Results tagged ‘ Casey Stengel ’
No shutout this time. After becoming the first team to get shut out in a game at Coors Field this year, the Yankees got on the board right away Wednesday night. Vernon Wells, who has been struggling lately with three hits in his previous 22 at-bats (.136) clubbed a 3-2 fastball from the Rockies’ Juan Nicasio in the first inning for a two-run home run.
The blow, Wells’ seventh homer of the season and his first ever at Coors, scored Brett Gardner, who had singled to lead off the game and stolen second base. It was the Yankees’ fifth steal in 10 innings at Denver.
Lyle Overbay put on a clinic at first base in the bottom of the first inning to save Yankees starter David Phelps from a potential rough beginning. Overbay took part in all three outs with a putout and two assists, both on sure-handed grabs of tough hops. The Yankees could have done a whole lot worse in finding a replacement for injured Mark Teixeira than the stylishly efficient Overbay.
The Rockies got even in the second inning with a two-run homer of their own. After a one-out double to right-center by Wilin Rosario, Todd Helton drove a 3-1 fastball to right field for his second home run of the season.
Come the sixth inning and both team’s pitchers were batting eighth in the order. Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to bat Phelps in the 8-hole to break up the left-handed hitters. It was the first time a Yanks starting pitcher batted in that spot since Aug. 28, 1957 when then manager Casey Stengel hit Don Larsen eighth and second baseman Bobby Richardson ninth against the White Sox.
Nicasio was in the usual ninth spot for pitchers to start the game, but when he came out after five innings Rockies manager Walt Weiss made a double switch and brought in Jonathan Herrera to play shortstop and put reliever Josh Outman in the 8-hole previously occupied by Reid Brignac.
All that concern before Game 3 of the American League Division Series about where Alex Rodriguez was batting in the order obscured the fact that Raul Ibanez was not in the lineup against a right-handed starter. Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to have Eric Chavez play third base and use Rodriguez at designated hitter and keep Ibanez on the bench.
Oh, man, did that hunch pay off for Girardi and the Yankees. Ibanez, who only eight days earlier became the first Yankees player to hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning and a walk-off RBI in extra innings in the same game, trumped that Wednesday night. This time, he not only homered to tie the score in the ninth but also in the 12th to win it.
This one will have the Elias Sports Bureau researchers up all night in their Fifth Avenue office trying to determine if what Ibanez did in the Yankees’ 3-2 victory over the Orioles was unprecedented in the history of postseason play. My guess is they will discover that the answer is yes. We already know that Ibanez is the first player to hit two home runs in a postseason game that he did not start.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter had identified Ibanez as a threat off the bench he had hoped to avoid when discussing his late-inning pitching maneuvers in Game 2. Ibanez’s performance in Game 3 justified Showalter’s concern. Ibanez, pinch hitting for A-Rod yet, sent the game into extras with a ninth-inning home run off Orioles closer Jim Johnson, whom the Yankees continue to rough up.
The Yankees mugged Johnson for five runs in the ninth inning of Game 1 at Baltimore in a non-save situation. This time it was a blown save for Johnson, the major-league leader in saves with 51 in the regular season.
Ibanez’s drive into the right field stands off a 1-0 fastball (at 94 miles per hour, no less) took a potential losing decision away from Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda, who deserved a better fate after allowing only two runs (on solo homers by Ryan Flaherty and Manny Machado, the O’s 8-and 9-hole hitters) in 8 1/3 strong innings. Ibanez was the Yankees’ best pinch hitter this season with a .320 average, two home runs and seven RBI in 25 at-bats and kept that distinction intact with Wednesday night’s feat.
Not even having to face a lefthander, Brian Matusz, fazed Ibanez in the 12th. He didn’t even wait as he swung at the first pitch – a 91-mph cut fastball – and thrust the Yankees into a 2-games-to-1 lead in the best-of-5 series.
Pinch hitting for Rodriguez was a gutty decision for Girardi, although one that could hardly have been second-guessed. A-Rod was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in the game and is 1-for-12 (.083) with seven punchouts in the series. Ibanez is now 3-for-5 (.600) with two home runs in the ALDS.
