The only member of the Yankee all-time player roster to be born on June 18 (1975) is their former reliever, Felix Heredia. The Yankees claimed the southpaw off waivers during the 2003 season and he pitched real well out of their bullpen for the remainder of that year, making 12 appearances during which he allowed just two earned runs in fifteen total innings. That effort represented an ERA of just 1.20 prompting New York to sign him to a new two-year contract. But during his second season in pinstripes, Heredia struggled with control problems and his Yankee ERA ballooned by over five times causing Joe Torre to eventually lose faith in him. The Yankees traded him to the Mets after the 2005 season in a deal that returned Mike Stanton to the Yankee bullpen. Heredia retired after the 2005 season with a 28-19 record for his ten years in the big leagues and 6 career saves. During that decade he pitched for six other teams in addition to the Yankees.
The only other member of the Yankee baseball family to be born on this same date is this announcer, who’s most famous call had nothing to do with Yankee baseball.
|CHC (4 yrs)||15||6||.714||5.01||221||0||54||0||0||3||163.1||166||102||91||20||80||146||1.506|
|FLA (3 yrs)||6||7||.462||4.72||118||2||27||0||0||2||114.1||112||68||60||5||72||102||1.609|
|NYY (2 yrs)||1||2||.333||4.86||59||0||13||0||0||0||53.2||57||33||29||6||25||29||1.528|
|NYM (1 yr)||0||0||0.00||3||0||1||0||0||0||2.2||1||0||0||0||1||2||0.750|
|CIN (1 yr)||5||2||.714||3.00||57||0||18||0||0||1||72.0||61||27||24||9||28||41||1.236|
|TOR (1 yr)||1||2||.333||3.61||53||0||15||0||0||0||52.1||51||29||21||5||26||31||1.471|
After the Yanks spent close to $350 million during the 2008 offseason to sign Sabathia, Teixeira and Burnett, putting their Mexican League find, Ramiro Pena on the Opening Day roster as the team’s utility infielder was probably a money-saving move on the part of the team’s front office. It worked out pretty well. The 23-year-old native of the Mexican city of Monterrey was paid the MLB minimum salary of $400,000 and responded with decent fill-in defensive efforts at short and third plus produced an impressive .287 batting average. Pena did spend July and August of his first big league season back in the minors after the Yankees acquired Eric Hinske in late June of 2009, but he returned to New York in September and hit his first big league home run. Though he didn’t see action in that year’s postseason, Pena more than earned the World Series ring he received when the Yankees topped the Phillies in the ’09 World Series.
That effort earned him a return trip to the Bronx the following year and though his average dropped sixty points, his defense improved and so did his RBI production. What really killed Pena’s career as a Yankee was the emergency appendectomy he was forced to undergo in July of 2011, right after he had again been recalled to the Bronx to fill in for an injured Eric Chavez. Major League utility players who get hurt when the starters they are supposed to replace are also hurt are simply asking for trouble. Sure enough, Pena appeared in just three games for New York during the entire 2012 season and was released at the end of that year.
The Atlanta Braves signed him as a free agent in December and he was establishing himself as Atlanta’s super sub during the first half of the 2013 season until the injury jinx bit him again. Pena underwent shoulder surgery this month and will miss the remainder of the year.
|NYY (4 yrs)||180||338||313||40||73||7||2||2||32||11||13||58||.233||.266||.288||.553|
|ATL (1 yr)||50||107||97||14||27||5||1||3||12||0||8||18||.278||.330||.443||.773|
Back in the late forties and early fifties, Yankee GM George Weiss would scour the rosters of the 15 other big league teams looking for what the New York media liked to call “pennant insurance.” With the platoon master, Casey Stengel calling the shots on the field in the Bronx, Weiss knew that providing the Ol’ Perfessor with one good extra bat or pitching arm was the recipe for a few extra late-season wins and quite possibly another trip to the Fall Classic. In August of 1949, Weiss had grabbed the “Big Cat,” Johnny Mize from the cross town Giants for $40,000 dollars. The primary reason the former NL batting champion was available in the first place was because Giant manager Leo Durocher was not very fond of him. When Weiss gave Mize to Stengel, Casey used him masterfully as a pinch hitter and part-time first baseman for the next five Yankee seasons.
