Like hundreds of other young big league prospects from the same era, Staten Island native Hank Majeski’s baseball career was put on hold for military service during World War II. Nicknamed “Heeney,” he had started his baseball career as a second baseman, but when he made his big league debut with the Boston Bee’s in 1941, Boston manager Casey Stengel switched him to the hot corner. It was a wise move by the “Ol Perfessor” as Majeski evolved into one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball over the next decade. Before that happened, however, the Yankees acquired him from Boston and before he had a chance to play in the Bronx, he turned in his baseball uniform and put on the uniform of the US Coast Guard, which he wore for the next three years.
By the time he was discharged in 1946, he was already 29-years-old. Major League Baseball had expanded rosters to thirty slots at the end of the war to accommodate all of the ballplayers returning from military service. That made it easier for Majeski to make his first Yankee team that spring but also created a crowd of third baseman competing for playing time. With Snuffy Stirnweiss, Billy Johnson and Bobby Brown all on the same roster, its real easy to understand why Majeski only got into eight Yankee games during the first half of that 1946 season. It also explains why the Yankees sold him to the Philadelphia A’s that June.
Connie Mack immediately made his new acquisition the team’s starting third baseman and for the next five seasons, Majeski played brilliantly in the field, setting the MLB record for best fielding percentage by a third baseman (.989) in 1947. Though he hadn’t been known for his offensive skills, Majeski developed into an excellent hitter as well, averaging over 280 during his six years with Philly and surprising everyone in baseball in 1948 when he drove in 120 runs, set a career high in hits with 186 and batting average, with a .310 figure.
Heeney Majeski later got sold to Cleveland and ended his big league career with the Orioles in 1955 at the age of 38. After his playing days, he became a big league and college coach. He died of cancer in 1991 at the age of 74.
|PHA (6 yrs)||604||2474||2221||284||629||128||23||37||346||7||210||144||.283||.350||.412||.762|
|CLE (4 yrs)||179||305||273||26||74||9||0||7||44||0||25||32||.271||.338||.381||.719|
|BSN (3 yrs)||128||453||425||40||108||21||1||7||57||2||19||43||.254||.289||.358||.647|
|CHW (2 yrs)||134||503||449||51||137||22||2||6||52||1||43||34||.305||.370||.403||.773|
|NYY (1 yr)||8||12||12||1||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||3||.083||.083||.250||.333|
|BAL (1 yr)||16||43||41||2||7||1||0||0||2||0||2||4||.171||.209||.195||.404|
The starting rotation for the 1990 New York Yankees pitched so poorly that I clearly remember thinking the team’s manager, Stump Merrill should seriously have considered letting his bullpen start games. The combined record of starters Tim Leary, Andy Hawkins, Dave LaPoint, Chuck Cary and Mike Witt was a woeful 32-59 that season. The team’s top five relievers on the other hand had a combined record of 26-20 plus 36 saves by closer Dave Righetti. In fact, one of those relievers, right-hander Lee Guetterman actually led the entire staff in wins that year with 11.
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant was a member of that 1990 Yankee bullpen. Jeff Robinson had made his big league debut as a starter with the San Francisco Giants in 1984, putting together a 7-15 record in 33 starts during his rookie season. He then spent most of the next season back in the Pacific Coast League and when he reemerged in San Francisco in 1986 he had been converted into a reliever. During the next five seasons he evolved into one of the NL’s better bullpen pitchers. His best year happened in 1988. By then, this native of Santa Ana, CA had been traded to Pittsburgh. He went 11-5 that season with 9 saves and an ERA of 3.03. In 1989, the Pirates converted Robinson back into a starter during the second half of that year and the results were pretty ugly. After winning his first three starts, the big right-hander lost 7 of his final 9 decisions and was traded to the Yankees that December, as part of the trade that sent catcher Don Slaught to Pittsburgh.
Robinson appeared in 54 games for New York in 1990. He pitched pretty well, going 3-6 with a 3.45 ERA and 57 strikeouts in the 57 innings he pitched that season. Merrill inserted him in the rotation in mid July and he won two of his first three starts impressively. In his fourth start he gave up 4 runs to Detroit in 5 and 1/3 innings and then was sent back to the bullpen, where he remained for the rest of the season.
That 1990 season was the final year of Robinson’s contract and he became a free agent. The Yankees showed little interest in retaining his services so he signed with the Angels and got his first and only million dollar payday. He had a bad 1993 season for California and then bounced back with the Cubs, going 4-3 in 1992 with a 3.00 ERA. Chicago cut him on the final day of the 1993 spring training season and Robinson’s nine-year big league career was over.
There was actually another Jeff Robinson who was a big league pitcher during the same time today’s Birthday Celebrant pitched in the big leagues. In fact, the other Robinson was pitching for the Orioles in 1990 when this Robinson was pitching in New York. The two never faced each other in a big league game. Just to confuse you a bit more, this other Jeff Robinson celebrates his birthday tomorrow, on December 14th. Meanwhile, the ex-Yankee Jeff Robinson shares his December 13th birthday with this former Yankee closer, this son of a former Yankee manager and this one-time Yankee third baseman.
|SFG (4 yrs)||19||26||.422||3.81||169||34||55||1||1||18||385.0||372||190||163||32||142||282||1.335|
|PIT (3 yrs)||20||19||.513||3.78||143||19||60||0||0||17||292.2||294||145||123||21||104||201||1.360|
|CHC (1 yr)||4||3||.571||3.00||49||5||12||0||0||1||78.0||76||29||26||5||40||46||1.487|
|CAL (1 yr)||0||3||.000||5.37||39||0||16||0||0||3||57.0||56||34||34||9||29||57||1.491|
|NYY (1 yr)||3||6||.333||3.45||54||4||12||1||0||0||88.2||82||35||34||8||34||43||1.308|
This devout Christian was the Lord and saver of the Yankee bullpen in 1970 when he saved 29 games, won 9 of 14 decisions and posted a 2.01 ERA in 62 relief appearances. He had come to New York in a 1968 trade with San Francisco for Bill Monboquette. Born in Hollis, OK, in 1935, McDaniel was 32 years-old at the time of that deal and had already posted 97 big league wins and 112 career saves, mostly as a Cardinal. He pitched five plus seasons for New York, compiling a 39-29 record in pinstripes and 58 more career saves. Even his departure from the team was productive for the Yankees when he was traded to the Royals after the 1973 season because it brought Lou Piniella’s bat to the Bronx. Lindy retired after the 1975 season, his 21st year in the big leagues, with 141 wins and 172 career saves. He also holds the distinction of being the last Yankee pitcher to hit a home run.
|STL (8 yrs)||66||54||.550||3.88||336||63||188||15||2||64||884.2||920||432||381||83||258||523||1.332|
|NYY (6 yrs)||38||29||.567||2.89||265||3||186||1||0||58||544.2||486||194||175||43||156||363||1.179|
|SFG (3 yrs)||12||11||.522||3.45||117||3||49||0||0||9||213.2||202||98||82||12||64||150||1.245|
|CHC (3 yrs)||19||20||.487||3.06||191||0||114||0||0||39||311.2||301||120||106||25||97||238||1.277|
|KCR (2 yrs)||6||5||.545||3.75||78||5||40||2||0||2||184.2||190||90||77||9||48||87||1.289|