Over a half-century before George Steinbrenner came on the scene, another son of a wealthy German-American businessman purchased New York City’s American League baseball franchise and wheeled and dealed his way to World Championships and a brand new Big Apple stadium for his team. But instead of building ships like George’s dad, this guy’s father made beer.
His name was Jacob Ruppert and he took over the family business when his Dad died in 1915 and immediately began looking for ways to get his brewery’s name in the newspapers more often. He accomplished that by purchasing a baseball team. Originally, Ruppert was co-owner of the Yankees along with partner Cap Huston. He bought out Huston in 1923 to become sole owner of the ball club.
In a series of astute business and hiring maneuvers, he turned the Yankees into the most valuable brand in all of sports. He brought Babe Ruth to New York. He hired Ed Barrow to build baseball’s best farm system and he put managerial legends, Miller Huggins and then Joe McCarthy in the Yankee dugout. During his 23 years owning the franchise, the Yankees won the first ten of their World Series championships. Though I’ve never been a big fan of the guy, I agree with those who felt George Steinbrenner belongs in Baseball’s Hall of Fame but only if they put Jake Ruppert in their first. Rupert received that honor in 2013, when he was the choice of the Hall’s Veterans’ Committee.
The 2004 season had been a bust for Jason Giambi. After apologizing for using PEDs before the beginning of that season, he came down with some sort of strange ailment involving his pituitary gland and he ended up playing in less than half of New York’s regular season games. At the beginning of the year, Tony Clarke subbed for Giambi. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant started out that season with the Mariners but had been given his unconditional release by Seattle in late July. A few weeks later, the Yankees decided to sign him and Joe Torre made Olerud his starting first baseman.
Olerud had won the AL Batting title in 1993 when he hit .363 for the Toronto Blue Jays. He had some good pop in his bat as well, accumulating 255 home runs during his 17-season big league career. His trademark was wearing his batting helmet at all times while on the field, even when he was playing first base on defense. He had suffered a brain aneurism as a child and the perpetual hard hat was worn as a precaution. Olerud was no stranger to the Big Apple. After spending his first eight big league seasons with the Blue Jays, he had been traded to the Mets in 1996, his contract’s option year. He played very good baseball for the Amazins for three straight seasons, but when the Mariners showed an interest, he returned to his home town of Seattle as a free agent in 2000.
He was 35-years-old by the time the Yankees got him but he played very good defense at first for New York and hit a solid .280 for Torre in 49 regular season games. With Giambi still injured, it was Olerud who started at first during the 2004 postseason. He hit a two-run homer against Boston’s Pedro Martinez to help the Yankees win Game 2 of that year’s ALCS. When the Yanks won the next game to go up 3-0 in that series, it looked like Olerud would have the opportunity to win a third World Series ring, He had won his first two with Toronto in 1992 and ’93.
Then disaster struck. Boston shocked the world by winning four straight. One of the after-effects of that traumatic Yankee defeat was letting Olerud go after that postseason. He turned around and signed with the Red Sox in 2005 and hit .289 in 87 games in Beantown before he retired for good. Olerud shares his August 5th birthday with this former Yankee outfielder and this former owner of the franchise.
|TOR (8 yrs)||920||3689||3103||464||910||213||6||109||471||3||514||430||.293||.395||.471||.866|
|SEA (5 yrs)||702||2976||2490||353||709||164||2||72||405||3||418||340||.285||.388||.439||.827|
|NYM (3 yrs)||476||2018||1662||288||524||109||5||63||291||5||306||206||.315||.425||.501||.926|
|BOS (1 yr)||87||192||173||18||50||7||0||7||37||0||16||20||.289||.344||.451||.795|
|NYY (1 yr)||49||188||164||16||46||7||0||4||26||0||21||20||.280||.367||.396||.763|
During last year’s MLB playoffs, in addition to rooting for the Yankees I was also rooting for the Braves to beat the Giants in the ALDS. I had two reasons for wanting Atlanta to win. My wife’s Mom & Dad are huge Atlanta fans and watching Braves’ baseball is their very favorite thing to do. I’m also a huge Bobby Cox fan and he would be ending his outstanding managerial career as soon as the Braves 2010 playoffs were over. I wanted to see that career last until Atlanta made the final out against my Yankees in the 2010 Series. And if the unthinkable happened and the Braves and Cox happened to beat my favorite team in my dream 2010 Fall Classic, I’d probably only be depressed for one month instead of the normal four it took me to get over any other Yankee postseason defeat.
I really also thought Cox and the Braves had a real good shot at getting into the 2010 Series because they had Eric Hinske on their postseason roster. Hinske is the only man in baseball who played in the 2007, 2008 and 2009 World Series. In ’07, he had won a ring with the Red Sox. In ’08, his Tampa Bay team had lost to the Phillies. He then got revenge for that defeat in 2009 as a member of the Yankees, when New York beat Philadelphia and Hinske collected his second ring in three seasons.
After Tampa Bay lost their World Series, Hinske had signed as a free agent with the Pirates and began the 2009 season in Pittsburgh. The Yankees got Hinske the last day of June in 2009 to strengthen their bench and it didn’t take the Menasha, Wisconsin native very long to do just that. He got into seven games during his first month in pinstripes and hit five home runs and drove in eight. He provided a better than expected utility spark and it helped New York kick their season into high gear right after the All Star break. He cooled down after that hot start, finishing his half season in pinstripes hitting just .226.
Hinske’s one and only plate appearance as a Yankee in the postseason took place in New York’s Game 5 loss when he pinch hit, walked and scored a run. He signed with the Braves the following January and has been a valuable role player for that team ever since. Hinske began his big league career with a bang in Toronto, when he won the AL Rookie of the Year Award as a Blue Jay, in 2002.
|TOR (5 yrs)||655||2559||2259||353||584||146||12||78||313||16||263||521||.259||.337||.437||.774|
|ATL (3 yrs)||339||731||649||71||153||38||2||23||92||1||73||187||.236||.315||.407||.721|
|BOS (2 yrs)||115||306||266||33||61||20||3||7||26||1||36||84||.229||.327||.406||.733|
|ARI (1 yr)||52||58||52||2||9||3||0||1||6||0||6||17||.173||.259||.288||.547|
|TBR (1 yr)||133||432||381||59||94||21||1||20||60||3||47||88||.247||.333||.465||.798|
|PIT (1 yr)||54||126||106||18||27||9||0||1||11||0||17||27||.255||.373||.368||.741|
|NYY (1 yr)||39||98||84||13||19||3||0||7||14||0||10||25||.226||.316||.512||.828|