Fate shined kindly on this fourteen-year veteran when he found himself catching the final out pop-up of the 1996 World Series as the Yankee’s third baseman. New York had picked him up late that same season to serve as a late-inning defensive replacement for Wade Boggs. Hayes had also been the Yankee starting third baseman in 1992 but was left unprotected in the MLB Expansion Draft and was selected by Colorado.
After he caught the last out of the ’96 Series, he actually started more games at third for the Yankees the following season than Boggs did. But after the Indians bounced the Yankees out of postseason play in the first round of the 1997 playoffs, Charlie was traded to San Francisco and the Yankees went out and got Scott Brosius from Oakland to be their new third baseman.
Born in Hattiesburg, MS in 1965, Charlie retired after the 2001 season with 144 home runs and 1,379 career hits during his 14-season big league career.
|SFG (4 yrs)||216||683||609||72||150||17||1||18||110||5||67||106||.246||.320||.366||.686|
|PHI (4 yrs)||519||1981||1849||174||474||88||5||41||238||15||105||303||.256||.296||.376||.672|
|NYY (3 yrs)||262||1016||929||98||241||38||2||31||132||6||69||178||.259||.310||.405||.715|
|COL (2 yrs)||270||1093||996||135||297||68||6||35||148||14||79||153||.298||.352||.484||.836|
|PIT (1 yr)||128||500||459||51||114||21||2||10||62||6||36||78||.248||.301||.368||.669|
|HOU (1 yr)||31||58||50||4||10||2||0||0||4||0||7||16||.200||.293||.240||.533|
|MIL (1 yr)||121||435||370||46||93||17||0||9||46||1||57||84||.251||.348||.370||.718|
1968 was a terrible year in the history of our country and was shaping up to be a terrible year in Yankee history as well. New York had finished ninth the previous season. Joe Pepitone, the team’s best hitter was getting nuttier every year and the great Mickey Mantle was literally on his last leg.
I had two passions as a young teenager, sports and politics. When Bobby Kennedy was killed all I had left to look forward to were Yankee games so I was hoping they’d be decent that year. Almost miraculously, they were. Thanks to a starting staff featuring Mel Stottlemyre, Stan Bahnsen and Fritz Peterson and a bullpen led by Steve Hamilton and Lindy McDaniel, the Yankees could hang around most games and were pretty good at holding a lead if they were lucky enough to have one in the later innings.
The offense was another story. Pepitone imploded and Mantle continued to decline. As a team they hit just just .214 but guys like Roy White, Andy Kosco, and a 27 year-old rookie third baseman named Bobby Cox seemed to get on base and cross home plate just enough times to win more games than they lost. The bomberless Bombers finished 83-79 which to me felt like winning a pennant.
Cox of course went on to become one of the game’s all-time great managers with Atlanta. My In-laws are huge Brave fans and my Mother-in-law loves Cox. Several years ago we were with them at Disney World after the Braves had moved their spring-training operation to the resort. Early one morning, we went to the stadium to watch the Braves practice and Bobby Cox was alongside the dugout talking to someone sitting in the stands. As soon as she saw him my mother started shouting “Yoo-hoo Bobby Cox. I love you. Can I have your autograph? Can I take my picture with you?” Cox looked up feigning annoyance and held up his hand signaling he’d come over to us after he was done talking to the other person. Sure enough he did and he spent the next five minutes talking to my Mother-in-Law like he had known her all his life. I went from being a big Bobby Cox fan to being a huge Bobby Cox fan that day. Cox was voted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2014, along with former Yankee skipper, Joe Torre. It certainly is a well-deserved honor.
One of the few positive stories emanating from Yankee Stadium during the first month of the 2014 regular season was the overall on-the-field production of third baseman Yangervis Solarte. He played with a hunger you’d expect a veteran of eight minor league seasons would have but by mid-June, his cooled off bat was an indication of why those eight years had been necessary.
Yankee GM Brian Cashman then made one of his better deals by getting San Diego to give him their starting third baseman, the switch-hitting Chase Headley, in exchange for Yangervis and a minor league pitcher named Rafael De Paula. The change of scenery proved a positive for Headley, who had smacked 31 home runs and led the NL with 115 RBIs during a breakout 2012 season but had slumped badly from those highs in 2013. The 30-year-old native of Fountain, Colorado proved to be a good fielder for New York, exhibited a good clubhouse presence and his .371 on base percentage during his 58 games in pinstripes was an indication that he could also be an offensive asset in the Bronx.
