I learned a lot about today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant by reading this excellent article authored by Bill Nowlin for the the Society for American Baseball Research. It describes a young man who believed in the power of education and as a high school student in Philadelphia, was genuinely torn between going to college to pursue a career in medicine or playing professional baseball. In the end, the immediate opportunity to start in Connie Mack’s infield for his hometown Philadelphia A’s was just too compelling for John Knight to pass up.
He would become as much of a national sports sensation as one could back in 1905, before radio, television or the Internet were around, when he was the Opening Day nineteen-year-old starting shortstop for Philadelphia and was leading the league with a .400-plus batting average two weeks into the new season. He wasn’t able to maintain that torrid hitting pace and it would be his inability to hit big league pitching that landed him in the minor leagues, playing for the Baltimore Orioles, by 1908. That August, Knight’s contract was purchased by the New York Highlanders.
Knight realized his future in baseball would depend on his ability to become a better hitter and as he joined his new team, he was determined to do so. His efforts certainly bore some fruit. The Highlanders’ first year manager George Stallings made Knight his team’s starting shortstop in ’09 and he hit a career-high .236. In 1910, his offensive epiphany exploded into a .312 batting average and he followed that up by posting a career-high 62 RBIs in 1911. In just six years, he had transformed himself from an offensive liability into one of the game’s better hitting shortstops and Clark Griffith, the former New York manager who now skippered the Senators, noticed. He made it known that he was interested in acquiring Knight and kept poking the Highlander front office with trade offers for the infielder all during the 2011 season. New York finally bit during the 1912 spring training season when they accepted Washington catcher’s Gabby Street for Knight.
His short stay in our nation’s capitol was a disaster. Griffith started Knight at second base and it seemed as if he forgot how to hit and field, both at the same time. He averaged just .161 during the first half of that year and was then sold to a minor league club in New Jersey. He would end up getting a second chance with the Highlanders after he hit .270 for his Jersey City team during the first half of the 1913 season. He did OK with New York, starting at first base and averaging .236 for a very bad Highlander team but it wasn’t good enough to prevent him from getting sold back to the minors at the end of the year. He would remain a minor league player for the rest of his career, finally retiring for good in 1928, at the age of 42.
Knight’s early career start in the big leagues earned him the most appropriate nickname of “Schoolboy.” At just over six feet two inches tall, Knight was the tallest shortstop in the big leagues.
|NYY (4 yrs)||435||1714||1494||197||399||59||16||6||171||63||138||213||.267||.338||.340||.678|
|PHA (3 yrs)||202||776||717||63||144||26||4||6||61||11||38||157||.201||.244||.273||.517|
|WSH (1 yr)||32||116||93||10||15||2||1||0||9||4||16||25||.161||.284||.204||.489|
|BOS (1 yr)||98||382||360||31||78||9||3||2||29||8||19||53||.217||.256||.275||.531|
Born October 6, 1947 in Wenatchee, WA, this tall right-hander was brought up from the Yankee farm system in 1970 and pitched extremely well during his first three seasons in Pinstripes. Back then, Joba Rules didn’t exist for young Yankee mound prospects and Kline was asked to pitch 636.3 innings (including 78 in the minors) during those first three seasons, all before he reached the age of 25. He had his best Yankee season in 1972 when he went 16-9 with a sparkling 2.40 ERA and four shutouts. That’s when all those innings started taking their toll and injuries limited him to just 74 innings of pitching in 1973. At the beginning of the following season he was made part of a four pitcher package that was traded to Cleveland for Chris Chambliss. By then, Kline’s arm was dead and he never again pitched effectively in the big leagues, retiring after a failed 1977 comeback trial with the Braves with a lifetime record of 43-45.
|NYY (5 yrs)||40||37||.519||2.96||97||94||1||33||6||0||659.0||617||259||217||48||141||213||1.150|
|CLE (1 yr)||3||8||.273||5.07||16||11||1||1||0||0||71.0||70||44||40||9||31||17||1.423|
|ATL (1 yr)||0||0||6.64||16||0||7||0||0||1||20.1||21||15||15||4||12||10||1.623|
Many Yankee fans, including myself, did not think it was a good thing to be depending upon Freddie Garcia to hold down the number four spot in the Yankee’s starting rotation coming out of the Team’s 2011 spring training season. He proved us wrong. Freddie did just fine in that slot winning 12 games and posting a strong 3.69 ERA in his 25 regular season starts. The fourth starter on the glorified 2011 Philadelphia rotation was Roy Oswalt. He went 9-10 with the same ERA as Freddie.
