Category Archives: Ex-Players

Ex-MLB pitcher Bill Champion dies at 69.

Yankee Stadium Frieze

Even though I am a Yankees fan, I don’t live far from Philadelphia, and there are many Phillies fans where I live.

On Jan. 7, a former Phillies pitcher, Bill Champion, passed away at the age of 69. He was 34-50, 4.69, ERA+ 78 in his career with the Phils & Brewers from 1969-1976.

Not much Yankees news to report, which is why I’ve been silent. Waiting for the NFL. Go Steelers, beat KC.

You’ll hear more from me next week when the HOF class of 2017 is announced.

First to HR in MLB game on West Coast dies: Daryl Spencer

Yankee Stadium Frieze

Daryl Spencer, an infielder, and the first major leaguer to hit a MLB home run on the West Coast, has passed away at the age of 88.

After the move of the NY Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers to the west coast after the 1957 season, it was Spencer who hit the first HR out west when his now San Francisco Giants hosted the now Los Angeles Dodgers at Seals Stadium on April 15, 1958. The HR, off Don Drysdale, helped the Giants win the game 8-0.

Spencer played for the Giants, Cardinals, Dodgers and Reds from 1952-1963. He missed all of the 1954 and 1955 seasons due to military service, thus missing out on the 1954 NY Giants WS title year.

He hit .244 in his career, playing SS, 2B and 3B, and had 105 HR. His 162 g. average was .244-15-63, OPS+ 89.

Recent baseball passings.

Yankee Stadium Frieze

There hasn’t been much going on in Yankeeland recently, so no recent posts. I will touch on a couple of recent baseball passings.

Phil Gagliano, a utility infielder for the 1967 and 1968 Cardinals teams that were in back to back WS, winning in 1967, losing in 1968, passed away recently at the age of 74.

Chris Cannizzaro, a C who was on the original 1962 Mets team and later on the original 1969 Padres’ team, passed away at age 78.

Yanks send Goody to Indians

Yankee Stadium Frieze

In a minor move, the Yankees sent Nick Goody to the Indians for a PTBNL or cash considerations.

Goody was DFA’d to make room on the 40 man roster when the Yanks re-signed Aroldis Chapman.

Goody, 25,  was 0-0, 4.66, 0 saves in 27 games with the Yanks in 2016. He was 0-0, 0 saves, 4.76 in 7 games with the Yanks in 2015.

This is one of several minor moves the Yanks have made this offseason to streamline their 40 man roster, such as releasing Dustin Ackley, who missed almost all of 2016 due to injury, releasing Nathan Eovaldi, who’ll miss all of 2017 following TJ surgery, and releasing Nick Rumbelow, who missed almost all of 2016 due to injury.

Rumors have the Yanks interested in Jose Quintana now that the White Sox are apparently in fire sale mode.

The Yanks once had Quintana. The soon-to-be 28 year old was in the Yankees’ system from 2008-2011. In 2011, he went 10-2, 2.91 at High A Tampa (30 games, 12 starts). He made the majors in 2012 and has gone 46-46, 3.41, ERA+ 118 since and in 2016 made the All-Star team. He was 13-12, 3.20 last season, finishing 10th in the CYA voting. With that ERA, you wonder what his record would be like on a better team.

The Yanks let him get away as a free agent after the 2011 season to make room for David Adams and Greg Golson on the roster. Ouch. Before even coming to the Yanks, Quintana was released by the Mets. Early in his career, he was suspended 50 games for violating drug policy.

So if the Yanks do get Quintana back, it’ll be to rectify a mistake they made five years ago. He is very affordable and will just be 28 in 2017. But it’ll cost. After acquiring a bunch of front-line prospects, do they really want to give up several now to get him?

HOF Rod Carew to get new heart, kidney

Yankee Stadium Frieze

Hall of Famer Rod Carew is facing his toughest battle. A little over a year since a heart attack almost cost him his life, Carew is getting a heart and kidney transplant.

Carew, 71, played for the Twins and Angels from 1967-1985, hitting .328 and accumulating over 3000 hits. While not a home run hitter (92 in his career), I did see him hit one off of Ed Figueroa in 1977. That was a shot, way into the upper deck at the old Yankee Stadium.

Carew won the MVP in 1977, hitting .388 with a career high 14 HR and 100 RBI. He won seven batting titles in his career, including one (1972) in a year in which he didn’t hit a home run.

