Celerino was born in El Guayabel, Mexico in 1944 and I believe he was the first native born Mexican to play for the Yankees. He didn’t get to do so for very long. He took over from Rich McKinney as New York’s starting third baseman during the 1972 season but the Yankees traded for Graig Nettles that November. Sanchez appeared in 34 games for New York in 1973 and was released. He returned to Mexico where he was killed in an automobile accident in 1992. He finished his Yankee and big league career with 76 hits, one home run and a .242 batting average.
The first A-Rod to play third base for the New York Yankees was born in Cananea, Mexico, in 1947. His 79 games in pinstripes during the 1980 and ’81 seasons, however, were just a blip in this defensive wizard’s seventeen-year big league career. Most of those years were spent playing the hot corner in the uniform of the Detroit Tigers. Lifetime, he was just a .236 hitter but he earned his paycheck with his remarkable glove and accurate arm. He won just one Gold Glove in 1976 but should have won a few more. Back then, American League managers and coaches were enamored with the much more celebrated Brooks Robinson at Gold Glove voting time. A-Rod hit .389 during the Yankee’s 1981 postseason run and was traded to the Blue Jays two months later.
He left the big leagues after the 1983 season and returned to play several more productive years in his native Mexico. He was treated as a National hero in his home country and after he was tragically struck and killed by an out-of-control driver while walking on a sidewalk during a visit to Detroit in September of 2000, thousands of Mexicans attended his funeral.
Rodriguez shares his birthday with this infielder, who signed a free agent contract with the Yankees but didn’t make their big league roster.
|DET (9 yrs)||1241||4649||4352||417||1040||193||31||85||423||13||207||589||.239||.274||.356||.631|
|CAL (4 yrs)||281||1051||977||81||232||32||6||9||80||6||54||151||.237||.278||.310||.588|
|NYY (2 yrs)||79||237||216||18||54||8||1||5||22||0||9||45||.250||.280||.366||.646|
|CHW (2 yrs)||140||298||277||25||66||16||1||4||32||0||11||38||.238||.270||.347||.616|
|WSA (1 yr)||142||596||547||64||135||31||5||19||76||15||37||81||.247||.300||.426||.726|
|SDP (1 yr)||89||183||175||7||35||7||2||2||13||1||6||26||.200||.227||.297||.524|
|BAL (1 yr)||45||71||67||0||8||0||0||0||2||0||0||13||.119||.130||.119||.250|
This St.Louis native evidently had a tough time leaving home. He went to college at St. Louis University and then after a couple of seasons in the minors, signed with his hometown Browns. It soon looked as if Robertson was on his way to big league stardom when he won the starting third base position for St. Louis in 1924 and averaged .319. The following season, the 5’7″, 152 pound left-handed hitter surprised all of baseball by belting 14 round-trippers and driving in a career high 76 runs.
Then in 1926 he stopped hitting and the Browns let him go. He spent the 1927 season regaining his stroke with the St.Paul Saints. Yankee skipper, Miller Huggins, had become a silent one-third owner of the Saints’ franchise in 1924 and over the next few seasons, the contracts of several St.Paul players were purchased by the Yankees, including Robertson’s in August of 1927.
He made his Yankee debut the following year, sharing third base pretty much evenly with “Jumpin” Joe Dugan and averaging .291 during his first season in pinstripes. That fall, he saw the only World Series action of his career, appearing in three games against the Cardinals, driving in two runs and winning his first and only ring.
When the Yankees struggled early during the 1929 season, Huggins, who had been feeling physically lousy since spring training, inserted Robertson as his every-day third baseman. He again hit for a decent average but once it became clear his team had no chance of catching the Philadelphia A’s in that year’s pennant race, the Yankee skipper decided he needed to begin rebuilding the Yankee lineup for the 1930 season. He made 23-year-old Lyn Lary his new starting third baseman and in his last player personnel move before checking into the hospital, Huggins sold Robertson to the Boston Braves. One week later Huggins was dead.
Robertson got off to a horrible start for the Braves in 1930 and was hitting just .186 when he was sent to the Pacific Coast League. He passed away in 1981 at the age of 81. He joins this speedy outfielder and this one too as former Yankees who were born on Christmas day.
|SLB (6 yrs)||454||1767||1553||229||431||75||17||19||166||23||157||64||.278||.347||.384||.732|
|BSN (2 yrs)||29||98||87||8||19||1||0||0||13||1||6||3||.218||.269||.230||.499|
|NYY (2 yrs)||173||624||560||74||165||24||6||1||71||5||42||12||.295||.345||.364||.709|
Like hundreds of other young big league prospects from the same era, Staten Island native Hank Majeski’s baseball career was put on hold for military service during World War II. Nicknamed “Heeney,” he had started his baseball career as a second baseman, but when he made his big league debut with the Boston Bee’s in 1941, Boston manager Casey Stengel switched him to the hot corner. It was a wise move by the “Ol Perfessor” as Majeski evolved into one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball over the next decade. Before that happened, however, the Yankees acquired him from Boston and before he had a chance to play in the Bronx, he turned in his baseball uniform and put on the uniform of the US Coast Guard, which he wore for the next three years.
