Tagged: september 22

September 22 – Happy Birthday Urban Shocker

This Cleveland, Ohio native started his big league pitching career as a Yankee in 1916 and pitched well enough to go 12-8 with a 2.62 ERA over the course of his first two seasons. At Manager Miller Huggins’ urging, New York than included the right-hander in a package of players they sent to the Browns in January of 1918 for second baseman Del Pratt and Hall of Fame hurler, Eddie Plank. At the time the deal was made Plank was at the end of his career and he never pitched a game for the Yankees. Pratt gave New York three decent seasons but it was Shocker who proved to be the gem in that transaction. He became a four-time twenty game winner for the Browns that included a league-leading 27 victories in 1921. He also became a thorn in Huggins side as a Yankee killer who was particularly effective against the great Babe Ruth. Seven years after he left New York, again at Huggins urging, the Yankees got him back and Urban finished his big league career in pinstripes. What no one knew at the time of his return except Shocker and a few of his close friends was that the pitcher was slowly dying of heart disease. So when he won 49 games during his three-plus season return tour of duty in the Big Apple, it was in fact a super-human effort, that included a 19-11 record in 1926 and an 18-6 record for the Murderer’s Row team of 1927.

He was too weak to make it to the Yankees 1928 spring training and when he did rejoin the club, he collapsed while pitching batting practice in Chicago. By September of that same year, Shocker was dead at the age of just 38 years old. His lifetime record was 187 and 117 and his record in pinstripes, 61-37. But that 18-6 effort when his heart was literally turning to stone during the 1927 season will forever remain one of the most remarkable achievements by a pitcher in baseball history.

Shocker wasn’t the only Yankee born on this date to enjoy consecutive twenty-win seasons as a big league pitcher. In fact, this Hall of Famer had two separate three-season streaks of twenty or more wins and enjoyed a total of seven during his 13-year career. You can find out who he is by clicking here. This former Yankee catcher was also born on September 22nd.

1916 NYY 4 3 .571 2.62 12 9 3 4 1 0 82.1 67 25 24 2 32 43 1.202
1917 NYY 8 5 .615 2.61 26 13 6 7 0 1 145.0 124 59 42 5 46 68 1.172
1925 NYY 12 12 .500 3.65 41 30 7 15 2 2 244.1 278 108 99 17 58 74 1.375
1926 NYY 19 11 .633 3.38 41 32 7 18 0 2 258.1 272 113 97 16 71 59 1.328
1927 NYY 18 6 .750 2.84 31 27 1 13 2 0 200.0 207 86 63 8 41 35 1.240
1928 NYY 0 0 0.00 1 0 1 0 0 0 2.0 3 0 0 0 0 0 1.500
13 Yrs 187 117 .615 3.17 412 317 72 200 28 25 2681.2 2709 1131 945 130 657 983 1.255
SLB (7 yrs) 126 80 .612 3.19 260 206 47 143 23 20 1749.2 1758 740 620 82 409 704 1.239
NYY (6 yrs) 61 37 .622 3.14 152 111 25 57 5 5 932.0 951 391 325 48 248 279 1.286
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/22/2013.

September 22 – Happy Birthday Bob Geren

While researching materials for this post, I came across an absolutely wonderful quote from today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. In a July 1988 interview he did with then Times reporter (and present-day YES Network analyst) Jack Curry, Bob Geren was asked why he had endured over 800 games as a Minor League catcher. “People who think I should quit have probably never experienced the game of baseball,” was Geren’s response. So many of us who grew up playing different versions of America’s favorite pastime; in playgrounds and parks; off the steps of front porches and against solid brick walls; from the time we became strong enough to hold and swing a bat until our knees gave out in our final game of softball; we all would have instantly switched places with Geren on that day.

He had just been named the International League’s All Star catcher for the ’88 season and earlier that same year, he had gotten to play in his first big league game for the New York Yankees. The following year, Geren got called up from Columbus in May and pretty much shared the Yankees’ catching position the rest of that season, hitting a solid .288 and impressing the Yankee brass with his handling of the Yankee pitching staff and his strong throwing arm. But if you’re old enough to remember that 1989 Yankee season than you know it wasn’t too hard to stand out on that team. That was the first Yankee squad to finish below .500 in a regular season in fifteen years. Neither Dallas Green or his late-season predecessor, Bucky Dent could right the ship and George Steinbrenner was far too immersed in the aftereffects of his Dave Winfield/Howie Spira embarrassment to offer any help from ownership.

The following April, Geren joined illustrious company like Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Ellie Howard and Thurman Munson when he was named the Yankees’ Opening Day starting catcher for the 1990 season. Unfortunately for the native of San Diego, that’s where the comparisons to these pinstriped legends ended. Not only did the Yankees finish in last place for the first time in 23 years, Geren’s batting average plummeted to .211 and not a single Yankee starting pitcher won more than nine games that season or had an ERA of less than 4.11. It was a complete shipwreck of a season for the once proud franchise and a quick end to Geren’s tenure as New York’s starting backstop. The following year, New York brought in Matt Nokes from Detroit and Geren was once again relegated to back-up duty. But in addition to losing the starting job, Geren also confirmed he had lost his ability to hit big-league pitching when his 1991 season’s batting average came in at just .219. That November, the Yankees put the then 30-year-old catcher on waivers.

