When outfielder Myril Hoag began his Yankee career, he competed for playing time with the likes of Babe Ruth and Earle Combs. By the time he completed it seven years later, he was playing behind names like DiMaggio, Selkirk and Henrich. Thus went the pinstriped career of one of the most effective fourth outfielders in franchise history, good enough to back up those who were better.
Born in California, Hoag began his pro career in the Pacific Coast League and made his Yankee and big league debut in 1931. His best season in the Bronx was 1937, when he appeared in 103 games, had 109 hits and averaged .301. Hoag also put together a solid World Series against the Giants in 1937, starting all five games and batting an even .300.
After the 1938 World Series, New York traded Hoag and back-up catcher Joe Glenn to the St. Louis Browns for pitcher Orel Hildebrand and outfielder Buster Mills. He finally got his chance to be a starting outfielder with his new ball club and took advantage of it, by averaging .295 and making the AL All Star team. That ’39 season proved to be his best. The Browns traded him to the White Sox and after his second season with Chicago, Hoag joined the Army. He was given a medical discharge a year later and ended up playing for Cleveland during the second half of the ’44 season and averaging .285 for the Tribe.
That would be Hoag’s last hurrah as a big leaguer, though he’d continue to play in the minors well into his forties, finally hanging his spikes up for good after the 1951 season. He was only 63 when he passed away in 1971, a victim of an emphysema-induced heart attack.
Hoag shares his March 9th birthday with this Yankee who hit one of the most famous home runs in franchise history, this former AL MVP, this recent Yankee reliever and one of the great base-stealers in MLB history.
|NYY (7 yrs)||471||1360||1228||181||349||61||18||11||185||17||106||141||.284||.345||.390||.735|
|SLB (3 yrs)||206||724||674||78||192||34||4||13||101||11||37||65||.285||.323||.405||.728|
|CHW (3 yrs)||236||927||840||82||207||32||5||3||85||24||73||51||.246||.307||.307||.615|
|CLE (2 yrs)||107||451||405||43||106||14||6||1||30||7||36||41||.262||.325||.333||.658|
Clay Rapada signed with the Yankees as a free agent just as New York’s 2012 spring training camp was opening. His career up to that point had been mediocre. He had gone un-drafted out of college (Virginia State University) and then signed with the Cubs in 2002. He didn’t make his big league debut until five seasons later, in July of 2007. Six weeks after that debut he was traded to the Tigers. His real rookie season was 2008, when he appeared in 25 games for Detroit and went 3-0. He spent most of the following year back in the minors and in December of 2009 he was traded to Texas. He appeared in ten games for the Rangers in 2010 and actually made their postseason roster. It was during the 2010 ALCS, when Texas defeated the Yankees that I first remember seeing the six foot five inch southpaw pitch with his extreme side-arm motion. Texas released him the following January and he was signed by Baltimore, where he appeared in 32 games for Buck Showalter and spent lots of time also pitching for the O’s Norfolk farm team.
So the Clay Rapada the Yankees signed in February of 2012 was by then 30-years-old and had spent at least part of each of the previous ten seasons in the minors, with four different organizations. He had started his professional career as a pitcher with a traditional overhand delivery, who would occasionally drop down to sidearm if an opposing hitter kept fouling off his pitches. A coach in the Cubs’ system convinced him that converting full-time to the submariner style would improve his chances of getting regular work in a big league team’s bullpen. Rapada made the change, modeling his new motion at first off of Dennis Eckersley.
One month after the Yankees signed Rapada, they acquired his mirror image, Cody Eppley off of waivers from Texas. Eppley was a right-handed sidearmer who had pitched with Rapada when both were in the Texas farm system. Together, this submarining duo would form the heart of Joe Girardi’s middle-inning relief corps. Rapada appeared in 70 games for New York during his first season in Pinstripes and Eppley appeared in 59. Rapada’s ERA was 2.82 and Eppley’s 3.33. Neither had ever pitched better and they credited their mutual success in part on being able to turn to each other for advice. The challenge most sidearmers have is that their teams’ pitching coaches are always retired hurlers who threw with traditional overhand motions. A traditional coach like the Yankees’ Larry Rothschild, can therefore not be of much help to Eppley or Rapada with their mechanics if their pitches stop doing what they are supposed to do. So having each other to serve in that role just might have been the secret to their success during their initial season together in the Bronx.
As I write this post, Rapada is currently trying to recover from a case of bursitis in his pitching shoulder. One interesting sidenote on this native of Portsmouth, Virginia. He will begin the 2013 regular season having never lost a decision in the big leagues. Through 2012, he has a perfect 8-0 record.
