Remembering Our Captain, AL All Star Catcher Thurman Munson killied in jet crash
August 2,1979- New York Yankees Captain and AL All Star C Thurman Munson, 32, (1947-1979) perishes at Canton, Ohio, in a crash of the jet plane, that he was piloting. A crowd of 51,151 fans will attend the memorial tribute for Thurman Munson at Yankee Stadium tomorrow.
1998 New York Yankees; Strawberry's Grand Slam HR blast helps Yankees win
August 4, 1998- New York Yankees OF Darryl Strawberry's pinch-hitter grand slam HR is the big blow in Yankees 9-run rally in the 9th inning, as the Yankees come from behind to defeat the Oakland A's by a score of 10-5 in the second game of a double header. It is his 2nd pinch-hitter grand slam HR of the 1998 American League season, setting a new AL record, and tying the National League mark held by his former New York Mets manager, Davey Johnson, and Mike Ivie, both set the mark in 1978. New York also wins the 1st game of the twin bill by a score of 10-4.
photo, courtesy of the Library of Congress.">Les Nunamaker in a 1915 public domain photo, courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Take a moment to think of the greatest defensive catchers in the history of baseball. There is certainly a considerable amount of them since the position is primarily regarded as one focused on defense. Terrific-hitting catchers like Yogi Berra and Mike Piazza are highly unusual. Thus, it has always been considered a valuable asset for a team when its catcher possesses a potent arm capable of throwing out baserunners. 98 years ago today, a Yankee catcher named Les Nunamaker set a Major League Baseball record for this skill that has never been equaled. Not even elite defenders with rifles behind the plate like Johnny Bench or Ivan Rodriguez were ever able to accomplish what the 25-year-old Nebraskan did that day for the Yankees against the Detroit Tigers. For on this day, Nunamaker caught all three Tiger baserunners on the basepaths in the seventh inning.
Although Nunamaker was regarded a good defensive catcher, he did not appear to be the a real record-setting player. He won two World Series rings in his career with the 1912 Red Sox and the 1920 Cleveland Indians, but he made just two plate appearances combined in the Fall Classic (both in '20). Nunamaker never played more than 107 games per season in a 12-year career, and in '14, he split time at catcher with Jeff Sweeney after the former was bought from the Boston Red Sox on May 23rd. Nunamaker's amazing feat was not even well-documented in the papers the next day. Perhaps this is unsurprising since the lowly Yankees, who were on their way to a third consecutive losing season, lost the game 4-1. Tigers ace Harry Coveleski threw a five-hitter, "his twirling proving too much for the visitors." With a seventh inning lead though, the Tigers tried to get too aggressive on the basepaths against Nunamaker, who threw out 43% of all baserunners who tried to steal against him in his career.
Len "King" Cole was on the mound for the Yankees. He was one of seven pitchers to make at least 14 starts for the struggling Yankees in '14, who finished second-to-last and 30 games behind the AL champion Philadelphia Athletics. These Yankees were far from the juggernaut that they are known as today, still without a World Series appearance in their 12th season in New York. From 1907-18, they finished above fourth place just once, and only finished the season above .500 twice in this span. Their starter, Cole finished the year with a 3.30 ERA in 141.2 innings, a mark that would be good by today's standards, but in the "Dead Ball Era," it equated to an unimpressive ERA+ of 88.
The Tigers jumped out to a 4-0 lead through six innings against Cole, and he walked centerfielder Hugh High to begin the seventh inning. High was playing for the injured Hall of Famer Ty Cobb, and with right fielder Sam Crawford at the plate, he decided to steal second base like the speedy Cobb might have done (Cobb stole 897 bases in his career). Nunamaker had none of this though, and he caught High with a great throw to second baseman Luke Boone (no relation to Aaron). Cole then walked Crawford, a Hall of Famer and the all-time leader in triples. Nunamaker grew up in Malcolm, which was not actually very far from where Crawford lived--he was nicknamed "Wahoo Sam" for his Nebraska hometown. On the first pitch of the next at bat against left fielder Bobby Veach, Crawford took off for second in an attempt to add to his career total of over 300 stolen bases, and his fellow Cornhusker was unable to throw him out. Shortly afterward though, Crawford, perhaps preparing for another steal, built a lead that was far too large for Nunamaker to ignore, and the catcher picked him off at second base.
There were two outs now, but Cole walked Veach, the starter's straight free pass. Nunamaker notched the first two outs himself, and once Veach inexplicably decided to try his luck against Nunamaker, he was gunned down at second base as well. The catcher's three assists in the inning set an AL record and tied a major league record set by John Milligan of the 1887 Philadelphia Athletics, who played in the American Assocation (the National League's first big rival). No NL catcher has ever tied Nunamaker's mark in the 136-year history of the league. The side was retired without a single ball put into play, a bizarre feat also unmatched in baseball history. Oddly, the Yankees' one run in the 4-1 loss was scored when Nunamaker stole home on the back end of a double steal. Maybe he was just mocking the Tigers at that point.
Nunamaker's achievement is a record of opportunity, as it requires another team to make multiple attempts to steal in an inning for a catcher to act upon. Nonetheless, it is an accomplishment that Nunamaker has all to himself in the modern era of baseball. It is why he is remembered, and to be remembered at all is a pretty special feat in it of itself.
"Selig ran a speakeasy, now he wants to take all the alcohol out of the town." Mike Francesa
Remembering Former Yankees MLB Bullpen Coach Jim Hegan
August 3, 1920- Former Yankees MLB Bullpen Coach Jim Hegan (1961-1973) was born. (1920-1984) Jim Hegan was a MLB catcher from 1941-1960, mainly with the Cleveland Indians. His son, 1B/OF/DH Mike Hegan played for the New York Yankees (1964,1966-1967,1973-1974). They were the 1st Father-Son combination to appear in a World Series together in 1964 with the Yankees against the St. Louis Cardinals. When former Yankees Manager Ralph Houk went to the Detroit Tigers in 1974, Jim Hegan joined his MLB coaching staff. He would return to the Yankees for two more seasons, before becoming a MLB scout before retiring from baseball.
