On March 20, 1958, the Phillies attempted to trade for first baseman and outfielder Joe Collins from the Yankees, but Joe opted to retire rather than report. A lefty like Don Mattingly who both threw and batted that way, Joe appeared in seven World Series in his Yankee career; the Yanks won five of them. He played for the Yanks exclusively, for whom he slugged 86 round-trippers with 329 rbi’s and 27 steals from 1948-1957.
Months before “Where’s Oswaldo?” would become a spirited fan call in the Bronx, the versatile switch hitter and fielder at multiple positions Oswaldo Cabrera hit a grand slam in the sixth inning of a Tigers/Yankees Sping Training battle at GMS Field on March 20, 2022. It brought the home team, which had been down 4-0, to a 7-4 lead. But a late bullpen collapse allowed Detroit to score four runs in the top of the ninth. and the visitors squeaked out an 8-7 win.
On March 20, 2019, the Yankees signed free agent lefthander Gio Gonzalez to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
On March 20, 2018, righthander Anyelo Gomez was returned to the Yankees from the Atlanta Braves.
On March 20, 2015, righthander Chris Smith was assigned to the Yankees.
On March 20, 2014, catcher Tyson Blaser was assigned to the Yankees’ minor league camp.
On March 20, 2013, righthanded pitcher Zachary Arneson and outfielder Mason Williams were assigned to the Yankees.
Leo Durocher, who actually got his start in the bigs with the Yanks in the late 20′s, was hired to manage the Yokohama Taiyo Whales in the Japanese League in 1976. But he developed hepatitis and asked on March 20 if he could report five weeks late. He was denied, for good reason; the Championship was a mere 20 days away.
The next March 20 item regarding Yankee players after their Pinstriped careers are over involves the legendary Sultan of Swat, the Bambino, Babe Ruth, who signed to play with the Boston Braves for the 1935 season. The Cardinals set a Spring Training attendance record on that March day, as almost 7,000 fans swamped their tiny park in St. Petersburg to see The Babe. Ruth hit a towering fly out against Dizzy Dean, then laced two doubles into the overflow crowd after Dean had left. St. Louis came away with a 5-4 win.
If one ignored the years, a quick scan of other March 20 news would indicate another two items about future or former Yankee players. First, the A’s shipped Bobby Estalella and Jimmy Pofahl to Washington for Bob Johnson. Later, Roy Smalley was sent from the Cubs to the Braves for David Cole. But the first item happened in 1943, with that Mr. Estalella (an outfielder) being the grandfather of his like-named grandson, who would spend a few frames behind the dish as a catcher with the 2001 Yanks. And the Roy Smalley who smacked 45 homers for the Bombers from 1982-1984 was not involved in the latter trade, which happened in 1954. His father, who also played shortstop, was in the Cubs/Braves swap.
And now for my Manny Alexander story, as he was born this day in 1971. I escaped work and trained it to Baltimore for a two-game midweek set in Camden Yards in early ’96. Andy Pettitte was hit badly, the Yanks fell way behind, and then mounted a comeback in Game One. With Baltimore holding a one-run lead, Cal Ripken, who was still playing virtually every inning then, led off the eighth with a single, and new manager Davey Johnson sent young Alexander in to pinch-run. He was picked off before the first pitch was thrown, the Yanks tied the game, and a Baltimore fanbase that hadn’t seen more than an out or two in well over a decade with Cal off the field was forced to watch seven innings without him until the Yanks won the game in 15 frames. The Bombers completed the mini-sweep the next day to take over first (a lead they would not relinquish all year), but the following morning’s Baltimore and Washington papers virtually ignored that huge fact. Rather, they talked endlessly about how the new manager had dared make them play all those innings with no Cal.
On March 20, 2012, righthanded pitcher Branden Pinder was assigned to the Yankees; and the club optioned four players to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: third baseman Brandon Laird; and righthanders D.J. Mitchell, George Kontos, and David Phelps.
The Yankees reassigned catcher Kyle Anson to Minor League camp on March 20, 2008.
It is simply a statistical quirk that two of the Oakland A’s band of five young starters who toiled under Manager Billy Martin for the 1980 season, Steve McCatty (1954) and Rick Langford (1952), were born on March 20. It gets a little weirder when you realize that a third, Mike Norris, was born the day before (March 19, 1962). The other two guys, Brian Kingman and Matt Keough, were both born in July, breaking the pattern. But the amount of innings Billy had them on the mound that year is a study in higher math that holds true for all five, and lasted the season. The low man in complete games and innings pitched was Kingman with 10 and 211.3. Together the five amassed an amazing 93 complete games, during 1,257.33 innings of work.
