I was one of many Yankee fans impressed with today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant’s first big league start. It took place on May 12, 2013 in Cleveland’s Jacobs Field. Vidal Nuno threw five scoreless innings against the Tribe that day in the second half of a double-header to earn both his first Yankee victory and the pretty effusive praise of New York skipper Joe Girardi. But the manager’s kind words didn’t prevent Nuno from getting sent back down to Scranton the next day. He was brought right back up the same week, when Andy Pettitte strained his back. Girardi gave him two more starts in late May against the Rays and the Mets and he didn’t do poorly in either. He lasted six innings in both contests and surrendered just two runs in each, but he got no decision against Tampa and took the loss against the Yankees cross-town rivals. Nuno hasn’t pitched an inning for New York since. It was deja vu all over again for the southpaw when one day after his last start he was again sent down to Scranton. This time the move was forced by the return-from-injury of both Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youklis.
Nuno turns 26 years-old today. He was born in National City, California and played his collegiate baseball at Baker University in Kansas. He was a 49th round selection of the Cleveland Indians in the 2009 MLB amateur draft. After a great first season in the lowest level of the Indians’ farm system, he had a tough time the following year at the A level and Cleveland let him go. The Yankees signed him in 2011 and he’s pitched well everywhere he’s been since, including New York’s 2013 spring training camp, where he was named the winner of the Dawson Award for best performance by a rookie. He’s now passed just about every other New York pitching prospect that had been ahead of him on the organizational depth chart at the time he was signed.
Nuno shares his birthday with this long-ago Yankee pitcher, this one-time Yankee outfielder and this runner-up for the 1963 AL Rookie of the Year Award.
The 1970 Yankee team surprised most of baseball by winning 93 games and finishing in second place in the AL East, fifteen games behind the runaway Orioles. That team was led by a talented, mostly home-grown starting pitching staff and three position players who had also come up from New York’s farm system; Roy White, Bobby Murcer and Thurman Munson. But the roster also included several big league veterans who had been acquired from other teams to fill the roles Manager Ralph Houk had in place for them. These included Danny Cater, Gene Michael, Curt Blefary, Ron Hansen and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Pete Ward.
Ward was the Canadian born son of a professional hockey player who had excelled in baseball as a kid and been drafted by the Orioles in 1958. His path up the Baltimore farm system included a stop in the Texas League, where in order to save money, he would pitch a tent and sleep in the outfield of the park in which his Victoria/Ardmore team played their home games. He got his first taste of the big leagues with the Birds in a late-1962-season call-up. The Orioles then traded Ward and his future Yankee teammate Hansen, to the White Sox in a deal that brought Luis Aparicio to Baltimore.
Ward started at third base for Chicago in 1963 and nearly won that year’s AL Rookie of the Year award. His 177 hits, 22 home runs, 84 RBI’s and .295 average helped the Sox nearly steal the AL Pennant from the Yankees that year and he finished second in the voting for the League’s best first-year player behind his teammate, pitcher Gary Peters. He followed his rookie performance up with a strong sophomore season but then injured his neck and back in a car accident and his left handed hitting stroke was never the same.
He continued playing in the Windy City until 1969. After that season the Yankees picked him up in a trade and Ralph Houk used him as a back-up first baseman and pinch hitter on that 1970 Yankee team. In just 87 at-bats that season, Ward drove in 18 runs for New York and averaged .260. He was released following the season. He finished his nine-year big league career with 98 home runs and 776 hits. He then got into coaching and at one time managed in the Yankee’s minor league organization. Ward was born on July 26, 1937, in Montreal.
|CHW (7 yrs)||899||3400||2962||339||753||132||15||97||407||20||358||517||.254||.340||.407||.747|
|NYY (1 yr)||66||87||77||5||20||2||2||1||18||0||9||17||.260||.333||.377||.710|
|BAL (1 yr)||8||25||21||1||3||2||0||0||2||0||4||5||.143||.280||.238||.518|
The last Boston Red Sox team to win a World Series during the 20th century was the 1918 squad. Their starting rotation consisted of Carl Mays, Bullet Joe Bush, Babe Ruth and today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant, “Sad Sam” Jones. By 1922, three of the four were pitching for the Yankees and the fourth was on his way to becoming New York’s and all of baseball’s most famous home-run hitter of all time.
During Sad Sam’s four years as a starter in Beantown, he won 64 games including 23 in 1921. He then won 67 games during his five seasons in pinstripes, including a 21-victory season in 1923. He remained in the big leagues until 1935, retiring when he was 42-years-old, with a lifetime record of 229-217 with 36 career shutouts.
An interesting fact about Jones’ career was that opposing runners stole very few bases off of old Sam despite the fact that he almost never attempted a pick-off throw. What was his secret for scaring would-be base-stealers from even trying to run against him? According to a 1954 article in the Baseball Digest, Jones would just stare at runners until they would inevitably walk back to first. As soon as they started their trip back to the bag, Jones would throw the next pitch.
|BOS (6 yrs)||64||59||.520||3.39||157||124||30||83||18||4||1045.0||1069||474||394||16||338||307||1.346|
|NYY (5 yrs)||67||56||.545||4.06||202||130||49||66||8||22||1089.1||1149||582||492||53||405||363||1.427|
|WSH (4 yrs)||50||33||.602||3.70||104||100||3||49||7||1||709.2||745||352||292||24||235||217||1.381|
|CHW (4 yrs)||36||46||.439||4.20||105||98||6||39||3||0||700.1||777||400||327||46||251||222||1.468|
|CLE (2 yrs)||4||9||.308||3.62||49||9||26||2||0||4||149.0||133||79||60||0||65||42||1.329|
|SLB (1 yr)||8||14||.364||4.32||30||26||2||11||0||0||189.2||211||121||91||12||102||72||1.650|