By the time he was discharged in 1946, he was already 29-years-old. Major League Baseball had expanded rosters to thirty slots at the end of the war to accommodate all of the ballplayers returning from military service. That made it easier for Majeski to make his first Yankee team that spring but also created a crowd of third baseman competing for playing time. With Snuffy Stirnweiss, Billy Johnson and Bobby Brown all on the same roster, its real easy to understand why Majeski only got into eight Yankee games during the first half of that 1946 season. It also explains why the Yankees sold him to the Philadelphia A’s that June.
Connie Mack immediately made his new acquisition the team’s starting third baseman and for the next five seasons, Majeski played brilliantly in the field, setting the MLB record for best fielding percentage by a third baseman (.989) in 1947. Though he hadn’t been known for his offensive skills, Majeski developed into an excellent hitter as well, averaging over 280 during his six years with Philly and surprising everyone in baseball in 1948 when he drove in 120 runs, set a career high in hits with 186 and batting average, with a .310 figure.
Heeney Majeski later got sold to Cleveland and ended his big league career with the Orioles in 1955 at the age of 38. After his playing days, he became a big league and college coach. He died of cancer in 1991 at the age of 74.
|PHA (6 yrs)||604||2474||2221||284||629||128||23||37||346||7||210||144||.283||.350||.412||.762|
|CLE (4 yrs)||179||305||273||26||74||9||0||7||44||0||25||32||.271||.338||.381||.719|
|BSN (3 yrs)||128||453||425||40||108||21||1||7||57||2||19||43||.254||.289||.358||.647|
|CHW (2 yrs)||134||503||449||51||137||22||2||6||52||1||43||34||.305||.370||.403||.773|
|NYY (1 yr)||8||12||12||1||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||3||.083||.083||.250||.333|
|BAL (1 yr)||16||43||41||2||7||1||0||0||2||0||2||4||.171||.209||.195||.404|
Though the transaction took place over four decades ago, I know I screamed in anguish when I heard about the trade. Three weeks before Christmas in 1971, the Yankees sent their 1968 Rookie-of-the-Year-winning right-hander, Stan Bahnsen to the Chicago White Sox. They took a guy who had won the impressive total of 55 games for some mediocre New York teams during the previous four seasons and sent him to the Windy City in exchange for a 25-year-old utility infielder named Rich McKinney.
I knew what Yankee skipper Ralph Houk and the team’s GM, Lee MacPhail were thinking when they pulled the trigger on that one. New York desperately needed a good starting third baseman. They hadn’t had one since they traded Clete Boyer to the Braves in 1966.
McKinney, a native of Piqua, OH, had been in the big leagues for just two seasons and was coming off a decent year in which he had averaged .271 in 114 games as Chicago’s primary utility infielder. There was nothing in his resume that indicated he was going to be anything special, but after trying to win with guys like Charley Smith and Jerry Kenney at the hot corner, Houk and MacPhail figured this kid was worth a shot. But he wasn’t worth Stan Bahnsen!
The veteran right-hander took his “Bahnsen Burner” to Comiskey Park and won 21 games in 1972. Meanwhile, McKinney was a complete bust in the Bronx. He started out slow and never got better. By June he was playing down in Syracuse and the Yanks were using the infamous Celerino Sanchez as their starter at third. That November, McKinney’s Yankee career ended, when he was traded to Oakland in the deal that brought Matty Alou to New York.
|OAK (4 yrs)||147||306||277||22||53||10||0||7||30||0||24||49||.191||.252||.303||.556|
|CHW (2 yrs)||157||546||488||47||120||16||2||12||63||3||46||62||.246||.312||.361||.672|
|NYY (1 yr)||37||128||121||10||26||2||0||1||7||1||7||13||.215||.258||.256||.514|
Before Derek Jeter came along and reserved a spot on the wall of Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park for his pinstriped jersey, the most famous number “2” in Yankee history had been a red-headed graduate of Dartmouth named Robert Abial Rolfe. Though hair-color earned him the workingman’s nickname he made famous, Rolfe was an Ivy League gentleman. An article in “Baseball Digest” once referred to him as “the best-educated, best dressed, politest Bronx Bomber of the thirties.”
