Former Yankee Luis Arroyo passes away at 88

The following is from Adam Moss, who goes by Roadgeek Adam in the comments.

Arroyo at Old Timers' Day in 2013. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Arroyo at Old Timers’ Day in 2013. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Yankees power lefty reliever and member of the 1961 championship team, Luis Enrique “Tite” Arroyo, has died at the age of 88 in the city of Ponce, Puerto Rico from cancer, which he had been diagnosed with in December. A reliever for the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds before coming to the Yankees in 1960, Arroyo surprised many people by getting off to a hot start in 1955 despite his portly-size and extended length in the minors. By the time the 1955 season ended, Arroyo (an All-Star) went downhill and finished with a 4.19 ERA and an 11-8 record. He continued to pitch around the minors and with the Pirates before reaching the Reds. The Reds sent him to Havana to play for the Sugar Kings in the International League. The team won the playoffs for the International League, finishing with a 1.15 ERA and Fidel Castro said it was a “happy day for Cuba.”

In 1960, Arroyo returned to the Havana Sugar Kings, but soon ended up in Jersey City, New Jersey. The Yankees selected his contract on July 20, 1960 after purchasing him from the Reds. Casey Stengel noted at the end of the season that Arroyo along with Billy Stafford did more than ever expected of him, helping in winning the 1960 American League pennant. Arroyo, despite his work in the late season (2.88 ERA), only appeared once in the 1960 World Series (Game 5, specifically). At that time in baseball, it was rare a 34-year-old was considered nothing less than old, especially for one with no specialty.

In 1961, the Yankees expected the same of Arroyo, despite the prediction of Sports Illustrated, stating that he would fall back. Arroyo was injured in Spring Training of 1961 when hit by a line drive by Jesse Gonder. He quickly returned, and Arroyo found himself facing the West Point cadets on April 14. Arroyo quickly established himself as the ace of the Yankees bullpen, and they decided that Ryne Duren was expendable. (Duren himself was on a flight to face the Angels when he because inebriated and grabbed the breasts of a flight attendant.) Duren was traded to the Angels along with several others for Bob Cerv and Truman Clevenger. Ford established himself as the personal reliever for Whitey Ford because of the fact that Whitey could not go nine innings anymore. Arroyo replaced Ford 24 times in 1961 and got saves in 13 of the wins Whitey started. At the end of the 1961 season, the left-handed Arroyo pitched in 65 games (a league lefty record at the time) with 29 saves, 15-5 record and a 2.19 ERA, helping Ralph Houk tremendously.

The 1962 season was different, Arroyo could not stand up the numbers he had posted in late 1960 and 1961, appearing in only 27 games and accumulating a 4.42 ERA. The next season, his arm completely gave out and he finished with a 13.50 ERA in just six games. On September 27, 1963, the Yankees released Arroyo and he never appeared in a Major League Baseball game ever again.

Thoughts and prayers go to the Arroyo family in this hard time, though Arroyo’s reputation as a portly old reliever that could never fully establish himself remains. He was vital for the 1960 and 1961 teams, but became just another arm with a 40-32 record and a 3.93 ERA. Arroyo was also the first player from Puerto Rico to play for the Yankees. Rest in peace, Tite.

Guest Post: Who Punched the Delicatessen Man? The Yankees at the Copacabana

The following is a guest post from Adam Moss, who you know as Roadgeek Adam in the comments. He’s previously written guest posts on Tim McClelland, Frankie Crosetti, the No. 26, Casey Stengel, Leo Durocher, Miller Huggins, and Jerry Kenney.

(Books on Baseball)
(Books on Baseball)

The early part of the 1957 season for the Yankees would qualify as extremely interesting, considering the season wrapped up with the Yankees losing to the Milwaukee Braves in the World Series, 4 games to 3. The early Yankees were very streaky, and by mid-May, the team was starting to show some signs of getting out the streaky form, only to revert back. However, May and June became more famous for an event that occurred off the field, and the delicate history between Billy Martin, George Weiss and Casey Stengel, all of which changed as a result.

May 15 – The Game Before

The Yankees won a game at Yankee Stadium against the Kansas City Athletics on May 15, 1957. The winning pitcher was Tom Sturdivant, who was coming off a complete game loss against the Cleveland Indians and Herb Score/Bob Lemon (the future Yankee manager). That game on May 7 also happened to be the game where Herb Score was nailed in the eye on a liner from Gilbert McDougald. That ball managed to deflect to third and McDougald was thrown out at first. Score would be carted off the field in a stretcher while Lemon came in and threw 8.1 innings of one-run baseball. Tom Sturdivant gave up 2 runs, 5 hits, 2 walks and 9 strikeouts.

Sturdivant was in the middle of one of his better streaks. Sturdivant had thrown a 7-hit complete game against the Athletics earlier in the month (May 2). On May 15, he threw a complete game shutout (called by Hall of Fame umpire Nestor Chylak) against the Athletics. This game had 5 hits, 1 walk and 3 strikeouts, complete opposites of the loss the week prior. The next start was yet another complete game against the Washington Senators on May 24. This time, he gave up 4 hits, 1 run, 7 walks and 6 strikeouts. (You wouldn’t see a 7 walk player throw a shutout in this day and age!)

That stretch of excellent starts for Sturdivant was ruined in his next start, also against the Washington Senators on May 29. The starter gave up 6 earned runs in 6.1 innings and 7 hits. Ralph Terry and Bob Turley wrapped up the game with 1.2 clean innings. The Yankees that day had a complete game thrown against them instead by Pedro Ramos, one of those extremely rare switch-hitting pitchers (who would become a Yankee in 1964 for Terry!).

May 15-16 – A Trip to the Nightclub

Billy Martin was due to have his 29th birthday on May 16, 1957. Martin was an eccentric infielder for the Yankees and a particularly fond student of manager Casey Stengel. However, his personality had become a burden on General Manager George Weiss. Weiss felt that a Yankee should be a professional on and off the field and that his behavior was a poor influence on stars Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford. It has been noted that they didn’t need Martin’s encouragement to be unprofessional off the field, and that became evident on the night of May 15.

Mantle, Ford, along with catcher Yogi Berra, pitcher Johnny Kucks and outfielder Hank Bauer took Martin to a nightclub on West 47th Street, the famous Copacabana. On that particular night, the headline entertainment for attendees was the great Jazz artist Sammy Davis, Jr. Things went pretty smoothly for the clan of Yankees who attended the nightclub, until a group of white bowlers entered the Copacabana. These bowlers began to heckle Davis, who had big fans in the Yankee players. Though they were drunk from their party, they came to the back of Davis.

It is at this point where details become hard to find, and some of the players deny their participation or lack thereof. The reports were that Bauer had baited and punched Edwin Jones, a 40-year-old owner of a delicatessen in the Bronx. Berra claimed that “nobody did nothing to nobody,” while Mantle noted in a later civil trial that he was so wasted that he was unsure who threw the first punch. This broke out at 2:30 AM on May 16, and the New York Daily News claimed potentially on the blocking of Jones’ view. Words were exchanged between the clan and Jones’ which contained 19 people. Jones was taken to the hospital with a busted nose and jaw.

