The Yankees signed free-agent second baseman Steve Sax from the reigning World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers to a three-year contract on November 23, 1988. Perhaps this fateful decision cost the Yanks a bench coach in 2004, as the effect of the signing had the Yanks and Dodgers swapping second basemen, with former Pinstriped Captain Willie Randolph signing with L.A. Sax provided a decent singles stick (including a record 171 one-base hits in ’89) and poor defense in the Bronx over three years, but he netted good players in trade. Randolph kicked in six home runs and 135 rbi’s with the Dodgers, the A’s, and the Mets in a waning career that lasted through 1992, but the relationship he established in Flushing may have facilitated his ascension to their managerial slot a few years ago, leaving the Yankee bench coach position to take the job. After a year of Joe Girardi and one of Lee Mazzilli sitting next to Joe Torre, Don Mattingly took the spot next. Randolph was fired in Flushing in 2008, was bench coach in Milwaukee in 2009-2010 and will serve there in Baltimore in 2011, and Joe and Donnie moved on to the L.A. Dodgers in 2008. Mattingly managed there, then in Miami, and won NL Manager of the Year in 2020.
Yankee catcher Clint Courtney was sent to the St. Louis Browns in exchange for pitcher Jim McDonald on November 23, 1951. Courtney would kick around the bigs, primarily with the Browns (and the Baltimore Orioles they would become) and the Washington Senators for the next 10 years, hitting 38 homers and over 300 rbi’s. But the Yanks were happy with McDonald, who went 16-12 the next three years, won a game in the 1953 World Series, and was part of the 17-player blockbuster 1954 deal that brought Bob Turley and Don Larsen to the Bronx.
On November 23, the Yankees released outfielder Clint Frazier and second baseman Rougned Odor.
On November 23, 2016, the Yankees released lefthander Joe Mantiply, and righthanders Nick Rumbelow and Nathan Eovaldi.
Russ Springer, who had been selected by the Yankees in the seventh round of the 1989 amateur draft, and who debuted with them in 14 games with no decisions in 1992, was signed to a two-year free-agent contract by the Arizona Diamondbacks on November 23, 1999.
Los Angeles Dodger outfielder Frank Howard won the first of two Rookie of the Year Awards handed out on November 23 when he got his in 1960. Chicago White Sox (and future Mets) outfielder Tommie Agee won the other on this day in 1966.
Los Angeles Dodger shortstop Maury Wills won the 1962 National League MVP Award on November 23, two years to the day after teammate Mr. Howard’s ROTY designation.
The New York Mets, hoping that Hall of Fame lefthander Warren Spahn‘s 6-13, 1964 campaign (coming on the heels of a 23-win 1963) was just a bad year, purchased his contract on November 23, 1964, but he would follow with a 4-12, 1965 season in Flushing.
In light of the amount of times that the Queen rock anthem We Are the Champions has been blasted in baseball stadia over the years, we acknowledge the death of Freddie Mercury on this day in 1991.
Not many baseball fans realize that this quite famous New York ballplayer was ever a Yankee, but righthander Ralph Branca (2016), who surrendered “the shot heard around the world” deciding the 1951 National League pennant, is the only pinstriper to have died on November 23, by virtue of having tossed five games (three starts) with the 1954 Yankees, winning one and neither losing nor saving a contest in that time. He started in Brooklyn, pitching for the Dodgers through the 1944-1953 seasons. He also pitched for Detroit and finished up with Brooklyn by pitching one game in 1956, in a career in which he won 88, lost 68, and saved 19. As a hitter, he homered three times, and drove in 31. And Manager for the Yankees in 1974 and 1975 Bill Virdon makes the Bronx list not only for that service, but also because center fielder Virdon was originally signed by the Yankees in 1950, then sent to the Cardinals in 1954 in a swap for Enos Slaughter. He played a year and a month in St. Louis, then exclusively for the Pirates after a trade there in early 1956, until he retired in 1965. In 1,583 games he hit 91 home runs with 502 rbi’s. As a skipper, Bill led the ’74 Yankees to a second place finish in the AL East, then he was replaced by Billy Martin about 100 games into the ’75 season, a year the club finished third.
Former Cleveland, Philly, and Cincinnati catcher Bo Diaz was killed in a freak accident at his Venezuela home on November 23, 1990, when a rooftop satellite dish toppled over and crushed him. Diaz had hit 87 home runs with 452 rbi’s from 1977-1989. The list of other noteworthy nonYankee players who have died on November 23 includes two righthanded pitchers, two southpaws, and a lefty who batted righthanded; also three outfielders. Hall of Famer Hack Wilson (1948) cleared 244 fences good for 1,063 runs from 1923-1934 playing mostly with the Giants, the Cubs, and the Dodgers; and portsided outfielder Sam West (1985) hit 75 long balls and collected 838 rbi’s playing mostly with the Senators and the Browns from 1927-1942. Outfielder Chuck Diering (2012) hit 14 home runs and drove in 141 runs from 1947-1956, playing mostly for the Cardinals and the Orioles. Righty Buck Ross (1978) posted a 56-95-2 mark with the A’s and the White Sox from 1936-1945; Willie Mitchell (1973) won 84, lost 92, and saved four games for the Indians and the Tigers from 1909-1919; and Bo Belinsky (2001), more famed for an early no hitter and his Hollywood life style, won 28 games, lost 51, and saved two from 1962-1964 with California, and with the Phillies and three other clubs from 1965-1970. The righty swinging, lefty throwing hurler is Mel Nelson (2021), who pitched for the Twins in 1966-1967, with the Cardinals in 1968-1969, and made two additional stops. He posted a 4-10 record with 5 saves in 93 games, 11 of them starts. Righthander Rudy Hernandez (2022) pitched all 28 of his games (no starts) for the 1960-1961 Washington Senators to a 4-2 record with no saves.
Players Who Have Died This Day
There are six Yankee November 23 birthdays. After long years tossing for both Cleveland and then Boston, Luis Tiant (1940) pitched to a 21-17 mark in the Bronx in 1979 and 1980. He posted a 229-172 record from 1964 through 1982. He signed as a free agent in New York in November 1978, and the Yanks let him go two seasons later. Earlier in his career Luis had been involved in a Cleveland trade for future Yankee star Graig Nettles from Minnesota.
It was big birthday news for Yankee fans regarding November 23 back in 2005, when free agent Aaron Small (1971) came out of seeming nowhere and saved a tattered rotation with his 10-0 record. The Yanks won all nine games he started. Small had amassed a 10-5 record with four saves the previous 10 seasons, primarily with Oakland. Small had a negligible effect on the 2006 Yanks.
Another name new to Yankee fans in 2005 was that of outfielder Colin Porter (1975), but despite a fine spring training campaign after signing a free-agent contract with New York, Porter did not make it to the parent club. He played in Houston and St. Louis in 2003 and 2004, and he hit one home run with two rbi’s with the Cards in ’04.
The flip side of the unexpectedly productive season the Yanks got out of Scott Brosius when they picked him up for the 1998 season was the paltry numbers from the guy who was signed to platoon with him. Lefty-hitting Dale Sveum (1963) chipped in with only three rbi’s during 58 at bats in 230 games that year after several seasons playing both with the Brewers and the Pirates.
And lefty-hitting first baseman Frank Tepedino (1947) debuted in the Bronx in 1967 and just got into a smattering of games each year until being traded with Bobby Mitchell to Milwaukee in June 1971 for Danny Walton. He returned for eight games once the Yanks purchased his contract in 1972, finishing with six rbi’s in 52 games in New York. He finished his career playing three years with Braves in Atlanta once he was with traded there with Al Closter, Dave Cheadle, and Wayne Nordhagen for Pat Dobson in June 1973.
Lefty-hitting outfielder Jimmy Sheckard (1878) played from 1897 through 1913, mostly with NL clubs in Brooklyn and Chicago, but he did manage four hits (in 15 at bats) with two stolen bases for the 1902 Baltimore Orioles, the franchise that would relocate to New York as the Highlanders the very next season. During unsettled years in early baseball history, Sheckard jumped from the Brooklyn Superbas to the Baltimore Orioles before the 1902 season, and made the opposite move one year later.
The Yankee birthday family grew by one when lefthanded infielder Tyler Wade (1994) joined the team and, although he had a disappointing year with the bat, scratching out two rbi’s with no homers in 30 games while batting .155, his versatile glove was helpful resting some regulars against righthanded pitchers. Wade, who was drafted by New York in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, continued to provide solid defense and virtually no offense playing 36 games for the Yankees in 2018. Wade got some reps in the outfield in 2019, improved somewhat that year, with two homers and 11 rbi’s. The weirdness of the 2020 season gave Wade a little lift, as he played in 53 of the 60 games, with three home runs, 10 rbi’s, and four stolen bases. This led him to blossoming as a backup in 2021, in which he appeared in 103 games (but only 127 at bats, entering late as a defensive replacement or baserunning option). Although he hit no home runs and only drove in five, he had career highs in stolen bases (17 of 23), hits (34), and runs scored (31). In 2021, Tyler was traded to Anaheim, then back to the Yankees in 2022. He had one homer with eight rbi’s with the Angels, but did not crack the Yankee roster in ’22. Tyler drove in two with no home runs with Oakland in 26 games in 2023, mostly playing defense and base running.
Other birthdays: Catcher Chief Zimmer (1860) who played from 1884 through 1903, much of it with the Cleveland Spiders; first baseman George Stovall (1877), who played most of his 1904 to 1915 career in Cleveland too, but with the Indians; lefty-hitting outfielder Brook Jacoby (1959); New York Giants player from 1931-1946 Hal Schumacher (1910); Jack McKeon (1930); David McCarty (1969); Ryan McGuire (1971); Matt Miller (1971); Adam Eaton (1977); Jonathan Papelbon (1980); Wes Bankston (1983); Robert Coello (1984); Casper Wells (1984); Justin Turner (1984); Pedro Figueroa (1985); Brandon Snyder (1986); Ross Stripling (1989); Enrique Burgos (1990); Jeff Ferrell (1990); Kyle Hart (1992); Austin Gomber (1993); Lewis Thorpe (1995); and Gavin Lux (1997).
Players Born This Day