Jackie Robinson was born on January 31, 1919, into a family of sharecroppers in Cairo, Georgia. He was the youngest of five children born to Mallie and Jerry Robinson, after siblings Edgar, Frank, Matthew, and Willa Mae. Robinson’s father left the family in 1920, leading to the move of the Robinson family to Pasadena, California. Jackie Robinson’s mother worked various odd jobs to support the family. Growing up in relative poverty in an otherwise affluent community, Robinson and his minority friends were excluded from many recreational opportunities which, as a result, caused Robinson to join a neighborhood gang. Eventually his friend Carl Anderson persuaded him to abandon it.
In 1935, Robinson graduated from Washington Junior High School and enrolled at John Muir High School (Muir Tech). Recognizing his athletic talents, Robinson’s older brothers Mack and Frank inspired Jackie to pursue his interest in sports. At Muir Tech, Robinson played several sports at the varsity level and lettered in four of them: football, basketball, track, and baseball. He played shortstop and catcher on the baseball team, quarterback on the football team, and guard on the basketball team. With the track and field squad, he won awards in the broad jump. He was also a member of the tennis team. In 1936, Robinson won the junior boys singles championship in the annual Pacific Coast Negro Tennis Tournament and earned a place on the Pomona annual baseball tournament all-star team, which included future Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Bob Lemon. After Muir, Robinson attended Pasadena Junior College (PJC), where he continued his athletic career by participating in basketball, football, baseball, and track. He was a shortstop and leadoff hitter for the baseball team, and he broke school broad-jump records held by his brother Mack. While playing football at PJC, Robinson suffered a fractured ankle, complications from which would eventually delay his deployment status while in the military. In 1938, he was elected to the All-Southland Junior College Team for baseball and selected as the region’s Most Valuable Player. That year, Robinson was one of 10 students named to the school’s Order of the Mast and Dagger (Omicron Mu Delta) and was also elected to the Lancers, a student-run police organization responsible for patrolling various school activities.
An incident at PJC illustrated Robinson’s impatience with authority figures he perceived as racist—a character trait that would resurface repeatedly in his life. On January 25, 1938, he was arrested after vocally disputing the detention of a black friend by police. Robinson received a two-year suspended sentence, but the incident gave Robinson a reputation for combativeness in the face of racial antagonism. While at PJC, he was motivated by a preacher (the Rev. Karl Downs) to attend church on a regular basis, and Downs became a confidant for Robinson, a Christian. Toward the end of his PJC tenure, Frank Robinson (to whom Robinson felt closest among his three brothers) was killed in a motorcycle accident. The event motivated Jackie to pursue his athletic career at the nearby University of California, Los Angeles(UCLA), where he could remain closer to Frank’s family. After graduating from PJC in spring 1939,Robinson enrolled at UCLA, where he became the school’s first athlete to win varsity letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football, and track.He was one of four black players on the 1939 UCLA Bruins football team. At a time when only a few black students played mainstream college football, this made UCLA college football’s most integrated team. In track and field, Robinson won the 1940 NCAA Men’s Track and Field Championships in the long jump, jumping 24 ft 10 1⁄4 in (7.58 m). Belying his future career, baseball was Robinson’s “worst sport” at UCLA; he hit .097 in his only season, although in his first game he went 4-for-4 and twice stole home.
While a senior at UCLA, Robinson met his future wife, Rachel Isum (b. 1922), a UCLA freshman who was familiar with Robinson’s athletic career at PJC. In the spring semester of 1941, Robinson left college just shy of graduation despite his mother’s and Isum’s reservations.He took a job as an assistant athletic director with the government’s National Youth Administration (NYA) in Atascadero, California. After the government ceased NYA operations, Robinson traveled to Honolulu in the fall of 1941 to play football for the semi-professional, racially integrated Honolulu Bears. After a short season, Robinson returned to California in December 1941 to pursue a career as running back for the Los Angeles Bulldogs of the Pacific Coast Football League. By that time, however, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had taken place, drawing the United States into World War II and ending Robinson’s nascent football career.
From 1942 to 1944, Robinson served as a second lieutenant in the United States Army, however, he never saw combat. During boot camp at Fort Hood, Texas, Robinson was arrested and court-martialed in 1944 for refusing to give up his seat and move to the back of a segregated bus. Robinson’s excellent reputation, combined with the efforts of friends, the NAACP and various black newspapers, shed public light on the injustice, and he was ultimately acquitted of the charges and received an honorable discharge. His courage and moral objection to segregation were precursors to the impact Robinson would have in major league baseball.
After his discharge from the Army in 1944, Robinson began to play baseball professionally. At the time, the sport was segregated, and African-Americans and whites played in separate leagues. Robinson began playing in the Negro Leagues, but he was soon chosen by Branch Rickey, president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, to help integrate major league baseball. He joined the all-white Montreal Royals, a farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1946. Robinson later moved to Florida to begin spring training with the Royals. From the beginning of his career with the Dodgers, Robinson’s will was tested. Even some of his new teammates objected to having an African-American on their team. People in the crowds sometimes jeered Robinson, and he and his family received threats. Robinson had an outstanding start with the Royals, leading the International League with a .349 batting average and .985 fielding percentage. His successful year led to his promotion to join the Dodgers. Robinson played his first game at Ebbets Field for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947, making history as the first black athlete to play Major League Baseball in the 20th century.
Others defended Jackie Robinson’s right to play in the major leagues, including League President Ford Frick, Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler, Jewish baseball star Hank Greenberg and Dodgers shortstop and team captain Pee Wee Reese. In one incident, while fans harassed Robinson from the stands, Reese walked over and put his arm around his teammate, a gesture that has become legendary in baseball history. Robinson succeeded in putting the prejudice and racial strife aside, and showed everyone what a talented player he was. In his first year, he hit 12 home runs and helped the Dodgers win the National League pennant. That year, Robinson led the National League in stolen bases and was selected as Rookie of the Year. He continued to wow fans and critics alike with impressive feats, such as an outstanding .342 batting average during the 1949 season. He led in stolen bases that year and earned the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award. Robinson stole home 19 times in his career, setting a league record. He also became the highest-paid athlete in Dodgers history, and his success in the major leagues opened the door for other African-American players, such as Satchel Paige, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron. In 1950, Robinson starred in The Jackie Robinson Story, a biographical film directed by Alfred E. Green and co-starring Ruby Dee as Robinson’s wife.
Robinson became a vocal champion for African-American athletes, civil rights, and other social and political causes. In July 1949, he testified about discrimination before the House Un-American Activities Committee. After baseball, Robinson became active in business and continued his work as an activist for social change. He worked as an executive for the Chock Full O’ Nuts coffee company and restaurant chain, and helped establish the African American-owned and -controlled Freedom Bank. He served on the board of the NAACP until 1967 and was the first African-American to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. In his first year of eligibility for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962,Robinson encouraged voters to consider only his on-field qualifications, rather than his cultural impact on the game. He was elected on the first ballot, becoming the first black player inducted into the Cooperstown museum. In 1965, Robinson served as an analyst for ABC’s Major League Baseball Game of the Week telecasts, the first black person to do so.
Jackie Robinson died from heart problems and diabetes complications on October 24, 1972, in Stamford, Connecticut. He was survived by his wife, Rachel Isum Robinson, and two of their three children. After his death, his wife established the Jackie Robinson Foundation dedicated to honoring his life and work. The foundation helps young people in need by providing scholarships and mentoring programs.
In 1972, the Dodgers retired his uniform number of 42. Major League Baseball has honored Robinson many times since his death. In 1987, both the National and American League Rookie of the Year Awards were renamed the “Jackie Robinson Award” in honor of the first recipient (Robinson’s Major League Rookie of the Year Award in 1947 encompassed both leagues). On April 15, 1997, Robinson’s jersey number, 42, was retired throughout Major League Baseball, the first time any jersey number had been retired throughout one of the four major American sports leagues. Under the terms of the retirement, a grandfather clause allowed the handful of players who wore number 42 to continue doing so in tribute to Robinson, until such time as they subsequently changed teams or jersey numbers. This affected players such as the Mets’ Butch Huskey and Boston’s Mo Vaughn. The Yankees’ Mariano Rivera, who retired at the end of the 2013 season, was the last player in Major League Baseball to wear jersey number 42 on a regular basis. As an exception to the retired-number policy, MLB began honoring Robinson by allowing players to wear number 42 on April 15, Jackie Robinson Day, which is an annual observance that started in 2004. At Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, a statue of Robinson was introduced in 2017.
At the November 2006 groundbreaking for Citi Field, the new ballpark for the New York Mets, it was announced that the main entrance, modeled on the one in Brooklyn’s old Ebbets Field, would be called the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. The rotunda was dedicated at the opening of Citi Field on April 16, 2009. It honors Robinson with large quotations spanning the inner curve of the facade and features a large freestanding statue of his number, 42, which has become an attraction in itself. Mets owner Fred Wilpon announced that the Mets—in conjunction with Citigroup and the Jackie Robinson Foundation—will create a Jackie Robinson Museum and Learning Center, located at the headquarters of the Jackie Robinson Foundation at One Hudson Square, along Canal Street in lower Manhattan. Along with the museum, scholarships will be awarded to “young people who live by and embody Jackie’s ideals.” The museum hopes to open by 2019.
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Jeter was born in Pequannock Township, New Jersey, on June 26, 1974. His mother, Dorothy (née Connors), an accountant, is of Irish, as well as some German and English, ancestry. His father, Sanderson Charles Jeter, Ph.D., a substance abuse counselor, is African-American. They met while serving in the United States Army in Germany. His father played baseball at Fisk University in Tennessee as a shortstop. When Jeter was a child, his parents made him sign a contract every year that defined acceptable and unacceptable forms of behavior. Dorothy instilled a positive attitude in her son, insisting that he not use the word “can’t”. It was a baseball family, and Jeter’s younger sister Sharlee (born c. 1979) was a softball star in high school.
The Jeters lived in New Jersey until Derek was 4 years old, at which point they moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan. Jeter and Sharlee lived in Kalamazoo with their parents during the school year and spent their summers with their grandparents in New Jersey. Attending New York Yankees games with his grandparents, Jeter became a passionate fan of the team. Watching Yankees player Dave Winfield inspired him to pursue a career in baseball.
Jeter attended Kalamazoo Central High School, where he ran cross country in the fall, played basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring. Jeter posted high batting averages for the school’s baseball team; he batted .557 in his sophomore year and .508 as a junior. In his senior year, he batted .508 and compiled 23 runs batted in (RBI), 21 walks, four home runs, a .637 on-base percentage (OBP), a .831 slugging percentage (SLG), 12 stolen bases (in 12 attempts), and only one strikeout.
Jeter received several honors after his senior season. These included an All-State honorable mention, distinguishing him as one of the best high school baseball players in Michigan, the Kalamazoo Area B’nai B’rith Award for Scholar Athlete, the 1992 High School Player of the Year Award from the American Baseball Coaches Association, the 1992 Gatorade High School Player of the Year award, and USA Today‘s High School Player of the Year. Kalamazoo Central High School inducted Jeter into its Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003 and renamed its baseball field in his honor in 2011. Jeter’s baseball talents drew the attention of the University of Michigan, which offered him a baseball scholarship to attend and play college baseball for the Michigan Wolverines baseball team.
Jeter played four seasons in minor league baseball, then known as the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (NAPBL). Jeter began the 1992 season with the Gulf Coast Yankees of the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, based in Tampa, Florida. In his first professional game, Jeter failed to get a hit in seven at-bats, going 0-for-7, while striking out five times. Jeter continued to struggle during the rest of the season, batting .202 in 47 games. Manager Gary Denbo benched Jeter in the season’s final game to ensure his average would not drop below .200, known in baseball as the Mendoza Line. Frustrated by his lack of success and homesick, Jeter accrued $400-per-month phone bills from daily calls to his parents.
The Yankees promoted Jeter to the Greensboro Hornets of the Class A South Atlantic League (SAL) to give him more at-bats. He batted .247 in his first 11 games with Greensboro, and struggled defensively, making nine errors in 48 chances. Weighing 156 pounds (71 kg), Jeter had a scrawny appearance that did not match his reputation as the Yankees’ future leader. Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte, who played for the Hornets that season, at first questioned the hype surrounding Jeter, but recognized his talent and poise.
Jeter focused the next offseason on his fielding. Baseball America rated Jeter among the top 100 prospects in baseball before the 1993 season, ranking him 44th. Returning to the Hornets in 1993, his first full season of professional baseball, Jeter hit .295 with five home runs, 71 RBI, and 18 stolen bases; SAL managers voted him the “Most Outstanding Major League Prospect” in the league. He finished second in the SAL in triples (11), third in hits (152), and eleventh in batting average, and was named to the postseason All-Star team. Jeter committed 56 errors, a SAL record. Despite this, he was named the SAL’s Best Defensive Shortstop, Most Exciting Player, and Best Infield Arm by Baseball America.
Coming off his strong 1993 season, Baseball America rated Jeter as the 16th-best prospect in baseball. Jeter played for the Tampa Yankees of the Class A-Advanced Florida State League(FSL), the Albany-Colonie Yankees of the Class AA Eastern League, and the Columbus Clippers of the Class AAA International League during the 1994 season, combining to hit .344 with five home runs, 68 RBI, and steal 50 bases across the three levels. He was honored with the Minor League Player of the Year Award by Baseball America, The Sporting News, USA Today, and Topps/NAPBL. He was also named the most valuable player of the FSL.
Considered the fourth-best prospect in baseball by Baseball America heading into the 1995 season, the Yankees projected Jeter as their starting shortstop. He suffered mild inflammation in his right shoulder in the Arizona Fall League after the conclusion of the 1994 regular season. As a precaution, the Yankees signed Tony Fernández to a two-year contract. With Fernández the starting shortstop, the Yankees assigned Jeter to Class AAA. During the 1994–95 Major League Baseball strike, Gene Michael, the Yankees’ general manager, offered Jeter the opportunity to work out for the MLB team with replacement players in spring training before the 1995 season. Jeter denied receiving the offer, and did not cross the picket line.
Early in the 1995 season, Fernández and infielder Pat Kelly were injured. Consequently, Jeter made his MLB debut on May 29, 1995. Jeter was assigned uniform number 2, which had been worn by Mike Gallego from 1992 to 1994, one of only two single-digit numbers available at the time. Batting ninth, he went hitless in five at bats, striking out once. The following day, he recorded his first two major league hits and scored his first two career runs. Jeter batted .250 and committed two errors in 13 games before being demoted to Class AAA Columbus; Fernández replaced Jeter at shortstop. The Yankees advanced to the postseason in 1995. Jeter traveled with the team during the 1995 American League Division Series (ALDS), though he was not on the active roster. The Yankees lost to the Seattle Mariners.
After Fernández batted a disappointing .245 and appeared in only 108 games due to injuries in 1995, newly hired Yankees manager Joe Torreasserted that Jeter would be the starting shortstop for the 1996 season, indicating that he hoped Jeter could bat .250 and be dependable defensively. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, often skeptical of younger players, was not convinced. Clyde King, a close Steinbrenner advisor, observed Jeter for two days in spring training in 1996, and came away with the impression that Jeter was not yet ready. To provide depth to the team at the shortstop position after an injury to Fernández, Steinbrenner approved a trade that would have sent pitcher Mariano Rivera to the Mariners for shortstop Félix Fermín, but Michael, by then the vice president of scouting, and assistant general manager Brian Cashman convinced Steinbrenner to give Jeter an opportunity.
Rated the sixth-best prospect in baseball by Baseball America heading into the 1996 season, Jeter started on Opening Day, the first Yankee rookie to start as shortstop for the team since Tom Tresh in 1962. He hit his first MLB home run that day. With his speed and ability to execute the hit and run, Jeter served as a complement to leadoff hitter Tim Raines while batting in the ninth spot in the batting order. Jeter had a successful rookie season, exceeding Torre’s expectations, as he hit for a .314 batting average, with 10 home runs, 104 runs scored, and 78 RBI. Receiving all 28 first-place votes in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting, Jeter was the fifth unanimous choice for the award in its 50-year history.
The Yankees reached the 1996 postseason, and Torre batted Jeter in the leadoff spot in the lineup due to his strong performance. During Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series (ALCS), the Yankees trailed the Baltimore Orioles 4–3 in the 8th inning when Jeter hit a fly ball to right field that was ruled a home run by the umpires after twelve-year-old fan Jeffrey Maier reached over the wall to catch the ball. Though the ball would have remained in play if not for Maier, and could have been caught by Tony Tarasco, the home run stood as called, tying the game. It marked the first home run of Jeter’s postseason career. The Yankees won the game and defeated the Orioles in five games. Overall, Jeter batted .361 in the 1996 postseason, helping to lead the Yankees offensively with Bernie Williams, as Wade Boggs, Paul O’Neill, and Tino Martinez struggled. The Yankees defeated the Atlanta Braves in the 1996 World Series to win their first championship since the 1978 World Series.
Following his Rookie of the Year campaign, Jeter headlined a group considered the “new crop” of shortstops, along with Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra, as the careers of older shortstops such as Cal Ripken, Jr., Barry Larkin, Ozzie Smith and Alan Trammell were concluding. Rodriguez, the first overall selection in the 1993 MLB draft, first contacted Jeter about his experiences as a high-first round pick. The two became friends to the extent that The New York Times journalist Jack Curry commented “[r]arely have two higher-profile opponents been as close”. Rodriguez described Jeter as being “like my brother”, even though they were on-field adversaries.
Before the 1997 season, Jeter and the Yankees agreed on a $540,000 contract with performance bonuses. Becoming the Yankees’ leadoff batter, Jeter batted .291, with 10 home runs, 70 RBI, 116 runs, and 190 hits. Though he hit two home runs during the 1997 American League Division Series, the Yankees lost to the Cleveland Indians, three games to two.
Jeter earned $750,000 for the 1998 season. That year, Jeter was selected for his first All-Star Game. In the regular season, he batted .324 with a league-leading 127 runs, 19 home runs, and 84 RBI, for a team that won 114 games during the regular season and is widely considered to be one of the greatest of all time. In the playoffs, Jeter hit only .176 in the 1998 ALDS and ALCS, but batted .353 in the World Series, as the Yankees defeated the San Diego Padres in four games. At season’s end, Jeter finished third in voting for the AL Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award.
During the 1999–2000 offseason, the Yankees negotiated with Jeter, tentatively agreeing to a seven-year, $118.5 million contract. Steinbrenner did not want to set a record for the largest contract, and delayed a response while Juan González and the Detroit Tigers negotiated on a reported eight-year, $143 million contract extension. When that agreement fell through, so did Jeter’s tentative deal. To avoid arbitration, Jeter and the Yankees agreed to a one-year deal worth $10 million.
With one year remaining until he would become eligible for free agency, Jeter signed a ten-year, $189 million contract before the 2001 season to remain with the Yankees. Alex Rodriguezhad signed a ten-year, $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers earlier in the offseason, setting the market for Jeter’s negotiations. Jeter became the second-highest-paid athlete across all team sports and auto racing, trailing only Rodriguez. The $18.9 million average annual value of Jeter’s contract was the third-highest in baseball, behind only Rodriguez ($25.2 million) and Manny Ramirez ($20 million).
On Opening Day of the 2003 season, Jeter dislocated his left shoulder when he collided with Toronto Blue Jays catcher Ken Huckaby at third base. He was placed on the disabled list for six weeks and missed 36 games; he had never played fewer than 148 games in the prior seven full seasons. Jeter returned to bat .324, finishing third in batting average to Bill Mueller, who batted .326. Ramirez finished second.
For the 2009 season, Yankees manager Joe Girardi switched Jeter and Damon in the batting order, with Damon moving to second and Jeter to the leadoff role. Jeter batted .334, third-best in the AL, with a .406 OBP, 18 home runs, 30 stolen bases in 35 attempts, 107 runs scored, and 212 hits (second in MLB). Defensively, Jeter committed a career-low eight errors, and his .986 fielding percentage was his career best. The addition of Gold Glove-winning first baseman Mark Teixeira allowed second baseman Robinson Canó to shift his focus to his right, helping Jeter. During the season, the Sporting News named Jeter eighth on their list of the 50 greatest current players in baseball.
eter achieved two career hit milestones in the second half of the 2009 season. On August 16, 2009, against the Seattle Mariners, Jeter doubled down the right-field line for his 2,675th hit as a shortstop, breaking Luis Aparicio’s previous major league record. Then, Jeter became the all-time hits leader as a member of the Yankees (2,722), passing Lou Gehrig on September 11, 2009. The hit was a single off Baltimore Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman in the third inning.
In the 2009 postseason, Jeter batted .355, including .407 in the 2009 World Series, as he won his fifth World Series championship. He was named Sportsman of the Year for 2009 by Sports Illustrated, and won the Roberto Clemente Award, Hank Aaron Award, and his fourth Gold Glove Award. Jeter also finished third in the AL MVP voting, behind Minnesota’s Joe Mauer and Yankee teammate Mark Teixeira. It was also the fifth championship for Pettitte, Posada, and Rivera, who along with Jeter were referred to as the “Core Four”.
In 2010, Jeter, along with Posada and Rivera, became the first trio of teammates in any of the four major league sports in North America (MLB, NFL, NBA, or NHL) to play in at least 16 consecutive seasons on the same team as teammates. The 2010 season was statistically Jeter’s worst in many respects. The Yankee captain batted .270 with a .340 OBP and .370 SLG, all career lows, as he hit more ground balls than usual. Despite this, Jeter was elected to start at shortstop in the All-Star Game. He rebounded to bat .342 in his last 79 at-bats after making adjustments to his swing with the help of Kevin Long, the Yankees hitting coach, who had successfully helped Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson make adjustments that improved their production. With Long, Jeter changed the way he strode with his left leg. Following the season, Jeter won his fifth Gold Glove award. Jeter committed six errors during the season, his lowest total in 15 full seasons.
After the 2010 season, Jeter became a free agent for the first time in his career. At age 36, Jeter appeared to be in decline; Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus suggested that Jeter, once a “good, not great” shortstop, had declined to become “below average” defensively, to the extent that he would likely need to change positions; Cashman later acknowledged that Jeter might need to shift to the outfield. Though Jeter stated that he wanted to remain with the Yankees, negotiations became tense. Jeter’s agent, Casey Close, stated that he was “baffled” by the Yankees’ approach to the negotiations, and Cashman, now the team’s general manager, responded publicly that Jeter should test the open market to ascertain his value, which angered Jeter. According to reports, Jeter initially sought a four-year contract worth between $23 million and $25 million per season. He reached an agreement with the Yankees on a three-year contract for $51 million with an option for a fourth year. He spent the offseason working with Long on adjustments to his swing.
The adjustments left Jeter frustrated, as he batted .242 in the first month of the 2011 season. As he struggled, it appeared that the 2011 season was the continuation of Jeter’s decline. Jeter broke Rickey Henderson’s franchise record for stolen bases when he stole his 327th base against the Mariners on May 28, 2011. He suffered a calf injury on June 13 that required his fifth stint on the 15-day disabled list, and his first since 2003. At that point, he was batting .260 for the 2011 season with a .649 OPS. Rehabilitating from his injury in Tampa, Jeter worked on his swing with Denbo, his former minor league manager. With Denbo, Jeter returned to the mechanics he used in his minor league days. Following his activation from the disabled list, he hit .326 with an .806 OPS in his last 64 games of the season. Jeter finished the year with a .297 batting average, 6 home runs, 61 runs batted in, 84 runs, and 16 stolen bases. He credited the turnaround to his work with Denbo; Long acknowledged that his attempt to adjust Jeter’s swing did not work.
On July 9, 2011, Jeter recorded his 3,000th career hit, a home run off of David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays. Jeter finished the day with five hits in five at-bats, the second player to have five hits on the day he achieved his 3,000th hit (the first was Craig Biggio). He also became the second player to hit a home run for his 3,000th hit, Wade Boggs having done so in 1999. The last of Jeter’s five hits proved to be the game-winning hit. He is the only member of the 3,000 hit club to record all of his hits with the New York Yankees, and the only player to join the club as a Yankee. Jeter became the second player to reach 3,000 career hits while still a regular shortstop (the first was Honus Wagner). Only Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, and Robin Yount were younger than Jeter on the day of their 3,000th hit. MLB and HBO produced Deter Jeter 3K, a documentary that profiled his path to 3,000 hits and originally aired on July 28, 2011.
Fatigued from the stress of chasing 3,000 career hits and wanting to rest his calf, Jeter opted not to attend the 2011 MLB All-Star Game. Jeter and Posada played their 1,660th game together on July 14, 2011, breaking the previous franchise record of 1,659 by Gehrig and Tony Lazzeri. Jeter played his 2,402nd game with the Yankees on August 29, 2011, breaking Mickey Mantle’s record for most games played as a Yankee. He finished the 2011 season with 162 hits, his 16th consecutive season with 150 hits, which tied him with Pete Rose for the second-most consecutive 150-hit seasons, one behind Hank Aaron for the MLB record. Jeter was honored with the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, given in recognition of charitable endeavors.
Despite continuing concerns about his age, the beginning of the 2012 season saw Jeter on a hot streak: he batted .411 through April 23. Rodriguez commented that Jeter is playing as he did in 1999, while Girardi said Jeter looks like he is 25 years old. In the 2012 MLB All-Star Game, Jeter recorded his eleventh All-Star hit, passing Mantle for the most All-Star Game hits in Yankees history. Jeter went 1-for-2 in the game, moving into fourth all-time with a .458 average among players with a minimum of 12 plate appearances in the All-Star Game.
Jeter finished the 2012 season with the most hits in MLB (216). Against the Tampa Bay Rays on September 14 of that year, he moved into the Top 10 on the all-time hit list, surpassing Willie Mays by beating out an infield single for his 3,284th career hit. After hitting .364 in the 2012 ALDS, Jeter fractured his left ankle during Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS against the Detroit Tigersreaching for a ground ball, an injury which ended his season. Jeter had received a cortisone shot to treat a bone bruise in his left foot in September, which could have contributed to the break. Jeter had surgery on his broken left ankle on October 20, with an expected recovery time of four to five months.
While rehabilitating, Jeter suffered a small crack in the area of his previous ankle fracture. As a result, Jeter began the 2013 season on the disabled list. The Yankees activated Jeter on July 11, but after playing in one game, Jeter returned to the disabled list with a quadriceps strain. He returned to the Yankees lineup on July 28, hitting a home run on the first pitch off of Matt Moore of Tampa Bay. Jeter was again placed on the 15-day disabled list on August 5 due to a Grade 1 calf strain, and after a brief return to the lineup, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list for a third time on September 11 due to problems with his ankle, ending his season. On September 14, 2013 Jeter was transferred to the 60-day disabled list. Jeter batted .190 in only 17 games played during the 2013 season.
Jeter re-signed with the Yankees on a one-year, $12 million contract for the 2014 season. Jeter announced on his Facebook page on February 12, 2014, that the 2014 season would be his last. During his final season, each opposing team honored Jeter with a gift during his final visit to their city, which has included donations to Jeter’s charity, the Turn 2 Foundation.
On July 10, Jeter recorded his 1,000th career multi-hit game, becoming the fourth player to do so. He was elected to start at shortstop in the 2014 All-Star Game, and batted leadoff for the AL. Jeter went 2 for 2, scored one run and received two standing ovations in the four innings he played at the 2014 All-Star Game. As a result, Jeter’s .481 career All-Star batting average (13 for 27) ranked him fifth all-time (among players with at least 10 at-bats). At 40, Jeter also became the oldest player to have two or more hits in an All-Star Game. In July, Jeter broke Omar Vizquel’s MLB career record of 2,609 games started at shortstop, and Gehrig’s franchise career record of 534 doubles. On July 17, Derek scored the 1,900th run of his career becoming the 10th player in MLB history to do so. Jeter passed Carl Yastrzemski for seventh place on MLB’s all-time career hit list on July 28 and on August 11 he passed Honus Wagner climbing to sixth on the all-time hits list.
The Yankees honored Jeter with a pregame tribute on September 7. Beginning with that day’s game, the Yankees wore a patch on their hats and uniforms honoring Jeter for the remainder of the season. In the final week of Jeter’s career, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig honored him as the 15th recipient of the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award for being “one of the most accomplished shortstops of all-time”.
During Jeter’s final series at Yankee Stadium, Louisville Slugger announced they would retire their “P72” model baseball bat, the bat Jeter uses, though it will be sold under the name “DJ2”, in Jeter’s honor. The average ticket price for Jeter’s final home game, on September 25, reached $830 on the secondary market. In his final game at Yankee Stadium, Jeter hit a walk-off single against Orioles pitcher Evan Meek to win the game, 6–5.
Jeter decided to play exclusively as the designated hitter in the final series of his career, at Fenway Park in Boston, so that his final memories of playing shortstop would be at Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox honored Jeter with a pregame ceremony including Red Sox retired stars Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, Luis Tiant and Rico Petrocelli, the Boston Bruins’ Bobby Orr, New England Patriots receiver Troy Brown and the Boston Celtics’ Paul Pierce, while many Boston fans at Fenway Park loudly cheered for Jeter and gave him a standing ovation. In his final at-bat, he hit an RBI infield single against Clay Buchholz, before being substituted for pinch runner Brian McCann; he received an ovation from the Red Sox fans as he exited the field.
Jeter maintains homes in Marlboro Township, New Jersey; Greenwood Lake, New York; and the Davis Islands neighborhood of Tampa, Florida. He previously owned a penthouse apartment in Manhattan’s Trump World Tower. Regarding his official residence, Jeter settled a tax dispute with the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance in 2008. New York State alleged that Jeter should have paid state income tax from 2001 to 2003, as Jeter resided in the Manhattan apartment he bought in 2001; Jeter claimed to have established his residence in Tampa, Florida, in 1994 and that he was still a resident of Florida at the time. Florida has no state income tax.
In December 2002, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner criticized Jeter for staying out until 3 a.m. at a birthday party during the 2002 season, saying that his star shortstop “wasn’t totally focused” and that “it didn’t sit well” with him. The two mocked the incident in a May 2003 VISA commercial, similar to the manner in which Steinbrenner and former Yankees manager Billy Martin made light of their feud in a Miller Lite commercial during the 1970s.
Jeter and Davis became engaged in 2015. She bought Jeter an Italian Mastiff named Kane for Christmas in 2014. Jeter never had pets as a child, and attributed his fear of dogs to the movie Cujo. In July 2016, Jeter and Davis were married. On February 13, 2017, Hannah announced that she is pregnant with a daughter.
During his injury-shortened 2013 season, Jeter arranged a partnership with Simon & Schuster to form an imprint called Jeter Publishing. He called it “the blueprint for postcareer”. It will begin publishing nonfiction books for adults, children’s picture books, elementary grade fiction, and books for children who are learning to read, and could lead to film and television productions.
On October 1, 2014, Jeter’s new website, ThePlayersTribune.com, appeared online; it was billed as “a new media platform that will present the unfiltered voice of professional athletes, bringing fans closer to the games they love than ever before”. It was reported by the Tampa Bay Business Journal in March 2015 that Jeter had partnered with Concessions Tampa to bid for a space within the Tampa International Airport, and plans to open a restaurant named after his website.
Jeter also serves as a brand development officer for Luvo Inc., and has investment interests in multi-channel video network company, Whistle Sports Network. He explored purchasing the Buffalo Bills football team in 2014. In April 2017, it was rumored that Jeter and Jeb Bush were bidding for ownership of the Miami Marlins.
Joseph Torre was born July 18, 1940, in Brooklyn, New York, the youngest of five children, two girls and three boys to a New York City Police officer father and a mother, Margaret. He is of Italian descent. His siblings include two older brothers, Frank Torre, and Rocco, and an older sister, Marguerite. Torre followed in his brother Frank Torre’s footsteps when he was signed by the Milwaukee Braves as an amateur free agent in 1960. In his first season in the minor leagues with the Class A Eau Claire Bears, he won the 1960 Northern League batting championship with a .344 batting average. Torre made his major league debut late in the season on September 25, 1960. He was assigned to the Triple A Louisville Colonels for the 1961 season where, the Braves had planned to groom him as the eventual successor to their All-Star catcher, Del Crandall. However, those plans were changed when Crandall injured his throwing arm in May 1961, forcing the Braves to promote Torre to the major leagues with just over a year of minor league experience.Torre rose to the occasion, hitting for a .278 batting average with 21 doubles and 10 home runs. He finished the season ranked second to Billy Williams in the 1961 National League Rookie of the Year voting.
Crandall resumed his role as the number one catcher in 1962 while Torre stayed on as the back-up catcher. By the 1963 season, the Braves had begun to play Crandall at first base as Torre had taken over the starting catcher’s role. He ended the season with a .293 batting average with 14 home runs and 71 runs batted in and, earned a spot as a reserve for the National League team in the 1963 All-Star Game. In December 1963, the Braves traded Crandall to the San Francisco Giants leaving Torre as the undisputed number one catcher.
Torre had a breakout year in 1964 when he hit 12 home runs along with a .312 batting average by mid-season and was voted to be the starting catcher for the National League in the 1964 All-Star Game. He ended the season with a .321 batting average, fourth highest in the league, along with 20 home runs and 109 runs batted in and led National League catchers with a .995 fielding percentage. Despite the fact that the Braves finished the season in fifth place, Torre ranked fifth in voting for the 1964 National League Most Valuable Player Award.
In 1965, Torre won his first of two NL Player of the Month awards when he took the honour for May, batting .382, with 10 HR, and 24 RBI. Torre was once again voted to be the starting catcher for the National League in the 1965 All-Star Game and won his first and only Gold Glove Award. He ended the season with 27 home runs and 80 runs batted in although his batting average dipped to .291. In his book, The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, baseball historian Bill James said the decision to award Torre the 1965 Gold Glove was absurd, stating that he was given the award because of his offensive statistics and that, either John Roseboro or Tom Haller were more deserved of the award. In an article for the St. Petersburg Independent that year, Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac called Torre “the best catcher since Roy Campanella.”
