The Yanks let a very talented starting pitcher get away when they included today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant in a package of three pitchers they traded to the Senators midway through the 1951 season to acquire reliever Bob Kuzava. New York had signed Bob Porterfield to a minor league contract in 1946. He made his big league debut two years later when he went 5-3 for the 1948 Yankees after winning 15 games for the Yanks’ Newark Bears farm team that same season. Everyone thought this right-handed native of Newport, Virginia was headed for a great career in pinstripes but the truth was that back then, the Yankees didn’t need more starting pitchers. They already had the Holy Trinity of Raschi, Reynolds and Lopat at the top of their rotation and with blue-chippers like Tommy Byrne and Whitey Ford being groomed in their farm system, good young Yankee arms like Porterfield became very expendable. So after spending the next two seasons bouncing back and forth between the Bronx and Triple A, Porterfield was dealt to Washington.
During the next four years he won 67 games for a mediocre Senator ball club, including a breakout 22-win season in 1953 when he led the American League with 22 wins and 9 shutouts. In November of 1955, Poterfield was part of a huge nine-player swap between Washington and the Red Sox.The change of scenery proved disastrous to his career. He went 3-12 for Boston in 1956 and would spend the next three years with three different ball clubs, struggling to regain his form. He never did. He made his last big league appearance in 1959 with the Pirates and then spent two more years in the minors before hanging up his glove for good.
Porterfield eventually got a job as a welder with Westinghouse in West Virginia. He died in 1980 when cancer invaded his lymph nodes. He was just 56 years old at the time.
|WSH (5 yrs)||67||64||.511||3.38||146||138||7||78||19||0||1041.2||1020||437||391||62||343||366||1.308|
|NYY (4 yrs)||8||9||.471||5.06||40||22||5||5||1||1||158.1||171||93||89||10||74||66||1.547|
|PIT (2 yrs)||5||8||.385||3.63||73||6||24||2||1||6||129.0||129||55||52||10||38||58||1.295|
|BOS (3 yrs)||7||16||.304||4.65||55||27||9||7||2||1||232.1||237||138||120||30||94||82||1.425|
|CHC (1 yr)||0||0||11.37||4||0||0||0||0||0||6.1||14||9||8||1||3||0||2.684|
I first saw today’s birthday celebrant play in 1990 when the “Williams boys,” Gerald and Bernie were patrolling the same outfield for the Albany Colonie Yankees, New York’s double A affiliate in the Eastern League. The two were pretty evenly matched in most offensive categories except one. Bernie walked a lot more than Gerald did and as a result had a much higher on base percentage. It was Bernie who moved up to the Yankees Triple A team in Columbus to begin the following season while Gerald stayed behind in Albany. It was also Bernie who got the first call-up to the parent club and it was Bernie who beat out Gerald to become the starting center fielder for the New York Yankees.
Gerald got his first cup-of-coffee look at Yankee Stadium in 1992 and by 1995 he was a permanent member of the big league team’s roster. He got into 100 games during the ’95 season, often as a late-inning defensive replacement and hit .247 for Buck Showalter’s wild card winners. He was doing even better the following year for new manager, Joe Torre. He was starting in left field and hitting a relatively solid .270 and leading the team in stolen bases. Then in late August, the Yankees made a trade that I remember upset me, not because New York got rid of Williams but because they also got rid of pitcher Bob Wickman. The two players were sent to Milwaukee for shortstop Pat Listach and lefty reliever Graeme Lloyd. I had been a Wickman fan since he went 6-1 as a starter during his 1992 Yankee debut. The Brewers would convert him to a closer and he would eventually become one of the best in the AL. Williams became the Brewers’ full-time center-fielder in 1997, playing in a career high 155 games. Unfortunately, he hit a very unproductive .252 with a woeful .288 on base percentage. He walked just 19 times in 601 plate appearances and it was most likely his lack of discipline at the plate that got him traded to Atlanta at the end of the ’97 season. He played better for the Braves and after two seasons playing for Bobby Cox he signed as a free agent with Tampa Bay. He had his best big league season in 2000, his first as a Devil Ray, when he set single-season career highs with 21 home runs and 89 RBIs, while averaging .274. His career then went downhill quickly.
He got off to a horrible start for Tampa Bay in 2001 and found himself released in June of that year. He was immediately re-signed by the Yankees but his hitting woes continued. He hit just .170 during the second half of 2001 and was 0-19 when New York released him the following June. He then played one season with the Marlins and two more as a Met never getting his average above the .230s and his big league career was over.