Girardi looked at Ibanez the way Casey Stengel once did at Johnny Mize and Joe Torre once did at Darryl Strawberry. Mize and Strawberry were left-handed sluggers whose aim at the cozy right-field porch at Yankee Stadium gave many opposing managers cause for alarm, the same feeling Showalter had when thinking about Ibanez.
As unusual as it was to see Derek Jeter sitting in the Yankees dugout as his teammates took the field in the ninth inning, the more amazing aspect was that he was able to play at all after the third inning. The Captain aggravated a nagging bone bruise in his left ankle running out a triple in the bottom of that inning.
He gutted his way through the eighth before Girardi decided to keep a hobbling player on the field was too great a risk in what was then a one-run game. In his eighth-inning at-bat, Jeter nearly fell down when landing on his left ankle on the follow-through of a swing and miss.
The startling finish was something the Orioles are not accustomed to. Extra innings have been joyful ones for the Orioles, who had won 16 consecutive such games before Wednesday night. The only two extra-inning games Baltimore lost in the regular season were against the Yankees on back-to-back nights April 10 and 11 at Camden Yards.
In the April 10 game, the deciding hit was a two-run double by Raul Ibanez.
It looks like Derek Jeter was serious about preferring not to play the Mets during the regular season, which he said before Friday night’s opener of the Subway Series despite his career success against them. That success took a hit in Friday night’s 9-1 Yankees victory as the Captain went hitless in four at-bats.
That ended a 25-game home hitting streak against the Mets that dated to June 28, 2003. Jeter’s career batting average against the Mets fell from .381 to .377, which dropped him to second behind Rico Carty’s .380 as the highest for a Mets opponent with a minimum of 150 at-bats against them.
According to research by the Elias Sports Bureau, the Yankees are 2-0 in games against starting pitchers who had thrown a no-hitter in their previous outing over the past 20 years. They beat the Mets’ Johan Santana Friday night and also won a game July 31, 2010 over the Rays, 5-4, that was started by Matt Garza, who had no-hit the Tigers five days earlier.
Another Elias note centers on Curtis Granderson. He was removed from Friday night’s game for defensive replacement DeWayne Wise in the eighth inning. Granderson had played every inning of every Yankees game up to that point. Elias reports that there are now only three players left who have played every inning of their team’s games – Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, Braves second baseman Dan Uggla and Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro.
Robinson Cano, who smacked two home runs on two pitches off Santana Friday night, has eight homers over his past 19 games after hitting only three in his first 38 games. Friday was Cano’s third multi-homer game off left-handed pitchers. The others were April 15, 2010 against the Angels’ Scott Kazmir and April 29, 2010 against the Orioles’ Brian Matusz and Alberto Castillo. Cano had only one homer off a lefty this year before Friday night.
Relief pitcher Ryota Igarashi made his Yankees debut pitching the ninth inning Friday night and became the 113th player to appear in at least one game for both New York teams, and the first Japanese-born player to do so. The first player to wear the uniform of both the Yankees and the Mets was first baseman Marv Throneberry in May of 1962. One month later, Gene Woodling became the next former Yankee to play for the Mets, and the list just keeps growing. Of course, the first person to wear both unis was manager Casey Stengel, whose No. 37 has been retired by both clubs in his honor.
If you run into Reggie Jackson today, wish him a Happy Birthday. Mr. October turned 66. His uniform No. 44 was retired by the Yankees in 1993, the year he was elected to the Hall of Fame. The No. 9 he wore in Oakland has also been retired.
Reggie is only one of four people who have had two different numbers retired. The others are Carlton Fisk (27 by the Red Sox and 72 by the White Sox), Nolan Ryan (34 by the Astros and the Rangers and 30 by the Angels) and Sparky Anderson (10 by the Reds and 11 by the Tigers).