May 16 – The Evening After

After reports of all this came out in the news, Casey Stengel became red-faced. Stengel generally had been a hands-off manager since taking over in the 1949 season, but this took things to another level. Stengel noted to the press that the players would have to pay extra for their “entertainment.” Stengel noted that he would talk to front-office officials about the nightclub escapades and deal with it.

Daily News front page dated May 17, 1957 Headline: YANKS BENCH 2 IN COPA BRAWL Beck Repays Another 100G It Was a Hit, Say Jones, But Hank Calls it Error Delicatessen owner Edwin Jones, 40, feels his battered jaw as he rests at 602 W. 188th St. Jones says he's still a Yankee fan, but he's going to sue Hank Bauer for $250,000, charging Hank slugged him at the Copacabana. Hank, hoisting a couple of bats for last night's Stadium game, said he did not strike Jones. Casey Stengel, irked at his players' nightclubbing, bench Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra.

At the same time, Stengel made punishment immediate. Whitey Ford was pulled from the start he was due to make on May 16 for Bob Turley and Yogi Berra was benched in favor of Elston Howard. He put Bauer in the 8-hole (just above the pitcher, since there was no designated hitter at the time), but left Mantle alone. Stengel’s justification for leaving Mantle in the three-hole, was that he was not going to sacrifice an attempt to the win the pennant because of the brawl.

Neither Billy Martin nor Johnny Kucks were scheduled to play in the May 16 game and were unaffected. The moves proved to be magical, like most of the Professor’s. Turley threw a 4-hit shutout of the Athletics with 5 walks and 8 strikeouts. The lineup jumped on Alex Kellner and tagged him for 2 runs in 3 innings. Mickey McDermott finished the last 5 innings and gave up 1 run on 3 hits. One of those three runs came from a solo shot by Mantle.

As for fines, Dan Topping, president of the team, laid out 6 fines, totaling $5,500 (1957 USD; $46,000 today) on June 3. $1,000 fines were levied against Bauer, Berra, Ford, Mantle and Martin for their behavior. A $500 fine was also given to Kucks because he had a lesser salary. Stengel noted that he was upset over the stiff fines, but Weiss noted that it was not because of anything between the manager and the front office.

May 21 & June 24 – Jones v. Bauer

On May 21, Edwin Jones came to Bauer and made a citizen’s arrest, because no one would have him arrested (neither the NYPD nor the NY District Attorney’s Office). Jones had Bauer fingerprinted, booked on felonious assault charges, photographed with a mugshot and arraigned on the charges. He was released without bail to his attorney. Bauer’s attorney, Sidney O. Friedman noted denied the charges against him and that they would sue for false arrest despite it being legal unless Jones could prove the charge against him. Bauer told the press that he never hit anyone while being accompanied by two police officers and fans along the street were supporting Bauer.

Jones’ attorney, Anthony Zingales, noted that he would produce two witnesses to help support Jones’ story. One was his brother-in-law, Phil Esposito who claimed that it was in an alcove where Jones was hit. Jones however claimed that that he did not see his assailant. Zingales also noted that they intended to sue Bauer for $250,000 in damages. The hearing for Bauer’s felonious assault charges would be held on June 21.

Testifying in front of a grand jury, Mantle told the prosecutor that “I think Roy Rogers rode through the Copa, and Trigger kicked the man in the head.” This caused the jury to break out in laughter. Ford, Kucks, and Berra also testified in Bauer’s behalf. However, Bauer never came to the stand himself. The grand jury voted “no bill,” meaning there was not sufficient evidence to indict. By this point, Bauer had left the courtroom with his wife. Because of the decision, Jones now became liable for damages relating to the arrest on May 21. Bauer sued him for $150,000, but the records of either lawsuit have never been released.

June 16 – The Final Judgement

Well, while Bauer was dealing with the upcoming grand jury testimony, George Weiss finally got his wish: he was rid of Billy Martin. The infielder was traded with Ralph Terry to the Kansas City Athletics for Suitcase Sampson, pitcher Risold Duren, outfielder Jim Pisoni (both who were sent to Denver) along with Milt Graff, who was an infielder acquired and sent to Richmond. Weiss used the incident, along with a brawl on June 14 against the White Sox as an excuse to trade Martin at the trade deadline (which was June 15 back at the time). The rest is known history, but the fight at the Copa is by far the most famous off-field event in Yankee history aside of Thurman Munson’s funeral in 1979. The true answer of who punched the delicatessen man may never be fully known due to death of players, their denial and their state of intoxication at the time.

Guest Post: Designated For Assignment: Inside the Turbulent Season of Chris Capuano

The following is a guest post from Steven Simineri, whose work can be found at Double G Sports, among other places.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

In baseball, being designated for assignment is essentially a sort of ‘limbo’ a player goes when he’s temporarily not on any roster. The term is sometimes abbreviated as DFA or DFA’ed. When a player is DFA’ed, he is immediately removed from the 40-man roster. The team then has ten days to trade him, release him, or convince him to stay with the organization in the minors. Most players will not accept a minor-league spot, so they usually end up moving on.

However, for veteran lefty Chris Capuano such transactions became a part of daily routine this season with the New York Yankees. He was designated for assignment four times in less than a month’s time and returned to the big leagues all four times. Once, he had checked into his Scranton-area hotel for less than an hour before general manager Brian Cashman called to summon him back to the big club.

“I didn’t waste a lot of time,” said Capuano, who is now plenty familiar with the two-hour drive on Interstate 80 between New York and Class AAA Scranton (Pa.). “I know you technically have a couple of days to actually report, but I’m someone who likes to not just sit around, I like to be proactive and get right to work. So when that’s happened I generally reported that next day down to Triple-A and not wasted anytime just try to stay in a routine.”

Pitchers are considered creatures of habit, but this wacky season provided the 37-year old southpaw with little routine. To keep his command sharp and his arm strength up, Capuano took to throwing a good deal of live bullpens with reserve hitters standing in the box.

“Well my arm hasn’t had enough work to really have a tired arm or sore arm, it’s more keeping the feel,” Capuano told me in the Yankees clubhouse. “And obviously, I haven’t done the best job at that, given that I’d have one good outing and one really bad one. It’s been tough, I haven’t been able to kind of master given that kind of inconsistent schedule being as consistent as I’d like on the mound.”

Capuano’s trying 2015 campaign started when he pulled a leg muscle covering first base during a spring training game. He was a good soldier, who tried to use his time in Scranton to iron out any mechanical flaws and get into a rhythm. In six starts for the RailRiders, Capuano posted a 1.27 ERA across 28 1/3 innings.

“Every time I’ve been able to go back down to Triple-A and get in the starting rotation for whether it’s been five or ten days, this last time I went down and made two starts and that’s really helped me I feel like to get that feel back and rhythm back,” said Capuano, who grew up in Massachusetts as a Red Sox fan.