The Braves relocated to Atlanta for the 1966 season and would play their games in the new Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium which, due to its less dense atmosphere in the high elevation in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, made it favorable to home run hitters, resulting in the nickname The Launching Pad. On April 12, 1966, Torre hit the first major league home run in the history of the Atlanta stadium. Torre would produce a career-high 36 home runs with 101 runs batted in, a .315 batting average, a .382 on-base percentage and, led National League catchers with a 48.6% caught stealing percentage. He was voted as the starting catcher for the National League All-Star team for the third successive year. His offensive production tapered off in 1967 with a .277 batting average with 68 runs batted in although he still hit 20 home runs and won his fourth consecutive start in the 1967 All-Star Game. He posted another sub-par season in 1968 with a .271 batting average, 10 home runs and 55 runs batted in however, he led National League catchers with a .996 fielding percentage. Before the 1969 season, Torre became embroiled in a feud with Braves General Manager Paul Richards over his salary. Eventually, the Braves would trade Torre to the St. Louis Cardinals for the 1967 Most Valuable Player Award winner, Orlando Cepeda.
The Cardinals had Tim McCarver as their starting catcher so Torre replaced the departed Cepeda as their first baseman for the 1969 season. His offensive statistics rebounded and he ended the season with a .289 batting average with 18 home runs and 101 runs batted in. In 1970, the Cardinals traded away McCarver along with Byron Browne, Curt Flood and Joe Hoerner to the Philadelphia Phillies for Dick Allen, Jerry Johnson and Cookie Rojas. Allen took over as the Cardinals’ first baseman while Torre split his playing time between playing third base and sharing catching duties with young prospect Ted Simmons. His offensive statistics continued to improve; he hit 21 home runs with 100 runs batted in and finished second to Rico Carty in the National League batting championship with a .325 batting average.
The Cardinals made Simmons their full-time catcher in 1971, leaving Torre to concentrate on playing third base. Freed from the mentally challenging, strength-sapping job of catching, Torre had a career-season offensively. He was hitting for a .359 batting average at mid-season and was voted to be the starting third baseman for the National League in the 1971 All-Star Game. He was named NL Player of the Month for the second and final time in August (.373, 5 HR, 27 RBI). Torre won the National League Batting Championship, hitting .363 and led the league with 137 runs batted in, en route to winning the 1971 National League Most Valuable Player award. Adapting to a new defensive position proved to be a challenge as Torre led the league’s third basemen with 21 errors. In December, he was awarded the 1971 Hutch Award, given annually to the player who best exemplifies the fighting spirit and competitive desire of Fred Hutchinson.
In 1972, Torre won his second consecutive starting role as third baseman for the National League in the All-Star Game. However, his offensive numbers for the season dipped to a .289 batting average with 11 home runs and 81 runs batted in. After two more sub-par seasons, the Cardinals traded the 34-year-old Torre to the New York Mets for Ray Sadecki with Tommy Moore.
With the Mets in 1975, Torre became the third player in major league history, and first in the National League, to hit into four double plays in one game. Felix Millán singled in all four of his at-bats hitting ahead of Torre, and at a post-game press conference, Torre joked about his own performance by saying “I’d like to thank Félix Millán for making this possible.” When Torre’s batting average fell to .247 in 1975, it appeared his best years might be behind him. However, his average rebounded 59 points in 1976, and he finished the year with a .306 batting average. In May 1977, the Mets fired manager Joe Frazier and named Torre as their player-manager. Because he believed he could not do the job properly while still playing, he decided to retire at age 37. He did serve 18 days as a player-manager (only having 2 at-bats), becoming the second of three players in the 1970s to take on both roles (Frank Robinson, in the two previous seasons with the Cleveland Indians, and Don Kessinger, in 1979 with the Chicago White Sox, were the others.)
Torre managed the Mets from 1977 to 1981 season, but failed to improve the team’s record. After five years without a winning season, he was fired at the end of the strike-shortened 1981 season. In 1982, Torre replaced Bobby Cox as the manager of the Atlanta Braves, and immediately guided them to a Major League-record 13 straight wins to open the season. The Braves slipped to second place in 1983, but with their 88–74 record, won just one fewer game than the previous season, and marked the first consecutive winning seasons for the organization since moving from Milwaukee in 1966. In 1984, Atlanta slipped to 80–82 the following season but, again finished runner-up in the division (tied with Houston Astros). He was fired after the 1984 season. From 1985 to 1990, Torre worked as a television color commentator for the California Angels. Torre also worked as a color commentator for NBC’s Game of the Week telecasts alongside Jay Randolph. While working as a guest analyst for ESPN during the 1989 World Series, Torre was on hand for the Loma Prieta earthquake (October 17, 1989.) n 1990, Torre replaced the popular Whitey Herzog as Cardinals manager and posted a 351–354 record. Torre was fired in June 1995 for his poor record that year as part of a rebuilding project while Anheuser-Busch prepared to sell the team.
Torre served as the Yankees manager under owner George Steinbrenner, who was famous for frequently firing his team’s managers. Torre lasted 12 full seasons, managing 1,942 regular season games, with a won-loss record of 1,173–767. He took the team to the postseason every one of his twelve seasons with the club, winning six American League pennants and four World Series. By far the longest tenure for a Yankees manager in the Steinbrenner era, Torre’s was the second-longest tenure in club history: only Joe McCarthy lasted longer. Torre is the only Yankees manager who was born in New York City.
In 2007, Torre achieved his 2000th win to become the first major league employee to win 2000 games as manager and collect 2,000 hits. He later notched his 2,010th managerial win, overtaking Leo Durocher for ninth place on the MLB all-time managerial wins list. Next, he passed Stengel on the Yankees all time managerial wins list in 2007 and recorded his 1,150th victory with the Yankees. Torre led the Yankees to their 13th consecutive postseason appearance.
After two Yankees losses to the Cleveland Indians in the Division Series, Steinbrenner said in an interview that Torre’s contract would not be renewed if the Yankees did
not defeat the Indians. The Yankees saved their season, and potentially Torre’s job, for one day, as they won Game 3 at Yankee Stadium. Following the Yankees’ elimination the following night, earning them another first-round exit, Torre’s fate remained uncertain. That night, as he went out to make what would be his last pitching change with the team, the fans in Yankee Stadium gave him a standing ovation and chanted his name.
After the season, the Yankees met with Torre and offered him a one-year contract with a $5 million base pay and $1 million bonuses, to be paid for each of three benchmarks the team would reach: winning the American League Division Series; winning the American League Championship Series; and winning the World Series. Further, had the Yankees reached the World Series, that would have automatically triggered an option for a new contract the following year. In spite of a pay cut from an average of $6.4 million over the previous three seasons, the new terms would have kept him as the highest-paid manager in the game.
Yankee Global Enterprises chairman Hal Steinbrenner “explained the rationale behind the offer, which was nonnegotiable.” Yankees president Randy Levine commented, “We thought we needed to go with a performance-based model. It’s important to motivate people based on performance.” George Steinbrenner, due to advancing age and deteriorating health, had noticeably less influence in the day-to-day operation of the club. Of the ultimatum he issued during the playoffs, his son Hal denied that his comments influenced the terms of the contract they presented to Torre.
The New York media portrayed the offer as an insult. Torre turned it down, ending his era with the Yankees. On October 19, 2007, he held a news conference to explain his decision. After first thanking George Steinbrenner, he remarked, “I just felt the contract offer and the terms of the contract were probably the thing I had the toughest time with.”
Of the aftermath, Wallace Matthews of Newsday commented, “They are very slick, these thugs running the Yankees. … They have been trying to figure out a way to whack Torre while making it appear as if Torre whacked himself. What they came up with was brilliant in its innovation and chilling in its cynicism, but ultimately transparent.” Opined Mike Lupica, “It was just the most famous disagreement we are ever likely to see in baseball, the most famous manager telling the people who run the most famous team to take their job and shove it. A manager finally fired the Yankees.” Added Joel Sherman, “Torre erred in turning down the Yankees’ proposal to stay in the position that has made him rich and famous beyond what he could have dreamed a dozen years ago.” He also walks “away from that juice as much as the ownership.”
On February 3, 2009, Torre released a book about his experiences with the Yankees, called The Yankee Years, co-authored by Tom Verducci. Torre returned to Yankee Stadium for the first time since vacating the Yankees managerial job on September 20, 2010, to pay respect to George Steinbrenner on the night of the previous owner’s monument being unveiled in Monument Park.
In 2002, Torre and his wife Ali established the Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation. In October 2007 the Foundation partnered with the Union City, New Jersey Board of Education and the North Hudson Community Action Corporation (NHCAC) to establish the Foundation’s Margaret Place initiative at Union City, New Jersey’s José Martí Middle School, with a $325,000 donation from Verizon. It continues to receive yearly funding from that company of up to $65,000. The Foundation’s mission is to educate and prevent domestic violence. Margaret’s Place is named after Torre’s mother, who was a victim of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of Torre’s New York City Police officer father when Torre was a child. Torre describes his father as a “bully”, and while Torre himself was not a target of his father’s violence, he has related that he never felt safe at home, and grew up in fear for his mother, saying, “I always felt responsible for it. I never thought I belonged anywhere. I never felt safe except on the ball field.” Margaret’s Place is a comprehensive program that provides students with a safe room in school where they can meet with a professional counselor trained in domestic violence intervention and prevention in order to address the student’s home situation and educate them to understand domestic violence’s impact on the community. The children are also given the opportunity to read, play games or talk about their experience with others. The program, which is administered by health care professionals from North Hudson Community Action Corp, also includes an anti-violence campaign within the school, and training for teachers and counselors. It has grown to 11 sites in the region, though Union City’s is the only such program in New Jersey.
Gehrig was born in 1903 at 309 East 94th Street in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan; he weighed almost 14 pounds (6.4 kg) at birth. He was the second of four children of German immigrants, Christina Foch (1881–1954) and Heinrich Gehrig (1867–1946). His father was a sheet metal worker by trade but frequently unemployed due to alcoholism, and his mother, a maid, was the main breadwinner and disciplinarian in the family. His two sisters died at an early age from whooping cough and measles; a brother also died in infancy. From an early age, Gehrig helped his mother with work, doing tasks such as folding laundry and picking up supplies from the local stores. In 1910, he lived with his parents at 2266 Amsterdam Avenue in Washington Heights. In 1920, the family resided on 8th Avenue in Manhattan. His name was often anglicized to Henry Louis Gehrig and he was known as “Lou” so that he would not be confused with his identically named father, who was known as Henry.
Gehrig first garnered national attention for his baseball ability while playing in a game at Cubs Park (now Wrigley Field) on June 26, 1920. His New York School of Commerce team was playing a team from Chicago’s Lane Tech High School in front of a crowd of more than 10,000 spectators. With his team leading 8–6 in the top of the ninth inning, Gehrig hit a grand slam completely out of the major league park, an unheard-of feat for a 17-year-old.
Gehrig attended PS 132 in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, then went to Commerce High School, graduating in 1921. He then studied at Columbia University for two years, although he did not graduate. Initially, he went to Columbia on a football scholarship, where he was preparing to pursue a degree in engineering. Before his first semester began, New York Giants manager John McGraw advised him to play summer professional baseball under an assumed name, Henry Lewis, despite the fact that it could jeopardize his collegiate sports eligibility. After he played a dozen games for the Hartford Senators in the Eastern League, he was discovered and banned from collegiate sports his freshman year. In 1922, Gehrig returned to collegiate sports as a fullback for the Columbia Lions football program. Later, in 1923, he played first base and pitched for the Columbia baseball team. At Columbia, he was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity.
On April 18, 1923—the same day that Yankee Stadium opened for the first time and Babe Ruth inaugurated the new stadium with a home run against the Boston
Red Sox—Columbia pitcher Gehrig struck out seventeen Williams College batters to set a team record, though Columbia lost the game. Only a handful of collegians were at South Field that day, but more significant was the presence of Yankee scout Paul Krichell, who had been trailing Gehrig for some time. It was not Gehrig’s pitching that particularly impressed him; rather, it was Gehrig’s powerful left-handed hitting. During the time Krichell observed him, Gehrig had hit some of the longest home runs ever seen on various eastern campuses, including a 450-foot (137 m) home run on April 28 at Columbia’s South Field, which landed at 116th Street and Broadway. He signed a contract with the Yankees on April 30. He returned to minor-league Hartford to play parts of two seasons, 1923 and 1924, batting .344 and hitting 61 home runs in 193 games. It was the only time Gehrig had ever played any level of baseball—sandlot, high school, collegiate or pro—for a team based outside New York City.
Gehrig joined the New York Yankees midway through the 1923 season and made his major league debut at age 19 on June 15, 1923, as a pinch hitter. In his first two seasons, he saw limited playing time, mostly as a pinch hitter—he played in only 23 games and was not on the Yankees’ 1923 World Series roster. In 1925, he batted .295, with 20 home runs and 68 runs batted in (RBIs). The 23-year-old Yankee first baseman’s breakout season came in 1926, when he batted .313 with 47 doubles, an American League-leading 20 triples, 16 home runs, and 112 RBI. In the 1926 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Gehrig hit .348 with two doubles and 4 RBIs. The Cardinals won the series four games to three.
In 1927, Gehrig put together one of the greatest seasons by any batter in history, hitting .373, with 218 hits: 101 singles, 52 doubles, 18 triples, 47 home runs, a then-record 175 runs batted in (surpassing teammate Babe Ruth’s 171 six years earlier), and a .765 slugging percentage. His 117 extra-base hits that season are second all-time to Babe Ruth’s 119 extra-base hits in 1921 and his 447 total bases are third all-time, after Babe Ruth’s 457 total bases in 1921 and Rogers Hornsby’s 450 in 1922. Gehrig’s production helped the 1927 Yankees to a 110–44 record, the AL pennant (by 19 games), and a four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series. Although the AL recognized his season by naming him league MVP, Gehrig’s accomplishments were overshadowed by Babe Ruth’s 60 home run season and the overall dominance of the 1927 Yankees, a team often cited as having the greatest lineup of all time — the famed “Murderers’ Row”.
Despite playing in the shadow of Ruth for two-thirds of his career, Gehrig was one of the highest run producers in baseball history: he had 509 RBIs during a three-season stretch (1930–32). Only two other players, Jimmie Foxx with 507 and Hank Greenberg with 503, have surpassed 500 RBIs in any three seasons; their totals were non-consecutive. (Babe Ruth had 498.) Playing 14 complete seasons, Gehrig had 13 consecutive seasons with 100 or more RBIs (a major league record shared with Foxx until eclipsed in 2010 by Alex Rodriguez). Gehrig had six seasons where he batted .350 or better (with a high of .379 in 1930), plus a seventh season at .349. He had seven seasons with 150 or more RBIs, 11 with over 100 walks, eight with 200 or more hits, and five with more than 40 home runs. Gehrig led the American League in runs scored four times, home runs three times, and RBIs five times. His 184 RBIs in 1931 remain the American League record as of 2015 and rank second all-time to Hack Wilson’s 191 in 1930. On the single-season RBI list, Gehrig ranks second, fifth (175), and sixth (174), with four additional seasons of over 150 RBIs. He also holds the baseball record for most seasons with 400 total bases or more, accomplishing this feat five times in his career. He batted fourth in the lineup behind Ruth, making it counterproductive to opposing pitchers to intentionally walk Ruth.
During the ten seasons (1925–1934) in which Gehrig and Ruth were teammates and next to each other in the batting order and played a majority of the games, Gehrig had more home runs than Ruth only once, in 1934 (which was Ruth’s last year with the Yankees), when he hit 49 to Ruth’s 22 (Ruth played 125 games that year). They tied at 46 in 1931. Ruth had 424 home runs compared to Gehrig’s 347. However, Gehrig outpaced Ruth in RBI, 1,436 to 1,316. Gehrig had a .343 batting average, compared to .338 for Ruth.
In 1932, Gehrig became the first player in the 20th century to hit four home runs in a game, accomplishing the feat on June 3 against the Philadelphia Athletics. He narrowly missed getting a fifth home run when Athletics center fielder Al Simmons made a leaping catch of another fly ball at the center field fence. After the game, manager Joe McCarthy told him, “Well, Lou, nobody can take today away from you.” On the same day, however, John McGraw announced his retirement after thirty years of managing the New York Giants. McGraw, not Gehrig, got the main headlines in the sports sections the next day. In September 1933, Gehrig married Eleanor Twitchell (1904–1984), the daughter of Chicago Parks Commissioner Frank Twitchell.
In a 1936 World Series cover story about Lou Gehrig and Carl Hubbell, Time proclaimed Gehrig “the game’s No. 1 batsman”, who “takes boyish pride in banging a baseball as far, and running around the bases as quickly, as possible”. Also in 1936, at the urging of his wife Eleanor, Gehrig agreed to hire Babe Ruth’s agent, who in turn, persuaded him to audition for the role of Tarzan, the Ape Man, after Johnny Weissmuller had vacated the iconic movie role. But Gehrig only got as far as posing for a widely distributed, and embarrassing, photo of himself in a leopard-spotted costume. When Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs spotted the outfit, he telegrammed Gehrig, “I want to congratulate you on being a swell first baseman.”
Although his performance in the second half of the 1938 season was slightly better than in the first half, Gehrig reported physical changes at the midway point. At the end of that season, he said, “I tired mid-season. I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t get going again.” Although his final 1938 statistics were above average (.295 batting average, 114 RBI, 170 hits, .523 slugging percentage, 689 plate appearances with only 75 strikeouts, and 29 home runs), they were significantly down from his 1937 season, in which he batted .351 and slugged .643. In the 1938 World Series, he had four hits in 14 at-bats, all singles.
When the Yankees began their 1939 spring training in St. Petersburg, Florida, it was clear that Gehrig no longer possessed his once-formidable power. Even his base running was affected, and at one point he collapsed at Al Lang Field, then the Yankees’ spring training park. By the end of spring training, he had not hit a home run. Throughout his career, Gehrig was considered an excellent base runner, but as the 1939 season got under way, his coordination and speed had deteriorated significantly.
By the end of April, his statistics were the worst of his career, with one RBI and a .143 batting average. Fans and the press openly speculated on Gehrig’s abrupt decline. James Kahn, a reporter who wrote often about Gehrig, said in one article:
I think there is something wrong with him. Physically wrong, I mean. I don’t know what it is, but I am satisfied that it goes far beyond his ball-playing. I have seen ballplayers ‘go’ overnight, as Gehrig seems to have done. But they were simply washed up as ballplayers. It’s something deeper than that in this case, though. I have watched him very closely and this is what I have seen: I have seen him time a ball perfectly, swing on it as hard as he can, meet it squarely—and drive a soft, looping fly over the infield. In other words, for some reason that I do not know, his old power isn’t there… He is meeting the ball, time after time, and it isn’t going anywhere.
He was indeed meeting the ball, with only one strikeout in 28 at-bats; however, Joe McCarthy found himself resisting pressure from Yankee management to switch Gehrig to a part-time role. Things came to a head when Gehrig struggled to make a routine put-out at first base. The pitcher, Johnny Murphy, had to wait for him to drag himself over to the bag so he could field the throw. Murphy said, “Nice play, Lou.”
On April 30, Gehrig went hitless against the Washington Senators. He had just played his 2,130th consecutive major league game.
On May 2, the next game after a day off, Gehrig approached McCarthy before the game in Detroit against the Tigers and said, “I’m benching myself, Joe”, telling the Yankees’ skipper that he was doing so “for the good of the team.” McCarthy acquiesced, putting Ellsworth “Babe” Dahlgren in at first base, and also said that whenever Gehrig wanted to play again, the position was his. Gehrig, as Yankee captain, himself took the lineup card out to the shocked umpires before the game, ending the fourteen-year streak. Before the game began, the Briggs Stadium announcer told the fans, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is the first time Lou Gehrig’s name will not appear on the Yankee lineup in 2,130 consecutive games.” The Detroit Tigers’ fans gave Gehrig a standing ovation while he sat on the bench with tears in his eyes. A wire service photograph of Gehrig reclining against the dugout steps with a stoic expression appeared the next day in the nation’s newspapers. He stayed with the Yankees as team captain for the rest of the season but never played in a major league game again.
As Gehrig’s debilitation became steadily worse, his wife Eleanor called the famed Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Her call was transferred to Charles William Mayo, who had been following Gehrig’s career and his mysterious loss of strength. Mayo told Eleanor to bring Gehrig as soon as possible.
Gehrig flew alone to Rochester from Chicago, where the Yankees were playing at the time, and arrived at the Mayo Clinic on June 13, 1939. After six days of extensive testing at the Mayo Clinic, doctors confirmed the diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) on June 19, 1939, which was Gehrig’s 36th birthday. The prognosis was grim: rapidly increasing paralysis, difficulty in swallowing and speaking, and a life expectancy of less than three years, although there would be no impairment of mental functions. Eleanor Gehrig was told that the cause of ALS was unknown but it was painless, non-contagious, and cruel—the motor function of the central nervous system is destroyed, but the mind remains fully aware to the end.
Gehrig often wrote letters to Eleanor, and in one such note written shortly afterwards, said in part:
The bad news is lateral sclerosis, in our language chronic infantile paralysis. There isn’t any cure… there are very few of these cases. It is probably caused by some germ…Never heard of transmitting it to mates… There is a 50–50 chance of keeping me as I am. I may need a cane in 10 or 15 years. Playing is out of the question…
Following Gehrig’s visit to the Mayo Clinic, he briefly rejoined the Yankees in Washington, D.C. As his train pulled into Union Station, he was greeted by a group of Boy Scouts, happily waving and wishing him luck. Gehrig waved back, but he leaned forward to his companion, Rutherford “Rud” Rennie of the New York Herald Tribune, and said, “They’re wishing me luck—and I’m dying.”
In June of 1941, Gehrig succumbed to his illness and passed away. An article in the September 2010 issue of the Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology suggested the possibility that some ALS-related illnesses diagnosed in Gehrig and other athletes may have been catalyzed by repeated concussions and other brain trauma. In 2012, Minnesota State legislators sought to unseal Gehrig’s medical records, which are held by the Mayo Clinic, in an effort to determine a connection, if any, between his illness and the concussion-related trauma he received during his career, prior to the advent of batting helmets and other protective equipment. The effort was abandoned after several leading medical experts explained that a records review would have no value unless correlated with autopsy data. An autopsy was not performed on Gehrig’s body, and his remains were cremated after his open-casket wake.
On June 21, 1939, the New York Yankees announced Gehrig’s retirement. The doctors of the Mayo Clinic had released its ALS diagnosis to the public on June 19. There was an immediate public push to honor Gehrig. The idea of an appreciation day reportedly began with Bill Hirsch, a friend of sports columnist Bill Corum. Corum spoke of the idea in his column, and other sportswriters picked up on the idea, promoting it far and wide in their respective periodicals. Someone suggested
the appreciation day be held during the All-Star Game, but when Yankees president Ed Barrow got a hold of the idea, he quickly shot down the All-Star Game suggestion. He didn’t want Gehrig to share the spotlight with any other all-star. Believing the idea was valid and the best thing to do, he wanted the appreciation day to be soon, and the Yankees proclaimed July 4, 1939, “Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day” at Yankee Stadium. Between games of the Independence Day doubleheader against the Washington Senators, the poignant ceremonies were held on the diamond. In its coverage the following day, The New York Times said it was “perhaps as colorful and dramatic a pageant as ever was enacted on a baseball field [as] 61,808 fans thundered a hail and farewell.” Dignitaries extolled the dying slugger and the members of the 1927 Yankees World Series team, known as “Murderer’s Row”, attended the ceremonies. New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia called Gehrig “the greatest prototype of good sportsmanship and citizenship” and Postmaster General James Farley concluded his speech by predicting, “For generations to come, boys who play baseball will point with pride to your record.”
Guidry was born in Lafayette, Louisiana where he pitched for the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now University of Louisiana at Lafayette.) He began his career pitching briefly in the 1975 and 1976 seasons after 4 years in the minors. In 1977, he began as a relief pitcher but was moved into the starting rotation. He helped lead the New York Yankees to a World Series championship in 1977 and 1978. In those two years combined, Guidry went 4-0 in the postseason with 3 complete games in 5 starts, allowing only nine earned runs in 37 1⁄3 innings pitched.
In 1978, Guidry posted a career year, one of the best in the modern era. Against the California Angels on June 17, he struck out a Yankee-record 18 batters. Guidry’s 18-strikeout performance is usually cited as the launching pad of the Yankee Stadium tradition of fans standing and clapping for a strikeout with two strikes on the opposing batter.
For the season, Guidry went 25-3, in a season that is among the top 10 for winning percentage in baseball history. He led the league with a sparkling 1.74 ERA, 25 wins, a .893 winning percentage, 9 shutouts, 248 strikeouts, and 6.15 hits allowed per 9 innings pitched. He held batters to a .193 batting average, .249 on-base percentage, and .279 slugging percentage. He was particularly effective with 2 outs and runners in scoring position (.152/.221/.253), and in the 9th inning of games (.119/.200/.136). Guidry’s success during 1978 was due in large part to mastering the slider. He began throwing the pitch the year before, and was able to use the sharp-breaking slider to complement his great fastball throughout the season.
He claimed the American League Cy Young Award. Guidry also finished second in American League Most Valuable Player voting to Boston Red Sox slugger Jim Rice.
Guidry’s 25th win of the regular season was his most significant, as he was the winning pitcher in the Yankees’ 5-4 win over the Boston Red Sox in a one-game playoff at Fenway Park in Boston to decide the American League East division winner. The game is best known for Bucky Dent’s seventh-inning, three-run home run off Mike Torrez (who, as a Yankee pitching mate of Guidry’s just the year before, had recorded the final putout of the 1977 World Series) that gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead. In the second inning of that game, Guidry himself had given up a home run to Carl Yastrzemski—the only home run a left-hander would hit against him all season.
Later that month, the Yankees again won the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers. No American League pitcher posted an earned run average as low again until Boston’s Pedro Martínez in 2000.
Coincidentally, in all three of Guidry’s losses in 1978, the winning pitcher on the opposing team threw left-handed and had the first name “Mike.” He lost 6-0 to the Milwaukee Brewers and left-hander Mike Caldwell on July 7, lost 2-1 to the Baltimore Orioles and left-hander Mike Flanagan on August 4, and lost 8-1 to the Toronto Blue Jays and left-hander Mike Willis on September 20.
After Yankee closer Goose Gossage broke his thumb in a clubhouse fight early in the 1979 season, Guidry volunteered to pitch in the bullpen as a part-time closer in addition to his regular turns in the rotation. Guidry posted two saves in two appearances, but his starting pitching suffered a bit as he was an ordinary 7-7 through July 21. He recovered to go 11-1 the rest of the way, including a nationally televised 5-4 complete game win over the Baltimore Orioles on August 6, four days after the death of Yankee catcher Thurman Munson and just hours after the team attended his funeral in Canton, Ohio.
Over the next seven seasons, Guidry amassed a 113-57 win-loss record. Guidry also won the Gold Glove Award five straight times (1982–86). He also played two games in center field but never made a play. Arm problems that began in 1981 finally began dramatically affecting his performance. He retired from baseball on July 12, 1989, after shoulder surgery did not improve his performance.
As well as winning the 1978 Cy Young Award, Guidry was named The Sporting News AL Pitcher and Major League Player of the Year. Guidry was named “Lefthanded Pitcher” on The Sporting News AL All-Star Teams in 1978, 1981, 1983 and 1985. Guidry also finished in the top 10 in the American League Cy Young voting six times (1977–79, 1981, 1983 and 1985) over a nine-year span.
On August 7, 1984, Guidry struck out three batters (Carlton Fisk, Tom Paciorek and Greg Luzinski) on nine pitches in the ninth inning of a 7-0 win over the Chicago White Sox. Guidry became the eighth American League pitcher and the 20th pitcher in Major League history to accomplish the so-called “immaculate inning.” He was the first pitcher to do so in the 9th inning of a complete game, a feat which has since been matched only once. Guidry served as co-captain of the Yankees along with Willie Randolph from March 4, 1986 until July 12, 1989. Guidry was also noted for having a very good pickoff move.
His number 49 was retired on “Ron Guidry Day”, August 23, 2003. The Yankees also dedicated a plaque to hang in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. The plaque calls Guidry “A dominating pitcher and a respected leader” and “A true Yankee.” Each living Yankee previously so honored was on hand for the ceremony: Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson and Don Mattingly. Guidry joined Yankee’s Manager Joe Torre’s coaching staff as pitching coach in the 2006 season, replacing Mel Stottlemyre. Under Guidry’s tenure, the Yankees’ pitching staff enjoyed mixed results. The pitching staff’s ERA decreased from 4.52 in 2005 to 4.41 in 2006 under his first year of coaching, though in 2007, the team ERA increased to 4.49 (or 17th overall in the Major leagues).
However, Guidry was criticized in 2007, because the highly acclaimed pitching staff was underachieving. The Yankees pitching staff in 2007 walked the sixth most batters overall in the Major Leagues; this was the most walks in a season for a Yankees pitching staff since the 2000 season. Torre’s departure from the Yankees following the 2007 season ended Guidry’s tenure as pitching coach. Though he was interested in returning to the Yankees for the 2008 season, he was not offered a position on new manager Joe Girardi’s coaching staff. He did return to the Yankees as a spring training instructor.
Stengel was born on July 30, 1890, in Kansas City, Missouri. He played sandlot baseball as a child, and also played baseball, football and basketball at Central High School. His basketball team won the city championship, while the baseball team won the state championship. Stengel had no particular vision of sports as a long-term profession, but, rather, had aspirations of a career in dentistry. As described in his autobiography, on pages 58 and 75–76, he saved enough money from his early minor league experience in 1910–1911 to train to become a dentist. He had some problems due to the lack of left-handed instruments and the training was a struggle.
Stengel signed a contract with the Kansas City Blues of the Class AAA American Association, considered the best minor league, in 1910. He struggled as a pitcher, leading manager Danny Shay to play Stengel as an outfielder. Kansas City optioned Stengel to the Kankakee Kays of the Class D Northern Association, a lower-level minor league, to gain experience as an outfielder. He had a .251 batting average with Kankakee when the league folded in July. He spent the remainder of the 1910 season with the Shelbyville Grays / Maysville Rivermen of the Class D Blue Grass League, batting .221.
Stengel attended Western Dental College in the offseason, which provided Stengel with enough negotiating leverage to receive a raise from Kansas City for the 1911 season. The Blues assigned Stengel to the Aurora Blues of the Class C Wisconsin–Illinois League. He led the league with a .351 batting average.
Brooklyn Dodgers’ scout Larry Sutton noticed Stengel, and the Dodgers signed Stengel in 1911. They assigned Stengel to the Montgomery Rebels of the Class A Southern Association for the 1912 season. Playing for manager Kid Elberfeld, Stengel batted .290 and led the league in outfield assists. He also developed a reputation as an eccentric player. Scout Mike Kahoe referred to Stengel as a “dandy ballplayer, but it’s all from the neck down.”
The Dodgers promoted Stengel to the major leagues after the Southern Association season concluded, and he made his MLB debut on September 17, 1912, as their starting center fielder. Stengel played for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1912 through 1917. Stengel routinely held out from the team before each season in contract disputes. Tired of these disputes, Dodgers’ owner Charles Ebbetstraded Stengel and George Cutshaw to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Burleigh Grimes, Al Mamaux, and Chuck Ward before the 1918 season.
In 1919, Stengel of the Pittsburgh Pirates was being taunted mercilessly by fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers, his old team. Somehow Casey got hold of a sparrow and used it to turn the crowd in his favor. With the bird tucked gently beneath his cap, Casey strutted to the plate amidst a chorus of boos and catcalls. He turned to the crowd, tipped his hat and out flew the sparrow. The jeers turned to cheers, and Stengel became an instant favorite.
On August 9, 1919, the Pirates traded Stengel to the Philadelphia Phillies for Possum Whitted. On July 1, 1921, the Phillies traded Stengel and Johnny Rawlings to the New York Giants for Lee King, Goldie Rapp, and Lance Richbourg. He threw left-handed and batted left-handed. His batting average was .284 over 14 major league seasons. He played in three World Series: in 1916 for the Dodgers and in 1922 and 1923 for the Giants. He was a competent player, but by no means a superstar. On July 8, 1958, discussing his career before the United States Senate’s Estes Kefauver committee on baseball’s antitrust status, he made this observation: “I had many years that I was not so successful as a ballplayer, as it is a game of skill.”
Nonetheless he had a good World Series in a losing cause in 1923, hitting two home runs (one of which was the first World Series home run in old Yankee Stadium) to win the two games the Giants won in that Series. He was traded to the perennial second-division-dwelling Boston Braves during the offseason with Dave Bancroft and Bill Cunningham for Joe Oeschger and Billy Southworth after the 1924 season. This trade apparently stung him. Years later he made the pithy comment “It’s lucky I didn’t hit three home runs in three games, or [John] McGraw would have traded me to the Three-I League.”
In 1914 Stengel got in touch with his baseball and football coach from Kansas City, William L. Driver, who had become the football, basketball and baseball coach at the University of Mississippi. Stengel worked as an assistant to Driver for two months before leaving for spring training in Augusta, Georgia. The Ole Miss baseball team finished the season with a 13–9 record. After getting to the Brooklyn spring camp Stengel regaled his teammates about his time at Ole Miss thereby earning the nickname “Professor” which later became “The Old Perfessor”.
Stengel’s first managerial position came in 1925, as player-manager of the Worcester Panthers of the Eastern League. He also served as team president. For the 1926 season, the Panthers were slated to move to Providence, Rhode Island. However, McGraw, with whom Stengel had remained close over the years, wanted Stengel to take over as manager of their top affiliate, the Toledo Mud Hens of the American Association. He was still under contract to Boston, however. To solve this problem, Stengel fired himself as manager, released himself as a player and resigned as president. Braves owner Emil Fuchs briefly protested, but relented and let Stengel move to Toledo. In his second year, Stengel led a roster loaded with former major-leaguers to Toledo’s first-ever pennant. His tenure was short-lived, however; the Mud Hens went bankrupt in 1931 and Stengel was out of a job. He then returned to the Dodgers as a coach under one of his former Pirate teammates, Max Carey. When Carey was fired shortly before the 1934 season, Stengel was named his successor.
As manager of the Dodgers (1934–1936) and Boston Braves (1938–1943), Stengel never finished better than fifth in an eight-team league. As he said in 1958, “I became a major league manager in several cities and was discharged. We call it discharged because there is no question I had to leave.”