Others who have had the same number retired by two teams are Hank Aaron (44 by the Braves and the Brewers), Rod Carew (29 by the Twins and the Angels), Rollie Fingers (34 by the Athletics and the Brewers), Greg Maddux (31 by the Cubs and the Braves), Frank Robinson (20 by the Reds and the Orioles) and Casey Stengel (37 by the Yankees and the Mets).
Three teams have retired the same number for two players – the Cubs’ 31 for Maddux and Fergie Jenkins, the Yankees’ No. 8 for Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra and the Expos’ (now the Nationals’) No. 10 for Rusty Staub and Andre Dawson.
Jorge Posada’s appearance at Yankee Stadium Friday to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the home opener led to some discussion in the press box about how the former All-Star catcher might do five years from now when he will be eligible for the Hall of Fame ballot. I suspect he will get some decent support but ultimately will fall short, although I would be very happy to be wrong about that.
It made me think about Elston Howard, another perennial All-Star catcher for the Yankees as well as the 1963 American League Most Valuable Player. Howard never did get elected, but to his credit he remained on the ballot for the full 15 years of eligibility. And in thinking about Howard, it so happens that Saturday marked the 57th anniversary of his first major-league game, which was a significant day in Yankees history because he was the first African-American player in the club’s history.
Howard broke in with the Yanks April 14, 1955 at Boston’s Fenway Park. It was the team’s second game of that season. They had clobbered the Washington Senators, 19-1, the day before in the home opener, but Howard did not get into the game. He didn’t start the game against the Red Sox, either.
Remember, Yogi Berra was the Yankees’ regular catcher in those days and that year would win his third AL MVP Award. Howard was primarily an outfielder at that time (he would later play some at first base) and caught in only nine games in 1955 – four as a starter.
Yankees manager Casey Stengel inserted Howard into the game as a defensive replacement for left fielder Irv Noren in the sixth inning. Howard batted against Boston righthander Willard Nixon, the winning pitcher in the Red Sox’ 8-4 victory, got his first hit and run batted in when he singled in Mickey Mantle from second base in the eighth inning.
Howard played in the first of his 10 World Series that year and unfortunately made the final out of Game 7 on a grounder to Brooklyn Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese. Ellie and Pee Wee share a dubious distinction as the players who were on the losing side most often in World Series play – six times. Howard did get to play on four World Series champions whereas Reese only had that 1955 ring.
Berra and Howard shared catching duties in 1958, ’59 and ’60 before Ellie took over as the regular in 1961 and hit .348 while Yogi went into a left field platoon with Hector Lopez. In 1963, Howard had career highs in home runs (28) and RBI (85) and batted .287 to earn MVP honors.
As it turned out, Howard’s last game was also at Fenway Park – Game 7 of the 1967 World Series. The Yankees had traded him to Boston Aug. 3 that year, and he played a big part in the Red Sox’ “Impossible Dream” season as they won their first pennant in 21 years but lost to the Cardinals in seven games in the World Series.
Ellie eventually returned to the Yankees as a long-time coach before his death in 1980 at the age of 51. His uniform No. 32 was retired in 1984 on the same day the Yankees also retired No. 9 for his old teammate, Roger Maris.
A year ago, no one with the Yankees or anywhere else could have convinced Andy Pettitte to keep on pitching. He was certain following an injury-disturbed second half of the 2010 season that it was time to hang up his glove and spikes.
The Yankees were hoping against hope that Pettitte would think it over, particularly after Cliff Lee rejected their seven-year, free-agent offer and signed instead with the Phillies. This left a gaping hole in the rotation, one that the fit Pettitte would have easily filled.
But no. Family came first, an honorable position. Andy wanted to go home to Deer Park, Texas, for good and watch his children grow up. The Yankees would have to make do with aging cast-offs Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon to fill the gap in the starting unit.
There would be no turnaround for Pettitte that might have mirrored pal Roger Clemens’ famous about-face when he retired from the Yankees after the 2003 World Series only to rejoin his left-handed partner in Houston where Andy landed after filing for free agency. For their part, Garcia and Colon accomplished more than anything the Yankees expected last year, but any chance that Pettitte could change his mind remained in the Yankees’ thinking.
