The phrase “You either love him or you hate him” may just have been coined for today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. I love the guy. In fact, the one thing I regret about being able to watch every Yankee game in high def on a big screen is that I no longer listen to them on the radio unless I happen to be in the car when they’re playing. That means I don’t get to listen to John Sterling do his stuff, often enough.
I admit, he’s a lot more fun to listen to when the Yankees are winning but if I’m forced to “listen” instead of “watch” the Bronx Bombers play a game, I appreciate the fact that Sterling and his booth partner, Suzyn Waldman keep me entertained with their broadcast styles and idiosyncrasies.
Sterling is a native New Yorker (born July 4, 1938). He got his start as a game announcer in Baltimore, doing Bullets basketball and Colts football games. He came back to New York with WMCA, where he did Nets and Islander games and then migrated to Atlanta and commentated for the Hawks and Braves. He joined the Yankee radio booth in 1989 and has a Gehrig-like streak going of not missing a Yankee game during the past 23-plus seasons he’s been on the job.
What I find real hard to understand is the level of animosity that exists among Sterling haters and detractors. There are actually blogs and web sites devoted to criticizing and making fun of Sterling’s gaffes and calls. Some guy named Phil Mushnick who writes for the NY Post seems to have dedicated his column’s editorial mission to trying to convince whoever happens to read it that Sterling should be fired. Talk about a waste of newsprint!
As far as I’m concerned, baseball is and always will be a game. Games are supposed to be fun. Yankee games are one of the great joys in my life and Sterling’s great broadcasting voice, signature calls and his unique schtick make those games even more enjoyable. Many may roll their eyes and make believe they think its corny but I know the majority of Yankee fans absolutely love to hear Sterling shout, “Inning over. Ballgame over. The Yankees win! Thuuuuuuuuuuuuuh Yankees win!”
The Yankees purchased today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant from the San Francisco Giants during their 1972 spring training season and I could never figure out why. Hal Lanier had been the weak-hitting decent fielding starting shortstop for the Giants for the previous eight seasons but the Yankees already had their own weak-hitting, decent-fielding shortstop in Gene “the Stick” Michael. What that Yankee team really needed was a starting third baseman with some pop in his bat to compete with their AL East rivals. The previous year, New York had started Jerry Kenney at the hot corner while Baltimore had perennial All Star Brooks Robinson and the Red Sox, the hard-hitting Rico Petrocelli as starting third basemen.
Kenney would end up losing his third base job during that ’72 season to a guy named Celerino Sanchez. When Sanchez failed to hit, Ralph Houk tried playing Lanier at third. But when both Michael and Lanier started in the infield, opposing pitchers couldn’t wait to face the bottom of the Yankees’ lineup. Lanier got into 60 games that season and hit a putrid .213. That turned out to be five points higher than he would hit during his second and final season with New York, which also turned out to be his final year as a big league player. It would be during that same 1973 season that the Yankees finally went out and got themselves a premier third baseman by the name of Graig Nettles.
Lanier would go on to a new career as a manager. He won a division title as skipper of the ’86 Astros but besides the three seasons he spent as Houston’s skipper, all of his other managerial assignments have been at the minor league level. Lanier was born on in Denton, NC in 1942. His dad was Max Lanier, an All Star pitcher with the Cardinals during WWII, who won over 100 big league games during his own 14-year career.
|SFG (8 yrs)||1101||3743||3514||283||803||105||20||8||262||10||131||413||.229||.255||.277||.532|
|NYY (2 yrs)||95||197||189||14||40||6||0||0||11||1||5||23||.212||.239||.243||.482|
Jim Beattie was a tall, right-handed pitcher who the Yankees selected out of Dartmouth in the fourth round of the 1974 MLB Draft. He shares his July 4th birthday with the USA and George Steinbrenner. One of the things I liked least about the Boss was his propensity to insult players in the press. The most frequent targets of his barbs seemed to be young Yankee pitchers. He called Irabu a fat toad. He told reporters a young right-hander named Ken Clay “spit the bit.” In another interview he was quoted as suggesting both Dave Righetti and Brian Fisher “should leave with the vendors.” As for Beattie, George infamously described him as being “scared stiff” on the mound.
Beattie made his Major League debut with the Yankees in 1978, when he was named the team’s fifth starter behind Ron Guidry, Ed Fiqueroa, Catfish Hunter and Dick Tidrow. After winning his first two decisions that season, he lost his next seven as the Yankees seemed to fall out of the Division race against the high flying Red Sox. Then Steinbrenner replaced Billy Martin with Bob Lemon and the Yankees pulled off one of the great comebacks in MLB history. Beattie was instrumental in that effort as he won four of his six decisions in September and finished his rookie season with a 6-9 record. When Beattie then beat the Royals in the ALCS and won the fifth game of the World Series with a masterful complete game effort against the Dodgers, I thought he was on his way to becoming a solid Yankee starter for the next five years.
Turns out I was wrong about that. The 1979 season was a bad one on the field for the Yankees and a tragic one off of it. The Yankees failed to make the playoffs for the first time in four seasons and Captain Thurman Munson was killed in an airplane accident. Beattie went just 3-6 and his ERA ballooned to over five runs per game. In November of that year, the Yankees decided that Seattle’s Ruppert Jones would be their team’s next great center fielder and included Beattie in the four-player package it took to obtain him. Beattie spent the rest of his nine-season big league career pitching for the Mariners during a very mediocre time in that franchise’s history. His best seasons were 1983 when he was 10-15 and the following year when he won 12 and lost 16. He ended his playing career in 1986 with a 43-72 lifetime record. He then began a long career as a front office executive that included a long stint as Expos GM. This former big league manager and onetime Yankee utility infielder and this long-time Yankee radio announcer were also born on Independence Day.
|SEA (7 yrs)||43||72||.374||4.14||163||147||6||30||6||1||944.2||966||476||435||75||369||23||563||1.413|
|NYY (2 yrs)||9||15||.375||4.28||40||35||4||1||1||0||204.0||208||105||97||13||92||2||97||1.471|
Like him or not, George Steinbrenner recognized better than anyone that the Yankee brand and New York City were the hottest sports properties on the planet. In 1973, he purchased the team from CBS for a bargain basement price using other people’s money and immediately began making the franchise more valuable by the minute. He pretty much single-handedly restored the aura of the interlocking N-Y logo. George was born on today’s date in 1930 in Cleveland.
The Boss was managing owner of the Yankees for a record 37 years. His Yankee teams won 11 AL Pennants and 7 World Series. He changed the team’s manager 20 times and hired 11 different GMs. His enthusiastic pursuit of free agents, beginning with Catfish Hunter changed the salary structure of professional baseball forever. He was suspended from the League twice. His entrepreneurial vision was the driving force behind the YES Entertainment Network and when he died in July of 2010, the team he had paid $10 million for was worth $1.2 billion.
George shares his birthday with this former Yankee pitcher he once described as being “scared stiff” on the mound. This former Yankee utility infielder was also born on Independence Day as was this long-time Yankee radio announcer.