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JunkStats Year In Review: 2011 In Infield Outs Prevented, Part 2 Players With the Most Good-Hitting Part-Time Seasons
I went to Baseball-Reference.comRandom Page 1949 New York Yankees Trades and Transactions
* The transaction page covers two offseasons: before the 1949 season and after it (so, from October of 1948 through March of 1950).
First, a little background. The 1948 Yankees finished in an unfamiliar place–3rd place, that is. (They did win 94 games, though.) After the season, co-owner Larry MacPhail (father of Lee and grandfather of Andy) sold his shares in the team to his co-owners. The other owners elevated George Weiss to the GM’s position. Weiss then fired manager Bucky Harris, despite the fact that he had led the team to a World Series title just one year prior.
To replace Harris, the Yankees brought in a former Dodgers and Braves manager. This must have seemed like a strange choice` at the time, as the new hire hadn’t managed in the majors since 1943. And his record wasn’t exactly distinguished, either: 9 seasons and only one winning record (and that just barely, at 77-75). Yet this manager had the support of Weiss, a close friend, and the owners went along with the move.
The gamble turned out pretty well, though, as we will see. The new manager’s name? Casey Stengel.
With Stengel in the fold, Weiss went on to revamp the roster. Let’s review a select few of the transactions:
Released George McQuinn
Released Frankie Crosetti
Traded Red Embree Sherm Lollar Dick Starr St. Louis Browns Roy Partee Fred Sanford
McQuinn and Crosetti were aging All-Star veterans who had used up their last legs. Releasing them freed up more playing time for younger players like Cliff Mapes and Hank Bauer. The changing of the guard from the DiMaggio Era to the Mantle Era was beginning.
The key figure in the trade turned out to be Sherm Lollar. Lollar was a catcher by trade, but he was blocked at the position by a youngster by the name of Yogi Berra, who had played some in the outfield his first few seasons but was going to be a full-time catcher from here on in. So the Yankees were willing to part with Lollar. While not of Berra’s caliber, Lollar would go on to have a fine career, playing 15 more seasons (mostly for the White Sox), making 7 All-Star Teams, and winning 3 Gold Gloves.
In return, Partee never played for the Yankees, and Sanford had two okay years as a reliever / fill-in starter. It’s safe to say that the Browns won that trade, even if the Yankees’ motivations were understandable.
The Yankees signed 14 players during the amateur free-agency signing period. I think you’ll probably recognize a couple of the names.
Signed Whitey Herzog
Signed Mickey Mantle
Herzog, of course, is much better known for his Hall of Fame managing career. He played 8 seasons in the majors, mostly as a reserve outfielder. He never actually played for the Yankees, though; they included him as a Player To Be Named Later in a 1956 trade with the Senators. He debuted that same year.
It’s fascinating to see how many pieces of the Yankees’ great dynasty of the ’50s and early ’60s came together in 1949. There’s Stengel’s hiring, Berra’s first year as a full-time catcher, and this: the signing of Mickey Mantle, the heir apparent to DiMaggio both in CF and as the face of the Yankees. Mantle would debut in 1951 as a 19-year-old and would take over CF full-time the next season, following DiMaggio’s retirement.
Signed Hal Smith
Smith (another catcher blocked by Berra) would never play for the Yankees, but he would be a part of one of the most incredible trades I’ve ever come across. This trade netted the Yankees future World Series perfect-game-thrower Don Larsen from the Orioles. More importantly, it featured an astonishing 17 players (and only those 2 teams). The transaction entry for this trade reads like a phone book:
November 17, 1954: [Hal Smith was] Traded by the New York YankeesHarry Byrd Jim McDonald Willy Miranda Gus Triandos Gene Woodling Baltimore Orioles Billy Hunter Don Larsen Bob Turley New York Yankees Bill Miller Kal Segrist Don Leppert Ted Del Guercio Baltimore Orioles Baltimore Orioles Mike Blyzka Darrell Johnson Jim Fridley Dick Kryhoski New York Yankees
The Orioles received six players just in the first phase of the trade, including solid regulars Woodling and Triandos. A couple weeks later, they received four more players, for a total of 10.
The Yankees got 3 players initially, including Larsen and Bob Turley, who put up several good seasons in the Yanks’ rotation. They then received 4 more PTBNLs. So that’s 7 players to New York, and 17 players total.
Nine-player trades are rare enough, but a nine-player trade with 8 players to be named later? That’s epic.
Signed Artie Wilson
Sold Artie Wilson
With the season under way, it seems strange that the Yankees would sign a free agent. Well, that’s because Wilson was signed from the Negro League’s Birmingham Black Barons. He had hit .402 in 1948, which is the most recent time any player hit over .400 in a top-level league. During his time in Birmingham, Wilson also served as a mentor to a very young Willie Mays.
The Yankees assigned Wilson to their minor-league team in Newark, but since this was a pay cut for Wilson, he arranged to be sold to the San Diego Padres. The Padres played in the Pacific Coast League, which was then an independent minor league, unaffiliated with MLB. PCL teams often traded with MLB teams, which is what happened here. Wilson would get a cup of coffee with the New York Giants in 1951, but after 24 poor PAs, he was released. The player who replaced him? None other than Wilson’s former protegé, Willie Mays. Wilson never played another MLB game.
The Yankees, by the way, would not have a black player until Elston Howard debuted in 1955. Only 3 other teams (the Phillies, Tigers, and Red Sox) waited longer to integrate.
