Yankee fans do not have fond memories of the 2008 season. It was Joe Girardi’s first year at the helm and the team went into the regular season betting heavily that Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy were going to provide at least two fifths of New York’s starting rotation, with Andy Pettitte, Chien-Ming Wang and Mike Mussina. Not only did the three youngsters fail miserably, Wang ruined his season with a freak base-running accident and Pettitte had a sub-par year going 14-14. Only 20-game winner Mike Mussina delivered better than expected results and by the end of the season, the Yankees found themselves out of the race for a postseason berth.
Besides Mussina, the only good story among the Yankees’ 2008 menagerie of starters was the jolt provided by Darrell Rasner when Gerardi inserted the Nevada-born right-hander into the rotation in early May. Rasner had broken into the big leagues in 2005 with the Nationals. The Yankees got him off waivers just before their 2006 spring training camp opened. In ’06 and ’07 he had bounced back and forth between New York and just about every farm team in the organization. When he got off to a great start in Scranton in 2008, he was called up and thrust into a starting role. He then proceeded to win his first three starts for New York and suddenly the pundits were wondering if it might be Rasner instead of Joba, Hughes or Kennedy who would actually solidify the Yankee rotation. That expectations balloon burst when he went on to lose ten of his last twelve decisions, but for that brief three-week stretch in May, he captured the attention and felt the admiration of Yankee fans.
When the 2008 season ended, Rasner faced a big decision. The Yankees were interested in re-signing him but his agent got him a bigger offer to play in Japan. The difference in dollars was at least a million bucks. He loved pitching in New York and he had lots of apprehension about playing and living in Japan. But his wife was expecting the couple’s second child and the then 28-year-old Rasner knew the money he could make in Japan would help him solidify his growing family’s future so he made the move. After a rough first couple of years as a starter for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan’s Pacific League, Rasner was converted to a reliever and he’s become very good in that role. He registered 17 saves for the Eagles in 2013. If the name of his Japanese team sounds a bit familiar to Yankee fans, its because Rasner has been Masahiro Tanaka’s teammate for the past five seasons. The Yankees are about to offer the moon to Tanaka to make him part of their starting rotation in 2014.
Rasner shares his birthday with this not-well-remembered Yankee shortstop.
|NYY (3 yrs)||9||14||.391||5.06||36||29||2||0||0||0||158.1||182||98||89||20||52||89||1.478|
|WSN (1 yr)||0||1||.000||3.68||5||1||1||0||0||0||7.1||5||3||3||0||2||4||0.955|
One month after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave his permission to Major League Baseball to continue operations during wartime. That of course did not mean the game was unaffected. Hundreds of Major League and Minor League players were drafted or volunteered for military service during the war and joined with hundreds of thousands of American baseball fans who put on uniforms and headed for battle overseas.
From 1942 until the war ended four years later, the lineups of all Major League teams featured many strange and unfamiliar names. These were the replacement players, guys who had either not yet been drafted or were for one reason or another, exempted from the draft. Most came from the Minor Leagues. Many of them probably never would have had the opportunity to wear a big league uniform in peace time conditions. But thanks to them, America’s Favorite Past Time continued to function, giving both our armed forces and the patriotic public back home supporting them, something to cheer about.
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant was one of the many wartime replacement players who wore a Yankee uniform. Mike “Mollie” Milosevich had been in the Yankee farm system for eight long years when he was called up to the Bronx in 1944 to become New York’s starting shortstop. The Yankees had kept right on winning during the early years of the War, taking the AL Pennant in 1942 and winning the 1943 World Series against the Cardinals. But by 1944, all of their star players were in uniform and they fell to a third place finish.
Milosevich was 29 years-old at the time of his rookie season. He played in 94 games that year, batting .247. He stuck around long enough to play 30 games the following year, before the Yankee regulars began returning from Europe and the Pacific. He then returned to the Minors, where he played for six more seasons before retiring.
Yankee fans really did need a score card to figure out who was who on their favorite team during WW II. Take a look at the two lineups below and you’ll get a clearer idea of the difference in quality between the peace time and wartime Yankees.
New York’s 1941 Starting Lineup
Bill Dickey C
Buddy Hassett 1B
Joe Gordon 2B
Phil Rizzuto SS
Frank Crosetti 3B
Joe DiMaggio OF
Charlie Keller OF
Tommy Henrich OF
New York’s 1944 Starting Lineup
Mike Garbark C
Nick Etten 1B
Snuffy Stirnweiss 2B
Mike Milosevich SS
Oscar Grimes 3B
Bud Metheny OF
Johnny Lindell OF
Hersh Martin OF
This one-time Yankee starting pitcher was also born on January 13th.
Milosevich’s Yankee regulars season & lifetime stats: