Though they were also referred to as the Americans, their Highlanders’ nickname fit them well because they played their home games in a place called Hilltop Park, which was located on one of the highest points on Manhattan island. The team landed there in 1903 when Ban Johnson’s upstart American League relocated its Baltimore Oriole franchise to the Big Apple. It was a forced move that caused tons of bad blood and hostility. As a result, just about the entire Orioles roster either refused to make the move or were not offered the opportunity to do so. This forced the Highlanders to throw a team together in a helter skelter fashion, that included boozers, brawlers, gamblers and a few talented ball players thrown in for good measure. Co-owned by one of New York City’s biggest gambling barons and a retired corrupt cop, the club played as erratically as the hit-or-miss evolution of the team’s roster suggested it would. They finished 4th, 2nd, 6th, 2nd, 5th, last, 5th, 2nd, 6th and last during their first decade in their new home. They battled helplessly for the attention of city’s baseball fans and baseball press in those early years with John McGraw’s mighty Giants. Things really didn’t get better for the team and its fans until the franchise was purchased by a couple of very wealthy colonels named Rupert and Huston in 1915.
Earle Gardner joined the team in 1908. He was a five foot eleven inch, 160 pound second baseman from Sparta, IL, who during three previous seasons in the minors had developed a reputation with his fancy glove work. He was also a decent hitter, averaging right around .300 in three different classes of farm league ball. It took him two-and-a-half seasons to claim the starting second-baseman’s job and he was only able to hold onto it for just a year-and-a-half. He hit .263 in 1911, his only full season as a starter and then he gave way to Hack Simmons in 1912.
Just 28 years-old at the time he lost his starting position, Gardner returned to minor league ball and never again played in a big league game. He ended up with a .263 lifetime average during his five seasons in New York. He continued playing in the minors until 1918. He died in 1943 at the age of 59.
Born in East Chicago, IL on January 24, 1953, Stoddard came to New York from San Diego during the 1986 season and almost immediately won four games in relief for the Yankees. The huge right-hander spent the next two seasons in the Yankee bullpen and earned a total of 10 wins and 11 saves while wearing the pinstripes. His best years were with Baltimore, including a 26-save season in 1980.
The Baltimore-New York connection was an historical one. Before the Yankees moved to New York (as the Hilltoppers) in 1903, they were the Baltimore Orioles. Beginning when the relocating St Louis Browns brought AL baseball back to B’town in 1954, many former Baltimore players have worn the pinstripes and vice-versa. Some guys who have worn both include;
|BAL (6 yrs)||19||14||.576||3.65||229||0||162||0||0||57||313.0||294||137||127||28||141||249||1.390|
|NYY (3 yrs)||10||6||.625||4.39||109||0||38||0||0||11||197.0||186||102||96||24||80||145||1.350|
|SDP (2 yrs)||2||9||.182||4.27||74||0||29||0||0||1||105.1||96||55||50||9||71||89||1.585|
|CLE (1 yr)||0||0||2.95||14||0||7||0||0||0||21.1||25||7||7||1||7||12||1.500|
|CHC (1 yr)||10||6||.625||3.82||58||0||26||0||0||7||92.0||77||41||39||9||57||87||1.457|
|CHW (1 yr)||0||0||9.00||1||0||0||0||0||0||1.0||2||1||1||1||0||0||2.000|
The Yankees are not the baseball team most fans think of when they hear the name Neil Allen. That’s because today’s birthday celebrant made his big league debut as a starter for the New York Mets in 1979 and is best remembered as that team’s closer from 1980, when he took over that role from Skip Lockwood until the ’83 season. That was the year the Mets gave the closer role to Jesse Orosco and made Allen a starter once again. In June of that season, he was traded to St Louis in the deal that brought Keith Hernandez to Shea Stadium. During that first partial season in St Louis, Allen continued to be used as a starter and went 10-6 with two shutouts. He was then sent back to the bullpen the following year but not to close, because St Louis had the great Bruce Sutter to finish their games. You have to believe that all these changes in pitching roles were detrimental to Allen’s career. He joined the Yankees for the first time in June of 1985, when New York purchased him from the Cardinals. He pitched well in his seventeen games in pinstripes that year, winning his only decision and posting a 2.76 ERA. The following February, the Yankees traded him to the White Sox. Chicago made him a starter again and he went 7-2 in the Windy City in 1986. But when he began the ’87 season 0-7, he was released and signed as a free agent with the Yankees that September. He had his best season in pinstripes in 1988, appearing in 41 games, going 5-3 and even pitching a complete game shutout in one of the two starting assignments he was given that year. But with his contract expiring at the end of that season, New York chose to let him walk away. He pitched one more season for the Indians and then left the big leagues for good. Sixty nine of his seventy four lifetime saves came during his years as a Met. His lifetime record was 58-70, with a 3.88 career ERA. Since retiring, Allen has been a minor league pitching coach in both the Blue Jay and Yankee organizations and also served as New York’s bullpen coach in 2005.