His nickname was Honest John and he was the first native Norwegian to play in the Major Leagues. He was also the first New York Yankee (Highlander) starting position player to bat from both sides of the plate. Anderson was already familiar with the Big Apple when the St Louis Browns traded the then 30-year-old to New York after the 1903 season because he had been a starting outfielder for Brooklyn for most of the previous decade. With New York, he joined Wee Willie Keeler and Patsy Dougherty to form a strong Highlander outfield that helped lead that team to a 92-victory season, falling just one and a half games short (to Boston) of the franchise’s first AL pennant. Anderson hit .278 and led the team with 82 RBIs. When he had a slow start at the plate the following year, New York waived him and he was picked up by the Senators, with whom he rebounded nicely by hitting .290 the rest of that season. During his second season playing in our Nation’s Capitol, he led the AL with 39 stolen bases in 1906. Honest John retired after the 1908 season with 1,843 hits and a .290 lifetime batting average during his fourteen seasons of big league ball.
The only other Major League position player to have been born in Norway was also a Yankee, serving as Bill Dickey’s backup at catcher for most of the 1930’s. Do you know his name? I’ll give the answer in tomorrow’s post.
Today is also the birthday of this former Yankee relief pitcher.
|BRO (6 yrs)||487||2131||1937||331||576||86||57||20||350||124||83||100||.297||.333||.432||.764|
|WSH (3 yrs)||339||1406||1316||145||370||58||14||4||152||80||75||90||.281||.323||.356||.679|
|SLB (3 yrs)||402||1735||1650||215||495||109||21||14||262||66||68||69||.300||.330||.417||.747|
|NYY (2 yrs)||175||706||657||74||178||30||13||3||96||29||31||45||.271||.311||.370||.681|
|WHS (1 yr)||110||471||430||70||131||28||18||9||71||18||23||19||.305||.357||.516||.873|
|CHW (1 yr)||123||399||355||36||93||17||1||0||47||21||30||33||.262||.321||.315||.637|
One of the smallest players in baseball during the time he played, this 5’8″ outfielder used one of the biggest gloves in baseball history. Polonia, a native of the Dominican Republic, had three tours of duty in pinstripes. In June of 1989 he was traded to New York by the A’s in the deal that sent Rickey Henderson back to Oakland. He hit .313 during the second half of that season but an alleged sexual escapade with a minor after a game in Milwaukee in August of that year, nearly destroyed his career. The Yankees sent him to the Angels the following April. He then had his best big league seasons with California, averaging over 50 stolen bases per season during the next three years. In 1994, he rejoined New York and batted .311 in 94 games of action as the Yankees’ starting left-fielder. Then in 2000, Louis played his final 37 big league games in a Yankee uniform. In all, Luis played 12 seasons in the Majors, batting .293 lifetime.
|NYY (5 yrs)||276||1019||914||151||271||45||11||6||88||44||85||102||.296||.357||.389||.746|
|CAL (4 yrs)||560||2347||2138||300||628||69||27||5||149||174||170||233||.294||.345||.358||.704|
|OAK (3 yrs)||268||1000||929||160||268||33||18||7||93||66||62||119||.288||.332||.385||.717|
|ATL (2 yrs)||50||90||84||9||27||7||0||0||4||4||4||12||.321||.348||.405||.753|
|DET (2 yrs)||167||653||600||83||181||31||13||16||57||25||38||57||.302||.343||.477||.819|
|BAL (1 yr)||58||187||175||25||42||4||1||2||14||8||10||20||.240||.285||.309||.594|
I was one of those Yankee fans who was vociferously against the 2013 preseason deal that made Vernon Wells a Yankee. I understand how and why it happened. When both Granderson and Texeira went down with injuries this spring and it became apparent that Jeter was not ready to play, New York’s front office went into sort of a cheapskate panic mode. They needed to do something fast but they wanted it to also be easy and not too expensive. That explains the Vernon Wells deal in a nutshell. All one had to do to understand this was listen to the incessant bragging the team’s publicity department did about how the Angels had agreed to pick up most of the outfielder’s salary for the next two years.
Still, as a loyal, long-time Yankee fan, once the deal went down, I became a Vernon Wells fan and rooted for him like crazy. My sincere hope was that I would be proven completely wrong about his inability to help this Yankee team make the playoffs. And for about six weeks at the beginning of the season, it looked as if I might have been. Wells got out of the gate quickly and helped the Yankees do the same. By the end of April, he was hitting .300 and was on a pace to hit 30 home runs and drive in 90. Then two weeks later, Wells pretty much stopped hitting. He hit his 10th home run of the season on May 15. He then went three months before he hit another. By the end of June, his batting average had fallen to .223 and it was apparent to me that the move to obtain Wells would definitely not go down in franchise history as one of Brian Cashman’s better ones.
Now that the Yankees have signed Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, one has to wonder if Wells will even be on the Yankee roster when Opening Day 2014 rolls around. He can still play good outfield defense but with Gardner, Soriano and Suzuki all still in Pinstripes, the Yankees have a glut of extra outfielders.
