I became an admirer of Carlos Beltran during the 2004 postseason, when he almost single-handedly put the Houston Astros in their first World Series. Against Atlanta in that year’s ALDS he hit .455 with 4 home runs and nine RBIs in the five game series and then followed that up with 4 more dingers and a .417 average in Houston’s seven-game loss to St. Louis in the 2004 ALCS.
Beltran originally came up with the Royals and won the 1999 AL Rookie of the Year award. He’s driven in over 100 runs eight different times in his career and made eight All Star teams. He also began the 2014 season with 358 career home runs.
Right after his stellar performance in the 2004 postseason, this native of Manati, Puerto Rico became a free agent and I was praying the Yanks would grab him. He even told his agent he wanted to wear the pinstripes. He did end up signing with New York but it was the Mets and not my Yankees who got him. He got off on the wrong foot with the Amazins’ when he had an off-year in 2005. He then put together three of the best seasons any Met outfielder has ever had and still was under appreciated by the team’s front office and fans. They never forgave him for making the third and final out of the 2006 ALCS, when he stared at a third strike thrown past him by the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright. When injuries cut both his 2009 and ’10 seasons short he really became persona non grata over in Queens and the Mets ended up trading him to the Giants.
Beltran became a free agent for the second time at the end of the 2011 season and the slugging switch-hitter again told his agent to try and get him to the Bronx but again it didn’t work out that way. He ended up signing with the Cardinals instead and he put together two all star seasons for St. Louis.
The third time proved a charm. On December 19, 2013, Beltran got the best Christmas present of his life when he signed a three-year deal to probably end his playing career as a Yankee. The signing has already paid dividends for the Bronx Bombers as Beltran has driven in some key runs for New York during the opening month of the 2014 season. He turns 37 years old today and I firmly believe this guy will be one of the top three free agent signings in Yankee franchise history. He shares his April 24th birthday with this former Yankee reliever, this Yankee starting pitcher and this one-time Yankee third baseman.
|KCR (7 yrs)||795||3512||3134||546||899||156||45||123||516||164||316||584||.287||.352||.483||.835|
|NYM (7 yrs)||839||3640||3133||551||878||208||17||149||559||100||449||545||.280||.369||.500||.869|
|STL (2 yrs)||296||1219||1101||162||311||56||4||56||181||15||103||214||.282||.343||.493||.836|
|SFG (1 yr)||44||179||167||17||54||9||4||7||18||1||11||27||.323||.369||.551||.920|
|NYY (1 yr)||19||80||75||10||23||7||0||5||13||0||4||18||.307||.338||.600||.938|
|HOU (1 yr)||90||399||333||70||86||17||7||23||53||28||55||57||.258||.368||.559||.926|
He was known as “Hackensack Harry,” a tribute to the New Jersey based New York City suburb in which he was born. This guy did something voluntarily you’d never see a ballplayer do today. He walked away from his job as a Yankee starting pitcher to manage his own company.
Harry Harper was a tall, skinny southpaw pitcher who was signed right out of high school by the Washington Senators and rushed directly to the big leagues at the age of 18. He remained a Senator for the first seven seasons of his career, joining the team’s starting rotation in 1916. That was probably his best year as a player, as he compiled a 14-10 record with a 2.45 ERA. Unfortunately for Harper, he pitched for Washington during a period the franchise fell into decline and during his final season with the team, his horrible record of 6-21 and his respectable ERA of 3.72 reflected just how far the Senators had fallen.
He was then traded to Boston, a year after the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees and he went 5-14 but again managed a respectable 3.05 ERA. That’s when he got his big break. Ten days before Christmas in 1920, the Yankees and Red Sox concluded an eight-player deal that sent Harper, Waite Hoyt, Wally Schang and Mike McNally to New York and Del Pratt, Muddy Ruel, Sammy Vick and Hank Thormahlen to Beantown.
One of the interesting things about Harper’s baseball career was that he was religious enough to negotiate a clause in his contract that prevented him from pitching on Sundays. When he came to New York, he became the Yankees only left-handed pitcher with the exception of Babe Ruth, who had been converted by then into pretty much a full-time outfielder. Yankee skipper, Miller Huggins did not give Harper his first Yankee start until May 13th of that ’21 season against the Tigers and the pitcher was sharp enough to get the win, but it was a costly one. In the sixth inning of that game he tried to barehand a line drive and he broke the thumb on his pitching hand. He didn’t get back into the rotation until September and he split his last six decisions, as the Yankees captured the franchises first-ever AL Pennant.
Then in the World Series that followed, with the Yankees holding a 3-games to 2 edge over the cross town Giants, Huggins decided to start Harper in Game 6. He didn’t make it out of the second inning, surrendering three earned runs and the Yankees lost the game and then went on to lose the Series.