In 1944, Stengel was hired as the manager of the minor league Milwaukee Brewers, over the strenuous objections of club owner Bill Veeck (who was serving in the South Pacific in the Marines at the time, and therefore unable to prevent the hiring). In Milwaukee, Stengel finally demonstrated he could be successful as a manager of a team having worthy talent, leading the Brewers to that year’s American Association pennant. In 1948 Stengel managed the Oakland Oaks to the Pacific Coast League championship.
Stengel’s success in Oakland caught the attention of the New York Yankees, who were looking for a new manager. Shortly after the PCL season, Stengel was hired as manager of the Yankees for 1949 by George Weiss, an old friend of Stengel’s. Upon taking over, Stengel realized he finally had a chance for success at the major league level. He made this observation about his new squad: “There is less wrong with this team than any team I have ever managed.”
There was considerable skepticism about Stengel’s hiring at first, given his poor record during his earlier stints in Brooklyn and Boston. However, he and the Yankees proceeded to win record numbers of championships. Stengel became the only man to manage a team to five consecutive World Series championships (1949–1953). The streak ended with the Yankees failing to win the American League pennant in 1954, but Stengel and the Yanks resumed their dominance, going on to win five more American League pennants in the next six years (1955–1958, 1960) and two more World Championships (1956 and 1958) before Stengel’s abrupt dismissal after the 1960 Series.
Stengel’s five titles in his first five years as Yankees manager was, at the time, an unprecedented feat in North American professional sports. It would be matched later in the decade by Toe Blake of the Montreal Canadiens, who unlike Stengel was also in his first stint as a head coach, although it should also be noted that the National Hockey League only had six teams at the time compared to sixteen in MLB. Nobody else in any sport has come close to equalling Stengel’s achievement.
As manager of the Yankees, Stengel gained a reputation as one of the game’s sharpest tacticians: he platooned left and right-handed hitters extensively (which had become a lost art by the late 1940s), was keen to bring in situational pitchers as evidenced in Game 7 of the 1952 World Series with Bob Kuzava to retire the Dodgers with bases loaded in the 7th, and sometimes pinch hit for his starting pitcher in early innings if he felt a timely hit would break the game open.
In the spring of 1953, after the Yankees had won four straight World Series victories, he made the following observation, which could just as easily have been made by The Professor’s prize pupil, Yogi Berra (who would also become famous with many laughably quotable statements): “If we’re going to win the pennant, we’ve got to start thinking we’re not as smart as we think we are.”
Although Stengel benefited from the Yankees’ deep pockets and ability to sign players, he was a hands-on manager: The 1949 Yankees were riddled by injuries, and Stengel’s platooning abilities played a major role in their championship run. Platooning also played a major role in the 1951 team’s World Series run. With Joe DiMaggio declining rapidly and Mickey Mantle yet to become a powerhouse, Stengel, leaving his solid pitching alone, moved players in and out of the line-up, putting good hitters in the line-up in the early innings and benching them for superior fielders later. The Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians for the pennant and took the Series from the New York Giants four games to two.
After 1953, the Yankees’ continued their total domination of the AL and in 1960 achieved their tenth pennant in eleven seasons, but only won the World Series only two more times, in 1956 and 1958. During the late 1950s, Stengel increasingly began to quarrel with players and management. He was widely accused of growing too old for the job.
At the start of the 1960 season, Stengel was hospitalized after suffering chest pains. He agreed to give up alcohol consumption for a few months and in one of his famous quips, told reporters “They examined all my organs. Some of them are quite remarkable and others are not so good. A lot of museums are bidding for them.” In the 1960 World Series, the Yankees were downed by Pittsburgh after a walk-off Game 7 home run by Bill Mazeroski. Stengel was fired immediately afterwards, with management stating only that the team needed a “change in direction”. Badly stung, he was typically quick with a quip, maintaining with a wink that he had been fired for turning 70, and that he would “never make that mistake again.” In his 1962 autobiography, Stengel wrote that he’d gotten the sense he would have been forced out even if the Yankees had won the World Series. John Rosenberg’s book, Baseball (1963), described a follow-up press conference where reporters implored him to say whether he was fired: “I was told my services were no longer desired. That was their excuse; the best they’ve got.”
To the delight of thousands, which would soon grow to millions, Stengel was talked out of retirement after one season to manage the New York Mets, a brand new expansion team with no chance of success. Either mocking his well-publicized advanced age or reflecting its effects, when he was hired he said, “It’s a great honor to be joining the Knickerbockers”, a New York baseball team that had seen its last game around the time of the Civil War.
The often comical Mets incompetence led Stengel to be unusually candid with New York City newspaper writers, yet with a wryness that softened both the words and their substance. “Come see my “Amazin’ Mets”, Stengel said. “I’ve been in this game a hundred years, but I see new ways to lose I never knew existed before.” On his three catchers: “I got one that can throw but can’t catch, one that can catch but can’t throw, and one who can hit but can’t do either.” Referring to the rookies Ed Kranepool and Greg Goossen in 1965, Stengel observed, “See that fellow over there? He’s 20 years old. In 10 years he has a chance to be a star. Now, that fellow over there, he’s 20, too. In 10 years he has a chance to be 30.” Kranepool never quite became a star, but he did have an 18-year major league career, retiring in 1979 after playing his entire career with the Mets and becoming their all-time hits leader, a record that stood for almost 35 years before being broken in 2012. Goossen left the majors 5 years before his 30th birthday. One of Stengel’s iconic exasperations, “Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?” was subsequently borrowed by writer Jimmy Breslin for the title of his book about the first-year Mets.
Though his “Amazin'” Mets finished last in a ten-team league all four years Stengel was a their helm, he grew more popular with reporters than he had ever been with the button-down Yankees in spite of their success. Partially due to Stengel’s personal charisma, the Mets themselves somehow attained a “lovable loser” charm that came to define the early team. Fans packed the old Polo Grounds (prior to Shea Stadium being built), many of them bringing colorful placards and bedsheets with all sorts of sayings painted on them. Warren Spahn, who had briefly played under Stengel for the 1942 Braves and for the 1965 Mets, commented: “I’m probably the only guy who worked for Stengel before and after he was a genius.” Impossibly, they outdrew the Yankees, who were on another five-year pennant run between 1960 and 1964.
In the spring of 1965, although a few months from turning 75, Stengel showed no apparent desire to quit. After signing a contract extension with the team, he broke his wrist slipping on wet pavement during spring training. He continued to manage the team with his arm in a sling, but faced increased calls from the sports media and some players to retire. Midseason, Stengel fell off a bar stool while attending a July 24 party at Toots Shor’s restaurant in Manhattan,. Apparently unscathed, he then traveled to a friend’s home in Queens and broke his hip while stepping out of a car. He was hospitalized and fitted for an artificial hip, and on August 30, announced his retirement from baseball.
Stengel had his uniform number, 37, retired by both the Yankees and the Mets. He is the first man in MLB history to have had his number retired by more than one team based solely upon his managerial accomplishments (joined by Sparky Anderson in 2011, who called Stengel “the greatest man” in the history of baseball). Stengel’s number 37 is the only one to have been issued only once by the Mets. The Yankees retired the number on August 8, 1970, and dedicated a plaque in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park in his memory on July 30, 1976, reading: “Brightened baseball for over 50 years; with spirit of eternal youth; Yankee manager 1949–1960 winning 10 pennants and 7 world championships including a record 5 consecutive, 1949–1953.” In addition to his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966, he was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1981.
Stengel was the first man to have worn the uniform (as player or manager) of all four Major League Baseball teams in New York City in the 20th century: the New York Giants (as a player), the Brooklyn Dodgers (as both a player and a manager), the New York Yankees (as a manager), and the New York Mets (also as a manager). In addition, he is the only person to have played or managed for the home team in five New York City major league venues: Washington Park, Ebbets Field, Polo Grounds, Shea Stadium, and Yankee Stadium. As he often said, “You can look it up.” In 2009, in an awards segment on the MLB Network titled “The Prime 9”, he was named “The Greatest Character of The Game.” He received this award not only for his colorful personality and antics on the field, but also his off-field contributions to the community.
Stengel was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame a year after his retirement. He maintained an active schedule despite his advancing age, attending the Hall of Fame ceremony in Cooperstown every year. After the Mets won the 1969 World Series, the team presented Stengel with a championship ring. Stengel remained in good health past the age of 80, still attending the All Star game and the World Series every year. In 1973, his wife Edna experienced a stroke and was moved into a care facility, but he continued to live in his Glendale, California home with the help of his housekeeper June Bowdin. Stengel’s health finally began to decline in early 1975 and he was admitted to Glendale Memorial Hospital on September 14, 1975. A diagnosis of cancer of the lymph glands was made. He died there of cancer 15 days later, on September 29, 1975. Stengel was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale. His wife outlived him by 2-1/2 years and was buried next to him. A plaque at the cemetery reads in part “For over sixty years one of America’s folk heroes who contributed immensely to the lore and language of our country’s national pastime, baseball”.
The Casey Stengel Plaza outside Shea Stadium’s Gate E was named after him, as is the New York City Transit’s Casey Stengel Depot across the street from Shea Stadium at the time, and now Citi Field. A sculpture of Casey Stengel is part of the IUPUI Public Art Collection. The sculpture by Rhoda Sherbell can be found outside of courtyard of University Place.
Posada was born on August 17, 1971, in the Santurce district of San Juan, Puerto Rico to a Cuban father and a Dominican mother. He attended Alejandrino High School in San Juan, where he participated in several sports, including baseball. He was named to the all-star team in 1988–89 as a short stop. He also umpired for the girls’ softball team. Posada’s SAT scores were not high enough for him to enroll in a four-year college. Fred Frickie, the head coach of the college baseball team at Calhoun Community College in Decatur, Alabama in 1991, recruited Posada without scouting him. Posada accepted the scholarship at Calhoun without visiting the school. He made friends on the team fast, as they were curious about this switch-hitting infielder with a rifle arm. Posada has also spoken about the racism he encountered from classmates at the school. He was voted best hitter (1990), co-captain (1991), and selected all-conference (1991). He was inducted in the Alabama Community College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006 and Calhoun retired his number (#6).
Posada made his MLB debut with the Yankees in 1995, replacing Jim Leyritz in the ninth inning of a game on September 4, 1995. Despite his appearing in only one game during the regular season, the Yankees included Posada on their postseason roster, and he appeared in Game 2 of the 1995 American League Division Series (ALDS) as a pinch runner, scoring a run. The Yankees lost the division series in five games to the Seattle Mariners.
Posada began the 1996 season with Columbus, but was promoted to the Yankees late in the season. He appeared in eight games, making his first start on September 25, 1996. Posada appeared in eight games in 1996, recording one hit and one walk. Posada did not appear in the postseason but the Yankees still succeeded as they defeated the Atlanta Braves in the 1996 World Series.
Posada succeeded Leyritz in 1997 as the backup catcher to Joe Girardi, with Girardi serving as a mentor to Posada. Posada was expected to appear in approximately 40 games in 1997; he started in 52. Posada appeared in 60 games during the 1997 baseball year and batted .250 with six home runs and 25 RBIs. Posada led the Yankees to the postseason again but the team lost in the 1997 ALDS to the Cleveland Indians. After the 1997 season, the Yankees offered Posada and Mike Lowell to the Montreal Expos for Pedro Martínez; the Expos traded Martínez to the Boston Red Sox, instead.
During the offseason, Posada hired a personal trainer and running coach, who helped improve his physical conditioning. Going into the 1998 season, Posada pushed the Yankees to increase his playing time. Posada caught David Wells’ perfect game on May 17, 1998. Overall, Posada batted .268 with 17 home runs and 63 RBIs over 111 games in the 1998 season. The Yankees reached the postseason for the fourth consecutive year and the team won the 1998 World Series in four games against the San Diego Padres.
The Yankees renewed Posada’s contract for $350,000 for the 1999 season, less than the $650,000 he requested. Posada struggled in April, batting .146 and striking out 15 times in 46 appearances. After batting .210 at the All-Star Break, he batted .285 for the remainder of the season, ending the year with a .245 batting average, 12 home runs, and 57 RBIs. He also committed 17 passed balls. Posada and Girardi split playing time through the 1999 season, with Posada receiving “roughly 60 percent of the playing time behind the plate to Girardi’s 40 percent.” Posada played in 112 games with 379 at-bats, while Girardi played in 65 games with 209 at-bats. While Girardi began the 1999 postseason as the regular catcher, Posada saw increased playing time. The Yankees entered the postseason once again and won the 1999 World Series against the Braves in only four games.
Girardi left the Yankees as a free agent after the 1999 season, which allowed Posada to become the Yankees’ full-time catcher. With Girardi gone, the Yankees entrusted Posada with the everyday catching job. During the 2000 season, Posada batted .287 with 28 homers, 86 RBIs, 107 walks, and 151 strikeouts. Yankees’ manager Joe Torre selected Posada for his first All-Star Gameappearance that season. The Yankees reached the postseason once again, and they won the 2000 World Series against the New York Mets. Posada won the Silver Slugger Award for catcher in 2000.
Posada appeared in the 2001 MLB All-Star Game. For the season, Posada batted .277 with 22 home runs and 95 RBIs, but led the league in passed balls and errors among catchers. The Yankees entered the postseason for another shot to win a championship, but lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series in seven games. Posada won his second consecutive Silver Slugger Award in 2001.
Posada started the 2002 MLB All-Star Game. He batted .268 with 20 home runs and 99 RBIs, and grounded into an AL-leading 23 double plays. He again led all catchers in errors. The Yankees entered the postseason again but lost in the 2002 ALDS to the Anaheim Angels. Posada won a Silver Slugger Award for a third consecutive season.
Posada again started at catcher in the 2003 All-Star Game. For the season, he hit 30 home runs and drove in 101 runs, both career highs. He batted .281 and was also fifth in the league in OBP (.405), and sixth in the league in walks (93; walking 17.5% of the time, a career high). He tied Yogi Berra’s record for most home runs by a Yankee catcher. The Yankees again reached the postseason but lost to the Florida Marlins in the 2003 World Series. After the season, Posada won his fourth consecutive Silver Slugger Award. He finished third in the MVP voting, behind Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Delgado.
In 2004, Posada committed 24 double plays, which led the American League, but batted .272 with 21 home runs and 81 RBIs. After defeating the Minnesota Twins in the 2004 ALDS, the Yankees lost to the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS despite leading the series three games to none. In 2005, Posada batted .262 with 19 home runs and 71 RBIs. The Yankees reached the postseason again, but lost to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 2005 ALDS.
In 2006, Posada posted his highest batting average and home run total since 2003. He also led the major leagues with 20 pinch hits. In addition, work with new first base coach Tony Peña, a former catcher, helped him improve his percentage of runners thrown out stealing second almost 60 points above his career average.
However, he again led the league in passed balls. He batted .277 and had 23 home runs with 93 RBIs. On May 16, Posada led the Yankees to a victory despite falling behind by nine runs, matching the largest deficit the Yankees overcame for a victory in franchise history. He registered a +0.93 win probability added in that game, the highest of his career.
Posada batted .338, with 20 home runs, 90 RBIs, and career highs in hits (171) and doubles (42) during the 2007 season. He joined Iván Rodríguez as the only two catchers in MLB history to record at least 40 doubles in two separate seasons. He finished the season third in the AL in on-base percentage (.426), fourth in batting average, sixth in on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) (.970), and 8th in doubles and slugging percentage (.543). He finished sixth in MVP voting for the season, and won his fifth Silver Slugger Award. Posada and Jason Kendall were the only catchers to catch at least 120 games per season from 2000 through 2007.
Posada became a free agent after the 2007 season. He turned down a five-year contract offer from the New York Mets. He signed a four-year, $52 million contract to remain with the Yankees, Posada was represented in negotiations by Sam and Seth Levinson of ACES Inc.
On July 21, 2008, Posada was placed on the disabled list (DL), the first time he was placed on the DL in his career. Posada intended to recover from this injury in order to perform as designated hitter or first baseman. However, the team decided to acquire Xavier Nady, in order to allow him enough time to operate. Posada underwent surgery to repair a glenoid labrum in his right shoulder and was placed on the DL for the remainder 2008 season. He batted .268 with three home runs and 22 RBIs in 51 games prior to the injury. During his absence, the Yankees finished with an 89–73 record, third place in AL East. It was the first and only season the Yankees were eliminated from postseason contention during Posada’s career.
Posada hit the first regular-season home run in the new Yankee Stadium on April 16, 2009, against Cliff Lee of the Cleveland Indians. During a game against the Toronto Blue Jays on September 15, 2009, Posada took exception to a pitch that was thrown behind him by Jesse Carlson. Posada walked and later scored on an RBI single by Brett Gardner. After Posada crossed home plate, he bumped into Carlson and was then ejected after taunting Carlson. Posada then charged at Carlson igniting a bench-clearing brawl. Posada and Carlson were each suspended three games by the MLB for their roles in the brawl. Posada finished the 2009 season with a .285 batting average, 22 home runs, and 81 RBIs. During the 2009 postseason, Posada had a .276 batting average and 2 home runs. The Yankees won the 2009 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
In an interleague series against the Houston Astros in June 2010, Posada became the first Yankee since Bill Dickey in 1937 to hit a grand slam in back-to-back games. On July 23, 2010, Posada recorded his 1,000th career RBI against the Kansas City Royals. Posada finished the 2010 year batting .248 with 18 home runs and 57 RBIs. The Yankees went into the postseason again but lost to the Texas Rangers in the 2010 ALCS.
Following the 2010 season, Posada underwent arthroscopic surgery in his left knee to repair a torn meniscus. Posada was shifted to designated hitter for the 2011 season due to his declining defensive performance, while Russell Martin became the new everyday catcher. After starting the 2011 season in a slump, Posada was moved to ninth in the batting order for a May 14 game against the Boston Red Sox. Posada asked to be removed from the lineup. Posada told reporters that he needed time to “clear [his] head” and also mentioned some “stiffness” in his back as the reasons for his request
Posada hit .382 in June, but was removed from the everyday lineup in August due to his .230 season batting average. On August 13, 2011, his first start since being benched, in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Posada went 3 for 5 with a grand slam and six RBIs. His grand slam was the tenth of his career, moving him past Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle for sixth place on the Yankees’ all-time list. On August 25, 2011, he played second base for the first time in his major league career during the ninth inning of the Yankees’ 22–9 victory over the Oakland Athletics; Posada recorded the final out by fielding a grounder. On September 10, 2011, Posada played as a catcher for the first time of the season due to injuries of Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli. Posada finished the regular season with a .235 batting average, 14 home runs, and 44 RBIs.
In the 2011 ALDS, Posada recorded six hits, including a triple, four runs, and four walks in 14 at-bats as the starting DH, for a .429 batting average and a .579 on-base percentage. The Yankees lost the series to the Detroit Tigers in five games.
When asked by reporters after the 2011 ALDS if he had considered that he might have played for the final time with the Yankees, Posada said, “I don’t want to look at it like that. We lost, and we’ll see what happens in the off-season.” As the interview session went on, he eventually became emotional and left the clubhouse area to compose himself. Girardi said, “This guy, when you look at what he did in this series, he was awesome. He’s had a tremendous career, and I’m sure he’s going to continue to play, and I don’t know what’s going to happen.” Girardi added, “But you talk about being proud of players — what he went through this year and what he gave us in the postseason, I don’t think there’s a prouder moment that I’ve had of Jorge.”
By November 2011, Posada received interest from “five or six teams”, but not the Yankees. He remained undecided on whether or not he wanted to keep playing. In January 2012, Posada decided to retire. The Yankees held a press conference officially announcing his retirement from baseball on January 24, 2012. He rejoined the Yankees as a guest instructor during spring training in 2013. On February 16, 2015, the Yankees announced that they would be retiring Posada’s number 20 on August 22, 2015.
Ford was a native of the Astoria neighborhood of Queens in New York City, a few miles by the Triborough Bridge from Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. He graduated from the Manhattan High School of Aviation Trades. Ford was signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1947, and played his entire career with them. He was nicknamed “Whitey” while in the minor leagues for his light blond hair.
He began his Major League Baseball career on July 1, 1950 with the Yankees and made a spectacular debut, winning his first nine decisions before losing a game in relief. Ford received a handful of lower-ballot Most Valuable Player votes despite throwing just 112 innings, and was voted the AL Rookie of the Year by the Sporting News. (Walt Dropo was the Rookie of Year choice of the BBWAA.) During the Korean War, in 1951 and 1952 Ford served in the Army. He rejoined the Yankees for the 1953 season, and the Yankee “Big Three” pitching staff became a “Big Four”, as Ford joined Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi and Eddie Lopat.
Eventually Ford went from the No. 4 pitcher on a great staff to the universally acclaimed No. 1 pitcher of the Yankees. He became known as the “Chairman of the Board” for his ability to remain calm and in command during high-pressure situations. He was also known as “Slick,” a nickname given to him, Billy Martin and Mickey Mantle by manager Casey Stengel, who called them Whiskey Slicks. Ford’s guile was necessary because he did not have an overwhelming fastball, but being able to throw several other pitches very well gave him pinpoint control. Ford was an effective strikeout pitcher for his time, tying the then-AL record for six consecutive strikeouts in 1956, and again in 1958. Ford pitched 2 consecutive one-hit games in 1955 to tie a record held by several pitchers.
In 1955, Ford led the American League in complete games and games won; in 1956 in earned run average and winning percentage; in 1958, in earned run average; and in both 1961 and 1963, in games won and winning percentage. Ford won the Cy Young Award in 1961; he likely would have won the 1963 AL Cy Young, but this was before the institution of a separate award for each league, and Ford could not match Sandy Koufax’s numbers for the Los Angeles Dodgers of
the National League. He would also have been a candidate in 1955, but this was before the award was created.
Some of Ford’s totals were depressed by Yankees manager Casey Stengel who viewed Ford as his top pitching asset, and often reserved his ace left-hander for more formidable opponents such as the Tigers, Indians, and White Sox. When he became manager in 1961, Ralph Houk promised Ford he would pitch every fourth day, regardless of opponent; after exceeding 30 starts only once in his nine seasons under Stengel, Ford had 39 in 1961. His first 20-win season, a career-best 25-4 record, and the Cy Young Award ensued, but Ford’s season was overshadowed by the home run battle between Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. As a left-hander, Ford was also deft at keeping runners at their base: He set a record in 1961 by pitching 243 consecutive innings without allowing a stolen base.
In May 1963, after pitching a shutout, Ford announced he had given up smoking. He said, “My doctor told me that whenever I think of smoking, I should think of a bus starting up and blowing the exhaust in my face.” Ford won 236 games for New York (career 236-106), still a franchise record. Red Ruffing, the previous Yankee record-holder, still leads all Yankee right-handed pitchers, with 231 of his 273 career wins coming with the Yankees. Other Yankee pitchers have had more career wins (for example, Roger Clemens notched his 300th career victory as a Yankee), but amassed them for multiple franchises. David Wells tied Whitey Ford for 13th place in victories by a left-hander on August 26, 2007. Among pitchers with at least 300 career decisions, Ford ranks first with a winning percentage of .690, the all-time highest percentage in modern baseball history.
Ford’s career winning percentage cannot be attributed just to being on a good team: The Yankees were 1,486-1,027 during his 16 years; without his 236-106, they had 1,250 wins and 921 losses, for a won-loss percentage of .576. Ford was thus 11.4 percentage points higher than his team’s record, independent of his record.
Ford’s 2.75 earned run average is the second-lowest among starting pitchers whose careers began after the advent of the live-ball era in 1920. (Only Clayton Kershaw’s current 2.51 ERA is lower.) Ford’s worst-ever ERA was 3.24. Ford had 45 shutout victories in his career, including eight 1-0 wins.
Ford’s status on the Yankees was underscored by the World Series. Ford was New York’s Game One pitcher in 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1963, and 1964. He is the only pitcher to start four consecutive Game Ones, a streak he reached twice. In the 1960 World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Stengel altered this strategy by holding Ford back until game three, a decision that angered Ford. The Yankees’ ace won both his starts in Games Three and Six with complete-game shutouts, but was then unavailable to relieve in the last game of a Yankees loss, the Pirates winning the game—and the Series with it—on Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth. Ford always felt that had he been able to appear in three of the games instead of just two, the Yankees would have won.
For his career, Ford had 10 World Series victories, more than any other pitcher. Ford also leads all starters in World Series losses (8) and starts (22), as well as innings, hits, walks, and strikeouts. In 1961 he broke Babe Ruth’s World Series record of 29⅔ consecutive scoreless innings. (The record would eventually reach 33⅔. It is still a World Series record, although Mariano Rivera broke it as a postseason record in 2000.) Ford won the 1961 World Series MVP.
Ford ended his career in declining health. In August 1966, he underwent surgery to correct a circulatory problem in his throwing shoulder. In May 1967, Ford lasted just one inning in what would be his final start, and he announced his retirement at the end of the month at age 38. Ford wore number 19 in his rookie season. Following his return from the army in 1953, he wore number 16 for the remainder of his career.
After retiring, Ford admitted in interviews to having occasionally doctored baseballs. Examples were the “mudball”, used at home in Yankee Stadium. Yankee groundskeepers would wet down an area near the catcher’s box where the Yankee catcher Elston Howard was positioned; pretending to lose balance, Howard would put down his hand with the ball and coat one side of the ball with mud and throw it to Ford. Ford sometimes used the diamond in his wedding ring to gouge the ball, but he was eventually caught by an umpire and warned to stop. Howard sharpened a buckle on his shinguard and used it to scuff the ball. Ford described his illicit behavior as concession to age: “I didn’t begin cheating until late in my career, when I needed something to help me survive. I didn’t cheat when I won the twenty-five games in 1961. I don’t want anybody to get any ideas and take my Cy Young Award away. And I didn’t cheat in 1963 when I won twenty-four games. Well, maybe a little.”
Ford admitted to doctoring the ball in the 1961 All Star Game at Candlestick Park to strike out Willie Mays. Ford and Mantle had accumulated $1200 ($9,501 today) in golf pro shop purchases as guests of Horace Stoneham at the Giants owner’s country club. Stoneham promised to pay their tab if Ford could strike out Mays. In 1977, Ford was part of the broadcast team for the first game in Toronto Blue Jays history. In 2008, Ford threw the first pitch at the 2008 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. On September 21, 2008 Ford and Yogi Berra were guests of the broadcast team for the final game played at Yankee Stadium.
In 2002, Ford opened up “Whitey Ford’s Cafe”, a sports-themed restaurant and bar next to Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, New York. A replica of the Yankee Stadium facade trimmed both the exterior and the bar, whose stools displayed uniform numbers of Yankee luminaries; widescreen TVs were installed throughout. The main dining area housed a panoramic display of Yankee Stadium from the 1950s, specifically a Chicago White Sox–Yankee game with Ford pitching and Mickey Mantle in center field; the Yanks are up 2-0. Waiters and waitresses dressed in Yankees road uniforms, with Ford’s retired No. 16 on the back. It lasted less than a year before it closed down. As of 2015, the 86-year-old Ford was splitting his time between his homes in Long Island and Florida.
Munson was born in Akron, Ohio to Darrell Vernon Munson and Ruth Myrna Smylie, the youngest of four children. His father was a World War II veteran who became a truck driverwhile his mother was a homemaker. When he turned eight, the Munson family moved to nearby Canton, Ohio. He was taught how to play baseball by his older brother Duane, and usually played baseball with kids Duane’s age, who were four years older. His brother left to join the United States Air Force while Thurman was a freshman in high school. He attended Lehman High School in Canton, Ohio, where he was captain of the football, baseball and basketball teams and was all-city and state in all three sports. Munson played halfback on the football squad, guard on the basketball squad, and mostly shortstop in baseball. Munson switched to catcher in his senior year in order to handle the pitching prowess of his teammate, Jerome Pruett (a fifth-round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1965 who never reached the Major Leagues). He attracted scholarship offers from various colleges. He opted to attend nearby Kent State University on scholarship, where he was a teammate of pitcher and broadcaster Steve Stone.
In the summer of 1967, Munson joined the Cape Cod Baseball League, where he led the Chatham A’s to their first league title with a prodigious .420 batting average. In recognition of this achievement and his subsequent professional achievements, the Thurman Munson Batting Award is given each season to the League’s batting champion.
Munson was selected by the Yankees with the fourth overall pick in the 1968 Major League Baseball draft. In his only full minor league season, he batted .301 with six home runs and 37 runs batted in for the Binghamton Tripletsin their final season (1968), and made his first appearance in Yankee Stadium in August 1968, when the Triplets came to play an exhibition game against the Yankees. He was batting .363 for the Syracuse Chiefs in 1969 when he earned a promotion to the New York Yankees.
Munson made his major league debut on August 8, 1969, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Oakland Athletics. Munson went two for three with a walk, one RBI and two runs scored. Two days later, his first major league home run was the second of three consecutive home runs hit by the Yankees off Lew Krausse in a 5-1 Yankee victory over the A’s. For the season, Munson batted .256 with one home run and nine RBI. He made 97 plate appearances, but drew ten walks and had one sacrifice fly, which gave him 86 official at bats, and allowed him to go into the 1970 season still technically a rookie.
The Yankees used the pair of Jake Gibbs and Frank Fernández at catcher for most of 1969. During the off season, the Yankees dealt Fernández to the A’s to make room for their rising star behind the plate. Munson responded by batting .302 with seven home runs and 57 RBI, and making 80 assists en route to receiving the 1970 American League Rookie of the Year award.
Munson received his first of seven All-Star nods in 1971, catching the last two innings without an at-bat. An outstanding fielder, Munson committed only one error all season. It occurred on June 18 against the Baltimore Orioleswhen opposing catcher Andy Etchebarren knocked Munson unconscious on a play at the plate, dislodging the ball. He also only allowed nine passed balls all season and caught 36 of a potential 59 base stealers for a stellar 61% caught stealing percentage.
Munson was known for his longstanding feud with Boston Red Sox counterpart Carlton Fisk. One particular incident that typified their feud, and the Yankees – Red Sox rivalry in general, occurred on August 1, 1973 at Fenway Park. With the score tied at 2–2 in the top of the ninth and runners on first and third, Munson attempted to score from third on Gene Michael’s missed bunt attempt.
As Red Sox pitcher John Curtis let his first pitch go, Munson broke for the plate. Michael tried to bunt, and missed. With Munson coming, Fisk elbowed the Yankee shortstop out of the way and braced for Munson, who barreled into Fisk. Fisk held onto the ball, but Munson remained tangled with Fisk as Felipe Alou, who was on first, attempted to advance. The confrontation at the plate triggered a ten-minute bench-clearing brawl in which both catchers were ejected.
Munson made his second All-Star team and won his first of three straight Gold Glove Awards in 1973. He also emerged as more of a slugger for the Yankees, batting .300 for the first time since 1970, and hitting a career high twenty home runs. In 1974, Munson was elected to start his first of three consecutive All-Star games, going one for three with a walk and a run scored.
Munson batted a career high .318 in 1975, which was third in the league behind Rod Carew and Fred Lynn. For the start of the 1976 season, Munson was named the first Yankees team captain since Lou Gehrig retired in 1939. He responded by batting .302 with 17 home runs and 105 RBI to receive the American League MVP Award and lead the Yankees to their first World Series since 1964. He batted .435 with three RBI and three runs scored in the 1976 American League Championship Series against the Kansas City Royals, and batted .529 with two RBI and two runs scored in the 1976 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. Already down three games to none, Munson went four for four in the final game of the Series at Yankee Stadium to try to avoid a sweep to the “Big Red Machine.” Combined with the hits he got in his final two at bats in game three, his six consecutive hits tied a World Series record set by Goose Goslin of the Washington Senators in 1924.
Reds catcher Johnny Bench was named World Series MVP. A fairly obvious comparison of opposing backstops was made to Reds manager Sparky Anderson during the post-World Series press conference, to which, Anderson responded, “Munson is an outstanding ballplayer and he would hit .300 in the National League, but you don’t ever compare anybody to Johnny Bench. Don’t never embarrass nobody by comparing them to Johnny Bench.” Munson was visibly upset by these comments when he got on the mic shortly afterwards.
Munson batted .308 with 100 RBI in 1977, giving him three consecutive seasons batting .300 or better with 100 or more RBI each year. He was the first catcher to accomplish the feat in three consecutive years since Yankee Hall of Famer Bill Dickey’s four straight seasons from 1936-1939, matched only by Mike Piazza since (1996–1998). The Yankees repeated as American League Champions, and faced the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1977 World Series. Munson batted .320 with a home run and three RBI in the Yankees four games to two victory over the Dodgers. The Dodgers had stolen 114 bases during the regular season, yet Munson caught four of six potential base stealers in the first four games of the series to keep the speedy Dodgers grounded in the final two.
The Yankees and Royals faced each other for the third consecutive time in the 1978 American League Championship Series. With the ALCS tied at a game apiece, and trailing 5–4 in the bottom of the eighth inning of game three, Munson hit the longest home run of his career, a 475-foot shot off Doug Bird over Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park in left-center field, to give the Yankees a 6–5 win. They won the pennant the next day, and went on to beat the Dodgers again for the 1978 World Series Championship. Munson batted .320 (8-for-25) with 7 RBI’s in this Series and also caught Ron Cey’s foul pop-up for the final out.
The Yankees had lost three in a row, and were in fourth place, eleven games behind the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East heading into the All-Star break in 1979. Despite a .288 average, the wear-and-tear of catching was beginning to take its toll on Munson, and he was overlooked for the American League All-Star team. Frequently homesick, he had a well-known desire to play for the Cleveland Indians in order to be closer to his family, and was also considering retiring at the end of the season.
Munson had been flying for over a year and purchased a Cessna Citation I/SP jet so he could fly home to his family in Canton on off-days. On August 2, 1979, he was practicing takeoffs and landings at the Akron-Canton Regional Airport with friend Jerry Anderson and flight instructor Dave Hall. On the fourth touch-and-go landing, Munson allowed the aircraft to sink too low before increasing engine power, causing the jet to clip a tree and fall short of the runway. The plane then hit a tree stump and burst into flames on Greensburg Road, 870 feet short of runway 19.
Hall and Anderson both survived the accident. Hall received burns on his arms and hands, and Anderson received burns on his face, arm and neck. Munson suffered a broken neck and would have most likely been a quadriplegic had he lived. Munson died of asphyxiation due to the inhalation of superheated air and toxic substances. The NTSB investigation into the crash stated that the probable cause was “…the pilot’s failure to recognize the need for, and to take action to maintain, sufficient airspeed to prevent a stall into the ground during an attempted landing. The pilot also failed to recognize the need for timely and sufficient power application to prevent the stall during an approach conducted inadvertently without flaps extended. Contributing to the pilot’s inability to recognize the problem and to take proper action was his failure to use the appropriate checklist and his nonstandard pattern procedures which resulted in an abnormal approach profile.”
