A few years from now, today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant will certainly be one of the more difficult-to-remember answers to the trivia question; “Can you name someone who played third base for the Yankees during the 2013 regular season?” Brent Lillibridge’s first day in pinstripes was a sad one in Yankee Universe. He was called up from Scranton/Wilkes Barre to take the place of Derek Jeter in July, after the Yankee Captain’s first attempt to play in 2013 ended with a strained quad and a return trip to the DL.
Unfortunately for Lillibridge, he hit just .171 during his 11-game sojourn at the Yankees’ hot-corner position and quickly lost the job. Ironically, Lillibridge was one of the White Sox players traded to Boston in 2012 for Kevin Youklis, who was supposed to be the Yankees’ starting third baseman in 2013 until A-Rod returned from his offseason hip surgery.
Don’t feel too sorry for this native of Everett, Washington who turns 30 years old today. Despite the fact that the Yankees were the sixth team he’s played for during his six seasons in the big leagues and despite the fact that as of today his lifetime average in the Majors is just .205, the guy has earned over $2 million in salary during that time. That’s about double what the Yankees paid Hall-of-Famer, Mickey Mantle for his eighteen years of service in pinstripes.
|CHW (4 yrs)||256||499||442||76||96||13||3||15||50||28||38||150||.217||.291||.362||.653|
|ATL (1 yr)||29||85||80||9||16||6||1||1||8||2||3||23||.200||.238||.338||.576|
|BOS (1 yr)||10||16||16||0||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||5||.125||.125||.125||.250|
|CHC (1 yr)||9||24||24||0||1||0||0||0||2||0||0||9||.042||.042||.042||.083|
|CLE (1 yr)||43||123||111||15||24||5||0||3||8||6||7||40||.216||.276||.342||.619|
|NYY (1 yr)||11||37||35||2||6||1||0||0||3||1||1||8||.171||.194||.200||.394|
Todd Zeile had a very impressive first game as a Yankee. The Bronx Bombers had signed this native of Van Nuys, California in December of 2002, when he was a 37-year-old, fourteen-year veteran coming off a strong year with the Colorado Rockies. New York intended to use him as a back-up to Robin Ventura at third base. Ventura had done better than any body expected during his first season in the Bronx, smashing 27 home runs and driving in 93, but he too was getting up there in years. Having the right-hand hitting Zeile spell him against the occasional southpaw seemed like a great idea at the time.
He made his first start for New York in Game 3 of that 2003 season against the Blue Jays in Toronto. He homered against the huge left-hander Mark Hendrickson, in his first-ever pinstriped at bat. He also hit two doubles and drove in three runs that night. That debut performance turned out to be the highlight of his single-season Yankee career. When the Yankees released him that August, he was hitting just .210, with 6 home runs and 23 RBI’s in 66 games. Worse yet was the fact that Ventura also had stopped hitting that season, leaving the Yankees scrambling to come up with offense from the third base position. They solved that problem at the trading deadline when they acquired Aaron Boone from the Reds. The rest of course is Yankee history.
Zeile was picked up by the Expos and then finished his big league career the following year in a Mets’ uniform. He shares his September 9th birthday with this Hall of Fame pitcher, this Hall of Fame manager and this former Yankee center fielder.
