Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant is the only one of the “Three Killer B’s” who originally received lots of media attention during the Yankees’ 2011 spring training season, to actually begin paying dividends for the parent club. His name is Dellin Betances, and he was born on March 23, 1988, in the Washington Heights section of New York City. He grew up a Yankee fan and the Bronx Bombers selected him in the eighth round of the 2006 draft and then gave him a million dollar contract to dissuade him from accepting a college scholarship to pitch for Vanderbilt University.
An imposing figure on the mound, Betances is 6’8″ tall and throws a fastball that clocks just a shade under 100 mph. His path to the big leagues was obstructed by elbow surgery in 2009. He did appear in his first two big league games for New York during the 2011 season but after he failed to make Joe Girardi’s Yankee staff in either 2012 or 2013, I for one thought his promise was more hype than anything else. It now looks as if I may have been dead wrong and I certainly hope I was. Betances had a terrific 2014 spring training season and has continued his close-to-dominating relief performances through the first two weeks of the regular season. He is the third member of the All-Time Yankee roster to be born on March 23rd, joining this former first baseman and this one-time catcher.
Lidle’s Yankee career began with promise, quickly grew muddled in controversy and ended in shocking tragedy. He came to New York in the Bobby Abreu trade from Philly during the 2006 season. He won his first Yankee start against Toronto and then beat Boston for his second win and I remember at that point liking what I was seeing from this right-hander. He ended up going 4-3 in his nine Yankee starts that year but then got shelled by Detroit in the ALDS-clinching Game 4 loss to Detroit. He was then quoted as saying the Tigers were more ready to play that postseason series than the Yankees, which did not sit well with Yankee fans or his Yankee teammates. It also brought back memories of the derogatory comments Lidle had made about his Philadelphia teammates after getting traded to New York and caused me to conclude that this guy maybe had a screw loose. But then he flew that plane into a New York City apartment building and suddenly those controversial comments meant nothing at all. Lidle was 34 years old when that crash took place and he left behind a wife and young son.
This former Yankee relief pitcher and bullpen coach, this one-time Yankee home-run machine and this one-time Yankee catcher were also born on March 22.
|PHI (3 yrs)||26||20||.565||4.50||62||62||0||3||2||0||372.1||396||207||186||40||96||252||1.321|
|TBD (2 yrs)||5||6||.455||5.13||36||12||6||0||0||0||101.2||122||65||58||13||31||66||1.505|
|OAK (2 yrs)||21||16||.568||3.74||60||59||0||3||2||0||380.0||361||174||158||40||86||229||1.176|
|NYM (1 yr)||7||2||.778||3.53||54||2||20||0||0||2||81.2||86||38||32||7||20||54||1.298|
|CIN (1 yr)||7||10||.412||5.32||24||24||0||3||1||0||149.0||170||95||88||24||44||93||1.436|
|NYY (1 yr)||4||3||.571||5.16||10||9||0||0||0||0||45.1||49||26||26||11||19||32||1.500|
|TOR (1 yr)||12||15||.444||5.75||31||31||0||2||0||0||192.2||216||133||123||24||60||112||1.433|
I remember thinking when I first watched him pitch that Brian Fisher would be a good Yankee starter for a number of years. That was back in 1986 and the Yankees had missed the playoffs for five consecutive seasons at that point, mostly because they lacked good starting pitching. Ron Guidry had just turned 35 years old and his best days were behind him. Dennis Rasmussen had come from nowhere to lead that ’86 Yankee staff with 18 wins but I thought the team’s future rested on the arms of young studs like Fisher, Doug Drabek and Bob Tewksbury. George Steinbrenner didn’t agree with me. After the 86 season, when Fisher went 9-6 out of the Yankee bullpen, this big right hander and Drabek were sent to the Pirates for veteran starter Rick Rhoden and Tewksbury was dealt to the Cubs for Steve Trout. Of the three, Fisher had the best year in 1987, going 11-9 for Pittsburgh but both Tewksbury and especially Drabek went on to even better big league careers. Fisher was out of baseball by 1992. He’s one of only two Yankee players to be born in Hawaii. Can you name the other? It was a utility infielder named Lenny Sakata.
