Welcome to the relaunched This Day in Yankees History. With the offseason well underway, the Pinstripe Alley team has decided to continue the revived program in its new format. 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 18)
64 Years Ago
After the Yankees abruptly released him several months prior, New York’s recently-retired shortstop Phil Rizzuto started his second career in the WPIX broadcast booth on this day in 1956. In the beginning, Rizzuto split innings with Mel Allen and Red Barber — two legendary sports announcers — and Rizzuto’s combination of eccentric ramblings and New York humor provided an entertaining contrast to the more traditional voices of Allen and Barber. Over the next 39 years, “the Scooter” developed a broadcast style that was uniquely his own, and much like current YES Network broadcasters Paul O’Neill and David Cone, Scooter connected with a new generation of Yankees fans. There’s no question: as a broadcaster, Rizzuto was beloved.
According to his 2007 obituary, Rizzuto’s trademark call, “Holy cow!” was an expression he had picked up as a teenager in Queens, at the suggestion of his high school baseball coach. The phrase, Rizzuto maintained, was originally a substitute for profanity. The Yankees even once gave him a “holy cow” on Phil Rizzuto Day (which knocked him over, naturally). In the booth, Scooter often acknowledged the birthdays and anniversaries of fans and his old teammates. He also created his own notation for keeping score; whenever his attention diverted from game action, Rizzuto would jot down “WW” in his scorecard —shorthand for “wasn’t watching.”
27 Years Ago
On this day 27 years ago, Yankees pitching prospect Brien Taylor severely injured his left shoulder in a bar fight. Taylor was widely regarded as the best high school pitcher in the country before the Yankees selected him as their No. 1 overall pick in the 1991 MLB Draft; Taylor then signed with the team for $1.55 million. Brian Cashman, who back then was the Yankees assistant scouting director, said Bill Livesey, a highly-respected MLB scout, had told Cashman that Taylor was the best amateur pitcher he had ever seen.
The tear in his shoulder caused Taylor to miss the entire ‘94 season and even after surgery, his arm was never the same. The Yankees had planned to start Taylor at Triple-A Columbus, where he would have surely joined members of the Yankees’ late-90s dynasty: Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera. His shoulder injury, quite sadly, spelled the premature end of his once-promising baseball career. Taylor remains one of just a handful of No. 1 overall picks to never make the majors. We can only dream of what might’ve been.
One Year Ago
After signing a nine-year, $324 million deal, pitching ace Gerrit Cole was officially welcomed into the New York Yankees organization at his introductory press conference. Following the customary formalities, Cole, who grew up a Yankees fan, reveals that he brought a memento from his childhood with him to the press conference. He then holds up the faded sign that read: “YANKEE FAN TODAY, TOMORROW, FOREVER.” It was the same sign he was photographed carrying at the 2001 World Series game he’d attended as a teen.
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Happy birthday to Bill “Moose” Skowron, who would have turned 90 years old today. Although he had a gruff demeanor, his teammates always admired him. Skowron was the Yankees’ primary first baseman from 1954-62 and batted .294/.346/.496 with 156 homers during his years in New York. He made seven All-Star teams and helped the team win four World Series titles. A fun fact about Skowron: Moose is one of six players in MLB history to have won consecutive World Series championships on two different teams — he beat his old pals to win a fifth ring in 1963 when Sandy Koufax’s Dodgers swept the Yankees.