Capuano, a career starter, began last season with his hometown team and pitched in 28 games out of the bullpen to a tune of a 4.55 ERA. But he was designated for assignment in late June. After a quick detour through the Rockies’ organization, Capuano was traded to the Yankees where he went on to make 12 decent starts, going 2-3 with a 4.25 ERA. He went at least six innings in eight of those starts and showed enough to earn a one-year, $5 million deal in the winter from the team.

Despite being a free agent, Capuano pitched for the MLB All-Star team in the 2014 MLB Japan All Star Series. Wearing a Yankee uniform, he started two games for the MLB All Stars, allowing just one earned run and striking out seven batters. There were reports that he had interest in possibly signing with a Japanese team. He eventually stood stateside, but Japan could offer more money and a more prominent role sometime in the future.

“I’d never rule it out just because I love the culture, I love the people,” said Capuano, who also pitched for Arizona, Milwaukee, the Mets and Dodgers from 2003 to 2013. “It’s a beautiful country and they’re very passionate about baseball over there. So I would never rule it out. My wife and I don’t have any children. I love to travel so I wouldn’t rule anything out.”

While this season was a trying one for the Springfield, Mass., native, Capuano is no stranger to hardships. From 05/13/07 — 06/03/10, the soft-tossing southpaw appeared in 26 games for the Milwaukee Brewers (19 GS) and the Brewers lost all 26. He has also endured despite two Tommy John surgeries on his left elbow, the second of which cost him two full seasons in the big leagues, 2008 and 2009.

“After I had the first one it was really eleven months and I was back but the second one I missed two years and that’s a lot of time to miss – kind of similar to the situation Andrew Bailey is in for us now,” said Capuano, who is the only two-time Tommy John patient to make more than 10 major-league starts after his second procedure. “But when you do make it back, I think it gives you a healthier perspective having gone through that. You appreciate the game, you appreciate being around your teammates and the ballpark that much more.”

His ERA this past season sat at an unsightly 7.97, but he definitely helped spike the IQ of the pitching staff. He was valedictorian of his high school class at Cathedral High. He had the academic numbers to get into Dartmouth or Yale, even signing a letter of intent to enroll at Yale. But then he saw the Duke campus during a camp and changed his mind. When he graduated in 2000 with an economics degree, he did so Phi Beta Kappa with a 3.86 G.P.A., an impressive number he would probably prefer as his earned run average.

At age 37, Capuano is fully aware that his big league career may soon be coming to an end. He has been approached by one television network about a career in broadcasting, but he is leaning towards going for his MBA degree full-time. Capuano knows that a baseball career is a fleeting livelihood, and he wanted to complete his economics degree so he could follow his father, Frank, a financial planner, into the business world after his baseball career ended.

“My father is a financial planner and I’ve done a lot of work with him over the years too and I’ve stayed active in our union and our pension committee,” said Capuano, who has also made an All-Star team in 2006 and earned a silver medal while playing on Team USA in the 2001 World Cup of Baseball. “There’s a whole world out there after baseball is done, but while I’m playing I’m going to enjoy it and have fun.”

Guest Post: Replacing a Legend: The Story of A Bust Prospect

The following is a guest post from Adam Moss, who you know as Roadgeek Adam in the comments. He’s previously written guest posts on Tim McClelland, Frankie Crosetti, the No. 26, Casey Stengel, Leo Durocher, and Miller Huggins.

(OOTPdevelopments.com)
(OOTPdevelopments.com)

For the 2015 season, the New York Yankees had a tough task to deal with, replacing the legend Derek Jeter. Thankfully, Brian Cashman brought us the answer in Didi Gregorius. That being said, this is far from the only time the Yankees have had to replace a legend. David Robertson did an excellent job replacing Mariano Rivera in 2014 and of course, the late Yogi Berra did a legendary job replacing the legendary Bill Dickey as the Yankees primary catcher. People, however, won’t always handle the job of replacing players well at all. The Yankees attempted to replace Robinson Cano with Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson, and tried to replace them with Stephen Drew, none of which have worked out thus far. Now sure, Robinson Cano wasn’t a legend, but he was the stalwart of the second base position for the Yankees the last several years.

In 1969, the New York Yankees were facing another less than enviable situation. How the hell do you replace Mickey Mantle, the Yankees’ legendary center fielder? On October 7, 1968, the 36-year old Mantle announced that he wanted to be part of the 1969 pennant race and work with the extremely young team (Tommy Tresh being second-eldest at age 29!). Rumors had been evident in the idea of Mantle wanting to retire at the end of the 1968 season, but Mantle said he felt great and was planning to attend Spring Training in 1969. He even showed concern about the upcoming expansion draft, stating that he will retire as a Yankee when he is hitting only .240 and making $100,000 and with no one else.

However, on March 1, 1969, Mantle announced in Fort Lauderdale that he would retire after talking with Ralph Houk and that for the team it would be best if Mantle stepped away. He also cited that the chain of restaurants he was creating (Mickey Mantle’s Country Cookin’ Restaurants) as well as clothing stores. Mantle admitted that the previous autumn he would play another year if he felt good in Spring Training, but decided as the months went by that it was time to hang up the spikes. Mike Burke, then President of the Yankees, announced on the spot that the Yankees would retire his No. 7 as a result. But with the retirement, a new question was to be asked, who is going to replace him?

The Story of a Man from Wisconsin

Jerry Kenney was born on June 30, 1945 in the city of St. Louis,  Missouri. A three-sport player, Kenney made his prime in basketball in the city of Beloit, Wisconsin, an exurb of Chicago, Illinois. Kenney was named one of the prime eight in the Big Eight Conference’s all-star team for 1962. Sports writers of Racine, Madison, Kenosha and Janes, Wisconsin all represented the Beloit Purple Knights on the crew. Later that March, Kenney had managed to get honorable mentions for his basketball performance at the state level. The next year, the 6ft 0in senior from Beloit High School was chosen on the first team for the state of Wisconsin in 1963. That year, Kenney managed to finish as a top scorer at the 1963 State Basketball Tournament at the fieldhouse for the University of Wisconsin Badgers. In 1963, the Beloit Purple Knights went undefeated in basketball and later on, when Kenney was presented a gift for their performance in 1969, his coach mentioned that he was a baseball and basketball star.

In May 1964, the New York Yankees signed the former high school standout to a contract to play baseball for the Yankees in the brand new Florida Rookie Baseball League, which a year later became the Gulf Coast League. He was signed to the Sarasota team, which was under control of the Yankees. By the beginning of 1967, Kenney was in the International League (AAA) for Columbus. He was the all-Star shortstop in 1966, hitting .292 and kept climbing the ladder in the Yankees organization. Houk believed that Kenney was ready for the big leagues in January, mentioning that the infield could possibly be Mantle at 1B, Horace Clarke at 2B, a mix of Bobby Murcer, Kenney or Ruben Amaro, Sr. at SS and a platoon of Charley Smith & Mike Ferraro at 3B. By February 18, 1967, Kenney re-signed with the Yankees for a major league contract along with Lou Clinton. However, on March 22, Kenney was re-assigned to AAA unlike what Houk had said in January. Kenney would not make his MLB debut until September 5. Wearing No. 14, Kenney appeared in 20 games, batting at a .310/.412/.397 clip with 1 home run and OPS+ of 146 in a small sample size of 74 plate appearances.

