My favorite personal memory of this great Yankee took place during a game I attended at Yankee Stadium sometime during the early 1960s, probably 1962. My Uncle always got us field box seats when he took us to the Stadium, somewhere between first base and the right field foul pole. Berra came to the plate and I vividly remember several things about the at bat. The pitch he hit was very high, especially for the short 5’8″ Berra. He hit the ball on a line. It went by me, my Uncle and my older brother like a comet, right at our eye level but still rising. When it hit the drab green painted metal facing of the Stadium’s mezzanine level in right field, it hit it so hard that the clang it made actually echoed throughout the Stadium. I did not see anyone hit a ball as hard as that one until over thirty years later when Jose Canseco hit one out of Fenway that may still have not landed. Of course Jose used steroids and the only juice a urine test might have discovered in Berra’s body was the kind you squeezed out of oranges.
Yogi Berra was a marvelous Yankee catcher who won ten championship rings. He had supreme offensive and defensive skills and his teammates loved him. He was also under appreciated as a manager, being the only field boss to win pennants for both the Yankees and Mets.
There are so many things I cherish about the game of baseball and having had the opportunity to watch number 8 play the game is high on that list. Happy 90th birthday Yogi.
Berra’s Yankee career record as a player:
|NYY (18 yrs)||2116||8350||7546||1174||2148||321||49||358||1430||30||704||411||.285||.348||.483||.830|
|NYM (1 yr)||4||9||9||1||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||3||.222||.222||.222||.444|
|1||1964||39||New York Yankees||AL||164||99||63||.611||1||AL Pennant|
|6||1984||59||New York Yankees||AL||162||87||75||.537||3|
|7||1985||60||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 2||16||6||10||.375||2|
|New York Mets||4 years||588||292||296||.497||3.0||1 Pennant|
|New York Yankees||3 years||342||192||148||.565||2.0||1 Pennant|
|7 years||930||484||444||.522||2.6||2 Pennants|
If you ask any native of the Dominican Republic currently playing big league ball which of their countrymen did the most to pave the way for them to play in the majors, their answer would be Felipe Alou. Actually, they might say Felipe Rojas. (His Dad’s last name was Rojas and his Mom’s was Alou.) Ozzie Virgil was the first Dominican to play in the MLB, when the New York Giants brought him up in 1956 but Virgil had migrated to the US as a youth and attended high school in New York City. Alou became the second native of his country (and the first to have lived there all his life) to play big league ball the following year as a member of that same Giants organization.
He was born in the Dominican Republic on May 12, 1935 to extremely poor parents. Felipe was an outstanding athlete and an outstanding student, who had been accepted in the pre-med program at the University of Santo Domingo. But he also played on his country’s baseball team that competed in 1955 Pan American Game. When he led the Dominican Republic to a victory over the US in the finals of those Games the MLB scouts came calling and he signed with the Giants.
It took awhile because the Giant organization in the late fifties was loaded with outstanding black and latino prospects, but Alou finally became a starter in San Franciso’s outfield in the early sixties. His younger brothers Matty and Jesus later joined him there and the three made history when they became the first three siblings to ever play in one team’s outfield at the same time, in September of 1963.
That was also Alou’s last year with the Giants. After the ’63 season, he was traded to Milwaukee in a seven-player deal. Felipe played for the Braves for the next six seasons, including 1966, when the team relocated to Atlanta and he put together his best year in the big leagues, with 31 HRs, a .327 batting average and leading the league in hits (218) and runs (122.)
He was traded to the A’s in 1970. By then he was 35-years-old and his best playing days were behind him. During the first week of his second season with Oakland, he was traded to the Yankees for pitchers Rob Gardner and Ron Klimkowski, where he was reunited with his brother Matty to become the first set of siblings to wear the pinstripes together since Bobby and Billy Shantz had done so in 1960.
Ralph Houk, the Yankee skipper at the time of the trade loved Felipe and put him in the lineup as a first baseman or outfielder 131 times during his first season in the Bronx. Alou responded with a .289 batting average and 69 RBIs that year. He continued to play a lot for Houk the following year, but his run production took a nose dive. Still, when the Yankees 1973 spring training season came around, Felipe was hammering the ball and Houk was telling the press that the elder Alou would share the brand new DH position with Ron Blomberg and also play a lot of first base. But on September 6th of that season, with his average hovering in the .230’s, Alou was put on waivers and picked up by the Expos. On that same day, the Yankees sold his brother Matty to the Cardinals and the Yankees were suddenly Alou-less.