|STL (7 yrs)||757||3087||2694||356||719||149||13||75||394||33||346||410||.267||.349||.415||.764|
|NYM (3 yrs)||441||1631||1423||163||368||77||4||41||176||4||191||270||.259||.348||.405||.753|
|TEX (2 yrs)||208||869||768||106||219||55||2||30||126||2||84||126||.285||.355||.479||.834|
|LAD (2 yrs)||200||842||733||111||194||23||1||38||117||9||95||136||.265||.352||.454||.806|
|COL (1 yr)||144||580||506||61||138||23||0||18||87||1||66||92||.273||.353||.425||.778|
|PHI (1 yr)||134||572||500||61||134||24||0||20||80||1||67||88||.268||.353||.436||.789|
|MON (1 yr)||34||127||113||11||29||2||2||5||19||1||10||18||.257||.331||.442||.773|
|CHC (1 yr)||79||325||299||34||68||16||0||9||30||0||16||53||.227||.271||.371||.642|
|NYY (1 yr)||66||214||186||29||39||8||0||6||23||0||24||36||.210||.294||.349||.644|
|FLA (1 yr)||66||270||234||37||68||12||1||6||39||2||31||34||.291||.374||.427||.801|
|BAL (1 yr)||29||132||117||17||28||8||0||5||19||0||15||16||.239||.326||.436||.762|
What do David Adams, Luis Cruz, Alberto Gonzalez, Brent Lillibridge, Jayson Nix, Eduardo Nunez, Mark Reynolds, Alex Rodriguez, Vernon Wells, Kevin Youklis and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant have in common? They all played third base for the Yankees during the 2013 regular season.
Chris Nelson was the .300-hitting starting third baseman of the Colorado Rockies during the 2012 season. That same job was his to lose on Opening Day of 2013 and he ended up losing it to Rockie rookie Nelson Aranado. When Kevin Youklis’s back did not hold up during the first month of the season, the Yankees acquired Nelson from Colorado on May 1, 2013. New York skipper, Joe Grardi then started the native of Escondido, California at the hot corner for ten straight games. Defensively, he did fine but his .222 batting average and 2 RBI’s convinced the Yankee brass he wasn’t the answer long-term and he ended up on waivers. The Angels then picked him up and on August 1. He started playing third base regularly for his third big league team this season, when LA-Anaheim’s starter at that position, Alberto Callaspo went on the DL. On August 15th, Nelson got some revenge on the Yankees when he drove in five runs against his former team to prevent New York from an important series sweep.
On August 29th, the injury bug hit Nelson too. While running to first he pulled a hamstring pretty badly and it sounds like he’s done for the season. Nelson shares a birthday with this former Yankee reliever.
|COL (4 yrs)||212||664||616||78||172||33||6||13||73||6||39||142||.279||.322||.416||.738|
|LAA (1 yr)||33||119||109||10||24||1||2||3||18||2||8||36||.220||.277||.349||.626|
|NYY (1 yr)||10||37||36||3||8||2||0||0||2||0||1||11||.222||.243||.278||.521|
If you watched last evening’s (8/14/2013) Yankee game, in which New York destroyed the Angels for the second consecutive night, you heard Paul O’Neill tell his TV booth partners that the 1998 Yankee team he played on was as close to a perfect team as he had ever been associated with. I couldn’t agree more.
The 1961 Yankees were my favorite team of all time and the 1978 Yankees were the most dramatic. The 1996 Yankees gave me the biggest thrill I ever had as a baseball fan but it was the 1998 Yankees who were the best team I’ve ever seen play a season, beginning to end. And if you had to point to one roster change that made the biggest difference between the team that lost the Divisional playoffs to Cleveland the year before and the one that won 114 regular season games and swept the Padres in the 1998 World Series, it would be the addition of Scott Brosius as New York’s starting third baseman. Born on today’s date in 1966, in Hillsboro, OR, the Yankees signed Brosius as a free agent after he spent his first seven big league seasons in Oakland.
Joe Torre inserted his right-handed bat at the bottom of the Yankee lineup. Brosius responded by hitting .300, smacking 19 home runs, scoring 86 runs and driving in 98 more. He turned the bottom of that lineup into an opposing pitcher’s nightmare and he played superb defense as well. But he saved his best for that year’s post season, batting close to .400 in thirteen October games and winning the 1998 World Series MVP award. He was an AL All Star that first year in pinstripes, a Gold Glove winner in 1999, and his thrilling game-winning home run during Game 5 of the 2001 Series against Arizona was a fitting culmination of his brief but great Yankee career.