It was evidently good enough for Cashman, who signed the free agent Headley to a four-year $50 million-plus deal in December of 2014. The signing also confirmed the Yanks had no intention of using Alex Rodriguez at the hot corner, when he returns from his suspension in 2015. The only other Yankee born on this day was this first baseman who played just 3 games for the 1909 Highlanders.
|SDP (8 yrs)||908||3720||3286||398||873||186||13||87||401||73||377||844||.266||.346||.410||.756|
|NYY (1 yr)||58||224||191||28||50||8||0||6||17||3||29||49||.262||.371||.398||.768|
Today’s birthday celebrant was the first starting third baseman in Yankee franchise history. His name was William Edward Conroy but he was better known to everyone as Wid. He was born In Philadelphia on April 5, 1877. After the 1902 season, he jumped from the National League’s pennant winning Pittsburgh Pirates to the new AL franchise in the Big Apple which was then known as the Highlanders. On Opening Day of the 1903 season, he batted sixth in the Highlander’s first ever lineup. During his six seasons playing for New York, Conroy was one of the teams better offensive players. He had decent power, leading New York in home runs with 4 during the 1906 season. He was also a good base runner and gifted base stealer. In fact, old Wid is still tied for sixth place on the Yankee franchise’s all-time list of stolen bases with 186. In 1909, the Yankees sold Conroy to the Senators, where he finished his playing career in 1911.
Conroy was New York’s starting third baseman for three of his six seasons on the team, playing mostly in the outfield the rest of the time. Here’s the list of top five Yankee third baseman by the number of years they started at the hot corner for New York:
These are Wid Conroy’s career stats and seasonal stats as a Yankee:
|NYY (6 yrs)||796||3300||3005||356||750||111||59||12||266||184||198||306||.250||.299||.338||.637|
|WSH (3 yrs)||348||1328||1188||120||289||35||11||4||75||47||87||92||.243||.298||.301||.600|
|PIT (1 yr)||99||404||365||55||89||10||6||1||47||10||24||41||.244||.299||.312||.612|
|MLA (1 yr)||131||560||503||74||129||20||6||5||64||21||36||42||.256||.316||.350||.666|
Don Savage was a depression-era New Jersey schoolboy athlete who could have played football for a number of major colleges but chose baseball instead. Unfortunately, he suffered two serious knee injuries during his high school playing days and those injuries would haunt him and eventually shorten his big league career.
The Yankees signed him in 1938 and groomed him mostly as a third baseman. He spent the next four seasons following another future Yankee third sacker named Billy Johnson through New York’s farm system. That ascent suddenly got abruptly stalled during the winter of 1941 when Savage, feeling unusually tired all the time, went to the doctor to find out what was wrong with him. He was diagnosed with diabetes and would spend the rest of his life trying to keep the disease under control.
The one and only advantage of the diagnosis was that it made Savage permanently ineligible for military service. That meant, once he felt well enough to resume his career, the Yankees could count on him being available for the remainder of the war years. He got the OK from his doctors to play for the New Jersey Bears in 1943 and put together a good enough season there to get invited to the Yankees’ 1944 spring training camp. With most of the Yankee veterans and top prospects in military service by then, New York manager Joe McCarthy had plenty of time to pay attention to the team’s new arrivals. He liked Savage enough to bring him north and start him at third base on Opening Day, replacing Johnson who had an outstanding rookie season in 1943 but had then been called into the service.
After getting off to a hot start, Savage’s fragile knees failed him and he began missing games and valuable at bats. The injuries also disrupted his fielding work and before he knew it, he was spending most of his time sitting in the Yankee dugout, watching another Yankee wartime third baseman, Oscar Grimes take his position away.
Savage ended up playing just 71 games during his rookie season and averaging .261. His offensive numbers were decent enough, especially considering his injuries, but it was his mediocre defensive play at the hot corner that eventually caused McCarthy to give up on him.
Savage got to play in 34 games for New York in his second season but after averaging just .224, his big league playing days were over. He ended up working as an elevator mechanic back in his New Jersey hometown and then tragically losing his two-decade battle with diabetes at the age of 42, on Christmas Day in 1961.