Felipe Alou would retire as a player the following year and became a minor league manager in the Expos organization. He would later become a highly successful big league skipper of the Expos and also manage the Giants. His son Moises became a big league all star outfielder who played for his Dad with both Montreal and the Giants.
|SFG (6 yrs)||719||2478||2292||337||655||119||19||85||325||51||138||308||.286||.328||.466||.794|
|ATL (6 yrs)||841||3604||3348||464||989||163||20||94||335||40||188||284||.295||.338||.440||.778|
|NYY (3 yrs)||344||1145||1065||110||289||50||7||18||133||6||63||76||.271||.311||.382||.694|
|OAK (2 yrs)||156||627||583||70||158||26||3||8||55||10||32||32||.271||.307||.367||.674|
|MON (1 yr)||19||50||48||4||10||1||0||1||4||0||2||4||.208||.240||.292||.532|
|MIL (1 yr)||3||3||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||.000||.000||.000||.000|
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant is Hank Borowy, who was generally considered the ace of the Yankee pitching staff during the WWII years and one of the best wartime pitchers in baseball. The right-hander was born in Bloomfield, NJ on May 12, 1916. He went to Fordham University in the Bronx, where he pitched for the Rams’ varsity baseball team for three seasons, and compiled a 33-1 record. Since Fordham is located in the Bronx, Borowy’s collegiate pitching brilliance did not escape the attention of Yankee super scout, Paul Krichell.
Krichell had signed some of the greatest Yankee stars of all time but none were tougher negotiators than Borowy. First of all, Krichell had to fend off rival scouts from the Red Sox, Giants, Dodgers and Cubs. He accomplished that with an $8,000 bonus offer. Then Borowy flinched during his initial read of his Yankee contract because it required him to begin his career in single A ball. He told Krichell he wanted to start pitching at the double A level instead and would not sign the document unless the Yankees agreed to that. The legendary scout verbally committed to making the change and then handed the about-to-be-newest member of the Yankee organization his own fountain pen. When Borowy put pen to paper, the writing utensil was out of ink. Krichell left for just a few moments to refill the pen and when he got back, Borowy told him he had reconsidered and was now demanding an additional $500 in his bonus money. The flustered Krichell reluctantly agreed and probably also never attended another player signing without first making sure his fountain pen was full of ink.
As Borowy had demanded, he was assigned to the Yanks double A franchise in Newark, NJ and got better in each of the three seasons he pitched there. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 and President Roosevelt decided that our national past time must continue despite the war, the Yankees decided to bring Borowy to the big leagues and he put together one of the better rookie pitching performances in franchise history by going 15-4 with a 2.52 ERA and 4 complete game shutouts. It would be a mistake to assume that Borowy’s first-year brilliance was a direct result of the migration of the best players in baseball into military service. The full dilution of talent did not really take place until the ’43 season. Borowy spent his first year in the league playing against the premier pre-war lineups. He was indeed the real deal.
With the Yankees trailing the Cardinals 2 games to 1 in the 1942 World Series, New York Manager, Joe McCarthy gave his rookie the ball to start Game 4. Borowy was able to hold St. Louis scoreless for three innings but then got shelled in the fourth and the Yankees went on to lose that contest and the Fall Classic in five games.
By the 1943 regular season, baseball’s rosters were being thinned by the military and Borowy stats undoubtedly benefitted as a result. He won 14 games that year and 17 in 1944, kept his ERA below three and threw 6 more shutouts. He also got his first World Series victory and ring in the Yankees’ 1943 fall ball rematch against the Cardinals.
When the 1945 season began, the war was nearing completion and the Yankees had just been sold to a triumvirate of new owners, Del Webb, Dan Topping and Larry MacPhail. MacPhail was a certified baseball genius who had turned the moribund Brooklyn Dodgers into one of the National League’s best and most profitable franchises. But MacPhail was also a crude, hard-drinking bully, who was disliked throughout the game almost as much as he was admired. Yankee manager Joe McCarthy was one guy who hated MacPhail.
When the 1945 season began, Borowy continued to pitch well for New York, reaching ten victories by the end of July. Suddenly, MacPhail put Borowy’s name on the Waiver wire. Placing a good player on waivers had become a common practice by Major League teams back then, as a way of testing the interests and weaknesses of their competitors. If an opposing team claimed a player it was an indication that they might be interested in trading for him and that player’s name could simply be withdrawn from waivers and bartering between the two teams could begin.
So when Borowy’s name showed up on the waiver wire in July of 1945, all the other AL teams figured it was just MacPhail gauging trade interest in his team’s best wartime pitcher. And don’t forget, this happened at a time when everyone knew the war was close to being over. Big league teams that may have needed pitching knew their best pitchers would be returning from military service soon, which further decreased their desire to play the waiver game with the cantankerous MacPhail. So not one AL team claimed Borowy and as a result, he cleared waivers, which meant MacPhail could now deal him to any NL team interested. The Cubs, who were fighting for that season’s NL Pennant were more than interested. They gave MacPhail close to $100 thousand for his star pitcher. Baseball owners howled in protest and McCarthy was livid. He had thought his Yankees could win the 1945 AL Pennant with Borowy and the fact that MacPhail would sell his best pitcher without even consulting his manager (though MacPhail insisted he had done so) would prove to be Marse Joe’s breaking point with MacPhail and the Yankee organization. MacPhail told the press he had traded Borowy because he was a terrible second half pitcher.
