Welcome to the relaunched This Day in Yankees History. The 2020 baseball season has come to an end, so let’s dig into the history books. These daily posts will highlight two or three key moments in Yankees history on a given date, as well as recognize players born on the day. We hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane with us!
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This Day in Yankees History (December 11)
69 Years Ago
After 13 years with the Yankees, Joe DiMaggio tearfully announced his retirement from baseball at the age of 37. DiMaggio slashed .325/.398/.579 for his career with 361 homers, but of course lost three seasons in the middle of his career to World War II. In every season that he actually played, DiMaggio was selected to the All-Star team.
Even at the end, DiMaggio proved a great player. In 1950, his age-35 season, DiMaggio appeared in 139 games, posted a 151 OPS+, and manned center field most days. As his body broke down in his final season in 1951, he still managed a 116 OPS+ in 116 games.
45 Years Ago
With a big day of transactions, the Yankees reshaped their team. In one fell swoop, they acquired pitchers Dock Ellis and Ken Brett as well as second baseman Willie Randolph, in exchange for young pitcher Doc Medich. Ellis had a productive 1976 season in pinstripes before being traded to the Athletics the next year. Randolph went on to compile an excellent tenure in the Bronx, one that was quite arguably Hall-of-Fame caliber.
Not satisfied there, the Yankees also swapped Bobby Bonds for Mickey Rivers. “Mick the Quick” would swipe 93 bags and compile over 15 rWAR with the Yankees across four years before getting traded to the Rangers.
The offseason makeover very nearly put the Yankees over the top. After muddling to an 83-77 finish in 1975, the Yankees crushed the AL East en route to 97 wins and the pennant in 1976, before ultimately falling in the World Series to the Reds. The next winter, they’d sign Reggie Jackson ahead of finally getting back to the mountaintop.
17 Years Ago
Andy Pettitte walked away from New York on this day in 2003. After nine excellent seasons in the Bronx, the most recent of which resulted in 21 wins, Pettitte signed a three-year contract with his hometown Houston Astros. He had grown up in nearby Deer Park, Texas, and took the opportunity to ply his trade close to home. Late in negotiations, the Yankees offered Pettitte a better contract, but he had already made a handshake deal with Houston and refused to break it for the last-second offer.
Pettitte brought Roger Clemens with him out of retirement, and the pair helped lead the club to the World Series in 2005. The lefty managed a 129 ERA+ for his three seasons in Houston, including a 177 figure for that pennant-winning team in ‘05.
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The only Yankee birthday today belongs to Hal Brown. The right-handed pitcher appeared in just two games for the Yankees, in 1962, allowing ten runs, five earned, in 6.2 innings. Though his time in New York was was short, he did put together a 14-year career that included over 16 rWAR. He would have been 96 today.
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We thank Baseball Reference, SABR.org and Nationalpastime.com for providing background information for these posts.