Any newspaper or Web site that covers New York Yankee baseball has offered readers some type of editorial or polling content that focuses on what changes the Yankees need to make during the winter to get back into the postseason in 2014. Who should be signed, who should be released, who should be fired, who should retire, there have been dozens of articles published, offering opinions on the offseason fate of every current Yankee employee from Robbie Cano to Brian Cashman.
Permit me to throw today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant into that mix. Dana Cavalea has been the Yankees’ strength and conditioning coach since 2007. Though I don’t have specific facts to back this up, I’m willing to go out on the limb here and say that the average number of Yankee injuries and disabled list assignments per season have climbed to record levels under Cavalea’s watch, peaking in 2013 when New York was forced to make 28 different disabled list assignments.
You can’t blame Cavalea for broken bones but how many strained quads, rib cages, hamstrings, groins and tendons does it take before you begin to question the soundness of the team’s strength and conditioning program. I know I’m sounding a lot like George Steinbrenner here. For that matter, if the Boss were still running things in both Tampa and the Bronx, Mr. Cavalea would probably be looking for a new job right about now.
I certainly know nothing about strength and conditioning strategies and techniques for modern day athletes and I’m sure Cavalea is well credentialed and highly respected in the field. But when there are more starters on the Yankee DL list than in the team’s starting line-up, something’s got to change, doesn’t it?
Happy birthday Dana and please don’t take what I’ve written above personally or professionally for that matter since I have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m just burning off some of the frustration I had left over from the just completed season of sickness.
The only Yankee player born on today’s date gave up playing baseball for golf.
When I first became a Yankee fan in the early sixties, my Uncle would take me to Yankee Stadium two or three times each season. From 1960 until 1968, I probably saw a couple dozen games live. My hero back then was the great Mickey Mantle. One of my frequent disappointments during those trips to the Bronx was rushing to my seat to look up at the starting lineups that were always posted on the old Stadium’s giant center field scoreboard and not seeing Mantle’s number 7. Instead I’d be forced to watch guys like Bob Cerv, Jack Reed, and Hector Lopez take Mantle’s place. These utility outfielders were called “Mickey Mantle’s legs,” because Mantle’s oft-injured lower appendages were usually blamed for his frequent absences from the starting lineup.
Today’s birthday celebrant was known as “Babe Ruth’s legs,” but for a slightly different reason. Unlike Mantle, Ruth was not a great defensive outfielder but like Mickey, he was a hall-of-fame party animal. Yankee Manager Joe McCarthy would regularly replace Babe with Byrd in the late innings of Yankee games for better defense and as a remedy for Ruth’s prodigious hangovers. Sammy Byrd was born on October 15, 1907, in Bremen Georgia.
Byrd was actually a very good all-around baseball player. The only obstacle he faced to becoming a star in the big leagues was the fact that his contract was owned by a Yankee organization that already had the most talented roster in Baseball. During his six seasons subbing for the Bambino, Byrd hit .281 for New York and was superb defensively as well. During one short stretch in his pinstripe career, he actually supplanted Earle Combs as New York’s starting center fielder. But it was Ruth himself, late in the Babe’s career, who was directly ahead of Sammy on the Yankee depth chart. Then, ironically, after Ruth was let go by New York the Yankees got rid of Byrd too by selling him to Cincinnati.
Instead of thriving with the Reds, Sammy had a pretty mediocre first season there and then got injured in his second. That’s when he made a decision to switch careers. Byrd may have not been as good a baseball player as Babe Ruth, after all, nobody was. But Byrd was a better golfer. In fact, Sammy Byrd was and still is the best golfer to ever play Major League Baseball. In 1937 he put away his bats for good and grabbed his clubs and competed on the pro golf tour against the likes of Sammy Snead, Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan. Byrd won 23 tournaments as a pro, finished second to Byron Nelson in the 1945 PGA and twice finished third at the Masters. He then became a club pro and built a reputation as one of the great golf instructors in the game. Sammy died in 1981 at the age of 74, in Mesa, Arizona.
Byrd shares his birthday with this Yankee strength & conditioning coach.
|NYY (6 yrs)||565||1319||1143||236||321||68||6||27||155||13||150||116||.281||.366||.422||.787|
|CIN (2 yrs)||180||613||557||68||144||33||4||11||65||4||48||62||.259||.317||.391||.709|