I personally remember three instances when Yankee television broadcast crews actively promoted the acquisition of a player on a competing team. The first was Scott Brosius. It seemed as if whenever New York played the A’s during the 1997 season, somebody in the New York booth would make it a point of commenting how Brosius, then Oakland’s starting third baseman, would be a perfect fit on the Yankee team. The next time I remember it happening was that same season when the Royals were in town and somebody in the booth talking about how Kansas City ‘s switch-hitting DH, Chili Davis would be a great addition to the Yankee lineup. The last time I remember the booth chatting about who would be a great addition for the Yankees, the subject was a Chicago Cub and former Expo outfielder, Rondell White.
I’m sure there have been several other instances when somebody with a Yankee microphone made statements about acquiring players from other teams but either I wasn’t listening or the conversation centered on a superstar that every team coveted at the time. Brosius, Davis and White were all considered good solid players in their day but not superstars. That’s why it is so easy for me to remember thinking the booth chatter about each was odd. It almost seemed as if somebody in New York’s front office asked the game announcers to talk about each player as a way of making the team’s interest in them public but I couldn’t think of any real good reasons why they would want to do so.
In any event, the announcers were spot on about Brosius. The Yankees got him in a trade for Kenny Rogers after the ’97 season. The TV guys were also right about Davis. After a year of bad health, he became a key cog as the full-time DH of New York’s 1999 World Championship team. Unfortunately, their good feelings about Rondell White as a Yankee proved to be unfounded. The Milledgeville, GA native was signed as a free agent after the 2001 season and the hope was that he would fill the huge outfield hole left by the retiring Paul O’Neill. That didn’t happen. His batting average, slugging percentage and on base percentage fell of the cliff as soon as he put on the pinstripes and after just one season in the Yankee outfield, he was traded off to the Padres. White played well just about everywhere else, ending a fifteen year big league career in 2007 with a .284 lifetime batting average and 198 home runs. He was born on February 23, 1972.
|MON (8 yrs)||742||3021||2756||420||808||165||23||101||384||88||200||494||.293||.348|
|MIN (2 yrs)||137||474||446||40||102||21||1||11||58||1||17||73||.229||.266|
|CHC (2 yrs)||114||431||390||50||121||21||1||19||57||1||31||68||.310||.374|
|DET (2 yrs)||218||898||822||125||238||45||5||31||120||2||56||125||.290||.342|
|KCR (1 yr)||22||85||75||13||26||6||1||4||21||0||6||8||.347||.400|
|SDP (1 yr)||115||449||413||49||115||17||3||18||66||1||25||71||.278||.330|
|NYY (1 yr)||126||494||455||59||109||21||0||14||62||1||25||86||.240||.288|
“Ross Moschitto” is the name most often mentioned by lukewarm Yankee fans who are my age, when they are trying to convince someone else how big a Yankee fan they are. I’m not sure why but that’s just the way it is. They don’t mention Frank Tepedino or Steve Whitaker or Roger Repoz. Its always Moschitto. He has to be the most famous non-famous Yankee in pinstripe history.
In 1965, Major League baseball started its free agent draft along with the rule that any player in the Majors or Minor leagues could be drafted if that player’s name was not on a Major League club’s 40-man expanded roster at the time the draft was conducted. For years, the Yankees had dominated their league by signing up all the best amateur prospects and developing their talent in New York’s well financed and well managed minor league farm system. No other team could steal a prospect from another franchise and since the Yankees had the most money they consistently had the most prospects.The draft and the 40-man roster rule changed that forever and Ross Moschitto paid the price for those changes.
He had signed with New York in 1964 and was assigned to their lowest level minor league team, in Johnson City, TN. When Ross hit 20 home runs in just 71 games that year, he popped onto the radar of every big league franchise. Instead of practicing their usual prospect patience, the Yankees put Moschitto on their big league roster the following April, when he was far from ready. So instead of getting a chance to play every day, Ross spent the the 1965 season sitting on a big league bench, pinch running for Mickey Mantle if the aging slugger got on base in his last at bat or taking his spot in the outfield if the Mick made an out. He got just 27 big league at bats that year and when he was sent back to the Minors the following season, he had lost his stroke for good. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Blog celebrant was born in Fresno, CA in 1945.
