Tagged: november 8

November 8 – Happy Birthday Bucky Harris

harrisWhen Del Webb and Dan Topping purchased the Yankees in 1945, they needed a baseball man to run things and they selected former Dodger and Cardinal team president, Larry MacPhail to fulfill that role. The two multi-millionaires loaned MacPhail the $900,000 he needed to purchase ten percent of the team. That presented a problem for legendary Yankee Manager, Joe McCarthy, who did not like MacPhail. It became the key reason why Marse Joe quit as the Yankee skipper 35 games into the 1946 season. He was replaced by Yankee catching legend Bill Dickey, who had been one of McCarthy’s coaches.

The Yankees finished in third place in 1946 and Dickey did not even finish the season as manager, resigning that September, as soon as the Red Sox had eliminated New York from the pennant race. Two days after Dickey quit as skipper, MacPhail hired Bucky Harris to an unnamed front office position, to serve as MacPhail’s personal liason with the Yankee clubhouse. Harris then got the Manager’s job after the 1946 season ended.

Bucky had become famous in 1926, when at just 27 years of age, he became the player manager of the Senators and led the team to a World Series Championship that season. That title earned him the nickname “The Boy Wonder.” He then continued to manage for the next two decades but had not won another World Series.

The Yankee team he inherited in 1947 was getting old and ornery.  His outfield was a mess. Joe DiMaggio had sore heels, Charley Keller a bad back and Tommy Henrich had turned 37 and hit just .251 in 1946. His infield wasn’t any better. First baseman Nick Etten had become an automatic out once big league pitchers returned from serving in WWII plus he was a horrible defensive first baseman. Third baseman Snuffy Stirnweiss was also a much less effective hitter against post war pitching and both second baseman Joe Gordon and shortstop Phil Rizzuto had a difficult time getting their swings back after their military service. As for pitching, Red Ruffing had retired and Spud Chandler was getting old fast.

Working with MacPhail, Harris made a series of moves that turned out to be genius-like. He replaced Etten at first with 38-year old George McQuinn, an NL veteran with a decent glove and good bat. MacPhail traded Joe Gordon to the Indians for pitcher Allie Reynolds and Harris switched Stirnweiss from third to Gordon’s old spot at second and inserted rookie Billy Johnson at the hot corner. He benched Keller and made Johnny Lindell his starting left fielder. His best move was converting Yankee starter Joe Page to his closer. Each of these maneuvers panned out perfectly and with DiMaggio, Henrich and Rizzuto all enjoying bounce back seasons, the Yankees rolled to the 1947 AL Pennant, finishing a dozen games ahead of the second place Tigers. A few weeks later, Harris had his second World Championship as a Manager when the Yankees beat the Dodgers in seven games.

Despite winning 94 games the following season, the Yankees finished a disappointing third in the AL Pennant race. MacPhail had also been bought out by Topping and Webb, who had installed George Weiss as the new Yankee GM. Weiss used the Yankees third place finish in ’47 as an excuse to replace Harris with his own man, Casey Stengel.

If a Manager was hired in today’s times, who then won 191 regular season games during his first two years managing a team plus a World Series, he’d get a multi-year contract worth eight figures. Instead, Bucky Harris got fired. In all, Harris managed 30 years in the Majors. He was named to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans’ Committee in 1975.

Harris shares his birthday with this short-time Yankee outfielder.

Rk Year Age Tm Lg W L W-L% G Finish
21 1947 50 New York Yankees AL 97 57 .630 155 1 WS Champs
22 1948 51 New York Yankees AL 94 60 .610 154 3
Boston Red Sox 1 year 76 76 .500 153 4.0
Philadelphia Phillies 1 year 39 53 .424 94 7.0
New York Yankees 2 years 191 117 .620 309 2.0 1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title
Washington Senators 18 years 1336 1416 .485 2776 4.9 2 Pennants and 1 World Series Title
Detroit Tigers 7 years 516 557 .481 1078 5.4
29 years 2158 2219 .493 4410 4.9 3 Pennants and 2 World Series Titles
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/7/2013.

November 8 – Happy Birthday Henry Rodriguez

The Yankee front office was a busy place after New York won the 2000 World Series. For the most part, the team wasn’t looking to add new players as much as they were focusing on keeping the ones they already had, which was not a surprising priority for a franchise that had just won its fourth Fall Classic in the last five years. Mariano Rivera’s agent was pushing hard for a three year deal for “the Sandman” and Derek Jeter wanted the Yankees to commit to him as their starting shortstop for the next decade. The Yankees were also looking to avoid arbitration with catcher Jorge Posada. So amongst all these negotiations with their existing players, reporters covering the team were a bit surprised to learn the Yankees were also trying to sign outfielder Henry Rodriguez.

The 33-year-old Rodriguez had by then put together a rather impressive big league resume. He had come up with the Dodgers in 1992, but didn’t become an everyday player until he was traded to the Expos during the 1995 season. In his first full year north of the border, the Dominican native belted 36 home runs, drove in 103 and made his only All Star team. Expo broadcaster Rodger Broulette began shouting “Oh Henry” whenever Rodriguez homered and Montreal fans took to tossing Oh Henry candy bars on the field whenever Rodriguez went into one of his frequent home run trots. After his power numbers dropped off in 1996, he was traded to the Cubs and became Chicago’s cleanup hitter, batting behind the prodigious chemically and cork enhanced home run factory named Sammy Sosa. The power duo’s combined 91 home runs propelled the Cubbies into the 1998 postseason. Once again however, Rodriguez’s power numbers would shrink during his second year with a new team and once again, he would be traded before he could complete a third season. This time, the destination was Florida, where he played out the final year of his contract in 2000, becoming a free agent.

