Oh Doctor! True baseball fans know these words as the signature phrase of long-time San Diego Padre play-by-play announcer, Jerry Coleman. Only very long-time baseball fans, however, can remember when that same Jerry Coleman was the starting second baseman for the first three of Casey Stengel’s five straight New York Yankee championship teams from 1949 through 1951. Where was Coleman when the Yankees won the ’52 and ’53 titles? He was in the Marines flying a fighter jet during the Korean War while his starting Yankee position was taken over by Billy Martin. Coleman had also spent the three years before beginning his Yankee career as a Marine aviator during WWII, making him the only big league baseball player in history to see combat action in two different wars.
He spent a total of nine seasons in Pinstripes. His best year was 1950, when Stengel used him in 153 games and he batted .287. Coleman also had a .275 lifetime batting average in six World Series.
When I was a kid, I would have to pilfer my older brother’s GE transistor radio to listen to radio broadcasts of Yankee games on the front porch of our house on Guy Park Avenue. That was my first encounter with Coleman, who was doing New York’s games on the radio back then.
The older I get the more respect and awe I have for athletes like Coleman, who excelled at their sport, served their country in an active combat position during what would have been their peak performance years and then excelled in the careers they entered, when their playing days were over. Coleman was born September 14, 1924, in San Jose, CA. Update: Coleman passed away on January 5, 2014, at the age of 89.
Coleman shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher who was acquired by New York in exchange for the great first baseman, Moose Skowren.
I like Yankee radio broadcaster Suzyn Waldman and pretty much always have. Yes she’s an unabashed “homer” but so was “Scooter.” Yes she went way overboard on that night in 2007, when Roger Clemons stood there waving alongside George Steinbrenner at the old Yankee Stadium as his return to the Yankees was announced to the crowd. But that’s another reason I like her. She says what she feels and she shows emotion. I absolutely did not mind her crying on air after the Yankees lost the 2007 ALDS to the Indians or when she was verbally and unfairly assaulted by Toronto’s George Bell during a 1987 interview in the Stadium’s visitors’ locker room. She’s certainly not the best play-by-play or color commentator I’ve ever heard but I happily listen to her when radio is my only connection available to my favorite team’s games. There have been rumors spread by certain Big Apple tabloid reporters that Waldman, a former Broadway actress, got her sports announcing gig with the Bombers because she was a par amour of Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. I have no idea how true that is but after listening to the feisty lady talk about the Bronx Bombers for the last two decades, I know she has the knowledge, passion and talent to more than justify her role in Yankee history as the team’s first-ever female play-by-play announcer.
And despite the fact that she’s a female, Ms. Waldman also has proven she carries around a set of balls. In Bill Madden’s great book “Steinbrenner,” the author explains how Waldman was the person who got George Steinbrenner to apologize to Yogi Berra. At one point, as final arrangements for the meeting at Berra’s New Jersey Museum’s grand opening were being worked out, Yogi’s son Dale was worried the Boss would not actually apologize to his father. As Madden tells it in his book, Waldman assured the younger Berra that the Yankee owner was not going to fly all the way up to new Jersey from Tampa to say “F_ _ _ you!”
Waldman was born on this date in 1946. This one time Yankee outfielder was also born on September 7th.
The Yankees, Dodgers and Giants were the last three big league teams to provide regular radio broadcasts of their games. It wasn’t until 1939 that the Big Apple baseball franchises set aside their fear that such broadcasts would reduce gate attendance and joined the rest of baseball by putting their home games on the air. The thrifty Yankees and Giants decided to share an announcer since the teams never played home games on the same dates and they co-hired a play-by-play veteran named Arch McDonald who had been doing the radio broadcasts for the Washington Senators. Needing to replace McDonald, the Wheaties cereal people, the Senator’s radio sponsor, hired a young CBS game-show announcer who had also done some news reporting and college football assignments for the network. His name was Mel Allen Israel. But before the Birmingham, AL native announced his first Senator game, Clark Griffith vetoed the hiring so that Washington pitching legend, Walter Johnson, could take the job. By 1940, McDonald was looking for a new assistant in New York and ended up giving the job to Allen who at the behest of CBS had dropped the Israel surname.
During the next two and a half decades, Mel Allen became the “Voice of the Yankees” and the most well-known sportscaster in all the world. His signature phrases “Hello there everybody,” “How about that?” and “Going going gone!” became part of every Yankee fans’ vocabulary as did the nicknames he assigned to Yankee legends. Joe DiMaggio became “Joltin Joe,” Tommy Heinrich, “Old Reliable” and Mickey Mantle, “The Magnificent Yankee.” Allen did not like it when the Yankees teamed him up with another Big Apple baseball broadcasting legend, Red Barber, in the mid fifties. He and Barber would become the first two diamond broadcasters to be enshrined in Cooperstown. Mel also did not approve of Phil Rizzuto being given a microphone in the Yankee booth when New York’s front office forced Scooter to hang up his playing uniform during the 1956 season. First of all, the Scooter’s hiring caused the firing of Allen’s much-liked protege, Jim Woods. Mel also strongly disapproved of Rizzuto’s lackadaisical attention span and his misuse of the English language. Ironically, it had been Allen’s invitations to Scooter to join him in the booth during the later innings of games at the end of Rizzuto’s playing career that led to his hiring.
