I never heard Walter “Red” Barber announce a Dodger game. I was born in 1954, the same year Barber left the Brooklyn booth to join Mell Allen in the Bronx. By the time I was old enough to remember him announcing Yankee games, his voice and style really didn’t make much of an impression on me. Allen was my guy and I can still remember details about the way he called games and talked about different Yankee players.
Then I read Roger Kahn’s classic Boys of Summer and fell in love with the old Brooklyn Dodgers, so in love that I continue to strive to improve my knowledge of D’em Bums still today. In doing so, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to tapes and watch old television broadcasts featuring Barber during his days describing the action at Ebbetts Field. This younger Barber was much better than the older Yankee version I remember listening to on my big brother’s GE transistor radio as a boy. He did those Dodger games with more emotion and made much more liberal and entertaining use of the glorious homespun lexicon of his native Mississippi. From “can of corn” to “walkin in the tall cotton,” the Ol’ Redhead invented a whole new way of describing the action taking place on a Major League baseball field that endeared him to hundreds of thousands of Dodger fans and got him into the Hall of Fame.
Barber’s most famous moment in the Yankee booth took place sadly the day that cost him his job. On September 22, 1966, the Yankees were ending a season that would see them finish in last place and playing in front of a paid home crowd of just 413 people. Barber rightly attempted to focus his television audience’s attention on the fact that the once mighty Bronx Bombers had fallen on such hard times that nobody was willing to pay to see them play. He instructed his cameramen to focus on the thousands upon thousands of empty seats that existed in the House that Ruth Built that afternoon but was overruled by one of the Yankee suits upstairs. He was fired by new club president Mike Burke just a week later.
Barber died in 1992 at the age of 84. This former Yankee reliever , this one-time replacement for A-Rod as Yankee third baseman and this great former Yankee first baseman were each also born on February 17th.
Long before Gladys Knight recorded Midnight Train to Georgia, Wally was the most famous Pipp in America. He succeeded the notorious Hal Chase as the regular Yankee first baseman and played brilliantly at that position for eleven consecutive seasons.
Pipp established several firsts as a Yankee first baseman. He was the first Yankee to lead the American League in home runs. He was the first Yankee starting first baseman to wear the Yankee pinstripes. He was the first one to play in the World Series. He was the first Yankee starting first baseman to play in the now-closed original Yankee Stadium and the first one to play on a world championship team, in 1923.
None of those honors mattered, however, when Pipp innocently sat out a game against the Senators on the first day of June during the 1925 season. I’ve read accounts that indicate he was suffering from a headache after getting hit in the head with a ball during batting practice and had asked Yankee skipper, Miller Huggins, for that afternoon off. Whatever the reason, Lou Gehrig, took his place and every Yankee fan knows the rest of that story.
Pipp broke into the big leagues with the Detroit Tigers in 1913 and was picked up on waivers by the Yankees on January 15, 1915. He led the American League in home runs in both 1916 and 1917. In fact, the Yankees earned the nickname Murderers Row because of pre-Ruth sluggers like Pipp and Frank “Home Run” Baker. In addition to being a power hitter in the dead-ball era, he was also a good and graceful fielder and smart base runner, stealing 114 bases during his eleven years with the Yanks.
Pipp’s best year in New York was 1922, when he hit .329 with 190 hits, 96 runs scored, and drove in 90 more. His best World Series performance was the 1922 Fall Classic when he batted .286 in a losing effort against arch rival Giants.
In 1926, the Yankees sold Pipp, outright, to the Cincinnati Reds where he played three more seasons before retiring. He passed away in Rapid City, MI on January 11, 1965, at the age of 71.
This former Yankee reliever , this one-time replacement for A-Rod as Yankee third baseman and this Hall-of-Fame Yankee announcer were each also born on February 17th.
|NYY (11 yrs)||1488||6356||5594||820||1577||259||121||80||826||114||490||495||.282||.343||.414||.757|
|CIN (3 yrs)||372||1446||1289||151||359||52||24||10||166||11||104||50||.279||.335||.379||.715|
|DET (1 yr)||12||34||31||3||5||0||3||0||5||0||2||6||.161||.235||.355||.590|
Remember when Cody Ransom made his Yankee debut in August of the 2008 season? Joe Girardi inserted him in a blowout game versus Kansas City as a pinch-hitter for Jason Giambi and the native of Mesa, AZ hit a two-run-home run in his first ever Yankee at bat. Five days later, Girardi again pinch hit Ransom for Giambi, this time in the ninth inning of a game against Baltimore and Ransom hit a three run home run on his second-ever Yankee at bat. He remained hot right through the first half of September before cooling down quite a bit, and he provided a welcome respite for us Yankee fans during the emotional closing days of the old Yankee Stadium, as we sadly watched our favorite team miss the playoffs for the first time in fourteen seasons.
That strong showing convinced Girardi that Ransom could fill in for Alex Rodriguez at third base to begin the 2009 season, while A-Rod recovered from off-season hip surgery. I clearly remember hoping the experiment would work but it certainly did not. I’m not exactly sure why Ransom seemed like he had completely forgotten how to hit that April. It could have been nerves or perhaps American League pitchers had gotten wise to something, but whatever the reason, over the space of a single off season, this guy had become an automatic out. By April 24, he was hitting .180 and by May, he found himself back in Scranton. He did get called back up in late June of that season but he was not put on the Yankees’ postseason roster. Fortunately by October, A-Rod’s hip had completely healed and he put together that magical postseason run that led the Yankees to their 27th World Championship.
|SFG (4 yrs)||114||117||105||23||25||7||0||2||13||2||8||37||.238||.298||.362||.660|
|ARI (2 yrs)||38||125||111||14||26||9||0||6||20||1||10||39||.234||.320||.477||.797|
|NYY (2 yrs)||64||137||122||20||28||12||1||4||18||2||13||37||.230||.309||.443||.751|
|SDP (1 yr)||5||11||11||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||5||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|CHC (1 yr)||57||182||158||21||32||10||1||9||20||0||22||57||.203||.304||.449||.753|
|PHI (1 yr)||22||46||42||6||8||0||0||2||5||1||3||11||.190||.244||.333||.578|
|HOU (1 yr)||19||46||35||9||8||2||0||1||3||0||9||9||.229||.413||.371||.784|
|MIL (1 yr)||64||194||168||18||33||7||0||6||26||0||23||79||.196||.293||.345||.638|