Results tagged ‘ Johnny Blanchard ’

Tex calls it a career as Yanks bow out of season

As it turned out, Mark Teixeira got his wish. When he hit a game-winning grand slam Wednesday night against the Red Sox, Tex said afterward that he hoped it would be the last home run of his career.

It was.

Plenty of Yankees fans would have hoped Texeira might launch one more drive into the seats Sunday in his last major-league game. Alas, it was not to be. Teixeira had three plate appearances and grounded out twice and flied out once before he came off the field to a standing ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd of 33,277 at the start of the seventh inning as Tyler Austin replaced him at first base.

The slugging for the Yankees in Sunday’s season finale was by Brian McCann, who led off the fourth inning with his 20th home run of the season. It was the ninth consecutive season of 20 or more homers for Mac and the 10th of his career, which made him the fourth catcher in big-league history with at least 10 20-homer seasons. The others are Hall of Famers Mike Pizza and Johnny Bench with 11 apiece and Yogi Berra with 10.

With Gary Sanchez also having goes deep 20 times, the Yankees became the third team in history to have two hitters who played at least half their games behind the plate to hit at least 20 home runs in the same season. The Yankees had Elston Howard and Johnny Blanchard with 21 each in 1961. The Milwaukee Braves had Joe Torre, later the Yankees manager, with 27 and Gene Oliver with 21 in 1965.

A catcher had the big game for the wild-card Orioles in their 5-3 victory. Matt Wieters socked a two-run home run off Yankees starter Luis Cessa in the fourth inning and greeted reliever Tommy Layne with another two-run blast in the sixth. It was the seventh career multi-homer game for the switch-hitting Wieters and the first from both sides of the plate.

Teixeira, who holds the major-league record for homering from each side of the plate in a game (15 times), finished the season with a .204 batting average within 15 home runs and 44 RBI. Tex was a .268 career hitter with the same total of hits as games played (1,862) with 409 homers and 1,298 runs batted in.

In a pregame ceremony, Teixeira was on the field with his wife, Leigh, and their children, Jack, Addy and Will, when he was presented with a framed No. 25 jersey commemorating his final game by Yankees managing general partners Hal Steinbrenner and Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal and Christina Steinbrenner, Hal’s wife. Tex also received a framed base signed by all of the 2016 Yankees that was presented by CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner, his last remaining teammates from the World Series championship team of 2009. Harlem RBI, the organization for which Teixeira donated $1 million and raised more than $10 million over the years, presented him with a signed thank-you card signed by hundreds of youngsters from Harlem and the Bronx who have benefit from his efforts on their behalf.

The Yankees’ fourth-place finish in the American League East this year was their lowest position since 1992, when they were fourth in the then seven-team AL East.

Spare parts have their uses

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.”

Still Bronx Bombing half a century later

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Yankees’ championship team of 1961, a club that is particularly associated with the home run. Merely 20 games into the season, the 2011 Yankees are also linking themselves with the long ball.

Entering play Wednesday night, the Yankees were leading the majors in home runs (38) and multi-homer games (12). They are averaging almost two home runs (1.9) per game. Both of their runs in Tuesday night’s 3-2 loss to the White Sox at Yankee Stadium were on homers, solo shots by Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner.

Of the Yankees’ 111 runs, 68 (61.3 percent) have been the result of homers. Half of the top 10 home-run hitters in the American League are Yankees. Curtis Granderson’s seven are the most on the team and tied with Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre for second in the AL only to the eight by Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista. Mark Teixeria, Jorge Posada and Russell Martin are among those in a seven-way tie for fourth place with six apiece.

The Yankees are on a pace to hit 308 home runs this season, which is unfathomable.

Half a century ago, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle chased the ghost of Babe Ruth, whose home run record for a season of 60 in 1927 was outdistanced by Maris’ 61 in ’61 while Mantle finished second with 54. As a team, the Yankees bashed 240 home runs in 1961 that remained the major-league record for 35 years.

The ’61 Yankees were the first team to have as many as six players hit more than 20 home runs, including all three catchers – Yogi Berra with 22 and Elston Howard and Johnny Blanchard with 21 apiece. In truth, that was nothing more than a trivia question. Howard was the regular catcher with Blanchard the backup in 48 games. Yogi actually platooned with Hector Lopez in left field and caught only 15 games. The Yankees’ sixth 20-homer hitter that season was first baseman Moose Skowron with 28.

That was also the first season of the 162-game schedule, which is why there was a controversy about whether Maris broke Ruth’s record or not. The American League expanded by adding the Angels and a replacement franchise in Washington, D.C., after the original Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins. Eight games were added to the previous schedule of 154.

In the last season of pre-expansion, the Yankees set the AL record for home runs with 193. In a preview of ’61, Mantle and Maris also dueled for the home run title with the Mick winning, 40-39.

The major-league record of 221 was shared by two National League clubs, the 1947 Giants and the 1956 Reds. That was the record the Yankees shattered in 1961. Their 240 bombs remained the standard until 1996 when all hell broke loose in slugging.

Three teams topped the ’61 Yanks total in ’96 with the Orioles eclipsing the standard with 257. The Mariners had 245 and the Athletics 243. Baltimore’s mark didn’t last long. One year later, Seattle slugged 264 homers, which remains the big-league record. The old NL mark of 221 was tied by the Rockies in 1996 but went by the board when the 2000 Astros bashed 249, still the NL standard.

The 240 homers the Yankees hit in 1961 stood as the club record until 2004 when the team had 242, once again powered by six players with more than 20 (Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield 36 each, Hideki Matsui 31, Derek Jeter 23, Bernie Williams 22, Posada 21). In the first year of the current Stadium, the Yankees pushed the mark to 244, this time with seven 20-homer guys (Teixeira 39, Rodriguez 30, Nick Swisher 29, Matsui 28, Cano 25, Johnny Damon 24, Posada 22).

Who knows how high they can go in 2011?