Allen was unceremoniously dumped when CBS purchased the Yankees in 1965 in a cost-cutting move. George Steinbrenner got him rehired to do games on cable during the mid seventies and Allen’s hosting of the popular “This Week in Baseball” once again made him one of the sports best known voices for a whole new generation of fans. He died in 1996. It wasn’t until last month, when my wife and I took a tour of the new Yankee Stadium that I realized Allen had been given a plaque in the team’s Monument Park. He certainly earned one.
Bill White appeared in 1,673 big league games but not one of them while wearing a Yankee uniform. Instead, he made his most significant mark as a player as the hard-hitting starting first baseman for the Cardinal teams of the late 1950’s and early 60’s. In 1964, he helped St Louis win a World Championship, beating the Yankees in a seven game series. The following season, both the Cardinals and White had off-years and St Louis traded him to the Phillies. White completed his playing career in 1969, retiring with a .286 lifetime batting average, 202 home runs and 870 RBIs over thirteen seasons.
He had first gotten involved in broadcasting hosting a radio show while he was playing for St Louis. After he retired from the Phillies, he got into television as a sportscaster for a station in the City of Brotherly Love. In 1971, he joined the Yankee broadcasting team of Phil Rizzuto and Frank Messer. For the next eighteen seasons, his distinctive voice became synonymous with Yankee baseball. I loved listening to White do Yankee games. He was well-spoken, concise and always prepared. What I enjoyed even more was the banter between him and Scooter that usually left White cackling in laughter.
He remained a key component of the Yankee broadcasting team for eighteen years, becoming the first black person to do play-by-play regularly for a Major League baseball team. In 1989, he accepted Baseball Commissioner Bart Giametti’s offer to become the first African-American president of the National League. He served in that office for five years.
I’ve embedded the above audio clip of White’s most famous call as a Yankee announcer. I’m sure listening to it will bring back a great memory for long-time fans of the Bronx Bombers. White shares his January 28th birthday with this one-time Yankee second baseman and this more recent Yankee first baseman.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the Scooter do Yankee games. In fact, his memorable on-air birthday wishes to Yankee fans inspired this Blog. One evening toward the end of his career in the Yankee booth, Rizzuto was going through his list of birthday announcements when the late Bobby Murcer interrupted him by asking when he was born. The Scooter didn’t answer the question so I grabbed my copy of the Baseball Encyclopedia and looked it up. Then I looked up Murcer’s, Mantle’s, Mattingly’s etc. As I did so I began to wonder if I could find a current or former Yankee born on each day of the calendar year and the task became my hobby for the next few months.
I never saw Rizzuto play the game but I grew up listening to him. I loved the fact that he was an unabashed “homer” rooting the Yankees on through good times and bad. His stories were priceless, entertaining me almost as much as a Yankee victory. I loved the one he told about spending his wedding night in a round room so he couldn’t corner his wife, Cora. Or when Bill White would ask him if he thought traffic would be bad after the game and Rizzuto would answer. “I don’t know White and I don’t intend to find out.” Or when a batter would hit a pop up and Rizzuto would say “While that ball’s up in the air Seaver I wanna wish Sophie DeCarlo up in Mt. Vernon a happy 80th birthday.” His induction speech at the Baseball Hall of Fame is a classic.
On the field, Rizzuto was one of the most valuable members of the Yankee teams that won five straight pennants from 1949 through 1953. In all he had seven championship rings and he won the 1950 AL MVP award when he reached the 200 hit plateau with a .324 average. He was an expert bunter, base runner and a terrific fielder. The great Ted Williams often stated that Rizzuto was one of the most talented players he had ever seen. I’m glad he made it to Cooperstown while he was still alive. He was truly a Yankee legend.
While Yankee fans read a lot about how the Core Four turned the Yankees’ fortunes around in 1996, the free agent signing of Joe Girardi to become the team’s starting catcher that same season, helped quite a bit as well. Girardi had caught for the Cubs when Don Zimmer managed Chicago and it was at the urging of Joe Torre’s first Yankee bench coach that New York signed the Peoria, IL native to replace Mike Stanley.
Girardi turned out to be a solid signal caller for Torre’s pitching staff and a leader on the field and in the clubhouse. He also proved to be an excellent mentor for a young Jorge Posada and gracefully ceded playing time to him as Posada matured and improved his hitting skills. In 1999, Girardi returned to the Cubs as a free agent for three seasons and played his last year with the Cardinals in 2003.