The decision announced Thursday by Pettitte that he would accept a minor-league deal from the Yankees for non-guaranteed money of $2.5 million came as a shock to most Yankees fans (it certainly did me), but there have been indications that the big lefty was leaning in that direction for some time.
Pettitte was essentially fighting his emotions. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman confirmed that he had discussed a contract with Pettitte last December. Still no go was Andy’s reply. But when he put that uniform on again last month as a spring-training instructor, well, he was a goner.
Back up close to the game, Pettitte’s competitive instincts were aroused. It is a big step for him but a relatively small risk for the Yankees. For them, it is completely a win-win situation. There is no doubt that Pettitte is still in outstanding physical shape. Now he needs the time to get back into pitching shape.
The timetable for a Pettitte return would likely be early May, by which time the Yankees could use a boost in the rotation. Let’s face it; every year something happens that makes a club wish it had someone of Pettitte’s caliber in reserve. Take last season, for example, when Phil Hughes’ arm went soft, and Colon helped save the first half for the Yankees.
Make no mistake; what Pettitte is attempting is not easy. Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg may be the best example of what taking a year away from the game can do. Due to personal reasons, Ryno sat out the 1995 season after 14 years with the Cubs and returned in 1996 at age 36 to bat .244 with 25 home runs and 92 RBI, surprisingly good numbers for a player who had been away from the game for a whole season. But an off year in ’97 (12 homers and 64 RBI in 447 at-bats) was a signal to him that he was no longer the same player and he retired.
It was not uncommon during World War II for players to un-retire and return to the major-league rosters decimated by the draft, the most notable of whom was Hall of Fame first baseman Jimmie Foxx, who was little more than a glorified pinch hitter for the Cubs and Phillies.
Yogi Berra tried to come back as a player with the Mets in 1965, the year after he had managed the Yankees into the World Series and was fired after they lost to the Cardinals. Yogi admitted to manager Casey Stengel that he could not catch up with the fastball anymore and retired after four games and nine at-bats to become the Mets’ full-time first base coach.
What Yankees fans remember is that the last time they saw Pettitte he was still effective at getting out batters. His problem was trying to avoid groin and back flare-ups that are part of the aging process. One of the most popular players in recent Yankees history will try to reverse that process, and it will be fun for the rest of us to see if he can do it.
One of the elements of doubleheaders, either the regular kind or the separate-admission variety such as the Yankees and Orioles played Saturday at Yankee Stadium, is that lineups can look quite unusual. For a manager, the task is to split up the duty so as not to tax players, especially the regulars who play every day and in particular those well on the north side of 30.
When I was a kid and doubleheaders were a regular part of the major league schedule, I used to like reading the boxscores of second games of doubleheaders and see the sometime bizarre batting orders that featured fifth infielders, fourth outfielders and third-string catchers getting rare starts.
I thought of that Saturday when I saw Joe Girardi’s lineup for the afternoon game. It had no Curtis Granderson or Derek Jeter. It had Eduardo Nunez in the 2-hole, reserve infielder Eric Chavez at third base and down at the bottom were spare outfielder Chris Dickerson and backup catcher Francisco Cervelli.
The reasons were simple. Granderson has been a workhorse all year, so Joe thought it best to let him sit out a game. Jeter is 37, which is reason enough to take a game off. Mark Texeira got to stay out of the sun at first base and switched roles with designated hitter Jorge Posada. Catchers usually split doubleheader duty, so Russell Martin was slated for the night game.
I do recall as a youngster watching a Yankees-Senators doubleheader on TV from Washington, D.C., on a steamy mid-August Sunday when Yogi Berra and Elston Howard were both nursing leg injuries. That forced manager Casey Stengel to use third-string catcher Johnny Blanchard for both games, and the second one went 14 innings! Players didn’t change jerseys during games in those days, so by the time extra innings began in the second game Blanchard’s shirt was so wet and dirty that a viewer could not detect his number, which was 38.
