Results tagged ‘ Gene Woodling ’
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.
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.
Sitting next to me in the press box Saturday for the second game of the second Subway Series was one of the 108 players who played for both the Yankees and the Mets during their careers. Ron Swoboda is best known for his time with the Mets as a key member of their 1969 World Series championship team, but “Rocky,” as he was called, also played in 152 games for the Yankees in 1971, ’72 and ’73.
Saturday was Swoboda’s first view of the new Stadium. He had played in the original Yankee Stadium before its 1974-75 renovation.
“They did a beautiful job,” Swoboda said. “It’s a nice, updated version of the renovated Stadium, but the frieze atop the Stadium is a throwback to the original, which is great. That is what I remember most about the old Stadium. It was the first think you saw when you went there. I had played in the Stadium several times before, but one of my greatest thrills was coming to bat wearing a Yankees uniform for the first time and looking up at that frieze.”
Swoboda is a sportscaster based in New Orleans these days. He was here for the weekend to appear at memorabilia shows with a few other players, including former Yankees catcher-infielder Jim Leyritz. Sitting next to a former big-league player during a game is a real treat. Believe me, they see a whole different game from you and me.
Right off the bat, Swoboda detected David Wright flinching at the plate, something the Mets third baseman has been trying to combat since he was beaned last year. Wright seemed to be “cheating” against Phil Hughes’ fastball by starting his swing early, but the hip movement caused him to drag his bat through the hitting zone as he struck out three times.
Swoboda also noticed some of the Yankees’ left-handed hitters – Brett Gardner, Robinson Cano and Ramiro Pena – getting hits to the opposite field off Mike Pelfrey in the first two innings. The next time through the lineup, Pelfrey came inside more against lefthanders and was stung for home runs by Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson.
The most recent player to wear the uniform of both teams is Chan Ho Park, who joined the Yankees this year and had pitched for the Mets in 2007. The very first player on the list was outfielder Gene Woodling, who played his first game for the Mets June 17, 1962, which was the first of three doubleheaders he played in five days. Woodling has his contract purchased by the Mets from the Washington Senators. He turned 40 that August and retired at the end of the season with a .284 career batting average.
Woodling’s best seasons were with the Yankees from 1949 through 1954 when he was traded to the Orioles in that famous, 17-player deal that brought Don Larsen and Bob Turley, among others, to the Bronx. Woodling, who often platooned with Hank Bauer early in his career, was one of the 12 players who were on all five Yankees teams that won consecutive World Series from 1949 through ’53.
He told me a story once that says a lot about how different the game used to be. Woodling hurt his heel in a game but was so fearful of coming out of the lineup because he might lose his job to Bauer or Jackie Jensen or any number of Yankees outfielders that he cut a hole in the back of his shoe and applied shoe polish to his sanitary stocking to camouflage it. He actually played two games before Bill Dickey, then a coach, noticed it and reported it to manager Casey Stengel.
“They found out I had a broken bone in my heel,” Woodling told me at an Old Timers Day game, “but in those days you would do anything to stay in the lineup.”