"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Category: Baseball Musings

Yankee for a Minute: 1994

Well, I did kind of expect this to move along at a faster pace, but then I had to go and do something over the weekend; the lead-up to and the aftermath of which have definitely been one of the most interesting parts of my life to say the least, but then here we are well into March and spring training talking about 1994 >;)

I suppose that is appropriate enough; after all, 1994 is when things got really interesting for the Yanks.  The clubhouse demons were being scrubbed away little-by-little, replaced with a mix of developing young stars and aged grit. Stick was fitting pieces of the puzzle to a potential 100-plus game winning team that was practically steamrolling the competition.  Jimmy Key, the certified ace of the staff, was on pace to win 24 games. Paul O’Neill was also realizing the potential that Stick saw in him, batting a league-leading .359. They had the best record in the AL, and second best in all baseball. Fans, casual and razed alike, were prepping to see New York favorite Donnie Baseball in his very first post-season series of his storied career.

And then this s*** happened

Baseball came to a complete standstill with the players’ strike. Gone were the post-season aspirations for Mattingly and the Yanks. Gone was the trust and interest in baseball in general; the local teams having scuffled in the early 90s. Gone was a chance to join their brethren NY pros in basketball and hockey to host championship series in the same year, with the Rangers finally getting the Stanley Cup after years of struggles and almost-there’s, while the Knicks were a couple of missed foul calls and a Starks-raving mad hoist-a-thon from winning a long-awaited championship of the own.  To the fans, particularly in NY, the players betrayed their trust and their dreams, leaving them with a series of “what-ifs”.  Baseball; emotionally at least, was over…

  • Opening Day Starters:                                   underline
  • Also Played:                                                        #
  • Regulars On Roster:                                       blank
  • Renowned From Other Teams:                 bold
  • Unheralded Rookie/Prospect:                   *
  • Unheralded Vet:                                                italics
  • Rookie Season (became regulars):          ~

1994 New York Yankees Roster

Pitchers

  • 25 Jim Abbott
  • 54 Joe Ausanio*
  • 35 Paul Gibson
  • 34 Greg Harris
  • 31 Xavier Hernandez#
  • 41 Sterling Hitchcock
  • 57 Steve Howe
  • 52 Mark Hutton
  • 28 Scott Kamieniecki
  • 22 Jimmy Key
  • 46 Terry Mulholland
  • 34 Rob Murphy
  • 19 Bob Ojeda
  • 39 Donn Pall
  • 33 Mélido Pérez
  • 54 Jeff Reardon
  • 27 Bob Wickman#

Catchers

  • 13 Jim Leyritz
  • 43 Bob Melvin
  • 38 Matt Nokes
  • 20 Mike Stanley

 Infielders

  • 12 Wade Boggs
  • 24 Russ Davis~
  • 50 Robert Eenhoorn*
  • 19 Kevin Elster
  •  2 Mike Gallego
  • 14 Pat Kelly
  • 23 Don Mattingly
  • 47 Dave Silvestri
  • 18 Randy Velarde

 Outfielders

  • 26 Daryl Boston
  • 21 Paul O’Neill
  • 17 Luis Polonia
  • 45 Danny Tartabull
  • 51 Bernie Williams
  • 29 Gerald Williams

Ah, there are quite a few names that stand out; Xavier Hernandez, who posted great numbers with Houston in the previous three seasons, but was demoted to middle reliever during his lone season with the Yanks; Terry Mulholland, who was the definition of a journeyman pitcher during his 11-team odyssey through the major leagues (and connoisseur of the pick-off move); Bobby Ojeda, one of the many anti-heroes of the 1986 Champion Mets, who the year before survived a tragic boating accident that claimed the lives of two of his teammates on the Cleveland Indians; Jeff Reardon, who had claimed the title of All-Time saves leader against the Yanks in 1992, up-and-coming rookie 3B Russ Davis; Kevin Elster (another survivor of the 86 Mets team, who was recently out of baseball after a second shoulder surgery and contemplating retirement); Daryl Boston, the former White Sox and Mets (post-championship) outfielder who seemed to always bedevil the Yanks in particular throughout the 80s, and the return of Luis Polonia from NY baseball pariah status, likely due to his solid ability to get on base. Future MLB manager Bob Melvin also made a cameo appearance on the roster. Of all of those players, Davis, Elster and Polonia would make it to 1995, though none of them would reach the end of that season.  Polonia, in fact, is the only new player on the 1994 team who would actually experience a championship with the Yanks after a late-season trade in 2000.

Might I bring your attention to the rookie shortstop, Robert Eenhoorn. Who? Really dyed-in-blue-and-pinstripes Yankee fans would know Mr. Eenhoorn; the Dutch-born infielder was a phenom playing in the highest league of professional baseball in the Netherlands at age 16. Six years later, the Yanks drafted him out of Davidson College in North Carolina and began in 1990 by tearing up the NY-Penn League on his way to being named the top prospect in the league. His next few seasons however, were up-and-down; batting well over .300 across two Class-A teams, but struggling in AA, after which he lost his blue-chipper status. However, he would advance to Triple-A for 1994 and was a late-season call-up that year before the strike ended the season prematurely.  The next season; his last with the Yankees, Eenhoorn would become the answer to the trivia question favorite, “who was the last starter at shortstop before Derek Jeter?”

For what it’s worth, however, he was a good player in his heyday, and he went on to manage and serve as technical advisor (general manager) with several Dutch national teams, including the one that won the 2011 World Baseball Cup, earning him knighthood. So, he’s more than just a footnote in Yankee lore >;)

Offseason

  • November 27, 1993: Andy Stankiewicz and Domingo Jean were traded by the Yankees to the Houston Astros for Xavier Hernandez.
  • December 9, 1993: Spike Owen was traded by the New York Yankees with cash to the California Angels for Jose Musset (minors).
  • December 20, 1993:Luis Polonia was signed as a free agent by the Yankees.
  • December 22, 1993:Sam Horn was signed as a free agent by the Yankees.
  • January 28, 1994:Bob Ojeda signed as a free agent by the Yankees.
  • February 9, 1994:Bobby Muñoz, Ryan Karp, and Kevin Jordan were traded by the Yankees to the Philadelphia Phillies for Terry Mulholland and a player to be named later. The Phillies completed the deal by sending Jeff Patterson to the New York Yankees on November 8.
  • February 15, 1994:Jeff Reardon was signed as a free agent by the Yankees.

 Notable transactions

  • March 21, 1994:Paul Assenmacher was traded by the Yankees to the Chicago White Sox for Brian Boehringer.
  • March 29, 1994:Kevin Maas was released by the Yankees.
  • May 1, 1994: Kevin Elster was signed as a Free Agent with the New York Yankees.
  • May 5, 1994: Bob Ojeda was released by the New York Yankees.
  • May 6, 1994: Jeff Reardon was released by the New York Yankees.
  • June 23, 1994: Sam Horn was released by the New York Yankees.
  • July 3, 1994: Greg A. Harris was signed as a Free Agent with the New York Yankees.
  • July 13, 1994: Greg A. Harris was released by the New York Yankees.