But if anyone thought the odd lineup Saturday was incapable of putting together a winning effort, they were sadly mistaken. While regular right fielder Nick Swisher had a big game with a two-run home run, a double and a single, much of the damage in the Yankees’ 8-3 victory was done by the spare parts.
Dickerson, who has been back and forth from Triple A three times and made only his fifth start in 41 games, had two hits, scored a run, drove in a run and stole a base. Cervelli had a double, a single, a run and an RBI and did a fine job behind the plate handling winning pitcher Bartolo Colon, who threw 105 pitches in five innings. Chavez singled twice, scored two runs and made a dazzling catch in foul ground in the seventh inning.
Posada also flashed some nice leather on a foul ball. The one blip on the screen was Nunez, who was 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and committed a throwing error.
Corey Wade and Boone Logan pitched efficiently in relief, which allowed Girardi to have David Robertson, Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera available for the night game.
With the starting time of Friday night’s game having been pushed back one hour and 49 minutes due to a rain delay, it meant that the Yankees would play four games in a 41-hour time frame. That is a tough row to hoe for any club. Saturday’s first game was a good example of how each member of the roster must step up for a team to be successful.
“The bottom of the order did a lot of damage,” Girardi noted. “Those contributions are important because it can’t always come from the guys in the middle.”
I have come full cycle with Old Timers Day, one of the great traditions at Yankee Stadium where it all began with a day to honor Babe Ruth in 1947. The first one I attended was in the late 1950s and getting to see Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, Lefty Gomez, Tommy Henrich, Red Ruffing and other stars of my parents’ generation’s youth. My father was actually a Giants fan when they still played in New York, but my mother’s family was all Yankees fans.
When I started covering the Yankees in the 1980’s, Old Timers’ Day was a favorite because I would not only get to see the Yankees stars of my youth such as Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Hank Bauer and Moose Skowron but also to talk to them. Bauer was one of the best interviews ever; blunt, outspoken, colorful.
One of my favorite stories came from Bauer’s old platoon partner, Gene Woodling. (Bauer, by the way, was not crazy about Casey Stengel, who platooned him early on in the outfield before he became the regular right fielder.)
Back to Woodling; he talked of a time when players were so worried about keeping their jobs that he played for about a week with a broken bone in his heel. It swelled so much, Woodling said, that he cut out the back of his cleat and spread black shoe polish on the heel so no one would notice and stayed in the lineup. Finally, Dickey, the Hall of Fame catcher who was then Casey’s first base coach, saw Woodling’s shoe with the big hole in it in his locker and told him that he needed treatment.
Think of something like that happened today when disabled lists are almost as big as rosters!
At Sunday’s Old Timers’ Day, I was reminded of the passage of time when I encountered so many players whom I covered when they broke into the majors – Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and David Cone in my years on the Mets and Bernie Williams, Pat Kelly and Kevin Maas during my time with the Yankees. I had them as rookies, and now they’re Old Timers, so what does that make me.
Don’t answer that.
This was Bernie’s first Old Timer’s Day, and he was one of the big hits of the afternoon. He got a rousing ovation from the crowd during the introduction ceremonies. Fans were on their feet again when he doubled to the warning track in left-center in the two-inning Old Timers’ game. Then the Stadium really exploded when Bernie’s old teammate, Tino Martinez, popped a two-run home run to right off Cone, another old teammate.
I teased Bernie around the batting cage before the game after he had told writers that he still did not consider himself retired. “But I think that’s closer now,” he said.
I told him that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America was in the process of putting together the 2012 Hall of Fame ballot that will go out to voters in December, and that he would be on it; in other words, like it or not, Bernie, you’re retired.
He was asked during the press conference what his favorite memory from his playing career was. Williams could not limit it to just one and gave a very thoughtful answer.
“I would say that three things stick out – winning our first World Series championship in 1996, winning the batting title in 1999 and being on the field before the last game at the old Stadium,” he said. “I got announced after Yogi, which was pretty cool.”