The day after his death, before the start of the Yankees’ four-game set with the Baltimore Orioles in the Bronx, the team paid tribute to their deceased captain in a pre-game ceremony in which the starters stood at their defensive positions, save for the catcher’s box, which remained empty. Following a prayer by Cardinal Terence Cooke, a moment of silence and “America the Beautiful” by Robert Merrill, the fans (announced attendance 51,151) burst into an eight-minute standing ovation. Jerry Narron, the man replaced Munson behind the plate that night, remained in the dugout and did not enter the field until stadium announcer Bob Sheppard said, “And now it is time to play ball. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your co-operation.”
On August 6, the entire Yankee team attended Munson’s funeral in Canton, Ohio. Teammates Lou Piniella and Bobby Murcer, who were Munson’s best friends, gave eulogies. That night (before a national viewing audience on ABC’s Monday Night Baseball) the Yankees beat the Orioles, 5-4, in New York, with Murcer driving in all five runs with a three-run home run in the seventh inning and a two-run single in the bottom of the ninth.
Yankee owner George Steinbrenner retired Munson’s number 15 immediately upon his catcher’s death. On September 20, 1980, a plaque dedicated to Munson’s memory was placed in Monument Park. The plaque bears excerpts from an inscription composed by Steinbrenner and flashed on the stadium scoreboard the day after his death:
“Our captain and leader has not left us, today, tomorrow, this year, next … Our endeavors will reflect our love and admiration for him.”
The locker that Munson used, along with a bronzed set of his catching equipment, was donated to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Despite a packed clubhouse, Munson’s final locker position was never reassigned. The empty locker next to Yankee team captain Derek Jeter’s, with Munson’s number 15 on it, remained as a tribute to the Yankees’ lost catcher in the original Yankee Stadium until the Stadium closed in 2008. Munson’s locker was moved in one piece to the New Yankee Stadium. It is located in the New York Yankees Museum. Visitors can view the Yankees Museum on game days from when the gates open to the end of the eighth inning and during Yankee Stadium tours. Munson’s number 15 is also displayed on the center-field wall at Thurman Munson Stadium, a minor-league ballpark in Canton. Munson is buried at Canton’s Sunset Hills Burial Park.
A modest, one-block street at Concourse Village East and 156th Street in The Bronx was named Thurman Munson Way in 1979. Two school buildings, which house several schools including Henry Lou Gehrig Junior High School, have since been built on the street. On August 1, 1980, the day before the first anniversary of the accident, the Yankees filed a $4.5-million lawsuit against Cessna Aircraft Co. and Flight Safety International, Inc. (the company who was training Munson to fly), with team spokesman John J. McCarty saying “we asked for $4.5 million because that is what Munson would be worth if the Yankees traded him.” Munson’s widow, Diana, also filed a $42.2 million wrongful death lawsuit against the two companies. Cessna offered Munson a special deal on flying lessons if he would take them from FlightSafety International. Rather than requiring Munson to take a two-week safety class in Kansas, FlightSafety assigned a “traveling instructor” to go on the road with him, and train him between ballgames. The suit was eventually settled out of court.
Roger Eugene Maras was born on September 10, 1934 in Hibbing, Minnesota, later changing his surname to Maris. Maris’ parents, Rudolph S. “Rudy” Maras and Corrine (née Perkovich), were both of Croatian origin. Roger had a brother, Rudy (known as “Buddy”) who was a year older. Rudy developed polio in 1951. The Maras family moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota in 1942 and to Fargo, North Dakota in 1946, where he attended Fargo Central High School. Maris’ parents had a turbulent marriage and divorced in 1960. His father died in Fargo in 1992 at age 81. After Maris retired from baseball he moved to Gainesville, Florida, where his mother moved to from Fargo. Corrine Maras died in 2004 at the age of 90.
Maris transferred to Shanley High School at Fargo in 1950, and graduated from there in June 1952. He met his future wife, Patricia, in the tenth grade, while both were attending a high school basketball game. Roger and Rudy Maris Jr. both participated in sports including American Legion baseball during the summers while in Fargo. In 1950, Roger led his North Dakota legion team to the state championship. He was a standout player with the Fargo-Moorhead Twins of the Northern League in 1952. In football, Roger still holds the official high school record for most return touchdowns in a game, with four (two kickoff returns, one punt return, and one interception return.)
Maris was recruited to play football at the University of Oklahoma. He decided to go there, but after visiting the campus, he returned to Fargo where he wanted to stay the most and be near his brother who was sick with polio. He decided finally on a baseball career. In 1953, he was invited to the Cleveland Indians tryout camp where he was viewed by the Cleveland Indians general manager, Hank Greenberg (he hit 58 home runs for the Detroit Tigers in 1938). Greenberg afterwards sent a representative to Fargo to sign Maris. Maris, age 18, then signed a contract for $15,000 with the Cleveland Indians of the American League which included a $10,000 bonus from them if he made it to the major leagues.
Maris started playing for the Indians minor league organization at Fargo (Fargo-Moorhead Twins) in 1953 (after being sent to and beginning spring training in Daytona, Florida) where he was named rookie of the year in the Fargo-Moorhead Twin’s Northern League, and moved to Keokuk, Iowa the next season. In the minor leagues, he showed a talent for both offense and defense. He tied for the Illinois–Indiana–Iowa League lead in putouts by an outfielder with 305 while playing for the Keokuk Kernels in 1954. Meanwhile, in four minor league seasons from 1953 to 1956, Maris hit .303 with 78 home runs. In Game 2 of the 1956 Junior World Series, Maris would set a record by getting seven runs batted in. With the five teams that Maris played for in the minors, the clubs’ won loss records would improve from the previous season – a clear indication of Maris’ talent and value.
Maris made his major league debut on April 16, 1957 with the Cleveland Indians. Two days later, he hit the first home run of his career, a grand slam off Tigers pitcher Jack Crimian at Briggs Stadium in Detroit. He finished his rookie season with 14 home runs. In 1958, after playing in 51 games and hitting 9 home runs, he was traded to the Kansas City Athletics. Maris was traded to the Kansas City Athletics with Dick Tomanek and Preston Ward for Vic Power and Woodie Held. He played in 99 games and hit 19 home runs. In 1959, he hit 16 home runs and represented the A’s in the 1959 All-Star Game (played in second game) in spite of missing 45 games due to an appendix operation. In the late 1950s, Kansas City frequently traded their best young players to the New York Yankees – a practice which led them to be referred to as the Yankees’ “major league farm team” – and Maris was no exception. In a seven-player deal in December 1959, he was sent to the Yankees with Kent Hadley and Joe DeMaestri in exchange for Marv Throneberry, Norm Siebern, Hank Bauer, and Don Larsen.
Maris hit a single, double, and two home runs in his first game as a Yankee outfielder in 1960. In his first season with the Yankees, he led the American League in slugging percentage, runs batted in, and extra base hits. He hit 39 home runs, one home run behind teammate Mickey Mantle. He won the American League’s Most Valuable Player award and was recognized as an outstanding defensive outfielder with a Gold Glove Award. He was named to the American League All-Star roster (played in two games) and finished the 1960 season with a .283 batting average. The Yankees won the American League pennant, the first of five consecutive pennants, but lost a seven-game World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates culminating in Bill Mazeroski’s dramatic walk-off home run.
n 1961, The American League expanded from 8 to 10 teams. In the expansion draft, the newly created Los Angeles Angels and Washington Senators were restricted to drafting players from AL rosters. The perceived result was that American League team rosters had become watered down as players who would otherwise have been playing at AAA if not lower were now in the AL. The Yankees, however, were left mainly intact. In order to maintain a balanced schedule, AL owners extended the season from 154 games to 162 games. On January 23, 1961, an Associated Press reporter asked Maris whether the schedule changes might threaten Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record; Maris replied, “Nobody will touch it… Look up the records and you’ll see that it’s a rare year when anybody hits 50 homers, let alone 60.”
Yankee home runs began to come at a record pace. One famous photograph lined up six 1961 Yankees, including Mantle, Maris, Yogi Berra, and Bill Skowron, under the nickname “Murderers Row”, because they hit a combined 165 home runs the previous season (The title “Murderers Row”, originally coined in 1918, had most famously been used to refer to the 1927 Yankees). As mid-season approached, it seemed quite possible that either Maris or Mantle, or perhaps both, would break Ruth’s 34-year-old home run record. Unlike the home run race of 1998, where both Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were given extensive positive media coverage in their pursuit of Maris’ record, sportswriters in 1961 began to play the “M&M Boys” against each other, inventing a rivalry where none existed, as Yogi Berra has told multiple interviewers.
Five years earlier, in 1956, the New York press had been protective of Ruth when Mantle challenged Ruth’s record for most of the season. When Mantle fell short, finishing with 52, there seemed to be a collective sigh of relief from the New York traditionalists. The New York press had not been kind to Mantle in his early years with the team; he struck out frequently, was injury prone, was a true “hick” from Oklahoma, and was perceived as being distinctly inferior to his predecessor in center field, Joe DiMaggio. Mantle, however, over the course of time (with a little help from his friend and teammate Whitey Ford, a native of New York’s Borough of Queens), had gotten better at “schmoozing” with the New York media, and consequently gained the favor of the press. This was a talent that Maris, a blunt-spoken Upper Midwesterner, never attempted to cultivate. Maris was perceived as surly during his time on the Yankees.
More and more, the Yankees became “Mickey Mantle’s team” and Maris was ostracized as an “outsider” and “not a true Yankee.” The press at that time seemed to be rooting for Mantle and belittling Maris. Mantle, however, was felled by a hip infection causing hospitalization late in the season, leaving Maris as the single remaining player with the opportunity to break Ruth’s home run record.
On top of his lack of popular press coverage, Maris’ chase for 61 homers hit another roadblock totally out of his control: along with adding two teams to the league, Major League Baseball had added eight more games to the schedule. In the middle of the season, baseball commissioner Ford Frick (one of Babe Ruth’s closest friends) announced that unless Ruth’s record was broken in the first 154 games of the season, the new record would be shown in the record books as having been set in 162 games while the previous record set in 154 games would also be shown. It is an urban legend that an asterisk (*) would be used to distinguish the new record, sparked by a question given to Commissioner Frick from New York sportswriter Dick Young.
Nash and Zullo argued in The Baseball Hall of Shame that Frick made the ruling because the former newspaper reporter had been a close friend of Ruth’s. Furthermore, Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby – himself a lifetime .358 batter – compared Ruth’s 1927 batting average of .356 to Maris’ .269 clip of 1961 and said, “It would be a disappointment if Ruth’s home run record were bested by a .270 hitter”. (Hornsby, however, was not easy to impress; while scouting for the Mets, the best report he could muster for any current player was “Looks like a major-leaguer.” The assessment referred to Mickey Mantle.) Maris downplayed the challenge, saying, “I’m not trying to be Babe Ruth; I’m trying to hit sixty-one home runs and be Roger Maris.” This sentiment would be echoed in 1973–1974, when Hank Aaron, in pursuit of Ruth’s career home run record, said, “I don’t want people to forget Babe Ruth. I just want them to remember Henry Aaron.”
Maris had 59 home runs after the Yankees’ 154th game and failed to beat Ruth’s 60 home runs within the original season length. Maris hit his 61st home run on October 1, 1961, in the fourth inning of the last game of the season, at Yankee Stadium in front of 23,154 fans. Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard gave up the record home run, which was caught by fan Sal Durante in the right field bleachers. No asterisk was subsequently used in any record books; Major League Baseball itself then had no official record book, and Frick later acknowledged that there never was official qualification of Maris’ accomplishment. The Guinness Book of World Records did however differentiate the two records as distinct and separate for a number of years. However, Maris remained bitter about the experience. Speaking at the 1980 All-Star Game, Maris said, “They acted as though I was doing something wrong, poisoning the record books or something. Do you know what I have to show for 61 home runs? Nothing. Exactly nothing.” Despite all the controversy and criticism, Maris was awarded the 1961 Hickok Belt as the top professional athlete of the year, and won the American League’s MVP Award for the second straight year. It is said, however, that the stress of pursuing the record was so great for Maris that his hair occasionally fell out in clumps during the season. Later, Maris even surmised that it might have been better all along had he not broken the record or even threatened it at all.
In 1962, Maris made his fourth consecutive All-Star team appearance and his seventh and final All-Star game appearance (1959–62, two All-Star games were played per season). His fine defensive skills were often overlooked. He made a game-saving play in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 1962 World Series against the San Francisco Giants. With the Yankees leading 1-0 and Matty Alou on first, Willie Mays doubled toward the right-field line. Maris cut off the ball and made a strong throw to prevent Alou from scoring the tying run; the play set up Willie McCovey’s series-ending line drive to second baseman Bobby Richardson, capping what would prove to be the final World Series victory for the “old” Yankees. In 1963, he played in only 90 games, hitting 23 home runs. Maris was again injured in Game Two of the 1963 World Series after only five home plate appearances.
In 1964, he rebounded, appearing in 141 games, batting .281 with 26 home runs. Maris hit a home run in Game 6 of the 1964 World Series. But in 1965, his physical problems returned, and he had off-season surgery to remove a bone chip in his hand. In 1966, the Yankees’ and Maris’ fortunes continued to decline as he played most of the season with a misdiagnosed broken bone in his hand. The oft-injured Maris was questioned by the organization, media and fans. He was traded on December 8, 1966 to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Maris was traded by the Yankees to the St. Louis Cardinals for Charley Smith. Maris played his final two seasons with the Cardinals, helping to win the 1967 and 1968 pennants. He was outstanding in the 1967 World Series, hitting .385 with one home run and seven RBIs. It was the best performance of his seven career World Series. Maris hit his 275th and final regular season home run on September 5, 1968. It was his 25th career two-run homer.
Maris and his brother owned and operated Maris Distributing in the 1970s and 80s, the Budweiser beer distributorship in Gainesville, Florida (and Ocala, Florida), where he moved after retiring from baseball after the 1968 season. Gussie Busch, who owned both the Cardinals and Anheuser-Busch, got Maris started into the beer business. Maris also coached baseball at Gainesville’s Oak Hall High School, which named its baseball field after him in 1990. Maris was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1983. In response, Maris organized the annual Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament to raise money for cancer research and treatment. Maris died at age 51 on December 14, 1985 at M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston, Texas. A Roman Catholic, he was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Fargo, North Dakota. Fellow major league player Ken Hunt was interred several feet away from Maris in 1997.
Mantle was born on October 20, 1931 in Spavinaw, Oklahoma, the son of lead miner Elvin Charles “Mutt” Mantle (1912–1952) and Lovell (née Richardson) Mantle (1904–1995). He was of at least partial English ancestry; his great-grandfather, George Mantle, left Brierley Hill, in England’s Black Country, in 1848.
Mutt named his son in honor of Mickey Cochrane, a Hall of Fame catcher. Later in his life, Mantle expressed relief that his father had not known Cochrane’s true first name, as he would have hated to be named Gordon. Mantle spoke warmly of his father, and said he was the bravest man he ever knew. “No boy ever loved his father more”, he said. Mantle batted left-handed against his father when he practiced pitching to him right-handed and he batted right-handed against his grandfather, Charles Mantle, when he practiced throwing to him left-handed. His grandfather died at the age of 60 in 1944, and his father died of Hodgkin’s disease at the age of 40 on May 7, 1952.
When Mantle was four years old, his family moved to the nearby town of Commerce, Oklahoma, where his father worked in lead and zinc mines. As a teenager, Mantle rooted for the St. Louis Cardinals. Mantle was an all-around athlete at Commerce High School, playing basketball as well as football (he was offered a football scholarship by the University of Oklahoma) in addition to his first love, baseball. His football playing nearly ended his athletic career. Kicked in the left shin during a practice game during his sophomore year, Mantle developed osteomyelitis in his left ankle, a crippling disease that was incurable just a few years earlier. Mantle’s parents drove him at midnight to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where he was treated at the Children’s Hospital with the newly available penicillin, which reduced the infection and saved his leg from requiring amputation.
Mantle began his professional baseball career in Kansas with the semi-professional Baxter Springs Whiz Kids. In 1948, Yankees scout Tom Greenwade came to Baxter Springs to watch Mantle’s teammate, third baseman Billy Johnson. During the game, Mantle hit three home runs. Greenwade returned in 1949, after Mantle’s high school graduation, to sign Mantle to a minor league contract. Mantle signed for $140 per month with a $1,500 signing bonus. Mantle was assigned to the Yankees’ Class-D Independence Yankees of the Kansas–Oklahoma–Missouri League, where he played shortstop. During a slump, Mantle called his father to tell him he wanted to quit baseball. Mutt drove to Independence, Kansas and convinced Mantle to keep playing. Mantle hit .313 for the Independence Yankees. Shulthis Stadium, the baseball stadium in Independence where Mantle played, was the site of the first night game in organized baseball. Mantle hit his first professional home run on June 30, 1949 at Shulthis Stadium. The ball went over the center field fence, which was 460 feet.
In 1950, Mantle was promoted to the Class-C Joplin Miners of the Western Association. Mantle won the Western Association batting title, with a .383 average. He also hit 26 home runs and recorded 136 runs batted in. However, Mantle struggled defensively at shortstop.
Mantle was invited to the Yankees instructional camp before the 1951 season. After an impressive spring training, Yankees manager Casey Stengel decided to promote Mantle to the majors as a right fielder instead of sending him to the minors. Mickey Mantle’s salary for the 1951 season was $7,500. Mantle was assigned uniform #6, signifying the expectation that he would become the next Yankees star, following Babe Ruth (#3), Lou Gehrig (#4) and Joe DiMaggio (#5). Stengel, speaking to SPORT, stated “He’s got more natural power from both sides than anybody I ever saw.” Bill Dickey called Mantle “the greatest prospect [he’s] seen in [his] time.”
After a brief slump, Mantle was sent down to the Yankees’ top farm team, the Kansas City Blues. However, he was not able to find the power he once had in the lower minors. Out of frustration, he called his father one day and told him, “I don’t think I can play baseball anymore.” Mutt drove up to Kansas City that day. When he arrived, he started packing his son’s clothes and, according to Mantle’s memory, said “I thought I raised a man. I see I raised a coward instead. You can come back to Oklahoma and work the mines with me.” Mantle immediately broke out of his slump, going on to hit .361 with 11 homers and 50 RBIs during his stay in Kansas City.
Mantle was called up to the Yankees after 40 games with Kansas City, this time wearing uniform #7. He hit .267 with 13 home runs and 65 RBI in 96 games. In the second game of the 1951 World Series, New York Giants rookie Willie Mays hit a fly ball to right-center field. Mantle, playing right field, raced for the ball together with center fielder Joe DiMaggio, who called for the ball (and made the catch). In getting out of DiMaggio’s way, Mantle tripped over an exposed drain pipe and severely injured his right knee. This was the first of numerous injuries that plagued his 18-year career with the Yankees. He played the rest of his career with a torn ACL.
Mantle moved to center field in 1952, replacing DiMaggio, who retired at the end of the 1951 season. He was selected an “All-Star” for the first time and made the AL team, but did not play in the 5-inning All-Star game that had Boston Red Sox Dom DiMaggio at center field. In his first complete World Series (1952), Mantle was the Yankees hitting star, with an on-base percentage above .400 and a slugging percentage above .600. He homered for the third Yankee run in a 3-2 Game 6 win and he knocked in the winning runs in the 4-2 Game 7 win, with a homer in the sixth inning and an RBI single in the seventh inning. Mantle played center field full-time for the Yankees until 1965, when he was moved to left field. His final two seasons were spent at first base. Among his many accomplishments are all-time World Series records for home runs (18), runs scored (42), and runs batted in (40).
The osteomyelitic condition of Mantle’s left leg had exempted him from being drafted for military service since he was 18 in 1949, but his emergence as a star center fielder in the major leagues during the Korean War in 1952 led to questioning of his 4-F deferment by baseball fans. Two Armed Forces physicals were ordered, including a highly publicized exam on November 4, 1952 which was brought on by his All-Star selection, that ended in a final rejection.
Mantle had a breakout season in 1956 after showing progressive improvement each of his first five years. Described by him as his “favorite summer”, his major league leading .353 batting average, 52 home runs, and 130 runs batted in brought home both the Triple Crown and first of three Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player Awards. He also hit his second All-Star Game home run that season. During Game 5 of the 1956 World Series — Don Larsen’s perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers — Mantle kept the perfect game alive by making a running catch of a deep fly ball off the bat of Gil Hodges, and provided the first of the two runs the Yankees would score with a fourth-inning home run off Brooklyn starter Sal Maglie, who had also been pitching a perfect game up till that point. Mantle’s overall performance in 1956 was so exceptional he was bestowed the Hickok Belt (unanimously) as the top American professional athlete of the year. He is the only player to win a league Triple Crown as a switch hitter.
Mantle won his second consecutive MVP in 1957 behind league leads in runs and walks, a career-high .365 batting average (second to Ted Williams’ .388), and hitting into a league-low five double plays. Mantle reached base more times than he made outs (319 to 312), one of two seasons in which he achieved the feat. The 1959 season was the first of four consecutive seasons that two All-Star games were played and Mantle played in seven of these games. Mantle made the AL All-Star team as a reserve player in 1959, and was used as a pinch runner for Baltimore Orioles catcher Gus Triandos and replacement right fielder for Cleveland Indians Rocky Colavito in the first game with Detroit Tigers Al Kaline playing the center field position. Mantle was the starting center fielder in the second All-Star game’s lineup, getting a single and a walk in four at bats. In 1960, Mantle started in both All-Star games, getting two walks in the first and a single in the second game.
On January 16, 1961, Mantle became the highest-paid player in baseball by signing a $75,000 ($601,086 today) contract. DiMaggio, Hank Greenberg, and Ted Williams, who had just retired, had been paid over $100,000 in a season, and Ruth had a peak salary of $80,000. Mantle became the highest-paid active player of his time. Mantle’s top salary was $100,000, which he reached for the 1963 season. Having reached that pinnacle in his 13th season, he never asked for another raise.
During the 1961 season, Mantle and teammate Roger Maris, known as the M&M Boys, chased Babe Ruth’s 1927 single-season home run record. Five years earlier, in 1956, Mantle had challenged Ruth’s record for most of the season, and the New York press had been protective of Ruth on that occasion also. When Mantle finally fell short, finishing with 52, there seemed to be a collective sigh of relief from the New York traditionalists. Nor had the New York press been all that kind to Mantle in his early years with the team: he struck out frequently, was injury-prone, was a “true hick” from Oklahoma, and was perceived as being distinctly inferior to his predecessor in center field, Joe DiMaggio.
Over the course of time, however, Mantle (with a little help from his teammate Whitey Ford, a native of New York’s Borough of Queens) had gotten better at “schmoozing” with the New York media, and had gained the favor of the press. This was a talent that Maris, a blunt-spoken upper-Midwesterner, was never willing or able to cultivate; as a result, he wore the “surly” jacket for his duration with the Yankees. So as 1961 progressed, the Yanks were now “Mickey Mantle’s team,” and Maris was ostracized as the “outsider,” and said to be “not a true Yankee.” The press seemed to root for Mantle and to belittle Maris. Mantle was unexpectedly hospitalized by an abscessed hip he got from a flu shot late in the season, leaving Maris to break the record (he finished with 61). Mantle finished with 54 home runs while leading the American league in runs scored and walks.
In 1962, Mantle batted .321 in 123 games. He was selected an All-Star for the eleventh consecutive season and played in the first game, but due to a former injury acting up, he didn’t play in the second All-Star game. In 1963, he batted .314 in 65 games. On June 5, he tried to prevent a home run by Brooks Robinson in Baltimore and got his shoe spikes caught in the center field chain link fence as he leaped against the fence for the ball and was coming down. He broke his foot and didn’t return playing again until August 4 when he hit a pinch-hit home run against the Baltimore Orioles in Yankee Stadium. He returned to the center field position on September 2. On June 29, he had been selected an All-Star as a starting center fielder, but for the first time, he didn’t make the 25-player team due to the foot injury. In 1964, Mantle hit .303 with 35 home runs and 111 RBIs, and played center field in the All-Star game. In the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 3 of the 1964 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Mantle blasted Barney Schultz’s first pitch into the right field stands at Yankee Stadium, which won the game for the Yankees 2–1. The homer, his 16th World Series round tripper, broke the World Series record of 15 set by Babe Ruth. He hit two more homers in the series to set the existing World Series record of 18 home runs. The Cardinals ultimately won the World Series in 7 games.
The Yankees and Mantle were slowed down by injuries during the 1965 season, and they finished in sixth place, 25 games behind the Minnesota Twins. He hit .255 with 19 home runs and 46 RBI. Mantle was selected an AL All-Star again, as a reserve player, but did not make the 28-player squad for the second and last time due to an injury and was replaced by Tony Oliva. To inaugurate the Astrodome, the world’s first multi-purpose, domed sports stadium, the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees played an exhibition game on April 9, 1965. Mantle hit the park’s first home run. In 1966, his batting average increased to .288 with 23 home runs and 56 RBI. After the 1966 season, he was moved to first base with Joe Pepitone taking over his place in the outfield. On May 14, 1967, Mantle became the sixth member of the 500 home run club. Mantle hit .237 with 18 home runs and 54 RBI during his final season in 1968. He was selected an AL All-Star and pinched hit at the All-Star Game on July 11. Mantle was selected an All-Star every season during his eighteen-year career except 1951 and 1966, and did not play in the 1952, 1963, and 1965 seasons.
Mantle announced his retirement on March 1, 1969. He gave a “farewell” speech on “Mickey Mantle Day”, June 8, 1969, in Yankee Stadium. Mantle’s wife, mother, and mother-in-law were in attendance and received recognition at the ceremony held in honor of him. When he retired, Mantle was third on the all-time home run list with 536, and he was the Yankees all-time leader in games played with 2,401, which was broken by Derek Jeter on August 29, 2011.
Mantle served as a part-time color commentator on NBC’s baseball coverage in 1969, teaming with Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek to call some Game of the Week telecasts as well as that year’s All-Star Game. In 1972 he was a part-time TV commentator for the Montreal Expos.
Despite being among the best-paid players of the pre-free agency era, Mantle was a poor businessman, making several bad investments. His lifestyle was restored to one of luxury, and his hold on his fans raised to an amazing level, by his position of leadership in the sports memorabilia craze that swept the USA, beginning in the 1980s. Mantle was a prized guest at any baseball card show, commanding fees far in excess of any other player for his appearances and autographs. This popularity continues long after his death, as Mantle-related items far outsell those of any other player except possibly Babe Ruth, whose items, due to the distance of years, now exist in far smaller quantities. Mantle insisted that the promoters of baseball card shows always include one of the lesser-known Yankees of his era, such as Moose Skowron or Hank Bauer so that they could earn some money from the event.
Despite the failure of Mickey Mantle’s Country Cookin’ restaurants in the early 1970s, Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant & Sports Bar opened in New York at 42 Central Park South (59th Street) in 1988. It became one of New York’s most popular restaurants, and his original Yankee Stadium Monument Park plaque is displayed at the front entrance. Mantle let others run the business operations, but made frequent appearances.
In 1983, Mantle worked at the Claridge Resort and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, as a greeter and community representative. Most of his activities were representing the Claridge in golf tournaments and other charity events. But Mantle was suspended from baseball by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn on the grounds that any affiliation with gambling was grounds for being placed on the “permanently ineligible” list. Kuhn warned Mantle before he accepted the position that he would have to place him on the list if Mantle went to work there. Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who had also taken a similar position, had already had action taken against him. Mantle accepted the position, regardless, as he felt the rule was “stupid.” He was placed on the list, but reinstated on March 18, 1985, by Kuhn’s successor, Peter Ueberroth. In 1992, Mantle wrote My Favorite Summer 1956 about his 1956 season.
Well before he finally sought treatment for alcoholism, Mantle admitted his hard living had hurt both his playing and his family. His rationale was that the men in his family had all died young, so he expected to die young as well. His father died of Hodgkin’s disease at age 40 in 1952, and his grandfather also died young of the same disease. “I’m not gonna be cheated”, he would say. Mantle did not know at the time that most of the men in his family had inhaled lead and zinc dust in the mines, which contribute to Hodgkins’ and other cancers. As the years passed, and he outlived all the men in his family by several years, he frequently used a line popularized by football legend Bobby Layne, a Dallas neighbor and friend of Mantle’s who also died in part due to alcohol abuse: “If I’d known I was gonna live this long, I’d have taken a lot better care of myself.”
Mantle’s wife and sons all completed treatment for alcoholism, and told him he needed to do the same. He checked into the Betty Ford Clinic on January 7, 1994, after being told by a doctor that his liver was so badly damaged from almost 40 years of drinking that it “looked like a doorstop.” He also bluntly told Mantle that the damage to his system was so severe that “your next drink could be your last.” Also helping Mantle to make the decision to go to the Betty Ford Clinic was sportscaster Pat Summerall, who had played for the New York Giants football team while they played at Yankee Stadium, by then a recovering alcoholic and a member of the same Dallas-area country club as Mantle; Summerall himself had been treated at the clinic in 1992.
Shortly after Mantle completed treatment, his son Billy died on March 12, 1994, at age 36 of heart problems brought on by years of substance abuse. Despite the fears of those who knew him that this tragedy would send him back to drinking, he remained sober. Mickey Jr. later died of liver cancer on December 20, 2000, at age 47. Danny later battled prostate cancer.
Mantle spoke with great remorse of his drinking in a 1994 Sports Illustrated cover story. He said that he was telling the same old stories, and realizing how many of them involved himself and others being drunk – including at least one drunk-driving accident – he decided they were not funny anymore. He admitted he had often been cruel and hurtful to family, friends, and fans because of his alcoholism, and sought to make amends. Mantle became a born-again Christian because of his former teammate Bobby Richardson, an ordained Baptist minister who shared his faith with him. After the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, Mantle joined with fellow Oklahoman and Yankee Bobby Murcer to raise money for the victims.
Mantle received a liver transplant at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, on June 8, 1995. His liver was severely damaged by alcohol-induced cirrhosis, as well as hepatitis C. Prior to the operation, doctors also discovered he had inoperable liver cancer known as an undifferentiated hepatocellular carcinoma, further necessitating a transplant. In July, he had recovered enough to deliver a press conference at Baylor, and noted that many fans had looked to him as a role model. “This is a role model: Don’t be like me”, a frail Mantle said. He also established the Mickey Mantle Foundation to raise awareness for organ donations. Soon, he was back in the hospital, where it was found that his cancer was rapidly spreading throughout his body.
Though Mantle was very popular, his liver transplant was a source of some controversy. Some felt that his fame had permitted him to receive a donor liver in just one day, bypassing other patients who had been waiting much longer. Mantle’s doctors insisted that the decision was based solely on medical criteria, but acknowledged that the very short wait created the appearance of favoritism. While he was recovering, Mantle made peace with his estranged wife, Merlyn, and repeated a request he made decades before for Bobby Richardson to read a poem at his funeral if he died.
Mantle died on August 13, 1995, at Baylor University Medical Center with his wife at his side, five months after his mother had died at age 91. The Yankees played Cleveland that day and honored him with a tribute. At Mantle’s funeral, Eddie Layton played “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on the Hammond organ because Mickey had once told him it was his favorite song. Roy Clark sang and played “Yesterday, When I Was Young.” The team played the rest of the season with black mourning bands topped by a small number 7 on their left sleeves. Mantle was interred in the Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Dallas. In eulogizing Mantle, sportscaster Bob Costasdescribed him as “a fragile hero to whom we had an emotional attachment so strong and lasting that it defied logic.” Costas added: “In the last year of his life, Mickey Mantle, always so hard on himself, finally came to accept and appreciate the distinction between a role model and a hero. The first, he often was not. The second, he always will be. And, in the end, people got it.” Richardson did oblige in reading the poem at Mantle’s funeral, something he described as being extremely difficult. The same poem (God’s Hall of Fame) which originated from a baseball fan, was recited by Richardson for Roger Maris during Maris’ funeral.
After Mantle’s death, his family pursued a federal court lawsuit against Greer Johnson, his agent and a live-in aide during the last decade of his life, to stop her from auctioning many of Mantle’s personal items, including a lock of hair, a neck brace, and expired credit cards. Eventually, the two sides reached a settlement, ensuring the sale of some of Mickey Mantle’s belongings for approximately $500,000.
George Herman Ruth Jr. was born in 1895 at 216 Emory Street in Pigtown, a working-class section of Baltimore, Maryland, named for its meat-packing plants. Its population included recent immigrants from Ireland, Germany and Italy, and African Americans. Ruth’s parents, George Herman Ruth, Sr. (1871–1918) and Katherine Schamberger, were both of German American ancestry. According to the 1880 census, his parents were born in Maryland. The paternal grandparents of Ruth, Sr. were from Prussia and Hanover. Ruth, Sr. had a series of jobs, including lightning rod salesman and streetcar operator, before becoming a counterman in a family-owned combination grocery and saloon on Frederick Street. George Ruth Jr. was born in the house of his maternal grandfather, Pius Schamberger, a German immigrant and trade unionist. Only one of young George’s seven siblings, his younger sister Mamie, survived infancy. Many aspects of Ruth’s childhood are undetermined, including the date of his parents’ marriage.
When young George was a toddler, the family moved to 339 South Goodyear Street, not far from the rail yards; by the time the boy was 6, his father had a saloon with an upstairs apartment at 426 West Camden Street. Details are equally scanty about why young George was sent at the age of 7 to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, a reformatory and orphanage. As an adult, Babe Ruth suggested that not only had he been running the streets and rarely attending school, he was drinking beer when his father was not looking. Some accounts say that, after a violent incident at his father’s saloon, the city authorities decided this environment was unsuitable for a small child. At St. Mary’s, which George Jr. entered on June 13, 1902, he was recorded as “incorrigible”; he spent much of the next twelve years there.
