I had always thought that May 15th was one of the few calendar dates on which no member of the all-time Yankee family was born. Then on May 14, 2012, I was poking around the fantastic Baseball-Reference Web site, I came across a guy by the name of Charles Brittingham Burns. In 1902, the legendary skipper John McGraw, who had not yet become legendary, was managing the Baltimore Orioles, who had not yet been relocated to New York City, where the team was renamed first the Highlanders and then the Yankees. For some reason, in some game, McGraw looked down his Orioles’ bench and pointed at Mr. Burns and told him to grab a bat because he was going to hit. The 23-year-old native of Bayview, MD, who was supposedly known as “C.B.” to his teammates went to the plate for the first time in his big league career and hit a single.
That would turn out to be the one and only time McGraw or evidently any other manager asked C.B. to take an at bat in a baseball game, which means he ended his big league career with a perfect 1.000 batting average. Since then, he has been joined by four other players who batted a perfect 1.000 during their Yankee careers. They are; Heinie Odom (1925) Mickey Witek (1949) Larry Gowell (1972) and the most recent, Chris Latham (2003). Gowell is the only pitcher to do it and Latham is the only one of the five to do it with more than one official at bat. He went 2-2 during his very brief Yankee career. Burns is one of 302 Maryland natives to play in the big leagues. My all-time top five Maryland-born Yankees would be: Babe Ruth – Baltimore; Frank “Home Run” Baker – Trappe; Mark Teixeira – Annapolis; Charlie Keller – Middletown; and Tommy Byrne – Baltimore.
This since departed Yankee infielder celebrated his 26th birthday by joining Burns as a May 15th-born member of the Yankees’ all-time roster on May 15, 2013.
The Yankees traded their number 1 pick in the 1971 MLB Draft, a guy named Terry Whitfield, to the Giants in 1977 for the veteran infielder, Marty Perez. Perez had come up to the big leagues with the Angels in 1969. He then spent most of his career as a valuable middle infielder for the Atlanta Braves. He made his Yankee debut in an April 1977 game against Baltimore when Billy Martin gave Graig Nettles the day off and started Marty at third base. He went 2 for 4 in New York’s 6-2 victory. The next day, the Yankees included Perez and their unpredictable pitcher, Dock Ellis in a swap with Oakland that brought pitcher Mike Torrez to New York. Terry Whitfield ended up spending parts of ten seasons in the big leagues, mostly with San Francisco and hitting .281 lifetime. Torrez would win two games for New York in the 1977 World Series and then sign with Boston the following year and give up the Bucky Dent home run. Perez hit .231 for the A’s in 1977 and was out of the big leagues the following year. He is the only member of the Yankees’ all-time roster to celebrate a birthday on this date.
Perez was born in Visalia, California on February 28, 1946. If the Yankees had to field an all-time line up of native Californians, Perez would not be on it but the following guys probably would:
1b Hal Chase (Los Gatos)
2b Tony Lazzeri (San Francisco)
3b Graig Nettles (San Francisco)
SS Frank Crosetti (San Francisco)
c Matt Nokes (San Diego)
OF Bob Meusel (San Jose)
OF Joe DiMaggio (Martinez)
OF Roy White (Los Angeles)
DH Jason Giambi (West Covina)
SP Lefty Gomez (Rodeo)
RP Dave Righetti (San Jose)
Mgr Billy Martin (Berkeley)
Marty Perez wore uniform number 27 during the short time he played for the Bronx Bombers. The last six Yankees to wear this same number were: Raul Ibanez, Chris Dickerson, Kevin Russo, Colin Curtis, Greg Golson, and Joe Girardi. Number 27 was also worn on the backs of Kevin Brown, Graeme Lloyd, Mel Hall, Butch Wynegar, Elliott Maddox and Johnny Lindell.
|ATL (6 yrs)||690||2639||2394||240||594||81||16||18||191||7||184||269||.248||.302||.318||.620|
|OAK (2 yrs)||131||427||385||33||86||14||5||2||23||1||29||70||.223||.282||.301||.583|
|CAL (2 yrs)||16||18||16||3||3||0||0||0||1||0||2||1||.188||.278||.188||.465|
|SFG (1 yr)||93||375||332||37||86||13||1||2||26||3||30||28||.259||.318||.322||.640|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||4||4||0||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.500||.500||.500||1.000|
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant had over 4,300 plate appearances during his fifteen-year big league career but only one of them was in a Yankee uniform. That was too bad for that era’s Yankee fans because William Herman Schaefer, or “Germany,” as he liked to be called, was one of the funniest, most entertaining Major League baseball players in the history of the game. He came up with the Cubs in 1901 and spent most of the rest of his career with Detroit and Washington. He played all of the infield positions at one time or another but mostly second base. He got his only Yankee at bat during the 1916 season and made an out. He also served as a coach on that New York team.
