My in-laws became huge Atlanta Braves’ fans in the 1980s, which of course meant they adored Dale Murphy. I’m not certain of this but I think I do remember my mother-in-law actually crying on the day the team traded “the Murph” to the Phillies, in August of 1990. The guy who took over for the Braves’ legend was David Justice. He got off to a great start, winning the 1990 NL Rookie of the Year Award by hitting 28 home runs and averaging .282 in his first full big league season. He then had two consecutive 21 home run seasons before suddenly exploding with 40 round trippers and 120 RBIs in 1993.
The following season, Justice tore his shoulder muscle and was never again the force he had been in Atlanta’s lineup. He had also married the actress, Halle Barry in 1992 and their life together became fodder for the tabloids for the next few years. Their coupling ended pretty badly just a couple of years after it began and the outfielder’s marriage to the Braves also broke up shortly thereafter.
In March of 1997, Justice switched tribes when Atlanta traded him and fellow Braves’ outfielder, Marquis Grissom to the Indians for Kenny Lofton and pitcher Alan Embree. My mother-in-law didn’t cry that day but she wasn’t happy a year later when Lofton, who had hit .333 during his one season in Atlanta, became a free agent and rejoined the Indians. He and Justice, who hit 31 home runs and drove in 101 runs, led Cleveland to the 1997 World Series.
In June of 2000, Justice came to the Yankees. I had never been a big David Justice fan so when New York made the mid-season trade with Cleveland to get him that year, my first reaction was disappointment that the New York front office had given up on Ricky Ledee, who was part of the trade. But boy did Justice make me forget Ledee in a hurry. In just 78 games in pinstripes that season, he smacked 20 home runs, scored 58, and drove in 60 more. He pretty much put the team on his back and carried them to the playoffs. Then in the ALCS against Seattle, Justice drove in eight more runs. Without him, I doubt seriously the Subway Series of 2000 would ever have taken place.
In 2001, Justice suffered a groin injury that plagued him almost the entire season. He played in only 111 games, hit just 18 home runs and averaged a career low .241. Those numbers got him traded after the 2001 season, first to the Mets who then immediately turned around and traded Justice to the A’s, where the then 36-year-old three-time all-star played the final season of his 14-year big league career. He quit with 305 career home runs and two rings. But baseball wasn’t through with Justice yet.
Five years after he played his final big league game, his name showed up in “the Mitchell Report,” the Major League’s official expose of steroid and HGH abuse. An informant claimed to have sold Justice HGH after the 2000 World Series. Justice has steadfastly denied he ever used any PEDs during his career. What’s the truth? When Justice hit those 40 homers in 1993, the two guys who finished ahead of him in the NL MVP race were Barry Bonds and Larry Dykstra. When the Yankees traded for Justice during the 2000 season, it was only after Brian Cashman failed in his efforts to bring Sammy Sosa or Juan Gonzalez to New York. Justice played and peaked during the same era as Bonds, Dykstra, Sosa and Gonzalez. We know PEDs were part of the game. Are they still? Who really knows? That’s the damn shame.
Justice shares his April 14th birthday with this former Yankee reliever.
|ATL (8 yrs)||817||3349||2858||475||786||127||16||160||522||33||452||492||.275||.374||.499||.873|
|CLE (4 yrs)||486||2025||1713||299||503||102||4||96||335||14||288||316||.294||.392||.526||.918|
|NYY (2 yrs)||189||757||656||101||176||33||1||38||111||2||93||125||.268||.357||.495||.853|
|OAK (1 yr)||118||471||398||54||106||18||3||11||49||4||70||66||.266||.376||.410||.785|
His real name was Norman Arthur Elberfeld and back when he played professional baseball at the turn of the twentieth century, he was considered to be one of the meanest players in uniform. He was so hot-tempered that he was given the nickname “The Tabasco Kid.” Elberfeld’s meanness was not limited to the ball field. He also owned a farm in Tennessee. He was accused of stealing a calf from a neighboring farm. The case ended up in a local court and the ruling went against “The Kid” and he was forced to let his neighbor have the calf. A week later the animal was found poisoned to death.