Moschitto was an Italian American but not good enough to make my All-Time Yankee team of Italian Americans. Here’s my all-time Pinstriped Paisans:
1B – Jason Giambi
2B – Tony Lazzeri
3B – Mike Pagliarulo (or Frank Crosetti who started one season at third for NY)
SS – Phil Rizzuto
C – Yogi Berra
OF – Joe DiMaggio
OF – Joe Pepitone
OF –Francesco Pezzolo (better known as Ping Bodie, the first Italian American player in the Majors)
DH – Steve Balboni
SP – Vic Raschi
RP – Dave Righetti
Today is the birthday of the player who got the first base hit in the original Yankee Stadium. His name was George Burns and he spent a large part of his life answering the question, “Which George Burns are you?” Back during the WWI era of MLB history there were two pretty good players using the same name as well as an up and coming Vaudeville performer who would later marry Gracie Allen and star with her in a popular TV show in the 1950’s.
The National League George Burns played most of his career with the Giants as an outfielder and averaged a very impressive .287 during his 15-years in the Senior Circuit. Then there was the American League George Burns, who averaged an even more robust .307 during his 16-year career in the Junior Circuit, which included brief appearances in a Yankee uniform at the very end of his playing career, during both the 1928 and ’29 seasons.
The NL George Burns was a very good defensive outfielder. The AL George Burns was a horrible defensive player but because he hit from the left side and handled a bat real well, he never had a problem finding a team that wanted him. To help keep the two straight, sportswriters back in the day would refer to the AL George Burns by his nickname, “Tioga George.” He had lived in Tioga, Pennsylvania for quite a while.
He put together some great seasons for the A’s, the Red Sox and the Indians, actually winning the AL MVP Award with Cleveland in 1925, when he set career highs in batting average (.356) and RBIs (112) while leading the league in both base hits (216) and doubles (64). On April 18, 1923, his single off of New York’s Bob Shawkey was the first official regular season hit recorded in the House that Ruth built. A few pitches later, Burns became the first runner ever thrown out attempting to steal a base in the new ballpark.
In September of 1928, Burns had been put on waivers by the Tribe and Miller Huggins told Yankee exec Ed Barrow to pick him up. The Yankee skipper wanted Burns on his bench for those times that called for a skilled left handed hitter. Burns, however, wasn’t sure he wanted to come to the Bronx and he refused to report until he had a chance to talk to Huggins to make sure it was not just an end-of-the-year and then you’re gone sort of deal. When Huggins assured him there’d be a spot for him on the team in 1929 as well, Burns made the move put on the pinstripes.
He was then used exclusively as a pinch-hitter and though he did start the ’29 season on the Yankee roster as Huggins had promised, he was sold back to the A’s that June. That suited Burns just fine because by then he made his home in Philly. He retired following that season and became a coach and manager in the Pacific Coast League following his playing career.
|CLE (7 yrs)||757||2882||2611||402||853||230||20||22||432||62||157||144||.327||.375||.455||.830|
|PHA (4 yrs)||307||1175||1084||130||344||59||18||16||145||28||50||53||.317||.359||.449||.809|
|DET (4 yrs)||496||1952||1756||206||467||76||24||15||220||47||91||170||.266||.313||.362||.675|
|BOS (2 yrs)||293||1218||1109||162||352||79||10||19||155||17||65||61||.317||.364||.458||.822|
|NYY (2 yrs)||13||13||13||1||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||5||.154||.154||.154||.308|
In one of the best deals in Yankee history, New York acquired closer John Wetteland from the Expos at the start of the 1995 regular season. At the time, Wetteland was considered one of the very best closers in the game and the only reason he became available was the precarious financial condition of the Montreal franchise. The transaction cost George Steinbrenner lots of Yankee bucks and an intriguing giant-sized switch-hitting prospect from Panama with a name that was impossible to say and even harder to spell.