Good-bye, Stankie, goodbye Domingo Jean. Goodbye Spike Owen, hello… Sam Horn??? Yeah, that happened.  Kevin Maas was released by the Yanks during the offseason, but he would return on a minors contract in 1995 before signing with Minnesota for a little while , then Korea and then across three different organizations in their minors before calling it a career.  Reardon and Ojeda were signed as free agents, but were released in early May. Assenmacher gave way to Brian Boehringer from the White Sox. And Greg A. Harris, the switch-pitcher of the Yanks before there was a Pat Vindette, only stuck around for less than two weeks before he was summarily dismissed. Thus was the increasingly micromanaging angst of Buck Showalter, who managed to bring the team to the brink of glory that had been missing since 1981, only for the rug to be pulled out from under him, the Yankees, all of baseball and most importantly, the fans. With all the controversies, ineptitude and general infighting in the sport, it seemed at that point we’d all had enough

…although if there was one good thing to say about it, it’s that Michael Jordan was forced to realize he was not a top-notch baseball player, so he went back to what he knew… three-peats!

Yankee for a Minute: 1993

“…while Hall reveled in the status that being a Yankee conferred, he was hardly deferential toward the organization’s tradition. During Old Timer’s Day in 1992, he walked out onto the field and asked Showalter, by then the Yankee manager, “Who are these old fucking guys?”
“That’s when I knew he had to go,” said Showalter.” – Greg Hanlon; SB Nation

Out with the old and in with the new. Buck Showalter, going into his second season with the Yanks as the manager, presumably had collected enough intel on the clubhouse to know what changes needed to be made, and together with Stick began to reshape the clubhouse. Beyond Mel Hall, it’s anyone’s guess who the guys were that they thought needed to be shipped out due to their behavior, but the dark cloud choking the clubhouse was beginning to dissipate, and the Yankees embarked on a long and unbroken string of winning seasons that endures to this day.  Culture was the word of the season, and Stick addressed this even further by importing players who in their eyes had a good combination of winning and character.  The end result would be an 88-74 record, which put them in second place in the AL East; not quite as remarkable a turnaround as it was for the worst-to-first Atlanta Braves of 1990-91, but for Yankee fans, a great portend of things to come…

  • Opening Day Starters:                                   underline
  • Also Played:                                                        #
  • Regulars On Roster:                                       blank
  • Renowned From Other Teams:                 bold
  • Unheralded Rookie/Prospect:                   *
  • Unheralded Vet:                                                italics
  • Rookie Season (became regulars):          ~

Pitchers

  • 25 Jim Abbott
  • 43 Paul Assenmacher
  • 34 Andy Cook*
  • 26 Steve Farr
  • 35 Paul Gibson
  • 42 John Habyan#
  • 53 Neal Heaton
  • 34 Sterling Hitchcock
  • 57 Steve Howe
  • 53 Mark Hutton*
  • 42 Domingo Jean*
  • 43 Jeff Johnson
  • 28 Scott Kamieniecki
  • 22 Jimmy Key
  • 34 Sam Militello
  • 55 Rich Monteleone
  • 54 Bobby Muñoz*
  • 33 Mélido Pérez
  • 47 Lee Smith
  • 31 Frank Tanana
  • 27 Bob Wickman
  • 39 Mike Witt

 Catchers

  • 38 Matt Nokes
  • 20 Mike Stanley

Infielders

  • 12 Wade Boggs
  •  2 Mike Gallego
  • 14 Pat Kelly
  • 13 Jim Leyritz
  • 24 Kevin Maas
  • 23 Don Mattingly
  • 17 Spike Owen
  • 47 Dave Silvestri
  • 35 Andy Stankiewicz

Outfielders

  • 29 Mike Humphreys
  • 19 Dion James
  • 31 Hensley Meulens
  • 21 Paul O’Neill
  • 45 Danny Tartabull
  • 18 Randy Velarde
  • 51 Bernie Williams
  • 13 Gerald Williams

Offseason Moves:

  • November 3, 1992: Roberto Kelly was traded by the Yankees to the Cincinnati Reds for Paul O’Neill and Joe DeBerry (minors).
  • November 6, 1992: Greg Cadaret was purchased from the Yankees by the Cincinnati Reds.
  • November 17, 1992: Charlie Hayes was drafted from the Yankees by the Colorado Rockies with the 3rd pick in the 1992 MLB Expansion Draft.
  • December 4, 1992:Spike Owen was signed as a free agent by the Yankees.
  • December 6, 1992: J.T. Snow, Jerry Nielsen, and Russ Springer were traded by the Yankees to the California Angels for Jim Abbott.
  • December 7, 1992: Sherman Obando was drafted from the Yankees by the Baltimore Orioles rule 5 draft.
  • December 10, 1992: Jimmy Key was signed as a free agent by the Yankees.
  • December 15, 1992: Wade Boggs was signed as a free agent by the Yankees.

Notable Transactions:

  • July 30, 1993: John Habyan was traded by the Yankees to the Kansas City Royals as part of a 3-team trade. The Chicago Cubs sent Paul Assenmacher to the Yankees. The Royals sent Tuffy Rhodes to the Cubs.
  • August 31, 1993: Rich Batchelor was traded by the Yankees to the  St. Louis Cardinals for Lee Smith.

Okay, so the obviously strong additions were Paul O’Neill, Jimmy Key, Jim Abbott and Wade Boggs. I remember not being too particularly thrilled at the time with the Roberto Kelly-for-Paul O’Neill trade as Kelly was a recognized homegrown product, but O’Neill came three seasons removed from a World Series championship with the Cincinnati Reds, while Key was a two-time champion starting pitcher late of the Toronto Blue Jays.  The acquisition of Abbott was in the works for over a season, so that was pleasant, though not surprising (losing J.T. Snow was sort-of a blow, but his eventual replacement more than made up for it.).  Getting Boggs was quite shocking though; it hardly ever happens that a renowned star from your arch-enemy willingly comes over to your side; well, ever since the No-No-Nanette thing.

However, do you remember Spike Owen (also a renowned cog of the enemy wheel) did the same thing less than two weeks earlier? And whatever happened to Rich Batchelor (you know, the minor leaguer traded for some guy named Lee Smith, who happened to be one of the most dominating relievers in all baseball)? Now Lee Smith is one of the poster children for this series; after spending the bulk of his career with the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals (with an extended stopover in Boston in between), he was almost literally a Yankee for a minute: traded on August 31st of the 1993 season, he pitched a total of 8 innings in the last month as the closer, earning three saves while giving up 3 hits, 5 walks and striking out 11.  He didn’t even have time to quantify an ERA+… (he didn’t allow a run anyway, so…). But for reasons unknown, Smith filed for free agency at the end of the season and the Yanks didn’t retain him; which was a shame because he was actually great the following season with the Orioles (P.S.: Eras committee, put this man in the Hall of Fame; screw the writers).