"First pitch is hit high in the air, deep to left field! If this is fair it could be ... it is! Number 500 for Alex Rodriguez puts the Yankees in front! (Silence)"- Awesome Yankees broadcaster Ken Singleton properly calls a milestone moment (Michael Kay did not take such lessons)
Alex Rodriguez hit .290/.392/.523 with 35 homers and a 137 wRC+ in 2006. Only in the world of many New York Yankees fans was this season considered a disappointment. He was relentlessly booed throughout the season and even had his own manager, Joe Torre, show no faith in him by batting him eighth in a must-win ALDS game. Rodriguez's situation in New York was at an all-time low when he entered the '07 season, but something to look forward to that year was his 500th career home run. At the time, only 21 other players had ever hit 500 homers, and none of them were as young as A-Rod when he approached the milestone. However, it would take a good season to reach the mark, as he entered the year 36 homers shy of 500. If he played similarly to how he performed in '06, he could have had a chance to reach it near the end of the season. Fortunately, the '07 version of A-Rod had arguably the greatest season of his career and one of the finest in Yankees history.
In Spring Training, Rodriguez cleared the air with many reporters who maligned him in his previous three seasons in New York and admitted the partial deterioration of his friendship with Yankees captain Derek Jeter. He felt a pressure was off his shoulders, and he proceeded to destroy American League pitching. He set a league record with 14 homers in April, hitting .355/.415/.882 in the month with two walk-off blasts, helping eliminate the idea that he was not "clutch." He was one of the few reasons the Yankees were winning any games at all since they began the season horribly, sitting at 21-29 on May 29th. After a slight slump in May, he hit a tremendous .402/.496/.773 in June and he inched closer to the 500-homer milestone in July while the team also rebounded with a 16-11 month. On July 25th, he slugged his 499th career homer in Kansas City against Gil Meche. He slumped to an 0-for-21 skid as he pressed to reach the milestone, as many players tend to do when they approach such achievements. A pair of hits in an August 1st game against the Chicago White Sox broke his slump, and he appeared ready to finally hit his 500th homer when the Yankees prepared to play the Royals again, this time at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees themselves were now officially back in the pennant race after a 19-9 July vaulted them to eight games above .500. They won two of the first three games of August against the White Sox and Royals, and on August 4th, they sent rookie phenom Phil Hughes to match up with 23-year-old righthander Kyle Davies, who made his Royals debut after being traded from the Atlanta Braves. Rodriguez had never previously batted against Davies in his 14-year career. The Yankees got off to a good start when Jeter singled to center and right fielder Bobby Abreu walked to move him into scoring position. A-Rod stepped to the plate, now entrenched in the cleanup spot in the batting order. On the first pitch, Davies threw a sinker, trying to get a double play to escape the inning. The pitch floated toward the middle of the plate, and Rodriguez was able to get his arms extended, smashing the pitch high and deep down the left field line toward the foul pole.
The ball was certainly headed for the seats, but Rodriguez was unsure whether it would go fair or foul, so he stood at home plate watching the flight of the ball. He later noted, "I hadn't hit one in so long ... I definitely thought, because I've been hooking the ball a little bit, where that ball started -- last week, that ball probably would have hooked foul about 20 feet." Torre immediately knew it would be fair though and exclaimed "That's it!" to bench coach Don Mattingly. It was indeed, fair, so A-Rod tossed his arms up in exultation and circled the bases with the awesome music from "The Natural" playing in the background. It was his MLB-leading 36th homer of the season, and he would go on to lead baseball with 54 that season, his best total as a Yankee and the second-highest of his career (after a 57-homer '02 season). He was the third player to ever hit his 500th homer as a Yankee, after Babe Ruth founded the 500 Home Run Club on August 11, 1929 against Willis Hudlin of the Cleveland Indians and Mickey Mantle joined him on May 14, 1967 against Stu Miller of the Baltimore Orioles. The three-run homer also gave the Yankees an early 3-0 lead in the game.
Left fielder Hideki Matsui followed Rodriguez's 500th homer with a double, and second baseman Robinson Cano brought him home with a triple to the right-center field gap to give the Yankees another run. The Royals responded with two runs in the third inning on two doubles and a single against Hughes. Rodriguez helped create a run mostly by himself when he walked in his first at bat after his 500th homer, then stole second (one of 24 he would steal in '07, only the fourth player to have a 20-50 season). He moved to third on a groundout and scored on a line drive single tor right field by first baseman Wilson Betemit, filling in for regular Jason Giambi. The Yankees added two more runs in the fourth against reliever John Bale on three consecutive singles (one by A-Rod) to make it a four-run lead. The Royals surprisingly came back in the top of the fifth to tie the game against Hughes on a two-run homer by center fielder David DeJesus, a single, and two doubles. The last hit, a double, came from lefty Ross Gload against LOOGY reliever Mike Myers. Myers got out of the inning with a strikeout and got the win for the game when the Yankees took the lead in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI groundout by center fielder Melky Cabrera. Myers clearly just knew how to win. The Yankees spent the rest of the game pummeling the Royals' bullpen, and the final score was 16-8. Rodriguez went 3-for-4 with a walk in his 500-homer game, and he later won the AL MVP for his incredible year.
Exactly three years later, Rodriguez again made home run history with his 600th homer, but that's a story for another day. Get well soon, A-Rod.
"Selig ran a speakeasy, now he wants to take all the alcohol out of the town." Mike Francesa