Ruth was sometimes allowed to rejoin his family, or was placed at St. James’s Home, a supervised residence with work in the community, but he was always returned to St. Mary’s. He rarely was visited by his family; his mother died when he was 12 and by some accounts, he was permitted to leave St. Mary’s only to attend the funeral. How Ruth came to play baseball there is uncertain: according to one account, his placement at St. Mary’s was due in part to repeatedly breaking Baltimore’s windows with long hits while playing street ball; by another, he was told to join a team on his first day at St. Mary’s by the school’s athletic director, Brother Herman, becoming a catcher even though left-handers rarely play that position. During his time there he also played third base and shortstop, again unusual for a left-hander, and was forced to wear mitts and gloves made for right-handers. He was encouraged in his pursuits by the school’s Prefect of Discipline, Brother Matthias Boutlier, a native of Nova Scotia. A large man, Brother Matthias was greatly respected by the boys both for his strength and for his fairness. For the rest of his life, Ruth would praise Brother Matthias, and his running and hitting styles closely resembled his teacher’s. Ruth stated, “I think I was born as a hitter the first day I ever saw him hit a baseball.”
The school’s influence remained with Ruth in other ways: a lifelong Catholic, he would sometimes attend Mass after carousing all night, and he became a well-known member of the Knights of Columbus. He would visit orphanages, schools, and hospitals throughout his life, often avoiding publicity. He was generous to St. Mary’s as he became famous and rich, donating money and his presence at fundraisers, and spending $5,000 to buy Brother Matthias a Cadillac in 1926—subsequently replacing it when it was destroyed in an accident. Nevertheless, his biographer Leigh Montville suggests that many of the off-the-field excesses of Ruth’s career were driven by the deprivations of his time at St. Mary’s.
In early 1914, Ruth was signed to a professional baseball contract by Jack Dunn, owner and manager of the minor-league Baltimore Orioles, an International League team. The circumstances of Ruth’s signing are not known with certainty, with historical fact obscured by stories that cannot all be true. By some accounts, Dunn was urged to attend a game between an all-star team from St. Mary’s and one from another Xaverian facility, Mount St. Mary’s College. Some versions have Ruth running away before the eagerly awaited game, to return in time to be punished, and then pitching St. Mary’s to victory as Dunn watched. Others have Washington Senators pitcher Joe Engel, a Mount St. Mary’s graduate, pitching in an alumni game after watching a preliminary contest between the college’s freshmen and a team from St. Mary’s, including Ruth. Engel watched Ruth play, then told Dunn about him at a chance meeting in Washington. Ruth, in his autobiography, stated only that he worked out for Dunn for a half-hour, and was signed. According to biographer Kal Wagenheim, there were legal difficulties to be straightened out as Ruth was supposed to remain at the school until he turned 21.
There are various accounts of how Ruth came to be called Babe, but most center on his being referred to as “Dunnie’s babe” or a variant. “Babe” was at that time a common nickname in baseball, with perhaps the most famous to that point being Pittsburgh
Pirates pitcher and 1909 World Series hero Babe Adams, who appeared younger than he was. Babe Ruth’s first appearance as a professional ballplayer was in an intersquad game on March 7, 1914. Ruth played shortstop, and pitched the last two innings of a 15–9 victory. In his second at bat, Ruth hit a long home run to right, which was reported locally to be longer than a legendary shot hit in Fayetteville by Jim Thorpe. His first appearance against a team in organized baseball was an exhibition against the major-league Philadelphia Phillies: Ruth pitched the middle three innings, giving up two runs in the fourth, but then settling down and pitching a scoreless fifth and sixth. The following afternoon, Ruth was put in during the sixth inning against the Phillies and did not allow a run the rest of the way. The Orioles scored seven runs in the bottom of the eighth to overcome a 6–0 deficit, making Ruth the winning pitcher.
Although by late June the Orioles were in first place, having won over two-thirds of their games, the paid attendance dropped as low as 150. Dunn explored a possible move by the Orioles to Richmond, Virginia, as well as the sale of a minority interest in the club. These possibilities fell through, leaving Dunn with little choice other than to sell his best players to major league teams to raise money. He offered Ruth to the reigning World Series champions, Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics, but Mack had his own financial problems. The Cincinnati Reds and New York Giants expressed interest in Ruth, but Dunn sold his contract, along with those of pitchers Ernie Shore and Ben Egan, to the Boston Red Sox of the American League (AL) on July 4. The sale price was announced as $25,000 but other reports lower the amount to half that, or possibly $8,500 plus the cancellation of a $3,000 loan. Ruth remained with the Orioles for several days while the Red Sox completed a road trip, and reported to the team in Boston on July 11. Ruth arrived in Boston on July 11, 1914, along with Egan and Shore. Ruth later told of meeting the woman he would first marry, Helen Woodford, that morning—she was then a 16-year-old waitress at Landers Coffee Shop, and Ruth related that she served him when he had breakfast there. Other stories, though, suggest the meeting happened on another day, and perhaps under other circumstances. Regardless of when he began to woo his first wife, he won his first game for the Red Sox that afternoon, 4–3, over the Cleveland Naps. He pitched to catcher Bill Carrigan, who was also the Red Sox manager. Shore was given a start by Carrigan the next day; he won that and his second start and thereafter was pitched regularly. Ruth lost his second start, and was thereafter little used.As a batter, in his major-league debut, Ruth went 0-for-2 against left-hander Willie Mitchell, striking out in his first at bat, before being removed for a pinch hitter in the seventh inning. Ruth was not much noticed by the fans, as Bostonians watched the Red Sox’s crosstown rivals, the Braves, begin a legendary comeback that would take them from last place on the Fourth of July to the 1914 World Series Championship.
Manager Carrigan allowed Ruth to pitch two exhibition games in mid-August. Although Ruth won both against minor-league competition, he was not restored to the pitching rotation. It is uncertain why Carrigan did not give Ruth additional opportunities to pitch. There are legends—filmed for the screen in The Babe Ruth Story (1948)—that the young pitcher had a habit of signaling his intent to throw a curveball by sticking out his tongue slightly, and that he was easy to hit until this changed. Creamer pointed out that it is common for inexperienced pitchers to display such habits, and the need to break Ruth of his would not constitute a reason to not use him at all.
Ruth joined the Grays on August 18, 1914. What was left of the Baltimore Orioles after Dunn’s deals had managed to hold on to first place until August 15, after which they continued to fade, leaving the pennant race between Providence and Rochester. Ruth was deeply impressed by Providence manager “Wild Bill” Donovan, previously a star pitcher with a 25–4 win–loss record for Detroit in 1907; in later years, he credited Donovan with teaching him much about pitching. Ruth was called upon often to pitch, in one stretch starting (and winning) four games in eight days. On September 5 at Maple Leaf Park in Toronto, Ruth pitched a one-hit 9–0 victory, and hit his first professional home run, his only one as a minor leaguer, off Ellis Johnson.Recalled to Boston after Providence finished the season in first place, he pitched and won a game for the Red Sox against the New York Yankees on October 2, getting his first major league hit, a double. Ruth finished the season with a record of 2–1 as a major leaguer and 23–8 in the International League (for Baltimore and Providence.)
During the 1919 season, Ruth pitched in only 17 of his 130 games, compiling an 8–5 record as Barrow used him as a pitcher mostly in the early part of the season, when the Red Sox manager still had hopes of a second consecutive pennant. By late June, the Red Sox were clearly out of the race, and Barrow had no objection to Ruth concentrating on his hitting, if only because it drew people to the ballpark. Ruth had hit a home run against the Yankees on Opening Day, and another during a month-long batting slump that soon followed. Relieved of his pitching duties, Ruth began an unprecedented spell of slugging home runs, which gave him widespread public and press attention. Even his failures were seen as majestic—one sportswriter noted, “When Ruth misses a swipe at the ball, the stands quiver”. Two home runs by Ruth on July 5, and one in each of two consecutive games a week later, raised his season total to 11, tying his career best from 1918. The first record to fall was the AL single-season mark of 16, set by Ralph “Socks” Seybold in 1902. Ruth matched that on July 29, then pulled ahead toward the major league record of 24, set by Buck Freeman in 1899. Ruth reached this on September 8, by which time, writers had discovered that Ned Williamson of the 1884 Chicago White Stockings had hit 27—though in a ballpark where the distance to right field was only 215 feet (66 m). On September 20, “Babe Ruth Day” at Fenway Park, Ruth won the game with a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, tying Williamson. He broke the record four days later against the Yankees at the Polo Grounds, and hit one more against the Senators to finish with 29. The home run at Washington made Ruth the first major league player to hit a home run at all eight ballparks in his league. In spite of Ruth’s hitting heroics, the Red Sox finished sixth, 20 1⁄2 games behind the league champion White Sox.
As an out-of-towner from New York City, Frazee had been regarded with suspicion by Boston’s sportswriters and baseball fans when he bought the team. He won them over with success on the field and a willingness to build the Red Sox by purchasing or trading for players. He offered the Senators $60,000 for Walter Johnson, but Washington owner Clark Griffith was unwilling. Even so, Frazee was successful in bringing other players to Boston, especially as replacements for players in the military. This willingness to spend for players helped the Red Sox secure the 1918 title. The 1919 season saw record-breaking attendance, and Ruth’s home runs for Boston made him a national sensation. In March 1919 Ruth was reported as having accepted a three-year contract for a total of $27,000, after protracted negotiations. Nevertheless, on December 26, 1919, Frazee sold Ruth’s contract to the New York Yankees.
Not all of the circumstances concerning the sale are known, but brewer and former congressman Jacob Ruppert, the New York team’s principal owner, reportedly asked Yankee manager Miller Huggins what the team needed to be successful. “Get Ruth from Boston”, Huggins supposedly replied, noting that Frazee was perennially in need of money to finance his theatrical productions. In any event, there was precedent for the Ruth transaction: when Boston pitcher Carl Mays left the Red Sox in a 1919 dispute, Frazee had settled the matter by selling Mays to the Yankees, though over the opposition of AL President Johnson. According to one of Ruth’s biographers, Jim Reisler, “why Frazee needed cash in 1919—and large infusions of it quickly—is still, more than 80 years later, a bit of a mystery”. The often-told story is that Frazee needed money to finance the musical No, No, Nanette, which was a Broadway hit and brought Frazee financial security. That play did not open until 1925, however, by which time Frazee had sold the Red Sox. Still, the story may be true in essence: No, No, Nanettewas based on a Frazee-produced play, My Lady Friends, which opened in 1919. There were other financial pressures on Frazee, despite his team’s success. Ruth, fully aware of baseball’s popularity and his role in it, wanted to renegotiate his contract, signed before the 1919 season for $10,000 per year through 1921. He demanded that his salary be doubled, or he would sit out the season and cash in on his popularity through other ventures. Ruth’s salary demands were causing other players to ask for more money. Additionally, Frazee still owed Lannin as much as $125,000 from the purchase of the club.
Frazee sold the rights to Babe Ruth for $100,000, the largest sum ever paid for a baseball player. The deal also involved a $350,000 loan from Ruppert to Frazee, secured by a mortgage on Fenway Park. Once it was agreed, Frazee informed Barrow, who, stunned, told the owner that he was getting the worse end of the bargain. Cynics have suggested that Barrow may have played a larger role in the Ruth sale, as less than a year after, he became the Yankee general manager, and in the following years made a number of purchases of Red Sox players from Frazee. The $100,000 price included $25,000 in cash, and notes for the same amount due November 1 in 1920, 1921, and 1922; Ruppert and Huston assisted Frazee in selling the notes to banks for immediate cash.
The transaction was contingent on Ruth signing a new contract, which was quickly accomplished—Ruth agreed to fulfill the remaining two years on his contract, but was given a $20,000 bonus, payable over two seasons. The deal was announced on January 6, 1920. Reaction in Boston was mixed: some fans were embittered at the loss of Ruth; others conceded that the slugger had become difficult to deal with. The New York Times suggested presciently, “The short right field wall at the Polo Grounds should prove an easy target for Ruth next season and, playing seventy-seven games at home, it would not be surprising if Ruth surpassed his home run record of twenty-nine circuit clouts next Summer.” According to Reisler, “The Yankees had pulled off the sports steal of the century.” According to Marty Appel in his history of the Yankees, the transaction, “changed the fortunes of two high-profile franchises for decades”. The Red Sox, winners of five of the first sixteen World Series, those played between 1903 and 1919, would not win another pennant until 1946, or another World Series until 2004, a drought attributed in baseball superstition to Frazee’s sale of Ruth and sometimes dubbed the “Curse of the Bambino”. The Yankees, on the other hand, had not won the AL championship prior to their acquisition of Ruth. They won seven AL pennants and four World Series with Ruth, and lead baseball with 40 pennants and 27 World Series titles in their history.
As a Yankee, Ruth’s transition from a pitcher to a power-hitting outfielder became complete. In his fifteen-season Yankee career, consisting of over 2,000 games, Ruth broke many batting records, while making only five widely scattered appearances on the mound, winning all of them. At the end of April 1920, the Yankees were 4–7, with the Red Sox leading the league with a 10–2 mark. Ruth had done little, having injured himself swinging the bat. Both situations began to change on May 1, when Ruth hit a home run with the ball going completely out of the Polo Grounds, a feat believed only to have been previously accomplished by Shoeless Joe Jackson. The Yankees won, 6–0, taking three out of four from the Red Sox. Ruth hit his second home run on May 2, and by the end of the month had set a major league record for home runs in a month with 11, and promptly broke it with 13 in June. Fans responded with record attendance: on May 16, Ruth and the Yankees drew 38,600 to the Polo Grounds, a record for the ballpark, and 15,000 fans were turned away. Large crowds jammed stadiums to see Ruth play when the Yankees were on the road.
Ruth was aided in his exploits, in 1920 and afterwards, by the fact that the A.J. Reach Company, maker of baseballs used in the major leagues, was using a more efficient machine to wind the yarn found within the baseball. When these went into play in 1920, the start of the live-ball era, the number of home runs increased by 184 over the previous year across the major leagues. Baseball statistician Bill James points out that while Ruth was likely aided by the change in the baseball, there were other factors at work, including the gradual abolition of the spitball (accelerated after the death of Ray Chapman, struck by a pitched ball thrown by Mays in August 1920) and the more frequent use of new baseballs (also a response to Chapman’s death). Nevertheless, James theorizes that Ruth’s 1920 explosion might have happened in 1919, had a full season of 154 games been played rather than 140, had Ruth refrained from pitching 133 innings that season, and if he were playing at any other home field but Fenway Park, where he hit only 9 of 29 home runs. Ruth hit home runs early and often in the 1921 season, during which he broke Roger Connor’s mark for home runs in a career, 138. Each of the almost 600 home runs Ruth hit in his career after that extended his own record.
After a slow start, the Yankees were soon locked in a tight pennant race with Cleveland, winners of the 1920 World Series. On September 15, Ruth hit his 55th home run, shattering his year-old single season record. In late September, the Yankees visited Cleveland and won three out of four games, giving them the upper hand in the race, and clinched their first pennant a few days later. Ruth finished the regular season with 59 home runs, batting .378 and with a slugging percentage of .846. The Yankees had high expectations when they met the New York Giants in the 1921 World Series, and the Yankees won the first two games with Ruth in the lineup. However, Ruth badly scraped his elbow during Game 2, sliding into third base (he had walked and stolen both second and third bases). After the game, he was told by the team physician not to play the rest of the series. Despite this advice, he did play in the next three games, and pinch-hit in Game Eight of the best-of-nine series, but the Yankees lost, five games to three. Ruth hit .316, drove in five runs and hit his first World Series home run.
On March 6, 1922, Ruth signed a new contract, for three years at $52,000 a year. The largest sum ever paid a ballplayer to that point, it represented 40% of the team’s player payroll. Despite his suspension, Ruth was named the Yankees’ new on-field captain prior to the 1922 season. During the suspension, he worked out with the team in the morning, and played exhibition games with the Yankees on their off days. He and Meusel returned on May 20, to a sellout crowd at the Polo Grounds, but Ruth batted 0-for-4, and was booed. On May 25, he was thrown out of the game for throwing dust in umpire George Hildebrand’s face, then climbed into the stands to confront a heckler. Ban Johnson ordered him fined, suspended, and stripped of his captaincy. In his shortened season, Ruth appeared in 110 games, batted .315, with 35 home runs, and drove in 99 runs, but compared to his previous two dominating years, the 1922 season was a disappointment. Despite Ruth’s off-year, Yankees managed to win the pennant to face the New York Giants for the second straight year in the World Series.
The Yankees were never challenged, leading the league for most of the 1923 season and winning the AL pennant by 17 games. Ruth finished the season with a career-high .393 batting average and major-league leading 41 home runs (tied with Cy Williams). Another career high for Ruth in 1923 was his 45 doubles, and he reached base 379 times, then a major league record. For the third straight year, the Yankees faced the Giants in the World Series, which Ruth dominated. He batted .368, walked eight times, scored eight runs, hit three home runs and slugged 1.000 during the series, as the Yankees won their first World Series championship, four games to two.
From 1923 to 1935, Ruth had his ups and downs. From being rumored dead in 1925, to having the mysterious “bellyache heard round the world.” Ruth returned to his normal production during 1926, batting .372 with 47 home runs and 146 RBIs. In 1927, the yankees won a then-AL-record 110 games, and took the AL pennant by 19 games. In 1929, Ruth received his uniform number of ‘3’ after the team had experimented with numbered uniforms to tell players apart on the field. In 1930, Ruth hit .359 with 49 home runs (his best in his years after 1928) and 153 RBIs, and pitched his first game in nine years, a complete game victory. In 1934, Ruth played in his last full season. By this time, years of high living were starting to catch up with him. His conditioning had deteriorated to the point that he could no longer field or run. He accepted a pay cut from Ruppert to $35,000, but was still the highest-paid player in the major leagues. He could still handle a bat, recording a .288 batting average with 22 home runs, statistics Reisler described as “merely mortal”. Ruth was selected to the AL All-Star team for the second consecutive year. During the game, New York Giants pitcher Carl Hubbell struck out Ruth and four other future Hall-of-Famers consecutively.
Ruth played in the third game of the Pittsburgh series on May 25, 1935, and added one more tale to his playing legend. Ruth went 4-for-4, including three home runs, though the Braves lost the game 11–7. The last two were off Ruth’s old Cubs nemesis, Guy Bush. The final home run, both of the game and of Ruth’s career, sailed over the upper deck in right field and out of the ballpark, the first time anyone had hit a fair ball completely out of Forbes Field. Ruth was urged to make this his last game, but he had given his word to Fuchs and played in Cincinnati and Philadelphia. The first game of the doubleheader in Philadelphia—the Braves lost both—was his final major league appearance. On June 2, after an argument with Fuchs, Ruth retired. He finished 1935 with a .181 average—easily his worst as a full-time position player—and the final six of his 714 home runs. The Braves, 10–27 when Ruth left, finished 38–115, at .248 the worst winning percentage in modern National League history.
Although Fuchs had given Ruth his unconditional release, no major league team expressed an interest in hiring him in any capacity. Ruth still hoped to be hired as a manager if he could not play anymore, but only one managerial position, Cleveland, became available between Ruth’s retirement and the end of the 1937 season. Asked if he had considered Ruth for the job, Indians owner Alva Bradley replied negatively. The writer Creamer believed Ruth was unfairly treated in never being given an opportunity to manage a major league club. The author believed there was not necessarily a relationship between personal conduct and managerial success, noting that McGraw, Billy Martin, and Bobby Valentine were winners despite character flaws. Team owners and general managers assessed Ruth’s flamboyant personal habits as a reason to exclude him from a managerial job; Barrow said of him, “How can he manage other men when he can’t even manage himself?” Ruth played much golf and in a few exhibition baseball games, demonstrating a continuing ability to draw large crowds. This appeal contributed to the Dodgers hiring him as first base coach in 1938. But Brooklyn general manager Larry MacPhail made it clear when Ruth was hired that he would not be considered for the manager’s job if, as expected, Burleigh Grimes retired at the end of the season. Although much was said about what Ruth could teach the younger players, in practice, his duties were to appear on the field in uniform and encourage base runners—he was not called upon to relay signs. He got along well with everyone except team captain Leo Durocher, who was hired as Grimes’ replacement at season’s end. Ruth returned to retirement, never again to work in baseball.
On July 4, 1939, Ruth spoke on Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day at Yankee Stadium as members of the 1927 Yankees and a sellout crowd turned out to honor the first baseman, forced into premature retirement by ALS disease, which would kill him in two years. The next week, Ruth went to Cooperstown, New York, for the formal opening of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Three years earlier he was one of the first five players elected to it. As radio broadcasts of baseball became popular, Ruth sought a job in that field, arguing that his celebrity and knowledge of baseball would assure large audiences, but he received no offers. During World War II, he made many personal appearances to advance the war effort, including his last appearance as a player at Yankee Stadium, in a 1943 exhibition for the Army–Navy Relief Fund. He hit a long fly ball off Walter Johnson; the blast left the field, curving foul, but Ruth circled the bases anyway. In 1946, he made a final effort to gain a job in baseball, contacting new Yankees boss MacPhail, but was sent a rejection letter.
As early as the war years, doctors had cautioned Ruth to take better care of his health, and he grudgingly followed their advice, limiting his drinking and not going on a proposed trip to support the troops in the South Pacific. In 1946, Ruth began experiencing severe pain over his left eye, and had difficulty swallowing. In November 1946, he entered French Hospital in New York for tests, which revealed that Ruth had an inoperable malignant tumor at the base of his skull and in his neck. It was a lesion known as nasopharyngeal carcinoma, or “lymphoepithelioma.” His name and fame gave him access to experimental treatments, and he was one of the first cancer patients to receive both drugs and radiation treatment simultaneously. He was discharged from the hospital in February, having lost 80 pounds (36 kg), and went to Florida to recuperate. He returned to New York and Yankee Stadium after the season started. The new commissioner, Happy Chandler (Judge Landis had died in 1944), proclaimed April 27, 1947, Babe Ruth Day around the major leagues, with the most significant observance to be at Yankee Stadium. A number of teammates and others spoke in honor of Ruth, who briefly addressed the crowd of almost 60,000. Around this time, developments in chemotherapy offered some hope for Ruth. The doctors had not told Ruth that he had cancer because of his family’s fear that he might do himself harm. They treated him with teropterin, a folic acid derivative; he may have been the first human subject. Ruth showed dramatic improvement during the summer of 1947, so much so that his case was presented by his doctors at a scientific meeting, without using his name. He was able to travel around the country, doing promotional work for the Ford Motor Company on American Legion Baseball. He appeared again at another day in his honor at Yankee Stadium in September, but was not well enough to pitch in an old-timers game as he had hoped.
The improvement was only a temporary remission, and by late 1947, Ruth was unable to help with the writing of his autobiography, The Babe Ruth Story, which was almost entirely ghostwritten. In and out of the hospital in New York, he left for Florida in February 1948, doing what activities he could. After six weeks he returned to New York to appear at a book-signing party. He also traveled to California to witness the filming of the book.
On June 5, 1948, a “gaunt and hollowed out” Ruth visited Yale University to donate a manuscript of The Babe Ruth Story to its library. On June 13, Ruth visited Yankee Stadium for the final time in his life, appearing at the 25th anniversary celebrations of “The House that Ruth Built”. By this time he had lost much weight and had difficulty walking. Introduced along with his surviving teammates from 1923, Ruth used a bat as a cane. Nat Fein’s photo of Ruth taken from behind, standing near home plate and facing “Ruthville” (right field) became one of baseball’s most famous and widely circulated photographs, and won the Pulitzer Prize.
Thousands of New Yorkers, including many children, stood vigil outside the hospital in Ruth’s final days. On August 16, 1948, at 8:01 p.m., Ruth died in his sleep at the age of 53. Instead of a wake at a funeral home, his casket was taken to Yankee Stadium, where it remained for two days; 77,000 people filed past to pay him tribute. His funeral Mass took place at St. Patrick’s Cathedral; a crowd estimated at 75,000 waited outside. Ruth was buried on a hillside in Section 25 at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York. An epitaph by Cardinal Spellman appears on his headstone. His second wife, Claire Merritt Ruth, would be interred with him 28 years later in 1976.
On April 19, 1949, the Yankees unveiled a granite monument in Ruth’s honor in center field of Yankee Stadium. The monument was located in the field of play next to a flagpole and similar tributes to Huggins and Gehrig until the stadium was remodeled from 1974 to 1975, which resulted in the outfield fences moving inward and enclosing the monuments from the playing field. This area was known thereafter as Monument Park. Yankee Stadium, “the House that Ruth Built”, was replaced after the 2008 season with a new Yankee Stadium across the street from the old one; Monument Park was subsequently moved to the new venue behind the center field fence. Ruth’s uniform number 3 has been retired by the Yankees, and he is one of five Yankees players or managers to have a granite monument within the stadium.
Andy Pettitte was born on June 15, 1972, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He is of Italian and Cajun descent, and the younger of two children born to Tommy and JoAnn Pettitte. He attended Deer Park High School in Deer Park, Texas, where he pitched for the school’s baseball team. His fastball ranged from between 85 to 87 miles per hour. He also played center and nose guard for the school’s football team.
The Yankees selected Pettitte in the 22nd round of the 1990 Major League Baseball draft. Recruited by San Jacinto College North in Houston, Texas, he opted to play college baseball when coach Wayne Graham compared him to Roger Clemens. As Pettitte enrolled in a junior college rather than a four-year school, the Yankees retained the right to sign him as a draft-and-follow prospect. On May 25, 1991, he signed with the Yankees, receiving an $80,000 signing bonus ($140,669 in current dollar terms), double the Yankees’ initial offer.
In 1991, Pettitte pitched for the Gulf Coast Yankees of the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and Oneonta Yankees of the Class A-Short Season New York–Penn League, making six starts for each team. With Oneonta, Pettitte teamed up with catcher Jorge Posada, his longtime batterymate, for the first time. Pettitte threw a knuckleball at the time. Posada struggled to catch the knuckleball, prompting Pettitte to abandon the pitch. In 1992, Pettitte pitched for the Greensboro Hornets of the Class A South Atlantic League. He pitched to a 10–4 win–loss record and a 2.20 earned run average (ERA), with 130 strikeouts and 55 walks, in 27 games started. That season, Pettitte and Posada first played with Derek Jeter. Andy Pettitte pitched for the Prince William Cannons of the Class A-Advanced Carolina League in the 1993 season, finishing the year with an 11–9 record, a 3.04 ERA, 129 strikeouts, and 47 walks in 26 starts. He also made one start for the Albany-Colonie Yankees of the Class AA Eastern League during the season. Pettitte began the 1994 season with Albany-Colonie, where he had a 7–2 record and 2.71 ERA in 11 starts, before receiving a promotion to the Columbus Clippers of the Class AAA International League. With Columbus, Pettitte had a 7–2 record and a 2.98 ERA in 16 starts. The Yankees named him their minor league pitcher of the year.
Baseball America ranked Andy the 49th best prospect in baseball prior to the 1995 season. In spring training, Pettitte competed for a spot in the starting rotation with Sterling Hitchcock. Hitchcock won the competition, and Pettitte opened the season in the bullpen, making his major league debut with the Yankees on April 29, 1995. The Yankees demoted him back to the minors on May 16 to allow him to continue starting. Eleven days later, he was recalled due to an injury to Jimmy Key. With Scott Kamieniecki and Mélido Pérez also suffering injuries, Andy became a member of the starting rotation. He recorded his first major league win on June 7. He continued to perform well through July, leading Yankees’ starters in ERA. Pettitte won six of his last seven starts, finishing the season with a 12–9 record and a 4.17 ERA, and placed third in American League (AL) Rookie of the Year Award balloting, behind Marty Cordova and Garret Anderson. He started Game Two of the 1995 American League Division Series (ALDS) against the Seattle Mariners, allowing four runs in seven innings. The Mariners won the series three games to two.
Believing Andy Pettitte was the superior pitcher, the Yankees traded Hitchcock prior to the 1996 season. Starting the season in the rotation, Pettitte had a 13–4 record at the end of the first half of the season, and made the AL All-Star team. He did not appear in the 1996 MLB All-Star Game, due to a sore arm. He led the AL with 21 wins and finished third in winning percentage (.724), and eighth in ERA (3.87). He finished second to Pat Hentgen for the AL Cy Young Award, with the smallest difference in voting since 1972. Hentgen won the award in part because he pitched more complete games than Pettitte. The Yankees defeated the Texas Rangers in the 1996 ALDS and the Baltimore Orioles in the 1996 American League Championship Series (ALCS). Pettitte won two games against the Orioles, and had his opportunity for a third start in the series cancelled by rain. Pettitte started Game One of the 1996 World Series against the Atlanta Braves. He allowed seven runs in 2 1⁄3 innings in the first game, but outdueled John Smoltz in Game Five, which the Yankees won 1–0. The Yankees defeated the Braves in Game Six to win the series, four games to two. The next year, Pettitte tied for first in games started (35), and also led the league in pickoffs (14), and double plays induced (36). He was third in the league in innings pitched (IP) ( 240 1⁄3; a career high), fourth in ERA (2.88), wins (18), and winning percentage (.720), sixth in complete games (4), eighth in strikeouts (166), and tenth in walks per nine innings (2.43). Pettitte finished fifth in the AL Cy Young Award voting. In 1998, he was seventh in the league in complete games (5; a career high), and eighth in wins (16). In the 1998 ALCS, Pettitte allowed four home runs in a game to the Cleveland Indians. The Yankees won the series, and defeated the San Diego Padres in the 1998 World Series. Pettitte started in Game Four, defeating Kevin Brown in the deciding game of the series. The Yankees won the 1999 World Series. They continued their success in the 2000 season. Pettitte finished third in the AL in wins (19), sixth in winning percentage (.679), and seventh in complete games (3). He finished off the season with his fourth World Series Title. In 2001, he made the All-Star team for the second time and was named the ALCS Most Valuable Player, after winning Games 1 and 5 against the Seattle Mariners in the 2001 ALCS. He was third in the AL in walks per nine innings (1.84), and eighth in strikeouts (164) and strikeouts per nine innings (7.36). The following year, he was ninth in the AL in winning percentage (.722) and complete games (3). Pettitte continued his success through 2003. Pettitte was second in the league in wins (21), fifth in winning percentage (.724), sixth in strikeouts (180; a career high) and strikeouts per nine innings (7.78; a career-best), eighth in games started (33), and ninth in walks per nine innings (2.16). He won the Warren Spahn Award, given annually to the best left-handed pitcher in baseball.
Pettitte became a free agent after the 2003 season. Interested in playing closer to his Deer Park home, and feeling that the Yankees were not interested in re-signing him, Pettitte signed a three-year, $31.5 million contract with the Houston Astros of the National League (NL). He switched his uniform number to #21, in honor of Roger Clemens, who previously wore that number in Boston and Toronto. His 2004 season, in which he held batters to a .226 batting average, was shortened by elbow surgery. After the 2006 season, Pettitte signed a one-year, $16 million contract with the New York Yankees with a player option for 2008 worth $16 million. The Astros had offered Pettitte $12 million for a one-year contract. Pettitte won his 200th career game on September 19, 2007. In 2007 he led the American League in starts (34), was seventh in batters faced (916), and was 9th in innings pitched ( 215 1⁄3), finishing the regular season with a 15–9 win-loss record. He also had the 5th-lowest HR/9 innings pitched ratio in the AL (0.67). After the season, Pettitte declined his 2008 option, becoming a free agent. The Yankees offered Pettitte salary arbitration, and Pettite accepted the Yankees offer. He signed a one-year, $16 million contract with the Yankees on December 12.
On September 21, 2008, Pettitte was the last starting pitcher for the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. He recorded his 2,000th career strikeout in the second inning, striking out Baltimore Orioles catcher Ramón Hernández. Pettitte led the Yankees in innings pitched in 2008 with 204. Over 14 seasons, Pettitte has averaged 158 strikeouts a season, the same number as he accumulated in 2008. Pettitte agreed to a one-year, $5.5 million contract with incentives on January 26, 2009. Based on incentives such as innings pitched and days on the active roster, Pettitte eventually earned $10.5 million for 2009. Pettitte began the 2009 season as the Yankees’ fourth starter, behind CC Sabathia, A. J. Burnett, and Chien-Ming Wang, followed by Joba Chamberlain. Pettitte was the winning pitcher as the Yankees beat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Game 6 of the ALCS on October 25, 2009, to clinch the series and advance to the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. This brought his career total of series-clinching wins to five, breaking the record he previously shared with Roger Clemens, Catfish Hunter and Dave Stewart. Pettitte drove in his first postseason run during Game 3 of the World Series when he got a single to center field that scored Nick Swisher. He was the winning pitcher for that game. Pettitte pitched Game 6 of the 2009 World Series on three days of rest. Experts were critical of the decision to pitch the 37-year-old on short rest, but Pettitte again was the winning pitcher in game 6 of the 2009 World Series, defeating the Philadelphia Phillies 7–3. He extended his record career total series-clinching wins to six, and extended his record for post-season career wins to 18. He became the first pitcher in Major League Baseball history to start and win three series-clinching playoff games in the same year. Derek Lowe also won three series in 2004, but with one of his wins coming in relief. Additionally, on September 27 against the Red Sox, Pettitte had been the winning pitcher in the division-clinching game. Pettitte filed for free agency after the 2009 season. He re-signed with the Yankees, receiving a one-year contract worth $11.75 million. In the first half of the 2010 season, Pettitte went 11–2 with a 2.70 ERA, earning an appearance in the 2010 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. He also won the Yankees.com mid-season Cy Young Award. Pettitte finished the season with an 11–3 record and a 3.28 ERA, his lowest since 2005.
Pettitte announced his retirement on February 4, 2011. He spent the year away from professional baseball.
Pettitte agreed to join the Yankees in spring training in 2012 as a guest instructor. Stating that his return gave him “the itch”, Pettitte signed a minor league contract with the Yankees worth $2.5 million on March 16, 2012. Pettitte began the season in the minor leagues pitching in games for different affiliates to build his endurance and pitch count. Pettitte returned on May 13, allowing 4 runs over 6 1/3 innings in a loss to the Seattle Mariners 6–2. During a game against the Cleveland Indians on June 27, 2012, Pettitte was hit hard on his ankle by a ground ball. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that Pettitte had a fractured left fibula and missed over two months. Pettitte returned on September 19, 2012 against the Blue Jays pitching five scoreless innings. He finished the season with a 5–4 record and a 2.87 ERA in 12 games started. He also made two postseason appearances. Pettitte re-signed with the Yankees for the 2013 season, agreeing to a one-year, $12 million contract. On May 17, 2013, Pettitte was put on the 15-day disabled list due to a strained left trapezius muscle. He was activated on June 3, 2013. On June 8, 2013, Pettitte recorded his 250th career win against the Seattle Mariners, becoming the 47th pitcher in Major League history to achieve as many wins. On July 1, 2013, in a game against the Minnesota Twins, Pettitte struck out Justin Morneau, thereby passing Whitey Ford as the Yankees all-time strikeout leader with 1,958. He struck out his 2,000th batter as a Yankee on September 6.
