Tagged: july 16

July 16 – Happy Birthday Floyd “Three-Finger” Newkirk

Floyd_NewkirkIIYou never heard of Floyd Newkirk and either had I until this morning. That’s when I found out he was one of just 35 big league players who celebrate or celebrated their birthday on today’s date. I had also thought Tom Metcalf was the only former Yankee among those 35 July 16th birthday celebrants until I discovered that Newkirk had pitched for New York as well, during the 1934 season after getting called up on August 1st from the Yanks’ outstanding Newark Bears farm club. At the time of that call-up, he had put together an 11-4 record for the Bears. When he made his one and only appearance for New York almost three weeks later versus the St.Louis Browns, he became the only three-fingered pitcher in history to pitch for the Yankees.

The right-handed Newkirk had lost two fingers on his pitching hand in a childhood accident. Throughout his youth, he never treated the condition as a handicap. Instead, he claimed his unique three-digit grip on a baseball added speed to his fastball and bite to his curve. He went on to pitch in college in his native Illinois and then signed with the Albany (New York) Senators in the old Eastern League.

In one article I uncovered during my research for today’s post, a fill-in sportswriter for a Milwaukee newspaper gave an account of a 1933 American Association game he was called upon to cover, between Newkirk’s St. Paul Saints and the hometown Milwaukee Brewers. In a very tongue and cheek writing style, this amusing scribe who had never before reported on a baseball game, bemoaned the fact that the St. Paul pitcher with three fingers had out-pitched the five-fingered hometown hurler that day.

In any event, that one scoreless ninth inning Newkirk pitched against St. Louis in 1934 would end up being the the only inning of his Yankee and his big league pitching career. That December, Newkirk was included in the historic trade with the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League that brought Joe DiMaggio to New York. He went 8-5 with San Francisco in 1935 but an inability to throw strikes doomed his efforts to make it back to the Majors. He passed away in 1976 at the age of 67.

1934 NYY 0 0 0.00 1 0 1 0 0 0 1.0 1 0 0 0 1 0 2.000
1 Yr 0 0 0.00 1 0 1 0 0 0 1.0 1 0 0 0 1 0 2.000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/15/2013.

July 16 – Happy Birthday Tom Metcalf

There are only 35 former Major League ballplayers who have July 16th as a birthday and not one of them is still playing the game. The most famous of this group is “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. Perhaps they should have called old Shoeless “Luckless” instead. In addition to being suspended from playing Major League baseball for life for allegedly conspiring to throw the 1919 World Series, Jackson once hit .408 in a season and didn’t win the batting title. Remember  Terry Pendleton? In 1990 and ’91 he was the best third baseman in baseball, winning an NL batting crown with the Braves and a Gold Glove as well. Pendleton turns 53 today.

Tom Metcalf is exactly 20-years-older than Pendleton. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant is not a well known Yankee but even though this Amherst, WI native pitched for New York way back in the 1963 season and won just one game in pinstripes, I vividly remember that Yankee victory. The date was September 1, 1963 and the Yankees were playing the Orioles at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.

The Orioles were leading 3-0 when Manager Ralph Houk replaced reliever Steve Hamilton with Metcalf. One month earlier, Metcalf had made his big league debut in a relief effort against this same Baltimore team and been shelled. He didn’t get another chance to pitch for ten days and even went to Houk and told him if he wasn’t going to get a chance to pitch to send him back to Richmond. Instead, Houk began calling on him and Metcalf started pitching well.

Now against the Orioles a second time, the right-hander pitched two innings and gave up one run and then was lifted for  a pinch-hitter with the score 4-1. That pinch-hitter happened to be Mickey Mantle. Mantle had broken his foot earlier in that ’63 season, in a game against these same Orioles in this same ballpark.  He was chasing a fly ball and his foot became entangled in a chain link fence that used to run along Memorial Stadium’s outfield. When Houk sent him in to hit for Metcalf, it was his first appearance since coming off the disabled list from that injury. While I watched on my parents’ old black & white Sylvania, Mickey hit a two-run homer and three batters later, Tom Tresh hit another two-run shot for his second homer of the game and the Yankees and Metcalf had their victory.

Metcalf’s promising career ended with an injury to his pitching arm. Not too many Yankees hail from Metcalf’s home state of Wisconsin. The best of the few that do, is Tony Kubek. Former Yankee fireballing reliever, Ryne Duren is a also a native of the Badger State.

This other pitcher with a very short Yankee resume was also born on July 16th.

1963 NYY 1 0 1.000 2.77 8 0 4 0 0 0 13.0 12 4 4 1 3 3 1.154
1 Yr 1 0 1.000 2.77 8 0 4 0 0 0 13.0 12 4 4 1 3 3 1.154
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/15/2013.