The date was October 1, 1921. The Yankees were playing a doubleheader at home in the Polo Grounds against the Philadelphia A’s. New York held a two and a half game lead over the Cleveland Indians and were in first place in the American League standings. The magic number for the franchise’s very first AL Pennant stood at one. When the home team took the field, it was Elmer Miller who positioned himself in center field, between Bob Meusel in left and Babe Ruth in right. Yankee Manager, Miller Huggins had used four different center fielders between his two stars during that ’21 season and Miller was one of those four.
Elmer was born in Sandusky, OH on July 28, 1890. He began his big league career with a twelve-game trial with the Cardinals, in 1912. He then spent the next two years in the minors. He joined the Yankees in 1915, as a utility outfielder and got a chance to start for New York in 1917. He wasn’t much of a hitter but he was good defensively. He was exempted from the draft in WWI because he had a child so he was allowed to continue his baseball career. The problem was the Yankees no longer wanted him on their big league roster. Instead, Miller played the 1919, ’20 and half of the 1921 season with the St Paul Saints in the old American Association. He became a star in that league, averaging well over .300 and developing a decent home run stroke as well. At the end of July in 1921, Miller was hitting .313 for the Saints with 18 home runs. The Yankees were looking for better offense from their center field position and decided to bring Miller back. He had been starting for Huggins in that spot ever since.
The Yankees had a two-run lead in the first game that day as the A’s third baseman, Clarence Galloway came to the plate with two outs and a man on first in the top of the ninth. Galloway had already had three hits that afternoon and it looked as if he was going to get his fourth. According to the New York Times account of that game, Galloway “crashed” a ball to the gap in left center. Elmer Miller ran “full speed” after the ball and at the last second, extended his glove and “snared” the ball. His great catch clinched the first AL pennant ever won by the New York Yankee franchise. Miller also had a great day at the plate. he went 3 for 4 in the opener and then 3 for 5 in the second game. He finished his 1921 half-season in New York with a .298 average and despite his poor World Series showing against the Giants, it seemed Miller had a solid hold on the Yankees’ starting center fielder’s job the following season.
Unfortunately for Elmer, that solid hold did not last long. In July of the following year, Miller was traded to the Red Sox for Jumping Joe Dugan and Elmer Smith. He played terribly in Boston, hitting just .190 and was out of the big leagues for good by October of 1922. What a difference a year can make.
|NYY (6 yrs)||357||1404||1230||149||308||40||17||12||132||27||104||121||.250||.318||.340||.657|
|STL (1 yr)||12||41||37||5||7||1||0||0||3||1||4||9||.189||.268||.216||.485|
|BOS (1 yr)||44||156||147||16||28||2||3||4||16||3||5||10||.190||.222||.327||.549|
According to Baseball-Reference.com, only 27 former big-league players were born on this date. Other than February 29, I’ve come across no other date during the year when fewer Major League players celebrate a birthday. The most famous player born on this date also once became a Yankee, unofficially for three days anyway. That would be the mega-talented left-handed pitcher, Vida Blue, who first burst on the big league scene in 1970 with Oakland, when he pitched two shutouts including a no-hitter in six late-season starts. Then in 1971, Blue became the best pitcher in baseball with a 24-8 record, a 1.82 ERA and 301 strikeouts for the A’s, winning the AL MVP and Cy Young Awards and leading Oakland to the first of what would become five straight division titles. He also pitched 312 innings with his 21-year-old arm. I guess there was no such thing as a Joba rule back then, huh?
In any event, by the mid seventies, the A’s whacky and egotistical owner, Charley Finley, had become disillusioned with free agency and modern day ballplayers so he tried to cash in by selling the most valuable members of his team’s very loaded roster. Blue was one of those players. On June 15, 1976, Finley struck a deal with a guy who would succeed Charley O as baseball’s most whacky and egotistical owner, the one and only George Steinbrenner, to sell Blue to the Yankees. Three days later, MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn voided the deal ruling that it was detrimental to the league’s competitive balance. Blue went onto pitch seventeen seasons in the big leagues and win 209 games. He also developed a cocaine addiction and spent time in prison.
There was also an official Yankee born on July 28th who made a sensational final out catch to help the Yankees capture their first-ever Pennant.