Brosius shares his birthday with this former Yankee pitcher.
|OAK (7 yrs)||606||2227||1988||280||494||95||5||76||249||34||178||372||.248||.315||.416||.731|
|NYY (4 yrs)||540||2129||1901||264||507||105||3||65||282||23||170||327||.267||.331||.428||.759|
The Yankee teams of the 1950s were among the best in the elite franchise’s illustrious history. Managed by Casey Stengel, they won eight of the decade’s ten possible Pennants and six World Championships. One of the key members of those great teams was a Scottish-American infielder, born in San Francisco by the name of Gil McDougald. Signed by the Yankees out of the University of San Francisco in 1948, McDougald tore up Minor League pitching, averaging .340 during his three-year climb through the Yankee farm system. He was brought up to the Bronx in 1951 along with a much more heralded Yankee rookie named Mantle. It was McDougald who won that season’s Rookie of the Year award with a .306 average. In that year’s World Series against the cross-town Giants, McDougald became the first rookie to hit a grand slam home run in Fall Classic history.
Stengel loved McDougald’s defensive versatility and took full advantage of it. During his career in the Bronx, the infielder played 599 games at second, 508 at the hot corner and another 284 at shortstop and was selected as an All Star at all three positions. He had a lifetime batting average of .276 and hit 112 regular season and seven World Series home runs.
Two line drives had tremendous impact upon McDougald’s career. The first came off the bat of Yankee teammate, Bob Cerv during batting practice before a game in August of 1955. McDougald was standing near second base and the ball struck him in the left ear. Even though no one realized it at the time, the resulting damage caused a gradual hearing loss that resulted in McDougald being almost completely deaf early on in his retirement years. In 1957, another line drive, this one off McDougald’s bat, hit Cleveland Indian pitching sensation, Herb Score square in the face. Score was never again the same pitcher and McDougald later admitted that the incident impacted his play as well.
After the Yankees suffered their heartbreaking loss to the Pirates in the 1960 World Series, the front office informed Gil that he would not be protected in the upcoming AL expansion draft. McDougald decided to call it quits at that time. He died in November of 2010, at the age of 82.
When Bernie Allen graduated from high school in his hometown of East Liverpool, OH, he was a good enough school-boy quarterback to get a scholarship offer from Purdue University. Problem was Bernie didn’t like playing football but he knew if he wanted to go to college, accepting that scholarship was the only way he’d be able to, so that’s what he did. During his time on the gridiron as a Boilermaker, he became one of the better QB’s in the Big Ten but he also got the opportunity to play collegiate baseball and become an All American in that sport. In early 1961, the Minnesota Twins made Allen one of the first amateurs signed by that team after it had relocated to the Twin Cities from our Nation’s capitol.
After just one year in the minors, he made the Twins big league roster during the team’s 1962 spring training season. Minnesota’s first year manager, Sam Mele liked his rookie infielder so much, he benched the veteran Billy Martin and started Allen at second base. Mele also installed a second rookie, third baseman Rich Rollins in his starting infield and the two first-year players helped the surprising Twins finish in second place with 91 wins, a 20-game improvement over the previous season. Bernie had 154 hits that year including 12 home runs, with 64 RBIs and finished third in the AL Rookie-of-theYear balloting. Though I was just 8-years-old at the time, I clearly remember that 1962 Minnesota team because in addition to battling my Yankees for the Pennant, every player in their starting lineup reached double figures in home runs that season.
Allen got off to a horrendously slow start at the plate in his sophomore season and his batting average was still under.200 by late August. He then hit .320 during the last six weeks of the ’63 season, saving his starting job in the process. But his potential to develop into a perennial big league All Star was wiped out with one play during the 1964 season. Attempting to turn a double play, Allen was bowled over by Don Zimmer who rolled over the second baseman’s leg. Allen had torn his ACL, but the injury was mis-diagnosed by Minnesota’a team doctors. When the leg didn’t get better, Allen got his own doctors to examine the knee and they made a correct diagnosis and operated five months after the injury occurred. By then however, the ligament had shriveled and the surgeon didn’t think Allen would ever again play baseball. He proved that doctor wrong but it does explain why all of Allen’s highest single-season offensive numbers took place during that 1962 rookie season. He was simply never the same player after Zimmer rolled his knee.