As disappointing as his only Series appearance was to both Harper and Huggins, it had no bearing on the pitcher’s absence from the Yankee roster the following spring. It seems that Hackensack Harry was quite the entrepreneur when he wasn’t playing baseball. He and his brother had started a trucking business in their home town and they had won a bid to provide trucking services for the construction of the Holland Tunnel. In February of 1922 he requested a leave of absence from his baseball responsibilities so he could pay full attention to the Tunnel project. He later started a self service supermarket and successful fuel and beverage companies in his native Garden State. Harper also got involved in politics. In 1927, he was elected Sheriff of Bergen County. He then accepted appointments as New Jersey’s Civil Service and Labor Commissioner. In 1948, he lost a bid to become the republican nominee in an election for one of New Jersey’s two seats in the US Senate.
|WSH (7 yrs)||48||58||.453||2.75||183||141||26||51||11||5||1037.0||877||429||317||12||488||526||36||1.316|
|BRO (1 yr)||0||1||.000||14.73||1||1||0||0||0||0||3.2||8||6||6||2||3||4||0||3.000|
|NYY (1 yr)||4||3||.571||3.76||8||7||1||4||0||0||52.2||52||23||22||3||25||22||2||1.462|
|BOS (1 yr)||5||14||.263||3.04||27||22||0||11||1||0||162.2||163||73||55||9||66||71||2||1.408|
Late in the 1964 season, the Yankees traded for Cleveland’s Pedro Ramos. The veteran right-hander from Cuba saved 8 games for New York down the stretch and together with rookie Mel Stottlemyre, pitched Yogi Berra’s team to the AL Pennant. Just two seasons later, the Yankees were near the very bottom of the AL standings when they traded Ramos to Philadelphia for Joe Verbanic, a skinny right-hander with a good fastball and decent slider.
Verbanic spent his first season in pinstripes as a reliever, winning four, saving two and posting a very nice 2.80 ERA. That performance earned him a shot at New York’s starting rotation in ’68 and he responded with a 6-7 record which included a shutout plus four more saves. That wasn’t good enough to prevent his return to the minors the following season. Vebanic did play a role in a significant piece of Yankee trivia. Elston Howard’s last at-bat as a Yankee was as a pinch-hitter for Verbanic.
One of the nicest things that has happened to me since I started writing this Pinstripe Birthday Blog has been the messages I’ve received from former Yankees and their friends and relatives. My absolute biggest thrill came when after reading in one of my posts that I had not read his classic book, former Yankee 20-game winner, Jim Bouton sent me an autographed copy of “Ball Four.” If you have not read it yet, do something nice for yourself and get a copy. In addition to giving you a unique, up close perspective of what life was like for baseball players in the late sixties, it will make you laugh out loud many many times. It also makes a perfect birthday gift for any Yankee fans in your life.
Bouton is the first author/player I’ve ever read who spends significant page space describing the men he had as coaches during his playing career. He loved Johnny Sain, one of the pitching instructors he had when he was on the Yankees. He was not a fan of two of his other New York coaches, Frank Crosetti and Jim Turner. It was Turner who happened to see Bouton squeezing two baseballs together in his pitching hand one day. The pitcher had indicated in his book that pitching coach Turner had spent more time and attention protecting the Yankees’ supply of team baseballs than he had helping Yankee pitchers become better pitchers. When he saw Bouton squeezing the two balls he asked him what he was doing and the “Bulldog” explained the exercise helped him strengthen his fingers. Thinking Bouton was attempting to steal the balls, Turner demanded Bouton put them back in the bag. Bouton’s good friend and fellow Yankee pitcher Fritz Peterson had overheard Turner reprimand his buddy so he convinced Joe Verbanic, Steve Hamilton and three or four other pitchers on that Yankee staff to each grab two balls from the bag and walk in front of Jim Turner while squeezing them in their pitching hand. According to Bouton, this drove Turner crazy.
|NYY (3 yrs)||11||10||.524||3.12||75||17||30||3||2||6||193.0||198||72||67||13||74||11||87||9||1.409|
|PHI (1 yr)||1||1||.500||5.14||17||0||3||0||0||0||14.0||12||9||8||2||10||3||7||0||1.571|
Mike Pagliarullo had worn out his welcome as the Yankees’ starting third baseman by the end of the 1980’s. Although everybody loved Pags’ desire and hustle, his batting average had declined every year he wore the pinstripes. When it fell to .197 in 1989, the Yankees shipped him to the Padres and used Tom Brookens, Randy Velarde and today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant to fill the hole the trade had left at the hot corner. Blowers had been a prospect in the Expos’ organization. The Yankees sent pitcher John Candalaria to Montreal for the young infielder in August of 1989 and Yankee Manager, Bucky Dent played him at third in thirteen September games that season. The following year, Stump Merrill gave the kid a bonafide shot at winning the job but in 42 starts at the position, Blowers hit just .188. The following year, New York traded him to the Mariners. Though he was born in Germany, Blowers had been raised in the State of Washington, played baseball for the University of Washington and getting sent back home turned out to be a great move for his career. He became the Mariners starting third baseman in 1993 and hit .280 with 15 home runs. In 1995, his 23 home runs and 96 RBIs helped Seattle make the playoffs where they beat Buck Showalter’s New York Yankees in that year’s ALDS. His stats in Seattle were good enough to get him a $2.3 million contract from the Dodgers in 1996. He did not play well in Tinseltown and ended up finishing his career back with the Mariners. He eventually became a member of the Mariners’ TV broadcasting crew.
|SEA (6 yrs)||464||1534||1357||182||366||69||4||55||231||5||8||153||351||.270||.343||.448||.791|
|NYY (3 yrs)||76||238||217||21||44||4||0||6||25||1||0||19||66||.203||.270||.304||.574|
|OAK (1 yr)||129||455||409||56||97||24||2||11||71||1||0||39||116||.237||.302||.386||.689|
|LAD (1 yr)||92||358||317||31||84||19||2||6||38||0||0||37||77||.265||.341||.394||.735|