My wife dragged me to a performance of Les Miserables at Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady, NY several years ago. I was not a fan of the place because the seats were built for munchkins and there was absolutely no way for a person my size to get comfortable. Plus if you’re familiar with the epic play about the French Revolution, you know I was not in for a night of excitement and laughs.
Sure enough, as soon as the curtain opened I started fidgeting and with my knees crammed against the seat in front of me, both of my legs quickly went to sleep. I was just about to close my eyes and force myself into a numbing nap when I heard my wife whisper, “That’s that Yankee pitcher’s son singing.” I opened up my program and sure enough, one of the lead characters was Tommy John’s boy. I think it was Travis and he had an absolutely amazing voice.
In spite of this connection to my all-time favorite baseball team, my legs were getting prickly, the lady next to me was pushing my arm off the armrest and I spent the rest of the evening in a painful agony. I remember how good it felt when the final curtain came down and we were able to get up and start walking toward the theater’s exit. As we crawled along with the large crowd approaching the door leading outside, I noticed a man leaning against the wall in the corner nearest me. As I passed him I smiled and told him that his son had a wonderful voice. Tommy John smiled and mouthed back the words “Thank you.”
I liked Tommy John when he pitched for the Yankees but I liked him even more when I saw him that night at Proctor’s Theater. After all, John is 6’3″ tall just like me so I know his legs were sore too. I knew then and there that in addition to being a great pitcher, Tommy was also a good father.
John may be most famous for the surgery (ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction) named after him but he was a pretty good Yankee pitcher too. He had two twenty-victory seasons with New York during his first stay in the Bronx and then went 13-6 for them as a 44-year old in 1987. One of the things that most surprised me when I was doing research for this post was finding out that Tommy won more games as a Yankee (91) than he did for the Dodgers (87) or White Sox (82.) As of right now, those 91 wins place him in the 20th spot on the Yankees’ all-time career wins list. He has more wins as a Yankee than Roger Clemens (83), Bob Turley, David Wells (68) or Catfish Hunter (64) were ever able to achieve in pinstripes.
John was born in Terre Haute, Indiana on May 22, 1943, the only member of the Yankee all-time roster to be born on today’s date. I was also surprised to find out that there were not too many former Yankee all-star-level players born in Indiana. The best of the Hoosier-born Yankees were Don Mattingly, Don Larsen and John.
|NYY (8 yrs)||91||60||.603||3.59||214||203||7||53||12||0||1367.0||1456||621||545||80||324||483||1.302|
|CHW (7 yrs)||82||80||.506||2.95||237||219||5||56||21||3||1493.1||1362||573||490||99||460||888||1.220|
|LAD (6 yrs)||87||42||.674||2.97||182||174||6||37||11||1||1198.0||1169||460||396||64||296||649||1.223|
|CAL (4 yrs)||24||32||.429||4.40||85||76||3||14||1||0||489.1||610||263||239||42||125||143||1.502|
|CLE (2 yrs)||2||11||.154||3.61||31||17||1||2||1||0||114.2||120||63||46||11||41||74||1.404|
|OAK (1 yr)||2||6||.250||6.19||11||11||0||0||0||0||48.0||66||37||33||6||13||8||1.646|
Drafted by the Mets initially in 1979, Terrell did not sign. The Rangers drafted him the following season, signed him and then bundled him with Ron Darling in a trade for Met fan favorite Lee Mazzilli. Terrell went 19-23 during his three seasons at Shea. In 1984, the Amazins dealt the right-hander to Detroit for Howard Johnson, a transaction that worked out well for both teams. Terrell thrived in the Motor City winning 47 games during the next three seasons. When he slumped to 7-16 in 1988, Detroit traded him to San Diego where he got off to a horrible start during the 1989 season and was just 5-13 by the end of June. That’s when the Yankees swapped their slumping third baseman, Mike Pagliarullo for Terrell and Walt ended the year by winning six of eleven decisions for the Bombers. The Yankees let him walk after that one half-season and he signed with the Pirates. He eventually returned to Detroit where he retired after the 1992 season with 111 victories during his eleven-year big league career.