Borowy went to the Windy City and finished the season 11-2 as a Cub, making him a 20-game winner for the first and only time in his career. He would then appear in four games against the Tigers in the 1945 Fall Classic, going 2-2 in Chicago’s losing effort. Hank’s would continue pitching in the Majors until 1951 and he would also pitch for the Phillies, Pirates and Tigers. He finished his three-plus season Yankee career with an impressive 56-30 record and was 108-82 for his ten-year big league career. He passed away in 2004 in his native New Jersey.
|CHC (4 yrs)||36||34||.514||3.85||126||84||28||28||4||4||633.1||671||308||271||39||220||267||1.407|
|NYY (4 yrs)||56||30||.651||2.74||107||96||7||53||11||3||780.2||683||285||238||38||284||340||1.239|
|PHI (2 yrs)||12||12||.500||4.24||31||28||0||12||1||0||199.2||193||103||94||19||67||46||1.302|
|DET (2 yrs)||3||3||.500||5.42||39||3||14||1||0||0||78.0||81||54||47||6||43||28||1.590|
|PIT (1 yr)||1||3||.250||6.39||11||3||4||0||0||0||25.1||32||19||18||6||9||9||1.618|
They called him “Jumping Joe” but not because of any great leaping ability. According to Joe Dugan’s New York Times obituary, the third baseman had a propensity for jumping his team when he played for the Philadelphia A’s during the earliest years of his career. Whenever the boos from hometown fans struck a nerve, Dugan would simply leave the ballclub and A’s Manager Connie Mack would have to beg him to come back.
On January 10, 1922, Dugan became one of a select few Major League players to be part of three different big league teams in one day. He woke up that morning still an A and then got traded to the Senators, but before he went to bed, Washington had traded him to the Red Sox.
His stay in Beantown didn’t last long either and his departure from Boston caused a Major League rule change. By the 1922 season, Dugan had established himself as one of the better all-around third baseman in the big leagues. He was a defensive wizard and his hitting skills were improving every year. Red Sox owner Harry Frazee was becoming famous for selling his players for the money he needed to produce his Broadway shows. Frazee also spent most of his time and his money in the Big Apple and over the years, he made so many bad trades with the Yankees that Boston fans began to wonder which team he was working for. The ’22 Yankees were locked in a fierce pennant race with the Browns. Miller Huggins needed a third baseman who could spell the aging Frank “Home Run” Baker at the hot corner during the dog days of August. Frazee swapped New York Dugan and an outfielder named Elmer Smith for two of the Yankee’s utility infielders, a spare outfielder, a seldom used pitcher and $50,000 cash.
Dugan proved to be just the spark the Yankees needed to beat out the Browns for the Pennant. His late season acquisition got the rest of the AL teams thinking about the fact that there was nothing stopping a rich team like the Yankees from buying their way to a pennant wenever they were in a close race so they voted to move up the league trading deadline to mid June.
Dugan loved being a Yankee and he became a key cog in the team’s evolution to greatness. He scored 111 runs for New York during the 1923 regular season and then helped lead the team to its first-ever World Series victory that year against the Giants. He had an even better year in 1924, averaging .302 from his second spot in the batting order and continuing to win accolades for his glove work at third. In addition to playing hard on the field, Jumping Joe played hard off it as well. He was one of Babe Ruth’s favorite partying companions with an appetite for booze, gambling and girls that was only surpassed by those of the Big Bam. In Hugh Montville’s biography of Ruth, a story is told of the time Dugan asked the Sultan of Swat for a loan outside the Yankees’ hotel one evening. The Babe reached in his pocket and handed Dugan a bill which the third baseman quickly put in his own pocket. When he went to pay for dinner later that evening, he pulled out the bill Ruth had given him and only then realized it was a $500 bill! Dugan would later become one of the Bambino’s pallbearers at Ruth’s Yankee Stadium funeral in August of 1948. It was a sweltering summer night and Dugan whispered to his old teammate, pitcher Wait Hoyt, that he would give anything for a cold beer. Hoyt responded, “So would the Babe.”
Dugan’s offensive numbers and playing time started declining in 1925 but that glove made him an integral component of the great 1927 Yankee team that many still consider to be the best ever assembled. He stayed with New York for seven seasons, batting .286 lifetime in pinstripes, appearing in five World series and winning three rings. The Yankee released him after the 1928 season and he signed on with the Braves. His last big league game was in 1931 and he passed away in 1982 at the age of 85.
|NYY (7 yrs)||785||3325||3043||426||871||147||27||22||317||12||156||183||.286||.326||.374||.700|
|PHA (5 yrs)||510||2038||1884||179||505||98||16||17||198||23||77||197||.268||.304||.364||.668|
|BSN (1 yr)||60||139||125||14||38||10||0||0||15||0||8||8||.304||.346||.384||.730|
|BOS (1 yr)||84||361||341||45||98||22||3||3||38||2||9||28||.287||.308||.396||.704|
|DET (1 yr)||8||17||17||1||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||3||.235||.235||.235||.471|