Armando Benitez provided several memorable moments in Yankee history, but none of them took place during the short time the fire-balling right hander wore a Yankee uniform. It was Benitez who gave up the famous Derek Jeter – Jeffrey Maier home run during the 1996 ALCS that helped the Yankees beat Baltimore for the AL Pennant that year. Then two seasons later, after Bernie Williams hit a huge three-run late-inning home run off of him, Benitez not only hit the next batter, Tino Martinez, he then openly challenged the Yankee dugout to a fight, setting off one of the most memorable brawls in pinstripe history. Then when Benitez joined the Mets in 1999, he eventually took over the closer role from John Franco. During his three full seasons in that role, Benitez saved 117 games while Mariano Rivera was saving 114 for the Yankees. The “who had the better closer” argument became one of many dramatic sub-titles to the 2000 Subway World Series.
So as a Yankee fan, I have lots of Armando Benitez memories but I almost forgot he actually pitched in pinstripes for nine games during the 2003 season. The Yankees had got him from the Mets for three minor league prospects hoping he would be the eighth inning setup guy for Rivera. When he faltered in that role, the Yankees traded him to Seattle for former Yankee set-up specialist, Jeff Nelson. Through 2008, the last season he saw action in the Major Leagues, Benitez compiled a career total of 289 saves.
Armando was born on November 3, 1972, in the Dominican Republic. He shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher who never seemed to get a chance to pitch, this former Yankee reliever who got way too many opportunities to do so and this former Yankee manager.
|NYM (5 yrs)||18||14||.563||2.70||333||0||266||0||0||160||347.0||225||111||104||39||168||456||1.133|
|BAL (5 yrs)||11||16||.407||3.62||207||0||107||0||0||37||213.2||149||91||86||27||129||283||1.301|
|SFG (3 yrs)||6||8||.429||4.10||90||0||77||0||0||45||85.2||81||41||39||14||46||72||1.482|
|FLA (2 yrs)||4||7||.364||2.72||100||0||66||0||0||47||102.2||68||39||31||11||41||101||1.062|
|SEA (1 yr)||0||0||3.14||15||0||7||0||0||0||14.1||10||5||5||1||11||15||1.465|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||1||.500||1.93||9||0||2||0||0||0||9.1||8||4||2||0||6||10||1.500|
|TOR (1 yr)||0||1||.000||5.68||8||0||2||0||0||0||6.1||4||5||4||3||2||9||0.947|
Today’s birthday boy won 21 games as the ace of the staff for one of baseball’s best teams in 1937. The problem was, that team was not in the Major Leagues. Instead, Joe Beggs was pitching for the Yankee’s Newark Bears farm team in the International League, a team that won 109 games that season and would probably have been good enough to finish in the upper division of either big league. Neff was 26 years-old at the time patiently waiting for his turn to pitch for Joe McCarthy’s Yankee team. That chance came in 1938 when Beggs got nine starts on the big stage and won three of five decisions. That wasn’t enough to keep him out of Newark the entire season. Nor did it earn him a spot on the Yankee’s winning World Series roster. But it did garner the attention of big league scouts and in 1940, the Reds acquired the right hander and made him their bullpen ace. He went 12-3 that first year in Cincinnati and saved seven games to boot as the Reds won the 1940 series. During those first four years with the Reds, he was one of the premier relief pitchers in the National League before entering military service in 1944. Cincinnati put him in their starting rotation when he returned in 1946 and Beggs went 12-10. He pitched until 1948, retiring with a 48-35 career record and 29 saves. Beggs was born on this date in 1910 in Rankin, PA. He passed away in 1983.
Another Yankee born on this date is this former spare outfielder on the 2000 World Championship team.
|CIN (7 yrs)||42||30||.583||2.56||191||32||116||19||4||27||569.0||536||205||162||26||151||147||1.207|
|NYG (2 yrs)||3||3||.500||4.21||33||0||8||0||0||2||66.1||83||38||31||6||18||23||1.523|
|NYY (1 yr)||3||2||.600||5.40||14||9||3||4||0||0||58.1||69||41||35||7||20||8||1.526|
I was a sophomore in high school when I realized that David Halberstam was a brilliant historian. I had just finished his epic book, The Best and the Brightest about how the US got entangled in the Vietnam War. It wasn’t until about two decades later that I realized Halberstam knew his baseball too. His book, October 1964, is a detailed and entertaining dissection of that season’s World Series between the Cardinals and the Yankees. In it, Halberstam describes how on the plane ride home from the seventh game of the Series, losing manager, Yogi Berra asked his all star second baseman, Bobby Richardson if he should be bold enough to ask the Yankees for a two-year contract. That’s how certain Berra was that he was going too be re-hired. But when he walked out of Yankee GM Ralph Houk’s office just a few days later, he was the stunned ex-manager of the only team he had ever worked for.
