Tagged: may 23

May 23 – Happy Birthday Arch McDonald

mcdonaldArch McDonald was the original voice of the New York Yankees. The three original New York City MLB franchises were the last three to permit radio broadcasts of their games. They all caved together in 1939. Brooklyn hired Red Barber for their booth and the thrifty Yankees and Giants decided to share an announcer. Since the two teams never had home games scheduled on the same day and had both agreed to blackout broadcasts of road games, it was possible that one person could do play-by-play for both teams. That person turned out to be McDonald.

Born in Arkansas but raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, he was a country music DJ in that town when the local minor league team reached a deal to have their games broadcast by the station that employed him. McDonald became the play-by play announcer and the listening audience loved him. In 1932, Sporting News conducted a contest, inviting readers to vote for the best baseball announcer in the country and surprisingly, McDonald beat out several big league microphone jockeys to win the honor. Two years later, when Clark Griffith was looking for a radio announcer to do Senator games, he did the same thing he did when he needed a player. He reached down into the broadcast booth  of Washington’s Chattanooga affiliate and brought up McDonald. During the next five seasons, he built a loyal following of listeners in our Nation’s Capital with his relaxed southern speaking voice and homespun charm. McDonald was credited with coining the phrase “ducks on the pond” to describe “men on base.” When a Senator hit a home run, McDonald would call it by saying “There goes Mrs. Murphy.”

When the Yankees finally went on radio, the sponsor of their broadcasts, Wheaties Cereal lured McDonald to New York with a big salary. The first ever radio broadcast of a Yankee game took place on April 17, 1939, with McDonald doing the play-by-play. During that first season, a young CBS announcer by the name of Mel Allen was also hired as McDonald’s assistant. In addition to being the first radio voice of the franchise, McDonalds’ next most significant contribution to Yankee history was coming up with the nickname of “Yankee Clipper” for slugger, Joe DiMaggio.

It would end up being Barber and Allen who did the best job at capturing and keeping the attention of Big Apple baseball fans.Those two injected their calls with a lot more enthusiasm and a lot more words than McDonald, who preferred to describe a play and then stop talking until there was another play to describe. The silence in between proved deafening for radio listeners and McDonald was let go after just one season in New York, leaving Allen to take over the Yankee booth as number one announcer.

McDonald ended up going back to Washington, where he became a sports broadcasting institution, doing both Senator and Redskins games. In 1946, President Harry Truman, a regular listener, convinced the announcer to run for congress. He ended up losing the election.

He kept doing both Senator and Redskin games right up until he died in 1960, of a heart attack, during a train ride back to D.C. after a Giants Redskins football game. He was 59 years-old.

May 23rd is also the birthday of this one-time back up catcherthis former Yankee Manager and this other former Yankee manager.


May 23 – Happy Birthday Buck Showalter

Many Yankee fans, including me, were livid at George Steinbrenner after the 1995 season. We had just gone through two strike-shortened baseball seasons at the very same time our Yankees were on the verge of once again becoming baseball’s best team. Don Mattingly had just had a wonderful playoff series against Seattle and although the Yankees lost that series three games to two, we were convinced that in Buck Showalter, the Yankees had the right manager to lead them back to post season prosperity.

Then the Boss lowered the boom. The Yankees did not try to convince Donnie Baseball to continue playing and instead acquired Tino Martinez to play first base. Just as upsetting was the firing of Showalter who was replaced by the nice guy but perennial loser as a manager, Joe Torre.

It is amazing how a little thing like winning four World Championships in a five year period can help you let bygones be bygones. And come to think of it, Buck Showalter never seemed to be having any fun. And why the heck did he always wear that completely zipped-up Yankee jacket in the dugout, even when the temperature was in the nineties?

Seriously, Buck Showalter restored a sorely needed level of low-key professionalism to the Yankee dugout after the Billy Martin-to-Stump Merrill era of merry-go-round managers. His record as Yankee skipper was 313-268. He went on to manage both the Diamondbacks and Rangers and was a two-time AL Manager of the Year winner. He is now skippering the Baltimore Orioles back to respectability.

Update: The above post was last updated in May of 2011. Since that time, Showalter’s Orioles have made it back to the postseason and once again become one of the Yankees’ most competitive rivalries. Baltimore finished in second place just two games behind New York in the AL East in 2012 and then gave the Bronx Bombers everything the could handle in the 2012 ALDS before finally losing in five games.