Rapada shares his March 9th birthday with this Yankee who hit one of the most famous home runs in franchise history, this former AL MVP, this former Yankee outfielder and one of the great base-stealers in MLB history.
|DET (3 yrs)||3||0||1.000||5.00||32||0||6||0||0||0||27.0||26||16||15||3||18||21||1.630|
|TEX (1 yr)||0||0||4.00||13||0||2||0||0||0||9.0||6||4||4||2||7||5||1.444|
|CLE (1 yr)||0||0||0.00||4||0||2||0||0||0||2.0||1||0||0||0||2||0||1.500|
|CHC (1 yr)||0||0||0.00||1||0||0||0||0||0||0.1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0.000|
|NYY (1 yr)||3||0||1.000||2.82||70||0||7||0||0||0||38.1||29||14||12||2||17||38||1.200|
|BAL (1 yr)||2||0||1.000||6.06||32||0||4||0||0||0||16.1||14||11||11||3||7||18||1.286|
When I first started following Yankee baseball in 1960, the stolen base was something other teams did but not my Bronx Bombers. The Yankees had built and sustained a dynastic offense on slugging power and in the early ’60’s if somebody stole a base who was wearing a pinstriped uniform, it was either by accident or Mickey Mantle’s legs were feeling particularly strong that day. Case in point, in 1961, the Yankees led all of baseball with 240 home runs and also trailed all of baseball with just 28 stolen bases.
It was the Chicago White Sox at the time, who lived and breathed by a small ball attack that depended on stolen bases to spark their offense it was their great shortstop, Luis Aparicio, who provided the lighter fluid. Little Louie had made his Windy City debut in 1956 and proceeded to win nine straight AL stolen base crowns. That’s why it was pretty shocking when today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant stopped Aparicio’s streak in 1965, by stealing 51 bases for the A’s in just his second big league season.
If you ask Jim Kaat, the one-time Yankee pitcher and game announcer, who Campaneris reminded him of, it might have been Mantle instead of Aparicio. “Kitty” was the first big league pitcher to face the 22-year-old Cuban in his rookie season of 1964 and Campy hit Kaat’s first pitch to him for a home run. He then homered off Kaat again in the same game. This incredibly talented shortstop brought an immediate element of excitement to a Kansas City team that had played horrible baseball for a very long time and gradually, he helped mold that ball club into a force that would win three consecutive World Championships. He would capture six AL stolen base titles in his first eight seasons. Then, just to prove he wasn’t a one-dimensional player, he decided to try and hit home runs during the 1970 season and hit 22 of them.
Campy’s career with the A’s ended after the 1976 season. The bitter Oakland owner Charley Finley had thrown up his hands at free agency and was cashing in his chips by unloading all of the team’s best players. Campaneris was one of the few A’s stars left from the three straight world championship teams to make it to free agency before being traded. He more than doubled his last A’s salary when he signed with Texas. But he was 35 years-old at the time and his best days were behind him. Over the next five seasons, he evolved into a utility infielder and pinch-runner first with the Rangers and then with the Angels. It looked as if his big league playing days were over for good when the Angels let him go and he played the 1982 season in Mexico.
The 1982 Yankee season had been a nightmare. The team finished in fifth place, below five-hundred and had gone through three managers. George Steinbrenner brought Billy Martin back to manage the 1983 club. When the Boss signed Reggie Jackson as a free agent after the 1976 season, Martin had wanted him to sign Campaneris instead. Campy contacted the Yankees about coming to spring training because he had heard they had a shortage of infielders. He was invited to camp and got a break when Roy Smalley went down with appendicitis. Though he didn’t go north with the team he did accept a roster spot with Columbus instead and was called up to the Bronx in early May. He ended up doing a better-than-decent job as Martin’s key infield reserve. He hit .322 in 60 games of action and even stole 6 bases, leaving him with a career total of 649. It was a fitting end to an outstanding 19-year career.
|OAK (13 yrs)||1795||7895||7180||983||1882||270||70||70||529||566||504||933||.262||.314||.348||.662|
|TEX (3 yrs)||256||977||830||109||191||24||10||6||63||50||68||125||.230||.291||.305||.595|
|CAL (3 yrs)||217||598||531||70||130||14||6||3||43||27||38||75||.245||.296||.311||.607|
|NYY (1 yr)||60||155||143||19||46||5||0||0||11||6||8||9||.322||.355||.357||.712|