A year after getting Mize, Weiss spent another 40,000 Yankee dollars to get Johnny Hopp from the Pirates. Hopp had been a teammate of Mize’s when both played and starred for the Cardinals early in their careers. Though he didn’t have lots of power, Hopp was a great defensive first baseman, a better-than-average center fielder and a solid batsman who turned pitches into line drives with great regularity. In fact, when Weiss swung the deal to put him in pinstripes, Hopp was hitting .340. The national baseball press howled that the mysterious Weiss was somehow using the financial might of the Yankees to form a cabal of MLB owners willing to sell New York any player needed to fill a gap in the team’s roster. In actuality, no NL team in the pennant race at the time of the Hopp transaction wanted or needed a first baseman who could not hit for power. But Stengel welcomed him with open arms into his toolbox, which was more commonly referred to as the Yankee dugout.
During the final month of the 1950 regular season, Hopp appeared in 19 games for New York and hit .333 with a .486 on base percentage. His timely hitting helped the Yankees hold off a very good Detroit Tiger team to win that year’s pennant by just three games. In 1951, Hopp’s age (35 at the time) began to catch up with him as injuries limited his play and had a negative impact on his batting average. The Hastings, Nebraska native was given his outright release the following year and he finished his big league career as a member of the Tigers. He retired with a .296 lifetime batting average and four World Series rings, two each with the Cardinals and Yankees.
|STL (7 yrs)||669||2401||2129||355||619||116||41||24||244||69||227||218||.291||.362||.418||.779|
|PIT (3 yrs)||331||1208||1081||170||335||53||22||14||117||21||120||71||.310||.379||.438||.818|
|NYY (3 yrs)||80||136||115||23||26||3||1||3||14||4||19||15||.226||.341||.348||.689|
|BSN (2 yrs)||263||993||875||145||272||43||10||5||80||34||92||64||.311||.381||.400||.781|
|BRO (1 yr)||8||14||14||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||3||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|DET (1 yr)||42||53||46||5||10||1||0||0||3||0||6||7||.217||.308||.239||.547|
Rudy May was a Yankee twice during his sixteen-season career. The first time was from June 15, 1974, when the southpaw pitcher was purchased by New York from the Angels until June 15, 1976, when he was traded in a ten-player blockbuster deal with the Orioles. The Yankees sent May, Rick Dempsey, Tippy Martinez, Scott McGregor and Dave Pagan to Baltimore and got Doyle Alexander, Scott Holtzman, Elrod Hendricks, Grant Jackson and somebody named Jimmy Freeman from the birds. During his first tenure in pinstripes, Rudy had gone 26-19 including a 14-12 season in 1975. He had enough mojo back then to get the honor of starting the first-ever game in the newly renovated Yankee Stadium, in 1976 (The Yankees won the game but Rudy pitched just two innings).
Rudy pitched well for the Orioles, winning 29 games for them during the next season and a half and then he was traded to the Expos, where he again performed very effectively and became a free agent after the 1979 season. That’s when the Yankees brought him back to the Bronx a second time and he rewarded them for that decision with a 15-5 season and the AL ERA title (2.46). Dick Howser used May as both a starter and reliever that season and Rudy thrived in the dual role. But then two things happened that helped derail May’s career. George Steinbrenner dumped Howser after the Yankees were knocked out of the playoffs in 1980. From that point on, it appeared as if George had totalitarian control of all front-office and even some dugout-based decisions. Then the disastrous 1981 strike severely damaged owner-player and team-fan relationships. In December of 1981, the Yankees had actually completed a trade with the Royals that would have sent May to Kansas City for their veteran outfielder, Hal McRae but both players had clauses in their contracts that required them to approve such deals and neither did. An efficient and professional front office would have asked for the player’s approval before making such a deal. May never again felt comfortable or pitched effectively in pinstripes. He left the Yankees and big league baseball after the 1983 season. May was born on this date in 1944, in Coffeyville, Kansas. His career regular season stats as a Yankee pitcher are shown below.