Fernando Seguignol (pronounced SEG ee nol) was a 6’5″ outfielder who tipped the scales at close to 260 pounds. The Yankees had signed him as an amateur free agent in 1993 and after a rough first year in the rookie league, he had put up some decent numbers in his sophomore season with the Yankees’ Oneonta, NY single A affiliate. The Expos were hoping he’d develop as a power hitter and though it took a bit longer than expected, that’s exactly what happened. When he hit 31 home runs during the 1998 minor league season, he got a four-year shot to break into the Expos’s starting outfield but never made it.
He then spent the 2002 season playing in Japan. That’s when he returned to the States and re-signed with the Yankees. He very nearly won the International League triple crown in 2003. That earned him a September call-up, during which he got his one and only Yankee hit, a single off of Baltimore’s Rodrigo Lopez.
When that season ended he was 28 years old and not a part of the Yankees immediate outfield plans so he decided to go back to the Land of the Rising Sun. It turned out to be a good decision. Seguignol became a star slugger there, hitting 121 home runs during the next four seasons. He retired in 2010.
|MON (4 yrs)||173||394||359||42||90||23||0||17||40||0||19||111||.251||.305||.457||.761|
|NYY (1 yr)||5||8||7||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||3||.143||.250||.143||.393|
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is the only ex-Yankee no longer playing the game, who still thanks Scott Boras every time he gets his paycheck. Bob Brower was one of the most versatile athletes ever to graduate from Brooklyn’s James Madison High School and was the very first one to letter in four varsity sports in a single school year. Though he was only five feet eleven inches tall and weighed 185 pounds, he could hit baseballs amazingly long distances. He attended Duke University on a football scholarship but gave it up to play baseball for the Blue Devils as a walk-on.
He signed with the Rangers in 1982 as an un-drafted free agent and made his big league debut with Texas, four years later. He worked his way into the team’s fourth outfielder slot by 1987 and put together his best big league season that year, hitting 14 home runs and averaging .261. When he slumped the following season, Texas traded him to the Yankees for shortstop Bobby Meacham.
A month after the Yankees acquired Bower, Claudell Washington, New York’s starting center fielder in 1988, signed a free agent deal with the Angels. That meant Brower would compete for the job in his first Yankee spring training camp against two other young Yankee outfielders, Roberto Kelly and Stanley Jefferson. Brower’s playing time prospects grew even brighter when it was announced that Dave Winfield’s bad back would force him to sit out the entire ’89 season.
Unfortunately for Brower, his exhibition season effort was hampered by a sore groin and a tender throwing shoulder. When the season started, he found himself on the disabled list and it was Kelly who started in center. and veteran Gary Ward in right. Dallas Green, the Yankee skipper that season, gave Brower his chance two weeks later and he seemed ready to take advantage of it. He had five hits in his first four games in pinstripes, his batting average was .385 and he had scored three runs. But the good hitting wouldn’t last and when he began to press at the plate, his defense also suffered. In a mid-May game against California, he committed two costly errors in the outfield and then got picked off first base with the Yankees trailing 4-0. Green, who by then was suffering under the full wrath of Boss Steinbrenner, expressed his displeasure with the young outfielder’s defensive lapses.
What really killed Brower’s chances to make it in the Bronx, however was the team’s acquisition of Jesse Barfield during the first month of the ’89 regular season. With veteran Mel Hall already ensconced as the team’s fourth outfielder, the roster became two crowded to keep Brower and he was sent to Columbus.
