January 23 in Yankee History

  • The Yanks last pulled off a big trade on January 23 way back in 1904, when they shipped pitchers “Long” Tom Hughes and Bill Wolfe to Washington for Al Orth. It can be assumed that Al didn’t have much of a breaking ball, as he was nicknamed “The Curveless Wonder.” Al changed speeds off his fastball (Greg Maddux‘s style comes to mind) and though he only amassed 72 wins and 73 losses with the 1904 through 1909 Yanks, those numbers were negatively affected by his 16-34 on two bad teams in ’07 and ’08. In 1906, he led the American League with 27 wins, 36 complete games, and 339 innings pitched. Hughes had been a 7-11 bust in New York in 1903 after they had sent Jesse Tannehill to Boston for him, but the change of scenery to Washington did not help, as he compiled an 83-125 mark with the Senators by the end of the 1913 season. Wolfe only pitched one game in the bigs, which he lost for the 1902 Phillies.
  • Actor Dan Duryea, who costarred with Gary Cooper (and Babe Ruth) in the Yankee classic, The Pride of the Yankees, was born on January 23, 1907.
  • On January 23, 2015, the Yankees signed free agent righthander Scott Baker to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training. Scott had a slim chance to compete for a starting spot, but would be released as the season began.
  • On January 23, 2013, the Yankees signed free agent righthander Chris Smith.
  • Players voted into the Hall of Fame January 23 include Bob Feller and Jackie Robinson (1962); Joe “Ducky” Medwick (1968); Ralph Kiner, by a single vote (1975); and Willie Mays (1979), who received 409 of 423 votes. Question: Who are these 14 guys who didn’t vote for the “Say Hey Kid”?
  • The Red Sox paid the first installment in a very painful penalty for some shoddy front-office work on January 23, 1981. With the Players’ Association contending that both Fred Lynn and Carlton Fisk should be declared free agents because the Boston club was tardy in mailing their new contracts, the Sox traded center fielder Lynn and pitcher Steve Renko to California for pitchers Frank Tanana and Jim Dorsey and outfielder Joe Rudi. Fisk would be granted free agency the next month and sign with the Chicago White Sox. And incidentally, Lynn was originally a Yankee free-agent selection who refused to sign with the club.
  • An acrimonious battle between Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis and American League Founder Ban Johnson was largely avoided when AL owners gave the ill Johnson a leave of absence on this day in 1927. They then named Detroit’s Frank Navin acting League president.
  • Showing that the country in 1950 had a much finer sense of history than it does now, on January 22 the Associated Press selected the “Miracle Braves” of 1914 the Greatest Sports Upset of the Century, which had just then reached its half point. The Braves were 40-45 on July 25, 1914, but used a 19-6 August and a 26-5 September to charge from last place all the way to first, then swept Connie Mack‘s favored Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series. Several years ago, millennial polls about the greatest sporting events in the 20th Century featured nothing but games and players that the voters had actually seen, leading to Michael Jordan beating Babe Ruth as Athlete of the Century, and many Yankee fans selecting the 1998 club over the 1927, 1939, and 1961 teams as all-time Yankee best team.
    Players Who Have Died This Day

  • On January 23, 2016, outfielder Walt “No Neck” Williams became the first Yankee player to have died this day. Walt ended his career playing for the Yankees in 1974 and 1975, during which he hit five home runs and drove in 19 runs, playing in 125 games. Those numbers increase to 33 and 173 when looking at his whole career from 1964 through ’75, most of it spent with the White Sox.
  • Most baseball fans will know about whom I’m speaking when I start the January 23 nonYankee player deaths with the quote, “Let’s play two.” Mr. Cub, Hall of Fame first baseman and shortstop Ernie Banks (2015), smashed 512 long balls and knocked in 1,636 runs while playing his entire major league career from 1953 through 1971 on Chicago’s north side. Ernie began playing professional baseball in 1950 with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro leagues. Pitcher Saul Rogovin, who pitched to a 48-48 record from 1949-1957 with several teams, including the Tigers, the White Sox, and the Phillies, died on January 23, 1995. In addition, there is a southpaw, a lefty-hitting shortstop, a portsided first baseman, three outfielders, and another righty on today’s nonYankee player death list, with two of the latter playing from the port side. Patsy Flaherty (1968) went 67-84-2 with the White Sox, the Pirates, and the Doves from 1899-1911; and infielder Al Bridwell (1969) poked two homers and knocked in 348 runs playing mostly with the Giants from 1905-1915. At first base, lefty Ed Bouchee (2013) hit 61 home runs and drove in 290 runs from 1956 through 1962 playing mostly for the Phillies, the Cubs, and the Mets. Righthanded George Case (1989) hit most of his 21 long balls with 377 rbi’s from 1937-1947 with the Senators; Farmer Weaver (1943) cracked nine homers and drove in 344 runs playing almost all of the time from 1888-1894 with the Colonels; and Heinie Mueller (1975) hit 22 roundtrippers and delivered 272 runs with the Cardinals, the Giants, the Braves, and the Browns from 1920-1935. Righthander Paul Foytack (2021) tossed for the 1953-1963 Tigers, then the 1963-1964 LA Angels, forging an 86-87 record with seven saves; he got the start in 193 of 312 games.
    Players Born This Day