Those Joe McCarthy-led Yankee teams put up some incredible offensive numbers during their pre-WWII era of success and it was their great third baseman Rolfe, batting second, who would help light the fuse for the team’s explosive lineup. Here’s some examples: In the three-season period from 1937-to-1939, Rolfe scored a total of 414 runs. In 1937, Rolfe scored the incredible total of 143 runs and didn’t even lead the team in scoring that year because Joe DiMaggio scored 151. In 1938, five different Yankees scored at least 109 runs. The 1939 Yankee team lost Lou Gehrig to ALS disease yet seven members of their starting lineup scored at least 87 runs that year and the team won 106 regular season games and then swept the Reds four straight in the World Series. During Rolfe’s decade-long Yankee career, he averaged 130 runs scored for every 162 games he played.
Rolfe was one of Manager Joe McCarthy’s all-time favorite players because he worked so hard and so smart at getting better and gaining every possible advantage over an opponent on the field. It was Rolfe who was one of the first players in baseball to keep a “book” on opposing hitters that he would use to change his fielding position at the hot corner, based on who was in the batters box. His book on opposing pitchers was just as detailed. He knew and could tell his Yankee teammates what pitch to expect in a pressure situation from every pitcher in the league. He did not ignore opposing fielders either. He would make notes how an outfielder fielded line drives and if they had a tendency to drop to their knee or back up on the ball, you could be sure the next time Rolfe hit one of his patented line drives at them he’d end up sliding safely into second. It may have been because Rolfe did so much thinking as a player he never found time to just relax and enjoy the game he played so well. He developed painful ulcers which were the primary reason he retired at the young age of 33 after New York lost the 1942 World Series to the Cardinals.
Rolfe got back into the big leagues as a Manager with the Tigers in 1949 and led Detroit to a 95-win season the following year, just three games behind the AL Pennant-winning 1950 Yankees. At the time, he attributed his success to cracking the whip on a bunch of Detroit players who he claimed had grown complacent. By 1952, many of those same players turned on Rolfe, claiming he was impossible to satisfy and the Tigers fired him. Born on October 17, 1908 in Penacook, NH, Rolfe returned to Dartmouth as athletic director. He died in 1969. Dartmouth’s baseball stadium is named after him.
It was so nice having the Yankees double A farm team a half hour’s drive away from my back door twenty years ago. We’d put our four kids in the minivan and take them to Heritage Park, which was what they called the home field of the Eastern League’s Albany- Colonie Yankees back then and for less than twenty bucks, my family of six would spend an evening watching players we hoped would some day be on the roster of the big league Yankees. And many were, including the core four of Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte and Posada, the Williams boys, Bernie and Gerald, Roberto Kelly, Jim Leyritz, Andy Stankiewicz, Pat Kelly, Sterling Hitchcock and a host of others who eventually got to play in the Bronx.
One of the Albany-Colonie players who I thought might be a future Yankee star was today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. Back in 1991, Dave Silvestri was the A-C Yankees starting shortstop and leading home run hitter. He belted 19 round-trippers that year and drove in 83 runs. I was hopeful that Silvestri would turn into a pinstriped version of Cal Ripken, a starting shortstop with lots of pop in his bat. He wasn’t perfect. His defense needed work and he struck out a lot but those were common maladies in younger players. He was certainly the organization’s top prospect at short and he continued to pound the ball at the triple A level. The parent club was terrible back then and had no good shortstops on the roster. Remember Alvaro Espinosa?
But instead of getting a decent shot to play at the top level, the Yanks treated Silvestri like a yo-yo, sending him up and down repeatedly between their big league and Columbus rosters. He played seven games for New York in 1992, seven more in ’93, a dozen in ’94 and his Yankee career high of seventeen in 1995. Meanwhile, Jeter passed him on the organization’s depth chart for shortstops and the Yankees used up all their options on the guy. For a while, it looked as if he would be groomed to play third base, but in the end, the Yankees traded the then 27-year-old native of St. Louis to the Expos for a minor leaguer named Tyrone Horne. Silvestri told a New York Times reporter he couldn’t wait to leave the Yankees so he could play for an organization that would finally give him a shot at a regular big league job.
The Expos gave Silvestri that shot in 1996, when he appeared in a career-high 86 games for Montreal. But he hit just .204 during that season and he was released at the end of that year. He continued playing, mostly in the minors for three more years.
|NYY (4 yrs)||43||89||73||14||14||1||3||3||11||0||13||24||.192||.315||.411||.726|
|MON (2 yrs)||125||283||234||28||52||10||0||3||24||4||43||68||.222||.341||.303||.644|
|TBD (1 yr)||8||14||14||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||.071||.071||.071||.143|
|TEX (1 yr)||2||4||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|ANA (1 yr)||3||11||11||0||1||1||0||0||1||0||0||1||.091||.091||.182||.273|