Spike Owen, on the other hand, is not going to get any looks from that committee anytime soon, we can imagine.  It’s funny, when I think of him, it’s as a shortstop for the Red Sox, but he actually spent more time with both Seattle (who drafted him in the first round as the #6 overall pick in 1982) and with Montreal (where he started at shortstop also for four seasons before signing with the Yanks).  While he was here for a season; ostensibly to help push the Yanks into the playoff picture (and at the expense of fan favorite Stanky), he pretty much did little to nothing offensively to justify that theory, and coupled with some suspect defense, it was pretty much a waste of one year of everyone’s life.

Frank Tanana was here, too. For a minute.  So was Paul Assenmacher, whose main trivia is that he was involved in a three-way trade with Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes, who a couple of years later embarked on an extended career as a prolific home run hitter in the Nippon Baseball League (where he also faced a young Yu Darvish in the 2009 Pacific League Climax Series).  Meanwhile, Assenmacher was to become the second of two pitchers in major League history to give up home runs to both Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds.  Time flies, doesn’t it?

Yankee For A Minute: 1992

You could say that 1991 was when the franchise hit rock-bottom by losing 91 games and coming in fifth in the AL East (at the time, there were only two divisions in each league; no Central and no wild card) and 20 games behind the talent-laden Toronto Blue Jays; led by former player and Blue Jays hitting coach-turned-third year manager Cito Gaston, who initially declined taking over after manager Jimy Williams because he liked what he was already doing (the players rallied to change his mind, and good for them). Black History Moment: 17 years after Hall of Famer Frank Robinson became the first African American manager in Major League Baseball, Clarence Edwin “Cito” Gaston became the first African American MLB manager to win a World Series, then went ahead and did it again next season. He was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, and inducted into both the Ontario and San Antonio Sports Halls of Fame, not to mention was awarded the Negro League Hall of Fame Legacy Award (aka Jackie Robinson Award). Way to go, Cito!

Meanwhile back in 1991, when the Yanks survived a lot of underground chaos within the clubhouse and the organization to make it to 1992… when they finished in fourth place (tied with Cleveland) and improved by five games, but somehow still 20 games behind the eventual champion Toronto Blue Jays.  Stump Merrill would be moved out of the managerial hot seat to make way for one of his lieutenants, third base coach William Nathanial “Buck” Showalter III. Before he was Buck, he was “Nat” Showalter, an All American at Mississippi State and a fifth round draft pick by the Yanks in 1977. He would spend seven years in their farm system, wracking up fairly solid numbers by future coach standards, finally making the jump in 1985; collecting honors and working his way up the ladder. in 1992, Buck Showalter arrived, and the transformation of the Yanks kicked into a new gear.

Gene Michael; operating as the chief architect of the new brain-trust that included Buck, a gallery of respected scouts and talent evaluators  and a newly-appointed owner/managing partner Joe Malloy; George’s son-in-law via his daughter Jessica, set to making deals as soon as the 1991 season ended.  When the season began, he had a new ace in the rotation, a new starting right fielder, third baseman and shortstop, not to mention a couple of new draftees who would also become mainstays in future rosters.  Yet even with all of that, there were some even larger moves that were attempted, but for various reasons did not work out.  And man if they had, they very likely would have entirely changed the history of Yankee franchise as we know it…

  • Opening Day Starters:                                   underline
  • Also Played:                                                        #
  • Regulars On Roster:                                       blank
  • Renowned From Other Teams:                 bold
  • Unheralded Rookie/Prospect:                   *
  • Unheralded Vet:                                                italics
  • Rookie Season (became regulars):          ~

Pitchers

  • 41 Tim Burke
  • 25 Greg Cadaret#
  • 26 Steve Farr#
  • 35 Lee Guetterman
  • 42 John Habyan#
  • 36 Shawn Hillegas
  • 54 Sterling Hitchcock~
  • 57 Steve Howe
  • 49,43 Jeff Johnson
  • 22 Scott Kamieniecki
  • 54 Tim Leary
  • 43 Sam Militello*
  • 55 Rich Monteleone
  • 34 Jerry Nielsen*
  • 33 Mélido Pérez
  • 21 Scott Sanderson
  • 36 Russ Springer*
  • 31 Bob Wickman~
  • 35 Curt Young

 Catchers

  • 12 Jim Leyritz
  • 38 Matt Nokes
  • 20 Mike Stanley

 Infielders

  • Mike Gallego
  • 28 Charlie Hayes
  • 14 Pat Kelly
  • 24 Kevin Maas
  • 23 Don Mattingly
  • 59 Hensley Meulens
  • 56 Dave Silvestri*~
  • 60 J. T. Snow~
  • 17 Andy Stankiewicz~
  • 18 Randy Velarde

 Outfielders

  • 29 Jesse Barfield
  • 27 Mel Hall
  • 31 Mike Humphreys
  • 19 Dion James
  • 39 Roberto Kelly
  • 45 Danny Tartabull
  • 51 Bernie Williams
  • 13 Gerald Williams~

So as usual I had some trouble with categories with some players:

Sterling Hitchcock was heralded coming up and was part of the staff for his first four seasons, but his better seasons were spent as a starter with San Diego. He came back via trade in 2001, but was largely ineffectual and used in long relief and spot-start duty until he was traded in mid-2003. So yeah, he was a heralded rookie who had better years elsewhere; didn’t really pan out with the Yanks and was not even a big part of their 2001 WS team.

Russ Springer was kind of the same; he started off with the Yanks, but had better success elsewhere, as well as longevity.  It’s hard to consider him a heralded rookie, though I kind of remember him being touted to some degree. Like Hitchcock, he was never an All Star, but he was a useful arm on other teams’ staffs.

Bob Wickman also was a rookie, though he started out inn the Chicago White Sox farm system, coming over with Melido Perez and Domingo Jean in a trade for 2B Steve Sax. While getting Melido at the time seemed like a boon for a rebuilding team, the real prize in the brain trust’s mind was Wickman:

“We considered Wickman one of their top arms and I think they did, too,” said Brian Sabean, the Yankees’ vice president of player development.

Indeed, Wickman showed promise two seasons later, but not enough to prevent him from being traded in the midst of the team’s successful run at a World Series two seasons further. He reached his potential as a reliever with Milwaukee in closing and high leverage situations, then spent the predominant part of his career in Cleveland in the same role, earning quite a bit of respect in a fairly long career before finishing out in Atlanta and Arizona respectively in 2007.