Houk had made the decision to fire Berra much earlier during the 1964 regular season, when certain Yankee players had approached him to complain that Yogi had lost control of the team. A few weeks later, he found out that Gussie Busch intended to fire Johnny Keane. Houk felt the Yankees needed a disciplinarian to replace the easy-going Berra and in his mind, Keane fit that description perfectly. So just minutes before Busch began a post Series press conference to announce he had decided to rehire his team’s skipper, Keane handed the Cardinal owner his resignation letter. He had accepted Houk’s offer to replace Berra as manager of the Yankees. Even though I was just ten years old at the time, I distinctly remember feeling sorry for Berra and angry with Houk for what I felt was a low class double-cross of a Yankee legend.
Keane proved to be a horrible fit with the Yankees from the start. His brand of discipline was geared toward young players and the veteran-filled Yankee roster had few of those. Players like Mantle, Maris, Clete Boyer, Joe Pepitone and Whitey Ford basically ignored the new rules introduced by their new field boss and that disrespect quickly permeated through to just about the entire team. When the Yankees reached the 1965 All Star break with a 41-46 record, Yankee fans like me were in shock. It was beyond the realm of possibility that our favorite team was not going to compete for the AL Pennant and we fully expected a turnaround in the second half.
The team did better, going 46-39 in the second half, but that was only good enough for an unforgivable fifth place finish. Keane should have been fired at the end of that ’65 regular season and probably would have been if the team hadn’t been owned by CBS at the time. The gigantic entertainment network paid little attention to the Yankees day-to-day operations, enabling Houk to delay the inevitable and let Keane stay on to open the 1966 season. Houk was hoping that Keane had just needed time to get the Yankee roster to buy into his management style. But when the Yankees opened the 1966 season by losing 16 of their first 20 games, Houk knew Keane was in over his head and mercifully fired his beleaguered skipper. In less than a year, the dismissed manager was dead, a victim of a heart attack at the age of 55.
A native of St. Louis, Keane had spent fifteen years playing in the Cardinal farm system as a a middle infielder, without ever appearing in a big league game. He then spent another 13 years coaching and managing in the St. Louis farm system. The Cardinals made him their big league skipper in July of 1961, when he replaced the fired Solly Hemus. His three-and-a-half season managerial record with the Cards was a very respectable 317-249. He should have never left St Louis.
|5||1965||53||New York Yankees||AL||77||85||.475||162||6|
|6||1966||54||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 2||4||16||.200||20||10|
|St. Louis Cardinals||4 years||317||249||.560||567||3.5||1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title|
|New York Yankees||2 years||81||101||.445||182||8.0|
|6 years||398||350||.532||749||5.0||1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title|
I do still remember when Ken Holtzman was a young and brilliant starting pitcher with the woeful Chicago Cubs. He was actually the first player drafted in a Major League Amateur Draft to make it to the big leagues and because he was Jewish and a southpaw, sportswriters were calling him the next Sandy Koufax. Talk about pressure, huh? In 1968, Holtzman was joined by Fergie Jenkins and Bill Hands to form the core of a very talented starting rotation for manager Leo Durocher’s Cubs. The trio won 47 games that season and then 58 more in 1969, when they lost the NL East pennant to the Mets in heart breaking fashion.
Chicago traded Holtzman to Oakland in 1971 for outfielder Rick Monday. The St. Louis native won 77 games and three rings in his four seasons with the A’s. He then fell victim to Charley O’Finley’s historic housecleaning when he was traded to the Orioles with Reggie Jackson a week before Opening Day in 1976. In June of that same season he was made part of a ten-player blockbuster deal between the Yankees and Baltimore.
I honestly expected Holtzman to then become a big winner and popular Yankee. That didn’t happen. He went just 12-10 over the next three seasons. It has been reported that Yankee Manager Billy Martin despised the veteran pitcher and refused to use him. I’ve also read that George Steinbrenner wasn’t fond of him either. Whatever the real reason, Holtzman was a veteran 165 game-winner in the prime of his career with two no-hitters, thirty shutouts, with a great post season record and three World Championships. He had a healthy arm and was on the roster of a team that had one of the best run-scoring attacks in all of baseball. The Yankees just let him rot on the vine. In fact the only good thing Holtzman produced for New York was the player he was finally traded for. In June of 1978, he was sent back to the Cubs for reliever Ron Davis.
|CHC (9 yrs)||80||81||.497||3.76||237||209||13||57||15||3||1447.0||1399||688||605||147||530||988||1.333|
|OAK (4 yrs)||77||55||.583||2.92||157||153||0||54||13||0||1084.1||997||414||352||75||277||530||1.175|
|NYY (3 yrs)||12||10||.545||4.64||44||35||5||10||2||0||238.1||291||137||123||23||68||58||1.506|
|BAL (1 yr)||5||4||.556||2.86||13||13||0||6||1||0||97.2||100||34||31||4||35||25||1.382|