Happy St. Patty’s Day. I like to think that down deep inside, we’re ALL Irish, and all Yankee fans, from Babe Ruth rooters, to fans of the latest Captain, Derek Jeter.
On March 17, 1988, I and a friend had a unique (and unfortunate for the Yanks) Spring Training experience. We enjoyed the North Miami vibe on the one hand with a delightful breakfast featuring Cuban coffee in a local deli, and survived its dark side as we had to drive around a crack bust to arrive at Bobby Maduro Stadium. Then we watched newly acquired Yankee Jack Clark tear a tendon in his calf in his first Yankee at bat while hitting a home run in his first spring training game of the year, against the Orioles. Clark, who stumbled on the first base bag admiring his long drive, would miss Opening Day and have an injury-filled, disappointing Yankee season.
He wasn’t the Yankee Clipper yet, but much was expected from new Yankee Joe DiMaggio in 1936. In his first game appearance, he stroked four hits, including a triple, in an 8-7 loss to the Cardinals on March 17.
March 17, 1921, was proclaimed “Ruth-Hornsby Day” in Lake Charles, when the Yanks traveled from their Shreveport, La., training camp to play the Cardinals, who journeyed from Orange, Texas. St. Louis’ Roger Hornsby only managed a single, however, while Babe Ruth stroked a homer in the 14-5 Yankee win.
On March 17, 2022, the Yankees signed free agent first baseman Anthony Rizzo, a move many Yankee fans applaud.
On March 17, 2019, outfielder Tyler Hill; first baseman Steven Sensley; catchers Ryan Lidge and Eduardo Navas; and lefthander Justin Kamplain were assigned to the Yankees.
In the last several days, I have reported that more than a dozen players were “assigned to the Yankees,” some of them not very familiar names. On March 17, 2018, lefthander Stephen Tarpley was assigned to the club, and he would pitch for the parent club in the coming regular and post seasons.
On March 17, 2017, righthander Dillon McNamara was assigned to the Yankees. The team also signed free agent outfielder Robert Javier to a minor league contract.
On March 17, 2016, outfielder Austin Aune and catcher Radley Haddad were assigned to the Yankees.
The Yankees were spreading their prospects around on March 17, 2015, when the club optioned righthander Branden Pinder to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders; righty Domingo German to the A level Tampa Yankees; and catcher Gary Sanchez to the AA Trenton Thunder.
On March 17, 2013, not only were outfielders Shane Brown and Exicardo Cayones assigned to the Yankees, but veteran left fielder Matt Diaz, an early loser in the extra outfielder competition, was released, early enough to give him a chance to sign on with another team.
On March 17, 2012, the Yankees signed free agent lefthander Carlos Diaz.
On March 17, 2011, righthanders Pat Venditte (listed that way but actually ambidextrous) and Josh Schmidt were assigned to the Yankees.
The Cardinals and the Braves engineered a trade on March 17, 1969. Orlando Cepeda went to Atlanta, as future Yankee Manager Joe Torre became a Cardinal. Joe would knock in 100 runs for three consecutive seasons in St. Louis, and walk off with the NL MVP Award in 1971.
When the Red Sox sailed from New York for their camp in Florida on March 17, 1919, two holdouts not long for the club stayed behind. Babe Ruth would sign in several days and play the season in Boston, while Carl Mays would only last with the Red Sox until July, when he would be shipped to the Yankees. The Babe would follow him shortly.
On March 17, 1978, the Cincinnati Reds wore green uniforms when they hosted the Yanks in a spring game. It was a lucky charm, as they prevailed, 9-2.
Hal Newhouser, who had posted a 207-150 record from 1939-1955, almost all of it with Detroit, was named to the Hall of Fame with Umpire Bill McGowan on March 17, 1992.
On March 17, 1965, Jackie Robinson was signed to be a member of the ABC-TV baseball broadcasting team, becoming the first black to serve in that position as well.
And speaking of forms of sports media, The Sporting News, which would come to be known as “the Baseball Paper of the World,” published its first issue on March 17, 1886.
The National Association of Professional Base-Ball Players was formed on March 17, 1871.