Melido was solid for the Yankees, but he couldn’t move the needle for his older brother, who had spent a significant amount of time on the injured list after arm surgery in 1990 before being suspended during spring training for the entire 1992 season for a failed drug test, which all but ended his career. Melido for his part enjoyed a career year in 1992, with the second highest total in strikeouts in the AL (behind Randy Johnson), but his career also ended abruptly in 1995, with a tear in the elbow of his pitching arm. He attempted a comeback in 1997 with Cleveland, but didn’t make the cut from spring training. Today, Melido is mayor of the town of San Gregorio de Nigua… the same town where his erstwhile older brother Pascual was found murdered after a home invasion in 2012.

Curt Young spent the majority of his career with Oakland, he was on the pitching staff for the teams that won back-to-back in 1989-90. When he came to the Yanks, it was at the tail end of a relatively successful career working in the shadows of Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, Storm Davis, Scott Sanderson, Mike Moore, Rick Honeycutt and of course Dennis Eckersley.

Jack Thomas “J.T.” Snow was of course heralded as Mattingly’s eventual successor; he had a pedigree in sports as the scion of former Pro Bowl wide receiver Jack Snow of the L.A. Rams, who developed J.T. as a first baseman from a young age, and played with a number of sports luminaries as a three-sport star in high school and college and was drafted by the Yanks in the fifth round in 1989. He made his debut at the tail end of the season with the Yanks, but in the off-season he was traded along with Russ Springer and Jerry Nielsen to the California Angels for one Jim Abbott.  Welcoming the trade as a respite from “playing in oblivion behind Mattingly”, he won two Gold Gloves with the Angels before moving on to San Francisco and becoming an All-Star fixture along with former Met Jeff Kent and former Pirate Barry Bonds (who, surprise, was almost was a Yankee himself in 1992).

Lastly, there’s Gerald Williams. selected in the fourteenth round in 1987, Gerald had a down and up minor league career, alternately struggling and showing big promise. He debuted in September 1992, spent the bulk of 93 in the minors again and returned to stay in 94. By 1996 he was getting the bulk of the starts in left field, but in late August he and Wickman were dealt to Milwaukee. Both received World Series rings at the end of the 96 season as they had played the significant part of the year with the Yanks.  Gerald would go on to be a regular bench guy with Atlanta and Tampa Bay (then known as the Devil Rays) before returning for a second stint with the Yanks for their 2001-03 seasons; the last year of which he was traded to the Florida Marlins, only this time he won a ring after the trade with his new team.  He finished as a Met in 2004-05, and has recently been a regular at Old Timer’s Day with the Yankees.  Although he wasn’t any type of star like his other namesake Bernie (no relation), perhaps his greatest contribution as a Yankee was being best friends with a young Derek Jeter, who credited him as being like a big brother “always looking out for me.” Jeter returned the favor when he invited him as a VIP guest to his retirement ceremony at Yankee Stadium (which I was lucky enough to be in attendance for) and personally thanked him during his speech.

Offseason

  • November 13, 1991: Ramiro Mendoza was signed as an amateur free agent by the Yankees.
  • November 20, 1991: Eric Plunk was released by the New York Yankees.
  • December 2, 1991: Bob Geren was selected off waivers from the Yankees by the Cincinnati Reds.
  • January 6, 1992: Danny Tartabull was signed as a free agent with the Yankees.
  • January 8, 1992: Darrin Chapin was traded by the Yankees to the Philadelphia Phillies for a player to be named later. The Phillies completed the deal by sending Charlie Hayes to the Yankees on February 19.
  • January 9, 1992: Mike Gallego signed as a free agent with the Yankees.
  • January 10, 1992: Steve Sax was traded by the Yankees to the Chicago White Sox for Bob Wickman, Domingo Jean and Mélido Pérez.
  •  

Notable transactions

  • April 9, 1992: Shawn Hillegas was signed as a free agent by the Yankees.
  • June 1, 1992: Derek Jeter was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 1st round (6th pick) of the 1992 amateur draft. Player signed June 27, 1992.
  • August 22, 1992: Tim Leary and cash were traded by the Yankees to the Seattle Mariners for Sean Twitty (minors).
  • August 22, 1992: Shawn Hillegas was released by the New York Yankees.

The first act of the offseason was one of the most significant, if rather underrated.  Ramiro Mendoza became the prototype for middle reliever/spot starter/do-all throughout the Yankees championship run in the 90s (and for another team in particular which shall remain unmentioned). However, it may be surprising to realize that Mendoza was not part of the post-season roster on several occasions, largely due to his unsteadiness during certain seasons, but when he did pitch in post-season play, he was usually a highly-effective mid-game stopper. Signed two years after fellow countryman and best friend Mo, Mendoza became the Yoeman of the pitching staff (similar to yoeman bench player Clay Bellinger) and was very much liked by his teammates.  Mike Axsia of River Avenue Blues has a more in-depth analysis of his career and impact on the Yankees.

I only note the acquisition of Charlie Hayes to explain that this was the first of two relatively short stints with the Yanks, though Hayes made an indelible mark on Yankee history in his second coming.  Here in 1992, he hit .257 and struck out a career-high 100 times. After the season, the new expansion team Colorado Rockies drafted Hayes, but the Yankees fought his selection on the grounds that the expansion Florida Marlins were not fairly compensating the Yankees for taking away their minor-league territory in Ft. Lauderdale, were the Yanks had a long-situated minor league team and played many of their spring training home games. However,  Commissioner Fay Vincent (perhaps still cranky over Steinbrenner’s banishment or his subsequently imminent return) ruled against them, and Hayes became an inaugural member of the Rockies. The loss was not unnoticed by Yanks brass and fans alike, though his records tell us he was actually much better with the Rockies than anywhere else. His post-season play in his second stint was unremarkable except for his steady defense at third, and the image of him catching Mark Lemke’s foul pop-up off of third in Game 6 of the 96 series is perhaps his identifying career image and moment. It was mostly downhill after that; he was traded during the following season and bounced around between the Ginats, Mets, Brewers and Astros, retiring in 2001. However, he has not fallen into obscurity as one would think; he operates a baseball academy in Texas and is a base coach for the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate.  He also has two sons who played professionally; son Tyree was a pitcher from 2006-12, while son Ke’Bryan was the 32nd overall pick by the Pirates in 2015; the team Charlie played for before rejoining the Yanks in 1996. And just like his old man, he’s a third baseman. A helluva third baseman, in fact…

With Steinbrenner, the Yanks had a penchant for pilfering players from World Series-winning teams; the theory of course being that such players would contribute to winning ways on the Yankees.  That tradition continued unabated in fact, though under Michael it was probably for a different reason.  Mike Gallego, late of the Oakland A’s and a contributor to their on-field success was obviously such a signing; although the starting second baseman with Oakland, Gallego played mostly at shortstop for the Yanks, while also playing second and third throughout his tenure. Trivia: Gallego is the last Yankee player to wear No. 2, right before it was to become synonymous with RE2PECT.  Gallego was known more for his glove and being able to move the runner over than as a hitter; in fact his best year as a hitter was with the Yanks in the following season when he inexplicably hit double digits in home runs, but after 93 he returned to normal and returned to Oakland for one more season in 95 before finishing out his career with two seasons in St. Louis with his old boss, Tony LaRussa.  Today, he’s the director of player development for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Sean Hilligas, on the other hand, did not have an extended stay with the Yanks and was gone by the end of August. He was drafted by the Dodgers and made his debut in 1984, having a very decent rookie year in the rotation, but by 1988 he had pretty much fallen off the radar in L.A. and was traded to the White Sox during the Dodgers’ stretch run to the championship. The Yanks picked him up in 1992 as rotation depth, but he continued to disappoint, leading to his inevitable release. He continued bouncing around for another year before finally retiring, never to return to baseball again (but occasionally talking about it).