As far as we know, Elberfeld never poisoned a human being but he did do a tap dance on an opposing player’s back wearing his razor-sharp baseball cleats. He also once threw a handful of mud INSIDE the mouth of an umpire he happened to be arguing with. He poked another ump in the stomach with his finger so many times that the guy started beating Elberfeld over the head with his mask. He would actually get so mad at umpires that he was known to chase men-in-blue around baseball diamonds trying to physically assault them.
This maniac was the first starting shortstop in Yankee (Highlander) history. He played that position from 1903 until he was sold to the Washington Senators after the 1909 season. As hot-tempered as he was, Elberfeld evidently was a pretty skilled player who knew how to get on base. During his seven seasons playing for New York, he batted .268 and had a .340 on base percentage.
At the beginning of the 1908 season, New York Manager, Clark Griffith got into a dispute with the team’s owners and was dismissed. Elberfeld happened to be injured at the time so since he was being paid anyway, the Highlander brain trust made him the team’s Manager. The results were disastrous. The umpires hated him and so did his own players. He piloted the team to an almost comical 27-71 record during the rest of that 1908 season and his big league managerial days were over forever. He played one more season for New York before getting sold to Washington where he was reunited with Clark Griffith.
|NYY (7 yrs)||667||2743||2412||330||647||89||28||4||257||117||182||94||.268||.340||.333||.674|
|DET (3 yrs)||286||1219||1052||175||305||43||20||4||159||48||123||33||.290||.376||.380||.757|
|WSH (2 yrs)||254||1022||859||111||224||28||6||2||89||43||100||23||.261||.363||.314||.677|
|BRO (1 yr)||30||71||62||7||14||1||0||0||1||0||2||4||.226||.304||.242||.546|
|CIN (1 yr)||41||166||138||23||36||4||2||0||22||5||15||6||.261||.378||.319||.697|
|PHI (1 yr)||14||52||38||1||9||4||0||0||7||0||5||5||.237||.420||.342||.762|
When I see the name Kyle Farnsworth, I associate it with a pitcher who had nasty closer-like stuff but lacked a closer’s mentality. Brian Cashman paid Farnsworth a lot of money after the 2005 season ($17 million over three years) to replace Flash Gordon as the new Yankee bridge to Mariano Rivera. The right hander had pitched his first six big league seasons as a member of the Chicago Cub bullpen. In 2005 he was traded to the Tigers. He made just 16 appearances in Detroit and was then traded to the Braves just before the 2005 inter-league trading deadline expired. He became Bobby Cox’s closer in Atlanta and during the last two months of the ’05 season, Farnsworth pitched the best baseball of his life. He saved 10 games, struck out 32 guys in 27 innings and gave up less than two earned runs per nine innings pitched, helping the Braves hold off the Marlins and win the NL East division race. But in Game 4 of that year’s NLDS, Farnsworth was called in to protect a 6-1 lead in the eighth inning against the Astros and gave up a grand slam to Lance Berkman and a solo shot an inning later and the Braves lost the game and the series in the 18th inning.
I remember watching that game. I’m sure it was a performance Farnsworth would love to forget and Brian Cashman must have forgot it when he paid all that money to bring this guy to the Bronx. He then became an enigma for Joe Torre. Torre was a great Manager but he did have his struggles developing working relationships with certain players and Farnsworth was one of them. In his first year in pinstripes, the pitcher struggled to establish a rhythm. He’d pitch lights out baseball for a stretch and then he’d get hit hard for a week or two. It was clear Torre did not trust his stuff and it became clear that Farnsworth resented that when the pitcher started talking about his Manager’s lack of faith in him to the New York sports press.
Ironically, it was Joba Chamberlain who effectively ended Farnsworth’s career in New York. When Joba was brought up in 2007 and pitched brilliantly as Mo’s set-up man, Farnsworth found himself buried even deeper in that Yankee bullpen. I call it ironic because Joba’s meltdown in the 2007 postseason’s “Bug” game at Jacobs Field seemed to knock his career off stride in the same way Farnsworth’s was thrown off kilter by his disastrous performance against the Astro’s two seasons earlier.
