4/20 in Yankee history
The red-letter day -
1988: Claudell Washington hits the 10,000th home run in Yankee history and Jack Clark hits his first AL home run in the top of the 10th inning to give New York a 7-6 win over Minnesota. The Yankees are the first major league club to hit 10,000 homers.
On other 20ths of April…
2006: According to Forbes magazine, the New York Yankees are the 1st baseball team valued at more than $1 billion.
2003: The Yankees defeat Minnesota 8-2. The win gives New York starting pitchers a 13-0 record, the best mark by any starting staff at
the beginning of the season since 1900.
1964: Yankee rookie Bob Meyer makes his major league debut at Fenway Park in a 4-0 loss to the Red Sox. Meyer is the last Yankee rookie pitcher this century to open his career in Boston. Ralph Terry made his debut there in 1956.
1961: Don Mattingly is born. Happy 51st to Donnie Baseball!
After becoming a regular in 1984, Mattingly established himself as one of the preeminent stars of the 1980s. He hit for average and power, fielded his position at first base with brilliance, and displayed a work ethic and charisma reminiscent of Yankee greats of the past. Actually, his home run power developed after his arrival in the majors, but he went on to set a couple impressive HR records in 1986.
In 1982 Mattingly joined a Yankee team that was reluctant to play kids from its farm system, preferring to trade them for proven players or let them languish on the bench as insurance against injury to regulars. Mattingly saw limited action through 1983, playing primarily in the outfield, the position at which the Yankees originally drafted him. Although his career minor league batting average was .332, there was little in Mattingly’s minor league performance to indicate that he might emerge as a power hitter. However, Mattingly used those first two years in the majors to become a smart two strike hitter and learned to look for the inside pitch that he might drive into Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch. The result was his fine 1984 season, in which he took over the first-base job and hit 23 homers en route to capturing the batting title on the last day of the season with a .343 average that edged teammate Dave Winfield’s .340. He became the first Yankee lefthanded hitter to bat over .340 since Lou Gehrig hit .351 in 1937.
Despite often starting the season abysmally, Mattingly established himself as a dominant hitter from 1984 through 1989. In each of those seasons, he hit over .300, collected more than 186 hits, and, except for 1988, drove in 100 or more runs. During that period, no major league player had more RBI than his 684, and only Wade Boggs (1,269) had more hits than Matingly’s 1,219. Mattingly displayed his power in 1985 when, batting third in the Yankee lineup, he amassed career highs of 35 home runs and a league-leading 145 RBI en route to being named AL MVP.
In 1986 Mattingly set new Yankees marks for doubles (53) and hits (238) in a season, becoming the first Yankee since Lou Gehrig with three consecutive 200 hit seasons. During the 1987 season, Mattingly set or tied five remarkable major league records. He hit six grand slams to set a new single-season mark. (He had never hit one prior to 1987.) He tied Dale Long’s 1956 record by homering in eight consecutive games from July 8 through July 18. His 10 homers during that period were a major league record for total homers in an eight game streak, and his concurrent streak of 10 games with at least one extra base hit broke babe Ruth’s 1921 AL record. The power streak ended on July 20, the night Mattingly tied the major league record of 22 putouts by a first baseman in a nine inning game.
Mattingly matched his hitting with outstanding defense. From 1985 through 1989, he won five consecutive Gold Glove awards at first base. Along with Chick Gandil (1916-1919), Mattingly (1984-1987) holds the record of leading AL first basemen in fielding percentage for four consecutive years. On his retirement his .996 lifetime fielding percentage at first base tied him for the all-time lead. His skills allowed him to play second base and third base on a few occasions despite throwing lefthanded.
From 1990 on, back problems led to a decline in Mattingly’s batting performance as he adjusted his stance to compensate. His season HR high in the ’90s was 17 in 1993, one of only two seasons in double figures in that time, and only in the 1994 strike season did he top .300 in batting average. His fielding prowess usually did not suffer, however; his fielding percentages actually got higher, and he led the AL three straight years (1992-94). He spent time on the DL in 1990, ’93, and ’94, but was so firmly ensconced as a team leader that it was not until after the 1995 season that he was replaced at first base by the Yankees’ acquisition of Tino Martinez, whereupon Mattingly unofficially retired. He had, at least, finally reached postseason play, hitting well in the Yankees’ losing effort that year against Seattle in the division playoffs.
In January 1997 Mattingly officially announced his retirement from baseball, having decided that his back problems would not let him make a comeback. At that time the Yankees announced that his number 23 would be retired, with a ceremony to take place during the 1997 season. Yankee owner George Steinbrenn called vociferously for Mattingly’s election to the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible, a move widely perceived as an attempt to deflect criticism for the way the team handled the ending of Mattingly’s career.
1956: In the Yankees’ home opener, Mickey Mantle clouts a three run homer and Whitey Ford goes the distance, allowing 5 Red Sox hits. New York win 7-1.
1945: In the delayed presidential opener in Washington, tribute is paid to the late FDR before House Speaker Sam Rayburn tosses out the first ball.
The Yankees win their fourth straight, pounding 3 Nats pitchers
for a 6-3 win.
1939: The Red Sox show off their prize rookie Ted Williams before 30,278 in the opener in New York, delayed two days because of rain. After striking out twice, Williams collects a double off Red Ruffing, who wins 2-0. Gehrig makes an error, goes hitless, and lines into two
double plays in the only game featuring the two greats. Other future Hall of Famers in what will become an historic box score include Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, Jimmie Foxx, Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr, Red Rolfe, and losing pitcher Lefty Grove. The Yanks score their first run on a homer by Dickey and their second tally on an error by Foxx. Boston have baserunners in each inning, but Ruffing tosses just the second opening day shut out in Yankee history. Four umpires work the game including third base arbiter George Pipgras, the starting pitcher for the Yankees in the 1929 Opener; his opponent for the Red Sox that day was Red Ruffing.
1932: The Yankees draw the largest paid attendance -55, 452 – for any home opener. (Their ‘announced’ attendance, however, when the stadium opened in 1923 was 74,217). Babe Ruth homers, as Lefty Gomez beats Lefty Grove and the Yanks defeat the Athletics 8-3.
1930: In today’s issue of the Chicago Tribune, writer Irwin Howe names his all-time all-star team based on his 42 years of observing baseball, with Babe Ruth in right field.
1926: The Yankees batter Washington 18-5. Among their 22 hits are a home run, 2 doubles, and 2 singles by Babe Ruth, who scores 5 runs and drives in 8. The Babe’s home run is a 2-run shot in the first inning off Walter Johnson.
Rookie Bill Morrell debuts in relief for the Senators and this is noteworthy only because contemporary accounts list his age at 26, and his birth year as 1900. In fact, Morrell was born in 1893, making him off by seven years, a possible ML record. Later encyclopedias will carry his correct birth date.
1924: In Washington, Walter Johnson picks up an easy 12-3 win over the Yankees. Babe Ruth scores 2 of the New York runs on a triple and an 8th inning home run.
1912: The Boston Red Sox play the first game in the history of Fenway Park. The Red Sox open up with an 11-inning, 7-6 victory over the New York Highlanders.