Ray Caldwell was one of the most interesting Yankees to ever play the game. Born on this date in 1888, in a northwestern Pennsylvania town that now lies under water, Caldwell was working as a telegrapher, when he received an offer to pitch for a C-level minor league ball club in McKeesport, PA. He won 18 games for that team in his professional debut and the next year he was pitching for the New York Yankees.
According to baseball historians, this guy was one of the biggest playboys in the history of the game and one of its heaviest drinkers too. He was also a brilliant pitcher, so good that Washington Senator manager Cal Griffith once offered the Yankees the great Walter Johnson for Caldwell even up.
A tall, slender right-hander, his best seasons for New York were 1914, when he went 18-9 with a 1.94 ERA and the following year, when he won a career high 19 games. He also happened to be one of baseball’s best hitting pitchers and frequently played the outfield on days he wasn’t on the mound.
But whenever it looked as if Caldwell was about to achieve greatness, he went on one of his hard-partying binges, often leaving the ball club for days on end and then suddenly reappearing to accept whatever punishment was thrown at him. His erratic behavior drove all his Yankee managers crazy, especially Frank Chance, who levied close to a thousand dollars worth of fines against his care-free pitcher during the 1914 season. When Caldwell was openly considering jumping to the upstart Federal League, however, Yankee owner Frank Farrell forgave the fines, causing Chance to quit.
When Miller Huggins took over the Yankees, he tried hiring detectives to keep tabs on Caldwell but the pitcher learned how to lose them. Tired of the nonsense, Huggins traded him to the Red Sox after the 1918 season. After half a year with Boston he was dealt to Cleveland, where he had a temporary but glorious rebirth. During the next season and a half he went 25-11 for the Indians and helped get them to the 1920 World Series, which the Tribe won in seven games. After slumping to 6-6 the following year, Caldwell’s big league days were over, but not his pitching career. Somehow, this guy pitched in the minors for 11 more seasons, finally hanging his glove up for good, in 1933, at the age of 45.
As you might expect, Caldwell’s private life was also pretty chaotic. He got married four times and held all kinds of jobs. He lived to be 79 years old, passing away in 1967.
|NYY (9 yrs)||96||99||.492||3.00||248||196||42||150||17||4||1718.1||1519||684||572||41||576||803||1.219|
|CLE (3 yrs)||31||17||.646||3.95||77||51||18||28||3||4||437.1||478||239||192||17||131||180||1.393|
|BOS (1 yr)||7||4||.636||3.96||18||12||5||6||1||0||86.1||92||49||38||1||31||23||1.425|
Coming out of their 2013 spring training camp, I thought the Yankees made a mistake going north without former Mariner closer David Aardsma and choosing to take along today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant instead. Granted, the new season is less than a month old, but thus far, right-hander Shawn Kelley has not pitched especially well in his seven appearances in pinstripes. Meanwhile though, Aardsma is not getting a chance to show if he’s again ready for prime time because he started this season pitching in the Marlins’ farm system.
Like Aardsma, Kelley pitched out of the Mariner bulllpen before he came to New York, but not as a closer. When announcing they were cutting Aardsma and going with Kelley, Yankee manager Joe Girardi and GM Brian Cashman explained they wanted a reliever who could pitch more than one inning. If it was up to me, I’d rather have the pitcher who can get the biggest outs in my bullpen instead of the one who can throw the most pitches. No disrespect to Kelley, its just that Aardsma saved over 30 games twice with Seattle before injuring his arm and if that arm is fully healed, the Yanks had enough other pitchers in their pen to not have to extend his appearances beyond an inning.
Kelley turns 29-years-old today.He was born in Louisville, KY and was Seattle’s 13th round draft pick in 2007. He spent his first four big league seasons in Seattle and was traded to New York in February of 2013 for Abraham Almonte, a 23-year-old outfield prospect. Though he got off to a slow start this season, he did pick up his first win as a Yankee against Toronto last week and two nights ago he pitched two scoreless inning against the Rays. I’d love to see him get hot and make me completely wrong about the management decision that got him on this Yankee team.
