George Steinbrenner loved the game of football and the toughness of football players. He also loved taking shots at reclamation projects. When the Yanks acquired former Red Sox starting third baseman, Butch Hobson from the Angels just before the ’82 season opened, “the Boss” probably was the happiest guy in the team’s front office.
Born in Tuscaloosa, AL on August 17, 1951, I surmise that one of the reasons Hobson was forced to become as tough a guy as he did was because his parents named him Clell Lavern. It wasn’t too long I’m sure, before the nickname “Butch” took hold as Hobson became a legendary high school athlete in his home state. He ended up going to the University of Alabama and played football under the legendary Bear Bryant plus started for the Crimson Tide baseball team. On the gridiron, he was a starting safety and a backup quarterback but after three years of playing both sports, he gave up the pigskin his senior year to focus on baseball.
The Red Sox selected him in the 8th round of the 1973 draft and after three and a half seasons of minor league ball and one cup-of-coffee look-see during the 1975 season, Hobson went to Boston for good in June of 1976.
He eventually replaced Rico Petrocelli as the Red Sox’ starting third baseman, becoming a favorite of then new Boston skipper Don Zimmer. His breakout season came in 1977, when he smashed 30 home runs and 112 RBIs, while playing on joints that had been banged and bruised from an entire lifetime of football. He slumped a bit in 1978, the year of Bucky Dent’s blast and the Red Sox’ infamous late-season collapse to the Yankees. He had one more good season in Boston in 1979 before injuries cut more deeply into his playing time in 1980. That was the same season Zimmer was let go by the Red Sox and in 1980, Hobson and shortstop Rick Burleson were traded to the Angels for outfielder Rick Miller, third baseman Carney Lansford and pitcher Mark Clear.
His ’81 season in California was a nightmare. He hit just .235, was constantly playing hurt plus the players strike that year disrupted play. The following March, he became a Yankee. At the time, Graig Nettles, New York’s All Star third baseman was getting up there in age (37) and getting more and more on Steinbrenner’s nerves with his biting criticisms of the owner’s management style. Yankee fans back then just knew nothing would please old George more than being able to replace Nettles with Hobson as New York’s starter at the hot corner.
That didn’t happen. Nettles cooperated by hitting just .237 that year with only 55 RBIs but Hobson hit a putrid .172 and his throwing shoulder was so damaged he didn’t see an inning of play at third base. His Major League playing career was over, but Hobson wasn’t ready to quit. He played three more full seasons for the Yankee Triple A Columbus Clipper farm club, he became a minor league manager in the Mets’ system and then the Red Sox. In October of 1991, Boston hired him to replace Joe Morgan as the parent club’s skipper.
He would last three losing seasons as Red Sox field boss. According to Don Zimmer, his old skipper and his Red Sox bench coach during the 1992 season, Hobson’s drinking during his time as Boston manager had gotten out of hand. As everyone would later find out, alcohol wasn’t Butch’s only demon. The Red Sox fired him after the 1994 season, replacing him with Kevin Kennedy. It was during the 1996 season, while managing for the Phillies Scranton-Wilkes Barre team that he was arrested for possession of cocaine. Hobson later admitted he had been a user of that drug.
Hobson is still managing in the independent Atlantic League for the Lancaster Barnstormers. He turns 62 years old today.
|BOS (6 yrs)||623||2429||2230||285||561||98||19||94||358||10||147||495||.252||.296||.439||.735|
|CAL (1 yr)||85||310||268||27||63||7||4||4||36||1||35||60||.235||.321||.336||.657|
|NYY (1 yr)||30||60||58||2||10||2||0||0||3||0||1||14||.172||.183||.207||.390|
Chad Qualls was what you would call a Yankee band aid. As the season progresses, a player on your roster gets injured, goes into a slump or for one reason or another does not perform well in a certain situation that is frequently encountered by your team. This causes a “hole” in your team’s roster that needs to get filled or covered over. Cory Wade had been pitching super out of the bullpen since the Yankees signed him as a free agent in June of 2011. He went 6-1 last year for New York and after his first fifteen appearances this season, his ERA was just 1.59 and he looked near un-hittable. Then all of a sudden, he couldn’t get anyone out. By the end of June, his ERA had exploded to 5.79 runs per game. In his first appearance in July, he was called in to pitch with one out in the seventh inning of a Yankee/Red Sox game with his team trailing 5-4. Seven batters later, it was still the seventh inning, Boston was ahead 9-4 and Wade was being replaced by Clay Rapada on the mound. A day later, he was replaced on the Yankee roster by today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant.
Chad Qualls has been pitching relief in the big leagues since coming up with the Astros in 2004. By the time he put on the pinstripes, this huge 6’5″ right-hander had already won 39 games and saved 51 more. After four solid seasons in Houston, the Diamondbacks acquired Qualls in a trade for Jose Valverde and eventually made him their closer. He saved 24 games for Arizona in 2009 but in late August of that season he injured his knee and required surgery and he hasn’t been the same pitcher since.