Pettitte announced on September 20 that he would retire at the end of the season. Teammate Mariano Rivera convinced him to announce it before the end of the season. Pettitte made his last regular season start at Yankee Stadium, on September 22. Andy’s last major league start, on September 28 against the Astros in Houston, tied Ford for the most games started in Yankees history (438). Pettitte pitched a complete game, receiving the victory. The Astros honored his career during the game.
On February 16, 2015, the Yankees announced that they would be retiring Pettitte’s number 46 on August 23, 2015.
Mariano Rivera was born on November 29, 1969 to parents Mariano Rivera Palacios and Delia Jiron. Born as the second child, Mariano has one older sister (Delia) and two younger brothers (Alvaro and Giraldo). The family lived in Puerto Caimito, a poor fishing village in Panama. His father was the captain of a fishing boat, while his mother stayed home. As a young child, Rivera and his friends would play baseball and soccer on the beach during low-tide. Rivera was known for hanging with the wrong people around this time. Rivera attended Escuela Victoriano Chacón for elementary school and La Escuela Secundaria Pedro Pablo Sanchez for his secondary education, but he dropped out in ninth grade. At age 16, he began working six-day weeks on a commercial boat captained by his father, catching sardines. The job was hard for Rivera, who was more interested in becoming a mechanic.
He decided to give up fishing as a career after abandoning a capsizing commercial boat as a 19-year-old, and after his uncle died from injuries suffered on a fishing boat. Rivera continued to play sports during his teenage years but eventually quit soccer after a series of ankle and knee injuries around age 17. He shifted his attention to baseball but considered it just a hobby rather than a possible profession.
In 1988, Rivera joined Panamá Oeste, a local amateur baseball team, as their shortstop. Scout Herb Raybourn watched him play in a baseball tournament but did not project him to be a major league shortstop. A year later, Panamá Oeste’s pitcher performed so poorly in a playoff game that Rivera was asked to replace him, and despite no experience at the position, he pitched well. Teammates Claudino Hernández and Emilio Gáez consequently contacted Chico Heron, a scout for the New York Yankees. Two weeks after his pitching debut, Rivera was invited to a Yankees tryout camp run by Heron in Panama City. Raybourn, who had returned to Panama to scout as the Yankees’ director of Latin American operations, received a tip about Rivera. Raybourn was surprised to hear he had switched positions but decided to watch him throw. Although Rivera had no formal pitching training, weighed just 155 pounds, and threw only 85–87 miles per hour, Raybourn was impressed by his athleticism and smooth, effortless pitching motion. Viewing Rivera as a raw talent, Raybourn signed the amateur free agent to a contract with the Yankees organization on February 17, 1990; the contract included a signing bonus of US$2,500 ($4,583 today), according to Major League Baseball records.
After signing his contract, Rivera—who spoke no English and had never left home—flew to the United States and reported to the Gulf Coast League (GCL) Yankees, a Rookie level minor league affiliate of the New York Yankees. Feeling lonely and homesick, he wrote home to his parents often, as they did not have access to telephones. At that point in his career, scouts considered Rivera to be a “fringe prospect” at best, but he made progress with a strong 1990 season for the GCL Yankees. Pitching mostly in relief, he allowed only 24 base runners and one earned run in 52 innings pitched—a 0.17 earned run average. The team permitted Rivera to start the season’s final game in order for him to accumulate enough innings pitched to qualify for the league’s ERA title (which carried a $500 bonus); his subsequent seven-inning no-hitter”put him on the map with the organization”, according to manager Glenn Sherlock. In the off-season, Rivera returned to Panama, where a tip from him to Raybourn led to the Yankees signing a promising local 16-year-old player, Rivera’s cousin Rubén. In 1991, Mariano was promoted to the Class A level Greensboro Hornets of the South Atlantic League, where he started 15 of the 29 games he pitched in. Despite a 4–9 win–loss record, he recorded a 2.75 ERA in 114 2⁄3 innings pitched and struck out 123 batters while walking 36 batters. New York Yankees manager Buck Showalter took notice of Rivera’s strong strikeout-to-walk ratio, calling it “impressive in any league” and saying, “This guy is going to make it.”
In 1994, he was promoted from the Class A-Advanced level Tampa Yankees of the FSL to the Double-A level Albany-Colony Yankees of the Eastern League, and then to the Triple-A level Columbus Clippers of the International League. Rivera finished the year with a 10–2 record in 22 starts, although he struggled for Columbus, recording a 5.81 ERA in six starts. Beginning the 1995 season with Columbus, he was ranked by sports magazine Baseball America as the ninth-best prospect in the Yankees organization; by contrast, the publication ranked Rivera’s highly touted cousin Rubén as the second-best prospect in baseball. Mariano’s pitching repertoire primarily consisted of fastballs at the time, although he threw a slider and change-up as secondary pitches.
After being called up to the major leagues on May 16, 1995, Rivera made his debut for the New York Yankees on May 23 against the California Angels. Starting in place of injured pitcher Jimmy Key, Rivera allowed five earned runs in 3 1⁄3 innings pitched in a 10–0 loss. He struggled through his first four major league starts, posting a 10.20 ERA, and as a result, he was demoted to Columbus on June 11. As a 25-year-old rookie just three years removed from major arm surgery, his spot on the team was not guaranteed. Management considered trading him to the Detroit Tigers for starter David Wells. While recovering from a sore shoulder in the minor leagues, Rivera pitched a no-hit shutout in a rain-shortened five-inning start. Reports from the game indicated that his pitches had reached 95–96 mph, about 6 mph faster than his previous average velocity; Rivera attributes his inexplicable improvement to God. Yankees general manager Gene Michael was skeptical of the reports until verifying that Columbus’ radar gun was not faulty and that another team’s scout had taken the same measurements. Afterwards, he ended any trade negotiations involving Rivera. On July 4, in his first start back in the major leagues, Rivera pitched eight scoreless innings against the Chicago White Sox, allowing just two hits while striking out 11 batters. In five subsequent starts, he was unable to match his success from that game. After a brief demotion to Columbus in August, Rivera made one last start in the major leagues in September before he was moved to the Yankees’ bullpen. Overall, he finished his first major league season with a 5–3 record and a 5.51 ERA in ten starts and nine relief outings. His performance in the 1995 American League Division Series, in which he pitched 5 1⁄3 scoreless innings of relief, convinced Yankees management to keep him and convert him to a relief pitcher the following season.
In 1996, Rivera served primarily as a setup pitcher, typically pitching in the seventh and eighth innings of games before closer John Wetteland pitched in the ninth. Their effectiveness as a tandem helped the Yankees win 70 of 73 games when leading after six innings that season. Over a stretch of games between April 19 and May 21, Rivera pitched 26 consecutive scoreless innings, including 15 consecutive hit-less innings. During the streak, he recorded his first career save in a May 17 game against the Angels. Rivera finished the regular season with a 2.09 ERA in 107 2⁄3 innings pitched and set a Yankees single-season record for strikeouts by a reliever (130). In the postseason, he allowed just one earned run in 14 1⁄3 innings pitched. helping the Yankees advance to and win the 1996 World Series against the Atlanta Braves; it was the franchise’s first World Series championship since 1978. In MLB’s annual awards voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, Rivera finished in twelfth place for the American League (AL) Most Valuable Player Award and third for the AL Cy Young Award, which is given to the league’s best pitcher.Commentator and former player Tim McCarver wrote that the Yankees “revolutionized baseball” that year with Rivera, “a middle reliever who should have been on the All-Star team and who was a legitimate MVP candidate.”
On May 19, 2002, Rivera recorded his 225th career save, surpassing Dave Righetti as the Yankees’ franchise leader in saves. Over the next few months of the season, injuries limited his playing time. He was first placed on the disabled list in June due to a groin strain, though his first-half numbers, which included a 1.47 ERA and 21 saves, earned him an All-Star selection. In a game on July 14, Rivera endured one of his worst outings, allowing six earned runs, including a walk-off grand slam. One week later, he was placed on the disabled list with a shoulder strain. Rivera was activated on August 8 after receiving a cortisone shot but returned to the disabled list after a recurrence of shoulder tightness. For the season, Rivera recorded a 2.74 ERA and 28 saves in 32 opportunities in just 46 innings pitched. To placate the Yankees’ concerns about his durability, Rivera followed a strength and conditioning program in the off-season, instead of throwing. Torre said that he would try to reduce Rivera’s workload during the 2003 season to minimize the injury risk to his closer. However, Rivera suffered a groin injury before the season began, causing him to miss the first month. After returning on April 30, he pitched well in the season’s first half, saving 16 games in 17 opportunities. His save on June 12 against the St. Louis Cardinals secured the 300th career win for starter Roger Clemens. Rivera slumped early in the second half; over one stretch, he blew five of eleven save opportunities, but he rebounded to convert his final 15 of the season. He finished the 2003 regular season with a new career best in ERA (1.66), along with 40 saves in 46 opportunities. In the 2003 AL Championship Series against the arch-rival Boston Red Sox, Rivera had one of the most memorable postseason performances of his career; in the decisive Game 7, he entered in the ninth inning with the score tied 5–5 and pitched three scoreless innings, his longest outing since 1996. He became the winning pitcher after Aaron Boone hit an eleventh-inning walk-off home run that clinched the Yankees’ series victory and advanced them to the 2003 World Series. Rivera celebrated by running to the pitcher’s mound and collapsing in joy to thank God, as Boone rounded the bases and was met by his teammates at home plate. Rivera was named the AL Championship Series MVP for recording two saves and a win in the series. The Yankees lost the World Series to the Florida Marlins; Rivera saved five games and allowed only one earned run in 16 innings pitched that postseason.
Following a career high in appearances in 2004, Rivera did not throw during the off-season, unlike previous years. His 2005 season began on a low note. After missing time in spring training with elbow bursitis, he blew his first two save opportunities of the season against the Red Sox, marking four consecutive blown opportunities against Boston dating back to the previous postseason. Fans at Yankee Stadium booed Rivera, and baseball journalists speculated if his days as a dominant pitcher were over. He was subsequently cheered by Red Sox fans during pre-game introductions at Fenway Park the following week, in recognition of his struggles against the Red Sox. He responded to the ovation with a sense of humor by tipping his cap to the crowd. Rivera’s 2008 season was one of his best individual years. Along with a 1.40 ERA and 39 saves in 40 opportunities, he set career bests in multiple statistical categories, including WHIP (0.67), on-base plus slugging (OPS)-against (.422), batting average against (.165), save percentage (97.5%), walks (6), earned runs (11), and blown saves (1). He averaged 9.81 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched, his best mark as a closer. He pitched with such control that his 12.83 strikeout-to-walk ratio made him the second MLB pitcher ever to record a figure that high in a season (minimum 50 innings pitched). He placed fifth in the AL Cy Young Award voting.
After successfully rehabilitating his knee in the off-season, Rivera announced on March 9, 2013, that he would retire after the 2013 season, his 19th in the major leagues. Throughout his final year, Rivera spent time during visits to each ballpark meeting privately with fans and unsung team employees to hear their stories and thank them for supporting baseball. He explained: “It was important for me to meet the people who make baseball what it is, the people who work in the game every day. They have given me far more than I have given them.” Each opposing team returned the favor by honoring Rivera with a gift during his final visit to their city: in Cleveland, the Indians teamed up with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to present Rivera with a gold record of his entrance song “Enter Sandman”; the Minnesota Twins commissioned a rocking chair made of broken bats, many broken personally by Rivera’s cutter, called the “Chair of Broken Dreams”; the rival Boston Red Sox gave him a painting and several artifacts from Fenway Park. Many teams made donations to the Mariano Rivera Foundation, the pitcher’s charitable organization. Corporate sponsors of the Yankees paid tribute as well; Delta Air Lines dedicated a Boeing 757 airplane with Rivera’s signature and uniform number 42 on the exterior, while Hard Rock Cafe retired “Enter Sandman” from its song system at all locations except for its Yankee Stadium restaurant.
Rivera exhibited a reserved demeanor on the field that contrasted with the emotional, demonstrative temperament of many of his peers. Hall of Fame closer Goose Gossage said that Rivera’s composure under stress gave him the appearance of having “ice water in his veins”. Commenting on his ability to remain focused in pressure situations, Rivera said, “When you start thinking, a lot of things will happen… If you don’t control your emotions, your emotions will control your acts, and that’s not good.” His ability to compartmentalize his successes and failures impressed fellow reliever Joba Chamberlain, who said, “He’s won and lost some of the biggest games in the history of baseball, and he’s no worse for the wear when he gives up a home run.” Rivera explained the need to quickly forget bad performances, saying “the game that you’re going to play tomorrow is not going to be the same game that you just played.” Derek Jeter called him the “most mentally tough” teammate with whom he had ever played. During his playing career, Rivera was regarded as a team leader within the Yankees organization, often mentoring younger pitchers and counseling teammates. He had a team-first mindset and deferred most discussions about individual accolades to team goals and his teammates, praising them for making his presence in games possible. When once asked to describe his job, Rivera put it simply, “I get the ball, I throw the ball, and then I take a shower.”
Rivera was a dominant reliever throughout his career, pitching with a consistency and longevity uncharacteristic of a role commonly marked by volatility and high turnover. In his 17-year tenure as the Yankees’ closer, Rivera compiled considerable career numbers. A 13-time All-Star, he is the major leagues’ all-time regular season leader in saves (652) and games finished (952). He pitched in 1,115 regular season games, which is fourth-most in MLB history, the most in AL history, and the most by a right-handed pitcher. Rivera holds or shares several records for the most seasons of reaching various save milestones, including seasons with at least: 20 saves (sixteen); 25 saves (fifteen consecutive, sixteen non-consecutive); 30 saves (nine consecutive, fifteen non-consecutive); 35 saves (twelve); 40 saves (nine); and 50 saves (two). Rivera’s career ERA (2.21) and WHIP (1.00) are the lowest of any MLB pitcher in the live-ball era (minimum 1,000 innings pitched), making him one of the top pitchers since 1920 at preventing hitters from reaching base and scoring He recorded an ERA under 2.00 in 11 seasons, tying him with Walter Johnson for the most such seasons (minimum 60 innings pitched each). Rivera also ranks first in career adjusted ERA+ (205), a statistic that adjusts ERA for league and ballpark to allow comparisons of pitchers on the same baseline.
Rivera and his wife Clara have known each other since elementary school, and they were married on November 9, 1991. They have three sons: Mariano III, Jafet, and Jaziel. The family lived in Panama until 2000, when they relocated to Westchester County, New York; they currently reside in Rye, New York. Mariano III pitched for Iona College in New Rochelle, not far from his home. He was drafted by the Yankees with the 872nd pick in the 2014 MLB draft, but decided to return to Iona for his junior year. In the following year’s draft, Mariano III was selected by the Washington Nationals in the 4th round with the 134th overall pick. Over the course of his professional career, Rivera learned English, beginning in 1991 with the Greensboro Hornets, when he realized none of his teammates spoke his native Spanish. He is now a proponent of Latino players learning English and of American press members learning Spanish, in order to bridge the cultural gap.
In March 2014, Rivera was twice recognized for his philanthropic efforts, receiving the ROBIE Humanitarian Award from the Jackie Robinson Foundation, as well as a Jefferson Award for Public Service. Later that month, the “Legends Series”, comprising two MLB exhibition games between the Yankees and Miami Marlins, was played in Rivera’s native Panama to “honor [his] legacy”; he helped promote the games, which were supplemented by charitable events and a gala benefiting his foundation. On April 9, 2014, MLB announced that a new annual award for relief pitchers, the Reliever of the Year Award, would replace the existing Delivery Man of the Year Award, and that the AL honor would be named after Rivera. The following month, a section of River Avenue bordering Yankee Stadium at 161st Street was renamed “Rivera Avenue” in the pitcher’s honor. This coincided with the release of his autobiography, The Closer: My Story, co-authored with Wayne Coffey. New York University bestowed an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree upon Rivera during its commencement ceremony at Yankee Stadium on May 21, 2014. During the 2015 Little League World Series, he was inducted into the Little League Hall of Excellence. The Yankees dedicated a plaque to Rivera in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park on August 14, 2016.
Jackson was born in the Wyncote neighborhood of Cheltenham Township, just north of Philadelphia. His father was Martinez Jackson, a half Puerto Rican, who worked as a tailor and who was a former second baseman with the Newark Eagles of Negro league baseball. He was the youngest of four children from his mother, Clara. He also had two half-siblings from his father’s first marriage. His parents divorced when he was four; his mother took four of his siblings with her, while his father took Jackson and one of the siblings from his first marriage, though one sibling later returned to Wyncote. Martinez Jackson was a single father, and theirs was one of the few black families in Wyncote. He was able to develop a social ease with the Jewish community in Wyncote, as all his friends, girlfriends, coaches, and teachers during that timeframe were Jewish. In 1972, Jackson joined his Jewish teammates on the A’s – Ken Holtzman and Mike Epstein – in wearing black armbands for the rest of the postseason after the Munich Massacre at the Olympics in September. At Cheltenham High School, he was a classmate of Yonatan Netanyahu, who led the Israeli raid on Entebbe in 1976. Jackson graduated from Cheltenham High in 1964, where he excelled in football, basketball, baseball, and track and field. A tailback in football, he injured his knee in an early season game in his junior year. He was told by the doctors he was never to play football again, but Jackson returned for the final game of the season. In that game, Jackson fractured five cervical vertebrae, which caused him to spend six weeks in the hospital and another month in a neck cast. Doctors told Jackson that he might never walk again, let alone play football, but Jackson defied the odds again. On the baseball team, he batted .550 and threw several no-hitters. In the middle of his senior year, Jackson’s father was arrested for bootlegging and was sentenced to six months in jail.
In football, he was scouted by Alabama, Georgia, and Oklahoma, all of whom were willing to break the color barrier just for Jackson (Oklahoma had black football players before 1964- including Prentice Gautt, a star running back recruited in 1957, who played in the NFL with the St. Louis Cardinals). Jackson declined Alabama and Georgia because he was fearful of the South at the time, and declined Oklahoma because they told him to stop dating white girls. For baseball, Jackson was scouted by Hans Lobert of the San Francisco Giants who was desperate to sign him. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Minnesota Twins also made offers, and the hometown Philadelphia Phillies gave him a tryout but declined because of his “hitting skills”. His father wanted his son to go to college, where Jackson wanted to play both football and baseball. He decided to attend Arizona State University on a football scholarship. His high-school football coach knew ASU’s head football coach Frank Kush, and they discussed the possibility of him playing both sports. After a recruiting trip, Kush decided that Jackson had the ability and willingness to work to join the squad.
One day after football practice, he approached baseball coach Bobby Winkles asking if he could join the team. Winkles said he would give Jackson a look, and the next day while still in his football gear, he hit a home run on the second pitch he saw. In five at bats he hit three home runs. He was allowed to practice with the team, but could not join the squad because the NCAA had a rule forbidding the use of freshman players. Jackson switched permanently to baseball following his freshman year, as he did not want to become a defensive back. To hone his skills, Winkles assigned him to a Baltimore Orioles-affiliated amateur team. He broke numerous team records for the squad, and the Orioles offered him a $50,000 signing bonus if he joined the team. Jackson declined the offer stating that he did not want to forfeit his college scholarship. In the beginning of his sophomore year in 1966, Jackson replaced Rick Monday (the first player ever selected in the Major League Baseball draft and a future teammate with the A’s) at center field. He broke the team record for most home runs in a single season, led the team in numerous other categories and was first team All-American. Many scouts were looking at him play, including Tom Greenwade of the New York Yankees (who discovered Mickey Mantle), and Danny Murtaugh of the Pittsburgh Pirates. In his final game at Arizona State, he showed his potential by being only a triple away from hitting for the cycle, making a sliding catch, and having an assist at home plate. Jackson was the first college player to hit a home run out of Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
I the 1966 Major League Baseball draft on June 7, Jackson was selected by the Kansas City Athletics. He was the second overall pick, behind 17-year-old catcher Steve Chilcott, who was taken by the New York Mets. According to Jackson, Winkles told him that the Mets did not select him because he had a white girlfriend. Winkles later denied the story, stating that he did not know the reason why Jackson was not drafted by the Mets. It was later confirmed by Joe McDonald that the Mets drafted Chilcott because of need, yet again the person running the Mets at the time was George Weiss, a known racist, so the true motive may never be known. Jackson, age 20, signed with the A’s for $95,000 on June 13 and reported for his first training camp with the Lewis-Clark Broncs of the short season Single-A Northwest League in Lewiston, Idaho, managed by Grady Wilson. He made his professional debut as a center fielder in the season opener on June 24 at Bethel Park in Eugene, Oregon, but was hitless in five at-bats. In the next game, Jackson singled in the first inning and homered in the ninth. In the home opener at Bengal Field in Lewiston on June 30, he hit a double and a triple. In his final game as a Bronc on July 6, Jackson was hit in the head by a pitch in the first inning, but stayed in the game and drove in runs with two sacrifice flies. Complaining of a headache, he left the game in the ninth inning, was admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Lewiston, and remained overnight for observation. Jackson played for two Class A teams in 1966, with the Broncs for just 12 games, and then 56 games with Modesto in the California League, where he hit 21 homers. He began 1967 with the Birmingham A’s in the Double-A Southern Leaguein Birmingham, Alabama, where Jackson got his first taste of racism, being one of only a few blacks on the team. He credits the team’s manager at the time, John McNamara, for helping him through that difficult season.
Jackson debuted in the major leagues with the A’s in 1967 in a Friday doubleheader in Kansas City on June 9, a shutout sweep of the Cleveland Indians by scores of 2–0 and 6–0 at Municipal Stadium. (Jackson had his first career hit in the nightcap, a lead-off triple in the fifth inning off of long reliever Orlando Peña. The Athletics moved west to Oakland prior to the 1968 season. Jackson hit 47 home runs in 1969, and was briefly ahead of the pace that Roger Maris set when he broke the single-season record for home runs with 61 in 1961, and that of Babe Ruth when he set the previous record of 60 in 1927. Jackson later said that the sportswriters were claiming he was “dating a lady named ‘Ruth Maris.'” That off-season, Jackson sought an increase in salary, and Athletics owner Charlie O. Finley threatened to send Jackson to the minors. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn successfully intervened in their dispute, but Jackson’s numbers in 1970 dropped sharply, as he hit just 23 home runs while batting .237. The Athletics sent him to play in Puerto Rico, where he played for the Santurce team and hit 20 homers and knocked in 47 runs to lead the league in both departments. Jackson hit a memorable home run in the 1971 All-Star Game at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. Batting for the American League against Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis, the ball he hit soared above the right-field stands, striking the transformer of a light standard on the right field roof. While with the Angels in 1984, he hit a home run over that roof. In 1971, the Athletics won the American League’s West division, their first title of any kind since 1931, when they played in Philadelphia. They were swept in three games in the American League Championship Series by the Baltimore Orioles. The A’s won the division again in 1972; their series with the Tigers went the full five games, and Jackson scored the tying run in the clincher on a steal of home. In the process, however, he tore a hamstring and was unable to play in the World Series. The A’s still managed to defeat the Cincinnati Reds in seven games. It was the first championship won by a San Francisco Bay Areateam in any major league sport.
During spring training in 1972, Jackson showed up with a mustache. Though his teammates wanted him to shave it off, Jackson refused. Finley liked the mustache so much that he offered each player $300 to grow one, and hosted a “Mustache Day” featuring the last MLB player to wear a mustache, Frenchy Bordagaray, as master of ceremonies. Jackson helped the Athletics win the pennant again in 1973, and was named Most Valuable Player of the American League for the season. The A’s defeated the New York Mets in seven hard-fought games in the World Series. This time, Jackson was not only able to play, but his performance led to his being awarded the Series’ Most Valuable Player award. In the third inning of that seventh game, which ended in a 5–2 score, the A’s jumped out to a 4–0 lead as both Bert Campaneris and Jackson hit two-run home runs off Jon Matlack—the only two home runs Oakland hit the entire Series. The A’s won the World Series again in 1974, defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games. Besides hitting 254 home runs in nine years with the Athletics, Jackson was also no stranger to controversy or conflict in Oakland. Sports author Dick Crouser wrote, “When the late Al Helfer was broadcasting the Oakland A’s games, he was not too enthusiastic about Reggie Jackson’s speed or his hustle. Once, with Jackson on third, teammate Rick Monday hit a long home run. ‘Jackson should score easily on that one,’ commented Helfer. Crouser also noted that, “Nobody seems to be neutral on Reggie Jackson. You’re either a fan or a detractor.” When teammate Darold Knowles was asked if Jackson was a hot dog (i.e., a show-off), he famously replied, “There isn’t enough mustard in the world to cover Reggie Jackson.” On June 5, 1974, outfielder Billy North and Jackson engaged in a clubhouse fight at Detroit’s Tiger Stadium. Jackson injured his shoulder, and catcher Ray Fosse, attempting to separate the combatants, suffered a crushed disk in his neck, costing him three months on the disabled list.
The Yankees signed Jackson to a five-year contract totaling $2.96 million ($12,457,965 in current dollar terms) on November 29, 1976. The number 9 that he had worn in Oakland and Baltimore was already used by Yankees third baseman Graig Nettles. Jackson asked for number 42 in memory of Jackie Robinson, but that number was given to pitching coach Art Fowler before the start of the season. Noting that Hank Aaron, at the time the holder of the career record for the most home runs, had just retired, Jackson asked for and received number 44 as a tribute to Aaron. Jackson wore number 20 for one game during spring training as a tribute to the also recently retired Frank Robinson, then he switched to number 44. Jackson’s first season with the Yankees, 1977, was a difficult one. Although team owner George Steinbrenner and several players, most notably catcher and team captain Thurman Munson and outfielder Lou Piniella, were excited about his arrival, the team’s manager, Billy Martin was not. Martin had managed the Tigers in 1972, when Jackson’s A’s beat them in the playoffs. Jackson was once quoted as saying of Martin, “I hate him, but if I played for him, I’d probably love him.” The relationship between Jackson and his new teammates was strained due to an interview with SPORT magazine writer Robert Ward. During spring training at the Yankees’ camp in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Jackson and Ward were having drinks at a nearby bar. Jackson’s version of the story is that he noted that the Yankees had won the pennant the year before, but lost the World Series to the Reds, and suggested that they needed one thing more to win it all, and pointed out the various ingredients in his drink. Ward suggested that Jackson might be “the straw that stirs the drink.” But when the story appeared in the June 1977 issue of SPORT, Ward quoted Jackson as saying, “This team, it all flows from me. I’m the straw that stirs the drink. Maybe I should say me and Munson, but he can only stir it bad.”
Jackson has consistently denied saying anything negative about Munson in the interview and he has said that his quotes were taken out of context. However, Dave Anderson of The New York Times subsequently wrote that he had drinks with Jackson in July 1977, and that Jackson told him, “I’m still the straw that stirs the drink. Not Munson, not nobody else on this club.” Regardless, as Munson was beloved by his teammates, Martin, Steinbrenner and Yankee fans, the relationships between them and Jackson became very strained. On June 18, in a 10–4 loss to the Boston Red Sox in a nationally televised game at Fenway Park in Boston, Jim Rice, a powerful hitter but notoriously slow runner, hit a ball into shallow right field that Jackson appeared to weakly attempt to field. Jackson failed to reach the ball which fell far in front of him, thereby allowing Rice to reach second base. Furious, Martin removed Jackson from the game without even waiting for the end of the inning, sending Paul Blair out to replace him. When Jackson arrived at the dugout, Martin yelled that Jackson had shown him up. They argued, and Jackson said that Martin’s heavy drinking had impaired his judgment. Despite Jackson being 18 years younger, about two inches taller and maybe 40 pounds heavier, Martin lunged at him, and had to be restrained by coaches Yogi Berra and Elston Howard. Red Sox fans could see this in the dugout and began cheering wildly, and the NBC TV cameras showed the confrontation to the entire country. Yankees management defused the situation by the next day, but the relationship between Jackson and Martin was permanently poisoned. However, George Steinbrenner made a crucial intervention when he gave Martin the option of either having Jackson bat in the fourth or “cleanup” spot for the rest of the season, or losing his job. Martin made the change and Jackson’s hitting improved (he had 13 home runs and 49 RBIs over his next 50 games), and the team went on a winning streak. On September 14, while in a tight three-way race for the American League Eastern Division crown with the Red Sox and Orioles, Jackson ended a game with the Red Sox by hitting a home run off Reggie Cleveland, giving the Yankees a 2–0 win. The Yankees won the division by two and a half games over the Red Sox and Orioles, and came from behind in the top of the ninth inning in the fifth and final game of the American League Championship Series to beat the Kansas City Royals for the pennant.
During the 1977 World Series against the Dodgers, Munson was interviewed, and suggested that Jackson, because of his past post-season performances, might be the better interview subject. “Go ask Mister October”, he said, giving Jackson a nickname that would stick. (In Oakland, he had been known as “Jax” and “Buck.”) Jackson hit home runs in Games Four and Five of the Series. Jackson’s crowning achievement came with his three-home-run performance in World Series-clinching Game Six, each on the first pitch, off three Dodgers pitchers. (His first plate-appearance, during the second inning, resulted in a four-pitch walk.) The first came off starter Burt Hooton, and was a line drive shot into the lower right field seats at Yankee Stadium. The second was a much faster line drive off reliever Elías Sosa into roughly the same area. With the fans chanting his name, “Reg-GIE! Reg-GIE! Reg-GIE!” the third came off reliever Charlie Hough, a knuckleball pitcher, making the distance of this home run particularly remarkable. It was a towering drive into the black-painted batter’s eye seats in center, 475 feet away.
Since Jackson had hit a home run off Dodger pitcher Don Sutton in his last at bat in Game Five, his three home runs in Game Six meant that he had hit four home runs on four consecutive swings of the bat against as many Dodgers pitchers. Jackson became the first player to win the World Series MVP award for two teams. In 27 World Series games, he amassed 10 home runs, including a record five during the 1977 Series (the last three on first pitches), 24 RBI and a .357 batting average. Babe Ruth, Albert Pujols, and Pablo Sandoval are the only other players to hit three home runs in a single World Series game. Babe Ruth accomplishing the feat twice – in 1926 and 1928 (both in Game Four). With 25 total bases, Jackson also broke Ruth’s record of 22 in the latter Series; this remains a World Series record, Willie Stargell tying it in the 1979 World Series. In 2009, Chase Utley of the Philadelphia Phillies tied Jackson’s record for most home runs in a single World Series. An often forgotten aspect of the ending of this decisive Game 6 was the way Jackson left the field at the game’s end. Fans had been getting somewhat rowdy in anticipation of the game’s end, and some had actually thrown firecrackers out near Jackson’s area in right field. Jackson was alarmed enough about this to walk off the field, in order to get a helmet from the Yankee bench to protect himself. Shortly after this point, as the end of the game neared, fans were actually bold enough to climb over the wall, draping their legs over the side in preparation for the moment when they planned to rush onto the field. When that moment came, after pitcher Mike Torrez caught a pop-up for the game’s final out, Jackson started running at top speed off the field, actually body-checking past some of these fans filling the playing field in the manner of a football linebacker.
As he entered the last year of his Yankee contract in 1981, Jackson endured several difficulties from George Steinbrenner. After the owner consulted Jackson about signing then-free agent Dave Winfield, Jackson expected Steinbrenner to work out a new contract for him as well. Steinbrenner never did (some say never intending to) and Jackson played the season as a free agent. Jackson started slowly with the bat, and when the 1981 Major League Baseball strike began, Steinbrenner invoked a clause in Jackson’s contract forcing him to take a complete physical examination. Jackson was outraged and blasted Steinbrenner in the media. When the season resumed, Jackson’s hitting improved, partly to show Steinbrenner he wasn’t finished as a player. He hit a long home run into the upper deck in Game Five of the strike-forced 1981 American League Division Series with the Brewers, and the Yankees went on to win the pennant again. However, Jackson injured himself running the bases in Game Two of the 1981 ALCS and missed the first two games of the World Series, both of which the Yankees won. Jackson was medically cleared to play Game Three, but manager Bob Lemon refused to start him or even play him, allegedly acting under orders from Steinbrenner. The Yankees lost that game and Jackson played the remainder of the series, hitting a home run in Game Four. However, they lost the last three games and the World Series to the Dodgers.
On April 27, 1982, in Jackson’s first game back at Yankee Stadium with the Angels, he broke out of a terrible season-starting slump to hit a home run off former teammate Ron Guidry. The at-bat began with Yankee fans, angry at Steinbrenner for letting Jackson get away, starting the “Reg-GIE!” chant, and ended it with the fans chanting “Steinbrenner sucks!” By the time of Jackson’s election to the Hall of Fame, Steinbrenner had begun to say that letting him go was the biggest mistake he had made as Yankee owner.
During his freshman year at Arizona State, he met Jennie Campos, a Mexican-American. Jackson asked Campos on a date, and discovered many similarities, including the ability to speak Spanish, and being raised in a single parent home (Campos’s father was killed in the Korean War). An assistant football coach tried to break up the couple because Jackson was black and Campos was considered white. The coach contacted Campos’s uncle, a wealthy benefactor of the school, and he warned the couple that their being together was a bad idea. But the relationship held up and she later became his first wife. Jackson has been divorced since 1973. Kimberly, his only child, was born in the late 1980s. During the off-season, though still active in baseball, Jackson worked as a field reporter and color commentator for ABC Sports. Just over a month before signing with the Yankees in the fall of 1976, Jackson did analysis in the ABC booth with Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell the night his future team won the American League pennant on a homer by Chris Chambliss. During the 1980s (1983, 1985, and 1987respectively), Jackson was given the task of presiding over the World Series Trophy presentations. In addition, Jackson did color commentary for the 1984 National League Championship Series (alongside Don Drysdale and Earl Weaver). After his retirement as an active player, Jackson returned to his color commentary role covering the 1988 American League Championship Series (alongside Gary Benderand Joe Morgan) for ABC.