After a 17-8 debut season with the Mariners in 1999 as a 22-year-old, Freddie evolved into one of the AL’s top pitchers. He won a total of 116 games over his first nine big league seasons. Forty of those wins came after the Mariners traded the big right hander to the White Sox before the 2004 All Star break. The Caracas, Venezuela native helped Chicago get to and win the 2005 World Series by going a perfect 3-0 in that postseason, which included the Series-clinching Game 4 victory against Houston. Windy City baseball fans were enraged when after “the Chief” put together a 17-9 record the following year, he was traded to the Phillies for Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez. Unbelievably, it turned out that the White Sox got the better end of that deal.
That 2007 season was Garcia’s option year and disaster struck when he injured his throwing shoulder. He was probably worried that the injury would dampen his value as a free agent so he attempted to hide it from Philadelphia management and pitch his way through it. That proved to be a poor decision on his part as he went just 1-5 with the Phillies before finally going on the DL. As he feared, the injured arm ruined his chances for signing a “big” contract and he ended up accepting one-year Minor League deals first from the Tigers in 2008, the Mets in 2009, back with the White Sox in 2010 and then with the Yankees this season.
Will the pitcher known as “the Chief” get a chance to pitch for the Yankees next year? I’d say that depends on what the Yankees decide to do with their young starting pitching prospects this spring. As big a contribution as Garcia and Bartolo Colon made to the Yankee’s successful 2011 regular season success, having pitchers who can get you wins in the postseason is always the priority. Still, Garcia made me a believer this past season in his ability to pitch effectively at the big league level.
|SEA (6 yrs)||76||50||.603||3.89||170||169||0||9||4||0||1096.1||1035||504||474||119||389||819||1.299|
|CHW (5 yrs)||55||31||.640||4.33||119||119||0||3||0||0||760.1||776||383||366||99||197||509||1.280|
|NYY (2 yrs)||19||14||.576||4.29||56||42||11||0||0||0||254.0||264||127||121||34||80||185||1.354|
|ATL (1 yr)||1||2||.333||1.65||6||3||1||0||0||0||27.1||23||5||5||2||5||20||1.024|
|PHI (1 yr)||1||5||.167||5.90||11||11||0||0||0||0||58.0||74||39||38||12||19||50||1.603|
|BAL (1 yr)||3||5||.375||5.77||11||10||1||0||0||0||53.0||60||35||34||16||12||26||1.358|
|DET (1 yr)||1||1||.500||4.20||3||3||0||0||0||0||15.0||11||8||7||3||6||12||1.133|
There were two reasons why I liked Ruben Sierra. First of all, he looked exactly like a guy who used to umpire Little League games back when I was a coach for my two sons’ teams. Secondly, Ruben could hit. After the Yankees traded Danny Tartabull to Oakland for him during the 1995 season, Sierra drove in 44 runs for New York in the 56 games he played for them that year. Yes he could be moody, mouthy and sometimes too flamboyant, but I loved to watch his at bats, especially his eyes when he glared out at an opposing pitcher. Unfortunately for Ruben, Joe Torre did not like or appreciate him as much as I did. Four months into Torre’s inaugural 1996 season as Yankee skipper, New York dealt Sierra to the Tigers for slugging first baseman, Cecil Fielder. Ruben was hurt by the trade and said some unkind and exaggerated things about Torre’s managing style. The two eventually patched things up and Sierra rejoined Torre and the Yankees in June of 2003. I was amazed to find out that Ruben played for nine different teams during his 20-year big league career and hit 306 home runs. My question is, has there ever been another player who hit so many home runs playing for as many teams as Sierra did? Ruben was born in Puerto Rico on this date in 1965.
Another Yankee born on today’s date is former pitcher Steve Kline. Do you remember which Yankee playoff hero became a Yankee in a trade involving Kline? Find out here. Also born on October 6th is Yankee pitcher Freddie Garcia and this long-ago NY shortstop.
|TEX (10 yrs)||1190||4975||4580||645||1281||257||44||180||742||90||321||676||.280||.323||.473||.796|
|NYY (5 yrs)||383||1357||1226||145||311||64||3||45||221||4||109||208||.254||.310||.421||.730|
|OAK (4 yrs)||365||1560||1421||205||359||65||7||60||252||39||113||212||.253||.303||.435||.737|
|MIN (1 yr)||14||33||28||3||5||1||0||0||4||0||4||7||.179||.273||.214||.487|
|CIN (1 yr)||25||96||90||6||22||5||1||2||7||0||6||21||.244||.292||.389||.681|
|SEA (1 yr)||122||452||419||47||113||23||0||13||60||4||31||66||.270||.319||.418||.736|
|DET (1 yr)||46||180||158||22||35||9||1||1||20||3||20||25||.222||.306||.310||.616|
|CHW (1 yr)||27||77||74||7||16||4||1||4||11||2||3||11||.216||.247||.459||.706|
|TOR (1 yr)||14||52||48||4||10||0||2||1||5||0||3||13||.208||.250||.354||.604|