When I first started watching Yankee baseball back in 1960, the Red Sox had a horrible team. Ted Williams was about to retire leaving behind a crippled Boston offense and the team’s solid pitching staff from the 1950s had faded away. They basically had three guys back then who were warriors. One was the Bronx born third baseman, Frank Malzone. For some reason, I loved the guy and was secretly wishing the Yankees would trade for him. In their bullpen was a fearsome save machine named Dick Radatz. Known as the “Monster”, the intimidating six foot six inch right-hander won forty games and saved 78 more during his first three years in the league, his ERA never went higher than 2.29 and he absolutely owned Mickey Mantle.
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was the third stud on those mediocre Boston teams of the early sixties. Bill Monbouquette was a tough kid from Medford, Massachusetts who never gave into big league hitters. He credited Ted Williams with teaching him the most important lesson of his career, stay ahead of the hitters. The right-hander didn’t throw especially hard but he threw strikes and he wasn’t afraid to come inside on anyone. During his prime years in Beantown, from 1960 until 1965, he won 104 games for the Red Sox, including a twenty-win season in 1963 and a no-hitter in 1962.
Boston traded “Monbo” to the Tigers after the 1965 season. He had a rough first year in MoTown and instead of keeping him on as a bullpen pitcher, Detroit’s front office decided to give him his outright release in May of 1967 and the Yankees grabbed him immediately. I loved the move back then because the great Yankee pitching staffs of the early sixties had vanished. At first, New York skipper Ralph Houk used his new acquisition almost exclusively out of the bullpen. By mid-August, however, Monboquette had worked his way into the starting rotation and ended up winning four of his last six decisions, including an impressive complete-game shutout versus the White Sox. His final numbers during his first year in pinstripes included a 6-5 record, a save and an impressive 2.33 ERA.
Monbo couldn’t continue at that pace the following year and got traded to the Giants for reliever Lindy McDaniel in July of 1968. That would turn out to be his final big league season as a pitcher. He then got into coaching and eventually became Billy Martin’s Yankee pitching coach during the 1985 season.
One of the things I didn’t know about this guy until I researched his career for today’s post was how physically tough he was. On the day he signed with Boston in 1955, the Red Sox invited him and his family to stick around and watch that day’s Red Sox game at Fenway Park. During the contest, somebody spilled beer on Monbouquette’s mother and after a heated exchange, both the pitcher and his dad got into it with the rowdies and ended up in a police holding cell. Nine years later, Monbouquette was trying to parlay his twenty win season into a raise on his then $14,000 annual Red Sox salary. During his super-heated negotiations with Pinky Higgins, who was Boston’s GM at the time, Monbouquette actually decked the guy twice. In 2008, Monbouquette got into the biggest fight of his life when he was diagnosed with leukemia. He underwent a stem cell transplant and beat that too.
|BOS (8 yrs)||96||91||.513||3.69||254||228||8||72||16||1||1622.0||1649||755||665||180||408||969||1.268|
|NYY (2 yrs)||11||12||.478||3.19||50||21||6||4||1||1||222.2||214||86||79||13||30||85||1.096|
|DET (2 yrs)||7||8||.467||4.64||32||14||9||2||1||0||104.2||121||60||54||14||22||63||1.366|
|SFG (1 yr)||0||1||.000||3.75||7||0||4||0||0||1||12.0||11||9||5||4||2||5||1.083|
I wanted Bubba Crosby to make it as a Yankee because I really liked his name. He thrilled us all with a home run in his first Yankee at bat versus the White Sox reliever, Shingo Takatsu. But with a starting outfield of Hideki Matsui, Bernie Williams and Gary Sheffield and subs like Kenny Lofton and Ruben Sierra on the 2004 Yankee roster, I knew I wouldn’t be seeing his very cool moniker too often in that season’s box scores. Joe Torre did get Bubba into 55 games during his first year in pinstripes, however it was mostly as a defensive replacement in the late innings. Crosby had only 58 plate appearances that year and hit a woeful .151.
Still, New York’s front office held onto him that offseason and with Lofton gone from the 2005 roster, Crosby did see more playing time in his second Yankee season. In 76 games and 103 plate appearances, the native of Houston, TX hit a more decent but punchless .276. In 2006, when starting left fielder Hideki Matsui broke his wrist in early May, Joe Torre turned to Melky Cabrera to replace Godzilla, which instantly put a dark cloud over Crosby’s future as a Yankee. Sure enough, the Yankees released him in October of 2006 and though he would later sign with Cincinnati and then Seattle, he has never again appeared in another big league game.
The Yankees originally acquired Crosby along with Scott Proctor from the Dodgers in the July 2003 trade that sent Robin Ventura to Los Anegels. Bubba shares his August 11th birthday with the same Yankee outfielder who beat him out as Matsui’s replacement and this former Yankee pitcher.
|NYY (3 yrs)||196||257||238||32||53||5||2||4||19||9||10||48||.223||.263||.311||.574|
|LAD (1 yr)||9||12||12||0||1||0||0||0||1||0||0||3||.083||.083||.083||.167|
Melky made a refreshing impression on Yankee fans when he came to the Bronx for his rookie season, in 2006. During the previous very successful ten years, we pinstripe rooters had gotten use to watching highly paid veterans skillfully but also very somberly get their team to the postseason. Then all of a sudden, there was Cabrera in center field and his Latino compadre, Robinson Cano at second base. The young duo added some badly needed enthusiasm to the Yankee roster and it rubbed off on some of their more reserved veteran teammates.
The only problem was Melky’s play never seemed to get better with age or experience. In fact he seemed to regress, especially at the plate where his inability to take bad pitches, especially in clutch situations, seemed to get worse and worse. Finally, even his biggest booster, Yankee skipper Joe Girardi realized Cabrera wasn’t helping the team win and Melky was sent back down to the minors in 2008. The demotion served him well as did the competition he was in during New York’s 2009 spring training with Brett Gardner for playing time in center field. Yankee fans realized the free-swinging switch-hitter would never be another Mickey Mantle or even another Bernie Williams but a Melky Cabrera at the top of his game did just fine on that 2009 Yankee team, hitting .274 and driving in 68 runs. The switch to Curtis Granderson as the Yankee’s starting center fielder has certainly turned out for the best but I got to admit that every once in a while, I do miss good old Melky. He struggled quite a bit trying to get comfortable in the National League with the Braves in 2010. He’s played much better back in the AL with the Royals in 2011 and was having a career year in 2012 as a member of the San Francisco Giants when in August of that year he shocked all of baseball by getting suspended for 50 games for testing positive for PEDs. Though he has come back from that nightmare with decent performances, its become pretty clear his growth as a player has leveed off. He turns 31 years old today. Melky shares his birthday with his former Yankee teammate and this one-time Yankee pitcher.
|NYY (5 yrs)||569||2148||1923||250||518||90||12||36||228||44||171||246||.269||.331||.385||.716|
|TOR (2 yrs)||227||993||912||120||267||50||5||19||103||8||66||114||.293||.340||.421||.761|
|KCR (1 yr)||155||706||658||102||201||44||5||18||87||20||35||94||.305||.339||.470||.809|
|SFG (1 yr)||113||501||459||84||159||25||10||11||60||13||36||63||.346||.390||.516||.906|
|ATL (1 yr)||147||509||458||50||117||27||3||4||42||7||42||64||.255||.317||.354||.671|
|CHW (1 yr)||118||506||466||53||128||27||2||8||59||1||29||67||.275||.315||.393||.708|