Oh yeah, speaking of RE2PECT

I also want to get back to what i said earlier about 1992 being just as much about what the Yankees didn’t do (besides play at least .500 ball; the last season that this ever occurred by the way). As we know, Stick was trying hard to turn things around in Steinbrenner’s absence, and he wasn’t afraid to go after a big name if he really felt it would move the timeline faster without disrupting the architecture.  This lead him to go after the biggest free agent in the winter of 1991: Barry Bonds. Barry was one of two godheads in Pittsburgh; the other being his assumed soul brother Bobby Bonilla, who left a season earlier to attach to the Mets (who to this day are still paying his salary, no joke). There was mutual interest between the two; Barry was far and wide the best hitter on the market, while Bonds (whose father Bobby played for the Yanks in the early-to-mid 70s) was unafraid of the bright lights and big city mentality of New York.  However, Bonds and his agent stood pat on a long-term, high salary contract that was apparently a year too long for Stick’s comfort. “We have to draw the line somewhere,” Michael said. “I have no regrets saying we did not offer him a sixth year. We offered him a fantastic contract for five years. We really went out of our way to make a nice offer.” Apparently, 6yrs/$43 million was a vast and uncrossable difference from 5yrs/$36 million for a 28 year old MVP (Hmmmmm…), while on the flip side Barry didn’t think $36 mil was an appropriately high enough offer for a player of his caliber (he may have been right at the time, even though both were ghastly sums of money). After Stick abruptly ended negotiations with Bonds and his agent, he turned his attention to the rotation, seeking an audience with free agent Cubs ace Greg Maddux, who took time to think and pass around the Yanks’ offer before settling on Atlanta, where he continued his career as a pitcher extraordinaire unabated. Michael also considered trading for aces like Greg Swindell or David Cone before finally trading off a significant piece in starting second baseman Steve Sax for Melido Perez and company.

Question: how different would the Yankees look in the enduing years if they had both Barry Bonds and Greg Maddux in the fold? They already had one future legend playing backup in the clubhouse, with four more on the way. Would Bernie have been purged to accommodate Bonds’ salary and ego at any point? More than likely, one of Jesse Barfield or Mel Hall and one or two others would have been moved off the roster in subsequent trades in order to keep Roberto Kelly and Bernie (though with Bernie, there were questions about his fortitude early on, but that’s an entirely different story). Would Michael have been willing or able to make a trade for Paul O’Neill (probably not), Jim Abbott (maybe, but not very likely), David Cone (again), Tino Martinez (perhaps?) and so-on? It’s safe to say they wouldn’t have signed Danny Tartabull; with right field shut down for 5–6 years, that wasn’t going to happen even on a DH level. As things turned out, Michael didn’t regret not signing Bonds, but he did lament not getting Maddux for a time, especially when he, Smoltz and Glavine not only brought the Braves from worst to first, but also to their first championship in the city of Atlanta a few years later.  But as things turned out in the long run, I kinda think Stick knew he did a good job after all.

Yankee For A Minute: 1991

The year 1991 brought reality to the Yankees; the turnaround from George’s style of management to something more akin to the rest of baseball was not going to be a quick fix. Michael was not going to land the biggest fish in the ocean because George said so, and at this point it wasn’t looking like anyone of true All Star caliber was interested in joining them. Aside from soon-to-be All-Star ace Scott Sanderson and hard-luck starter Tim Leary (who was involved in a dicey trade with the Reds for future good hitter Hal Morris) and perhaps Roberto Kelly, Kevin Maas, Matt Nokes and some kid named Bernie Williams, there wasn’t much to speak of about the 1991 Yanks (well, besides Mel Hall terrorizing Bernie in the locker room among many other things).  Stump Merrill was in his first full season as Yankee manager, having taken over from Bucky Dent, who was shockingly fired while in Boston for a series with the Red Sox in 1990 by Steinbrenner, a month or so before he himself was “fired” by baseball.  Stump continued the status quo with the major league team, losing far more games than winning through little fault of his own.

  • Opening Day Starters:                                   underline
  • Also Played:                                                        #
  • Regulars On Roster:                                       blank
  • Renowned From Other Teams:                 bold
  • Unheralded Rookie/Prospect:                   *
  • Unheralded Vet:                                                italics
  • Rookie Season (became regulars):          ~

Pitchers

  • 25 Greg Cadaret#
  • 51 Chuck Cary
  • 60 Darrin Chapin*
  • 28 Dave Eiland
  • 26 Steve Farr#
  • 35 Lee Guetterman
  • 42,57 John Habyan
  • 40 Andy Hawkins
  • 57 Steve Howe
  • 43 Jeff Johnson
  • 40 Scott Kamieniecki~
  • 54 Tim Leary
  • 50 Alan Mills
  • 45 Rich Monteleone
  • 34 Pascual Pérez
  • 33 Eric Plunk#
  • 21 Scott Sanderson
  • 41 Wade Taylor*
  • 36 Mike Witt

 Catchers

  • 53 Bob Geren
  • 38 Matt Nokes#
  • 48 John Ramos*

 Infielders

  • 14 Mike Blowers
  • 20 Álvaro Espinoza
  • 14 Pat Kelly~
  • 12 Jim Leyritz
  • 13,43 Torey Lovullo*
  • 23 Don Mattingly
  • 12 Carlos Rodríguez*
  •  6 Steve Sax
  • 18 Randy Velarde#

Outfielders

  • 29 Jesse Barfield
  • 27 Mel Hall#
  • 36 Mike Humphreys*
  • 39 Roberto Kelly
  • 17 Scott Lusader
  • 31 Hensley Meulens
  • 17 Pat Sheridan
  • 51 Bernie Williams~

Other Positions

  • 24 Kevin Maas

Hey, remember Pat Kelly? He was kinda touted as the second basemen of the future while with the Yanks, and he stuck around long enough to win a ring with the 1996 team, although he only played 13 games the whole season. But how many remember that in 1991, Kelly was a third baseman? He came up as a replacement for the recently-departed Mike Blowers, who was traded to Seattle for a bag of balls. Blowers for his part would become a regular with Seattle, so he would qualify as a player who was (much) better somewhere else, like Jay Buhner before him. Kelly switched to second in 1992 and remained there for the entire tenure of his career with the Yanks and beyond.

