OK, this one is bugging me. How come I have absolutely no recollection of today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant playing for the Yankees, nothing, zero nada! Heck, if I can vividly remember the brief Yankee careers of guys like Jack Reed, Marty Perez and Chris Widger, why do I draw such a blank on Aaron Guiel?
After all, it was just seven seasons ago, in 2006 that this short and stocky native Canadian played 33 games for my favorite team, split almost evenly as an outfielder and first baseman. The Yankees had picked him up off the waiver wire that July after his first and only other big league team, the Royals had put him there. That 2006 season was a particularly harsh one on Yankee outfielders. Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui both were shelved for most of the year with major injuries.
Guiel had spent his first four-and-a-half big league seasons as Kansas City’s fourth outfielder, averaging .246 during that span. He had decent power, as was evidenced by the career-high 15 homers he had hit for KC in 2003. At first, New York assigned him to their Triple A Columbus affiliate but when Johnny Damon strained a muscle in his back, the Yankees called Guiel (pronounced Guy-el) up.
He scored three runs in his pinstriped debut against Cleveland and in his first start at Yankee Stadium a week later, his first home run as a Bronx Bomber was the difference maker in a 6-5 win versus the White Sox. New York skipper, Joe Torre played him pretty regularly that first month, but when the Yanks completed their trade for Bobby Abreu from the Phillies at the end of July, Guiel was sent back to Columbus. He didn’t stay there long.
He was called back up two weeks later. Since the Yanks ran away with the AL East Division race that year, winning it by ten full games over second-place Toronto, Torre rested his regular outfielders as much as possible down the stretch and Guiel saw plenty of action as a result. That’s why it bothers me that I have no recollection of him playing for the Yankees. I guess because he did not make that year’s postseason roster and the Yanks ended up releasing him, the 44 games he played for New York just faded from my memory. Those ended up being the final 44 games of Guiel’s big league career.
In 2007, he signed to play for the Yakult Swallows, in Japan’s Central League and played there for the next five seasons. Guiel shares his birthday with this other former Yankee outfielder and this one-time Yankee utility infielder.
|KCR (5 yrs)||263||1007||888||135||218||55||0||31||117||6||76||198||.245||.320||.412||.733|
|NYY (1 yr)||44||92||82||16||21||3||0||4||11||2||7||20||.256||.337||.439||.776|
When Mariano Duncan stopped hitting in 1997, the Yankees began experimenting with replacements at second base. One was veteran Pat Kelly, who Duncan had supplanted from the position the previous year. Another was the popular former Mariner, Luis Sojo and still another was today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant and former Cub, Rey Sanchez. Sojo ended up seeing the most action of the four and was the best fielder in the group as well, but in 37 games that year, Sanchez hit .312 and also played well in the field. The Yankees released Rey following that season and after spending 1998 with the Giants, he joined the Royals and played the best baseball of his career during his two-plus seasons as Kansas City’s starting shortstop. He then turned into a journeyman infielder, playing for seven different teams during the last six years of his fifteen-year career including a return to pinstripes in 2005, which was his final season as a player in the big leagues. He retired with 1,317 career hits.
|CHC (7 yrs)||594||1995||1835||185||481||78||8||6||124||22||96||187||.262||.304||.323||.627|
|KCR (3 yrs)||377||1489||1378||180||398||50||13||3||122||27||61||137||.289||.321||.351||.672|
|NYY (2 yrs)||61||198||181||28||55||13||0||1||17||0||7||24||.304||.335||.392||.727|
|TBD (1 yr)||91||307||285||23||70||14||3||2||26||0||12||28||.246||.281||.337||.617|
|NYM (1 yr)||56||183||174||11||36||3||1||0||12||1||8||18||.207||.240||.236||.476|
|SFG (1 yr)||109||339||316||44||90||14||2||2||30||0||16||47||.285||.325||.361||.686|
|ATL (1 yr)||49||163||154||10||35||4||1||0||9||2||4||15||.227||.245||.266||.512|
|BOS (1 yr)||107||386||357||46||102||12||3||1||38||2||17||31||.286||.318||.345||.662|
|SEA (1 yr)||46||186||170||22||50||5||1||0||11||1||8||21||.294||.330||.335||.665|
After the Yankee dynasty crumbled in 1965, the next two seasons were outright disasters in the Bronx. New York finished last in the AL in 1966 and next-to-last in ’67 and every single one of the starting position players from their 1964 World Series team either experienced precipitous declines in their playing skills or were traded away for players who then failed miserably in pinstripes. New York’s starting outfield was a perfect example. The hope was that veteran but still young Yankees Joe Pepitone and Tom Tresh would handle center and left respectively, while promising newcomer Bill Robinson, who had been obtained from the Braves for Clete Boyer, would become the new right fielder. Tresh hit just .219 in 67, Pepitone contributed just 13 home runs that year and Robinson was a complete bust, averaging just .196.