Only one player in big league history has made the All Star team playing for both Detroit and New York and that’s “the Boomer” David Wells. Here’s my line up of the best players to wear the uniforms of both the Yankees and Tigers during their playing careers:
c – Ivan Rodriguez
1b – Cecil Fielder
2b – Billy Martin
3b – Aurelio Rodriguez
ss – Tom Tresh
of – Rocky Colavito
of – Curtis Granderson
of – Steve Kemp
dh – Gary Sheffield
p – Jeff Weaver
p – David Wells
p – Virgil Trucks
p – Doyle Alexander
cl – Duke Maas
mgr – Ralph Houk
|DET (7 yrs)||79||76||.510||4.26||216||190||9||44||9||0||1328.0||1379||687||629||126||516||621||1.427|
|NYM (3 yrs)||19||23||.452||3.53||57||56||1||7||3||0||369.2||377||168||145||25||149||181||1.423|
|PIT (1 yr)||2||7||.222||5.88||16||16||0||0||0||0||82.2||98||59||54||13||33||34||1.585|
|SDP (1 yr)||5||13||.278||4.01||19||19||0||4||1||0||123.1||134||65||55||14||26||63||1.297|
|NYY (1 yr)||6||5||.545||5.20||13||13||0||1||1||0||83.0||102||52||48||9||24||30||1.518|
In the late sixties it looked as if this southpaw would follow fellow Yankee pitching prospects Stan Bahnsen and Fritz Petersen to a slot in the Yankees improving starting rotation. Cumberland had won 10 games for the Yankee’s Syracuse triple A team in 1968 and then 12 more the following season. Six of those 22 wins had been complete game shutouts and the youngster was in the process of developing an outstanding change-up. But the native of Westbrook, Maine couldn’t match the success he had pitching in Syracuse when he got to the Bronx. After eighteen appearances in pinstripes between 1968 and 1970, during which he compiled a 3-4 record, Cumberland was traded to the Giants for former 20-game winner, Mike McCormick, in July of the 1970 season. He then went 9-6 as a starter for San Francisco in 1971 but fell apart the following season. Meanwhile, by the time the Yankees got McCormick, he had nothing left in his left arm. He would win his only two Yankee decisions after the trade, but his ERA pitching for his new team was north of six runs per game. He was released at the end of New York’s 1971 spring training season.
Cumberland hung on in the big leagues until 1972 and then returned to the minors and pitched a couple of more seasons before hanging his glove up for good. He eventually got into coaching. In 2001, Red Sox GM Dan Duquette fired Manager Jimy Williams during the second half of the season and replaced him with the team’s pitching coach, Jim Kerrigan. The new skipper then brought in Cumberland as his new pitching coach. A few weeks later, the Red Sox went on an eight-game losing streak with the last three “L’s” coming against the hated Yankees. Since Duquette couldn’t fire Kerrigan after just signing him to a two-year contract, he fired Cumberland instead.
Cumberland shares his May 10th birthday with this legendary Yankee front office executive.
|SFG (3 yrs)||11||10||.524||3.46||61||27||10||5||2||2||221.0||197||98||85||28||66||79||1.190|
|NYY (3 yrs)||3||4||.429||4.11||18||8||7||1||0||0||70.0||68||37||32||10||20||39||1.257|
|STL (1 yr)||1||1||.500||6.65||14||1||3||0||0||0||21.2||23||17||16||6||7||7||1.385|
|CAL (1 yr)||0||1||.000||3.74||17||0||9||0||0||0||21.2||24||9||9||2||10||12||1.569|
This guy will forever be best known as the pitcher who gave up Babe Ruth’s sixtieth home run during the 1927 season. That happened when Zachary was wearing the uniform of the Washington Senators. The left-hander had been originally signed by Washington but had made his big league debut in 1919 as a member of Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s pitching staff. The Senators got him back in a trade the following year and Zachary evolved into one of the AL’s upper tier southpaws, winning in double digits for six straight seasons. His best year had been 1924, when his 15-9 record helped the Senators win the Pennant. He then beat the Giants twice in that season’s World Series.
