Arndt Jorgens probably holds the record for most retired Yankee uniform numbers worn by a Yankee. During his 11-year career with the Bronx Bombers, the native Norwegian at one time or another wore the numbers 15, 32, 10 and 9. None of those uniforms got too dirty however, because as the back-up catcher to Hall-of-Fame iron-man Bill Dickey, Jorgens played in just 307 games during his Yankee career. In fact, though Jorgen’s Yankee teams played in five World Series and he was kept on the postseason roster for each of them, he did not make a single appearance in any of the 23 games New York played in those Fall Classics.
Better known as “Arnie” to his teammates, the most games Jorgens ever played in a single season was in 1934, when an angry Dickey broke the jaw of an opposing baserunner who had collided with him in a play at the plate. Dickey was suspended and back then, the suspensions of players who intentionally injured opposing players generally lasted for as long as it took the injured player to recover and return to action. Dickey’s fist gave Jorgens the opportunity to appear in 58 games that year and he set career highs with 183 at bats, 14 runs scored, 38 hits and 20 RBIs. Like many Yankee backups before and after him, if he played elsewhere he would have played more but those regular World Series checks he cashed made him more than happy to spend most of his time in pinstripes either riding the pine in the Yankee dugout or catching relievers who needed to warm up in the Yankee bullpen.
Jorgens broke into the big leagues as a Yankee in 1929 and he retired as one in 1939. He was born in Modum, Norway in 1905 and moved to Chicago as a child. He had a brother named Orville, who made it to the big leagues as a pitcher with the Phillies. Jorgens passed away in 1980. Jorgens’ misfortune of not getting to play in so many World Series should have earned him the nickname “Misses October.” He happens to share his May 18th birthday with the former Yankee known as “Mr October.”
The Yankee teams of the 1950s were among the best in the elite franchise’s illustrious history. Managed by Casey Stengel, they won eight of the decade’s ten possible Pennants and six World Championships. One of the key members of those great teams was a Scottish-American infielder, born in San Francisco by the name of Gil McDougald. Signed by the Yankees out of the University of San Francisco in 1948, McDougald tore up Minor League pitching, averaging .340 during his three-year climb through the Yankee farm system. He was brought up to the Bronx in 1951 along with a much more heralded Yankee rookie named Mantle. It was McDougald who won that season’s Rookie of the Year award with a .306 average. In that year’s World Series against the cross-town Giants, McDougald became the first rookie to hit a grand slam home run in Fall Classic history.
Stengel loved McDougald’s defensive versatility and took full advantage of it. During his career in the Bronx, the infielder played 599 games at second, 508 at the hot corner and another 284 at shortstop and was selected as an All Star at all three positions. He had a lifetime batting average of .276 and hit 112 regular season and seven World Series home runs.
Two line drives had tremendous impact upon McDougald’s career. The first came off the bat of Yankee teammate, Bob Cerv during batting practice before a game in August of 1955. McDougald was standing near second base and the ball struck him in the left ear. Even though no one realized it at the time, the resulting damage caused a gradual hearing loss that resulted in McDougald being almost completely deaf early on in his retirement years. In 1957, another line drive, this one off McDougald’s bat, hit Cleveland Indian pitching sensation, Herb Score square in the face. Score was never again the same pitcher and McDougald later admitted that the incident impacted his play as well.
After the Yankees suffered their heartbreaking loss to the Pirates in the 1960 World Series, the front office informed Gil that he would not be protected in the upcoming AL expansion draft. McDougald decided to call it quits at that time. He died in November of 2010, at the age of 82.
I remember it was the middle of the work week because I called in sick the next day. The Yankees were playing the Dodgers in the sixth game of the 1977 World Series at Yankee Stadium. It had been a crazy season because of Billy Martin’s intense dislike for Reggie Jackson. Reggie wasn’t an easy guy to warm up to if you didn’t have a microphone in your hand but every manager in baseball would have loved to had him sitting in the middle of their lineup back then. Every manager except Martin that is. The mercurial skipper and outspoken slugger despised each other.
In any event, on that night over thirty years ago, I witnessed one of the greatest World Series performances in the history of the Fall Classic. After walking on four straight pitches in his first at bat Jackson hit the next three pitches he saw that night from three different Dodger hurlers, for home runs. Bam. Bang. Boom. His last shot was the most prodigious, soaring high into the Bronx nighttime sky to straightaway center field onto the famous black tarp that provided the hitter’s background at the old Stadium.
I will never forget Jackson’s glee as he circled the bases after that third blast. How he patted the back of the helmet of on deck hitter Chris Chambliss as he crossed home plate and bounded down into the steps of the Yankee Stadium dugout being congratulated by teammates who both loved and despised him, including Manager Martin.
It was one of the great moments in baseball history, made even more intense by the Martin – Jackson feud and the fact that the always over-dramatic Howard Cosell was in the TV booth. After that game was over I could not go to sleep. It had been sixteen years since the Yankees won their last World Series and for a time there in the late sixties I didn’t think I’d ever see them win another one. But loud brash number 44 took care of all that with three swings of the bat. Reggie, who was born in Wyncote, PA, turns 67 years old today. Nicknamed Mr. October for his ability to dominate games in the postseason (Jackson played in five World Series during his career,) Reggie ironically shares his birthday with a catcher who literally seemed to disappear when his Yankee teams played in World Series.
|OAK (10 yrs)||1346||5432||4686||756||1228||234||27||269||776||145||633||1226||.262||.355||.496||.851|
|CAL (5 yrs)||687||2721||2331||331||557||87||6||123||374||14||362||690||.239||.343||.440||.782|
|NYY (5 yrs)||653||2707||2349||380||661||115||14||144||461||41||326||573||.281||.371||.526||.897|
|BAL (1 yr)||134||558||498||84||138||27||2||27||91||28||54||108||.277||.351||.502||.853|