When both Jorge Posada and Jose Molina went down with injuries in the first half of the 2008 season, the Yankees traded Farnsworth to the Tigers for Ivan Rodriguez. Kyle was born in Wichita in 1976. Another Yankee who shares Farnsworth’s April 14th birthday is this hero from New York’s 2000 season.
|CHC (6 yrs)||22||37||.373||4.78||343||26||88||1||1||4||478.2||468||281||254||75||224||467||1.446|
|TBR (3 yrs)||8||7||.533||3.54||136||0||69||0||0||25||114.1||104||47||45||10||33||95||1.198|
|NYY (3 yrs)||6||9||.400||4.33||181||0||41||0||0||7||170.1||165||87||82||28||72||166||1.391|
|KCR (2 yrs)||4||5||.444||3.40||78||0||27||0||0||0||82.0||83||35||31||5||26||78||1.329|
|ATL (2 yrs)||0||2||.000||3.42||49||0||24||0||0||10||47.1||30||18||18||6||14||57||0.930|
|DET (2 yrs)||2||2||.500||3.53||62||0||21||0||0||6||58.2||56||26||23||5||25||73||1.381|
|NYM (1 yr)||0||0||0.96||10||0||3||0||0||1||9.1||8||1||1||0||2||6||1.071|
|PIT (1 yr)||1||1||.500||1.04||9||0||7||0||0||2||8.2||6||1||1||1||3||9||1.038|
The great Joe McCarthy really was a players’ manager but that didn’t mean he was a pushover, far from it. During the 1942 season, Bill Dickey got hurt. His backup that season and heir apparent as Yankee catcher was a 27-year-old native of Buffalo, NY named Buddy Rosar. Rosar was married and had a kid and with the world at war, he was worried about his future. He felt he needed a career to fall back on in case he didn’t make it as a big league catcher so he made a fateful decision to leave the Yankees for a couple of days to take a policeman’s exam back in his native Buffalo. During his absence, the Yankees played a double header on a very hot afternoon and McCarthy had no choice but to start 35-year-old Rollie Hemsley behind the plate for both games. When the day was done, Hemsley was near collapse from physical exhaustion and McCarthy was determined to get rid of Rosar.
The trade took place ten days after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Rosar and Yankee outfielder Roy Cullenbine were sent to Cleveland for outfielder Roy Weatherly and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. Oscar Grimes had been around baseball all his life. His father Ray had been a first baseman for the Cubs during the 1920’s and his uncle Roy Grimes, had once played second base for the New York Giants. Oscar was an infielder too and one of the reasons Marse Joe wanted him was his ability to play any of the four infield positions.
That flexibility didn’t earn the native of Minerva, OH much playing time during his first season in New York. He got into just eight games for the Yankees in 1943 but he did get his first and only World Series ring that year, even though he didn’t get to play a single out of that Fall Classic. Things changed for Grimes in 1944. The Yankees’ young and talented starting third baseman, Billy Johnson was called into military service and McCarthy began playing Grimes regularly at the hot corner. In one of his early starts there, he found out firsthand why the legendary Yankee skipper was so beloved by his players. Grimes had made three errors in the contest, pretty much single handedly costing New York the loss. While he was undressing in the clubhouse after the game, he saw McCarthy approaching him. He prepared himself for a tongue-lashing but instead, the manager put his hand on Grimes shoulder and told him about a horrible fielding day he himself had had in the minors.
Grimes played 116 games and had a career high .279 during that ’44 season. In 1945, he played 142 games for New York and had a stellar on base percentage of .395. But Grimes achilles heel were his iron hands. He was simply not a very good defensive infielder and when Johnson and all the other Yankee third base prospects returned from service, Grimes days in pinstripes were numbered. That number came up on July 11th of the 1946 season when New York sold him to the Philadelphia A’s. He became the A’s starting second baseman and didn’t do to badly with his bat, hitting .262 during his half season in Philadelphia. But his defense just wasn’t good enough to keep him in the post war big leagues and he spent the next five seasons playing minor league ball, finally retiring for good in 1950, at the age of 35.
|CLE (5 yrs)||262||847||715||94||173||31||9||8||84||15||5||110||130||.242||.345||.344||.689|
|NYY (4 yrs)||281||1116||926||113||246||37||15||9||96||13||7||160||144||.266||.378||.367||.746|
|PHA (1 yr)||59||230||191||28||50||5||0||1||20||2||0||27||29||.262||.356||.304||.660|