Though the Yankees signed this tall, thin right-handed native of Kansas City in 1949, it took him a full decade to get through the organization’s minor league system and make his big league debut in September of 1959. In fact, the only thing that moved slower than John Gabler’s ascent to the Majors was evidently, his fastball.
He didn’t start winning in the minors until 1954, when he was still pitching in the C-level California League. It wasn’t until four years later, when he went 19-7 for manager Ralph Houk’s 1958 Triple-A Denver Bears team that his name made it to the upper portion of the Yanks pitching prospects list and even then, Yankee skipper Casey Stengel had to be convinced Gabler was worth a roster spot.
The pitcher helped his cause with three strong appearances during his end-of-the-year debut in the Bronx in 1959. Still, it probably was the hiring of Eddie Lopat as Stengel’s new pitching coach that enabled Gabler to make the Yankees’ Opening Day roster in 1960. Steady Eddie had been a big winner on the Stengel-led Yankee teams that won five straight world championships between 1949 and ’53, while mastering a low speed repertoire of junk pitches thrown with precise control. He was the perfect pitching coach for Gabler, who threw the same array of pitches as Lopat.
The combination seemed to be clicking when Gabler opened his season with a win, pitching seven scoreless innings in a 4-0 victory over the Red Sox. But after he got hit hard in his next start, the Yanks sent him to the bullpen and he had never really pitched well as a reliever during his long career in the minors.
Still, he hung on with the team until the end of July, when he was reassigned to Richmond. The Senators then selected him in the 1960 AL Expansion draft. Gabler pitched one season in Washington and his big league career was over. He passed away in 2009, at the age of 78.
|NYY (2 yrs)||4||4||.500||3.79||24||5||5||0||0||1||71.1||67||33||30||3||42||30||1.528|
|WSA (1 yr)||3||8||.273||4.86||29||9||11||0||0||4||92.2||104||61||50||5||37||33||1.522|
You’ve probably never heard of today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant but Joe Buzas owns an off-the-field record no Yankee past or present will ever break. He played just a half-season in pinstripes in 1945, from April till the end of June. He was New York’s Opening Day starting shortstop that season and got off to a fast start, driving in six runs in his first seven big league games. But those would prove to be the only RBIs he would get as a Yankee and as a big leaguer. He would end up playing behind Frankie Crosetti, appearing in just 34 games and hitting .264 that year, before blowing out his shoulder, an injury that ruined his future as a player.
Buzas had attended Bucknell University where, in addition to playing baseball, basketball and football plus joining the boxing team, he evidently also found time to take some business and management classes. After his playing career was over, this native of Lewisburg, PA coached and managed in the minor leagues for ten years and then purchased a minor league baseball team. During the next four decades he would buy and sell 82 more minor league franchises, becoming a multi-millionaire in the process.
I was born, raised and still live in a small Upstate New York city named Amsterdam. Back in the first half of the twentieth century, our town was the center of this country’s carpet industry and the gigantic looms in the factories of Amsterdam-based companies named Mohawk and Sanford turned out more rugs than any city in the world. We also had our own Minor League baseball team, a C-level Yankee franchise in the old Canadian American League. They were called the Amsterdam Rugmakers.
Today’s birthday celebrant, Frank “Spec” Shea spent his first season of organized ball in our City, playing for the old Rugmakers and living in the old Amsterdam Hotel. The year was 1940 and Shea finished the Rugmaker season with an 11-4 record. He spent the next two seasons climbing up New York’s minor league ladder and the three after that serving his country in WWII. He then went 15-5 for the Yankee’s Triple A team in Oakland, finally making the big club in 1947.
Spec went 14-5 as a rookie for the Yankees and won the AL All Star game plus beat the Dodgers twice in the 1947 World Series. He would have been AL Rookie of the Year as well but back then only one player in all of baseball got that award and Shea finished behind Jackie Robinson. Spec never again achieved the level of success he had during his first year in pinstripes and was finally traded to the Senators in 1952.
He pitched very well during his first two seasons in Washington winning 23 games and losing just 14 times for a very bad team. He called it quits after the 1955 season. He was 29-21 as a Yankee and 56-46 for his eight-season big league career.
|WSH (4 yrs)||27||25||.519||3.92||95||59||26||25||4||2||461.1||445||229||201||30||228||141||1.459|
|NYY (4 yrs)||29||21||.580||3.68||100||59||24||23||8||3||482.1||404||224||197||36||269||220||1.395|
The sky was supposed to be the limit for Andre when he first joined the Yankees in 1981. He had good speed, a decent bat and was a great fielder. Some Big Apple sports pundits were calling him the next Rizzuto. By the summer of 1983 he appeared to be coming into his own. He had officially taken over the starting shortstop position from the veteran Roy Smalley and seemed to be growing more comfortable and confident in both the field and batters box with each game he played.
Then after a thirteen-inning August night-game loss to the White Sox, Robertson went home to his Fort Lee, NJ apartment and called a lady friend who happened to be visiting from Robertson’s home state of Texas. Neither could sleep so they decided to meet and go dancing at Studio 54 and then take pictures of the Statue of Liberty. It was on their way to lower Manhattan on the West Side highway that Robertson crashed his car. He broke his neck and his friend sustained injuries that have paralyzed her for life. Although Robertson’s neck healed, the tragedy derailed his baseball career and by 1985 he was out of the game for good. Robertson was born in Orange, TX. He is 53 years-old today.