Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Blog celebrant is the New York Yankee outfielder, Roger Maris, born in Hibbing Minnesota, in 1934. I can say without a doubt that the home run race between Maris and his teammate Mickey Mantle during the 1961 season is the reason I am such a huge Yankee fan today. Their competition to break Ruth’s single season home run record dominated the sports pages and back then, when their were only three TV stations on the air, even network news anchors like Walter Cronkite and NBC’s Huntley & Brinkley would report how many home runs each of the M&M boys currently had. It seemed as if everyone everywhere was focused on the exploits of this dynamic duo and of course you had to choose sides.
Most of us wanted Mantle to be the one. The Mick had been a Yankee all his career and he was the epitome of a slugger. Every time he swung his bat from either side of the plate he swung as hard as he possibly could and many of his home runs would travel epic distances. 1961 was only Roger’s second season in pinstripes. He had a very smooth and graceful left-handed swing that was perfectly suited for Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch. Up until they became teammates, Mantle had a pretty lousy public demeanor and nobody paid any attention to Maris. When Roger came to New York from Kansas City and started challenging Mantle for MVP Awards and home run titles, New York’s rabid baseball press had someone else to assault in the Yankee locker room and while he helped get reporters off of Mickey’s back, Maris simply hated all of the superfluous attention. All of a sudden, the title of “toughest interview in the Yankee locker room” was passed from Mantle to Maris and Mickey’s public image got a huge boost as a result.
Another reason I probably rooted for Mickey back then was that my older brother was rooting for Maris. At the time, Big J was my tormentor. This is the guy who when he wasn’t performing what were supposed to be fake pro wrestling maneuvers on me would poke darts through the eyeballs of my collection of 5″ x 8″ glossy photos of the Yankee players. For quite a while, he was the owner of our family’s only transistor radio and when I would sit next to him on the front porch so I could listen to a radio broadcast of the Yankee game, he’d plug-in the earplug and stick the sounds of my favorite team inside his ear. So if Big J liked Maris back then it was all the more reason for me to root for Mantle.
That season-long home run derby remains one of the greatest events in both Yankee and Major League Baseball history. But as all Yankee fans have since learned, Maris was much more than home runs. He was an outstanding defensive outfielder with a shotgun arm. He was an incredibly good base runner and he could do all of the little things both at bat and in the field that helped produce and prevent runs. He appeared in seven World Series and had three championship rings when he retired after the 1968 season.
With the steroid controversy that consumed the achievements of Mark McGuire and Barry Bonds, respect and admiration have grown for Maris in recent years. He was a small town boy who unlike Mantle could never be comfortable with a celebrity’s life in the Big Apple. Maris died in 1985 after a two-year struggle with cancer.
Maris shares his September 10th birthday with another Yankee superstar trade acquisition who could never warm up to the big Apple press. This former Yankee utility infielder was also born on September 10th.
|NYY (7 yrs)||850||3475||3007||520||797||110||17||203||547||7||413||417||.265||.356||.515||.872|
|STL (2 yrs)||225||812||720||89||186||36||9||14||100||0||76||99||.258||.330||.392||.721|
|KCA (2 yrs)||221||934||834||130||217||35||10||35||125||2||86||105||.260||.331||.452||.783|
|CLE (2 yrs)||167||626||540||87||125||14||6||23||78||12||77||112||.231||.326||.407||.733|
After the Yankees gave up a three-game lead and lost the ALCS to the Red Sox in 2004, New York’s front office made the decision to go and get Randy Johnson from the Diamondbacks. The Big Unit’s former Arizona pitching partner, Curt Schilling had just helped Boston win their first World Championship in almost a century and Brian Cashman decided the Yankees needed to add a dominant number 1 starter to compete with their arch-rivals in the AL East.
Johnson had certainly been a dominant number 1 guy with both Seattle and the Diamondbacks during most of his career, winning five Cy Young’s including four straight with Arizona. But by the time he got to the Bronx, he was already 41-years-old and battling a chronically sore back. He was good enough to win 17 games in each of his two regular seasons in pinstripes, but he pitched poorly in the postseason as the Yankees got bounced from the playoffs in the first round in both 2005 and ’06. Few Yankee fans shed any tears when the often ornery left-hander was traded back to Arizona in January of 2007. Johnson finally retired in 2009 with 303 lifetime victories and 4,135 strikeouts during a 22-year career that got him elected to the Hall of Fame on his first attempt, in 2015.
Johnson’s career in New York got off to a rough start public relations wise when the 6’10” pitcher allegedly shoved a reporter who got too close to him on a Manhattan street. Forty-four years earlier, another Yankee star who celebrates his birthday on this same date had also struggled with his relationship with the very tough Big Apple sports press. You’ll find his PBB post here. This former Yankee utility infielder was also born on September 10th.
|SEA (10 yrs)||130||74||.637||3.42||274||266||3||51||19||2||1838.1||1414||782||698||160||884||2162||1.250|
|ARI (8 yrs)||118||62||.656||2.83||233||232||1||38||14||0||1630.1||1325||594||513||163||416||2077||1.068|
|MON (2 yrs)||3||4||.429||4.69||11||10||1||1||0||0||55.2||52||33||29||5||33||51||1.527|
|NYY (2 yrs)||34||19||.642||4.37||67||67||0||6||0||0||430.2||401||227||209||60||107||383||1.180|
|SFG (1 yr)||8||6||.571||4.88||22||17||2||0||0||0||96.0||97||55||52||19||31||86||1.333|
|HOU (1 yr)||10||1||.909||1.28||11||11||0||4||4||0||84.1||57||12||12||4||26||116||0.984|
Robbie Cano has been a remarkably durable player since taking over as the New York Yankees’ starting second baseman during the 2005 season. His one serious injury occurred in his sophomore season when he developed a tear in his hamstring in June of that season and was forced onto the DL. The Yankees had Miguel Cairo to replace Cano as starter and also called up today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant from their Columbus Clippers triple A team to back up Cano.
Green got his first start in pinstripes against the Mets in early July and after walking in his first official plate appearance as a Yankee to open the third inning of that contest, he came up again later in the same inning and hit a two run home run in his first official at bat for his new team. He would end up finishing the regular season with New York, hitting .240 in 46 games, which included 19 appearances at second base, 17 at third and ten more spelling Derek Jeter at shortstop. Joe Torre did not put him on the Yankees postseason roster and though he wanted to remain a Yankee, he would not accept a return assignment to Columbus and Yankee GM Brian Cashman let him walk. He resurfaced in Boston three seasons later, where he became the Red Sox’ staring shortstop that year. But he hit just .236 in that role and was again released. Green is still trying to get steady work in the big leagues. He now plays in the Marlins’ organization.
|TBD (2 yrs)||128||420||357||57||79||15||2||5||29||3||39||97||.221||.315||.317||.631|
|MIA (2 yrs)||25||89||78||5||17||5||0||1||7||0||3||20||.218||.276||.321||.596|
|LAD (1 yr)||5||9||8||0||1||0||0||0||1||0||0||2||.125||.222||.125||.347|
|SEA (1 yr)||6||7||7||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||3||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|NYY (1 yr)||46||82||75||8||18||5||0||2||4||1||5||29||.240||.296||.387||.683|
|ATL (1 yr)||95||290||264||40||72||15||3||3||26||1||12||63||.273||.312||.386||.698|
|TOR (1 yr)||9||14||13||2||2||0||0||0||1||0||1||3||.154||.214||.154||.368|
|BOS (1 yr)||104||309||276||35||65||18||0||6||35||1||20||69||.236||.303||.366||.669|