He spent most of the next three seasons in the minors, trying to make it back to the big leagues, but he never would. Instead, he accepted a job with a young baseball agent named Scott Boras. The two had met when Brower was a student athlete at Duke. Boras became Brower’s agent. He is now vice president of Boras Corporation.
|TEX (3 yrs)||230||592||513||95||125||18||3||15||57||26||63||107||.244||.326||.378||.704|
|NYY (1 yr)||26||75||69||9||16||3||0||2||3||3||6||11||.232||.293||.362||.656|
Up until the 2009 World Series, one of my most frequent Yankee related “What if…” questions was “What if the Yankees never traded Alfonso Soriano for A-Rod.” Then A-Rod finally put together an outstanding postseason that year and led my favorite team to its 27th World Championship. At the same time, Soriano had just struggled through his third straight regular season as a Cub and had been horrible in the two postseasons he played in for Chicago. So I stopped playing the “What if…” game.
Since that 2009 World Series however, A-Rod has emphatically confirmed all of his maddening insecurities that negatively impact his play and make it so hard to root for him. Soriano, on the other hand, has taken advantage of an unexpected return trip to the Bronx to remind us all of just how amazing a ballplayer he can be when he goes on one of his patented “hot streaks.” So I again find myself asking the question, “what if that trade in February of 2004 had never been made?”
If the deal never went down, worst case scenario would be that the Yanks would have failed to win that 2009 title. Rodriguez also put some monster years together during his time in pinstripes especially in ’05 and ’07 so you have to wonder if without him, New York might have missed postseason play all-together in a couple of those seasons. But Soriano’s body of work during that same period of time was not too shabby either and don’t forget the Yanks would have probably used the many extra millions they paid A-Rod to sign at least one other impact free agent. The biggest benefit of getting rid of Soriano was that it opened up the opportunity for Robbie Cano to become New York’s starting second baseman. If you remember, when Soriano was traded to the Nationals from Texas, he fought Washington’s desire to move him from second base to the outfield. Knowing how the Yanks operate, the chances are pretty good they would have dealt a young Cano to another organization because they would have kept Soriano at second.
Oh well, we will never really know the true consequences but it’s fun to surmise. Meanwhile, Soriano turns 38-years-old today and is once again being counted on to help New York win a World Series. The Yankee brain-trust had to force GM Brian Cashman to make the deal with the Cubs that brought this native Dominican back to New York in late July of the 2013 season and thank God they did. At the time the Yankee offense was sinking like the Titanic in the AL East pennant race. Soriano desperately wanted to wear the pinstripes again and willingly waived the no-trade clause in his Cubs contract to make it happen. Then he went out and put the Yankee lineup on his back and just about single-handedly kept the team in contention for fall ball up until the final few weeks of the regular season.
With the free agent signings of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, Soriano’s role in the Yankees’ 2014 plans remains unclear. They have a glut of outfielders and DH’s on their current roster. But I’m hoping he gets a chance to start somewhere in the Yankee lineup because I don’t want to ask myself any more “What if the Yankees had kept Alfonso Soriano” questions.
|1998||Did not play in major leagues (Did Not Play)|
|CHC (7 yrs)||889||3696||3403||469||898||218||13||181||526||70||245||829||.264||.317||.495||.812|
|NYY (6 yrs)||559||2393||2229||363||627||132||10||115||320||129||112||497||.281||.323||.504||.827|
|TEX (2 yrs)||301||1340||1245||179||341||75||6||64||195||48||66||246||.274||.316||.498||.814|
|WSN (1 yr)||159||728||647||119||179||41||2||46||95||41||67||160||.277||.351||.560||.911|
You would think that with a last name like Otis, this guy would at least have had an “up and down” career with the Yankees parent club and their farm system. Unfortunately for Bill, his entire big league experience consisted of just four games for the 1912 New York Highlanders (the team’s name before they became the Yankees.) He got just one hit in seventeen at bats that year but that one hit came off the immortal Hall-of-Famer, Walter Johnson. He is the only current or former Yankee to be born on Christmas Eve. He’s also the only native of Scituate, MA to play Major League baseball. When he died in 1990 at the age of 100, he was the oldest living former MLB player on the planet.
The only other member of the Yankee family to be born on Christmas Eve is this former NL All Star pitcher who was signed by New York in 2011 but only pitched for their Triple A team in Scranton.