The Buck Showalter era in Yankee franchise history began in 1992. New York was coming off of three straight losing seasons under Stump Merrill and I remember wondering if this new guy was the right choice to turn the team around. The Yankee lineup that year featured a potpourri of well-travelled veterans like Danny Tartabull, Mel Hall and Charley Hayes, home grown kids like Roberto Kelly, Pat Kelly, Kevin Maas and Andy Stankiewicz and of course, Donnie Baseball. But it was two role players on that squad, who I thought Showalter took a particular liking to; Randy Velarde and a former Oakland A named Mike Gallego.
Gallego became that team’s primary backup at second and short and Velarde did the same at every other position on the field besides catcher. Neither put together glittering statistics. Velarde averaged .272, Gallego just .254 but whenever I watched a Yankee game that season, one or both of them seemed to make some sort of hustling play or put together a particularly good at bat. That ’92 Yankee team finished ten games under .500 but I clearly remember thinking they were finally on the right track.
The following year, the Yankees finished 14 games above .500 and Showalter started Gallego in 119 games at second, short or third. The Whittier, CA native put together his best big league offensive season, hitting .283 and knocking in 54 runs. By the following year, he had become New York’s de facto starting shortstop. That ’94 Yankee team was running away with their division race when a strike halted play and ended the season. At the time, Gallego’s average was just .239. and the three year free agent contract he had signed with New York was ending. When the strike finally ended and play resumed in 1995, Tony Fernandez was the Yankee shortstop and Mike Gallego was back playing for Oakland.
|OAK (8 yrs)||772||2151||1863||230||432||63||9||23||168||21||205||295||.232||.313||.312||.625|
|NYY (3 yrs)||261||1023||882||126||231||44||3||19||109||3||108||133||.262||.347||.383||.730|
|STL (2 yrs)||78||205||186||18||37||4||0||0||5||0||13||37||.199||.254||.220||.474|
It looks as if Casey McGehee’s Yankee days may already be over. New York GM Brian Cashman was looking for a right-handed corner infielder with some pop to play third or first while A-Rod and Mark Teixeira recovered from injuries, when he sent reliever Chad Qualls to the Pirates for today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant on July 31, 2012. McGehee, a native of Santa Cruz, CA had hit 23 home runs for the 2010 Brewers and driven in over 100 that same year. I joined Cashman in hoping that this guy would get better pitches to hit when he was surrounded by a stronger Yankee lineup. That didn’t happen.
He got a real chance to make an impression in the Bronx during the middle of August, when Girardi started him just about every game. His pinstriped high point came in the second game of a series in Toronto, on August 13th. He hit his first and only home run as a Yankee that day and drove in three runs in New York’s 5-2 victory over the Blue Jays. But it was downhill from there offensively and when A-Rod returned from the DL, probably the only reason the Yanks kept this guy on the team was because the roster expanded to 40 players on September 1. The more crowded Yankee bench, however, meant even fewer chances for McGehee to make a better impression down the stretch and when he went 0-for-September at the plate he lost his ticket on the Yankee’s postseason train to Baltimore.
McGehee turns 30 today, still young enough to contribute to a Major League team. I just don’t think that team will continue to be the Yankees. He shares his October 12th birthday with this outstanding former Yankee shortstop and this one-time Yankee reliever.
|MIL (3 yrs)||428||1664||1511||174||403||82||4||52||237||1||129||273||.267||.322||.430||.752|
|CHC (1 yr)||9||25||24||1||4||1||0||0||5||0||0||8||.167||.160||.208||.368|
|PIT (1 yr)||92||293||265||27||61||13||1||8||35||1||24||60||.230||.297||.377||.674|
|NYY (1 yr)||22||59||53||9||8||3||0||1||6||0||5||10||.151||.220||.264||.484|
When Mariano Duncan stopped hitting in 1997, the Yankees began experimenting with replacements at second base. One was veteran Pat Kelly, who Duncan had supplanted from the position the previous year. Another was the popular former Mariner, Luis Sojo and still another was today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant and former Cub, Rey Sanchez. Sojo ended up seeing the most action of the four and was the best fielder in the group as well, but in 37 games that year, Sanchez hit .312 and also played well in the field. The Yankees released Rey following that season and after spending 1998 with the Giants, he joined the Royals and played the best baseball of his career during his two-plus seasons as Kansas City’s starting shortstop. He then turned into a journeyman infielder, playing for seven different teams during the last six years of his fifteen-year career including a return to pinstripes in 2005, which was his final season as a player in the big leagues. He retired with 1,317 career hits.