The next year, however, Kenney along with Murcer were both drafted into the service for the United States Military and missed the 1968 season. The Yankees tried to replace Kenney and Murcer for a year with a couple of newcomers in the form of third baseman Bob Cox (the Bobby Cox) and shortstop Gene Michael. The GM of the Yankees, Lee MacPhail, tried to acquire Luis Aparicio from the Baltimore Orioles, but ended up settling on having Michael play shortstop. Murcer and Kenney were discharged from the Navy and the Army in December 1968.

So, Who is Replacing Mantle?

The decision was made in Spring Training to move Joe Pepitone from center field to 1st base to replace Mantle. As a result, the decision was made by Ralph Houk to have Kenney transition into an outfielder. The 24-year old shortstop was basically making the same transition Mantle had made in 1951. Kenney admitted publicly though that he was not as good as Mantle and that the Yankees knew that. In his minor league career, Kenney had only hit 7 home runs and admitted that he’s a “Punch and Judy Hitter,” meaning he knows he cannot hit home runs, but surprises himself when he does. However, the Yankees saw great value in his ability to reach base, hitting never lower than a .290 batting average in the minors and his speed. The Yankees, who put Murcer at third base were running Tom Tresh at shortstop, who had a rough 1968 as well as Pepitone at 1B, were betting on Murcer and Kenney reproducing at least what they had in the minors.

At the same time, the departing third base coach, Frankie Crosetti, was offered to have his No. 2 retired in his honor for his 37 years of service to the New York Yankees. He ultimately decided against it and asked the Yankees to give the number to the next up and coming player and Kenney was chosen for that regard.

However, there seemed to be a disaster forming coming into the 1969 season. Manager Ralph Houk, having lost Mantle’s bat, also lost the amount of power that was going on in the lineup. The door also opened that the lineup had only one legitimate home run hitter in Joe Pepitone. Houk told the press that without Mantle, it could be a psychological asset for the team. However, Houk was reliant on Kenney, Tresh and Murcer to be the important part of a small ball lineup. The only sure things were really in the pitching with Mel Stottlemyre and Lindy McDaniel. The 1969 season for Kenney was very average, however, and in 130 games, Kenney had only two home runs and 34 RBI. His OBP of .328 and .311 was definitely below the short sample size in 1967 and not like his Minor League numbers. To make things even worse, he managed only an 83 OPS+, which is definitely not the production that a starting player should have. Showing the weaknesses in the 1969 team, he still managed a rate of 3 wins above replacement, which is the only positive of the 1969 season for Kenney when it comes to SABERmetrics. Defensively, despite some promise at the beginning of the season in CF, it was blatant that Kenney was not going to repeat the track of Mantle and become a star in center field. He only played 31 games in the outfield (all center field), and while he committed no errors, he never stayed out there. Kenney managed to play 83 games at 3B and 10 games at SS that season, managing 7 errors when playing at 3B. Contrary to the plans at the beginning of the season, they put Mantle for the most part in the outfield.

A Hitter or Not?

The poor 1969 season didn’t bode well at the beginning of 1970, when the Yankees offered him a total of $18,000 for a salary for 1970, a raise from $12,000 in 1969. However, Kenney wanted more from the front office, asking for $30,000. He ended up signing for an undisclosed amount in early March. Let’s put it this way, if 1969 was bad, 1970 was even worse. Now permanently an infielder, Kenney played 140 games, managing 4 of his 7 major league home runs in that season: April 26 (off Blue Moon Odom of the Oakland As), June 12 (off Aurelio Monteagudo of the Kansas City Royals), July 1 (off Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers) and July 26 (off future Yankee Catfish Hunter!). The homer off Catfish would be Kenney’s final MLB home run, and the 25 year old Kenney managed a whopping .193 batting average! Repeat, .193! Stephen Drew, eat your heart out. The final slash line for the 1970 season was .193/.284/.282, propelled by 52 walks to 44 strikeouts and 7 triples of his 78 hits. To make things even worse, he had an OPS+ of a mere 61. SABERmetrics rips this season to shreds: -17 Rbat! -17! Even his lackluster 1969 season was only good for -9. If you thought it could get any possibly worse, let’s look at his defense: 17 ERRORS AT THIRD BASE in 135 games. We rip Chase Headley’s head off for his errors in the 2015 season and lackluster offense, but holy hell, this takes the cake.

Credit to Kenney, his 1971 season was definitely a turnaround after the disastrous 1970, at least offensively. In 120 games, Kenney ran up his slash line to .262/.368/.311. Credit to him because he reduced his strikeouts even further and raised his walk rate, something he was always good at doing. For the first time in a legit sample size, Kenney managed a 100 OPS+ (exactly 100; he had a 146 in 1967 in a small sample size). However, his defense was not an improvement whatsoever. Still a primary third baseman, Kenney managed 15 errors and a .953 fielding percentage at third base. (You’d think Houk and company would have pulled him by this point!) However, an interesting note courtesy of Retrosheets: On July 18, 1971, Kenney started the bottom of the 6th  with a single, followed by a Bobby Murcer walk and Roy White being hit by a pitch from Tom Bradley of the Chicago White Sox. The unusual part, 2 innings later: Kenney led off the inning with a single, Murcer drew yet another walk and reliever Terry Forster nailed Roy White. You know things went well in a game when déjà vu becomes involved.

The End

Well, 1971, while a much better season offensively, proved to be another flash in the pan. In 1972, Kenney (who was paid $32,000) only appeared in 50 games. The Yankees had seen enough of Kenney at 3rd base finally, playing only 1 game at the position that year and 45 at shortstop. His hitting did not improve whatsoever. In fact, it went backwards again. Kenney only managed a .210/.304/.227 slash line and a 62 OPS+. His walks and strikeouts evened out and there was just no ability to hit whatsoever in that short sample size. Playing shortstop for his time on the season, Kenney managed only 6 errors, but that still was basically 6 errors too many, because his career with the Yankees was basically toast.

On November 27, 1972, the Yankees closed the door on Kenney in Honolulu, Hawaii when Lee MacPhail turned Kenney, along with catcher John Ellis and outfielders Charlie Spikes & Rusty Torres to the Cleveland Indians for their star third baseman, Graig Nettles. (The Yankees also received catcher Jerry Moses in the deal.) This was the last deal that was made under the CBS ownership, as on January 3, 1973, it was announced at a press conference that a ship-builder named George M. Steinbrenner, car manufacturer John DeLorean and a group of investors would buy the New York Yankees from CBS. That said, the 1973 Cleveland Indians marked the end for the 28-year old Kenney, who only appeared in five games for the team. While he made a nice short impression: batting .250 in those 5 games, Kenney was released by the Indians on May 4. After sitting out for a while, Kenney was re-signed by the Yankees on July 30, but never returned to the big league club to play for Houk. His career was over.