Lot’s of very good pitchers but not so many great position players have worn the uniforms of both the Yankees and Pirates during their big league careers. Here’s my all-time lineup of Yankee/Pirates:
1b Dale Long
2b Willie Randolph
3b Tim Foli
ss Gene Michael
c Russell Martin
of Matty Alou
of Omar Moreno
of Xavier Nady
dh Mike Easler
sp Jack Chesbro
sp Waite Hoyt
sp Doug Drabek
sp John Candelaria
p Rick Rhoden
p Doc Medich
p Dock Ellis
p AJ Burnett
cl Goose Gossage
cl Luis Arroyo
mgr Casey Stengel
Here are Brian Fishers’ Yankee and career stats:
|PIT (3 yrs)||19||22||.463||4.72||79||51||7||7||4||2||348.2||367||194||183||42||139||191||1.451|
|NYY (2 yrs)||13||9||.591||3.65||117||0||49||0||0||20||195.0||182||93||79||18||66||152||1.272|
|SEA (1 yr)||4||3||.571||4.53||22||14||2||0||0||1||91.1||80||49||46||9||47||26||1.391|
|HOU (1 yr)||0||0||7.20||4||0||3||0||0||0||5.0||9||5||4||1||0||1||1.800|
Its been over 25 years since the transaction took place and it wasn’t until I did research for today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant that I finally completely understood why the Yankees traded their very solid designated hitter, Mike “the Hit Man” Easler, for the very shaky Philadelphia starting pitcher, Charles Hudson in December of 1985. I knew that Easler had demanded to be traded when he was told that Yankee manager Lou Piniella intended to platoon him at DH with Ken Griffey during the ’86 season. What I was not aware of was that the Yankees were contractually obligated to doing so within three months of the demand or Easler would have become a free agent.
So that’s why a very emphatic George Steinbrenner ordered the Yankees to send Easler, who had hit .302 for New York in 1985, to the Phillies for Hudson, who had had put together a very mediocre 32-42 record during his four years pitching in the “City of Brotherly Love.” Hudson was also a switch-hitter, which was a pretty rare attribute for a pitcher. His problem was however, he couldn’t hit very well from either side of the plate.
At first, it looked like “the Boss” was a prophet, as Hudson got off to a fast start with New York, winning his first six decisions during the 1987 season. Even though the right-handed native of Ennis, TX cooled off after that and spent some time pitching out of the Yankee bullpen, he still finished his first year in pinstripes with an 11-7 record that included two shutouts and an efficient 3.61 ERA. That win total put him in third place behind Rick Rhoden (16) and Tommy John (13) for most victories by a Yankee pitcher that year.
Unfortunately for Hudson, that would prove to be his best season in New York. In 1988, he again split his time between the starting rotation and the bullpen to finish 6-6, while his ERA jumped to 4.49. In spite of that performance, the Yankees resigned him for the ’89 season. Then just before spring training camp broke, he was dealt to the Tigers for the veteran infielder, Tom Brookens, who was a complete bust during his one season in pinstripes.
Hudson floundered in Detroit during the 1989 season and his career ended that August, after he smashed his car into a Motor City telephone pole, and destroyed his right knee. It was at that low point that Hudson admitted to having a drinking problem, which he worked hard to eliminate.
Hudson shares his March 16th birthday with “the Grandy-Man.”
|PHI (4 yrs)||32||42||.432||3.98||127||105||9||7||1||0||680.0||692||353||301||68||237||399||1.366|
|NYY (2 yrs)||17||13||.567||3.97||63||28||17||7||2||2||261.0||230||116||115||28||93||158||1.238|
|DET (1 yr)||1||5||.167||6.35||18||7||4||0||0||0||66.2||75||49||47||14||31||23||1.590|
I do remember getting pretty excited when New York acquired this veteran right-hander from the Dodgers after their 2003 World Series defeat to the Marlins. They had to give up Jeff Weaver to get him but Weaver had been unimpressive in pinstripes. New York also had to pay Brown’s salary of $15 million per year but the Yankees had the cash.
Brown’s initial season as a Yankee was filled with disappointments. First, his chronically sore back prevented him from pitching well over an extended string of starts. Next, a frustrated Brown injured his hand punching a concrete wall, angering his teammates. Finally, Brown pitched terribly in the seventh and deciding game of the disastrous 2004 ALCS against the Red Sox, sealing his reputation as a disappointment with Yankee fans. He then went 4-7 in 2005 and retired with a career record of 211-144.
