Evidently, “Handsome” Harry Howell could have taught A-Rod a thing or two about flirting with female fans in the stands at Yankee games. According to this excellent article written by Eric Sallee, it was this Jersey native’s roving eye that caused his divorce from the first Mrs. Howell.
After three seasons of playing in the National League, Howell migrated to the newly formed American League as a member of manager John McGraw’s 1901 Baltimore Oriole starting rotation which was also the first starting rotation in official Yankee franchise history. In that inaugural season, he and Joe McGinnity became the first Yankee pitchers to lose 20 games in a season. In 1902, the Baltimore team disintegrated after McGraw quit at midseason and with Howell going just 9-15, the team went on to finish the year with a 50-88 record. That’s when League founder and president, Ban Johnson exerted his near-dictatorial control and relocated the team to New York City.
It proved to be a fortunate move for Howell because when he got to New York he became teammates with Jack Chesbro. The former Pirate ace had one of the game’s most effective spitballs and he was more than happy to show Howell how to throw one of his own. Handsome Harry proved to be a quick study. He spent most of the ’03 season experimenting with the spitter, while still relying more heavily on his fastball and curve. He went 9-6 during the Yankees’ first season in the Big Apple and on April 23rd of that year, he became the first pitcher in New York Yankee history (excluding the franchise’s two years in Baltimore) to win a game, when he beat the Senators 7-2.
The following spring, Yankee skipper Clark Griffith traded Howell to the St. Louis Browns for pitcher Jack Powell. It was in St. Louis that Howell perfected the pitch taught to him by Chesbro. During the next six seasons, he threw one of the nastiest, most-loaded-up spitters in the game with great results. His ERA during his Browns’ career, which consisted of almost 1,600 innings pitched was a pretty incredible 2.06.
|SLB (7 yrs)||78||91||.462||2.06||201||173||23||150||16||5||1580.2||1325||549||362||8||390||712||1.085|
|NYY (3 yrs)||32||42||.432||3.77||88||72||16||64||2||0||649.1||716||403||272||14||171||188||1.366|
|BRO (2 yrs)||8||5||.615||3.93||23||12||11||9||2||0||128.1||146||80||56||4||47||28||1.504|
|BLN (1 yr)||13||8||.619||3.91||28||25||3||21||0||1||209.1||248||126||91||1||69||58||1.514|
In 1995, you’re the number 2 rated Minor League prospect in all of America, you’re in the farm system of the Yankees who are about to win the next four of five World Series and you’re the cousin of a guy named Mariano Rivera who is on the threshold of becoming MLB’s greatest closer. The sky certainly seemed to be the limit for twenty-one-year-old Ruben Rivera at the time, but that sky turned gray and cloudy for the young Panamanian very quickly. At first he did OK in the big leagues, hitting .284 in a 48-game stint during New York’s 1996 World Championship season. He even made the Yankee’s postseason roster that year.
But New York’s front office was looking for starting pitching and at the time there was an All Star hurler from Japan named Hideki Irabu refusing to sign with the San Diego Padres who had purchased his signing rights from his team in Japan. The Yankees packaged Rivera with one of their top Minor League pitching prospects named Rafael Medina and $3 million dollars and bought Irabu’s signing rights at the beginning of the 1997 regular season. By 1999, Ruben was starting in the Padres outfield and although he showed signs of good big league power, he struggled to get his average above .200. His finest moment was hitting .800 against his former Yankee teammates in the 2000 World Series but after the Padres lost to New York in four straight, San Diego released Rivera. He then played for the Reds in 2001 before rejoining the Yankee organization and his famous closing cousin in 2002. That’s when a bizarre spring training incident took place. Rivera allegedly stole and sold Derek Jeter’s baseball glove to a nostalgia dealer for $2,500 and his Yankee teammates actually voted him off the team. He then played a bit for the Rangers and Giants before ending up in the Mexican League for several more years.
|SDP (4 yrs)||394||1180||1026||160||209||42||9||46||135||33||129||341||.204||.301||.397||.698|
|NYY (2 yrs)||51||107||89||17||25||6||1||2||16||6||13||27||.281||.377||.438||.816|
|SFG (1 yr)||31||55||50||6||9||2||0||2||4||1||5||14||.180||.255||.340||.595|
|TEX (1 yr)||69||186||158||17||33||4||0||4||14||4||17||45||.209||.302||.310||.612|
|CIN (1 yr)||117||290||263||37||67||13||1||10||34||6||21||83||.255||.321||.426||.747|
I remember not being thrilled with the July 2008 Yankee trade that brought Nady to the Bronx. It wasn’t so much that I felt New York gave up too much to get the guy. I just thought one of the four players sent to the Pirates in the deal, Russ Ohlendorf would become a good big league pitcher and I didn’t think Nady was that good. I had remembered taking a bit of interest in him when he played for the Mets because his first name caught my attention. He was a decent player back then but I knew his acquisition by New York most likely meant good bye for Bobby Abreu in 2009 and I thought Abreu was still the better all-around player. Then just three days after the deal was made, the Pirates gave up Jason Bay to Boston in a three-way trade that netted Pittsburgh Andy LaRoche, Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss. Theo Epstein really out-maneuvered Brian Cashman that week. Nady played OK for New York during the second half of 2008 while Bay was playing terrific for the Red Sox. Then Xavier had the misfortune of getting hurt in 2009 and missing the entire season.
In the mean time it looks like I might have been wrong about Ohlendorf. After a good first season in Pittsburgh, he’s looked pretty bad the past three. Instead it has been another pitcher the Yankees included in the deal for Nady, the right-hander Jeff Karstens, who could be evolving into a solid starter in Steeltown. As for Xavier, he’s still keeping his suit case packed and moving. After New York didn’t offer him a contract for 2010, he signed with the Cubs and then in 2011 he played quite a bit of first base for the Diamondbacks before breaking his hand. He started out 2012 playing for Washington and then ended the year as a utility outfielder with the World Champion Giants. He turns 34 years-old today.
|SDP (4 yrs)||269||845||775||98||204||36||3||25||91||8||51||154||.263||.320||.414||.734|
|PIT (3 yrs)||269||1050||961||125||289||62||2||36||152||5||59||190||.301||.353||.482||.835|
|NYY (2 yrs)||66||276||256||30||69||15||0||12||42||1||15||54||.270||.319||.469||.788|
|ARI (1 yr)||82||223||206||26||51||11||0||4||35||2||10||46||.248||.287||.359||.646|
|NYM (1 yr)||75||292||265||37||70||15||1||14||40||2||19||51||.264||.326||.487||.813|
|SFG (1 yr)||19||57||50||6||12||3||1||1||7||0||6||13||.240||.333||.400||.733|
|CHC (1 yr)||119||347||317||33||81||13||0||6||33||0||17||85||.256||.306||.353||.660|
|WSN (1 yr)||40||109||102||6||16||3||0||3||6||1||7||24||.157||.211||.275||.486|