I don’t know who first came up with the saying, “You can’t steal first base,” but before 1920, Major League Baseball players actually could and today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant invented the maneuver. During a game against the White Sox in 1911, Germany was the runner on first and with a teammate on third the signal was on for a double steal. Schaefer did his part, making it safely to second. But when he looked over at third, the runner was still standing there. On the next pitch, old Germany became the first player in history to steal first base. He figured he had to do it so that the double steal could be attempted again and because it had never been done before, the umpires allowed it. Eventually the league passed a rule outlawing the maneuver.
In 1907, he hit his only home run of the season off Philadelphia A’s, Rube Waddell. Schaefer carried the bat with him around the bases and when he got to home plate, aimed it like a rifle at Hall of Fame hurler’s noggin and pulled the trigger. Every pitch Germany saw from Waddell for the rest of that season was aimed directly at his head. He once hit a home run and slid into every base on his way to home plate. If his team was ahead late in a game and it started raining, Schaefer would come to the plate wearing a raincoat or carrying an umbrella. Schaefer was so good at making the fans laugh he started a baseball-related vaudeville act after his playing days were over. That act served as the inspiration for the Hollywood film, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” starring Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly. Schaefer also quickly changed his nickname from “Germany” to “Liberty” when America entered WWI .
He died of a heart attack, while on a train bound for Saranac Lake in northern New York state in 1919. Germany shares his birthday with this long-ago starting Highlander outfielder.
|WSH (6 yrs)||380||1267||1092||157||321||34||17||1||91||62||129||135||.294||.372||.359||.731|
|DET (5 yrs)||626||2519||2236||278||558||75||25||8||195||123||158||305||.250||.300||.316||.616|
|CHC (2 yrs)||83||330||296||32||60||3||3||0||14||12||21||48||.203||.260||.233||.493|
|NEW (1 yr)||59||183||154||26||33||5||3||0||8||3||25||11||.214||.328||.286||.613|
|CLE (1 yr)||1||5||5||2||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000||.000||.000||.000|
It took a ton of injuries on the Yankee parent club’s roster to get this guy his first shot in the big leagues. He was called up by New York on his birthday, during the 2013 season. He got off to a good start offensively and I remember being impressed by his poise and patience at the plate. The poise lasted but the patience did not and after hitting just .143 during his big league debut, Adams is no longer a Yankee. He began the 2014 season playing in the Orioles’ farm system.
Born in Margate, Florida in 1987, this right-hand hitting infielder was drafted out of high school by the Detroit Tigers in the 21st round of the 2005 Amateur Draft. He chose to play collegiate baseball instead at the University of Virginia and in 2008, he was drafted again, this time in the third round and this time by the Yankees.
It took him six long years to make his way up the rungs of New York’s minor league ladder, with injuries along the way slowing his ascent. But he played well at just about every stop, averaging right around three hundred and playing an acceptable second base. With a durable superstar in Robbie Cano playing second, the Yankees were in no rush to get Adams to the Bronx. He didn’t have the range to play short and though he was playing a lot of third base last season in Scranton, his lack of power made it a long shot that the Yanks would groom him to replace A-Rod at the hot corner. But it was the injury-decimated left side of the Yankee’s 2013 infield that provided Mr.Adams with his first shot to do something special enough to remain in pinstripes or even the big leagues for that matter.
I was rooting for the guy for two reasons. Up until Adams got called up the only Yankee born on this date is a guy named C.B.Burns who got one at bat for the Baltimore Orioles (who were the Yankees before the Yankees moved to New York) in 1902. The second reason I wantede to see Adams stick is his wife, Camille, who is an associate blogger of mine at the MLB Blog site. She writes about what its like to be a wife of a professional ballplayer and she does it very well. You can check her blog out here.