I remember being upset when the Yankees traded third base prospect Mike Lowell to the Marlins, after New York picked up Scott Brosius in 1998. I had been following Lowell’s progress at Columbus at the time and he looked like the real deal. Brosius of course went on to have a super 1998 season and postseason and worked his butt off during his four years in pinstripes.
But Mike Lowell turned out to be a very good ballplayer and a class act in the clubhouse. And he would come back and haunt his former franchise for dealing him. He spent seven solid seasons with the Marlins and in 2003, he led them to the World Series where the Fish pulled off an upset 4-games-to-2 victory against the Yankees. That regular season, Lowell set career highs with 32 home runs and 105 RBIs.
Then in November of 2005, Red Sox GM Brian Epstein pulled off a stunning trade with Florida, getting both Lowell and starting pitcher Josh Beckett for a package of four prospects that included both Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez. That deal brought the one-time Yankee prospect back to the AL East Division. During the next five seasons, Lowell appeared in 76 Red Sox-Yankee games and hit .314 in those contests including 12 home runs and 56 RBIs. Even worse, in 2007, he set new career highs in RBIs (120) and batting average (.324) and led Boston to an AL East Division title. He then averaged .352, smashed 18 hits and drove in 15 runs in the Red Sox’ 14-game ’07 postseason, which culminated with a second ring and a World Series MVP award for Lowell.
That ’07 playoff run would turn out to be the high point of Lowell’s career in Beantown. During the next three seasons, he was afflicted with an A-Rod like hip injury that would eventually force him into retirement after the 2010 season.
Its interesting to think about what would have happened if New York started Lowell at third in 1998. Would they have gone for A-Rod when they did if they had a young and productive Lowell at third? Would that mean Soriano might still be a Yankee today? I of course get to ask these questions while Cashman earns his salary by answering them.
Lowell shares his birthday with this former Yankee utility outfielder.
|FLA (7 yrs)||981||4005||3554||477||965||241||3||143||578||21||354||528||.272||.339||.462||.801|
|BOS (5 yrs)||612||2480||2244||293||650||153||4||80||374||9||194||288||.290||.346||.468||.814|
|NYY (1 yr)||8||15||15||1||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.267||.267||.267||.533|
No one complained more than me during the 2013 preseason about the Yankees’ penny pinching approach to developing the team’s 25-man Opening Day roster. You won’t hear me complaining this year. Prince Hal and company have put an additional $400 million Yankee bucks back into their product thus far this winter.
The Bronx Bombers have upgraded their catching position, their rotation and their outfield. The recent signing of former A’s closer Andrew Bailey was Brian Cashman’s way of putting in place some insurance for a stretch run just in case David Robertson proves unready to master the Closer’s role in New York’s bullpen.
The only area of the team that the Yanks can be accused of “downgrading” is the infield. Granted, if Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter can both bounce back from serious injuries, Yankee fans will be pleased with the results. But the efforts to replace Robbie Cano with Brian Roberts and A-Rod with today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant were definitely done on the cheap.
Johnson will not make us forget what A-Rod was in his juiced-up prime but, then again, who could. He’s an eight-year veteran who came up with the Braves in 2005 and later put up some good home run numbers for the Diamondbacks. The Yanks are hoping their Stadium’s short right field porch provides as big a boost to Johnson’s power stats as he got from the thin desert air during his top dinger-production days in Arizona. If that does happen, Joe Girardi should be able to live with Johnson’s limited defensive experience and skills as a third baseman
Born in Austin, Texas on this date in 1982, Johnson was a first round draft pick of Atlanta’s in 2000. He spent last year with the Rays and the year before that with the Blue Jays so he’s got lots of experience against AL East pitchers. Both Scott Sizemore and the perennial Yankee infield question mark, Eduardo Nunez will challenge Johnson for the hot corner job this spring but conventional wisdom says the spot is his to lose. He shares his birthday with this former 20-game-winning pitcher, this one-time Yankee closer, this former Yankee phee-nom and this grandfather of a number 1 Yankee draft pick.
|ATL (4 yrs)||490||1902||1661||270||439||97||22||45||206||29||203||359||.264||.346||.430||.777|
|ARI (2 yrs)||268||1152||1015||152||256||59||10||44||120||26||123||280||.252||.335||.460||.795|
|TOR (2 yrs)||175||713||622||77||145||23||4||19||64||17||78||190||.233||.323||.375||.697|
|TBR (1 yr)||118||407||366||41||86||12||2||16||52||7||35||99||.235||.305||.410||.715|