Bernie officially joined the pantheon of Yankees legends Sunday, and he sounded proud of it.
“It’s a really big thing for me,” he said. “If you take the word ‘old,’ I think I’d be a little uncomfortable with it. But when I was playing, I looked forward to these days. To me, it was a reminder of the fact that we’re part of a family that has been going on for 100 years, and thinking I was part of something that was bigger than myself. And now I’m on the other side, being in the same situation, so it’s good. It’s great. I’m just really proud of this organization. When I chose to stay and have my whole career as a Yankee, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.”
Also back for the first Old Timers’ Day appearance were former managers Lou Piniella and Joe Torre. “Sweet Lou,” who served the Yankees in nearly every category there is (players, coach, manager, general manager, broadcaster) put on the pinstripes for the first time since 1988. He had been busy elsewhere after that, winning a World Series with the Reds in 1990 and helping to build the Mariners into a viable franchise.
The pinstripes looked good on Torre, too, even while wearing a sling after recently undergoing right rotator cuff surgery. The man who won six American League pennants, four World Series and had the Yankee in post-season play all 12 of his seasons as manager had been invited before but was unable to attend because he was managing the Dodgers. Joe is now vice president for baseball operations in the commissioner’s office, but it is not really a desk job as he gets to spend a lot of time in ballparks.
With Jack McKeon (Marlins) and Davey Johnson (Nationals) back in big-league dugouts, I was curious if that gave either Lou or Joe the itch to return.
“There comes a time when you have to walk away, and I knew last year was that time for me,” Piniella said. “It was the same when I was a player. I was never one who wanted another at bat.”
“I was shopping with my wife recently,” Torre said, “and she told me how strange it was that here we were in the middle of a baseball season together and I wasn’t stressed out. I don’t miss all that stress.”
Both proudly wore rings linking them to their Yankees careers – Lou the World Series ring of 1977 and Joe of 1996. Those were the first championships for each.
“You never forget the first time,” Joe said on a day at Yankee Stadium that never gets old.
A lot of people seemed surprised to see Nick Swisher at the top of the lineup Wednesday night against the Rangers, even Swisher.
“I have hit everywhere else in the lineup,” he said before the game. “I might as well bat first.”
As I pointed out in Tuesday’s blog, Swisher seemed a good option in the leadoff spot against a left-handed starter because of his .356 batting average and .438 on-base percentage from the left side. Obviously, manager Joe Girardi felt the same way. Brett Gardner will continue to lead off against righthanders while Derek Jeter is on the disabled list.
Swisher may not realize it, but if he had been around the Yankees in the 1950s he would have been a leadoff candidate for Casey Stengel. The Ol’ Professor liked to use players with extra-base power at the top of the order. His favorites during those years were Hank Bauer, Bob Cerv, Gene Woodling and Tony Kubek.
In fact, when Roger Maris came to the Yankees in 1960 in a trade from the Kansas City A’s that also involved Bauer, Stengel batted Maris leadoff in the first few games. When Maris started hitting balls over fences on a regular basis, Casey eventually moved him into the 3-hole where he went on to the first of two consecutive Most Valuable Player seasons.
Swisher did not lead off the game with a hit, but he reached base his next two times up with a double and a walk.
Jeter’s replacement at shortstop, Eduardo Nunez, homered in the fourth inning. It was Nunez’s second homer of the season. He now has as many long balls in 62 at-bats as Jeter had in 262.
The Captain will not accompany the Yankees on their trip to Chicago and Cincinnati for inter-league series against the Cubs and Reds. Jeter will go to Tampa for rehabilitation on his right calf strain. His stint on the DL means Jeter won’t be able to add to his inter-league record for hits of 362. DJ is not in danger of being passed. He is 52 hits ahead of the second place guy, who just happens to be teammate Alex Rodriguez.