When he played for the Yankees, he played in 460 games, hitting a meager .237/.326/.299 for being one of the big name players who was supposed to help the Yankees get through the post-Mantle era. However, it was not to be, as he managed only an 81 OPS+ in his tenure with the Yankees. Kenney was a backdoor prospect who the Yankees liked when they signed him in 1964 out of Wisconsin, but never lived up to the true potential he had as an on-base player who could be an offensive improvement for a power-drained team. His defense was never strong at 3rd base despite being an infielder and by 1972, all the lust was gone. I hate to say this, but I think the best thing he did was get us Graig Nettles, who would go on to have a storied Yankee career as their third baseman.

Guest Post: Death of a Manager: September 25, 1929

The following is a guest post from Adam Moss, who you know as Roadgeek Adam in the comments. He’s previously written guest posts on Tim McClelland, Frankie Crosetti, the No. 26, Casey Stengel, and Leo Durocher.

huggins death 1

The baseball world and especially the Yankees’ world took a major blow on September 22, 2015, when Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra died at the age of 90. Berra was a Yankee legend for many generations dating back to the 1940s. Grandfathers, fathers, sons and grandsons around the country knew the name Yogi Berra and would always know what exactly Yogi stood for. Yogi won 13 World Series rings as player, manager and coach for both of the New York teams; the Yankees and the Mets and I think both teams’ fans are hurting right now (more the Yankees than the Mets), because a legend has moved on to the baseball field in heaven.

At the same time as we’re mourning the death of Berra, the 86th anniversary of a similar death, but much more sudden approaches us today. On September 25, 1929, Yankee manager Miller Huggins, the former Cincinnati Red & St. Louis Cardinal second baseman died suddenly at the age of 51. On Friday, September 20, Huggins had been admitted to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village with erysipelas of the face, which basically means the face is bright red due to an acute infection of the upper dermis and superficial lymphatics. His condition had been worsened due to a case of influenza, and though blood transfusions had been performed to help his condition, last rites were called at 12:10 PM on the 22nd. On September 25, the “Mighty Atom,” Miller Huggins was gone.

A Career of Successful Managing

Miller Huggins, up until his death in 1929, had been an excellent manager for the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals. But the story of Miller Huggins goes back much further to a kid who was basically handicapped by his own weight for the game of baseball that he loved. The Mighty Atom, standing a mere 5ft 5in tall, worked his tail off against his parents’ wishes (they wanted a lawyer out of him), but instead decided at 16 to make baseball his career. He however, did study at the University of Cincinnati and was accepted to the state bar in 1902.

However, in 1899, Huggins turned his attention to baseball as well, playing his first professional game as a second baseman with the Mansfield Haymakers for the very original Class-B Interstate League that existed as a group of teams through the Midwest. In 1901, Huggins moved onto the St. Paul Saints and showing strong ambition and desire to play the game of baseball, the Cincinnati Reds bought the contract of Huggins from the Saints in 1904. He became a Red permanently for the next six seasons, showing an incredible ability to get on base, even with little power, having a major league high 103 walks in 1905 alone, with a low 46 strikeouts. While Huggins never had any power, his on-base percentage rates were enough to keep him in the league for many years.

On February 3, 1910, the Reds traded Huggins to the St. Louis Cardinals along with outfielder Rebel Oakes and pitcher/infield/outfielder Frank Corridon for pitcher Fred Beebe and infielder Alan Storke. Keeping up with his OBP-heavy playing skills, Huggins eventually was declared a player-manager for the Cardinals, hoping to grow a really lackluster franchise into something strong. However, his performance as a manager of the Cardinals came with lackluster success as he could never get the team higher than third in the league. In 1918, he was hired by Col. Jacob Ruppert and Col. Tillinghast L. Huston to form a championship team out of the New York Yankees, who had yet to win a World Series. Now purely a manager, Huggins successfully started getting the team up to snuff, threatening to win the AL pennant in 1919 and 1920, before winning it in 1921. However, in the final 9-game World Series ever, the Yankees lost 3 games to 5 against the rival New York Giants. In 1922, the same two teams met once again in the World Series, but the Yankees were swept in 4 games. After four years of trying, 1923 was the charm. The Giants and the Yankees clashed once again, but this time, the Huggins-led Yankees emerged victorious with a 4-2 series win.

With the win in the 1923 World Series, Huggins had basically created his “machine” for winning championships. While he failed to reach the series in 1924 and 1925, the Yankees returned in 1926, but lost to the Cardinals 3 games to 4. Finally, the next season, the “machine” had its best season ever, led by those such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Pat Collins, Tony Lazzeri and Waite Hoyt, the 1927 Yankees won an astounding 110 games with only 44 losses, one-quarter of which were to the Cleveland Indians. That year, the hot Yankees walked into the World Series and beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4 games to none. In 1928, the same team basically walked into the World Series and swept the Cardinals in 4 games.

The 1929 season was a bit different. Even though the team had upgraded with players such as Bill Dickey and Leo Durocher, the “machine” did not have the same fight in them. The Philadelphia Athletics had basically come in and beaten up on the Yankees and Miller Huggins felt like the entire 1929 season was tough because of pennant races. There is a general belief that the poorer performance in the 1929 season affected Huggins emotionally and health-wise, because he couldn’t stand to see his “machine” fall apart. By September 4, it was clear that Huggins had thrown in the towel about defeating the Athletics and taking the American League pennant. Col. Ruppert suggested for Huggins sake to take a vacation and that he would be guaranteed at least a 2nd place finish that year. Huggins denied and wanted to stay with the team, but his health was getting to him, especially with a boil that he ignored and it turned into the disease that eventually took his own life.

huggins death 2

Response

The response to the death of Huggins was extensive. Huggins had a profound impact across the country and it didn’t seem like the baseball season mattered anymore, even though Art Fletcher had taken over as manager for the last 11 days of the season. On September 25, the Yankees defeated the Red Sox 11-10 in 11 innings without knowledge of their manager’s passing until the 6th inning, when players from both the Red Sox and Yankees lined up at home plate and had a moment of silence for the late Huggins. At the Polo Grounds, news of Huggins’ death came over telegraph and flags were moved off their poles and the New York Giants honored the late Huggins with a silent tribute. A lone banner ran at half-mast that honored the manager as “the last Flag” before a game with the Boston Braves.