Another Yankee manager was also born on May 23rd as was this former Yankee catcher who was once pegged as Bill Dickey’s eventual successor, and also this first voice of the Yankees,

Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
1 1992 36 New York Yankees AL 162 76 86 .469 4
2 1993 37 New York Yankees AL 162 88 74 .543 2
3 1994 38 New York Yankees AL 113 70 43 .619 1
4 1995 39 New York Yankees AL 145 79 65 .549 2
New York Yankees 4 years 582 313 268 .539 2.3
Arizona Diamondbacks 3 years 486 250 236 .514 3.0
Texas Rangers 4 years 648 319 329 .492 3.3
Baltimore Orioles 4 years 426 220 206 .516 3.8
15 years 2142 1102 1039 .515 3.1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/23/2013.

May 23 – Happy Birthday Clyde King

Of all the managers George Steinbrenner hired and fired during his tenure as managing owner of the New York Yankees, none were more loyal to the “Boss” than today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Clyde King. The native of Goldsboro, North Carolina began his big league career in 1944 with the Dodgers. During the first six years of his playing career he pitched out of the Brooklyn bullpen. After getting traded to the Reds, where he played his final big league season in 1953, King became a minor league manager, then a big league pitching coach and eventually a manager for both the San Francisco Giants and the Atlanta Braves. But King disliked managing because he had a tough time communicating with modern day ballplayers. He was big on discipline and felt the players union had made it more difficult than necessary for Major League skippers to exercise control over their teams.

In 1976, King joined the Yankees as an advance scout and Steinbrenner took a liking to him. Like George, King was a pessimist who found it much easier to criticize than praise. The two got along famously and King became the only man in history to serve as the Yankee pitching coach, manager and GM. He got his shot at managing the Yankees during their tumultuous 1982 season. Bob Lemon had started that year as the Yankee field boss but was replaced by Gene Michael just 14 games into the new season. Michael hated the job because Steinbrenner meddled so much and he asked the Boss to put him back in the front office. “The Stick” got his wish and was replaced by King who led the team to a 29-33 finish.

The following year George brought Billy Martin back to the Yankee dugout and returned King to the front office, where he took part in two controversial moments in franchise history. The first occurred in 1985, when Steinbrenner broke his promise to let Yogi Berra manage the entire season. It was King who did the actual firing. Eleven years later, during the Yankees 1996 spring training camp, King convinced the Boss that the Yankees could not win with Derek Jeter starting at shortstop. Fortunately, Gene Michael defended Joe Torre’s desire to start the talented youngster and Steinbrenner reluctantly relented.

King would remain one of the Yankee owner’s most loyal and trusted advisors until the day Steinbrenner died in July of 2010. King would follow his Boss to the grave just four months later, at the age of 86. King shares his birthday with another former Yankee manager this first voice of the Yankees and this one-time back up catcher.

Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
5 1982 58 New York Yankees AL 3rd of 3 62 29 33 .468 5
San Francisco Giants 2 years 204 109 95 .534 2.5
Atlanta Braves 2 years 198 96 101 .487 4.0
New York Yankees 1 year 62 29 33 .468 5.0
5 years 464 234 229 .505 3.6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/23/2013.

May 23 – Happy Birthday Bill Drescher

Most Yankee fans have never heard of today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant but if you happened to have loved the Bronx Bombers and also lived in my hometown of Amsterdam, New York back in 1942, you remember him well. That’s because that was the year Bill Drescher was the starting catcher for the Amsterdam Rugmakers, the Yankee affiliate in the old Class C Canadian American League. It was the 21-year-old Drescher’s first season of professional baseball and according to his Rugmaker Manager at the time, a guy named Tom Kain, the native of Congers, NY seemed like a natural both at the plate and behind it. Dresher hit .301 in 100 games for Amsterdam that season and was featured in a New York Times article that described him as “a carbon copy” of the Yankees’ Hall-of-Fame receiver, Bill Dickey. In fact, that same article went on to say that if Dickey, who was nearing the end of his outstanding career at the time, could hang on for two or three more seasons it would be Drescher who would take his place as the Yankee starting catcher.

Dickey did his part but when the time came to replace him, Drescher was not ready. He did make his first appearance behind the plate in the Bronx during the 1944 season and then got his real shot the following year, when he caught 48 games for what would be Manager Joe McCarthy’s final full season as Yankee Manager. He hit .270 and fielded adequately but the following year WWII ended and all of the Yankees’ catchers returned to the game. Drescher ended up getting lost in that crowd and spending the rest of his professional playing career catching in the Yankee farm system. He died in 1968 at the very young age of 47.

May 23rd is also the birthday of this first voice of the Yankees, this former Yankee Manager and this other former Yankee manager.

1944 NYY 4 7 7 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .143 .143 .143 .286
1945 NYY 48 138 126 10 34 3 1 0 15 0 8 5 .270 .313 .310 .623
1946 NYY 5 6 6 0 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 .333 .333 .500 .833
3 Yrs 57 151 139 10 37 4 1 0 16 0 8 5 .266 .306 .309 .615
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/23/2013.