It takes only the slightest stretch to report that righty Ike Butler (1948) is the only Yankee player to have died on March 17, insomuch as all 16 games (14 starts) he pitched, along with the three he played in the outfield, came with the 1902 Baltimore Orioles, the club that would be relocated to New York as the Highlanders in 1903. Ike won only one of 11 decisions, but he did get six hits, scored seven times, and drove in five tallies.
Five other non-Yankees of note passed away on March 17, and four pitched with their right arms. Howard Emke (1959) tossed to a dead even 166-166 mark with 14 saves from from 1915 to 1930, with significant stops with the Tigers, the Red Sox, and the Athletics; and Paul Dean pitched to a 50-34 record with eight saves for the Cardinals and the Giants from 1934-1941. Milo Candini (1998) won 26, lost 21, and saved five for the Senators and the Phillies from 1943-1951; and Bob Hooper (1980) did most of his hurling from 1950-1955 with the A’s and the Indians, to a 40-41-25 record. Outfielder Ed Armbrister (2021) played just for the Reds, from 1973-1977; in 224 games, Ed hit four home runs and drove in 19 runs.
Players Who Have Died This Day
In honor of the 2003/2005 home and home interleague series between the Cubs and the Yankees, we’ll talk about Cubs starter Charlie Root, born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1899, before the Yankee birthdays of the day. Root is the pitcher who served up Babe Ruth‘s “called homer” of the 1932 World Series, the next to the last time the Yanks played in Wrigley until 2003. (New York swept Chicago in the Fall Classic in both ’32 and ’38.) Charlie always insisted that “He [Ruth] was just saying he had one strike left.” Root posted a big-league record of 201-160, almost all of it with the Cubs.
Drugs, tragically, played a part in the careers of two Yankee lefty relievers born on St. Patrick’s Day. Rod Scurry (1952) possessed a killer curve ball, but had a big cocaine problem. And the Padres traded Tim Lollar (1956), along with a young Ozzie Guillen to the White Sox for Lamarr Hoyt, who left baseball shortly thereafter amid whispers of drug abuse. Lollar, who would hit well as a pitcher in the NL, went 1-0 for the Yanks in 14 games in 1980 after they drafted him in the fourth round of the 1978 amateur draft. He was packaged with Ruppert Jones, Joe Lefebvre, and Chris Welsh to San Diego for Jerry Mumphrey and John Pacella in April 1981.
Scurry posted a 2-2 mark and one save with the 1985-1986 Bombers. New York purchased Rod’s contract from Pittsburgh in mid-September in 1985, and re-signed him as a free agent 14 months later, only to release him the following spring.
Lefthanded hitter and righty thrower and outfielder Jimmie Hall (1938) hit three long balls while knocking in 26 runs and swiping eight bases with the 1969 Yankees once they purchased his contract from the Indians that April. They moved him to the Chicago Cubs for Rick Bladt, minor leaguer Terry Bongiovanni, and cash the following September. Righty Ed Klepfer (1888) lost one game with no wins or saves in starting out with the Highlanders in 1911 and 1913; he finished by playing four years with the White Sox and the Indians, with a career mark of 22-17 with three saves.
Although he never played with the Yanks, we end with Scott Brow (1969), who posted a 3-4 mark with the Blue Jays and Diamondbacks in 1993-1996. Brow came to the Yankees in June 1998 with minor leaguer Joe Lisio for hurler Willie Banks.
Other birthdays of note: righthander Chick Fraser (1871), who won 175 games but lost 212 from 1896-1909, mostly with Louisville, Philadelphia, and Chicago; 1952 NL MVP Hank Sauer (1917); Pete Reiser (1919); Cito Gaston (1944); Danny Ainge (1959); John Smiley (1965); Bill Mueller (1971); Raul Chavez (1973), who spent the 2007 season with the Yanks in the minors as a free-agent signee; Vance Wilson (1973); Scott Downs (1976); Robb Quinlan (1977); A.J. Murray (1982); Cesar Valdez (1985); Chris Davis (1986); Juan Lagares (1989); Andrew Kittredge (1990); Jean Segura (1990); Rhys Hoskins (1993); and Stuart Fairchild (1996).
Players Born This Day