Williams was born in New Orleans on August 10, 1966. He remains a very close personal friend of Derek Jeter. He shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee outfielder, this former Yankee pitcher and this former Yankee shortstop.
|NYY (7 yrs)||384||728||659||125||159||46||9||18||85||21||49||124||.241||.298||.420||.718|
|NYM (2 yrs)||96||170||159||26||37||10||2||5||14||4||9||33||.233||.274||.415||.689|
|TBD (2 yrs)||208||934||864||117||221||47||2||25||106||22||47||145||.256||.298||.402||.700|
|ATL (2 yrs)||272||756||688||122||197||43||3||27||112||30||50||115||.286||.341||.475||.817|
|MIL (2 yrs)||181||700||658||79||162||36||2||10||45||26||23||108||.246||.277||.353||.630|
|FLA (1 yr)||27||35||31||5||4||1||0||0||3||3||2||5||.129||.182||.161||.343|
Rocky was born on today’s date in 1933, in New York City and grew up in the Bronx, rooting for Joe DiMaggio and the Yankees. He did not get to play for his favorite boyhood team until 1968, the final season of a very good fourteen-year career in which the powerful right-hand hitting slugger smashed 374 home runs. He was an excellent defensive outfielder with a cannon for an arm and I remember very well the Detroit team he played for in 1961. The Tigers were loaded that year with Colavito, Norm Cash and Al Kaline anchoring the offense and Frank Lary, Jim Bunning and Don Mossi, the pitching staff. Rocky smashed 45 home runs and drove in 140 runs as Detroit put together a 101-victory season. Unfortunately for Colavito and the rest of his MoTown teammates, Detroit finished eight games behind the 1961 Yankees, who were led by the M&M Boys.
Rocky started his career with Cleveland in 1955 and evolved into a star during his four plus seasons there. I’ve read that when the Indians traded Rocky to the Tigers even up for Harvey Kuenn just before the 1960 season began, many fans of Cleveland baseball actually cried. “The Rock” had led the league with 42 home runs in 1959 and driven in 111, but Kuenn had won the AL batting title that same season with a .359 average. The Indians had also traded Roger Maris away a couple of seasons earlier. Imagine if the Indians had both Rocky and Roger in the middle of their order in the early sixties. Instead of the M&M boys it might have been the R&Rs getting all the press for their home run exploits.
Colavito was at the very end of his career when the Dodgers released him in July of 1968 and he signed with the Yankees. By then, the favorite team of his youth had fallen upon hard times. I can remember very well watching the first game of a late August Sunday double-header, when New York Manager Ralph Houk put Rocky on the mound to pitch in the fourth inning. The Tigers had crushed Yankee starter, Steve Barber and were leading 5-0 when Colavito took over. He threw 2 and 2/3 innings of scoreless ball and even struck out Tiger shortstop, Dick Tracewski, looking. The Yankee offense in the mean time, came to life and scored six runs to win the game and give Rocky the pitching victory. That same Detroit team would go on to win the 1968 World Series just a few weeks later.
The two things I will always remember about Colavito were that outstanding throwing arm and his practice swing routine at the plate. Instead of taking a few easy full swings before each pitch was thrown he would instead cut them short so that his bat would be pointed directly at the pitcher’s head.
|CLE (8 yrs)||913||3700||3185||464||851||136||9||190||574||9||468||478||.267||.361||.495||.856|
|DET (4 yrs)||629||2723||2336||377||633||107||7||139||430||6||346||301||.271||.364||.501||.865|
|KCA (1 yr)||160||681||588||89||161||31||2||34||102||3||83||56||.274||.366||.507||.873|
|LAD (1 yr)||40||129||113||8||23||3||0||3||11||0||15||18||.204||.295||.310||.604|
|NYY (1 yr)||39||106||91||13||20||2||2||5||13||0||14||17||.220||.330||.451||.781|
|CHW (1 yr)||60||220||190||20||42||4||1||3||29||1||25||10||.221||.306||.300||.606|
Andy was already 27 years old when he made his big league debut for Buck Showalter’s 1992 Yankees. He actually took over for Randy Velarde as that team’s starting shortstop. I had first seen “Stanky” play in 1989, when he started at second base for New York’s Albany-Colonie Double A franchise. The thing that stuck out at you when you watched him on the field was his hustle. That’s why Showalter liked him and gave him the opportunity to play. That first big league season turned out to be the highlight of Andy’s seven-year career in the big leagues. Over time, however, Andy proved he couldn’t hit big league pitching well enough to play every day at that level. Andy was born on this date in 1964, in Inglewood, CA.
Also born on this date in the Big Apple in 1933 was Rocco Domenico Colavito. If you saw him play during the late fifties and sixties, you have to remember how he used to point his bat at the opposing pitcher’s head at the end of his warm-up swings. He only played a part of one season in pinstripes and it was the final season (1968) of his 14-year big league career. He hit the last five of his 374 big league home runs in a Yankee uniform. You can read more about Colavito in this post. This second Yankee outfielder and this former Yankee pitcher were also born on August 10.
|MON (2 yrs)||140||207||184||23||46||14||1||1||14||2||10||34||.250||.296||.353||.650|
|NYY (2 yrs)||132||461||409||57||107||22||2||2||25||9||39||43||.262||.333||.340||.672|
|HOU (2 yrs)||80||134||106||16||20||4||0||1||12||5||24||31||.189||.344||.255||.598|
|ARI (1 yr)||77||155||145||9||30||5||0||0||8||1||7||33||.207||.252||.241||.493|