Wells was born in Shreveport, Louisiana on December 8, 1978. As anyone who has ever been his teammate will tell you, this guy is a class act in the clubhouse and during his prime, was one of the top outfielders in the American League. Even though he did not perform well during the 2013 season, he hustled every second he was on the field and handled the critical New York media like the consummate professional he is. That’s why I for one will continue to root for Vernon Wells.
|TOR (12 yrs)||1393||5963||5470||789||1529||339||30||223||813||90||406||762||.280||.329||.475||.804|
|LAA (2 yrs)||208||791||748||96||166||24||4||36||95||12||36||121||.222||.258||.409||.667|
|NYY (1 yr)||130||458||424||45||99||16||0||11||50||7||30||73||.233||.282||.349||.631|
Marcus was the first of the two Lawton brothers to make it to the big leagues but it was younger brother Matt who became an All Star. Marcus Lawton made his ten-game Major League debut as a Yankee during the 1989 season and then never played another game in the big leagues. What he did too was spend lots of time with his younger sibling teaching him everything he knew about the game. The lessons paid off.
Matt Lawton enjoyed a solid twelve season career, with his best years coming with the Twins and the Indians. He was an AL All Star with Minnesota in 2000 and again with Cleveland in 2004. The Yankees got him in a late August trade with the Cubs in 2005, just a few days after Hurricane Katrina demolished Lawton’s hometown of Gulfport,Mississippi and did severe damage to the outfielder’s home. He got off to a horribly slow start with New York but on September 21 of that season, he hit a huge 2-run home run that beat the Orioles and propelled the Yankees into first place.
During Lawton’s short time as a Yankee he tested positive for steroids and immediately admitted he took the drug and apologized. The Yanks released him in late October He then signed with Seattle and after serving a ten-game suspension at the beginning of the 2006 season, he lasted just two months with the Mariners, before hanging up his glove for good.
|MIN (7 yrs)||771||3150||2672||423||739||163||13||72||384||96||408||335||.277||.379||.428||.808|
|CLE (3 yrs)||363||1593||1381||237||355||63||2||50||180||41||180||165||.257||.352||.414||.767|
|NYM (1 yr)||48||213||183||24||45||11||1||3||13||10||22||34||.246||.352||.366||.718|
|PIT (1 yr)||101||445||374||53||102||28||1||10||44||16||58||61||.273||.380||.433||.813|
|CHC (1 yr)||19||83||78||8||19||2||0||1||5||1||4||8||.244||.289||.308||.597|
|SEA (1 yr)||11||29||27||5||7||0||0||0||1||0||2||2||.259||.310||.259||.570|
|NYY (1 yr)||21||57||48||6||6||0||0||2||4||1||7||8||.125||.263||.250||.513|
“Hard Hittin” Mark Whiten had his career year in 1993. On the final day of spring training that season, this then, 25-year-old, switch-hitting native of Pensacola, FL was traded by the Cleveland Indians to the Cardinals. He joined a starting outfield in St.Louis that included Bernard Gilkey and Ray Lankford and he led that team with 25 home runs and 99 RBIs. On September 7, 1993 he made baseball history by smashing 4 home runs and driving in 12 runs in a single game.
The Players Strike disrupted Whiten’s second season with the Cards and there would be no third. He was traded to Boston at the start of the ’95 season, which began an odyssey that would put the outfielder in six different big league uniforms over the next four years. The fifth of those uniforms was pinstriped. The Yankees signed Whiten as a free agent in January of 1997. In New York, he was reunited with Joe Torre, the same guy who managed him during his career year with the Cardinals.
Torre began the season by platooning Whiten and Darryl Strawberry in left field. Big Mark got off to a great start at the plate and was still hitting over .300 the first week of June. But when Strawberry went down with a bad knee, it would be Tim Raines who took over as the team’s starter in left. Whiten was left to battle Chad Curtis for the fourth outfielder’s slot and when Curtis won that battle, the Yanks released Whiten that August. He then signed on with Cleveland and appeared in his last big league game as an Indian in 2000.
|CLE (5 yrs)||320||1167||1024||142||265||49||8||23||103||22||126||218||.259||.343||.390||.732|
|PHI (2 yrs)||120||461||394||71||100||18||1||18||58||20||64||125||.254||.361||.442||.802|
|STL (2 yrs)||244||1000||896||138||240||31||6||39||152||25||95||185||.268||.338||.446||.784|
|TOR (2 yrs)||79||260||237||24||57||5||4||4||26||2||18||49||.241||.292||.346||.638|
|ATL (1 yr)||36||107||90||12||23||5||1||3||17||2||16||25||.256||.364||.433||.798|
|BOS (1 yr)||32||117||108||13||20||3||0||1||10||1||8||23||.185||.239||.241||.480|
|NYY (1 yr)||69||248||215||34||57||11||0||5||24||4||30||47||.265||.360||.386||.746|
|SEA (1 yr)||40||163||140||31||42||7||0||12||33||2||21||40||.300||.399||.607||1.006|
It would not take too long for just about any Yankee fan to corresctly guess who hit the first World Series home run in franchise history. That would be the one and only Babe Ruth. The Bambino hit the historic blast in Game 4 of the 1921 World Series versus the Yankees’ Polo Grounds landlord at the time, the mighty New York Giants. But even the most astute fan of Bronx Bomber baseball could keep guessing for the next ten years and not come up with the name of the second Yankee to perform that same feat.