So as the Yankees approached their 1968 spring training, Manager Ralph Houk was contemplating inserting some new blood in the Yankee outfield. The top three candidates were young Yankee prospects Steve Whitaker and Roy White plus a guy the Yankees had picked up from Oakland in the Rule 5 Draft. His name was Andy Kosco.
Kosco had been an outstanding three-sport athlete in high school, who had scholarship offers from top colleges around the country in baseball, basketball and football. He also had a contract offer from the Detroit Tigers that included a $45,000 bonus. Since baseball was Kosco’s favorite sport, he decided to sign with the Tigers. The young switch-hitter spent the next four-plus seasons struggling to make his way up the Tigers’ minor league ladder. Before he could do so, Detroit traded him to the Twins who sent Kosco to the team’s Bismarck farm team. There he met a coach named Vern Morgan who talked Kosco into giving up switch-hitting and to only hit from the right side. He also got rid of the upper cut in his swing and taught him to pull the ball. Andy ended up hitting right around .350 and two years later found himself playing for the Twins. Actually he was wearing a Twins’ uniform but instead of playing he was sitting in the dugout watching Twins outfielders, Tony Oliva, Bob Allison and Jimmy Hall do all the playing. The Twins sent him to Oakland where crazy Charley Finley forgot about him and left him off the A’s 40-man roster and the Yankees snagged him in November of 1967.
At first Houk used him as his fourth outfielder on that ’68 Yankee team but by the end of April, he was starting Kosco in right. In his first game as a regular he hit a home run into the old Yankee Stadium’s almost impossible to reach left field upper deck. He homered in his next game as well. When Houk moved Tresh to shortstop and inserted Roy White in left, the Yankees started winning some games and the two new corner outfielders were getting a fair share of the credit for the team’s success.
Although Andy’s hitting tailed off significantly after that year’s All Star break, his 15 home runs were third best on the team and his 59 RBI’s were second best to Roy White’s 62 that season. That 1968 Yankee team finished 83-79 and ended up in fifth place, a great improvement over the previous two seasons. I remember thinking that Kosco was at the beginning of a solid career in New York. Little did I know that the Yankee front office had different plans. A few weeks before Christmas in 1968, Kosco was traded to the Dodgers for pitcher and famed future wife-swapper, Mike Kekich. He ended up spending all or parts of ten seasons in the big leagues, with seven different teams. 1974 was his final year in the Majors.
|MIN (3 yrs)||89||258||241||18||52||10||0||3||23||0||10||50||.216||.243||.295||.538|
|LAD (2 yrs)||194||681||648||72||156||25||2||27||101||1||22||106||.241||.265||.410||.675|
|CIN (2 yrs)||80||180||155||20||40||9||0||9||26||0||20||34||.258||.337||.490||.827|
|BOS (1 yr)||17||50||47||5||10||2||1||3||6||0||2||9||.213||.260||.489||.749|
|CAL (1 yr)||49||151||142||15||34||4||2||6||13||1||5||23||.239||.267||.423||.689|
|NYY (1 yr)||131||492||466||47||112||19||1||15||59||2||16||71||.240||.268||.382||.650|
|MIL (1 yr)||98||290||264||27||60||6||2||10||39||1||24||57||.227||.291||.379||.669|