He tried broadcasting for a few seasons and then joined Joe Torre’s coaching staff as Yankee bench coach in 2005. He got the Florida Marlins’ managerial position a year later. He was named NL Manager of the Year in 2006 for keeping the club with the lowest payroll in baseball in contention for a playoff spot for most of the season. Ironically, by the time he received the actual award, he had already been fired by Marlins’ owner, Jeff Loria.
You know the rest of the story. After getting his dream job of managing the Yankees, New York missed the postseason for the first time in Joe’s first year as skipper but won their 27th World Series in his second. He has managed them back into postseason play three times since but they’re still trying to return to another World Series. I think Girardi has done an above average job managing New York for the past five seasons. It is evident that he works very hard at his craft, is very intelligent and serves as an effective spokesperson on the team’s behalf. He never disses his players in public and his behavior in the dugout has been impeccable.
Also born on this date was the first pitcher of Puerto Rican descent to win 20 games in a season, this former Yankee outfielder and this former Yankee second baseman who was once a teammate of Girardi’s.
Here are Girardi’s seasonal stats as a Yankee player and his MLB career totals:
|CHC (7 yrs)||578||1880||1719||161||446||74||6||13||148||12||122||266||.259||.310||.332||.642||72|
|NYY (4 yrs)||379||1412||1283||147||349||72||9||8||153||20||80||172||.272||.317||.361||.678||75|
|COL (3 yrs)||304||1217||1102||145||302||40||11||15||120||12||74||165||.274||.323||.371||.694||69|
|STL (1 yr)||16||26||23||1||3||0||0||0||1||0||3||4||.130||.231||.130||.361||-1|
Here are Girardi’s Yankee and career stats as a manager:
|2||2008||43||New York Yankees||AL||162||89||73||.549||3|
|3||2009||44||New York Yankees||AL||162||103||59||.636||1||WS Champs|
|4||2010||45||New York Yankees||AL||162||95||67||.586||2|
|5||2011||46||New York Yankees||AL||162||97||65||.599||1|
|6||2012||47||New York Yankees||AL||162||95||67||.586||1|
|7||2013||48||New York Yankees||AL||162||85||77||.525||3|
|Florida Marlins||1 year||162||78||84||.481||4.0|
|New York Yankees||6 years||972||564||408||.580||1.8||1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title|
|7 years||1134||642||492||.566||2.1||1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title|
If you’re old enough to remember when Lou Piniella played for the Yankees, you most likely enjoyed watching him do so. He had very little speed and not much power so he mixed every ounce of talent he had with every bit of effort he could muster to play a huge role in helping New York win five pennants and two World Series during his eleven seasons with the team. Oh yeah, he also had a beautiful swing which earned him the nickname “Sweet Lou.” He first donned the pinstripes in 1974, when the Yankees picked up the 1969 AL Rookie of the Year winner from the Royals in a trade for veteran reliever Lindy McDaniel. It turned out to be one of the best transactions in Yankee history. He hit .305 as manager Bill Virdon’s everyday right-fielder during his first year in the Bronx but then he went through a horrible season in 1975, averaging just .186 and helping to get Virdon fired and replaced by the fiery Billy Martin. Billy began playing Piniella a little bit in right field, a little bit in left and a little bit at DH. Lou simply thrived in this semi-utility role, averaging over .300 for the rest of his Yankee career. The play he will always be remembered for in the Big Apple was his famous feint on the Jerry Remy liner that he lost in the sun during the 1978 playoff game against the Red Sox. If he doesn’t make believe he sees that ball, Rick Burleson, who was on first at the time, easily gets to third and might have scored. Then Lou spears the ball on one hop and again prevents Burleson from getting past second.
George Steinbrenner loved players born in his adopted home-town of Tampa and Lou was the first native of that city to play for The Boss. That helps explain why George gave Lou his first manager and general manager jobs with the Yankees. Piniella’s temper and Steinbrenner’s famous impatience with anyone placed in either of those positions ended any chance Lou might have had to retire from baseball as a Yankee. Instead he went on to win three Manager of the Year titles, the 1991 World Series and finally ended his 43-year big league career this month when he walked away from the Wrigley Field dugout to spend time with his ailing Mom and go fishing.
Lou turns 68 years-old today. The guy who gave up the home run to Bucky Dent in that 1978 playoff game, the pitcher who started that playoff game for New York, this former Yankee second baseman and this former Yankee reliever were all also born on August 28th.
|NYY (11 yrs)||1037||3577||3291||392||971||178||20||57||417||10||215||276||.295||.338||.413||.751|
|KCR (5 yrs)||700||2778||2570||258||734||127||21||45||348||22||153||265||.286||.327||.404||.730|
|CLE (1 yr)||6||6||5||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|BAL (1 yr)||4||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000||.000||.000||.000|