So far in spring training, the Yankees have used the likes of Nick Noonan, Jonathan Galvez, and Jared Burton. These are all players that probably won't make the opening day roster. But in spring training, they are Yankees' regulars. And in fairness, they would have been key players on the 2013 Yankees. I'm only half-joking about that. For this week's Pinstripe Q&A, I asked the PSA staff who their favorite lesser-known Yankees have been.
Q: Spring training is a time where non-everyday players get a chance to shine. Who is your all-time favorite lesser known, non-everyday Yankee?
First name that comes to mind is utility infielder Alvaro Espinoza. With his awkward mustache and weird glasses he looked like he should be working at the DMV, not playing professional baseball. In 1991 he pitched a scoreless 2/3 of an inning in a blowout. The next day, he went up to Tom Seaver, who was broadcasting for the Yankees at the time and said "What's your lifetime ERA? Mine's 0.00."
I always had a soft spot for Homer Bush. If we're talking about guys who had a roster spot for a whole season but were lesser known and not everyday guys, I'd have to go Andy Fox in 1996. He looked a little like a skinny Babe Ruth, was terrible at mostly everything, but he helped them win a World Series. What's better than that? Honorable mention to Randy Velarde, Tim Raines and Steve Balboni.
I was always rooting for Juan Rivera. He and Nick Johnson always seemed to have to fight so hard for playing time; I was thrilled for him when he got traded to Montreal for Javy Vazquez v1.0. I saw a buddy at lunch that day and said, "The Yanks traded Rivera to Montreal for Javier Vazquez." Dude almost choked to death because he thought I meant Mariano Rivera.
But the greatest of all part time Yankees was Miguel "Spanish Bombs" Cairo. He was gritty and gutty before that got you a fan club.* He was a gamer. He played every position Joe Torre asked him to, including more starts at 1B than anyone with a slugging below .375 ever.* He hit the game tying double in the 13th inning of "one of the greatest games you'll ever see" on July 1st, 2004, while Derek Jeter was in the hospital getting his teeth re-installed after diving into the stands. Did Miguel ask for a share of the glory? No,* because he's too gritty for that. When the Mets stole him away before the 2005 season, Miguel's ears drooped all season long, like an orca in captivity.* In 2006, with the Yankees battling for the division, he appeared 4 times as a pinch hitter (he went 1-2 with a walk and a sac bunt, which means he hit .500!). In 2007, he started 17 games at first base because of the incriminating photos he used as leverage over Torre from their night together in Milwaukee.* Finally, Brian Cashman traded Cairo away when he realized that Cairo had convinced George to make him GM.*
* items marked with an asterisk may not be actual facts.
I think I'd have to go with Clay Bellinger. The super-sub played every position except pitcher and catcher for the Yankees, and even then he was the emergency catcher if the situation ever called for it. I remember thinking it was crazy when he became the starting center fielder (he was a shortstop by trade) when Bernie Williams got hurt towards the end of the 2000 season. He's also the second most famous alumnus of Rollins College after New York's own Christopher "Mad Dog" Russo.
Martin wrote about him a few weeks ago, but mine is Glenallen Hill. The first Yankee game I ever went to was on August 4, 2000 against the Mariners, and the newly acquired Hill's two-run home run in the seventh inning was the first I ever saw in person (A-Rod and Bernie both went yard in the first inning of that game, but I didn't arrive 'til the second). He held a sentimental place for me from then on, and I loved watching him punish baseballs for the rest of his brief stint in pinstripes.
Jose Molina THA GOD. You can't tell me he doesn't seem like the greatest guy. He clearly has a deep-rooted joy for the game of baseball despite never being good enough offensively to start. Not to mention, he was always known for being great with pitchers. In an ideal world, he, Bengie and Yadier will have 10 sons each and all of them will catch in the MLB, with one on each team.
Jerry Hairston Jr. was a valuable contributor on that 2009 Yankee team, the first championship run I really followed along properly, so definitely a bit of a soft spot there.
Runner-up: Raul Ibanez, for the comic value of his defense in all those gifs, then effectively serving as the MVP of that 2012 run, basically out of nowhere.
It use to be Brett Gardner, before he became known. I mean, Luis Sojo is always a solid answer. He wasn't an everyday player, but he definitely was known. So I'll go with Gerald Williams. Always liked him.
Enrique Wilson: Pedro killer
Luis Sojo would be my answer if not for the fact that he got a go-ahead hit to clinch a World Series. That does kinds rule him due to the 'lesser known' criteria. Someone who a lot a people are likely to forget on Sporcle quizzes, who I quite enjoyed, was Greg Golson. He wasn't very good, as his career .195/.214/.244 line will attest. He was very much a "Hey, you're around and living" September call-up sorta player. (Although he did get earlier call-ups in both seasons with the Yankees, but they were too short for him to even get a cup of coffee.) Yet, he had one fantastically memorable moment in his time as a Yankee. He had just 42 plate appearances in the big leagues, but he had one moment that, personally, I will never forget.
Those are our answers and now it's your turn. Who is your favorite lesser-known Yankee?