In August of 1928, the Yankees picked him up off waivers. He went 3-3 during the rest of that season. Yankee skipper, Miller Huggins, most likely remembering Zachary’s 1924 postseason success, got a hunch to start him against the Cardinals in Game 3 of the 1928 World Series. That hunch paid off when the Graham, NC native responded with a complete game victory.
In 1929, Zachary went a perfect 12-0, but that performance was overshadowed by the tragic death of Huggins and the Yankee’s failure to defend their AL Pennant. After getting off to a slow start during the 1930 season, the Yankees placed the then-34-year-old pitcher on waivers and he was picked up by the Braves. He ended up pitching six more years of big league baseball, retiring after the 1936 season with a 186-191 lifetime record.
|WSH (9 yrs)||96||103||.482||3.78||273||210||45||93||10||8||1589.0||1822||803||668||54||460||327||26||1.436|
|BSN (5 yrs)||42||42||.500||3.48||120||98||11||46||8||4||741.1||827||333||287||24||201||214||3||1.387|
|BRO (3 yrs)||12||18||.400||3.98||48||33||12||13||1||6||260.0||317||131||115||15||57||61||4||1.438|
|NYY (3 yrs)||16||4||.800||3.21||36||20||10||10||2||3||182.0||203||85||65||5||54||43||2||1.412|
|SLB (2 yrs)||18||21||.462||3.79||47||43||4||24||3||0||325.2||374||174||137||18||124||66||6||1.529|
|PHI (1 yr)||0||3||.000||7.97||7||2||2||0||0||1||20.1||28||20||18||2||11||8||0||1.918|
|PHA (1 yr)||2||0||1.000||5.63||2||2||0||0||0||0||8.0||9||5||5||0||7||1||0||2.000|
Ray Caldwell was one of the most interesting Yankees to ever play the game. Born on this date in 1888, in a northwestern Pennsylvania town that now lies under water, Caldwell was working as a telegrapher, when he received an offer to pitch for a C-level minor league ball club in McKeesport, PA. He won 18 games for that team in his professional debut and the next year he was pitching for the New York Yankees.
According to baseball historians, this guy was one of the biggest playboys in the history of the game and one of its heaviest drinkers too. He was also a brilliant pitcher, so good that Washington Senator manager Cal Griffith once offered the Yankees the great Walter Johnson for Caldwell even up.
A tall, slender right-hander, his best seasons for New York were 1914, when he went 18-9 with a 1.94 ERA and the following year, when he won a career high 19 games. He also happened to be one of baseball’s best hitting pitchers and frequently played the outfield on days he wasn’t on the mound.
But whenever it looked as if Caldwell was about to achieve greatness, he went on one of his hard-partying binges, often leaving the ball club for days on end and then suddenly reappearing to accept whatever punishment was thrown at him. His erratic behavior drove all his Yankee managers crazy, especially Frank Chance, who levied close to a thousand dollars worth of fines against his care-free pitcher during the 1914 season. When Caldwell was openly considering jumping to the upstart Federal League, however, Yankee owner Frank Farrell forgave the fines, causing Chance to quit.
When Miller Huggins took over the Yankees, he tried hiring detectives to keep tabs on Caldwell but the pitcher learned how to lose them. Tired of the nonsense, Huggins traded him to the Red Sox after the 1918 season. After half a year with Boston he was dealt to Cleveland, where he had a temporary but glorious rebirth. During the next season and a half he went 25-11 for the Indians and helped get them to the 1920 World Series, which the Tribe won in seven games. After slumping to 6-6 the following year, Caldwell’s big league days were over, but not his pitching career. Somehow, this guy pitched in the minors for 11 more seasons, finally hanging his glove up for good, in 1933, at the age of 45.