  • The list of Yankee players born on January 23 grew from nine to 10 following the 2005 Alan Embree (1970) stint in the Yankee bullpen. The 1-1 record in 24 games was fine; the 7.53 era was not. Much in demand like most lefty relievers, Embree has accumulated a 37-43 mark with 25 saves with 10 ballclubs over 14 seasons, with 17 of the saves coming with the 2007 A’s.
  • The most recent Yank before that was prospect Wily Mo Pena (1982), who never made the team before he was traded in 2001. Years ago, we speculated that Pena’s meager numbers in Cincinnati since the Yanks sent him there to get Drew Henson back and also outfielder Michael Coleman hadn’t been a bad transaction, but Pena’s more than 50 home runs and 150-plus rbi’s over three recent seasons seem to indicate that our luck has run out in that respect. Wily Mo put up middling numbers in Boston, but appeared to flourish in Washington after his 2007 trade there. He was hurt much of 2008, however, and hasn’t done much since.
  • Mark Wohlers‘s (1970) 1-0 record in 31 games in the 2001 Yankee pen to a middling era was not as effective as the numbers make it sound, so it’s good, at least, that Ricardo Aramboles, the prospect the Bombers sent to Cinncy for Mark in that case, hasn’t flourished in Cinncy with an injured arm. Wohlers was very good with the Braves for much of his 1991-1999 Atlanta stay, at least until Jimmy Leyritz ruined his 1996 October, but he was less so with the Reds, Yanks, and Indians afterward.
  • The remaining birthday celebrants who spent significant time playing in the Pinstriped unis are from several generations back. Righty Randy Gumpert (1918) posted a dazzling 16-4 mark with one save for the 1946-1948 Yankees a decade after pitching in St. Louis for three years; he played for the White Sox, Red Sox, and Senators after New York sold him to Chicago in July 1948. Lefthanded first baseman Johnny Sturm (1916) only played for the Yanks, hitting three homers, with 36 rbi’s and three steals for the 1941 team; and lefty-hitting infielder Jack Saltzgaver (1903) started with the Yanks, with 10 homers, 72 rbi’s, and nine swipes from 1932-1937 before playing one year with the Pirates in 1945.
  • Among the guys who played with the Bombers briefly, we go way back to lefthanded hitting outfielder Ed Barney (1890), who collected eight rbi’s in only 11 games for the 1915 Yankees before finishing that year and then the next in Pittsburgh. The Pirates plucked him from the Yankee roster off waivers in August 1915. And of more recent vintage is Don Nottebart (1936), who pitched to no record in four games for the 1969 club. They got him from the Reds in October 1968, but returned him the following April.
  • A first-round Yankee selection in the 1969 amateur draft, outfielder Charlie Spikes (1951) contributed three rbi’s in 14 tilts in ’72 before being swapped to Cleveland that year with John Ellis, Jerry Kenney, and Rusty Torres for Graig Nettles and Jerry Moses. Southpaw Alfonso Pulido (1957), who closed out his career with the ’86 Bombers with one win, one loss, and one save in 10 games, was traded here in 1984 with Dale Berra and Jay Buhner for Steve Kemp, Tim Foli, and cash. He had pitched in the National League in 1983 and 1984.
  • Other birthdays: Red Donahue (1873), who pitched to a 165-175 mark, mostly with Philly, St. Louis, and Cleveland; the wonderfully named King Lear (1891); Chico Carrasquel (1928); Joey Amalfitano (1934); Kurt Bevacqua (1947); Sherman Abando (1970), a 1987 Yankee draft pick they lost to Baltimore in 1992 in the rule-V draft; Erubiel Durazo (1974); Brandon Duckworth (1976); Juan Rincon (1979); Jeff Samardzija (1985); Cord Phelps (1987); Robert Carson (1989); Daniel Fields (1991); Jacob May (1992); Humberto Arteaga (1994); Addison Russell (1994); and Yairo Munoz (1995).