Geren would resurface as the Padres backup receiver in 1993 but he again failed to hit and his big league playing career ended that season. He became a minor league coach and manager. In 2007, he was hired to manage the Oakland A’s. Finally, in 2010, a Major League team that Bob Geren either played for or managed, ended a regular season without a losing record when that year’s A’s finished at 81-81. After Oakland got off to a slow start in 2011, Geren was fired and replaced by Bob Melvin.

He shares his birthday with this former Yankee skipper and this long-ago Yankee starting pitcher.

1988 NYY 10 12 10 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 3 .100 .250 .100 .350
1989 NYY 65 225 205 26 59 5 1 9 27 0 12 44 .288 .329 .454 .782
1990 NYY 110 303 277 21 59 7 0 8 31 0 13 73 .213 .259 .325 .584
1991 NYY 64 140 128 7 28 3 0 2 12 0 9 31 .219 .270 .289 .559
5 Yrs 307 842 765 62 178 21 1 22 76 0 49 179 .233 .283 .349 .632
NYY (4 yrs) 249 680 620 54 147 15 1 19 70 0 36 151 .237 .284 .356 .641
SDP (1 yr) 58 162 145 8 31 6 0 3 6 0 13 28 .214 .278 .317 .596
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/22/2013.

September 22 – Happy Birthday Bob Lemon

Only eight men in baseball history have accomplished what Bob Lemon did in 1978, which is managing a New York Yankee team to a World Series Championship. Only five of those former Yankee skippers are now in Baseball’s Hall of Fame and Bob Lemon is one of them. Unlike fellow Hall of Famer’s Miller Huggins, Joe McCarthy, Bucky Harris and Casey Stengel, however, Bob Lemon got into Cooperstown for his pitching accomplishments and not his managing career.

Born in San Bernardino, CA on September 22, 1922, Lemon was one of the best starting pitchers in baseball from 1947 through 1956. During that span he compiled seven 20-victory seasons and a won-loss record of 197-111 for the Cleveland Indians. He started his managing career in the minors in Hawaii, in 1964 and got his first big league skipper assignment with the Royals in 1970. That lasted for two and a half seasons. Bill Veeck then hired him to manage the White Sox in 1977 and Lemon led the team to a 90-72 record. His Windy City success was short-lived, however and when the Sox got off to a 34-40 start the following year, the guy everyone called “Meat” was fired.

The timing couldn’t have been any better. Billy Martin was then feuding with Yankee superstar, Reggie Jackson and drinking heavily. Between the booze, the constant probing of the Big Apple sports media and the pressure of working for George Steinbrenner, Martin seemed to be on the verge of suffering a nervous breakdown. Lemon’s old Cleveland Indian teammate, Al Rosen, was then working for Steinbrenner as Yankee President and the Boss had grown up in Cleveland and loved hiring ex-Indian stars. When Martin made his famous “One’s a born liar and the other’s a convicted one.” charge, Rosen called Lemon and asked him to take over the Yankees. At the time, New York’s record was a decent 52-42 but they were fourteen games behind the wickedly hot Red Sox.

Lemon employed the exact opposite managing style of the mercurial Martin. He pretty much made out a lineup card and then sat back in the dugout and watched his players play. The Yankee team responded to his almost grandfatherly approach by winning 48 of their next sixty-eight games including the legendary playoff game at Fenway and went on to win their second straight World Series that year. Author Maury Allen wrote in his book “All Roads Lead to October,” that Neville Chamberlain would have loved Lemon because he “brought peace in our time” to the Yankee clubhouse. Never-the-less, afraid of a fan backlash for his removal of the popular Martin, Steinbrenner had already orchestrated the now-famous announcement during the 1978 Yankee Old Timer’s Day that Lemon would be promoted to the GM position after the 1979 season and Billy Martin would again be Yankee manager.

That winter, Lemon’s youngest son was killed in automobile accident. Al Rosen claimed the tragedy took the life out of his old teammate. Lemon started drinking heavily and didn’t seem focused when he returned to manage the Yankees in 1979. When New York got off to a lackluster 34-31 start that season, Steinbrenner fast forwarded the return of Martin and the Yankee managerial position became a game of musical chairs that would continue for the next fifteen years. Lemon would get one more shot at Skippering the Yankees in 1981, replacing Gene Michael with just 25 games remaining in that crazy, strike shortened, split-in-two-parts season.. The Yankees made it to the World Series but they lost to the Dodgers in six games. Lemon’s second tenure as Yankee field boss ended 14 games into the 1982 season when he was replaced by Gene Michael and the game of musical chairs continued. Lemon passed away in January of 2000 at the age of 79.

He shares his September 22nd birthday with this former Yankee pitcher and this former Yankee catcher.

Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
6 1978 57 New York Yankees AL 3rd of 3 68 48 20 .706 1 WS Champs
7 1979 58 New York Yankees AL 1st of 2 65 34 31 .523 4
8 1981 60 New York Yankees AL 2nd of 2 25 11 14 .440 6 AL Pennant Second half of season
9 1982 61 New York Yankees AL 1st of 3 14 6 8 .429 5
Kansas City Royals 3 years 425 207 218 .487 3.3
Chicago White Sox 2 years 236 124 112 .525 4.0
New York Yankees 4 years 172 99 73 .576 4.0 2 Pennants and 1 World Series Title
8 years 833 430 403 .516 3.8 2 Pennants and 1 World Series Title
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/22/2013.