He also made appearances in the film The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, in which he played an Angels outfielder diabolically programmed to kill the Queen of England. He also appeared in Richie Rich, BASEketball, Summer of Sam and The Benchwarmers. He played himself in the Archie Bunker’s Place episode “Reggie-3 Archie-0” in 1982, a 1990 MacGyver episode, “Squeeze Play”, and the Malcolm in the Middle episode “Polly in the Middle”, from 2004. Jackson was also considered for the role of Geordi LaForge in the series Star Trek: The Next Generation, a role which ultimately went to LeVar Burton. From 1981 to 1982 he hosted for Nickelodeon’s Reggie Jackson’s World of Sports.
Jackson and Steinbrenner would reconcile, and Steinbrenner would hire him as a “special assistant to the principal owner”, making Jackson a consultant and a liaison to the team’s players, particularly the minority players. By this point, the Yankees, long noted for being slow to adapt to changes in race relations, have come to develop many minority players in their farm system and seek out others via trades and free agency. Jackson usually appears in uniform at the Yankees’ spring training complex in Tampa, Florida, and was sought out for advice by such recent stars as Derek Jeter, before his retirement, and by former Yankee star Alex Rodriguez. “His experience is vast, and he’s especially good with the young players in our minor league system, the 17- and 18-year old kids. They respect him and what he’s accomplished in his career. When Reggie Jackson tells a young kid how he might improve his swing, he tends to listen”, said Hal Steinbrenner, Yankees’ managing general partner and co-chairperson. Jackson was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1993. He chose to wear a Yankees cap on his Hall of Fame plaque after the Oakland Athletics unceremoniously fired him from a coaching position in 1991. The Yankees retired his uniform number 44 on August 14, 1993, shortly after his induction into the Hall of Fame. The Athletics retired his number 9 on May 22, 2004. He is one of only eight MLB players to have their numbers retired by more than one team, and one of only three to have different numbers retired by two MLB teams. In 1999, Jackson placed 48th on Sporting News 100 Greatest Baseball Players. That same year, he was named one of 100 finalists for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team, but was not one of the 30 players chosen by the fans.
The Yankees dedicated a plaque in his honor on July 6, 2002, which now hangs in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. The plaque calls him “One of the most colorful and exciting players of his era” and “a prolific hitter who thrived in pressure situations.” Each Yankee so honored and still living was on hand for the dedication: Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and Don Mattingly. Ron Guidry, a teammate of Jackson’s for all five of his seasons with the Yankees, was there, and would be honored with a Monument Park plaque the next season. Out of respect to some of the players who Jackson admired while growing up, Jackson invited Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks to attend the ceremony, and each did so. Like Jackson, each was a member of the Hall of Fame and had hit over 500 career home runs. Each had also played in the Negro Leagues, as Jackson’s father, Martinez Jackson, had.
Joe DiMaggio was born on November 25, 1914 in Martinez, California, the eighth of nine children born to Sicilian immigrants Giuseppe (1872–1949) and Rosalia (Mercurio) (1878–1951) DiMaggio . He was delivered by a midwife identified on his birth certificate as Mrs. J. Pico. He was named Paolo after his father Giuseppe’s favorite saint, Saint Paul. The family moved to nearby San Francisco when Joe was a year old. Giuseppe was a fisherman, as were generations of DiMaggios before him. According to statements from Joe’s brother, Tom, to biographer Maury Allen, Rosalia’s father wrote to her with the advice that Giuseppe could earn a better living in California than in their native Isola delle Femmine, a northwestern Sicilian village in the province of Palermo. After being processed on Ellis Island, Giuseppe worked his way across America, eventually settling near Rosalia’s father in Pittsburg, California, on the east side of the San Francisco Bay Area. After four years, he earned enough money to send to Italy for Rosalia and their daughter, who was born after he had left for the United States. Giuseppe hoped that his five sons would become fishermen. DiMaggio recalled that he would do anything to get out of cleaning his father’s boat, as the smell of dead fish nauseated him. Giuseppe called him “lazy” and “good-for-nothing.”
DiMaggio was playing semi-pro ball when older brother Vince DiMaggio, playing for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League (PCL), talked his manager into letting DiMaggio fill in at shortstop. Joe DiMaggio made his professional debut on October 1, 1932. From May 27 to July 25, 1933, he hit safely in 61 consecutive games, a PCL-record, and second-longest in all of Minor League Baseball history. “Baseball didn’t really get into my blood until I knocked off that hitting streak,” he said. “Getting a daily hit became more important to me than eating, drinking or sleeping.” In 1934, DiMaggio suffered a career-threatening knee injury when he tore ligaments while stepping out of a jitney. Scout Bill Essick of the New York Yankees, convinced that the injury would heal, pestered his club to give him another look. After DiMaggio passed a physical examination in November, the Yankees purchased his contract for $50,000 and five players. He remained with the Seals for the 1935 season and batted .398 with 154 runs batted in (RBIs) and 34 home runs. His team won the 1935 PCL title, and DiMaggio was named the league’s Most Valuable Player.
DiMaggio made his major league debut on May 3, 1936, batting ahead of Lou Gehrig. The Yankees had not been to the World Series since 1932, but they won the next four Fall Classics. In total, DiMaggio led the Yankees to nine titles in 13 years. In 1939, DiMaggio was nicknamed the “Yankee Clipper” by Yankee’s stadium announcer Arch McDonald, when he likened DiMaggio’s speed and range in the outfield to the then-new Pan American airliner. In 1947, Boston Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey and Yankees GM Larry MacPhail verbally agreed to trade DiMaggio for Ted Williams, but MacPhail refused to include Yogi Berra. In the September 1949 issue of SPORT, Hank Greenberg said that DiMaggio covered so much ground in center field that the only way to get a hit against the Yankees was “to hit ’em where Joe wasn’t.” DiMaggio also stole home five times in his career.
On February 7, 1949, DiMaggio signed a record contract worth $100,000 ($1,007,000 in current dollar terms) ($70,000 plus bonuses), and became the first baseball player to break $100,000 in earnings. By 1950, he was ranked the second-best center fielder by the Sporting News, after Larry Doby. After a poor 1951 season, a scouting report by the Brooklyn Dodgers that was turned over to the New York Giants and leaked to the press, and various injuries, DiMaggio announced his retirement at age 37 on December 11, 1951. When remarking on his retirement to the Sporting News on December 19, 1951, he said:
I feel like I have reached the stage where I can no longer produce for my club, my manager, and my teammates. I had a poor year, but even if I had hit .350, this would have been my last year. I was full of aches and pains and it had become a chore for me to play. When baseball is no longer fun, it’s no longer a game, and so, I’ve played my last game.
Through May 2009, Joe DiMaggio was tied with Mark McGwire for third place all-time in home runs over the first two calendar years in the major leagues (77), behind Phillies Hall of Famer Chuck Klein (83), and Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun (79). Through 2011, he was one of seven major leaguers to have had at least four 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons in their first five years, along with Chuck Klein, Ted Williams, Ralph Kiner, Mark Teixeira, Albert Pujols, and Ryan Braun. DiMaggio holds the record for most seasons with more home runs than strikeouts (minimum 20 home runs), a feat he accomplished seven times, and five times consecutively from 1937–1941. DiMaggio would likely have exceeded 500 home runs and 2,000 RBIs had he not served in the military.
DiMaggio might have had better power-hitting statistics had his home park not been Yankee Stadium. As “The House That Ruth Built”, its nearby right field favored the Babe’s left-handed power. For right-handed hitters, its deep left and center fields made home runs almost impossible. Mickey Mantle recalled that he and Whitey Ford witnessed many DiMaggio blasts that would have been home runs anywhere other than Yankee Stadium (Ruth himself fell victim to that problem, as he also hit many long flyouts to center). Bill James calculated that DiMaggio lost more home runs due to his home park than any other player in history. Left-center field went as far back as 457 ft [139 m], where left-center rarely reaches 380 ft [116 m] in today’s ballparks. Al Gionfriddo’s famous catch in the 1947 World Series, which was close to the 415-foot mark [126 m] in left-center, would have been a home run in the Yankees’ current ballpark. Joe DiMaggio hit 148 home runs in 3,360 at-bats at home versus 213 home runs in 3,461 at-bats on the road. His slugging percentage at home was .546, and on the road, it was .610.
Joe DiMaggio became eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1953 but he was not elected until 1955. The Hall of Fame rules on the post-retirement induction waiting period had been revised in the interim, extending the waiting period from one to five years, but DiMaggio and Ted Lyons were exempted from the rule. DiMaggio told Baseball Digest in 1963 that the Brooklyn Dodgers had offered him their managerial job in 1953, but he turned it down. After being out of baseball since his retirement as a player, Joe became the first hitting instructor of the newly relocated Oakland Athletics from 1968 to 1970.
DiMaggio’s most famous achievement is his MLB record-breaking 56-game hitting streak in 1941. The streak began on May 15, 1941, a couple of weeks before the death of Lou Gehrig, when DiMaggio went one-for-four against Chicago White Sox pitcher Eddie Smith. Major newspapers began to write about DiMaggio’s streak early on, but as he approached George Sisler’s modern era record of 41 games, it became a national phenomenon. Initially, DiMaggio showed little interest in breaking Sisler’s record, saying “I’m not thinking a whole lot about it… I’ll either break it or I won’t.” As he approached Sisler’s record, DiMaggio showed more interest, saying, “At the start I didn’t think much about it… but naturally I’d like to get the record since I am this close.” On June 29, 1941, DiMaggio doubled in the first game of a doubleheader against the Washington Senators at Griffith Stadium to tie Sisler’s record, and then singled in the nightcap to extend his streak to 42.
DiMaggio enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces on February 17, 1943, rising to the rank of sergeant. He was stationed at Santa Ana, California, Hawaii, and Atlantic City, New Jersey, as a physical education instructor. He was released on medical discharge in September 1945, due to chronic stomach ulcers. Other than now being paid $21 a month, DiMaggio’s service was as comfortable as a soldier’s life could be. He spent most of his career playing for baseball teams and in exhibition games against fellow Major Leaguers and minor league players, and superiors gave him special privileges due to his prewar fame. DiMaggio ate so well from an athlete-only diet that he gained 10 pounds, and while in Hawaii he and other players mostly tanned on the beach and drank. Embarrassed by his lifestyle, DiMaggio demanded combat duty in 1943, but was turned down.
In January 1937, DiMaggio met actress Dorothy Arnold on the set of Manhattan Merry-Go-Round, in which he had a minor role, and she was an extra. They married at San Francisco’s St. Peter and Paul Church on November 19, 1939, as 20,000 well-wishers jammed the streets. Their son, Joseph Paul DiMaggio III, was born at Doctors Hospital on October 23, 1941. The couple divorced in 1944. According to her autobiography, Marilyn Monroe originally did not want to meet DiMaggio, fearing that he was a stereotypical arrogant athlete. They eloped at San Francisco City Hall on January 14, 1954. An incident between the couple is supposed to have occurred immediately after the skirt-blowing scene in The Seven Year Itch that was filmed on September 14, 1954, in front of Manhattan’s Trans-Lux 52nd Street Theater. Then-20th Century Fox’s East Coast correspondent Bill Kobrin told the Palm Springs Desert Sun that it was director Billy Wilder’s idea to turn the shoot into a media circus. The couple then had a “yelling battle” in the theater lobby. A month later, she contracted the services of celebrity attorney Jerry Giesler and filed for divorce on grounds of mental cruelty nine months after the wedding. After the failure of their marriage, DiMaggio had undergone therapy, stopped drinking alcohol and expanded his interests beyond baseball: he and Monroe read poetry together in their later years. DiMaggio re-entered Monroe’s life as her marriage to Arthur Miller was ending. On February 10, 1961, he secured her release from Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic. She joined him in Florida where he was a batting coach for the Yankees. Their “just friends” claim did not stop remarriage rumors from flying. Reporters staked out her Manhattan apartment building. Bob Hope “dedicated” Best Song nominee “The Second Time Around” to them at the 33rd Academy Awards. According to Maury Allen’s biography, DiMaggio was alarmed at how Monroe had fallen in with people he felt were detrimental to her well-being. Val Monette, owner of a military post-exchange supply company, told Allen that DiMaggio left his employ on August 1, 1962, because he had decided to ask Monroe to remarry him. She was found dead in her Brentwood, Los Angeles, home on August 5 after housekeeper Eunice Murray telephoned Monroe’s psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson. DiMaggio’s son had spoken to Monroe on the phone the night of her death and claimed that she seemed fine. Her death was deemed a probable suicide by “Coroner to the Stars” Thomas Noguchi, but has been the subject of numerous conspiracy theories.
DiMaggio, a heavy smoker for much of his adult life, was admitted to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Florida, on October 12, 1998, for lung cancer surgery and remained there for 99 days. He returned to his Hollywood, Florida home on January 19, 1999, where he died on March 8. Joe DiMaggio’s final words were: “I finally get to see Marilyn”, referring to his former wife Marilyn Monroe. DiMaggio’s funeral was held on March 11, 1999, at Sts. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church in San Francisco; he was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, California. DiMaggio’s son died the following August at age 57. A highway lining the Hudson River in Manhattan, New York from the end of Lower Manhattan is named the Joe DiMaggio Highway. It runs for the entire way.
At his death, The New York Times called Joe DiMaggio’s 1941 56-game hitting streak “perhaps the most enduring record in sports.” In an article in 1976 in Esquire magazine, sportswriter Harry Stein published an “All Time All-Star Argument Starter”, consisting of five ethnic baseball teams. Joe DiMaggio was the center fielder on Stein’s Italian team. On September 17, 1992, the doors were opened at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Florida, for which he raised over $4,000,000. On April 13, 1998, DiMaggio was given the Sports Legend Award at the 13th annual American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame Awards Dinner in New York City. Dr. Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State and a longtime fan of DiMaggio’s, made the presentation to the Yankee great. The event was one of DiMaggio’s last public appearances before taking ill. Yankee Stadium’s fifth monument was dedicated to DiMaggio on April 25, 1999, and the West Side Highway was officially renamed in his honor. The Yankees wore DiMaggio’s number 5 on the left sleeves of their uniforms for the 1999 season. He is ranked No. 11 on The Sporting News’ list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and he was elected by fans to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. In addition to his number 5 being retired by the New York Yankees, DiMaggio’s number was also retired by the Florida Marlins, who retired it in honor of their first team president, Carl Barger, who died five months before the team took the field for the first time in 1993. DiMaggio had been his favorite player.
An auction of Joe DiMaggio’s personal items was held by the adopted daughters of DiMaggio’s son in May 2006. Highlights included the ball hit to break Wee Willie Keeler’s hitting-streak record ($63,250); his 2,000th career hit ball ($29,900); his 1947 Most Valuable Player Award ($281,750); the uniform worn in the 1951 World Series ($195,500); his Hall of Fame ring ($69,000); a photograph Marilyn autographed “I love you Joe” ($80,500); her passport ($115,000); and their marriage certificate ($23,000). Lot 758, DiMaggio’s white 1991 Mercedes 420 SEL sedan, which was a gift from the New York Yankees commemorating the 50th anniversary of DiMaggio’s 1941 season, sold for $18,000. The event netted a total of $4.1 million. On August 8, 2011, the United States Postal Service announced that DiMaggio would appear on a stamp for the first time. It was issued as part of the “Major League Baseball All-Star Stamp Series” which came out in July 2012.
William Malcom Dickey was born on June 6th, 1907 in Bastrop, Louisiana. He was one of seven children to parents John and Laura Dickey. His father, John, worked as a brakeman for the Missouri Pacific Railroad. He had also played semi-professional baseball for a team based in Memphis Tennessee. Eventually, the family moved to Kennett, Arkansas. William (Bill) attended high school in Searcy, Arkansas; he was a pitcher and second baseman for the schools baseball team. After graduating, he attended Little Rock College where he played guard for the school’s American football team and pitcher for the baseball team. Bill substituted for a friend on a semi-professional team in Hot Springs, Arkansas as a catcher. His throwing arm impressed the team’s manager. Lena Blackburne (manager of the Little Rock Travelers) was out scouting an outfielder for the team and noticed Bill Dickey. She signed him to play for her team.
In 1925 at the age of 18, Bill Dickey made his professional debut in the minor leagues. He was with the Little Rock Travelers of the Class A Southern Association. Players would be sent between Little Rock, the Muskogee Athletics of the Class C Western Association, and the Jackson Senators of the Class D Cotton States League. Dickey playing in three grams for Little Rock in 1925, and the was assigned to Muskogee in 1926. He had a .238 batting average in 61 games. He then returned to Little Rock, and batted .391 in 17 games at the end of the season. All in all he played 101 games for Jackson in 1927, batting .297 with three home runs.
After the 1927 season, Jackson waived Bill Dickey. A scout for the New York Yankees (Johnny Nee,) spoke with the GM at the time saying they should take him. The Yankees bought Dickey from Jackson for $12,500 (in current dollar terms: $172,553.) Even while suffering through influenza during spring training in 1928, Dickey managed to impress the Miller Huggins (Yankee Manager.) After appearing in three games for Buffalo, Dickey finally made his Major League Debut with the Yankees on August 15, 1928. His first hit was a triple on August 24th. In 1929, Benny Bengough (Yankee’s starting catcher) was replaced by Dickey. Bill Dickey hit .324 with 10 home runs and 65 RBI’s. He led catchers with 95 assists and 13 double plays. In 1931, Bill Dickey made minimal errors and batted .327 with a 78 RBI. This was the same year that he was named by The Sporting News to it’s All-Star Team. In the late 1930’s, Dickey had some of his finest offensive seasons ever by a catcher, he hit over 20 home runs and had a 100 RBI in four consecutive seasons (from 1936 through 1939.) His batting average in 1936 (.362) was the highest single-season average ever recorded by a catcher. This was later tied by Mike Piazza in 1997, and broke by Joe Mauer in 2009. In 1932, Dickey received a 30-day suspension and $1,000 fine after breaking the jaw of Carl Reynolds during a game. In the 1932 World Series, he batted 7-for-16, with three walks, 4 RBI and scored two runs. In 1936, Dickey hit .362, finishing third in the AL behind Luke Appling (.388) and Earl Averill (.378). Bill Dickey sought a salary of $25,000 in 1936, he signed a contract fro a $20,500 salary in 1940.
During the season of 1941, it marked the thirteenth year in which he caught at least 100 games, this was an MLB record. He also set a double play record and led AL catchers with a .994 fielding percentage. In 1942, Dickey suffered a shoulder injury which ended his streak of catching 100 games in one season. During this time Dickey’s backup, Buddy Rosar, left the team without permission so he could take an entrance exam for the Buffalo Police Force and to be with his wife and soon-to-be-born child. Yankee’s Manager Joe McCarthy signed Rollie Hemsley to be the second string catcher, making Rosar third string. Bill Dickey was watching his playing time dissipate with the new addition to the team. He returned to the team again in 1942. In 1943, Dickey hit the series-clinching home run for the 1943 World Series. After this, he was honored as the player of the year by the New York chapter of the Baseball Writer’s Association of America.
After the 1943 season, Dickey was rumored to be a candidate for the Philadelphia Phillies. However, on March 15, 1944 Dickey entered the United States Navy. He was discharged in 1946. Returning to the Yankee’s in 1946, Dickey was able to become player-manager after Joe McCarthy resigned. Under Dickey’s command, the Yankee’s were 57-48. During this time, Larry MacPhail refused to give Dickey a new contract until after the season. Dickey resigned on September 12, but remained as a player. After the season, Dickey ultimately retired from playing. He had in total 202 home runs, 1,209 RBI and a .313 batting average. in 1947, Dickey managed the Travelers. The team finished with a 51-103 record, last in the Southern Association. Returning as a first base coach to the Yankees in 1949, Dickey became an aid to Yogi Berra (who was playing first base.) Berra inherited Dickey’s old number of 8, so Dickey wore 33 until the end of the 1960 season. When Berra moved to the outfield, Dickey instructed Elston Howard on catching.
In 1942, while still an active player, Dickey appeared as himself in the film The Pride of the Yankees, which starred Gary Cooper as the late Yankee captain and first baseman Lou Gehrig. Late in the movie, when Gehrig was fading due to the disease that would eventually take his life, a younger Yankee grumbled, in the locker room, “the old man on first needs crutches to get around!”—and Dickey, following the script, belted the younger player, after which he said the kid “talked out of turn.”Dickey also appeared as himself in the film The Stratton Story in 1949. In the film, Dickey was scripted to take a called third strike from Jimmy Stewart’s character. Dickey objected, stating “I never took a third strike. I always swung”, and asking the director, Sam Wood, to allow him to swing through the third strike; Wood insisted that Dickey take the third strike. After many takes, Dickey commented: “I’ve struck out more times this morning than I did throughout my entire baseball career.”
On October 5, 1932, Dickey married Violet Arnold, a New York showgirl, at St. Mark’s Church in Jackson Heights, New York. The couple had one child, Lorraine, born in 1935. Dickey was an excellent quail hunter. He spent part of his retirement in the 1970s and 1980s residing in the Yarborough Landing community on the shore of Millwood Lake in southwestern Arkansas. He died in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1993.
Dickey was noted for his excellent hitting and his ability to handle pitchers. He was also known for his relentlessly competitive nature. Dickey was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1954. In 1972, the Yankees retired the number 8 in honor of Dickey and Berra. On August 22, 1988, the Yankees honored both Dickey and Berra by hanging plaques honoring them in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. Dickey opined that Berra was “An elementary Yankee” who’s “considered the greatest catcher of all time.” Dickey was named in 1999 to The Sporting News list of Baseball’s Greatest Players, ranking number 57, trailing Johnny Bench (16), Josh Gibson (18), Yogi Berra (40), and Roy Campanella (50) among catchers. Like those catchers, Dickey was a nominee for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team, but the fan balloting chose Berra and Bench as the two catchers on the team. In 2007, Dickey-Stephens Park opened in North Little Rock, Arkansas. The ballpark was named after Bill; his brother George; and two famous Arkansas businessmen, Jackson and Witt Stephens.
Yogi Berra was born Lorenzo Pietro Berra on May 12, 1925 in a primarily Italian neighborhood of St. Louis called “The Hill” to Italian immigrants Pietro and Paolina Berra. In a 2005 interview, Yogi said, “My father came over first. He came from the old country. And he didn’t know what baseball was. He was ready to go to work. And then I had three other brothers and a sister. My brother and my mother came over later on. My two oldest brothers, they were born there—Mike and Tony. John and I and my sister Josie were born in St. Louis.” Yogi Berra grew up on Elizabeth Avenue, across the street from boyhood friend and later competitor Joe Garagiola. Berra attended South Side Catholic, now called St. Mary’s High School, in south St. Louis alongside Garagiola. That block was also home to Jack Buck, and it was later renamed “Hall of Fame Place”.
Berra began playing baseball in local American Legion leagues where he learned the basics of catching while playing outfield and infield positions, as well. He also played for a Cranston, Rhode Island team. While playing in American Legion baseball, he received his famous nickname from his friend Jack Maguire, who said that he resembled a Hindu yogi whenever he sat around with arms and legs crossed waiting to bat or while looking sad after a losing game.
In 1942, the St. Louis Cardinals picked Berra’s best friend Joe Garagiola to play for the team. At first, the Cardinals seemed to think Garagiola was the better pick, but team president Branch Rickey had an ulterior motive: Knowing he was soon to leave St. Louis to take over the operation of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Rickey planned to hold Berra off until he could sign him for the Dodgers. But, the Yankees grabbed Berra for the same $500 bonus the Cardinals offered Garagiola before Rickey could sign Berra to the Dodgers.
Yogi Berra served in the Navy during World War II as a gunner’s mate on the attack transport USS Bayfield during the D-Day invasion of France. Berra was one of a six-man crew on a Navy rocket boat, firing machine guns and launching rockets at the German defenses at Omaha Beach. He was fired upon, but was not hit, and later received several commendations for his bravery. Following his military service, Berra played minor-league baseball with the Newark Bears, surprising the team’s manager with his talent despite his short stature. He was mentored by Hall of Famer Bill Dickey, whose uniform number Berra took. He later said, “I owe everything I did in baseball to Bill Dickey.”
Berra played his first game on September 22, 1946, and went on to play 7 more games that season and 83 games in 1947, for the Yankees. He played more than one hundred in each of the following fourteen years. Berra appeared in fourteen World Series, including 10 World Series championships. Berra was an All-Star for 15 seasons, and was selected to 18 All-Star Games (MLB held two All-Star Games in 1959 through 1962). He won the American League MVP award in 1951, 1954, and 1955; Berra never finished lower than fourth in the MVP voting from 1950 to 1957. He received MVP votes in fifteen consecutive seasons, tied with Barry Bonds and second only to Hank Aaron’s nineteen straight seasons with MVP support. From 1949 to 1955, on a team filled with stars such as Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, it was Berra who led the Yankees in RBI for seven consecutive seasons. One of the most notable games of Berra’s playing career came when he caught Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, the first of only two no-hitters ever thrown in MLB postseason play. The pictures of Berra leaping into Larsen’s arms following the 27th out are among the sport’s most memorable images.
Yogi Berra was famous for hitting poor pitches, covering all areas of the strike zone (as well as beyond) with great extension. In addition to this wide plate coverage, he also had great bat control. He was able both to swing the bat like a golf club to hit low pitches for deep home runs and to chop at high pitches for line drives. Whether changing speeds or location, pitcher Early Wynn soon discovered that “Berra moves right with you.” Five times, Berra had more home runs than strikeouts in a season, striking out just twelve times in 597 at-bats in 1950. The combination of bat control and plate coverage made Berra a feared “clutch hitter”, proclaimed by rival manager Paul Richards “the toughest man in the league in the last three innings”.
As a catcher Berra was even more outstanding. Quick, mobile, and a great handler of pitchers, Berra led all American League catchers eight times in games caught and in chances accepted, six times in double plays (a major-league record), eight times in putouts, three times in assists, and once in fielding percentage. Berra left the game with AL records for catcher putouts (8,723) and chances accepted (9,520). He was also one of only four catchers ever to field 1.000 in a season, playing 88 errorless games in 1958. He was the first catcher to leave one finger outside his glove, a style that most other catchers eventually emulated. In June 1962, at the age of 37, Berra showed his superb physical endurance by catching an entire 22-inning, seven-hour game against the Detroit Tigers. Casey Stengel, Berra’s manager during most of his playing career with the Yankees and with the Mets in 1965, once said, “I never play a game without my man.” According to the Win Shares formula developed by sabermetrician Bill James, Berra is the greatest catcher of all time and the 52nd-greatest non-pitching player in major-league history. Berra caught a record 173 shutouts during his career, ranking him first all-time among major league catchers.
Berra retired after the 1963 World Series, and was immediately named to succeed Ralph Houk as manager of the Yankees. Much was made of an incident on board the team bus in August 1964 involving Phil Linz, who was playing his harmonica. Berra ordered him to stop and when he didn’t stop playing, Berra slapped the harmonica out of his hands. Everybody forgot about the incident when Berra’s Yankees rode a September surge to return to the World Series, but when the team lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games, Yogi Berra was fired. Houk, who was general manager at the time, said the decision to fire Berra was made in late August and that the incident with Linz had nothing to do with it. Although he didn’t elaborate, Houk said that he and the rest of the Yankee brain trust did not feel Berra was ready to manage. Players, however, said the incident actually solidified his managerial authority and helped him lead them to the Series.
Yogi Berra was then immediately signed to the Mets as a coach. He also put in four cameo appearances as a catcher early in the season. His last at-bat came on May 9, 1965, just three days shy of his 40th birthday. Berra stayed with the Mets as a coach under Stengel, Wes Westrum, and Gil Hodges for the next seven seasons, including their 1969 World Series Championship season. He then became the team’s manager in 1972, following Hodges’ unexpected death in spring training. Berra’s tenure as Mets manager ended with his firing on August 5, 1975. He had a record of 298 wins and 302 losses, which included the 1973 postseason. In 1976, he rejoined the Yankees as a coach. The team won its first of three consecutive AL titles, as well as the 1977 World Series and 1978 World Series, and (as had been the case throughout his playing days) Berra’s reputation as a lucky charm was reinforced. Casey Stengel once said of his catcher, “He’d fall in a sewer and come up with a gold watch.” Berra was named Yankee manager before the 1984 season. Berra agreed to stay in the job for 1985 after receiving assurances that he would not be terminated, but the impatient Steinbrenner reneged, firing Berra anyway after the 16th game of the season. Moreover, instead of firing him personally, Steinbrenner dispatched Clyde King to deliver the news for him. The incident caused a rift between Berra and Steinbrenner that was not mended for almost 15 years. In 1999, after George Steinbrenner ventured to Berra’s home in New Jersey to apologize in person for having mishandled Berra’s firing as Yankee manager, Berra ended his 14-year estrangement from the Yankee organization and worked in spring-training camp with catcher Jorge Posada.
Berra and former teammate Phil Rizzuto were partners in a bowling alley venture in Clifton, New Jersey, originally called Rizzuto-Berra Lanes. The two eventually sold their stakes in the alley to new owners, who changed its name to Astro Bowl before selling the property to a developer, who closed the bowling alley in 1999 and converted it into retail space.
Over the years, Yogi Berra received many honors and awards. These include: receiving the Boy Scouts of America’s Silver Buffalo Award, being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame (1972), receiving an honorary doctorate from Montclair State University (1996), and appearing at No. 40 on The Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players (1998). The No. 8 was retired in 1972 by the Yankees, jointly honoring Berra and Bill Dickey, his predecessor as the Yankees’ star catcher. On August 22, 1988, Berra and Dickey were honored with plaques to be hung in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. Berra’s plaque calls him “A legendary Yankee” and cites his most frequent quote, “It ain’t over till it’s over”. However, the honor was not enough to shake Berra’s conviction that Steinbrenner had broken their personal agreement; Berra did not set foot in the stadium for another decade, until Steinbrenner publicly apologized to Berra. At the 2008 All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium, Berra had the honor of being the last of the 49 Hall of Famers in attendance to be announced. The hometown favorite received the loudest standing ovation of the group.
On July 18, 1999, Berra was honored with “Yogi Berra Day” at Yankee Stadium. Don Larsen threw the ceremonial first pitch to Berra to honor the perfect game of the 1956 World Series. The celebration marked the return of Berra to the stadium, after the end of his 14-year feud with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. In 2008, Berra was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. In 1998, the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center and Yogi Berra Stadium opened on the campus of Montclair State University in New Jersey. Berra was involved with the project and frequently visited the museum for signings, discussions, and other events. It was his intention to teach children important values such as sportsmanship and dedication on and off the baseball diamond. Berra was also involved in causes related to his Italian American heritage. He was a longtime supporter of the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) and helped fund raise for the Foundation. He was inducted into the Italian American Hall of Fame in 2004. Yogi was also named “Wisest Fool of the Past 50 Years” by The Economist magazine in January 2005.
On November 24, 2015, Berra was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously by President Barack Obama in a ceremony at the White House attended by members of Berra’s family, who accepted the award on his behalf. At the ceremony, the President said: “Today we celebrate some extraordinary people. Innovators, artists and leaders who contribute to America’s strength as a nation.” Celebrating Berra’s military service and remarkable baseball career, Obama used one of Berra’s famous ‘Yogiisms’, saying, “One thing we know for sure: If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him.”
Berra married Carmen Short on January 26, 1949. They had three sons and were longtime residents of Montclair, New Jersey, until his wife’s declining health caused them to move into a nearby assisted living facility. Berra’s sons also played professional sports: Dale Berra played shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Yankees (managed by Yogi in 1984–85), and Houston Astros; Tim Berra played pro football for the Baltimore Colts in 1974; and Larry Berra played for three minor league teams in the New York Mets organization. Carmen Berra died on March 6, 2014, of complications from a stroke, the couple having recently celebrated their 65th anniversary. Following Carmen’s death, the house in Montclair was listed for sale at $888,000, a reference to Yogi’s uniform number.
Berra died at age 90 of natural causes in his sleep in West Caldwell, New Jersey, on September 22, 2015 – 69 years to the day after his MLB debut. The Yankees added a number “8” patch to their uniforms in honor of Berra, and the Empire State Building was lit with vertical blue and white Yankee “pinstripes” on September 23. New York City lowered all flags in the city to half-staff for a day in tribute. A moment of silence was held before the September 23 games of the Yankees, Dodgers, Astros, Mets, Nationals, Tigers, Pirates, and his hometown St. Louis Cardinals, as well as the ALPB’s Long Island Ducks. The Yogi Berra Museum held a tribute on October 4. Berra’s funeral services were held on September 29. He was interred at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in East Hanover, New Jersey.
Elston Gene “Ellie” Howard was born on February 23, 1929 in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Emmaline Webb and Travis Howard. A schoolteacher in Sikeston, Missouri, Emmaline fled to St. Louis when Howard, her principal, refused to marry her. She worked to become a dietitian, and when Elston Howard was 5 years old, she married Wayman “Big Poppy” Hill. Howard attended the Toussaint L’Ouverture school as well as the Mt. Zion Baptist Church.The church’s pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah M. Baker, became Elston’s godfather, and the boy was raised to work hard and eat right. Howard grew up to be an American professional baseball catcher, left fielder and coach. During his 14-year baseball career, he played in the Negro leagues and Major League Baseball from 1948 through 1968, primarily for the New York Yankees though he also played for the Kansas City Monarchs and the Boston Red Sox.
In the summer of 1945, Howard, then 16, was playing baseball in a sandlot when Frank Tetnus “Teannie” Edwards approached him. “The biggest kid on the field was hitting the ball so hard and far that it made Teannie mad,” wrote Arlene Howard in her book Elston and Me. “When he got to the field he found out that the big kid was, in fact, one of the youngest on the lot.” Edwards, a former Negro Leagues player himself, helped run the St. Louis Braves and he wanted Elston. Convincing Emmaline was the hardest part. Edwards had to promise that young Elston would eat properly. On Easter Sunday 1946, Howard debuted in the Tandy League, catching in a game against Kinloch. He had two hits and threw out two runners trying to steal second in a 5-4 loss.The following year, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the Major Leagues.