One of the first syndicated columns about Huggins’ death talked about how size didn’t matter to him, even though he was only 5ft 5in, he commanded respect and obedience from players who played for him and with him. People had accused Huggins of having the biggest checkbook owners and a team that could not lose was his only reason for being successful, but it was tougher than that. Yet, this author saw the 1925 season, in which the Yankees finished in 7th place, as a reason to look away from that perspective. Huggins is the one who re-corralled Babe Ruth’s behavior as a Yankee in 1926, and was the reason Col. Ruppert never broke up the special 1927 Yankees because they were “too strong for the rest of the league.” The columnist said: “Now Huggins has gone. Perhaps the greatest possible testimonial to his ability will be the struggle which the Yankees owners face in trying to find a man to take his place.”

Baseball for the Yankees stopped on September 27, 1929 for their captain, who David P. Sentner stated Huggins had “a heart as big as a baseball park.” At the Little Church Around the Corner, Huggins had a team funeral held in his honor, and Sentner stated that Huggins would’ve been proud for the turnout and respect. Fans basically came in droves to the church to visit the open casket of the passed manager, because they mourned a winner in a city which loves winners. The Yankees players would march behind the casket as it was shipped to Cincinnati to be buried with his late parents. This was led by Babe Ruth, with whom Huggins originally had a rocky start with, but soon became good friends. Sentner believed that no one else on the team suffered more from the loss of Huggins than Ruth.

At the same time, it struck Col. Jacob Ruppert hard. Col. Ruppert had hired Huggins in 1918 to create a championship team out of the Yankees and stuck by him, even with the problems in the 1925 season. Ruppert was visibly shaken that Huggins was gone (along with Ed Barrow). Ruppert, a multi-millionaire, always attended World Series games up to 1929, but in 1929, he could not attend, still extremely hurt by the death of Huggins. A lot of what made things a lot more painful was that at his death bed, Huggins could not remember people who had visited him, such as his sister, Myrtle, in-laws, a good friend named Robert Connery, and most importantly, Col. Ruppert and Ed Barrow.

Conclusion

One of his final recorded statements about his 1929 season was this: “I guess I wasn’t born to be a loser.” Miller Huggins was never a loser, except in the fight for his own life. Baseball was Huggins’ life and he died playing the game he loved because he ignored his health in the same process. I do not mean that as demeaning in any way, just a statement of fact. Huggins was the first true Yankee manager, the one who brought the first three of 27 World Championships to the Bronx, and the first to be Col. Ruppert’s right-hand manager. While Huggins was replaced by Bob Shawkey as manager, I don’t think Col. Ruppert fully ever healed from the death of Huggins before his death in 1939. The origination of Monument Park is thanks to a monument built in center field at Yankee Stadium in 1932 for Miller Huggins. The late Huggins was named to the Hall of Fame in 1964 by the Veterans Committee, but it was for a career that ended much too soon, 86 years ago today.

Guest Post: “Go Kiss Yourself”: Leo Durocher’s 1929 Season

The following is a guest post from longtime reader Adam Moss, who goes by Roadgeek Adam in the comments. He’s previously written guest posts about Tim McClelland, the No. 26, Frankie Crosetti, and Casey Stengel.

From left to right: Leo Durocher, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Joe Dugan, Benny Begough, Gene Roberston, and Mark Koeing in 1928. (NYDN)
From left to right: Leo Durocher, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Joe Dugan, Benny Begough, Gene Roberston, and Mark Koeing in 1928. (NYDN)

The game of baseball has historically been full of flashy players and players who definitely spoke their mind. We’re seeing the latter in the Matt Harvey/180-inning limit controversy and his opinions to the press, which in this day and age are much more open to interpretation. We also have flashy players who like to talk the talk and some who walk the walk. The Yankees have a hot shortstop in the form of Didi Gregorius, who is very flashy when it comes to his glove. However, his personality is much more controlled than the one I want to talk about today. From 1925 to 1929, the Yankees had a flashy shortstop in the name of Leo Durocher. Yes, the famous New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers manager Durocher.

Not much is talked about Durocher’s time as a New York Yankee, which was only 3 seasons in 5 years (more like 2 because he only played 2 games in the Yankees horrid 1925 season). The Yankees acquired the young shortstop in August 1925 from the Hartford Senators and manager Paddy O’Connor (a catcher for the Yankees in 1918!) for $12,000 ($161,870 by today’s standards). At that time, Durocher was a 19-year-old who had played in 151 games with 118 hits, 13 doubles, 4 triples, 1 home run and a .220 average with .265 slugging. Durocher made his Major League debut on October 2, 1925 against the Philadelphia Athletics, pinch-hitting for the pitcher Garland Braxton and flying out to the right fielder Walt French. Durocher came in the next game as a pinch-runner for Ben Paschal in the bottom of the 9th at Yankee Stadium and scored the game-tying run. A ground out by Mark Koenig scored the winning run as Earle Combs came home and the Yankees won that game 9-8.

Following that short performance in 1925, the flashy Durocher would not appear in a Major League game until April 11, 1928, when he would make his debut at 2nd base as the starter in a lineup that including Combs, Koenig, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, Joe Dugan, Pat Collins and Herb Pennock. Durocher spent the 1926 season with the Atlanta Crackers of the American Association and 1927 with the St. Paul Saints. In the game against the Philadelphia Athletics, Durocher finally got his first big league hit that day, his first as a Yankee. Interesting factoid: Bill Dineen and Dick Nallin, the home plate and first base umpires, were the umpires in the series in 1925 in which Durocher made his debut. The 22-year old Durocher participated in 102 games in 1928, totaling 296 at bats and only 80 hits with 8 doubles and 6 triples. He managed only 22 walks and 52 strikeouts on a team that ended up with 9 Hall-of-Famers: Durocher, Miller Huggins, Ruth, Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Combs, Tony Lazzeri, Pennock and Waite Hoyt.

“Cocky Player Forced Self on Yankees”

This headline was written by Frank Getty of United Press International on April 1, 1929 about the new Yankee shortstop. The Yankees had decided to buy the contracts of Jimmie Reese and Lyn Lary from the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League in exchange for $125,000. Reese immediately was unable to impress, but Lary was given chances by Miller Huggins to make sure he could be a good shortstop. The decision led them to move Koenig to third base from his normal position at shortstop. Durocher had been serving as a utility infielder for the Yankees, and his behavior on the field, called “riding” opposing players, impressed Huggins significantly. Durocher was a hustler down the line and always worked hard. Despite how much Higgins wanted Lary to become the shortstop during Spring Training in St. Petersburg, Florida, Lary eventually showed that he was not the shortstop of the 1929 season for the Yankees, showing poor defense and hitting a miserable .180 in Spring Training. Durocher, who spent most of the 1928 season filling in for Lazzeri at second base won the job as the starting shortstop despite needing a lot to learn and expected by Huggins to hit at .280 to help their “Murderer’s Row”.

Durocher was selected to be the starting shortstop for the 1929 Yankees, but Huggins admitted he may not play every day and be a bench player in the summer, with the number 7 debuting on his back with the introduction of uniform numbers based on the position of the lineup. Durocher wasted no time proving Miller Huggins had made the right decision, finishing the month of April with a .323/.417/.323 batting line.