What made the Yankees interest in Rodriguez surprising was the fact that they already had a bunch of outfielders under contract. They included Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams, Shane Spencer, David Justice and Glenallen Hill. All these guys had comparable power to Rodriguez and all but Hill were better than he was defensively. Since Rodriguez hit from the left side, the Yankee front office was thinking he’d be a better fourth outfielder option than the righty-swinging Hill. Whatever the rationale, the Yankees gave him a guaranteed two year deal worth $1.5 million. He then failed to make the Yankee roster in spring training and began the ’01 season in Columbus. He was called up in May and saw action in five games, going hitless in eight plate appearances. That June, the Yankees released Rodriguez explaining at the time that they needed to replace him with an outfielder who could play center. That turned out to be Darren Bragg. “Oh Henry ” took his 1.5 million Yankee dollars and ended up back in Montreal, where he appeared in the last 20 games of his big league career in 2002.

The only other former Yankee born on this date is this Hall of Famer who managed the Yankees to a World Championship.

2001 NYY 5 8 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 6 .000 .000 .000 .000
11 Yrs 950 3343 3031 389 784 176 9 160 523 10 276 803 .259 .321 .481 .802
LAD (4 yrs) 254 759 708 70 174 35 3 20 96 1 41 144 .246 .287 .388 .675
MON (4 yrs) 321 1189 1086 144 276 70 4 63 194 5 89 328 .254 .311 .500 .811
CHC (3 yrs) 334 1264 1121 165 305 65 2 75 223 4 132 302 .272 .348 .534 .882
NYY (1 yr) 5 8 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 6 .000 .000 .000 .000
FLA (1 yr) 36 123 108 10 29 6 0 2 10 0 14 23 .269 .358 .380 .737
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/7/2013.

November 7 – Happy Birthday Jake Gibbs

Born in Granada, MS in 1938, Jerry Dean Gibbs was a superb high school athlete who starred at both football and baseball. In fact, the reason he finally attended Mississippi on a football scholarship was because they were going to permit him to continue to play both sports, which he did with great success. Jake was the starting quarterback for the Ole Miss football team and during his senior year with the Rebels in 1960, he quarterbacked them to an undefeated season and a victory in the Sugar Bowl. Being a pretty pragmatic young man at the time, Gibbs had good reasons for choosing baseball over football as a profession. The first one of course, was money. The Yankees were offering the kid a $100,000 bonus to sign with their team. The second reason Gibbs chose the diamond over the gridiron as his workplace was safety and health related. During his pre-senior years at Mississippi, Gibbs had suffered a series of painful injuries playing football. He knew the pro game was even rougher, making that $100,000 bonus look even more attractive.

So Gibbs became a Yankee. Back then, he was a third baseman but New York’s plan was to convert him to catching and have him some day succeed Elston Howard. At first,  Gibbs resisted the idea but Yankee skipper Ralph Houk, himself a former catcher, convinced Jake that the switch would get him to the big leagues faster and keep him there longer and Houk was right. The Yankees gave Gibbs regular call-ups to the big league roster beginning in 1962 and by ’65, he was Howard’s full-time backup. He then served as the starting Yankee catcher in 1967 and ’68.

Gibbs was a very good defensive receiver but the reason the Yankees weren’t completely happy with him was his lack of offense. He was a lifetime .230 hitter with little power so it wasn’t too tough a decision for New York to return him to the backup catcher role in 1969 in favor of that season’s AL Rookie of the Year, Thurman Munson. Ironically, Gibbs greatest Yankee season took place as Munson’s backup in 1970. In just 49 games that year, he hit more home runs (8) than he ever had in pinstripes plus, he batted .301.

After Gibbs quit playing in 1971, he returned to Ole Miss where he became the Rebel’s highly successful varsity baseball coach. He also did a two-year stint as a catching coach for the Yankees in the early 1990’s.

Gibbs shares his November 7th birthday with this former Yankee relief pitcher and game announcer and this one-time Yankee starting pitcher.

1962 NYY 2 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1963 NYY 4 8 8 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500
1964 NYY 3 6 6 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .167 .167 .167 .333
1965 NYY 37 76 68 6 15 1 0 2 7 0 4 20 .221 .267 .324 .590
1966 NYY 62 202 182 19 47 6 0 3 20 5 19 16 .258 .327 .341 .667
1967 NYY 116 411 374 33 87 7 1 4 25 7 28 57 .233 .291 .289 .580
1968 NYY 124 460 423 31 90 12 3 3 29 9 27 68 .213 .270 .277 .546
1969 NYY 71 245 219 18 49 9 2 0 18 3 23 30 .224 .294 .283 .577
1970 NYY 49 163 153 23 46 9 2 8 26 2 7 14 .301 .331 .542 .874
1971 NYY 70 224 206 23 45 9 0 5 21 2 12 23 .218 .270 .335 .605
10 Yrs 538 1795 1639 157 382 53 8 25 146 28 120 231 .233 .289 .321 .610
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/7/2013.