Category Archives: Ex-Players

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.

Yanks trade McCann; MVPs announced; AFL ends.

Yankee Stadium Frieze

 

The Yankees traded Brian McCann to the Astros for two young righty minor league pitchers. In his three seasons with the Yankees, McCann hit 69 HR but only hit .235. The emergence of Gary Sanchez made McCann expendable. The Yanks will pay the Astros $11MM of the $34MM remaining on his contract.

In return, the Yanks get Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman. Here is what MLB Trade Rumors has to say about them:

Abreu is the more highly regarded of the two; as J.J. Cooper of Baseball America explains, he throws a live fastball that occasionally nears the triple-digits. With a four-pitch arsenal, he perhaps has a chance to stick as a starter. Still, he only just turned 21 and struggled with his command last year at the Class A and High-A levels.

Guzman, meanwhile, has even more velocity, with his heater ticking up to 102-103 mph at times. Cooper notes, though, that he’s more effective when he’s operating at a slightly lower velocity (in his case, the upper-nineties). While the long-term outlook suggests that Guzman will end up in the pen, he is said to have a promising slider and also a change-up that’s in the works. The 20-year-old has yet to move past Rookie ball, but showed big strikeout ability (12.2 K/9) in his time in the Gulf Coast and Appalachian leagues last year.

Abreu, 21, was 3-8, 3.72 between low and High A in 2016. 16 starts, 8 relief appearances. 115 K in 101 2/3 IP.

Guzman, 20, was 3-4, 4.05 in Rookie League ball. 8 starts, 5 relief appearances. 54 K in 40 IP.

MLB announced its MVPs yesterday, Mike Trout of the Angels and Kris Bryant of the Cubs.  For Trout, it’s his second MVP (he won in 2014) and he has finished 1st or 2nd in MVP in each of his five full seasons in the bigs. He is still just 25 years old.Bryant, 24, was the ROY last year and now wins the MVP in just his second MLB season.

No Yankee received MVP consideration (meaning at least a 10th place vote).

The Arizona Fall League ended yesterday. They have a championship game Saturday but Scottsdale and Yankees’ prospects will not be playing in it. Only Tyler Wade played in the final game, and he went 1 for 3, scored a run and drove in two in a 6-6 tie. Wade ended the AFL at .241. He had a SF yesterday and stole 3 bases, giving him 10 for the AFL.

Former MLB catcher and manager Russ Nixon died recently. He was 81. He played from 1957-1968 for Cleveland, Boston, Minnesota, and Cleveland again. He was the catcher when Roger Maris hit his 61st HR. Nixon later managed the Reds and Braves. He hit .268 with an OPS+ of 84.

Cubs win epic game 7; first WS title since 1908. Zobrist MVP.

Yankee Stadium Frieze

First a correction. I forgot that Albert Pujols also drove in 6 RBI in a game. He was 5 for 6, scored 4 runs, had 3 HR and had 6 RBI in Game 3 of the 2011 WS. A game where he tied the WS record for HR AND RBI in one game.

So the four to drive in 6 in a WS game are Richardson, Matsui, Pujols and Russell.

Now to Game 7. Where to begin. It was epic.

The Cubs beat the Indians in ten innings, 8-7. It’s the first WS title for the Cubs since 1908. They are the sixth team to come back from down three to games to one in a best-of-seven World Series. The others: 1925 Pirates, 1958 Yankees, 1968 Tigers, 1979 Pirates and 1985 Royals.

Ben Zobrist was named WS MVP.

Dustin Fowler led off the game with a HR, the first time that ever happened in a Game 7.

The Indians tied it in the third on a single by Carlos Santana.

The Cubs got two in the fourth (Russell SF, Willson Contreras double) and two in the fifth to go up 5-1 after 4 1/2. Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller both didn’t have it. You can tell some pitchers were worn out.

Javier Baez homered for one of those Cubs runs in the fifth. The other scored on a single by Anthony Rizzo.

In the bottom of the fifth, a wild pitch let two runners score. 5-3 Cubs.

In the top of the sixth, David Ross, playing in his last MLB game, homered. What a way to retire, by homering in Game 7 of a WS. 6-3 Cubs.

Then, four outs away from victory, the Cubs let the game slip away for the time being.

With two out in the bottom of the eighth, Jose Ramirez singled and the Cubs brought in Aroldis Chapman.

Chapman’s recent workload caught up with him. He gave up a double to Brandon Guyer, and then shockingly, a 2-run HR to Rajai Davis that tied the game up.

The game went into the tenth. Kyle Schwarber singled and was PR for. After an out and an intentional walk, Zobrist doubled. After an intentional walk to load the bases back up for a DP, Miguel Montero singled to make it 8-6. Cleveland got out of the inning with no further damage, but the fatal damage was done.

The Indians didn’t go quietly however. (You knew it wasn’t going to be easy for the Cubs after 108 years, didn’t you?) After two out, a walk, an advance due to defensive indifference and a single (Davis again) made it 8-7 and put the tying run on first with the winning run at the plate. Cubs fans had to fear a game-tying double or WS winning HR. Michael Martinez grounded out and it was over.