As you might expect, Caldwell’s private life was also pretty chaotic. He got married four times and held all kinds of jobs. He lived to be 79 years old, passing away in 1967.
|NYY (9 yrs)||96||99||.492||3.00||248||196||42||150||17||4||1718.1||1519||684||572||41||576||803||1.219|
|CLE (3 yrs)||31||17||.646||3.95||77||51||18||28||3||4||437.1||478||239||192||17||131||180||1.393|
|BOS (1 yr)||7||4||.636||3.96||18||12||5||6||1||0||86.1||92||49||38||1||31||23||1.425|
The last name of today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant is Ford. He was a two-time twenty game winner as a starter for the Yankee franchise and he was famous for scuffing the baseball with a tiny piece of sandpaper. He admitted to that doctoring after his playing days were over. What was this pitcher’s first name?
You’re wrong if you guessed Whitey. You’re also wrong if you guessed Edward, which was the real first name of one-time Yankee ace Whitey Ford. Whitey was also a two-time twenty-game winner for New York and after he retired in 1967, he also admitted to doctoring the baseball with a small strip of sandpaper attached to his wedding ring. But Whitey Ford wasn’t born on April 25th.
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant is instead, “Russ” Ford, who was born in Canada on April 25, 1883. He was a right handed pitcher for the New York Highlanders from 1909 until he jumped to the Federal League in 1914. This Ford won 26 games for New York in 1910 and then 22 the following year. According to his New York Times obituary, he invented the “Emory ball” by accident when one of his warm up pitches went flying by the catcher and bounced off a grating. When he got that ball back in his glove, he noticed a scuff mark. He then noticed that every pitch he threw with that scuffed baseball moved much more sharply than even his spitball did. That’s when Ford began concealing and carrying sandpaper with him to the mound.
After his two straight 20-win seasons, Ford lost 21 games for the 1912 Highlanders and then went 12-18 for the 1913 team that by then had officially changed its name to the New York Yankees. Those two bad years helped make Ford’s jump to the upstart Federal League in 1914 much easier for the Yankees to swallow. In fact, when AL President Ban Johnson offered to go to court to protect the Yankee’s contractual rights to the pitcher, Frank Chance, the New York Manager at the time told Johnson not to even bother.
|NYY (5 yrs)||73||56||.566||2.54||143||129||14||100||10||3||1112.2||1010||458||314||27||287||553||1.166|
|BUF (2 yrs)||26||15||.634||2.74||56||41||14||26||5||6||374.2||330||137||114||18||89||157||1.118|
After a solid nine-year career with the Blue Jays, this left-hander was signed as a free agent by New York after the 1992 season to become the ace of the Yankee rotation. For the next two years, Key was exactly that, winning
thirty five games and losing just ten. He got beat out for the AL Cy Young Award during the strike-shortened 1994 season by future Yankee teammate, David Cone. A rotator cuff injury then wiped out his 1995 season. He had an ok 12-11 record in 1996 but then got the opportunity to win the sixth and final game of that year’s World Series against Atlanta in his final performance in pinstripes.
I remember thinking the Yankees had gone crazy after that Fall Classic, when they let both Key and the Series MVP, closer John Wetteland, sign with other teams. Key signed a nice deal with the Orioles but he really wanted to stay in New York. Turns out that rotator cuff injury that sidelined him in ’95 was enough to convince the New York front office they couldn’t match Baltimore’s guarantee of a second year. Key pitched well for the Birds in 1997, going 16-10 but when he fell off to 6-3 the following season he decided to call it quits, doing so with a 186-117 lifetime record.
The retired southpaw made Big Apple back page headlines again during the 1999 preseason when the Yankees approached him about coming out of retirement to pitch in their bullpen. Key had made his big league debut as a closer for the Blue Jays back in 1984, saving ten games in his rookie season. The native of Hunstville, AL quickly threw cold water over the comeback rumors when he insisted he was done with baseball for good.
Key shares his April 22nd birthday with this one-time New York Highlander shortstop.
|TOR (9 yrs)||116||81||.589||3.42||317||250||24||28||10||10||1695.2||1624||710||645||165||404||944||1.196|
|NYY (4 yrs)||48||23||.676||3.68||94||94||0||5||2||0||604.1||607||265||247||60||159||400||1.268|
|BAL (2 yrs)||22||13||.629||3.64||59||45||4||1||1||0||291.2||287||129||118||29||105||194||1.344|