|CHC (7 yrs)||594||1995||1835||185||481||78||8||6||124||22||96||187||.262||.304||.323||.627|
|KCR (3 yrs)||377||1489||1378||180||398||50||13||3||122||27||61||137||.289||.321||.351||.672|
|NYY (2 yrs)||61||198||181||28||55||13||0||1||17||0||7||24||.304||.335||.392||.727|
|TBD (1 yr)||91||307||285||23||70||14||3||2||26||0||12||28||.246||.281||.337||.617|
|NYM (1 yr)||56||183||174||11||36||3||1||0||12||1||8||18||.207||.240||.236||.476|
|SFG (1 yr)||109||339||316||44||90||14||2||2||30||0||16||47||.285||.325||.361||.686|
|ATL (1 yr)||49||163||154||10||35||4||1||0||9||2||4||15||.227||.245||.266||.512|
|BOS (1 yr)||107||386||357||46||102||12||3||1||38||2||17||31||.286||.318||.345||.662|
|SEA (1 yr)||46||186||170||22||50||5||1||0||11||1||8||21||.294||.330||.335||.665|
Enrique Wilson was a valuable utility infielder for the New York Yankees from 2001, when he was first acquired from the Pirates for pitcher Damaso Marte, through the 2004 season. During that span, he appeared in 104 games at second base, 83 at short and 62 at third. He was only a .244 lifetime hitter during his 9 seasons in the big leagues and hit just .216 during his four years in the Bronx. But when long-time Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez was on the mound, the light-hitting Wilson turned into a reincarnation of Rod Carew. He faced Martinez 25 times in a Yankee uniform and had ten hits against him for an average of .400.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Wilson was a switch-hitter. I admired the guy because of his defensive versatility and his ability to come up big whenever the Yankees faced their arch-rivals from Beantown. I remember one Boston-New York game during the 2002 season when Wilson hit a grand slam off of Red Sox reliever Rich Garces to break a 2-2 tie. Joe Torre was a big fan of Enrique’s and when the Yankees traded Soriano for A-Rod, the Yankee manager told the media that Wilson would be his starter at second base. But Wilson’s bat got real cold and by June of the 2004 season he had lost his job to Miguel Cairo. That September, when Torre didn’t start Wilson against Boston with Martinez on the mound, the disappointed second baseman told reporters he would be leaving the Yankees at the end of the season and that’s exactly what happened.
|CLE (4 yrs)||190||607||554||72||159||37||1||6||49||9||36||62||.287||.328||.390||.718|
|NYY (4 yrs)||264||636||579||64||125||25||3||12||69||5||36||70||.216||.261||.332||.593|
|PIT (2 yrs)||86||269||251||18||56||9||1||4||23||0||14||36||.223||.262||.315||.577|
|CHC (1 yr)||15||25||22||1||3||2||0||0||0||0||3||1||.136||.240||.227||.467|
The Yankees purchased today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant from the San Francisco Giants during their 1972 spring training season and I could never figure out why. Hal Lanier had been the weak-hitting decent fielding starting shortstop for the Giants for the previous eight seasons but the Yankees already had their own weak-hitting, decent-fielding shortstop in Gene “the Stick” Michael. What that Yankee team really needed was a starting third baseman with some pop in his bat to compete with their AL East rivals. The previous year, New York had started Jerry Kenney at the hot corner while Baltimore had perennial All Star Brooks Robinson and the Red Sox, the hard-hitting Rico Petrocelli as starting third basemen.
Kenney would end up losing his third base job during that ’72 season to a guy named Celerino Sanchez. When Sanchez failed to hit, Ralph Houk tried playing Lanier at third. But when both Michael and Lanier started in the infield, opposing pitchers couldn’t wait to face the bottom of the Yankees’ lineup. Lanier got into 60 games that season and hit a putrid .213. That turned out to be five points higher than he would hit during his second and final season with New York, which also turned out to be his final year as a big league player. It would be during that same 1973 season that the Yankees finally went out and got themselves a premier third baseman by the name of Graig Nettles.
