Jim Konstanty became one of baseball’s first outstanding relief specialists when the Phillies brought him up to the big leagues for good in 1948. He threw a lot of junk with great control and in 1950, his work out of the bullpen won the Philadelphia Whiz Kids the NL Pennant and Konstanty an MVP award. But the following season, the right-hander thought he needed another pitch to continue his success and he claimed it was his efforts to develop that pitch that screwed up both his rhythm and confidence. Whatever the reason, Konstanty was never again able to regain his 1950 form as a Phillie. Five years after watching him hold the Yankees to just one run as Philadelphia’s surprise starter in the first game of the1950 Series, Casey Stengel told George Weiss to buy Konstanty’s contract in 1954. Jim pitched well for New York the final month of that season and in 1955, he became a top reliever in the American League with a 7-2 record, 11 saves and a 2.32 ERA. Stengel had so much pitching depth on his team that season that he decided to leave Konstanty off the World Series roster, forcing the Strykersville, NY native to watch helplessly as Brooklyn finally beat New York in a Fall Classic. New York released Konstanty the following season and he retired after a brief stint with the Cardinals. He died in 1976.
Konstanty shares his birthday with the first hitter in Yankee franchise history to lead the league in most strikeouts during a regular season.
|PHI (7 yrs)||51||39||.567||3.64||314||23||202||9||1||54||675.1||687||309||273||63||187||205||1.294|
|NYY (3 yrs)||8||3||.727||2.36||62||0||41||0||0||15||103.0||94||36||27||8||36||28||1.262|
|CIN (1 yr)||6||4||.600||2.80||20||12||4||5||1||0||112.2||113||46||35||11||33||19||1.296|
|BSN (1 yr)||0||1||.000||5.28||10||1||3||0||0||0||15.1||17||9||9||2||7||9||1.565|
|STL (1 yr)||1||1||.500||4.58||27||0||16||0||0||5||39.1||46||20||20||4||6||7||1.322|
Jason Giambi was the last Yankee to do it in 2003. Before him, you have to go all the way back to 1960, when Mickey Mantle did it. Mantle did it four more times during the fifties and still holds the Yankee record for doing it most. Charley Keller did it in 1946. Joe Gordon did it during his MVP season with the Yankees in 1942. Frankie Crosetti did it a couple of times during the thirties. The great Babe Ruth did it four times during the 1920’s and Bob Meusel and Aaron Ward joined him by doing it one time each. Before they did it, Wally Pipp had accomplished the feat in 1917 and a Highlander shortstop named Neal Ball had also done it in 1908. But the very first player in New York Yankee franchise history to lead the American League in most strikeouts by a hitter in the regular season was their starting center fielder in 1907 and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Daniel John “Danny” Hoffman.
Hoffman was a gifted athlete who had great speed, a strong arm and a better than average bat. A native of Connecticut, he had made his big league debut as a 23-year-old outfielder with Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s in 1903. Two years later, he led the AL in stolen bases with 46. One month into the 1906 regular season, Mack traded Hoffman to New York for a guy named Dave Fultz. Danny then joined Wee Willie Keeler and Wid Conroy in the Highlanders’ starting outfield. 1907 turned out to be his only full season with the team and it was a good one despite all those strikeouts. Hoffman established career highs in base hits (131), runs (81), HRs (5) and RBI’s (46). But that didn’t prevent him from getting traded to the St. Louis Browns as part of a six-player deal that took place in early November of 1907.
In addition to striking out a lot, Hoffman also had another unfortunate propensity. He got hit by lots of pitches, especially in the head. He had been knocked unconscious by one when he was with the A’s in 1904 and he got plunked 13 times during his only full season with New York in ’07. He continued playing in the big leagues until 1911 and then returned to the minors for four more years after that. His career was ended by a severe head beaning during a 1915 game with the Wilkes Barre Barons. Hoffman died just seven years later at the young age of 42.
In addition to being the first Yankee to lead the league in strikeouts, Hoffman is the only Yankee in history to have killed a horse during a baseball game. It happened in 1902, when Hoffman was playing minor league ball for a team in Springfield and hit a drive to the outfield that struck and killed the animal. Now I haven’t been able to confirm this with my research yet, but the nickname of that Springfield team was the Ponies so I’m thinking the horse Danny’s drive killed that day just might have been his team’s own mascot. Talk about a bad omen huh?
In any event, Hoffman shares his birthday with this 1950 NL MVP.
|PHA (4 yrs)||254||1017||933||130||247||22||22||6||81||63||47||177||.265||.304||.355||.659|
|SLB (4 yrs)||339||1366||1211||116||302||29||21||3||85||60||110||229||.249||.321||.315||.637|
|NYY (2 yrs)||236||942||837||115||213||20||9||5||69||62||69||176||.254||.322||.318||.640|