He was an All-Star in every year he played except for the last one. A ROY, an MVP.

Godspeed to him. For now he faces his greatest challenge.

 

Yankees to retire Jeter’s #2 on 50th anniversary of Mantle’s 500th HR.

Yankee Stadium Frieze

On Mother’s Day, May 14, 1967, a Sunday, Mickey Mantle hit his 500th HR off of Baltimore’s Stu Miller at the original Yankee Stadium.

Exactly 50 years later, on another Sunday and Mother’s Day, the new Yankee Stadium across the street will see another historic event: the retirement of #2 for Derek Jeter.

With the retirement, all single digits will be retired, unless someone decides to shine in #0 or #00 or so.

You wonder if #13 (A-Rod) could be next….

Big move by Boston today, trading 4 prospects, Moncada being the top one, to the White Sox for Chris Sale.

A big deal is brewing, as the Cubs are close to trading OF Jorge Soler to KC for reliever Wade Davis. Well, now that Chapman is probably leaving….

Ralph Branca dies at 90.

Yankee Stadium Frieze

The scene, on grainy black and white, is still poignant 65 years later. Bobby Thomson hits a 3-run HR to win the pennant for the NY Giants over the Brooklyn Dodgers on October 3, 1951. The Giants were 13 1/2 games behind the Dodgers in mid-August. The Giants would go on to lose the World Series to a Yankees team that for that one year, featured Joe DiMaggio AND Mickey Mantle.

65 years later, you still hear Russ Hodges’ call of that home run by heart.

The pitcher who gave up that home run, Ralph Branca, died yesterday at the age of 90. The announcement was made by his son-in-law, ex-major league player and manager, Bobby Valentine.

For 65 years, Branca carried that HR with him. But he carried it with great dignity. Often, he and Thomson would tour or appear together, and they became great friends.

When I think of that, I think of Donnie Moore, who by contrast, never got over the HR he gave up in the 1986 ALCS that helped cost the Angels a WS berth, and who killed his wife and himself three years later.

Branca showed true class, dignity and sportsmanship, even when it came out in 2001 that the Giants were stealing pitches and that Thomson may have known what pitch was coming.

The Polo Grounds was shaped like a bathtub. Short down the lines (way under 300 feet) and deep (over 440) to the power alleys. Thomson’s HR barely cleared the 16′ high wall at the 315 mark. If it were hit in Fenway Park today, it most likely would be a single off the scoreboard, not even a double with the short wall.

Branca was more than that one pitch. He was only 18 when he made his major league debut in 1944—a year where the majors were devastated by players having to be in the service due to WWII; a year when the St. Louis Browns—the BROWNS—won their only pennant.

At the age of 21 in 1947, Branca won 21 games. There was no CYA then, since Cy Young wouldn’t die until 1955. Branca was an All-Star and finished 11th in the MVP voting.

More importantly, he befriended Jackie Robinson, who that year, as he was breaking the color barrier, was being ostracized by many, including his own teammates.

The movie “42”, about that year of Robinson’s life, portrays Branca very well.

Branca started Game 1 of the WS against the Yanks in 1947, pitching four scoreless innings before the Yanks tagged him for 5 runs in the fifth for a 5-3 win. Branca pitched a couple of innings in relief in Game 3, and got the win in Game 6, pitching a couple of innings in relief in the “Al Gionfriddo” game.

A 3x All-Star, Branca finished 21st in the MVP voting in 1948. He started, and lost, Game 3 of the 1949 Series to the Yanks, giving up just 1 run for 8 innings before tiring and giving up 3 in the top of the ninth. The Dodgers scored two in the bottom half of the ninth but lost 4-3.

Branca was 1-2, 6.35 in four WS games.

He pitched for the Dodgers from 1944-1953, then was with the Tigers 1953-1954, Yankees (5 games, 3 starts, 1-0, 2.84) 1954, was out of the majors in 1955—ironically the only year Brooklyn won the WS—and got in one more game, fittingly with the Dodgers, on September 7, 1956.

His MLB career was over before he turned 31.

He then helped with BAT, an assistance program for ex-players.

He went 88-68, 3.79 in his MLB career, ERA+ 105. His average year would have been 25 starts, 18 relief appearances, and 12-9, 3.79.  As a hitter, he hit .142 with 2 HR.

He and Thomson are both gone,as are most of the players from that game (Willie Mays, 85, was the on deck batter when Thomson homered).

That moment, however, will live forever.