Scott Kamieniecki is definitely a name that stands out; he was one of their best pitchers during the dark ages if you will, but I somehow misremember him as being in the rotation in the 80s. I guess when you have Chuck Cary, Richard Dotson, Ron Guidry and Dave LaPoint on your staff at any given moment, you’re going to misremember quite a few things (and try to forget others, like giving away Doug Drabek, grrr…) Kamieniecki was not the best pitcher on staff, but the fans knew him well enough over the next few seasons and I suppose you could consider him one of the Hard Luck Boys of the early 90s. Hard luck followed him into the championship days as well, when for whatever reason, the Yanks decided not to give him a ring for being with the team in ’96, though he spent much of the year on the DL. He later blasted the Yanks for “strong-arming him to the DL with a fake injury” and for “putting on a show” by having him sized for a ring that he never received after the team was criticized for leaving him and a few other players out of the ceremony. He was definitely not a fan of Joe Torre, whose glare at certain players was an automatic ticket to the Doghouse, if not the kiss-off to their Yankee tenure.  I’m guessing though Scott and the Yanks have pretty much made up at this point

Steve Howe was interesting. He had been out of baseball for four years before the Yanks signed him, and he was very effective most of the time.  However, he was a drug addict throughout most of his career well before coming to the Yanks, so much so that he had already been suspended several times. It was his effectiveness as a reliever that kept him in baseball, and though he was banned for life the next season, he was reinstated upon appeal and went on to have one of the best seasons in his career. There was a lot of debate about him while he continued to play, get banned and then be reinstated; was the league enabling his habits because he was a good pitcher? Howe wasn’t the only player who had a drug problem, but he was probably the only one who kept coming back after falling down the well many times. As things go, Howe’s Yankee (and MLB) career was ended with him being released in June 1996, making him indeed a member of the Hard Luck Boys. Sadly, his ignominious death ten years later in an accident that eerily resembled Billy Martin’s death has rendered him a cautionary tale of the glamour of the baseball life. Say his name and/or look him up on Wikipedia and you just can’t help but shake your head and wonder, “why?

Scott Sanderson, on the other hand, was a legit anchor and ace of the staff, as it were. His two seasons with the Yanks were good enough to hope that any of your five (six?) starters for 2018 could at least match. In a fairly solid career with the Expos, Cubs and a good season with Oakland prior, 1991 would in fact be his first and only selection to the AL All Star team. He became a partner at Moye Sports Associates in 1996, who currently represent Austin Romine and Jaime Garcia. However, his moralizing during and after his career could be considered problematic to some (particularly in New York)…

Here are the moves the team made prior to and during the season:

  • October 5, 1990: Wayne Tolleson was released by the New York Yankees.
  • November 19, 1990: Tim Leary was signed as a Free Agent with the New York Yankees.
  • December 3, 1990: Frank Seminara was drafted by the San Diego Padres from the New York Yankees in the 1990 rule 5 draft.
  • December 31, 1990: Scott Sanderson was purchased by the New York Yankees from the Oakland Athletics.
  • January 13, 1991: Rick Cerone was released by the New York Yankees.
  • March 19, 1991: Torey Lovullo was traded by the Detroit Tigers to the New York Yankees for Mark Leiter.

Notable transactions

  • April 1, 1991:Steve Balboni was released by the New York Yankees.
  • April 5, 1991: Scott Lusader was selected off waivers by the New York Yankees from the Detroit Tigers.
  • May 9, 1991: Andy Hawkins was released by the New York Yankees.
  • May 17, 1991: Mike Blowers was traded by the New York Yankees to the Seattle Mariners for a player to be named later and cash. The Seattle Mariners sent Jim Blueberg (minors) (June 22, 1991) to the New York Yankees to complete the trade.
  • May 25, 1991: Andy Pettite was signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent.

Draft picks

  • With the first overall pick in the MLB draft, the New York Yankees selected Brien Taylor. He was a Left Handed Pitcher from Beaufort, North Carolina who competed at East Carteret High School.

With the release of Wayne Tolleson, the Yanks could now tell who was who between him and Alvaro Espinoza. Tim Leary was drafted by the Mets in 1978 and spent his first four seasons in the majors there before he managed to win a ring with the 1988 Dodgers. Rick Cerone had the last of three stints with the Yankees, previously having been a starter from 1980-84 and a backup in 1987.  Mark Leiter, like his brother Al, was sent away and became a better pitcher with his next teams, but unlike Al, he never returned to the Yanks. Torey Luvullo? Pat Sheridan? Scott Lusader…? Balboni would try one more season in 1993 with Texas before saying bye-bye to major league baseball for good.

And Brien Taylor… *sigh*

Boone Over Bam Bam in the Boogie Down Bronx

Aaron Boone will be the new Yankee skipper. Yanks hope the neophyte can be a New Age Joe Torre and lead this young team to big time success. On the surface, Boone doesn’t exit me, but then again, a) he doesn’t need to be exiting to be good, and b), what the hell do I know? Wishing him the best of luck regardless now that he’s got the gig.

And away we go…

Say it Ain’t So

According to reports, the Yankees have decided not to bring Joe Girardi back as manager next year. I am sad to see him go but also think it’s a fine time for a new blood as well. With a team this talented maybe it will be a Buck Showalter-to-Joe Torre kind of transition for the new guy. Whoever they pick, I hope he has a feel for the players, a good sense of humor, and stamina. Seems like a dream gig to me, for the right guy.

In the meanwhile, here’s to Joe G, an upstanding Yankee player and a damn good Yankee manager, better than most in my eyes. Sure he was a tight-ass and sometimes overly stern or proud but I never begrudged him for that, too much. Maybe he was a phony in a righteous kind of way, I don’t know. He worked hard, cared a lot, and he could be funny. And was also a big softy, too—remember how emotional he got during Alex Rodriguez’s departure?

He survived a Fred Merkle-level blunder this October that could have regrettably stained an otherwise stellar career. He won a Whirled Serious title, he more than successfully followed-up the toughest act in show business, Joe Torre, and then ushered the team through the decline of the Jeter, Mariano, A Rod, Texieira years, to the future, which is now.

Curious to hear more as it comes out. I’m sure it’s a tough call for him. He was a good company man. He represented the Yankees well. And that’s not nothing.

Forever Young

Ichiro esky cloese up

I’ve got a little piece on our old pal Ichiro in the new issue of Esquire.

The editor’s were cool enough to include me in their “Contributors” page. They asked if I wanted to be photographed or illustrated. Duh—illustrated. Okay, so the results are, well, interesting, but what the hell? You only live once!

Alex Belth illustration headshot

[Photo Credit: Hisashi Murayama]

Almost Here

Window American Flag Bags

“Are we there yet, are we there yet?”—Every kid that has ever been in a car.

I didn’t follow the WBC though I understand it was exciting and fun. I caught some highlights and am pleased to see some of the ruckus and beef that came out of it. My trouble with it has everything to do with me. I am just not ready yet for high-octane competition.