“Just For Laughs”

This headline is something you’d rarely see in this day and age and I am surprised Col. Ruppert even allowed it: an article written by Leo Durocher himself on April 15, 1929. He talked about a scenario of events that occurred in 1928 with the Detroit Tigers, who he called a “scrappy bunch team themselves.” Durocher took it upon himself to have fun with the Tigers by using Bob Fothergill as hit bait. Fothergill, as Durocher hinted as “twice as heavily as Babe Ruth at the time,” was supposed to bat. Instead, Durocher went to the umpire Bill McGowan (who was put in the Hall of Fame posthumously in 1992), and told him Fothergill was batting out of order. George Moriarty, the manager of the Tigers leapt out of the dugout screaming mad at McGowan about Durocher’s protest. He shouted at McGowan “It’s Fothergill’s turn, that man’s crazy.” The umpire, McGowan, turned to Durocher and agreed with Moriarty, while Durocher responded: “Why, yes, it’s Fothergill’s turn all right. But when I looked there a minute ago I could have sworn I saw two men up at the plate.” Durocher admitted in the last sentence of the piece that “Fothergill wanted to brain me with his bat but couldn’t catch me.”

As much as that piece in the newspapers was just for laughs, so was Durocher’s statistics after April 1929. Durocher fell off a cliff from his hot April and had a terrible late spring, never managing higher than a .306 batting average and spending a lot of May and June hovering near the Mendoza line. As the summer entered in 1929, Durocher finally started to hit again, reaching a peak of .281 in the July 10 game against the Chicago White Sox. By now, Lyn Lary had made his MLB debut and was mashing above .300, so Durocher was starting to lose his luster. One article mentioning that Durocher was a “great fielder, but inclined to be erratic.” Despite the statement by Huggins that Durocher was supposed to hit. 280 in the season, he finished the season on October 6, 1929 with a .246 average and having been pulled from his 7th spot in the order and his position as shortstop. Despite all the promise, Durocher basically finished worse than his 1928 season, appearing in 106 games, but changing his style to walk more and whiff less.

One story of an ejection by Durocher occurred on July 14, 1929, when Durocher, called the “Yankees’ sassy little shortstop,” basically decided to give an umpire a piece of his mind. Durocher was ejected for “wagging his tongue too much” aka talking too much crap to the umpires and was promptly ejected in a style you’d never see make the news today: “to give the mouth organ a rest under the showers.” He was replaced by Mark Koenig at shortstop.

“Go Kiss Yourself”

It appears that the Yankees front office had enough of Durocher at the end of the 1929 season, and the sassy shortstop finally said one thing too much. On February 6, 1930, the Yankees announced that they traded Durocher to the Reds for cash and a player to be named later. That same day the Reds traded Adolfo Luque to the Brooklyn Dodgers for pitcher Douglas McWeeny, who was supposedly a good thrower but a poor commander. Word eventually got out that the wisecracking shortstop had asked General Manager Ed Barrow for a raise and an advance from $7,000 salary to $10,000. When Barrow denied both requests from Durocher, Durocher remarked that Barrow could “go kiss yourself.” The next day Durocher stated that he found out he was traded to the Reds. For those who know Durocher well, “Go kiss yourself” became a big piece of baseball English produced by Durocher over his time in baseball.

The media response to the Durocher trade was pretty lackluster, but there was an interesting story produced by the North American Newspaper Alliance on February 16, 1930. George Morarity, the ex-manager of the Tigers and MLB umpire (yes he held both titles!) wrote a story about the kid as “Leo Durocher Champion As Wisecracker.” Moriarty basically ripped Durocher, stating that his abilities to wisecrack were unmatched and that Durocher was called the “The Great American Out” because he could be retired with such ease. Moriarty credited his ability to be a good utility infielder but basically despised his antics.

Conclusion

Durocher remained a player until 1945, but became a player/manager in 1939 for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Durocher would eventually become a household name in baseball for teams not named the Yankees, working with their great competitors, the Dodgers and the Giants for many years before ending his career in 1976 in Japan. The great Durocher died on October 7, 1991 at the age of 86 in Palm Springs, California and is buried at Forest Lawn’s Revelation Section (Plot 3211) in Los Angeles. Three years later, Durocher was selected by the Veteran’s Committee to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, with some general belief that they did not want him to be alive before being inducted.

As for his Yankee career, it is a story of “What Ifs?” Durocher had excellent defensive talent and was able to play in the infield as needed. He had speed and hustled every opportunity he had. Miller Huggins, the manager, loved Durocher. However, the young Durocher was not tame like his teammates and finally, it bit him in the end with smart-assing Ed Barrow. For all his faults, he was the original No. 7 and being in the Hall of Fame, he is still a Yankee in history.

Guest Post: The Hiring of No. 37: Casey Stengel: October 1948

The following is a guest post from Adam Moss, who you know as Roadgeek Adam in the comments. He’s previously written guest posts on Tim McClelland, Frankie Crosetti, and the No. 26.

(SliceTheLife.com)
(SliceTheLife.com)

For many years, Yankee fans looked at the hiring of Joe Torre in the modern day mass media as an “Is George Steinbrenner crazy?” situation because Torre had never coached a winning team in his entire time as manager between the Mets, Braves and Cardinals. The New York Daily News famously had “CLUELESS JOE: Torre Has No Idea What He’s Getting Into” headline by Ian O’Connor on the Sports Final version of the paper. As we know quite well, the Torre years ended up being some of the best in New York Yankees history.

However, this time, I want to talk about the hiring of another famous manager, No. 37, Casey Stengel. Similar to Torre, the young Stengel had not been very successful before being hired by the New York Yankees. Managing since 1925, originally for Worcester Panthers of the Eastern League, he had very few winning seasons, including none with the Brooklyn Dodgers, in which he recorded only a 208-251 win-loss record. In 1937, he wasn’t even managing at all but was still being paid by the Dodgers. In 1938, he was the manager of the Boston Bees, but once again, showed mediocre results. His best season by far was the 1938 season, in which the team was one of two no-hit consecutively by Midland Park, New Jersey’s Johnny Vander Meer, drawing a 77-75 (.507) record. That 1938 Boston Bees team was not made of many names, but a couple stick out: Vince DiMaggio (Joe & Dom DiMaggio’s older brother) and Jim Turner, who ended up becoming Casey Stengel’s pitching coach from 1949-1959.

Stengel’s record in Boston was not even close to .500 for the rest of the seasons he was there, including a complete low in 1942 in which they recorded a 59-89 season. After 1943, he was out of the National League again and coaching in the minors. By 1946, he had gotten to manage the Oakland Oaks, where he won 321 games and lost only 236, including winning a championship in 1948 over the Seattle Rainiers. The Oaks, actually, were independent most of their time in Emeryville, California, except for a period of 1935-1937, when they were a farm team of the New York Yankees. (The Oakland Oaks soon moved to Vancouver, BC and became the Vancouver Mounties and continued to move to several cities afterwards).