The Yankees got Bernie in 1972. The Twins had traded him to the Senators after the 1966 season and he played pretty regularly for Washington for five years, right up until that franchise moved to Texas. He then became Ralph Houk’s primary utility infielder during the 1972 season, appearing in 84 games, mostly as a third baseman, but hitting a paltry .227 in the process. It was that weak bat that got him sold to the Expos in August of 1973. When he hit just .180, the then 34-year-old Allen hung up his glove for good.
|MIN (5 yrs)||492||1789||1595||195||392||75||10||32||163||3||165||212||.246||.316||.366||.682|
|WSA (5 yrs)||530||1669||1482||126||351||52||11||30||154||10||172||161||.237||.317||.348||.665|
|NYY (2 yrs)||101||310||277||31||63||12||0||9||26||0||28||47||.227||.294||.368||.663|
|MON (1 yr)||16||56||50||5||9||1||0||2||9||0||5||4||.180||.255||.320||.575|
The great Joe McCarthy really was a players’ manager but that didn’t mean he was a pushover, far from it. During the 1942 season, Bill Dickey got hurt. His backup that season and heir apparent as Yankee catcher was a 27-year-old native of Buffalo, NY named Buddy Rosar. Rosar was married and had a kid and with the world at war, he was worried about his future. He felt he needed a career to fall back on in case he didn’t make it as a big league catcher so he made a fateful decision to leave the Yankees for a couple of days to take a policeman’s exam back in his native Buffalo. During his absence, the Yankees played a double header on a very hot afternoon and McCarthy had no choice but to start 35-year-old Rollie Hemsley behind the plate for both games. When the day was done, Hemsley was near collapse from physical exhaustion and McCarthy was determined to get rid of Rosar.
The trade took place ten days after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Rosar and Yankee outfielder Roy Cullenbine were sent to Cleveland for outfielder Roy Weatherly and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. Oscar Grimes had been around baseball all his life. His father Ray had been a first baseman for the Cubs during the 1920’s and his uncle Roy Grimes, had once played second base for the New York Giants. Oscar was an infielder too and one of the reasons Marse Joe wanted him was his ability to play any of the four infield positions.
That flexibility didn’t earn the native of Minerva, OH much playing time during his first season in New York. He got into just eight games for the Yankees in 1943 but he did get his first and only World Series ring that year, even though he didn’t get to play a single out of that Fall Classic. Things changed for Grimes in 1944. The Yankees’ young and talented starting third baseman, Billy Johnson was called into military service and McCarthy began playing Grimes regularly at the hot corner. In one of his early starts there, he found out firsthand why the legendary Yankee skipper was so beloved by his players. Grimes had made three errors in the contest, pretty much single handedly costing New York the loss. While he was undressing in the clubhouse after the game, he saw McCarthy approaching him. He prepared himself for a tongue-lashing but instead, the manager put his hand on Grimes shoulder and told him about a horrible fielding day he himself had had in the minors.
Grimes played 116 games and had a career high .279 during that ’44 season. In 1945, he played 142 games for New York and had a stellar on base percentage of .395. But Grimes achilles heel were his iron hands. He was simply not a very good defensive infielder and when Johnson and all the other Yankee third base prospects returned from service, Grimes days in pinstripes were numbered. That number came up on July 11th of the 1946 season when New York sold him to the Philadelphia A’s. He became the A’s starting second baseman and didn’t do to badly with his bat, hitting .262 during his half season in Philadelphia. But his defense just wasn’t good enough to keep him in the post war big leagues and he spent the next five seasons playing minor league ball, finally retiring for good in 1950, at the age of 35.
|CLE (5 yrs)||262||847||715||94||173||31||9||8||84||15||5||110||130||.242||.345||.344||.689|
|NYY (4 yrs)||281||1116||926||113||246||37||15||9||96||13||7||160||144||.266||.378||.367||.746|
|PHA (1 yr)||59||230||191||28||50||5||0||1||20||2||0||27||29||.262||.356||.304||.660|