After losing the closer’s job in Arizona in 2010, he pitched for the Rays, Padres and Phillies before Brian Cashman acquired him from Philadelphia for future considerations. In his second appearance for New York, he got the victory in a 6-5 win over the Angels. Two days later, he was shelled for three runs by those same Angels. Nine days later he walked the only hitter he faced in the bottom of the seventh inning of a game against the Mariners. It would be that game that eventually cost Qualls his pinstripes but it wasn’t that walk. In the top half of the same inning, King Felix had hit Alex Rodriguez on the hand with a pitch and broke his finger. A-Rod ended up on the DL. Eric Chavez was the Yankee backup at third but he hit left-handed. New York had the right-handed Jason Nix on the roster who could also play third, but Nix was not considered a power-hitter and Joe Girardi and Cashman liked having some offensive pop at that position. Suddenly, a new but very small hole had opened up on the Yankee roster that either could remain open until A-Rod got back from the DL in September or could be covered with a temporary band aid. That band aid turned out to be Casey McGehee, a right-handed Pirate third baseman who had hit a bunch of homers for the Brewers earlier in his career. The cost for McGehee was Chad Qualls.
|HOU (4 yrs)||23||12||.657||3.39||262||0||52||0||0||6||284.0||267||113||107||30||84||218||1.236|
|ARI (3 yrs)||7||14||.333||4.34||171||0||93||0||0||45||163.2||175||93||79||14||40||150||1.314|
|TBR (1 yr)||2||0||1.000||5.57||27||0||1||0||0||0||21.0||24||15||13||2||6||15||1.429|
|PIT (1 yr)||0||0||6.59||17||0||5||0||0||0||13.2||14||11||10||0||2||6||1.171|
|PHI (1 yr)||1||1||.500||4.60||35||0||6||0||0||0||31.1||39||18||16||7||9||19||1.532|
|SDP (1 yr)||6||8||.429||3.51||77||0||20||0||0||0||74.1||73||30||29||7||20||43||1.251|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||6.14||8||0||4||0||0||0||7.1||10||5||5||0||3||2||1.773|
|MIA (1 yr)||3||1||.750||2.91||50||0||9||0||0||0||46.1||44||15||15||4||14||38||1.252|
When I started really following Yankee baseball I was six-years-old. Back then, I thought guys like Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi, Moose Skowren, Bobby Richardson, and Whitey Ford played forever. I soon realized that wasn’t true. I’m now watching my fourth generation of Yankee legends reach their twilight years. Among them is Jorge Posada. He turns 41 years-old today. Hall of Famer, Bill Dickey caught the most games in a Yankee uniform, with 1,709. The great Yogi Berra caught 1,692. By the end of the 2010 season Posada had caught 1,573 games in pinstripes. Jorge payed attention to numbers and stats and I’m sure that when he signed his last Yankee contract, he thought that by the end of that deal, which was 2011, he’d be setting the record for most games caught in a Yankee uniform. He probably also thought when he signed that last contract that he’d have a real good shot at reaching both the 300 home run (he finished with 275) and 2,000 hit (1664) milestones by 2011 as well. None of that happened. Instead, what was supposed to be the crowning season of Posada’s outstanding career as a Yankee turned into a season of trial and tribulation.
It began with Brian Cashman telling him in spring training that he would never again be behind the plate in a Yankee game. I found myself painfully admitting that Jorge’s catching skills were worse than ever. So many pitches got by him. His throws to second were not nearly as hard and accurate as they once were and after 16 seasons of squatting behind home plate, his base-running had gone from bad to scary awful. So I did not disagree with the decision to make Jorge a full-time DH.
That didn’t work out as planned either. Posada seemed to have forgotten how to hit right-handed in 2011. To make matters worse, he has was twice demoted by Yankee Manager Joe Girardi prior to nationally televised games versus the hated Red Sox, once to ninth in the batting order and then to a seat on the Yankee bench. One thing many fans and sportswriters seem to forget is that professional athletes don’t perform well because of talent alone. The reason they are the very best at what they do is that they believe they can do it. When Posada walked to the plate to face a left-hander, he never once was telling himself he had no chance to hit the guy. He honestly believed in his head that he could hit anybody at anytime, so when his GM or his Manager told him he couldn’t do something anymore, he didn’t believe it for a second. Not because he was stubborn or in denial but because he had to believe it to have any chance at being successful. And in a memorable August 13th game against Tampa last year when he drove in six runs, Posada got an opportunity to show Cashman, Girardi and a national television audience that although the end of his career may have been near, it wasn’t over yet. And no true Yankee fan will forget his 6 for 14 hitting performance and .579 OBP against Detroit in last year’s ALDS. It turned out to be a fitting curtain call for a true Yankee warrior.
Yankee fans won’t see the likes of Posada ever again. Solid switch-hitting catchers who are among the top two or three best in the league at their position for about a dozen straight seasons are pretty hard if not impossible to come by. Throw in five World Series rings and an equal number of All Star game selections and Silver Slugger awards plus all the good things he did off the field and you realize what a pleasure it was to have this man catch for your favorite baseball team all that time.