Clay Bellinger was an all-around utility man for the Yankees from the time he was first called up to the Bronx in April of 1999 until he was released by New York right after the 2001 postseason. During those three years, he played every position on the field for manager Joe Torre, except catcher and pitcher, but he hit just .194 in the 311 at bats he got while doing so.
Born in Oneonta, NY on November 18, 1968, this six feet three inch right-handed hitter played his collegiate baseball for Rollins College in Winter Park, Fl. He was good enough to get selected in the second round of the 1989 MLB amateur draft by San Francisco. He spent the next decade playing his way upwards in the farm systems of three different big league organizations. He was a decent fielder at every position but third base and his career highlight play as a Yankee was appropriately one he made with his glove and not his bat.
Inserted as a late-inning defensive replacement for David Justice in Game 2 of the 2000 World Series, Bellinger leapt in front of Yankee Stadium’s left field wall to rob the Mets’ Todd Zeile of a go-ahead two-run home run in the ninth inning of a 6-5 Yankee victory. He then took his two Yankee World Series rings and signed with the Angels in 2002 but couldn’t stay on their big league roster. He later became a pitching teacher at a Queens, NY baseball school and coached his son Cody in the 2007 Little League World Series.
|NYY (3 yrs)||181||343||310||57||60||11||3||12||35||7||22||81||.194||.258||.365||.623|
|ANA (1 yr)||2||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.000||.000||.000||.000|
Up until Phil Hughes filled the role during the 2009 season, the Yankees had not had an effective eighth inning relief specialist since the man they called “Flash” handled that responsibility in the New York bullpens of 2004 and 2005. Gordon had been a long-time starter for the Kansas City Royals who was converted into a closer one year after signing as a free agent with the Red Sox in 1996. He saved 46 games for Boston in 1998 but then was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery when he blew out his right elbow the following season. If that injury hadn’t happened, Gordon might still be saving games in Beantown. Instead he was forced to sit out the entire 2000 season and then spent the next three years pitching for three different teams while recovering his arm strength. The Yankees signed him at exactly the right time and he and Rivera successfully shortened many Yankee games to seven innings during their two years of partnership in the Bronx. I absolutely loved watching Flash take the ball in the eighth inning and completely dominate three hitters from the opposing lineup. When he had his fantastic curveball working, which was most of the time he wore the pinstripes, Gordon really was near unhittable. He was 14-8 as a Yankee and gave up less than one combined walk and hit per inning during his stay in the Big Apple. That success earned him a handsome three year deal from the Phillies after the 2005 season and forced the Yankees to spend the next three plus seasons looking for a new bridge to Mo.
Gary Sheffield was Gordon’s teammate on those 2004 and ’05 Yankee teams and also the most productive bat in New York’s lineup during that time. He also celebrates a birthday today.
|KCR (8 yrs)||79||71||.527||4.02||274||144||58||12||2||3||1149.2||1040||572||514||91||587||999||1.415|
|BOS (4 yrs)||25||25||.500||4.45||170||59||100||6||2||68||495.1||476||263||245||42||220||432||1.405|
|PHI (3 yrs)||11||10||.524||4.19||137||0||71||0||0||42||129.0||124||63||60||19||52||126||1.364|
|CHC (2 yrs)||2||3||.400||3.39||66||0||47||0||0||27||69.0||59||30||26||5||26||98||1.232|
|NYY (2 yrs)||14||8||.636||2.38||159||0||32||0||0||6||170.1||115||48||45||13||52||165||0.980|
|ARI (1 yr)||0||1||.000||21.60||3||0||1||0||0||0||1.2||3||4||4||0||3||0||3.600|
|HOU (1 yr)||0||2||.000||3.32||15||0||3||0||0||0||19.0||15||7||7||2||6||17||1.105|
|CHW (1 yr)||7||6||.538||3.16||66||0||35||0||0||12||74.0||57||29||26||4||31||91||1.189|
Over the two-year period between 2004 and 2005, Gary Sheffield was the best player on the Yankee team. He was the best hitter, the best fielder, an outstanding base runner and he had a cannon for an arm. He played hurt. He hustled on every play and for the most part, he got along with his teammates, Manager Joe Torre and the Yankee front office.
He made me a true Gary Sheffield fan during those first two extremely productive years as a Yankee. I loved to watch him take some of the American League’s best pitchers, extremely deep into counts during at bats that would always include at least one and sometimes several rocket line drives into foul territory down the left-field line. I found it incredible that a guy with such a powerful swing did not strike out all that much which meant a very efficient on base percentage and plenty of run scoring production.
Then in 2006, Sheffield injured his wrist in a late April game and didn’t return to the lineup until September. By then, the Yankees had acquired Bobby Abreu to play right field and had probably already decided to not resign Sheffield. Sheffield realized this as well and reacted by becoming a much more divisive force in both the New York media and the clubhouse. He felt unappreciated and responded more like a child than an adult professional athlete who had already earned millions of dollars.
I had the opportunity to watch both Sheffield and Abreu during their Yankee careers and given my druthers, I would much prefer to have a healthy and happy Sheffield as my favorite team’s right fielder. My problem with Gary is that I think he was a pretty significant steroid user and nothing he’s said or done to refute that allegation has succeeded in dampening my suspicions.
Sheffield’s last big league season was 2009. He retired with 509 home runs and a .292 lifetime batting average. He was born in Tampa and turns 43 years old today. He also shares his November 18th birthday with this former Yankee reliever and this one-time Yankee utility player.
|FLA (6 yrs)||558||2358||1870||365||538||98||7||122||380||74||424||290||.288||.426||.543||.970|
|LAD (4 yrs)||526||2276||1866||358||583||88||6||129||367||43||365||232||.312||.424||.573||.998|
|MIL (4 yrs)||294||1244||1110||138||287||61||3||21||133||43||97||96||.259||.319||.376||.695|
|NYY (3 yrs)||347||1525||1308||243||381||62||1||76||269||20||183||175||.291||.383||.515||.897|
|ATL (2 yrs)||290||1257||1068||208||341||63||2||64||216||30||158||108||.319||.412||.562||.974|
|SDP (2 yrs)||214||900||815||121||260||46||5||43||136||10||66||70||.319||.372||.546||.918|
|DET (2 yrs)||247||1075||912||159||225||36||1||44||132||31||142||154||.247||.354||.433||.788|
|NYM (1 yr)||100||312||268||44||74||13||2||10||43||2||40||46||.276||.372||.451||.823|