I’m the first to admit that I don’t remember today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant playing for the New York Yankees. This native of Ft. Lauderdale, FL pitched in pinstripes during the 1984 season for manager Yogi Berra after he was acquired in a trade with the California Angels the previous December. He was a tall right-hander who didn’t make New York’s Opening Day roster that year but was instead called up a month later, when starter John Montefusco went on the DL.
Berra used Brown a lot, getting him into 13 games in just over a month and the then-24-year-old pitcher was up to the task. He gave up just 5 runs in 16 2/3 innings of work for an impressive ERA of 2.70. But whenYankee starter, Shane Rawley was ready to return from the DL at the beginning of June, it was Brown who was reassigned to Columbus to make room for him on the 25-man roster.
New York released him in October of 1985 and he signed with the Expos. Montreal gave him two more shots at the big leagues in both 1986 and ’87 but he could not take advantage of either opportunity.
I chose to include Curt Brown in the Pinstipe Birthday Blog because of his common last name. I thought it might be interesting to find out the most popular last name on the Yankees’s all-time roster and figured Brown would be one of them. I was right. There have been seven players with the last name of Brown to play for the franchise. In addition to Curt, they include two Bobby’s, one nicknamed Boardwalk, Hal, Jumbo and Kevin. The most popular last name in Yankee history is Johnson. There are 17 “Johnson’s” on the Yankees’ all-time roster. “Rodriguez” and “Williams” are the second most popular Yankee player surnames with 8 each. There have also been 7 Yankees with the last name of Robinson, 7 more named Jones and another 7 named Smith.
Brown shares his January 15th birthday with the only big league player to be born on the Island of Samoa and this former Yankee catcher.
|MON (2 yrs)||0||2||.000||4.74||11||0||3||0||0||0||19.0||25||13||10||2||6||10||1.632|
|CAL (1 yr)||1||1||.500||7.31||10||0||7||0||0||0||16.0||25||13||13||1||4||7||1.813|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||1||.500||2.70||13||0||7||0||0||0||16.2||18||5||5||1||4||10||1.320|
Jerry began his eight-year big league career as a Yankee in 1979, the same year New York’s captain and catching great, Thurman Munson, was killed in a plane crash. Unable to produce with his bat, the Yankees traded Narron to Seattle the following season in a deal that brought Rupert Jones to the Bronx. After two seasons with the Mariners, he went back to the minors, emerging again in 1983 with California. He spent four seasons with the Angels backing up their starting catcher, Bob Boone. He finished his Major League playing days with a puny .211 average but as is often the case with utility catchers, he also became a student of the game. He got into coaching and then managing and has skippered both the Texas Rangers and more recently, the Reds.
Narron was born in Goldsboro, NC, on January 15, 1956. The Tar Heel State has not produced many Yankees although three of their native sons have worn the pinstripes during Hall of Fame careers. They are Catfish Hunter, Enos Slaughter and Gaylord Perry.
Narron shares his January 15th birthday with the only big league player to be born on the Island of Samoa and this short-term Yankee reliever.
Back in the mid-to-late sixties, the Yankees’ big league lineup had fallen apart. All of the great players from their early-sixties dynasty were over-the-hill or out-of-the-game all together and none of the players they traded for seemed to work out. We Yankee fans were left hoping that youngsters from the team’s farm system would be coming up soon to restore greatness to the franchise. But even the team’s prospects from that era seemed grossly over-matched when they reached the big dance. The promises the Yankee front office made about players like Steve Whitaker, Roger Repoz, Ross Mosschito, and Frank Tepedino all ended up being broken.
I thought Tony Solaita would be different. First of all, he was and still is the only native of American Samoa to play baseball. Secondly, he was a left-handed power hitter, perfectly suited for Yankee Stadium. In 1968, he had hit 51 home runs for the Yankees’ A-level affiliate in the Carolina League, and his name started popping up in the New York Daily News whenever Yankees of the future were being referred to. Then there was the home run contest before a Boston Red Sox/Yankee game at the Stadium. Tony competed against Mickey Mantle, Carl Yaztrzemski, Rocky Colavito, Hawk Harrelson and Reggie Smith. Solaita won the thing by hitting four home runs in his ten swings but it was a fifth swing he took that most impressed the fans and press in attendance that day. Solaita drove a ball barely foul down the the right field line that hit the famous facade at the top edge of the Stadium. That seemed to prove we finally had found the next Mickey Mantle. But we had not.
Solaita got just one at-bat in pinstripes, striking out against the Tigers John Hiller. I’m still not sure why, but the Yankees sent him back down to the minors and he seemed to get worse instead of better over the next five seasons. They ended up trading him to the Pirates organization in 1973 and then he was selected by the Royals in the Rule 5 Draft that same year. He finally got a chance to play some big league ball with Kansas City in 1974 but by that time he was already 27-years-old. He became a good backup to Royal first baseman, John Mayberry as well as a DH. After three years with Kansas City he was traded to the Angels and played three more seasons in Anaheim. He eventually went to Japan where he finally once again became a top home run hitter. During his seven years in the Majors, he played in just 525 games and he hit just 50 home runs.
After his playing career was over, Solaita returned to his native Samoa where, with his brother, he began a baseball program for Samoan children. In February of 1990, Tony was tragically shot and killed on the island, during an argument with a man. He was just 43-years-old.
|KCR (3 yrs)||220||631||538||70||140||27||0||23||83||0||80||166||.260||.355||.439||.794|
|CAL (3 yrs)||239||748||633||75||157||27||0||24||100||2||106||146||.248||.353||.404||.757|
|MON (1 yr)||29||53||42||5||12||4||0||1||7||0||11||16||.286||.434||.452||.886|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|TOR (1 yr)||36||121||102||14||27||8||1||2||13||0||17||16||.265||.364||.422||.785|