Believe it or not, the is the 15th season of Yankee baseball we’ve covered here at the Banter. Of course, I can’t claim to be a reliable source of Yankee anything these days. Just too busy with other projects. And writing about baseball in general—and the Yankees in specific—is just not as interesting to me anymore.

Which is not to say that I don’t enjoy rooting for the team. But what’s happened is that I actively want to know less about the team, their prospects, the trades, the injuries. Yeah, I want to rub the winter out of my eyes, start at Opening Day and check it all out, fresh.

Picture by Bags

Bye Bye Balboni, Where Have Ya Been?

bags city grate

The Yanks have signed Steve Balboni, no Rob Deer, no Tom Brunansky, no Glenallen Hill, scratch all that—Chris Carter to a one-year deal so that he can wear the pinstripes, hit a few homers and strikeout more than somewhat.

Well, okay, then.

Picture by Bags

The Brief But Productive Yankee Career of Aroldis Chapman

Minnesota Twins v New York Yankees

And so ends the brief but productive Yankee career of one Aroldis Chapman. The Yanks picked him up for a song last winter when Chapman’s name was mud. He served his time on a domestic abuse rap and once he got on the field, Chapman was as dramatic as promised—the left-handed version of fabled Yankee fireman, Goose Gossage, number 54 and throwing over one hundred. Never mind that some of us had a hard time rooting for him because of the domestic abuse stuff—that’s Chicago’s problem now as the Yanks send Chappy to the Cubs and their Whirled Serious dreams.

I’d say that worked out splendidly for Cashman and the Yanks—not to mention, Chapman—don’t you think? In fact, can you think of deal where the Yanks got more value out of less? Chapman pitched just a tick over 31 innings—for Adam Warren alone, 31 innings would be a steal. Then you throw some young dudes in the mix?

…Noice.

I’m pleased I got to see Chapman live once—and am not sorry to say goodbye, not for this haul.

[Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images]

The Selling of The Babe

The Selling of the Babe

Bronx Banter Book Excerpt

Longtime Banter pal, Glenn Stout’s got a new book out and I think you’ll dig it. Here’s an except to whet your appetite. I’m sure you are gonna like this.—AB

By Glenn Stout

Entering May of 1920, Ruth’s inaugural season in New York and that of the Yankees was at a crossroads.  Ruth was hitting .226 in nine games with only a single extra base hit and one walk. The only record he was pursuing was the strikeout mark. With eight in 32 plate appearances, he was on pace to strike out more than 130 times for the season.  To date, no one had ever approached 100.  In nearly 600 appearances in 1919, Joe Jackson had struck out only 10 times and only 234 times for his entire career. Strikeouts were okay only if they were countered by home runs.

It was even worse than that.  The Yankees were only 4–6, still in sixth place. Boston?  Minus Ruth, they were a stellar 9–2.  The press was referring to them as the “Ruthless” Red Sox, fully aware of the irony the name entailed.  If there was truly a “Ruthless” team thus far, it had been the Yankees.  So far, Ruth had been a hit only at the box office, but if he didn’t start banging the ball soon, one had to wonder how long that would last.

For Ruth, the 1920 season was shaping up as a repeat of 1919, only this time he was wearing pinstripes.  Once more, just as his slow start in 1919 had buried the Red Sox, Ruth’s por performance thus far threatened to bury the Yankees, risking that whatever he did later in the season, no matter how spectacular, might be diminished.  He had been given a pass on that in 19 19, but if the same thing happened in 1920 it was unlikely to go unnoticed a second time. That was the problem with all the press in New York.  When they were on your side, it was grand, but they could also gang up on you.  More than one Yankee manager had felt their wrath.

Although the Yankee–Red Sox rivalry was not as pronounced as it would later become, each team already considered the other its main rival. The Ruth sale put an accent on that, at least in the minds of the fans.  For Boston, 9-2 on the year, coming into New York in first place was a familiar feeling. Since the founding of the American League the Red Sox, despite lacking the resources of New York City, had been the team the Yankees one day hoped to be, a champion and near annual contender.   So far, with the Yankees sixth at 4-6, already 4 ½ games out, nothing had much seemed to change.

In game one, on April 30, it appeared as if that would hold.  Before a sizable weekday crowd of 8,000 who turned out despite intermittent showers, the Red Sox tried their best to put their foot on the Yankees’ neck.  After all, a five-game sweep would virtually ruin New York, and put them in the same position the Red Sox had been a year ago, likely too far back to climb into the race.

Ruth did his best to prevent that in the first inning, cracking a single to knock in a run and give the Yankees the lead, but that was to be his only hit of the day.  Waite Hoyt settled down and Boston went to 10–2 for the season with a 4–2 win, as the Yankees fell to 4–7.

The only other notable occurrence came every time Ruth ran out to right field, and every time he ran back in.  In only his third appearance in the position at the Polo Grounds, fans packed the right field bleachers to get as close as possible, a disproportionate number compared to the rest of the stands.  Every time Ruth ran out to take his position, they cheered and applauded madly.  And every time he left them, they cheered again. The same thing happened when he stepped out of the dugout, or into the batter’s box, or scratched his nose. He hadn’t even done anything yet and was getting twenty or more standing ovations a day. One writer termed it “The Babe Ruth roar. . . . Down as far as 125th Street [in] Harlem folks can now tell when Ruth comes to bat.  The roar shakes the whole vicinity. The fans roar for Babe to hit ’em and when he misses fire they roar because he didn’t.”  In this game, it was more the latter than the former.

Shawkey, the Yankees’ ace, took the mound the next day, May Day.  Thus far, although he’d pitched well, he was 0–3—the Yanks had scored more than three runs only once all season.  Offense was up everywhere, it seemed, other than in the Polo Grounds.  Those Ruthless Red Sox, in contrast, were scoring runs at a frightening rate.  So far, they had been held to three runs or under only three times.  The rest of the time, they were clubbing teams to death like defenseless rabbits, and giving ammunition to those who still favored the scientific approach.

This, time, however, Shawkey was sharp from the start.  The only question was whether the Yankees could take advantage.  They scored one in the first—Ruth reached on a force-out, moved around to third, and then, on a ground ball to Everett Scott, Ruth deked his old shortstop into thinking he was staying at third, then timed Scott’s throw to first perfectly, taking off for home and beating Stuffy McInnis’s throw to the plate.  Although Ruth was never quite the ballplayer who “never made a mistake on the field” as the hyperbole later suggested, he was a smart player, surprisingly quick for his size—particularly before he ate his way through half of Manhattan—and he knew baseball.  Hundreds of games played at St. Mary’s had developed his instincts beyond his years.  If anything, Ruth was sometimes too aggressive on the bases, overestimating both his speed and his ability to surprise.

He did it again in the fourth. Ruth rapped a hard liner between McInnis and first base, the ball passing the bag fair, then it hit the ground, then skipped to the wall, where it caromed off the concrete base and sent Harry Hooper racing after as Ruth pulled into second for a double.  He wisely moved to third on an infield out and then, after Pratt grounded to second, Ruth timed a dash home again.  It was closer this time, but he made a splendid fall-away slide, his foot sweeping across the plate as the catcher spun and reached out to make the tag.  The Yankees led 2–0, and so far it was all due to Ruth.

Something was building, you could tell.  If he had been bothered by any lingering discomfort from the pulled muscle he’d suffered at the start of the season, the slides proved either he was healed, or the injury taped, or somehow masked over.  Ruth was feeling no pain.

Pennock struck out Pipp to lead off the sixth, bringing up Ruth, who was greeted with the now customary histrionics, this time even a little louder due to his performance in the first half of the game.

Pennock threw one pitch and a sound like no other rocketed through the park.  The ball went up and up and toward right field.

What happened next released a deluge of adjectives and adverbs from the New York press, verbiage they’d been sitting on since the first week of January.  Now that they had a chance to use it, they didn’t stop.

The embellishment prize went to George Daley, writing under the pseudonym “Monitor” in the New York World:

Ruth strolled to the plate, decided it was time to OPEN THE SEASON and sunk his war club into the first ball Pennock tried to pass over the plate.

There came a burst of thunder sound: that ball, oh, where was it?  Why clear OVER the right field roof of Brush Stadium [the Polo Grounds] and dropping into the greensward of old Manhattan Field around the junction of Eighth Avenue and 156th Street—the longest drive they say EVER seen on the P.G. and longer even that the tremendous wallop that gave Babe his twenty-ninth homer last September.

Eyes were strained in the watching of the spheroid’s flight; throats were strained in acclaiming its all-fired bigness, and hands were strained in a riot of applause to the hitter thereof as he ambled around the bases and, lifting his cap, disappeared into the dugout.

Whew.  What he meant was it left the field between the third and fourth flagpole atop the roof in right field and landed in the park next door, only the third ball ever to leave the yard, as Ruth joined himself and Joe Jackson as the only prior practitioners. To be fair, the ball was driven about 400 feet when it left the park, although no one could say with any certainty whether it struck the top of the roof or sailed cleanly over it.  The grandstand roof was some sixty feet above the field, but its front edge, where the ball passed over, only a bit more than 300 feet from home.  Regardless, it was still, in the parlance of the day, “a prodigious blast” and “fierce clout,” absolutely “lambasted,” one that “flitted out of the park,” “a bomb.”

It also gave the Yankees a 3–0 lead.  A moment later, while the fans were still cheering, Duffy Lewis, up next, duplicated the feat, although in much more mortal fashion, smacking a home run into the left field bleachers.

That occurrence, back-to-back home runs, was so rare no one could recall it happening before.  Two consecutive home runs?  Both OVER the fence?  The lively ball needed no more proof.

Ruth’s home run, his first as a Yankee, was the one he needed most.  Now the dam was broken, now everything he was supposed to be, he suddenly was, now the pressure was off and the game was fun again.  Now he was, unquestionably and everlastingly, the Babe. The remainder of his career fell beneath the shadow of what was to come.

After the game, a 6–0 Yankee win, the press noted that it was Ruth’s 50th career home run.  Heck, Ty Cobb, who had been playing since 1905, only had 67 career home runs.  Home Run Baker had just 80.  Ruth already had 50.  He had only hit one home run as a Yankee and the press was already setting goals and targets.  They would do so for most of the next fifteen years.  Hardly anyone even mentioned that the victory might prove a turnaround for the team. The Babe was all and everything.

In case no one had noticed, the next day Ruth did it again, as the Times noted, “At what was known in the old days as an opportune time.”  In his first two times up, he collected a “mighty” strikeout (they all were “mighty” now) and then lofted a “near home run” (just about any deep fly ball) before coming up in the sixth with two on and the Yankees trailing 1–0.

After a swinging strike and a foul tip off Sam Jones, his former teammate tried to sneak one past . . . and failed.  This was no blast over the roof but a drive down the line. But even that wasn’t special enough. It was described as “the lowest and fastest home run drive uncoiled in the Harlem park in years,” maybe the shortest of Ruth’s career, sneaking over the fence and into the upper deck just fair of the iron foul pole, 258 feet away.

It didn’t matter to the fans, 25,000 of whom filled the park, the second home Sunday date of the year, bringing the Sabbath total to more than 50,000. As Ruth rounded the bases, they climbed on the dugout roof and tossed papers and hats onto the field.  There were even reports of celebrations emanating from the apartment windows of buildings on Coogan’s Bluff.  Even the Polo Grounds stage wasn’t big enough for Ruth.

The countdown began the next day.  The Times noted, “Babe needs only twenty-eight more

homers to beat the big record he set last season. At the rate of one a day that mark won’t last

long.”

Where There is Smoke…

rainwoman

What to make of the Yankees’ trade for Aroldis Chapman? The guy is clearly a stud on the mound but also possibly a huge asshole. And I don’t mean your run-of-the-mill Dave Kingman jagoff but a woman-beating creep. Kind of takes the fun out of imagining him in pinstripes, doesn’t it?

Okay, maybe he’s not a jerk, maybe he’s innocent of the charges against him–I’m sure it’s complicated. I know I’m presuming his guilt and that’s hardly fair. Regardless, this is a departure from how the Yanks have conduced business in recent years. They’re back to chasing talent with questionable character–let’s see if it blows up in their face or is a success.

I know Miller’s vulnerable to being traded and my hunch is that he will be moved. Still, Chapman, Betances and Miller at the end of games–that’s a formidable trio.

Picture by Bags

Giant Steps

lohu

Our thoughts and support go out to CC Sabathia. You aren’t alone, Big Man. Hang in there. We believe in you. Now, you just need to believe in  yourself.

[Photo Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports]

Top of the Heap

yanks

Last year Todd Radom put together this excellent post. Go check it out.

Silver Throat Sings Again

Suzyn

I hadn’t seen this before–The John Sterling Project–but cannot be surprised that it was put together by our old chum, William.

Thanks, my dude.

[Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin/N.Y. Daily News]

All-Star Game Snubs

couch

It’s too hot to get worked up over All Star game snubs–Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner–but that’s just me. You guys might be irked about it. Much as I’d tune in to see Rodriguez I’d rather he get a few days off to rest. Gardy? Well, hopefully, he’ll get another chance. He’s had a really nice season so far.

Dellin Betances and Mark Teixeira will represent the Yanks.

Picture by Bags

Miller Time Out

dbeta

Nova can’t return soon enough.  When he does, maybe Warren can go back to the pen to help Betances out while Miller gets healthy.

[Photo Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sport]

Would You Believe?

Bobby_Murcer_at_Yankee_Stadium

Found in the $1.00 cutout bin at a record store in Jersey.

badw

[Photo Via: Wikipedia]

Get Well Soon

chasechase

Drag.

[Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac]

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver