March 2 – Happy Birthday Danny Hoffman

hoffmanJason Giambi was the last Yankee to do it in 2003. Before him, you have to go all the way back to 1960, when Mickey Mantle did it. Mantle did it four more times during the fifties and still holds the Yankee record for doing it most. Charley Keller did it in 1946. Joe Gordon did it during his MVP season with the Yankees in 1942. Frankie Crosetti did it a couple of times during the thirties. The great Babe Ruth did it four times during the 1920’s and Bob Meusel and Aaron Ward joined him by doing it one time each. Before they did it, Wally Pipp had accomplished the feat in 1917 and a Highlander shortstop named Neal Ball had also done it in 1908. But the very first player in New York Yankee franchise history to lead the American League in most strikeouts by a hitter in the regular season was their starting center fielder in 1907 and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Daniel John “Danny” Hoffman.

Hoffman was a gifted athlete who had great speed, a strong arm and a better than average bat. A native of Connecticut, he had made his big league debut as a 23-year-old outfielder with Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s in 1903. Two years later, he led the AL in stolen bases with 46. One month into the 1906 regular season, Mack traded Hoffman to New York for a guy named Dave Fultz. Danny then  joined Wee Willie Keeler and Wid Conroy in the Highlanders’ starting outfield. 1907 turned out to be his only full season with the team and it was a good one despite all those strikeouts. Hoffman established career highs in base hits (131), runs (81), HRs (5) and RBI’s (46). But that didn’t prevent him from getting traded to the St. Louis Browns as part of a six-player deal that took place in early November of 1907.

In addition to striking out a lot, Hoffman also had another unfortunate propensity. He got hit by lots of pitches, especially in the head. He had been knocked unconscious by one when he was with the A’s in 1904 and he got plunked 13 times during his only full season with New York in ’07. He continued playing in the big leagues until 1911 and then returned to the minors for four more years after that. His career was ended by a severe head beaning during a 1915 game with the Wilkes Barre Barons. Hoffman died just seven years later at the young age of 42.

In addition to being the first Yankee to lead the league in strikeouts, Hoffman is the only Yankee in history to have killed a horse during a baseball game. It happened in 1902, when Hoffman was playing minor league ball for a team in Springfield and hit a drive to the outfield that struck and killed the animal. Now I haven’t been able to confirm this with my research yet, but the nickname of that Springfield team was the Ponies so I’m thinking the horse Danny’s drive killed that day just might have been his team’s own mascot. Talk about a bad omen huh?

In any event, Hoffman shares his birthday with this 1950 NL MVP.

1906 NYY 100 359 320 34 82 10 6 0 23 32 27 73 .256 .318 .325 .643
1907 NYY 136 583 517 81 131 10 3 5 46 30 42 103 .253 .325 .313 .639
9 Yrs 829 3325 2981 361 762 71 52 14 235 185 226 582 .256 .316 .328 .645
PHA (4 yrs) 254 1017 933 130 247 22 22 6 81 63 47 177 .265 .304 .355 .659
SLB (4 yrs) 339 1366 1211 116 302 29 21 3 85 60 110 229 .249 .321 .315 .637
NYY (2 yrs) 236 942 837 115 213 20 9 5 69 62 69 176 .254 .322 .318 .640
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 3/3/2014.

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