A-Rod showed off some fine baserunning in the fifth inning as the Yankees took a 5-4 lead. On first base after a one-out walk, Rodriguez avoided being tagged by second baseman Ian Kinsler on Robinson Cano’s groundout and was able to get to second base. That made it possible for him to score on a single to left by Andruw Jones. Josh Hamilton made a strong throw to the plate, but A-Rod beat it with a good slide.
The run was the 1,799th of Rodriguez’s career. It tied him with Hall of Famer Ted Williams for 16th place on the all-time list.
Regular readers will be familiar with my fondness for Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, although the welcome mat I place for him at Yankee Stadium over the years hasn’t been matched by the Yankees. The Stadiums old and new have been horror houses to the affable skipper whom I have known since I covered him on the Mets in the early 1980s.
One of my responsibilities as secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America is to contact the winners of the annual awards as well as those elected to the Hall of Fame, and it was an absolute pleasure to break the news to Gardy last November that he had finally won the American League Manager of the Year Award after having finished second five times. I asked him where he had put the trophy.
“I haven’t seen it yet,” Gardenhire said. “I’ll get my first look when we go back home after this series.”
Truth be told, the Manager of the Year trophies are not given out at the New York Baseball Writers Dinner with the other awards, Most Valuable Player, Cy Young and Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year. Yes, the official presentations are made there, and the managers speak from the dais, but a token gift is handed to them. The shape of the trophy, which is impressive, is such that for some reason it does not travel well, so the BBWAA likes to send the trophy to what will be its final destination. In Gardenhire’s case, it was sent to Target Field in Minneapolis.
Trophies shipped to both Joe Torre when he won for the first time with the Yankees in 1996 and Joe Girardi when he won the National League award with the Marlins in 2006 cracked during transport, and each had to be replaced. Gardenire might have expected a damaged trophy if the writers have given it to him at Yankee Stadium.
Gardy’s record here is nothing short of horrible – 4-25 during the regular season and 2-5 in the AL Division Series. Awards voting is done prior to the start of post-season play, so the Yanks’ sweep of the Twins was not a road block for Gardenhire.
Writers took into account that Gardenhire did not have one of his former MVP players, first baseman Justin Morneau, for the second half of the season. Morneau suffered a concussion July 7 at Toronto and was sidelined for the remainder of the season. Morneau’s situation still bears monitoring, and Gardenhire applauds Major League Baseball for establishing a new disabled list rule regarding players with concussions.
A player sustaining a concussion may not be placed on a seven-day DL, which would allow a team to replace him without putting the onus for the injured play to suck up what has proved a serious condition so as not to let down his teammates. If the player needs to remain on the DL for the full 15 days, the period can begin retroactively.
“It’s an important step for baseball,” Gardy said. “We didn’t know much about concussions in the old days. I was knocked out twice in my career and played the next day. In one case, I kept on playing in the game that I was knocked out.”
Gardenhire recalled that while playing shortstop for the Tidewater Tides, then the Mets’ Triple A affiliate, against the Columbus Clippers, then the Yankees’ top farm, he was struck in the head with a pitch and lost consciousness.
“When I came to,” he said, “they asked me if I wanted to keep playing. ‘Sure,’ I said. No one wants to come out of the lineup. So I kept on playing. Of course, I don’t remember anything about the rest of the game. A rule like this goes a long way to understanding this condition.”
Also in Minnesota’s traveling party is the newest Hall of Famer, Bert Blyleven, the 287-game winner as a pitcher and the long-time television analyst for the Twins. Bert told me he is enjoying his “Blyleven in ‘11” year and brings good news about another Twins Hall of Famer.
Harmon Killebrew, the former slugger who is undergoing treatment for esophageal cancer, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Target Field Friday for the Twins’ home opener against Oakland.
The New York Chapter of the BBWAA honored Killebrew with its Casey Stengel “You Can Look It Up” Award in recognition of his outstanding 1961 season that was overshadowed by the Roger Maris-Mickey Mantle chase of Babe Ruth’s home run record. He was unable to attend the dinner, and Gardenhire accepted in his place. The writers have an open invitation for Killebrew to attend the dinner next January, and we’re rooting for him to be able to make it.