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The man with the strangest Yankees career

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Not all Yankees' rookies had great years in 1996.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

A couple weeks ago on a Yankees' off day while flipping through the channels, I landed on YES. That night, they happened to be showing Game 4 of the 1996 World Series. The six-run comeback, Jim Leyritz, you know, that one. As often happens to me, that sent me down a Baseball-Reference rabbit hole, this time in particular I was looking at that 96 team. I have memories from 96 and know all the major names from that team, but I was only five years old, so I definitely have some blind spots about that team. While looking down the list of people who played that year, a name, or rather a stat line, stuck out at me. Not because it was really good, not because it was really bad. Because it was strange.

Matt Luke was an eighth round pick by the Yankees in the 1992 draft. He put up decent numbers, with some pretty good power in the next couple years and reached Triple-A in 1995. In 23 games at Triple-A in 95, he hit .299/.325/.564. Near the start of the 1996 season, Matt Luke was called up to the Yankees. Here is the story of Matt Luke's lone appearance as a Yankee.

On April 3, 1996, the Yankees played the Indians in the second game of the season in Cleveland. In the top of the sixth, the Yankees led 2-1. With two outs in the inning, Yankees DH Ruben Sierra reached on an error by Indians' first baseman Julio Franco. Sierra had to leave that game after that due to tightness in his hamstring. Matt Luke was sent up as a pinch-runner. After Tino Martinez walked, Luke came around to score on a Bernie Williams single, putting the Yankees up 3-1.

In the top of the seventh, the DH spot which Luke now occupied came back around in the order. Only Matt Luke wasn't sent to the plate. Joe Torre sent Joe Girardi up instead. Yes, the score was only 3-1 and the bases were loaded. And yes, Matt Luke was just a rookie, but it was Joe Girardi. Girardi was a solid baseball player, but his bat wasn't exactly his strong suit. Luke's day was over. Girardi did draw a bases-loaded walk and the Yankees wound up winning 5-1.

The next day, Luke was supposed to get the start in the third game of the series in Cleveland. Except it was Ohio in April and the game was snowed out. April 5th was an off-day for the Yankees, during which the picked up former Yankee Dion James, who had been released by the Expos. Luke was sent back to the minor leagues with one game played, one run scored, but no at bats.

That was the only game Matt Luke played as a Yankee. He played the rest of 1996 and most of the 1997 season in the Yankees' minor league system. He was placed on waivers in September 97 and was selected by the Dodgers.

He finally did get an at bat in the 1998 season. He was sent up as a pinch-hitter in the Dodgers' second game in 98. After playing 33 games for the Dodgers, he was placed on waivers and eventually claimed by the Indians. He played two games for Cleveland before being placed on waivers by them. Luke was then claimed by...the Dodgers. He played 33 more games for the Dodgers in 98 and played 18 for the Angels in 1999. His final major league game was on September 30, 1999, where fittingly, he didn't get an at bat. He came in as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning.

According to Baseball-Reference, he didn't play in 2000, played indy ball in 2001, and briefly played Triple-A in the Rays' system in 2002. He is now a real estate agent in California. He has a Twitter, where not only can you find real estate information, but also how to optimize your web usage.

Matt Luke really didn't have a weird major league career, but his Yankee career is what gets me. He made one appearance, as a pinch-runner, in April. The Yankees have a designated pinch-runner on the team now in Rico Noel. That's not that crazy, but that's not really what Luke was. He was on the 25-man roster that early, presumably, because the Yankees thought he could help them. Yet just a couple days later, after not seeing him in a major league at bat, he was gone.

He may not have the weirdest Yankee career. You may find something stranger. But Matt Luke's is definitely up there.

Sources

http://www.nytimes.com/1996/04/04/sports/baseball-yanks-turn-jacobs-field-into-their-house.html

http://www.nytimes.com/1997/03/20/sports/just-behind-the-scars-stands-a-special-player.html

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CLE/CLE199604030.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/l/lukema01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/j/jamesdi01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/ANA/ANA199909300.shtml