In mid-August, the Yankees were 73-42 and in 1st place, but the Red Sox were hanging in the race, only 2.5 games back. What did the Yankees do? Only acquire a future Hall-of-Famer:
Purchased Johnny MizeNew York Giants
Mize was 36 at the time and putting up by far the worst numbers of his illustrious career, but those numbers–.263 / .351 / .441–were still pretty darn good by normal standards. He had an injured shoulder which limited him to pinch-hitting duty in September, but the Yankees held off the Red Sox to take the pennant.
In the World Series, the Yankees and Dodgers split the first two games (each by a 1-0 score) and were tied in Game 3, 1-1, heading into the 9th inning. With the bases loaded, Mize pinch-hit and drove in two runs. The Yankees would add another run and held on to win 4-3. They would also win the last two games, but without Mize’s hit, who knows how the Series would have turned out?
Mize wasn’t finished as a ballplayer, either. He played 4 more seasons for the Yankees in a part-time role and hit fairly well, especially in 1950, when he posted a .277 / .351 / .595 line. Oh, and the Yankees won the World Series in each of those seasons, too. Five straight championships isn’t a bad way to end a career.
A few days after winning the World Series, the Yankees made a trade with another PCL team, the Oakland Oaks
Traded a player to be named later and cash to Oakland (PCL). Received Jackie JensenBilly Martin New York Yankees Eddie Malone
Eddie Malone was yet another young catcher blocked by Berra. In exchange for him, the Yankees got Jensen, an outfielder who would eventually win the 1958 MVP award while playing for the Red Sox, and Martin, a scrappy little infielder who would never hit much but would still carve out an 11-year career. He even made an All-Star team for the Yankees in 1956.
It wasn’t Martin’s playing days that made him famous, though. Like Whitey Herzog, managing would be where he would make his mark on the baseball world. Known for his abrasive personality and his frequent battles with ownership, Martin would manage for parts of 16 seasons in the big leagues, posting a combined record of 1253-1013, good for a .553 winning percentage. He would take 4 different franchises to the playoffs and win a World Series with the Yankees in 1977, but his success came at a cost.
Because of his inability to get along with his owners, Martin never lasted more than roughly 3 seasons with a team. In all, he had 9 managerial stints with 5 different teams, including 5 separate periods with the Steinbrenner Yankees. His relationship with Steinbrenner is the stuff of legend; they were like two lovers who fought constantly but kept getting back together anyway, even as they knew it would end badly. But between the fights? Oh, it was glorious–a .591 winning percentage across all his time with the team, never dipping below .536 in any season or partial season.
So we can see not just the roots of the Yankees’ next dynasty, but also the dynasty after that (of the late ’70s) taking shape during 1949.
Let’s finish up by taking a look at a few of the amateur free agents the Yankees signed before the next season:
Signed Andy Carey
Signed Bob Cerv
Signed Bill Skowron
Signed Bill Virdon
Carey, Cerv, and Skowron all played key roles in the Yankees’ great teams of the ’50s and ’60s. Carey started at 3B from 1954 to 1956 and spent parts of 9 years with the team overall. Cerv was a bench player for the Yankees during 3 separate stints with the team, but he enjoyed his greatest success with the Kansas City A’s (sort of the Yankees’ unofficial farm team), when he hit .305 / .371 / .592 in 1958. Oh, and that year, Cerv had a broken jaw and had to subsist on a liquid diet. That’s some folk-hero stuff right there.
Skowron, better known as “Moose,” was the Yankee’s main first baseman from 1954 through 1962. He made 5 All-Star Teams during that run. Virdon never played with the Yankees–he was a center fielder, and as you may recall, the Yankees signed a pretty good CF the year before. However, after being traded to the Cardinals before the 1955 season, he promptly won the Rookie of the Year Award.
All four of the players noted above had long careers in the big leagues. Once the draft was instituted, acquiring 4 players of that calibre in one season would be incredibly fortunate, but for the Yankees in this era, it was closer to the norm. Due to the team’s cachet, the Yanks had a huge advantage on the amateur free agency market. What young player, after all, didn’t dream of playing for the same team as Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio?
It’s no surprise, then, that the Yankees continued to be successful throughout the ’50s and into the ’60s. Still, the level of success achieved in the years following these transactions was incredible. They won the World Series in ’49, ’50, ’51, ’52, ’53, ’56, ’58, ’61, and ’62. They also won pennants in ’55, ’57, ’60, ’63, and ’64. For those counting at home, that’s 14 pennants in 16 seasons. The only exceptions were 1954 (when they won 103 games but the Tigers won 111) and 1959, when they went just 79-75.
That unprecedented success was due in large part to the transactions listed above, all of which occurred in the course of about a year and a half. Whatever advantages the Yankees had, they made great use of them, turning what could have become a moribund franchise into a rejuvenated, incredibly dominant one. Reading about these transactions has greatly increased my respect for what the Yankees of that era accomplished.
Tagged with: 1949 Yankees amateur free agency Andy Carey Artie Wilson baseball history Bill Virdon Billy Martin Bob Cerv Bob Turley Casey Stengel Don Larsen Frankie Crosetti Gene Woodling George McQuinn Gus Triandos Hal Smith Jackie Jensen Joe Dimaggio Johnny Mize Mickey Mantle Moose Skowron Pacific Coast League Random Players Sherm Lollar transaction analysis Whitey Herzog Yankees Yogi Berra
This blog is devoted to the invention and use of unusual baseball statistics. These Junk Stats are designed to reveal the not-so-meaningful quirks that make baseball so fascinating.
JunkStats is written by Jacob Peterson, who also writes for the Braves blog Talking ChopBeyond the Boxscore
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