|CAL (7 yrs)||51||76||.402||3.67||230||170||22||35||12||5||1138.2||971||520||464||96||484||844||1.278|
|NYY (7 yrs)||54||46||.540||3.12||184||102||41||30||5||7||841.2||715||340||292||48||281||586||1.183|
|MON (2 yrs)||18||13||.581||3.26||60||30||9||6||2||0||237.2||229||103||86||19||73||154||1.271|
|BAL (2 yrs)||29||21||.580||3.68||61||58||1||16||5||0||404.0||399||187||165||36||120||176||1.285|
I was one of those Yankee fans who screamed the loudest when the recently departed George Steinbrenner pegged this guy to replace Buck Showalter as Yankee manager after the 1995 playoff loss to Seattle. We had good reason to be skeptics. Up until then, Torre had managed the Mets, Braves and Cardinals, losing an average of 90 games per year and compiling a dreadful .472 winning percentage. It seemed as if the Yankees had turned the corner with Showalter and when he got fired, one year after the miserable players strike, I was about ready to stop watching baseball.
Boy was I wrong. 1996 turned out to be one of the, if not the greatest years of my life as a Yankee fan and Joe Torre’s managerial skills were a huge part of the reason why. Not only was he adept at Steinbrenner diplomacy, he was also a great communicator with his players and it seemed every move he made from the dugout was the right one.
Joe’s tenure with the Yankees was a wonderful time in the team’s history (although my euphoria has been significantly dampened with the steroids usage disclosures involving several Yankees who played for Torre) and Yankee fans will always admire and be grateful for the calm, professional way he handled the immense pressure and responsibilities that came with the job.
Here’s a look at the regular season career Yankee won-loss records of the top five winning managers in pinstripe history:
|Manager – World Championships||Wins||Losses||Pct.|
|Joe McCarthy – 7||1460||867||.627|
|Joe Torre – 4||1173||767||.605|
|Casey Stengel – 7||1149||696||.623|
|Miller Huggins – 3||1067||719||.597|
|Ralph Houk – 2||944||806||.539|
Joe shares a birthday with this Yankee pitcher, who started the first game ever in the newly renovated Yankee Stadium in April of 1976. This former Yankee pinch-hitter was also born on July 18th as was this much more recent NY utility infielder.
Here’s Torre’s season-by-season record as Yankee skipper and his lifetime totals by teams he managed during his career:
|16||1996||55||New York Yankees||AL||162||92||70||.568||1||WS Champs|
|17||1997||56||New York Yankees||AL||162||96||66||.593||2|
|18||1998||57||New York Yankees||AL||162||114||48||.704||1||WS Champs|
|19||1999||58||New York Yankees||AL||162||98||64||.605||1||WS Champs|
|20||2000||59||New York Yankees||AL||161||87||74||.540||1||WS Champs|
|21||2001||60||New York Yankees||AL||161||95||65||.594||1||AL Pennant|
|22||2002||61||New York Yankees||AL||161||103||58||.640||1|
|23||2003||62||New York Yankees||AL||163||101||61||.623||1||AL Pennant|
|24||2004||63||New York Yankees||AL||162||101||61||.623||1|
|25||2005||64||New York Yankees||AL||162||95||67||.586||1|
|26||2006||65||New York Yankees||AL||162||97||65||.599||1|
|27||2007||66||New York Yankees||AL||162||94||68||.580||2|
|New York Mets||5 years||709||286||420||.405||5.3|
|Atlanta Braves||3 years||486||257||229||.529||2.0|
|St. Louis Cardinals||6 years||706||351||354||.498||3.5|
|New York Yankees||12 years||1942||1173||767||.605||1.2||6 Pennants and 4 World Series Titles|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||3 years||486||259||227||.533||2.0|
|29 years||4329||2326||1997||.538||2.6||6 Pennants and 4 World Series Titles|