He shares his April 26th birthday with this long-ago hard-partying Yankee starting pitcher, this former pitch from the 1950’s who gained most of his fame pitching for another team and this one too.
|SEA (4 yrs)||10||9||.526||3.52||120||0||31||0||0||0||128.0||121||54||50||19||39||122||1.250|
|NYY (2 yrs)||4||3||.571||4.04||69||0||21||0||0||4||64.2||57||31||29||8||26||83||1.284|
At one time, Virgil Trucks was one of the premier pitchers in the American League. The right-hander from Birmingham, AL won 177 big league games during his seventeen season career that began with the Tigers in 1941 and he’s one of just four pitchers to have thrown two no-hitters in the same season. The others are Johnny Vander Meer, Allie Reynolds and Nolan Ryan.
By the time he joined the Yankees however, just minutes before the 1958 regular season trading deadline, Trucks was 41 years old and his best days were behind him. The Yankees got the veteran pitcher and reliever Duke Maas from the A’s for outfielder Harry Simpson and pitcher Bob Grim.
Trucks would appear in 25 games for Casey Stengel’s AL Pennant winners during the second half of the ’58 season, finishing his brief Yankee career with a 2-1 record and a single save. Though he was left off of the team’s World Series roster, his Yankee teammates still voted him a full $8,759.10 winners’ share after they knocked off the Braves in that year’s Fall Classic.
Trucks never again played a big league ball game. He did stay in the game as a coach for the Pirates and then a scout for the Tigers, retiring in 1990. He turns 95 years-old today and is currently the oldest ex-Yankee still living. Update: Trucks passed away on March 23, 2013 in Alabama.
Trucks shares his April 26th birthday with this veteran pitcher the Yankees released to make room for Trucks on their 1958 roster. This current Yankee reliever and this long-ago hard-partying hurler also share that birthday.
|DET (12 yrs)||114||96||.543||3.50||316||229||53||84||20||13||1800.2||1618||786||700||123||732||1046||1.305|
|CHW (3 yrs)||47||26||.644||3.14||96||80||10||36||11||4||616.0||551||225||215||46||223||345||1.256|
|KCA (2 yrs)||9||8||.529||2.87||64||7||35||0||0||10||138.0||124||52||44||14||77||70||1.457|
|NYY (1 yr)||2||1||.667||4.54||25||0||13||0||0||1||39.2||40||24||20||1||24||26||1.613|
|SLB (1 yr)||5||4||.556||3.07||16||12||2||4||2||2||88.0||83||37||30||4||32||47||1.307|
Baseball pundits knew this right-hander was something special when he made his big league debut with the Giants in 1945 and three of his five wins were complete game shutouts. But instead of returning to the Polo Grounds, Maglie went south of the border for more money to pitch in the Mexican League. That move got him banned from the Majors until 1949. Nicknamed “the Barber” because he had a tendency to throw up and in close shaves at opposing batters, Maglie rejoined the Giants in 1950 and during the next three seasons was one of the very best pitchers on the League. When he turned 38, the Giants released him and after some time with the Indians, he joined Brooklyn in 1956, went 13-5 and finished second in that year’s Cy Young and MVP votes.
He didn’t put on the pinstripes until 1957, when he was 40 years of age. He still had enough in that right arm to pitch his 25th career shutout as a Yankee. He retired after the 1958 season and passed away in 1992 at the age of 75.
The Yankees ended up releasing the 41-year-old Maglie on June 14 of 1958 and the next day acquired another 41-year-old pitcher named Virgil Trucks. Trucks, like Maglie was one of baseballs better right-handers in the 1950’s with both Detroit and the White Sox. Trucks and Maglie were also both born on April 26, 1917. Maglie went on to become a big league pitching coach who was featured prominently in Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four” book, which chronicles Bouton’s 1969 season as a pitcher with the old Seattle Pilots. Suffice it to say that the “Bulldog” was not a fan of the “Barber’s” coaching methodology.
|NYG (7 yrs)||95||42||.693||3.13||221||171||23||77||20||8||1297.2||1216||512||451||117||434||654||1.272|
|BRO (2 yrs)||19||11||.633||2.89||47||43||1||13||4||1||292.1||248||107||94||33||78||158||1.115|
|CLE (2 yrs)||0||2||.000||3.82||12||2||4||0||0||2||30.2||32||16||13||1||9||13||1.337|
|NYY (2 yrs)||3||1||.750||3.10||13||6||7||1||1||3||49.1||49||18||17||4||16||16||1.318|
|STL (1 yr)||2||6||.250||4.75||10||10||0||2||0||0||53.0||46||31||28||14||25||21||1.340|