The New York Yankees leading up to October 1948

The years of 1946 to 1948 were a bit strange for the Yankees, because they went through numerous managers in a short period of time. Longtime manager Joe McCarthy resigned on May 24, 1946 after 15 seasons of leading the team. McCarthy had been ill for quite a while, and had issues with pitcher Joe Page and team president Larry MacPhail. The legendary Bill Dickey took over after McCarthy’s resignation and to make things worse, Dickey resigned on September 12. One of McCarthy’s coaches, Johnny Neun completed the season in 1946. For a team with such managerial issues, you’d think they’d have performed poorly like McCarthy complained about in his resignation. The 1946 Yankees ended the season with an 87-67 record (.565), finishing 17 games back of the Boston Red Sox (who went 104-50).

Like a light bulb, the 1947 Yankees flipped a switch under new manager Bucky Harris. The Yankees acquired superstar pitcher Allie “Superchief” Reynolds from the Cleveland Indians on October 11, 1946 for Joe Gordon, a trade that almost never occurred because MacPhail was going for Red Embree (who was out of the league by 1949) until Joltin’ Joe told him to make a trade for Reynolds. Aside of that, the Yankees had a budding catcher to replace the great Bill Dickey, Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra, who was wearing No. 36 at the time. There was also star shortstop Phil Rizzuto, future All-Star third baseman Dr. Bobby Brown and even Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio, who had become a leader on the team. That 1947 team won the American League pennant by 12 games with a 97-57 record. They went to the World Series and defeated the cross-town Brooklyn Dodgers in 7 games, giving Harris his first ring since the 1924 Washington Senators. (The Twins-version for those curious.)

In 1948, the Yankees were a contender all the way to the end of the season, part of a huge race with the Red Sox and Indians. The 1948 season was famous for the the death of Babe Ruth at age 53 on August 16. Most of the 1947 championship team was still with the Yankees in 1948, including Red Embree, who MacPhail finally got for the 1948 season (after turning him down in 1946). Finishing a mere 2.5 games short of the World Series, the Yankees decided on October 4, 1948 to not extend Harris as the manager of the Yankees after a conference between Dan Topping, George Weiss and Bucky Harris determined they would not continue together.

Post-Bucky

So, now that Bucky Harris was out as New York Yankees manager, it was time to figure out who would replace him. A statement made by the Yankees indicated the new manager would come from outside of the team, eliminating Joltin’ Joe, Tommy Henrich and coach/infielder Frankie Crosetti despite all being good candidates and Crosetti having a big fan in George Weiss. The statement dropped names such as Bill Skiff of the Newark Bears of the International League, Jim Turner (the former Boston Brave, now coaching for the Portland Beavers) and Dick Bartell, the manager of the Kansas City Blues of the American Association, which was the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate.

By October 11, the Associated Press had reported that it appeared Oakland’s Casey Stengel, who had taken the team of “nine old men” to the Pacific Coast League championship, was a candidate. By the time these rumors had come to light, the names had changed a bit: Jimmy Dykes, Al Simmons, Stengel, Neun and Skiff were in consideration. It had announced the Yankees would make a choice in “a couple of weeks.” It didn’t take two weeks. The next day, October 12, the Yankees announced Casey Stengel had been given a 2-year contract to be manager. Stengel stated he was “delighted to be with the Yankees and not have much time to think.”

Media Response

The 57-year old Stengel quickly received mixed support. Stengel had support of Tommy Holmes in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, “Let’s Hope Casey is Not Restrained” citing that Stengel had been a lifelong baseball player and manager and as a result should’ve been completely accepted by baseball. Holmes stated that when Stengel was the manager of the Dodgers, they had no farm and, somewhat ironically, no money. One of the major articles that came up was “Stengel Specialized in Laughing Off Bad Ball Clubs: Ol’ Case May Have To Do Same Thing For Yankees” by Harry Grayson of the Newspaper Enterprise Association. The argument by Grayson was that players get older regularly and that the Yankees would become very much the same as what happened with Stengel’s Brooklyn Dodgers: they’d get old. However, Grayson denied that as Stengel came with money and that only the St. Louis Browns would be selling.

A major criticism that was brought up by both Holmes and Grayson was Stengel’s style of being not very serious when it came to the game. Stengel liked to spin stories quite a bit, including ones about a bird that flew out of Stengel’s cap when he was standing at the plate, but Holmes’ argued they were just spinning stories to make Stengel not look serious. There was also a story about Frenchy Bordagaray, an outfielder, threw a ball into one of Stengel’s ears. Frenchy joked when he came in the dugout after saving the game that he should be allowed to hit Stengel in the ears every game for good luck, and as a result, Casey told him, “Tell you what George [Earnshaw, the pitcher], I will hold him and you bite him in the leg.” Other articles called it a second chance for Stengel, who also had an issue with umpires in the days of games being called due to darkness, using a flashlight at the umpires to make a point.

Stengel’s return to the Major Leagues had caused quite a bit of media buzz, and by October 21, Stengel told the Associated Press that he is taking a job with challenges, but he also laughed off the idea that “I got the job simply because of my close friendship with Del Webb and George Weiss.” This new contract covered 2 years/$70,000 (1948 USD) and stated his wife could now work on the East Coast shopping. About a month on November 12, Grantland Rice of the Chino Champion, explained that the decision to fire Harris was a dumb one purely because Harris was a friend of MacPhail. He called the hiring of Stengel as a smart one, but only because it was preceded by a dumb one. He also stated that “Stengel is a high-grade manager who knows his trade. But there won’t be as many laughing stories about Casey in 1949-not with the job he has ahead.” Rice stated that the Yankees farm has been pretty bad the couple years prior and that he needed an outfielder, three new infielders, a catcher and three pitchers. This means working a team with Joltin’ Joe, Henrich, Berra, Charlie Keller and Johnny Lindell.

Conclusion

Yeah, there wasn’t as much negativity surrounding the Stengel hiring as there was in the Torre hiring in 1996 due to the lack of media coverage in that era, but the fact Stengel’s hiring caused more than your normal stir for a manager, it was worth pointing out the similarity. Similar to Torre, Stengel became a dynastic manager for the Yankees along with pitching coach Jim Turner and third base coach Frankie Crosetti, leading the Yankees to seven championships in eleven seasons including 1949-1953 straight before being fired for “not needing his services,” or, as Ken Burns argued, he was fired for turning 70. He became the manager of the newly-minted New York Mets in 1962, after being convinced out of retirement.

Stengel is a great manager in the history of the New York Yankees, but if not for the Yankees, you could argue he would’ve never made it into the Hall of Fame in 1966 because of the Veterans Committee. His record outside of the Yankees and the Oakland Oaks were absolutely terrible, but like Torre (who could’ve been in the HoF on player merits alone), he made his managerial career famous with the Yankees and no one would ever deny it.