The best year I ever saw any Yankee team have was the 1998 squad. With Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter and Scott Brosius leading the offense and David Cone, David Wells, Andy Pettitte and Mo Rivera the pitching corps, Joe Torre’s team won an incredible 114 regular season games and then put together an 11-2 postseason which included a four-game sweep of the shell shocked Padres in the World Series. That team had everything including a bullpen filled with specialists of every kind and a bench packed with guys who knew their roles and filled them brilliantly. One of the subs was the super-quick Homer Bush. He was used as a pinch runner, pinch hitter and once in a great while, a spare infielder. His job was to get on first base, disrupt the opposing pitcher’s rhythm and score runs. In just 78 plate appearances that season, Bush had 27 hits and walked five times for an on-base-percentage of .420. He also scored 17 runs for the Bomber’s high powered offense. The following February, New York traded Bush along with Wells and reliever Graeme Lloyd to the Blue Jays for Roger Clemens. Given a chance to play regularly, Homer hit .320 for Toronto in 1999 and stole 32 bases. That performance got him a three-year $7.5 million contract from the Jays following the season. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there for the native of East St Louis, IL. Bush hurt his hip and was never again an everyday player and in 2002 he was released by both the Jays and the Marlins. He tried a comeback unsuccessfully with the Yankees in 2004.
|TOR (4 yrs)||305||1222||1131||148||320||47||5||10||102||56||49||204||.283||.321||.360||.681|
|NYY (3 yrs)||64||97||89||21||31||3||0||1||8||7||5||21||.348||.389||.416||.805|
|FLA (1 yr)||40||58||54||7||12||0||0||0||5||2||3||13||.222||.263||.222||.485|
Kevin Russo impressed Joe Girardi with his hustle and versatility during the team’s 2010 spring training season. That’s why when Nick Johnson made his much anticipated trip to the DL in May of that season, Girardi asked for Russo to be added to the big league roster. It sure looked like a stroke of managerial genius at the time, because in his first-ever start as a Yankee, Russo drove in both runs in the New York’s 2-1 victory over the crosstown Mets. Unfortunately, that turned out to be the highlight of Russo’s first tour in the big leagues and unless something drastic happens, this West Babylon, NY native, who was raised in Colorado, will probably not be returning to the Bronx in a Yankee uniform.
He can play second, third and anywhere in the outfield but his offensive skills, though sufficient for Triple A level play, are not quite good enough to keep him in the big leagues. He also turns 28 years old today, which is considered young in most professions but bordering on senior citizenship if you’re a minor league baseball player. I just checked his 2012 stats and he’s hitting in the high .280’s in Triple A with 79 hits, 13 stolen bases and 35 runs scored in the 68 games he’s played thus far this season. But the Yankees this year seem to have decided that they will use their farm system when they need pitching but if the need to replace a position player, they prefer signing out-of-work big league vets like Jason Nix, DeWayne Wise and most recently, Darnell McDonald.
Yankee fans remember the 1980’s as a bleak period in franchise history. The decade started out with such promise, when Dick Howser led the 1980 team to a 100-win season. That good Karma reversed itself quickly however, as “the Boss” fired Howser for failing to beat the Royals in the 1980 ALCS and the team’s signing of Dave Winfield did not result in another decade full of World Championship banners flying over the House that Ruth built.
Instead, the Yankee PR machine once again began to tout the team’s prospects down on the farm as the elixir the Yankees needed to get back on top again. As much as we fans wanted to believe there was a pinstriped fountain of youth flowing in towns like Columbus, Nashville and Albany, the most promising harvests of the Yankee farm system were either busts at the big league level or were quickly traded away for veterans who would then perform ineffectively once they reached the Bronx.
Two such prospects with outstanding and alliterative nicknames framed the 1980’s for New York. The first was Steve “Bye-Bye” Balboni who was supposed to become the best slugging Yankee first baseman since Lou Gehrig. Instead he became a strikeout magnet and was traded to the Royals in 1984. Then at the end of the 80’s came “Bam-Bam,” today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. Hensley Meulens was a bonafide home run hitter, who would indeed hit over 330 home runs as a professional ball player. Unfortunately for Bam Bam and Yankee fans, he hit about 315 of them while playing in the minors, Japan, Korea and Mexico and just a dozen during the four seasons the Yankees bounced him back and forth between the Bronx and Columbus.
Meulens did make history when he made his big league debut for New York on August 23, 1989. On that day he became the first native of Curacao to play Major League baseball. By then, Steve Balboni had completed his long tenure with the Royals and Mariners and was also back in pinstripes. So for a time, the Yankees had both Bye-Bye and Bam-Bam on their roster but the duo didn’t help them win-win anything.
|NYY (5 yrs)||159||505||457||60||101||16||2||12||46||4||38||149||.221||.290||.344||.633|
|ARI (1 yr)||7||15||15||1||1||0||0||1||1||0||0||6||.067||.067||.267||.333|
|MON (1 yr)||16||29||24||6||7||1||0||2||6||0||4||10||.292||.379||.583||.963|