Lanier would go on to a new career as a manager. He won a division title as skipper of the ’86 Astros but besides the three seasons he spent as Houston’s skipper, all of his other managerial assignments have been at the minor league level. Lanier was born on in Denton, NC in 1942. His dad was Max Lanier, an All Star pitcher with the Cardinals during WWII, who won over 100 big league games during his own 14-year career.
|SFG (8 yrs)||1101||3743||3514||283||803||105||20||8||262||10||131||413||.229||.255||.277||.532|
|NYY (2 yrs)||95||197||189||14||40||6||0||0||11||1||5||23||.212||.239||.243||.482|
The 1960 AL Rookie of the Year with Baltimore, Ron spent the 1970 and ’71 seasons with the Yankees as their primary utility infielder. During his first season in pinstripes, Hansen was able to hit .297 in his part-time role but when he slumped to .207 the following season New York released him. In 1968, he became the first player to pull off an unassisted triple play since 1927 and the feat wasn’t accomplished again until 1994 (by Boston shortstop John Valentin.) In a very unique vote, when Hansen won his 1960 AL ROY award, two of his Orioles’ teammates finished second (pitcher Chuck Estrada) and third (first baseman Jim Gentile) in the balloting for the first year honor. Hansen shares his April 5th birthday with this former Yankee reliever and the first starting third baseman in Yankee franchise history.
Hansen hailed from Oxford, NE and is one of 25 members of the Yankee’s All-Time roster to win Rookie of the Year honors, eight of whom did it as Yankees. Here’s my picks for the all-time lineup of Yankees who won the coveted first-year honor. Alongside each player’s name is the year they won the honor and the team they played for at the time:
1B Chris Chambliss (1971 – Indians)
2B Steve Sax (1982 – Dodgers)
3B Gil McDougald (1951 – Yankees)
SS Derek Jeter (1996 – Yankees)
C Thurman Munson (1970 – Yankees)
OF Lou Piniella (1969 – Royals)
OF Darryl Strawberry (1983 – Mets)
OF David Justice (1990 – Braves)
P Dwight Gooden (1984 – Mets)
CL Dave Righetti (1981 – Yankees)
Here are Hansen’s Yankee seasonal and MLB career stats:
|CHW (7 yrs)||769||2875||2488||261||594||95||10||55||282||5||319||318||.239||.325||.351||.676|
|BAL (5 yrs)||393||1469||1282||136||301||42||7||37||155||4||166||234||.235||.324||.365||.689|
|NYY (2 yrs)||120||272||236||19||57||7||0||6||34||0||28||36||.242||.317||.347||.665|
|KCR (1 yr)||16||33||30||2||4||0||0||0||2||0||3||6||.133||.212||.133||.345|
|WSA (1 yr)||86||315||275||28||51||12||0||8||28||0||35||49||.185||.281||.316||.598|
Velarde started his big league career with the Yankees in 1987 and was the team’s top utility infielder for the better part of nine seasons. He looked like a movie star and as each year passed he seemed to get his body more ripped. His best seasons in pinstripes were 1992, when he played in 121 games and hit .272 and 1992, when he batted .301. When the Yankees finally made it back to the playoffs in 1995 after missing the postseason for the previous fourteen years, Velarde was an important and versatile part of that team’s infield. When the Yankees lost in the first round of the playoffs to Seattle however, Velarde hit just .200 in that series. An overreacting George Steinbrenner then fired Manager Bucky Showalter and also replaced starters Mike Stanley, Don Mattingly, Pat Kelly and Velarde, who became a free agent. Randy then signed a pretty nice four-year deal with the Angels for right around $4 million. He had the three best years of his career as an Angel before being traded to the A’s during the 1999 season. He joined the Yankees a second time in 2001 but appeared in just 15 games. He retired after the 2002 season.
|NYY (10 yrs)||673||2232||1981||267||518||102||10||43||209||24||191||395||.261||.332||.388||.720|
|ANA (4 yrs)||283||1260||1094||168||315||55||8||27||128||27||147||216||.288||.376||.427||.803|
|OAK (3 yrs)||239||987||873||152||250||41||3||21||77||23||96||169||.286||.363||.412||.775|
|TEX (1 yr)||78||334||296||46||88||16||2||9||31||4||29||73||.297||.369||.456||.825|