The July 1st Pinstripe Birthday celebrant was no stranger to controversy. When Major League Baseball abolished the spit ball just before the 1919 season got under way, exemptions were granted that permitted eighteen pitchers to continue throwing the wet one until the end of their careers. Jack Quinn was one of those 18 pitchers and at the time he was granted the exemption, he was already 36 years old and had pitched four seasons of ball with the Highlanders, one with the Braves and two more in the upstart Federal League. When his Federal League franchise folded, Quinn played in the Pacific Coast League for three seasons until the PCL halted play during the 1918 season due to America’s participation in WWI. Quinn then signed a contract to pitch for the White Sox and finished that year by winning 5 of 6 decisions for Chicago.
But the Yankees pulled a fast one on Chicago by purchasing Quinn’s contract from his former PCL team. When American League President Ban Johnson (along with his National league counterpart) ruled that New York did indeed have the rights to Quinn, the White Sox owner Charlie Comiskey, went ballistic. He had quarreled with Johnson numerous times before but losing Quinn caused Comiskey to attack Johnson’s honor repeatedly and threaten him in very public ways. Johnson was so angry at the White Sox owner that when Comiskey asked the AL President to investigate his early suspicions that his Chicago players were throwing the 1919 World Series, Johnson not only ignored him, he blamed the assertions on Comiskey being a sore loser. Many baseball researchers feel the League’s failure to follow up on Comiskey’s concerns permitted the infamous Black Sox scandal to play out and almost ruin baseball. So Jack Quinn ended up playing a huge role in baseball’s decision to create a Commissioner’s office.
In 1919, the already 35-year-old Quinn began the second phase of his Yankee career, spending his next three big league seasons pitching for New York and compiling a 51-31 record. The Yankees then traded him to Boston, where he won 46 more games as a Red Sox during the next four seasons. By then, Quinn was 41 years-old and still throwing a spitball pitch that had been outlawed for almost everyone else eight years previously. The Red Sox figured Quinn’s best days were behind him and put him on waivers in 1925. Connie Mack needed pitching so the A’s picked up Quinn and he won 69 names for Philadelphia over the next half-dozen seasons. If you’re keeping track, that brings us up to 1930, at which point this ageless right-hander was now 46 years-old. Quinn kept going, pitching until he was fifty years-old and accumulating a lifetime record of 247-218 with 57 saves. He also holds the distinction of being the oldest player (45 yrs old) in American League history to hit a home run. (Julio Franco (46yrs-old) now holds the big league record) When Quinn retired in 1943, only Burleigh Grimes was left as one of the 18 pitchers still throwing a “legal” spitball thanks to that 1918 exemption.
|NYY (7 yrs)||81||65||.555||3.15||228||145||61||83||6||6||1270.0||1337||600||444||27||291||478||1.282|
|PHA (6 yrs)||69||47||.595||3.51||184||112||39||48||10||11||926.2||1051||442||361||33||184||232||1.333|
|BOS (4 yrs)||45||54||.455||3.65||145||100||30||53||7||14||832.2||946||421||338||28||190||226||1.364|
|BRO (2 yrs)||8||11||.421||3.03||81||1||60||0||0||23||151.2||167||64||51||2||48||53||1.418|
|BAL (2 yrs)||35||36||.493||2.98||90||73||16||48||4||2||616.1||624||266||204||12||128||282||1.220|
|BSN (1 yr)||4||3||.571||2.40||8||7||1||6||1||0||56.1||55||22||15||1||7||33||1.101|
|CIN (1 yr)||0||1||.000||4.02||14||0||9||0||0||1||15.2||20||9||7||0||5||3||1.596|
|CHW (1 yr)||5||1||.833||2.29||6||5||1||5||0||0||51.0||38||13||13||0||7||22||0.882|
One of the things many Yankee fans loved about George Steinbrenner was his “win now at any cost” philosophy of running his baseball team. The Boss not only hated losing, it made him angry, vindictive and often times irrational. In fact, it was the irrational version of Steinbrenner who went nuts after the Yankees got beat by the Royals in the 1980 playoffs and almost ruined his organization. Ten years later he had been suspended for trying to entrap Dave Winfield out of his contract, fired two future Manager of the Year winners, traded away all of his team’s prospects, left his minor league system in a shambles and the Yankee team he had engineered was finishing at the bottom of its division.
Two men are frequently credited with rebuilding the Yankee dynasty in the early nineties, GM Gene Michael and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. Brian Sabean was a high school baseball player from New Hampshire who played his collegiate ball in Florida and then became a highly regarded and very young college baseball coach. He got the head coaching job at the University of Tampa in 1984 and led the school to its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance. His success caught the attention of one of Tampa’s most famous snow birds, George Steinbrenner and Sabean soon accepted a job as a Yankee scout.
That began a quick rise through the Yankee organization. Sabean was named Director of Scouting in 1986 and was then promoted to New York’s VP of Player Development and Scouting in 1990. It was the duo of Sabean and Michael that drafted or signed Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, JT Snow, Mo Rivera and Jorge Posada and reconstructed the Yankee minor league organization into one of the best in the game.
Sabean’s most celebrated signing was a fire-balling high school phee-nom from North Carolina named Brien Taylor. Represented by a soon-to-be super agent named Scott Boras, Taylor was the first overall pick (by NY) in the 1991 MLB Draft. With Steinbrenner still on suspension, the Yanks were trying to sign the teen-aged southpaw for somewhere near a half-million dollars which was about a million less than Boras was demanding. Even though the Boss was “forbidden” to participate in the negotiations, he made a comment to the press that if the Yanks let Taylor get away “they should be shot.” The Yankee front office responded by quickly agreeing to a $1.55 million dollar deal. Taylor would of course never throw a pitch in the Bronx, after injuring his shoulder in a 1993 offseason fist fight.
As Steinbrenner was negotiating his return from suspension with the commissioner’s office, rumors in the press were rampant that he had ordered his henchmen to fire Michael as the team’s GM and replace him with Sabean. If that indeed was the plan, the Yankees waited too long to execute it because Sabean accepted a job as a Senior VP with the Giants in 1992. He then took over as San Francisco’s GM in 1997 and with that team’s World Series wins in 2010 and 2012, is now considered one of baseball’s best general managers. If he had been a bit more patient, perhaps, just perhaps, the Brian currently serving as Yankee GM might have a different last name.