|TEX (8 yrs)||78||64||.549||3.81||187||186||1||40||6||0||1278.2||1322||629||541||85||428||742||1.369|
|LAD (5 yrs)||58||32||.644||2.83||137||129||0||11||2||0||872.2||737||319||274||68||223||784||1.100|
|NYY (2 yrs)||14||13||.519||4.95||35||35||0||0||0||0||205.1||239||122||113||19||54||133||1.427|
|FLA (2 yrs)||33||19||.635||2.30||65||65||0||11||5||0||470.1||401||137||120||18||99||364||1.063|
|SDP (1 yr)||18||7||.720||2.38||36||35||0||7||3||0||257.0||225||77||68||8||49||257||1.066|
|BAL (1 yr)||10||9||.526||3.60||26||26||0||3||1||0||172.1||155||73||69||10||48||117||1.178|
Francis Joseph O’Doul began his pro baseball career as a southpaw pitcher with the New York Yankees in 1919. He failed to win or lose a game in three partial seasons with New York and then hurt his left arm, pitching for the Red Sox in 1923. He spent the next five years in the minors converting himself into an every day player. He resurfaced with the New York Giants in 1928, hitting .319 as a 31-year old second-time rookie. Unfortunately, O’Doul’s defensive skills in the outfield did not match his hitting prowess and New York traded him to Philadelphia after that season. What a mistake that turned out to be for the Giants. All O’Doul did for the Phillies in 1929 was win the NL batting title with an incredible .398 average and a league-leading 254 hits. He belted 32 home runs, drove in 122 and scored 152 times himself and finished second in that year’s MVP voting to the immortal Rogers Hornsby. O’Doul had another great year in 1930, averaging .383 but the Phillies finished 40 games out of first place. Lefty’s defense was still dreadful however, and the Phillies needed pitching so they dealt O’Doul to Brooklyn for a couple of hurlers, a replacement outfielder and some much needed cash. During O’Douls three years with Brooklyn, he averaged .340 and won his second NL batting title with a .368 average in 1932. During the 33 season, he was traded back to the Giants and got the opportunity to play in the only World Series of his career. By then he was 36-years old and losing his hitting skills. He retired the following year and went back to his native San Francisco to manage the Seals, in the Pacific Coast League.
Lefty died in 1969. He shares a birthday with this other star from the 1920s and ’30s who like O’Doul, was known by his nickname and made brief appearances as a Yankee, early in his career.
|NYG (3 yrs)||275||848||760||125||239||32||8||26||127||12||77||32||.314||.380||.480||.860|
|BRO (3 yrs)||325||1394||1266||219||431||69||20||33||186||18||113||42||.340||.399||.505||.904|
|NYY (3 yrs)||40||39||37||4||9||2||0||0||6||1||2||5||.243||.282||.297||.579|
|PHI (2 yrs)||294||1338||1166||274||456||72||13||54||219||5||139||40||.391||.460||.614||1.074|
|BOS (1 yr)||36||39||35||2||5||0||0||0||4||0||2||3||.143||.189||.143||.332|
In 1970, I remember giving a trio of young Yankee pitchers the nickname “The Three K’s.” They were Steve Kline, Mike Kekich and Ron Klimkowski. Klimkowski was a Jersey City native who was born on March 1, 1944. He grew up a passionate Yankee fan but was signed by the Red Sox out of college. He realized his boyhood dream of becoming a Yankee when he was sent to New York as part of the 1967 trade that sent Ellie Howard to Beantown. After a brief call-up to the Bronx in 1969, the right hander became a permanent part of the Yankee staff the following season. Pitching mainly out of the bullpen with an occasional start, he won 6 of 13 decisions including a complete-game three hit shutout of Detroit and posted a 2.68 ERA in 98 innings of work.
Both Kline and Kekich were first-year starters on that same staff and both matched Klimkowski’s total of six wins. I considered Kline the most talented of the three. He won 28 games in pinstripes over the next two seasons with an ERA well under three runs per game, but pitched too many innings in the process. His arm and career faded quickly and he was out of the big leagues by 1975. Kekich also became a two-time double digit winner for New York, winning ten games in both 1971 and ’72. That’s when he swapped wives with teammate Fritz Peterson, pretty much ruining his career in the process.
After the 1970 season, New York sent Klimkowski to Oakland in their trade for Felipe Alou. The A’s released him after his 2-2, 2-save performance in 1971 and he rejoined the Yankees. When he could not recover from a 1973 spring-training knee injury, he was forced to retire. Klimkowski died in November of 2009 of heart failure at the young age of 55, after seeing his beloved Yankees win their 27th World Series.
Some Klimkowski uniform trivia: Klimkowski was assigned uniform number 51 during his 1969 rookie season. In 1970, he was given number 24. He then got traded to Oakland for Felipe Alou who also wore number 24 for the Yankees. When the A’s released Klimkowski and the Yankees re-signed him for a spell, he wore uniform number 22.
In the last three days, we’ve had two Pinstripe Birthday Celebrants who were born in Jersey City (Klimkowski & Willie Banks). Over the years, more Yankees have lived in New Jersey than any other state, especially during baseball season. Oddly, there have not been that many Bronx Bombers born in the Garden State. Here’s my top five list of Jersey-born Yankees:
1. Derek Jeter – Pequannock
2. Billy Johnson – Montclair
3. Jim Bouton – Newark
4. Rick Cerone – Newark
5. Elliott Maddox – East Orange
|NYY (3 yrs)||6||10||.375||2.76||64||6||15||1||1||2||143.2||118||52||44||10||53||54||1.190|
|OAK (1 yr)||2||2||.500||3.38||26||0||11||0||0||2||45.1||37||19||17||3||23||25||1.324|