For the Indians, another year of waiting for their first WS title since 1948.

For the Cubs, they can retire the Billy Goat. As for the 108 year gorilla (not monkey) on their backs, that’s gone, too.

Theo Epstein, president of the Cubs, can probably book his HOF ticket. As GM of Boston, he ended an 86-year old Curse of the Bambino and as President of the Cubs, ended the 108 year Cubs’ curse.

Finally, Joe Maddon, Cubs’ manager, wins a WS (he lost as Tampa Bay mgr. in 2008). Maddon comes from Hazleton, PA, about an hour’s drive from me.

Now for the hot stove league. Who gets traded? What free agents go where?

Cubs force Game 7 of WS; Russell’s 6 RBI ties record.

Yankee Stadium Frieze

Addison Russell tied a WS record (with Bobby Richardson and Hideki Matsui) of 6 RBI in a game as the Chicago Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians 9-3 in Game 6 of the World Series to force Game 7 tonight.

I just wonder what the TV ratings will be like. The Cubs are trying to comeback from being down three games to one. Only the 1925 Pirates, 1958 Yankees, 1968 Tigers, 1979 Pirates and 1985 Royals have won a WS after being down 3 games to 1.

The Cubs got 3 runs in the first. Kris Bryant homered with two out on an 0-2 pitch, and after a couple of singles, Russell’s pop fly fell between two outfielders for a gift two-run double.

Russell hit a grand slam in the third. It was the first WS grand slam since Paul Konerko of the White Sox did it in 2005.

The Indians got a run in the fourth on a Mike Napoli single and another in the fifth on a Jason Kipnis HR to cut it to 7-2.

Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run HR in the ninth to make it 9-2 Cubs. The Indians got a run in the bottom of the ninth on a Roberto Perez single.

Bryant had four hits, Rizzo three.

Aroldis Chapman came in in the seventh and pitched 1 1/3 innings.

Jason Kipnis had three of Cleveland’s six hits.

WS Game 4: Indians one win away from breaking Cubs’ heart again.

Yankee Stadium Frieze

The Cleveland Indians are one win away from their third WS title—and first since 1948—after a 7-2 win over the Chicago Cubs in Game 4.

For the Cubs, it’s one more loss until they chant “wait ’til next year” which they have done each year since 1908.

For Terry Francona, now 11-1 in WS games, it’s one win away from ensuring a ticket to Cooperstown as a HOF mgr. We won in 2004 and 2007, both in sweeps while Boston’s manager. If he now takes the Indians to a title, breaking yet another curse (86 years for Boston, 68 for Cleveland), his election should be assured.

Jason Kipnis had 3 hits, inc. a 3-run HR (the first player to hit a 3-run HR at Wrigley Field in a WS since… Babe Ruth) and Carlos Santana had 3 hits, inc. a HR in the victory. Francisco Lindor had 2 hits and an RBI.

Corey Kluber pitched six strong innings for the win, giving up 1 run. He even drove in a run with an infield single.

Andrew Miller finally cracked, giving up a HR to Dexter Fowler.

Game 5 is tonight in Chicago.

Cubs slam Dodgers in Game 1 of NLCS; Cleveland goes up 2-0 in ALCS.

Yankee Stadium Frieze

Andrew Miller may be the most dominating player in the postseason right now. In 7 2/3 innings of relief, he has struck out 17. He pitched two more scoreless innings of relief yesterday, giving up no hits and no runs and striking out five in Cleveland’s 2-1 win over Toronto.

The win puts Cleveland up 2 games to none. They now head to Toronto for the next three games in the best-of-seven ALCS. Today is an off day.

Once again, Francisco Lindor came up with the game winning hit for the Indians.

In the NLCS, Miguel Montero hit a PH grand slam in the bottom of the eighth to break a 3-3 tie and lead the Cubs to a 8-4 win in Game One of the NLCS. I don’t know what Joe Blanton was thinking. He gave up the meatball on an 0-2 pitch. Then, the next hitter, Dexter Fowler, hit another HR and it was game over.

This after Aroldis Chapman entered the game in the top of the eighth with the bases loaded, no one out and the Cubs having a 3-1 lead. He got two strikeouts but Adrian Gonzalez tied the game with a single before Chapman got the final out.

Ex-NY Jet Dennis Byrd over came a severe injury on the football field to learn how to walk again when it looked like he would be paralyzed for life. How sad is it to learn that after overcoming that, that Byrd died in a car accident yesterday.

I am watching the ND-Stanford game yesterday, and ND gives up a safety. I have to ask, why with your team backed up against its own end zone, is the QB in a shotgun? The center snaps the ball over the QB’s head and into or through the back of the end zone for a safety. Too often I see shotgun and no back formations. When backed up against your own end zone, do it the old-fashioned way—-have your QB right under the center with his hands under the center’s ass for the snap. It’s not that complicated, coaches.

Arizona Fall League: Only Gleyber Torres of the Yankees’ prospects played. He was 0 for 4 and struck out twice. There are no games today, Sunday.