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History Through Serendipity

I don't always think through what I'm writing as I write it. Often times, my posts don't reach a strong conclusion because we debate an issue, each side with a good point and the truth somewhere in the middle.

And sometimes, I'll write a post with a complete throwaway line- a question I never expect an answer to, or a thought that's too big to parse briefly.

Saturday's post featured a line like that: I offered bonus points to anyone who could tell me a story about Bob Grim, who finished 11th in MVP voting and won the Rookie of the Year award in 1954.

Mickey C was the first to step up:

Grim was a big righthander with two good pitches, a fastball and a slider. In 1951, he was 16-5 with Binghamton in the Easter League. In 1954, after two years in the service, he was invited to the Yankees’ rookie instructional school and was kept on in spring training, where he did well enough to make the roster (to his surprise). He had 20 starts and 17 relief appearances and was 20-6 on the year. He got all 15 first place votes for Rookie of the Year (Al Kaline was third in the voting) and was 11th in the MVP voting.
The Yankees thought they had found a star, but in 1955 and again in 1956, he hurt his arm. He could still throw hard for short periods, so he was made a relief pitcher. In 1957 he made the All-Star team as a reliever and was (retroactively) credited with 19 saves. However, in 1958, his slider began to lose its effectiveness and he was traded to Kansas City.

ogrover chimed in with a little bit of trade history:


besides rookie of the year, he was traded along with the Harry ‘Suitcase’ Simpson for Virgil Trucks and Duke Maas. I think he was the first Yankee in something like 50 years to win 20 games as well.

Len sent me an email with this factoid:

Grim is the only pitcher in major league history to win 20 games and pitch less than 200 innings

So there's a little piece of Yankee history that I'm willing to bet few of us knew about. For going above and beyond on a rainout day, these three each earn a bonus COG and my gratitude.

And that leads me to a rainy day question: who was your favorite Yankee journeyman?

I'll always remember Ted Lilly as the one who got away. Lilly had been drafted by the Dodgers and sent to Montreal for Mark Grudzielanek at the 1998 trade deadline. Two years later, when the time came to banish Hideki "the Fat Toad" Irabu, Lily came to the Yankees. 2001 was tough on Lilly, who posted an ERA over 5 and more than a hit per inning.

In 2002 though, Lilly made a big adjustment- he stopped trying to strike everyone out. His K/9 tumbled from high 8s to high 6s, but his walk rate fell too, and suddenly he was no longer behind in counts, serving up meatballs to the game's best hitters. In 2002, Lilly was brilliant, and the Yankees (obviously thinking they were selling high) sent Lilly to Oakland in a three-way trade that brought young Tigers ace Jeff Weaver to the Bronx.

Since then, Lilly has been an innings eater for the Blue Jays, the Cubs and now the Dodgers. He's never been great: a two time All Star with only 4 seasons of sub 4 ERA in a 13 year career, mainly sabotaged by the rate at which he gives up home runs. Still, it galls me to think that only 8 of his 120 wins came in pinstripes, especially when he could have been a very useful piece on those pitching deficient teams in the mid-aughts.