The two Yankee players to have died on March 20 had vastly different careers. Hall of Fame righthander Stan Coveleski (1984) won 215 games while losing 142 and saving 21 for the Athletics in 1912, and for the Indians, and the Senators from 1916-1927, but the last six decisions came with the 1928 Yanks, 5-1 in 12 games, eight of them starts. But had lefty-hitting infielder Ezra Midkiff (1957) not played one game for the 1909 Reds, his entire career would have consisted of the 370 at bats in 104 games with the 1912-1913 Highlanders. He reached no fences but knocked in 23 runs.
The majority of the nine notable non-Yanks to have died this day pitched, including a recent addition to the list in 2012; four played the field. Outfielder Bob Fothergill (1938) hit 36 home runs with 582 rbi’s from 1922-1931. He played eight-plus years with the Tigers, and two-plus with the White Sox. After a brief 1902 debut with the Giants, shortstop Heinie Wagner (1943) finished with 10 long balls and 343 rbi’s after playing with the Americans and the Red Sox in Boston from 1906-1918. Third baseman Mike Mowrey (1947), the first of two in this gang to play the hot corner, played four years of a 12-year stay with the Reds and four more with the Cardinals, and he hit seven home runs good for 461 rbi’s. Outfielder Gee Walker (1981) hit 124 home runs good for 997 rbi’s playing seven years with the Tigers and five with the Reds from 1931-1945. Following new entrant Mel Parnell (2012), a lefty who threw exclusively for the Red Sox from 1947 through 1956 to a 123-75 record with 10 saves, the other two pitchers threw from opposite sides, with righthander Johnny Morrison (1966) winning 103 and losing 80 with 23 saves for the Pirates (seven years) and the Dodgers from 1920-1930. Southpaw Clyde Shoun (1968) played at least parts of three seasons with the Cubs, the Cards, the Reds, and the Braves from 1935-1950, good for a 73-59 record with 29 saves. You can see below that March 20 is the day Shoun was born and died. Catcher Bill Holbert (1935) failed to homer while playing with six teams from 1876-1888, most often with the Metropolitans and the Trojans, with 144 rbi’s. And the second third baseman on the list and the most recent entrant, Randy Jackson (2019) played from 1950 through 1955, and in 1959, with the Cubs, along with stints with the Dodgers and the Indians; Randy homered 103 times, and drove in 415 runs.
Players Who Have Died This Day
Righthander Al Shealy (1900) is the hands-down seniority leader among the five Yankee players who share March 20 as their birthday. He played his first of two big-league seasons with the 1928 team, recording an 8-6 record with two saves; Al played with the Cubs in 1930. A more recent and therefore more recognizable Yankee name is that of Paul Mirabella (1954), who arrived in New York in November 1978 along with lefty Dave Righetti, righty Mike Griffin, outfielder Juan Beniquez, and minor leaguer Greg Jemison in a trade for Domingo Ramos, Mike Heath, Sparky Lyle, Larry McCall, Dave Rajsich, and cash. The southpaw hurler posted a quick 0-4 record in 10 games (one start) before leaving in the swap that sent Chris Chambliss and Domingo Ramos to Toronto for Tom Underwood, Rick Cerone, and Ted Wilborn in 1981.
The other three Bomber birthdayers barely managed a cup of coffee in New York among them. Righty Steve Blateric (1944) allowed two hits and no runs in the one game he pitched for the 1972 club. He was acquired from the Reds in September 1972 and was returned to them the following March. Third baseman Paddy Greene (1875) played four games with the Highlanders in their initial 1903 season in the Big Apple. He stroked four hits in 13 at bats. And lastly, including Steve Dillon (1943) is a stretch. He never played with the parent club after being drafted before the 1962 season and was then snatched by the crosstown Mets in their initial expansion draft that November. He posted no record in three appearances with the Mets in 1963 and 1964.
New to the list is righthander Elvis Peguero (1997), a 2015 Yankee draftee who was traded to the Angels late-ish in the 2021 season for lefty Andrew Heaney. Although Peguero would lose a game in three appearances with a high era for Anaheim, it’s debatable if his season was worse than what Heaney gave the Yankees down the stretch.
Other birthdays, aside from Misters Steve McCatty (1954), Rick Langford (1952), and Manny Alexander (1971), all mentioned above: Lefty Clyde Schoun (1912), who went 73-59 in 15 years with the Cubs, the Cards, the Reds, and the Braves; Pat Corrales (1943); Chris Hoiles (1965); Blas Minor (1966); Jason McDonald (1972); Joe Fontenot (1977); Wilfredo Rodriguez (1979); Jonny Venters (1985); Todd Cunningham (1989); Brad Hand (1990); Justin Garza (1994); and Elvis Peguero (1997).
Players Born This Day