Now 18, Howard was working at Bauer’s grocery store and finishing at all-black Vashon High School. After Robinson’s debut, Vashon hastily formed a baseball team. Elston Howard was already a star athlete at Vashon, playing football, running track, and making all-state in basketball. He was easily the best player in baseball, as well, and after graduating from Vashon, he played another summer with the Braves. He was urged by Teannie Edwards to attend an open tryout for the St. Louis Cardinals at Sportsman’s Park, but the Cardinals turned a blind eye. Meanwhile, college beckoned, with three Big Ten schools (Illinois, Michigan and Michigan State) asking for his services in football and several others interested in him for track, basketball, and baseball. Emmaline was hoping her son might grow up to be a doctor. But Edwards called in scouts from the Kansas City Monarchs, the elite Negro Leagues team Jackie Robinson had played for. The Monarchs were so impressed that they went to his mother to negotiate a professional contract. Elston would get $500 a month, mailed directly to her.
Elston Howard played under manager Buck O’Neil for three years as an outfielder and roomed with Ernie Banks. He was signed by the Yankees on July 19, 1950, after being purchased along with Frank Barnes and they were assigned to the Muskegon Clippers, the Yankees’ farm team in the Central League. Now 21, Howard debuted on July 26, 1950, in left field for the Class A Muskegon, Michigan, Clippers. He would earn $400 a month. The Clippers had a 39-46 record when he arrived, and went 36-18 in the 54 games he played, making the playoffs. Howard batted cleanup and hit well, but the Clippers fell short of the league championship.
Returning to St. Louis for the off-season, Elston announced his decision to marry his high school sweetheart, Delores Williams. Just before the wedding, he was drafted into the Army, at the height of the Korean War. While he was in basic training, the marriage with Delores was dissolved — there are conflicting stories as to why. Elston Howard was sent overseas, but he never fought in Korea. Once the Army realized it had a great baseball player on its hands, he was assigned to Special Services and sent to Japan. That was all Howard ever did in the army: play baseball. Howard missed the 1951 and 1952 seasons due to his military service in the United States Army. In 1953, Elston Howard played for the Kansas City Blues of the Class AAA American Association. The next year, the Yankees invited Howard to spring training and began to convert him into a catcher, despite the presence of Yogi Berra as the Yankees’ starting catcher. He played for the Toronto Maple Leafs of the Class AAA International League in 1954. He led the league in triples and won the league’s MVP award.
Shortly before Christmas, Elston proposed to Arlene Henley. He spent February 1954 at “Yankee Prospects School” with 28 other ballplayers in Lake Wales, Florida, and March at spring training with the big club. Bill Dickey, former Yankee great, worked with him to make him a major league catcher. When the Yankees broke camp, they took three catchers north with them: Berra, Silvera, and Houk. They didn’t want to send Elston Howard back to the Blues, so they arranged for him to play with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the International League. Elston Howard won the league MVP Award, hit .330, with 22 homers and 109 RBIs. At the end of the season, he gave Arlene an engagement ring, and they planned to marry in the spring of 1955 but the Yankees decided to send Howard to winter ball in Puerto Rico so the wedding to Arlene was rushed to December 4, 1954. Howard’s godfather, Reverend Baker, married them in Arlene’s mother’s living room. They honeymooned in San Juan, where they lived in the same building as Willie Mays and Sam Jones. Then Howard was off to St. Petersburg for Yankee camp, Arlene back to St. Louis, pregnant with the couple’s first child.
His on-field debut happened on April 14 at Fenway Park, subbing for Irv Noren, who had been ejected for arguing with an umpire. Perhaps the most memorable effect of Howard’s presence on the Yankees that year, though, was that the team changed its hotel policy, staying only in hotels that would accept Howard as a guest. Elston hit .290 in 97 games his rookie season, with another five hits in the World Series, including a home run in his first World Series at-bat. That performance was offset by eight strikeouts, and the Dodgers won their first World Series. Howard made the final out of the Series, then traveled to Japan with the Yankees for a good will tour. On the 25-game tour of the Pacific, Howard hit .468 to lead the team. Meanwhile, Elston Jr. was born.
In the 1955 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, Howard hit a home run in his first at bat, which tied the game 2-2; the Yankees won 6-5, but it was Howard’s ground ball out to Pee Wee Reese in Game 7 which ended the Series, the first time in six meetings that the Yankees lost to Brooklyn. In the 1956 World Series against Brooklyn he played only in Game 7, but his solo home run off Newcombe in the fourth inning was one of four Yankee HRs in the 9-0 victory. Howard’s pay jumped in 1956 from $6,000 to $10,000, he bought a house in St. Louis, and then heard from Stengel that he would be doing more catching. Norm Siebern went down, and Howard had to fill the gap in the outfield. He appeared in only 98 games, 26 at catcher, and finished the year with a so-so .262 batting average, 5 homers, and 34 RBIs. While he had started all seven World Series games in 1955, the team’s acquisition of Enos Slaughter kept Howard on the bench for the first six Series games in 1956. Nonetheless, Stengel started him in Game Seven, and Howard homered and doubled in the 9-0 Yankee win. Against the Milwaukee Braves in the 1957 World Series, his three-run homer off Warren Spahn with two outs in the ninth inning of Game 4 tied the score 4-4, though Milwaukee won 7-5 in the 10th inning.
As the 1958 season opened, hope for regular catching duties again flared. The Howards bought a house in Teaneck, New Jersey. Elston Howard was in left field again on Opening Day in Boston. Daughter Cheryl was born on May 9. At one point Howard’s batting average reached .350, but he would not have enough plate appearances to qualify for the title should his average hold up. In the 1958 World Series, Elston Howard’s impact did not become notable until Game 5, when he caught Red Schoendienst’s sinking fly ball in the sixth inning and made a throw to catch Bill Bruton off first base for a double play, preserving a 1-0 lead. In Game 6, he threw Andy Pafko out at the plate in the second inning, and singled and scored with two out in the tenth inning for a 4-2 Yankee lead; the run proved decisive, as the Braves came back to score once in the bottom of the frame. In Game 7, his two-out RBI single scored Berra for a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning, with New York going on to a 6-2 win, completing only the second comeback by a team from a 3-1 deficit in a Series. Elston Howard was later given the Babe Ruth Award, presented by the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, as the top player in the Series, although the World Series MVP Award was won by teammate Bob Turley. The Howards bought a vacant lot in Teaneck on which to build a larger house. Mayor Matty Feldman begged them not to build in a white neighborhood. The Howards ignored him, and although they suffered graffiti and sabotage during building, they moved in toward the end of the 1963 season.
The first African American player on the Yankees roster, Elston Howard was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player for the 1963 pennant winners after finishing third in the league in slugging average and fifth in home runs, becoming the first black player in AL history to win the honor. He won Gold Glove Awards in 1963 and 1964, in the latter season setting AL records for putouts and total chances in a season. His lifetime fielding percentage of .993 was a major league record from 1967 to 1973, and he retired among the AL career leaders in putouts (7th, 6,447) and total chances (9th, 6,977).
The MVP Award meant off-season banquets and Howard gained ten pounds speaking on the dinner circuit. The award also brought commercial endorsements, and Elston, his wife, and family were featured in ads for oatmeal, mustard, and beer. Howard also became the first black man to ever model clothes for GQ magazine. His salary for 1964 jumped to $60,000, making him one of the best paid players in baseball.
In 1965, Elston injured his elbow during spring training. He played in four games through April, and then had surgery, missing five more weeks. On August 3, 1967, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Pete Magrini and Ron Klimkowski. Though he batted only .147 for Boston, he was effective in handling the pitchers; teammate Tony Conigliaro noted, “I don’t think I ever saw a pitcher shake off one of his signs. They had too much respect for him.” In 1967, Howard also took over Sherm Lollar’s major-league record for career fielding average. Elston Howard had his last postseason highlight in the 1967 World Series against the Cardinals when his bases-loaded single in the ninth inning of Game 5 drove in two runs for a 3-0 lead. The hit was crucial, as former teammate Maris homered in the bottom of the inning for the Cardinals before the Red Sox closed out the 3-1 win. St. Louis, however, won the Series in seven games. It was the sixth losing World Series team Elston Howard played on; he and Pee Wee Reese have the dubious distinction for playing on the most losing World Series teams.
On October 29, 1968, Howard was released by the Red Sox. Over his 14-year career, he batted .274 with 167 home runs, 1,471 hits, 762 RBI, 619 runs, 218 doubles, 50 triples and nine stolen bases in 1,605 games. His .427 slugging average trailed those of only Dickey (.486), Berra (.482) and Mickey Cochrane (.478) among AL catchers. His 54 total World Series games placed him behind only teammates Berra and Mantle. Howard is also credited with being the first to use the extended index and pinky finger (corna) to indicate that there were two out in the inning, this being more visible to teammates in the outfield than the usual “two” gesture of the index and middle fingers.
The next year he returned to the Yankees, where he served as first-base coach from 1969 to 1979 making him the first black coach in the American League. The team became World Series champions in 1977 and 1978 and AL champions in 1976. In 1977 during a game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, Howard and Yogi Berra were peacemakers during a dugout incident between Yankees player Reggie Jackson and Yankees manager Billy Martin.
While coaching, he took part in various side businesses, including a printing company; opening an art gallery with Arlene in Englewood, New Jersey, to sell Haitian and modern art; heading a division of Group Travel, for whom he was the star attraction on corporate tours and cruises; the Elston Howard Sausage Company concession stand at Yankee Stadium; and serving as vice chairman of the board of Home State Bank, an interracially owned bank that catered to the black community. Howard is also credited with inventing the batting “donut”, a circular lead weight with a rubber shell used by waiting batters in the on-deck circle by placing it around a bat to make it feel heavier, so that the bat will feel lighter at the plate and easier to swing. Its widespread use caused the discontinuation of the practice of hitters swinging multiple bats at the same time while waiting to hit. Howard helped two New Jersey entrepreneurs, Frank Hamilton and Vince Salvucci, to market the bat weight and lent his name to the product. George Steinbrenner, who bought the Yankees in 1973, would not make Howard a manager, but he did make occasional noises about wanting to move Elston from coaching to the front office. Meanwhile, at Yankee Stadium, he became the important counterbalance to the fiery Billy Martin in “The Bronx Zoo.” He coached through the 1978 season.
In mid-February 1979, after nearly collapsing at La Guardia airport, Elston Howard was diagnosed with myocarditis and could not participate in spring training. Steinbrenner told him not to worry and when he recovered, his coaching job would be waiting, and he stayed on the payroll. In February 1980, a year after his attack at the airport, Elston was appointed by Steinbrenner to join the front office staff. He would be an assistant to Steinbrenner, and his duties ranged from appearing at banquets to scouting talent in the Yankees minor league system. His health never recovered, though, and he was often too weak to travel. His heart was giving out, and on December 4, 1980, he was admitted to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. Two weeks later, he died at age 51.
In Howard’s memory, the Yankees wore black armbands on their sleeve during the 1981 season. On July 21, 1984, the Yankees retired Howard’s uniform number 32 and dedicated a plaque in his honor for Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. On that day the Yankees also gave the same honors to Maris who, unlike Elston Howard, was still living. Howard’s plaque describes him as “A man of great gentleness and dignity” and “one of the truly great Yankees.”
To see stats and records, you can visit baseball reference’s site here.
Philip Francis ” Phil Rizzuto “, aka “The Scooter,” was born on September 25, 1917 in Brooklyn, NY, the son of a street car motorman. In the past, there has been confusion about his year of birth, stemming from Rizzuto’s “shaving a year off” the date at the beginning of his pro career, on the advice of teammates. Throughout his career, his birth year was reported as 1918 in both The Sporting News Baseball Register and the American League Red Book. After Rizzuto’s death, the New York Post broke a story reporting Rizzuto’s actual year of birth as 1916. However, it was subsequently reported that the New York City Department of Health said Rizzuto’s official birth certificate is, in fact, dated 1917.
Phil Rizzuto spent his entire baseball career playing for the Yankees. He was signed as an amateur free agent in 1937 and played his first major league game on April 14, 1941. Rizzuto completed his rookie season in the World Series, and though he hit poorly, the Yankees beat the Dodgers. The following year, Rizzuto led all hitters, for both the Yankees and the opposing St. Louis Cardinals, with 8 hits and a .381 average in the 1942 World Series. His career was interrupted by a stint in the United States Navy during World War II. From 1943 through 1945, he played on a Navy baseball team alongside Dodgers shortstop Reese; the team was managed by Yankees catcher Bill Dickey.
In 1950, his MVP season, he hit .324 with 200 hits and 92 walks, and scored 125 runs. While leading the league in fielding percentage, Rizzuto handled 238 consecutive chances without an error, setting the single-season record for shortstops. He played 58 games at shortstop without an error from September 1949 through June 1950, breaking the AL record of 46 set by Eddie Joost in 1947-48. The record stood until Ed Brinkman played error-free for 72 games in 1972. Rizzuto recorded 123 double plays in 1950, three more than Crosetti’s total from 1938; it remains the Yankee record. His 1950 fielding percentage of .9817 led the league, and came within less than a point of Lou Boudreau’s league record of .9824, set in 1947. Rizzuto’s mark was a franchise record until 1976, when Yankees shortstop Fred Stanley posted a mark of .983.
Phil Rizzuto was voted MVP of the American League in 1950 and was the only MVP in history who led the league in sacrifice bunts. Rizzuto played in five All-Star Games, in 1942 and each year from 1950 to 1953. In 1950, he also won the Hickok Belt, which was awarded to the top professional athlete of the year, and was named Major League Player of the Year by The Sporting News. He was even voted top major league shortstop by The Sporting News for four consecutive years (1949–52). Rizzuto batted .320 in the 1951 World Series, for which the New York chapter of the BBWAA later voted him the Babe Ruth Award as the Series’ top player.
Ty Cobb named Rizzuto and Stan Musial as “two of the few modern ball players who could hold their own among old timers.” Yankees manager Casey Stengel had famously dismissed Rizzuto during that Brooklyn Dodgers tryout in 1935 when Stengel was managing that team, advising him to “go get a shoeshine box.” But Stengel ended up managing Rizzuto during five consecutive championship seasons, and would later say, “He is the greatest shortstop I have ever seen in my entire baseball career, and I have watched some beauties.” During his heyday, Yankees pitcher Vic Raschi noted, “My best pitch is anything the batter grounds, lines or pops in the direction of Rizzuto.” Decades into his retirement, teammate Joe DiMaggio characterized Rizzuto’s enduring appeal to fans: “People loved watching me play baseball. Scooter, they just loved.”
Rizzuto was released by the Yankees on August 25, 1956. Rizzuto often talked about the unusual circumstances of his release. Late in the 1956 season, the Yankees re-acquired Enos Slaughter, who had been with the team in 1954–55, and asked Rizzuto to meet with the front office to discuss adjustments to the upcoming postseason roster. They then asked Rizzuto to look over the list of Yankee players and suggest which ones might be cut to make room for Slaughter. For each name Rizzuto mentioned, a reason was given as to why that player needed to be kept. Finally, Rizzuto realized that the expendable name was his own. He called former teammate George Stirnweiss, who told him to refrain from “blasting” the Yankees because it might cost him a non-playing job later. Rizzuto said many times that following Stirnweiss’ advice was probably the best move he ever made.
After his retirement, he continued his legacy with the Bronx Bombers announcing countless games for 40 years with his sincere (and sometimes kooky) remarks. His idiosyncratic style and unpredictable digressions charmed listeners, while his lively play-by-play brought a distinct energy to his broadcasts. He was well known for his trademark expression, “Holy Cow!” Rizzuto also became known for saying “Unbelievable!” or “Did you see that?” to describe a great play, and would call somebody a “huckleberry” if he did something Rizzuto did not like. He would frequently wish listeners a happy birthday or anniversary, send get-well wishes to fans in hospitals, and speak well of restaurants he liked, or of the cannoli he ate between innings. He also joked about leaving the game early, saying to his wife, “I’ll be home soon, Cora!” and “I gotta get over that bridge”, referring to the nearby George Washington Bridge, which he would use to get back to his home in Hillside. In later years, Rizzuto would announce the first six innings of Yankee games; the TV director would sometimes puckishly show a shot of the bridge (which can be seen from the top of Yankee Stadium) after Rizzuto had departed. Rizzuto was also very phobic about lightning, and sometimes left the booth following violent thunderclaps. In retirement, he often tutored players on the bunt during spring training. In the announcing booth, Rizzuto talked about the several different kinds of bunts he would use in different situations. Later during his broadcasting career, he occasionally expressed disappointment that the art of bunting had largely been lost in baseball.
Not all of Rizzuto’s broadcasting experiences were jovial. On the evening of the funeral of former teammate Mickey Mantle (August 15, 1995 in Dallas, Texas), the Yankees were set to play a road game against the Boston Red Sox. Rizzuto understandably assumed that he would be allowed to miss the game to attend the funeral with former teammates, but was scheduled to call the game. WPIX and/or the Yankees refused to let him go, citing that “someone needed to do the color commentary.” Rizzuto eventually gave into emotion and abruptly left the booth in the middle of the telecast saying he could not go on. Rizzuto announced his retirement from announcing soon afterwards, which many attributed to the incident.He was eventually persuaded to return for one more season in 1996 where he called another Yankee shortstop protégé, Derek Jeter’s first home run. When he retired that season, he had spent parts of seven decades—virtually all of his adult life—in the Yankee organization as a minor league player, major league player and broadcaster. Although Mel Allen is to this day identified as “The Voice of the Yankees”, Rizzuto was the longest serving broadcaster in the history of the club; he called Yankees games for 40 years to Allen’s 35.
Rizzuto married Cora Anne Ellenborn on June 23, 1943; the two first met the previous year when Rizzuto substituted for Joe DiMaggio as a speaker at a Newark communion breakfast. “I fell in love so hard I didn’t go home”, Rizzuto recalled. He rented a nearby hotel room for a month to be near her. The Rizzutos moved to Hillside, New Jersey, in 1950, to a home on Windsor Way. With later financial successes, they moved to a Tudor home on Westminster Avenue, where they lived for many years.
During his playing days, Rizzuto (along with several other big leaguers) would work in the off season at the American Shops off U.S. Route 22 near Bayonne, New Jersey. At a charity event in 1951, Rizzuto met a young blind boy named Ed Lucas, who had lost his sight when he was struck by a baseball between the eyes on the same day as Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” Rizzuto took an interest in the boy and his school, St. Joseph’s School for the Blind. Until his death, Rizzuto raised millions for St. Joseph’s by donating profits from his commercials and books, and also by hosting the Annual Phil Rizzuto Celebrity Golf Classic and “Scooter” Awards. Rizzuto and Lucas remained friendly, and it was through the Yankee broadcaster’s influence that Lucas’s 2006 wedding was the only one ever conducted at Yankee Stadium. Lucas was one of Rizzuto’s last visitors at his nursing home, days before his death.
The Yankees retired Phil Rizzuto’s number 10 in a ceremony at Yankee Stadium on August 4, 1985. During this ceremony, he was also given a plaque to be placed in the stadium’s Monument Park. The plaque makes reference to the fact that he “has enjoyed two outstanding careers, all-time Yankee shortstop, one of the great Yankee broadcasters.” Humorously, Rizzuto was accidentally bumped to the ground during his own ceremony, by a live cow wearing a halo (that is, a “holy cow”); both honoree and cow were unhurt. Phil Rizzuto later described the encounter: “That big thing stepped right on my shoe and pushed me backwards, like a karate move.” He was later elected to the Hall of Fame in 1994 by the Veterans Committee, following a long campaign for Rizzuto’s election by Yankee fans who were frustrated that he had not received the honor. Rizzuto himself was more modest: “My stats don’t shout. They kind of whisper.” The push for Phil Rizzuto became especially acute after 1984, when the committee elected Pee Wee Reese, the similarly-regarded shortstop of the crosstown Brooklyn Dodgers.
Phil Rizzuto died in his sleep on August 13, 2007, three days short of the 51st anniversary of his last game as a Yankee, and one month shy of his 90th birthday. He had been in declining health for several years and was living at a nursing home in West Orange, New Jersey for the last months of his life. At the time of his death, at age 89, Rizzuto was the oldest living member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Don “Donny Baseball” Mattingly, born on April 20, 1961, first began playing baseball with the Yankees in 1982 and spent his 14 year career playing first base with the Bronx Bombers. Growing up in Evansville, Indiana, Mattingly was picked by the Yankees in an amateur draft. Throughout his career, Don Mattingly was named to the American League All-Star team six times. He has been recognized for many awards including nine Gold Glove Awards, three Silver Slugger Awards, MVP of the Atlantic League in 1985, and won the AL batting title in 1984. From 1991 to 1995 Mattingly was also team captain.
Though he was considered to be left handed during his baseball career, Mattingly is actually ambidextrous. He started playing baseball at a young age and was a member of the 1973 Great Scot Little League championship team. During high school, he played for the Tigers and led the school to a record 59 victories. They won the state championship in 1978 and in 1979, Don Mattingly received the L.V. Phillips Mental Attitude award. After high school, Mattingly accepted a scholarship to play for Indiana State. Though his father warned MLB that his son was going to go to college and not sign a professional contract, he signed with the Yankees receiving a $23,000 bonus.
Mattingly spent his rookie season of 1983 as a part-time first baseman and outfielder hitting .283 in 279 at-bats. He hit his first home run on June 24, 1983 against John Tudor of the Red Sox. Mattingly became the Yankees’ full-time first baseman in 1984 after Steve Balboni was traded to the Kansas City Royals. Heading into the final game of the season, Mattingly and teammate Dave Winfield were competing for the American League batting title, with Mattingly trailing Winfield by .002. Mattingly won the batting title with a .343 average and also led the league with 207 hits. .
In 1985, Mattingly won the MVP award in the American League. He batted .324 with 35 home runs, 48 doubles, and 145 RBIs. This was the most RBIs in a season by a left-handed major league batter since Ted Williams, who drove in 159 in 1949. Mattingly led the league with 15 sacrifice flies, 370 total bases, and 86 extra base hits. Overall, Don Mattingly was 2nd in the AL in hits and slugging percentage, 3rd in intentional walks and at bats per strikeout, 6th in runs, and 9th in at bats per home run. 1985 may just have been one of Donny Baseball’s best seasons in the Major League though he was also recognized in 1985 for his defense, winning his first of nine Gold Glove Awards. He was considered such an asset defensively that Yankees management assigned him to play games at second base and third base early in his career, even though he was a left-handed thrower. Mattingly appeared as a left-handed throwing second baseman for one-third of one inning, during the resumption of the “Pine Tar Incident” game in 1983. He also played three games as a left-handed throwing third baseman during a five-game series against the Seattle Mariners in 1986.
Don Mattingly did just as well in 1986, leading the league with 238 hits, 53 doubles, and breaking the single-season franchise records set by Earle Combs and Lou Gehrig. He also recorded 388 total bases and a .573 slugging percentage. He batted .352, hit 31 home runs, and drove in 113 runs. In 1987, Mattingly tied Dale Long’s major league record by hitting home runs in eight consecutive games, from July 8–18. Mattingly also set a record by recording an extra base hit in ten consecutive games. Mattingly had a record 10 home runs during this streak. Also that season, Mattingly set a major league record by hitting six grand slams in a season. Mattingly’s grand slams in 1987 were also the only six grand slams of his career.
In June 1987, it was reported that Mattingly injured his back during some clubhouse horseplay with pitcher Bob Shirley though both denied this. Nevertheless, he finished with a .327 batting average, 30 home runs, and 115 RBIs, his fourth straight year with at least 110 RBIs. Between 1985 and 1987, Mattingly hit 96 home runs with just 114 strikeouts. He was still in the top 10 in the league in batting average at a .311 clip. He rebounded in 1989 to 113 RBIs, but his average dipped to .303. Mattingly’s five runs scored on April 30, 1988, marked the 12th time it has been done by a Yankee. Mattingly’s back problems flared up in 1990; after struggling with the bat, he had to go on the disabled list only to return late in the season for an ineffective finish. Mattingly underwent extensive therapy in the off season, but his hitting ability was never quite the same. Though he averaged .290 over his final five seasons, he became more of a slap hitter, hitting just 53 home runs over that time frame. Mattingly’s defense remained stellar, but he was not always physically able to play.
In 1995, Mattingly finally reached the playoffs when the Yankees won the AL wild card on the next-to-last day of the season. In the only postseason series of his career, facing the Seattle Mariners, Mattingly batted .417 with six RBIs and a memorable go-ahead home run in Game Two, his final game at Yankee Stadium. In the final game of the series (and of his career), Mattingly again broke a tie with a two-run double. The New York bullpen faltered and Seattle won in the 11th inning of the decisive Game Five.
Unsigned for the 1996 season, Don Mattingly decided to sit out for the year, and rebuffed an inquiry by the Baltimore Orioles, who tried to sign him at midseason. Mattingly officially announced his retirement in January 1997. Mattingly never appeared on the World Series, and his tenure with the Yankees marks the team’s largest drought without a World Series appearance. Interestingly, the Yankees made the Series both the year prior to Mattingly’s rookie year, 1981, and the year after his last with the club, 1996. After retiring, Don Mattingly returned to the Yanks as a coach in 2004 for Joe Torre. When Torre left for the Dodgers in 2008, so did Mattingly. Once 2011 came, Mattingly became manager of the Dodgers until 2015 when he ended his time with the Dodgers for the Miami Marlins. Don Mattingly is still managing the Marlins today.
Alfred Manuel ” Billy ” Martin was born to parents Alfred Manuel Pesano, Sr. and Joan Salvini “Jenny” Pesano in Berkeley, California in 1928. Eight short months later, Martin’s father abandoned the family, leaving Jenny to raise her son on her own. Eventually, Jenny changed Billy’s last name to “Martin” because she did not want him to know he shared a name with Alfred Pesano. He began being called “Billy” after his grandmother started calling him “Bello” which is Italian for “beautiful.” In fact, such care had been taken to hide Martin’s birth name from him that he didn’t find out until entering junior high school.
Before Martin played for the Yankees, he was signed to the Oaks and played from 1948 to 1949, managed by Casey Stengel. When Stengel became the manager of the Yankees in 1949, he had the team obtain Martin. Billy Martin played for the New York Yankees from 1950 to 1957 as second baseman. During this time, the Yankees were a part of 5 world series wins. In the 1953 season, Martin had career highs in home runs (15), RBIs (75), doubles (24), triples (6), and times hit by pitch (6). He was the most valuable player of the 1953 World Series, as he batted .500 with a .958 slugging percentage and delivered with an RBI in Game 6 to clinch the series. Martin was an All-Star in 1956. In 1958, Martin led the league in sacrifice hits, with 13. Even though Martin was an excellent player, he got himself involved in many altercations. It is because of these altercations that Martin was traded to the Kansas City Athletics in 1957.
Later in his career, Martin managed the Yankees at five different times. The first time around, Billy Martin managed the Yankees from 1975 to 1978. With Martin at the helm, the Yankees went 30-26 in their final 56 games of the 1975 season; he then managed them to the World Series in 1976 (their first pennant since 1964) and 1977, winning in 1977. Though he took the Yankees to the World Series, Steinbrenner replaced Billy Martin with Bob Lemon. Soon afterward, at the annual Old-Timers’ Game at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees had public address announcer Bob Sheppard introduce an unemployed Martin as the Yankees’ next manager for the 1980 season. Steinbrenner and Martin had seemed to have patched up their differences, though it was short lived.
Steinbrenner fired Lemon and brought back Billy Martin earlier than previously planned. The Yankees failed to improve, however, and their streak of American League East division titles ended at three. After the 1979 season, Martin got into a fight with marshmallow salesman Joseph Cooper at a hotel in Minneapolis. Martin reportedly egged Cooper on, offering a $500 bet and later sucker punched Cooper when he agreed. Steinbrenner fired him after that and replaced him with Dick Howser for the 1980 season.
Martin returned to the New York Yankees in 1983, 1985, and 1988, but never for more than one full season. Each time, while his teams managed to make good accounts of themselves on the field, he was fired due to his behavior on and off the field. During the 1983 season, Martin was involved in one of the most controversial incidents, known as the Pine Tar Incident, where umpires nullified a go-ahead home run by Yankee nemesis, Kansas City Royals third baseman George Brett, when Martin protested that there was too much pine tar on his bat. Ultimately, American League President Lee MacPhail ruled in favor of the Royals’ protest, reinstating the home run, and replaying the game from the point of the nullification. At the start of the replayed game, Martin tried to protest on the grounds that Brett had missed a base. The umpires working this game, however, had anticipated this, and had obtained an affidavit from the crew who had worked the original game saying that Brett had indeed touched all the bases. On September 22, 1985, while at a hotel bar in Baltimore, Maryland, Martin fought one of his pitchers, Ed Whitson. Billy Martin suffered a broken arm, bruises, and cuts, while Whitson had a broken rib and a split lip. He was fired after the 1985 season.
Martin was married four times and had two children, a daughter named Kelly Ann and a son named Billy Joe. His first marriage was to Lois Berndt, by whom he had his daughter. The two divorced in 1955, and then he married Gretchen Winkler in 1961, by whom he had his son, and stayed married to her until 1979, when they divorced. He was married a third time, to Heather Ervolino, while he was managing in Oakland, but was never faithful to wife and eventually married a woman named Jillian Guiver, in January 1988.
On August 10, 1986, the Yankees retired Billy Martin’s uniform number 1 and dedicated a plaque in his honor for Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. The plaque contains the words, There has never been a greater competitor than Billy. Martin told the crowd, “I may not have been the greatest Yankee to put on the uniform, but I am the proudest.”
Unfortunately, Billy Martin was killed in a low speed, single vehicle collision during an ice storm at the end of the driveway to his farm in Port Crane, north of Binghamton, New York, on Christmas Day 1989. He was pronounced dead at a hospital in Johnson City, New York, where efforts to revive him were unsuccessful. At the time of his death, Martin was preparing to manage the Yankees a sixth time for the 1990 season, to the point of having assembled a coaching staff.
Bernabé Williams Figueroa Jr., or as many may know him as Bernie Williams, was born on September 13, 1968 to Bernabé Williams Figueroa Sr., a merchant marine and dispatcher, and Rufina Williams, a retired principal and college professor. Williams not only fell in love with Baseball but also music during his youth. His father brought home a flamenco guitar upon his return from service and introduced Williams to a world of music. He attended a special school for performing arts at thirteen years old and also became known as one of the most noted athletes in Puerto Rico. So much that Roberto Rivera, a scout for the New York Yankees, discovered Williams who was just a few months shy of his 17th birthday. The Yankees put Williams in a training camp in Connecticut and officially signed Williams on the day he turned 17.
While playing in the minor leagues, Williams took a course on biology at the University of Puerto Rico, and considered undertaking a pre-medical track as an undergraduate student. Deciding that he could not excel at baseball and medicine at the same time, Williams decided to focus on baseball. Although viewed as a great prospect by Yankee management, his rise to the Majors was delayed by the solid outfield that the team had developed in the early 1990s. But by 1993, Williams had become the regular Yankees center fielder after replacing injured player Danny Tartabull. George Steinbrenner considered trading Williams many times but ultimately the trades never happened. After the 1998 season, Bernie Williams signed a seven-year, $87.5-million contract with the Yankees, one of the largest in baseball at the time.
In 2005, the last year of his contract, Williams started 99 games in center field and 22 games as a designated hitter. His arm became noticeably weakened as many believe this to be his worst season. The Yankees began negotiations for a buyout but Williams was offered arbitration by general manager Brian Cashman, allowing another month for negotiation. By December 22, 2005, the Yankees re-signed Williams to a one year, $1.5 million contract. The 2006 season proved to be better for Williams as he spent a decent amount of time playing in the outfield covering for both Matsui and Sheffield, each out with wrist injuries. He also covered center field for Johnny Damon when he was given time off to rest. Bernie Williams played for Puerto Rico as well, representing the island possession in a team managed by the St. Louis Cardinals. During the same season, Williams hit his 2,300 career hit, making him the 11th active player in the Majors.
He had hoped to return to the Yankees in 2007 and was willing to accept a role as a back-up outfielder and pinch hitter. The Yankees offered Williams an invitation to spring training as a non-roster invitee but Williams wanted a guaranteed roster spot and declined the invitation. On September 21, 2008, Williams made his first return to Yankee Stadium since 2006 for the ceremonies preceding the final game at the stadium. He was the last former player to be introduced and received a standing ovation that lasted 1 minute and 42 seconds. At the February 2011 retirement press conference for Andy Pettitte, Williams acknowledged that his career was over and stated that he would officially announce his retirement soon thereafter. On April 22, 2015, it was announced that Williams would officially retire on April 24, 2015, with the Yankees.
Williams played for the Yankees for 16 years as a center fielder. He is a four-time World Series Champion and a five-time All Star. Williams has more post-season RBI’s to his credit than any other player in Major-league history and his resume also boasts four gold-glove awards, six American League pennants, the 1996 ALCS MVP award, and the 1998 American League batting title. Bernie is also among the Yankees all-time leaders in every major batting category, with his performance statistics often standing alongside such legends as Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio.
Aside from his Baseball career, Williams kept in touch with his musicality and released his first album in 2003 titled “The Journey Within.” It features not only the sounds of jazz, but also rock as well as the tropical rhythms of his past. This record reached number three on Billboards “Contemporary Jazz Chart.” Not long after the success of his first album, Bernie Williams released his second album “Moving Forward.” This album featured many noteworthy musicians including Bruce Springsteen, Jon Secada, and Dave Koz. This record contained two number one singles, “Go For It,” and “Ritmo de Otono.”
Bernie’s love of music continues with his philanthropy efforts with Little Kids Rock, a national nonprofit organization that works to restore and revitalize music education in disadvantaged U.S. public schools. Little Kids Rock honored the New York Yankees icon with the 2010 “Big Man of the Year” award at the annual Right to Rock celebration. Bernie Williams performed onstage with students and signed some guitars to be auctioned. With the money he helped raise, Williams delivered instruments to a school in the Bronx and gave the students a lesson in music and life. Williams merged his two passions together in 2011 with the publishing of his book “Rhythms of the Game: The Link Between Music and Athletic Performance.” In this work, Williams explains the relationship between musical artistry and athletic performance.
Bernie Williams’ number 51 was retired by the Yankees in May of 2015.