent righty Danny Farquhar to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
  • The Yankees and their fans took a brief spin down Memory Lane on January 21, 2011, when infielder Erick Almonte, whose last major league play was with the 2003 Yankees, was assigned to Milwaukee. Almonte, who largely filled in when Derek Jeter suffered a serious shoulder injury in a collision at third base just as the ’03 season was beginning, with a home run and 11 rbi’s in 31 games, would play 16 games with the 2011 Brewers, adding three more rbi’s.
  • In January 21 transactions that affected former or future Yankee players, the Rockies sent Alex Ochoa and two prospects to the Mets for Benny Agbayani and Todd Zeile in 2002; the White Sox purchased Danny Tartabull from the the Athletics in 1996; and the Pirates signed Waite Hoyt in 1933. And in a case of “Find the Hidden Yankee,” the Reds shipped Big Red Machine outfield cog Cesar Geronimo to the Royals for minor leaguer German Barranca on this day in 1981. A 1967 Yankee amateur draft pick, Geronimo was lost to the Astros in the first year draft in 1968.
  • On January 21, 1958, the Phillies agreed to broadcast games into a New York suddenly bereft of National League baseball, though they would eventually abandon their plan once threatened with retaliation by the Yankees.
  • Not every great player up for Hall of Fame consideration on January 21 failed to qualify. Stan Musial and Roy Campanella were honored with admittance on this day in 1969.
  • Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis officially became commissioner on January 21, 1921.
  • Dodger Manager Leo Durocher married actress Lorraine Day on January 21, 1947. Durocher got his start playing shortstop for the Yankees way back in 1925, 1928, and 1929.
    Players Who Have Died This Day

  • Righthander Ken Wright (2017), who ended his mlb career by going 0-1 in three games in New York in 1974, is currently the only Yankee player who has died on January 21, pitched for the Royals in Kansas City from 1970-19783; he posted an overall record of 11-15.
  • Detroit Hall of Fame second baseman Charlie Gehringer (1993), with 84 career homers and 1,427 rbi’s from 1924-1942, leads a list of three significant ballplayers who died this day. Brooklyn Dodger outfielder Carl Furillo (1989) cleared 192 fences good for 1,058 rbi’s from 1946-1960; and Giants lefty Hooks Wiltse (1959) won 139 games while losing 90 from 1904-1915, the last year with the Brooklyn Tip-Tops of the Federal League. But the group of second-tier players to pass this day includes a third baseman, a lefthanded first baseman, an outfielder, and a righthanded pitcher. In order, Jimmy Walsh (1947) hit 25 home runs and knocked in 212 runs with the Phillies from 1910-1915; Sam Leslie (1979) cleared 36 fences good for 389 rbi’s with the Giants and the Dodgers from 1929-1938; Clyde Barnhart (1980) hit all of his 27 long balls with 436 runs driven in with the Pirates from 1920-1928; and Russ Bauers (1995) posted a 31-30-6 record throwing mostly with the Pirates from 1936-1941. And southpaw Cliff Chambers (2011), who enjoys the statistical anomaly of having his career win-loss record match the span of seasons he pitched, ’48-’53, did most of his hurling for the Pirates and the Cardinals; he notched one save as well.
    Players Born This Day

  • The futile New York stay of Andy Hawkins (1960) is the first aspect worthy of mention when considering the seven Yankee players born on January 21. After a successful seven-year stay in San Diego, free-agent Hawkins was signed as the Yankee “anchor,” and proceeded to sink with that ship, so to speak. He went 20-29 in New York from 1989-1991, including losing a game in which he threw a no-hitter, and he couldn’t pitch in Fenway Park at all, not a good quality for a Yankee starter (just ask Jose Contreras.) A December 1988 Yankee free agent signing, Hawkins signed with the Oakland A’s to finish his career after the Bombers released him in 1991.
  • Lefty Chris Hammond (1966) actually had a decent 2003 season in Pinstripes, at 3-2 with one save in 62 games, but he broke the cardinal rule for a lefty in the Bronx: He couldn’t get lefties out consistently. When the Yankees gave veteran Mike Stanton an ultimatum he felt forced to refuse before the 2003 season, Hammond was signed in Mike’s stead. Stanton would return in 2005, but would pitch poorly and be released.
  • Lefty-hitting catcher Johnny Oates (1946) finished his playing days during 49 games with the 1980-1981 Yanks, where he stroked one home run, drove in three runs, and stole a base. He played two years each with the Orioles and Phillies, three years with both the Braves and Dodgers, and managed both the Orioles and the Texas Rangers quite effectively. A keen observer and wily vet, the highlight of Oates’s Yankee stay was in the postseason, where he was believed to have helped by stealing the oppositions’ signs.
  • Righty Rich Beck (1941) started all three games he tossed in his only major league experience for the 1969 Yanks, despite stops in Philly as a free agent both before and after he played with the Yanks. He managed a complete-game shutout of the Tigers in his 2-1 record. And outfielder Bill Karlon (1909) also played only for the Yanks, striking out once in two games for the 1930 Bombers.
  • A fact the frustrated Yankee fanbase can attest to, the positive results achieved when righty reliever Preston Claiborne (1989) was added to the 2013 team’s bullpen — and January 21 birthday list — came as quite a surprise. Selected, but unsigned, in the 23rd round of the 2006 draft by the Pirates, the Yanks took him 17th in 2010. Despite posting an 0-2 record in 44 games, Claiborne was not intimidated and threw strikes, as evidenced by his 42/14 strike outs/walks ratio. Claiborne, with a 3-2 record in 68 games, was released in December 2014, and signed by Miami. He pitched in one game with the 2017 Texas Rangers.
  • A new member to the club (both Yankees, and January 21 birthdayers), Jose Ramirez (1990) got into eight games in 2014, ending with an 0-2 record. He was signed as a free agent in 2007, for a time was projected to be a starter, but is seen as bullpen material now. After appearing in three 2015 games for the Yanks to no record, he was traded, along with outfielder Ramon Flores, to Seattle for infielder Dustin Ackley, then posted a win in five games with the Mariners. Subsequently traded to Atlanta, Jose has posted a 4-7 record in 108 games through the 2018 season there.
  • And never actually a Yankee player, Giants shortstop Jose Uribe (1959) was originally signed as a free agent by the Bombers in 1977, though they released him five months later. Uribe netted 19 homers with 219 rbi’s from 1984-1993, mostly in San Fran.
  • Other birthdays: Manager Sam Mele (1923); Cubs team owner William Wrigley III (1933); Mike Krukow (1952); Mike Smithson (1955); Dave Smith (1955); Darryl Motley (1960); Tom Urbani (1968); Rusty Greer (1969); Brian Giles (1971); Alan Benes (1972); Byung-Hyun Kim (1979); Wilfredo Ledezma (1981); Robert Ray (1984); Jake Diekman (1987); Chase D’Arnaud (1987); Josh Wall (1987); Brandon Crawford (1987); Roger Kieschnick (1987); Josh Ravin (1988); Joe Wieland (1990); Jake Cronenworth (1994); Antonio Senzatella (1995); Zach Plesac (1995); and Michel Baez (1996).