The correct answer of course, is today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Wilson Lloyd “Chick” Fewster. His two-run blast in the top of the second inning of that same Fall Classic’s very next game, gave the Yankees a temporary 5-3 lead they would eventually lose. Its no wonder the name “Chick Fewster” means nothing to Yankee fans. After all, his entire Yankee career consisted of just 228 games spread over six lackluster seasons beginning in 1917. Back then, Yankee manager Miller Huggins was predicting great things for his young outfielder, telling the New York sports press that he had never seen a better prospect than this new kid from Baltimore. But Fewster would never fulfill that promise and he almost didn’t live long enough to hit that World Series home run either.
In a 1920 spring training game against the Brooklyn Robins, Fewster was hit in the head by a pitch and nearly died. They put a plate in his head and doctors told him he’d never play baseball again. Miraculously, he was back in action by early July of that same season.
|NYY (6 yrs)||228||783||642||113||174||33||4||3||45||15||90||109||.271||.372||.349||.721|
|BOS (2 yrs)||113||424||367||40||91||14||2||0||24||15||45||45||.248||.337||.297||.634|
|BRO (2 yrs)||109||397||338||54||82||16||3||2||24||9||45||49||.243||.340||.325||.666|
|CLE (2 yrs)||194||704||616||75||159||28||3||1||74||18||60||61||.258||.327||.318||.645|
After Miller Huggins’ Yankee team lost their second straight World Series to the New York Giants in 1922, the diminutive field skipper spent his offseason trying to figure out what his ball club needed in the way of personnel to finally beat his crosstown rivals in a Fall Classic. He brought his shopping list with him to the Yanks 1923 spring training camp in New Orleans and it included an infielder, two pitchers, a third string catcher and two new outfielders. One of those outfielders ended up being today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant.
Harvey “Gink” Hendrick was born in Mason, TN in 1897 and had played college ball at Vanderbilt University, his native state’s most famous school. He then spent a couple of years in the minors including a solid 1922 season with Galveston in the Texas League during which he belted 16 home runs and averaged .311. The Red Sox signed him to a contract but in early January of 1923, he was traded to New York along with pitcher George Pipgras. Hendrick then performed well enough that spring to earn a spot on Huggins’ Opening Day roster.
He ended up serving as a fifth outfielder and occasional pinch-hitter on that 1923 Yankee squad, which featured a strong starting outfield of Babe Ruth,Bob Meusel and Whitey Witt along with the veteran Elmer Smith as their primary backup. Like fellow rookie and teammate, Lou Gehrig, Hendrick spent most of that season sitting on the Yankee bench. Fortunately for him, however, New York dominated the AL Pennant race that year, beating second place Detroit by a full 16 games. That permitted Huggins to rest his starters the whole final month of his season. That meant lots of playing time for Hendrick and he made the most of it, raising his average by 40 points and hitting all three of his rookie season home runs that September. His strong finish helped convince Huggins to keep the rookie outfielder on the Yanks’ postseason roster. Hendrick made his one and only career World Series appearance in the eighth inning of that Series’ first game as a pinch hitter for Yankee shortstop Everett Scott, flying out to center off of Giants’ reliever Rosey Ryan. He did end up winning a coveted ring.
He spent one more season in New York in 1924, playing about as much and performing about as well as he did the year before. The Yanks released him after that second season and he ended up with the Indians in 1925 and back in the minors in ’26. He got his break in 1927 when he became an often-used utility player for a pretty bad Brooklyn Robins team. For the next three seasons he averaged 120 games played and over 400 at bats playing some outfield, some third base and some first base for Brooklyn. He averaged over .300 in each of those seasons including a career high .354 in 1929.
The Robins traded Hendrick to Cincinnati at the start of the 1931 regular season and he would later also play for the Cardinals and Phillies before his big league career ended in 1936. Evidently, Hendrick struggled in life after his playing days were over because in 1941 he committed suicide by shooting himself in his Covington, Tennessee home. Other former Yankees who have taken their own lives include; Dan McGann, Jake Powell, Hugh Casey and most recently, Hideki Irabu.
|BRO (5 yrs)||433||1604||1435||236||456||68||28||34||219||61||129||113||.318||.378||.475||.853|
|CIN (2 yrs)||231||1021||928||130||287||62||12||5||115||6||76||69||.309||.363||.418||.782|
|NYY (2 yrs)||77||149||142||16||38||3||1||4||23||4||4||15||.268||.293||.387||.680|
|PHI (1 yr)||59||127||116||12||34||8||0||0||19||0||9||15||.293||.344||.362||.706|
|STL (1 yr)||28||77||72||8||18||2||0||1||5||0||5||9||.250||.299||.319||.618|
|CHC (1 yr)||69||208||189||30||55||13||3||4||23||4||13||17||.291||.346||.455||.801|
|CLE (1 yr)||25||33||28||2||8||1||2||0||9||0||3||5||.286||.355||.464||.819|