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This Day in Yankees History: Yanks hook a Catfish

The Yankees went all out to reel in Catfish Hunter on this day in history.

New York Yankees Photo by Pictoral Parade/Getty Images

Welcome to This Day in Yankees History. We may be well into hot stove season, but there’s still some time to 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. Hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane with us!

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80 Years Ago

Pitcher Bump Hadley is purchased by the Giants, ending a five-year stint with the Yankees. However, that was only the beginning of a weird couple months for him.

At the end of April 1941, after just 13 innings with the Giants, he was returned to the Yankees. The very next day before ever appearing with the Yankees again, he was purchased by the Athletics. The 1941 season was his last in the majors, so I guess you could say this set of transactions was a bump on the road to retirement for Hadley.

46 Years Ago

After a bidding war that included nearly every MLB team, the Yankees and Catfish Hunter ink a five-year/$3.75 million contract. The deal makes him the highest paid player in baseball, with his salary three times as large as any other player.

Hunter would have an excellent first season as a Yankee in 1975, finishing second in Cy Young voting. He would help them to three World Series trips and two titles in the next three seasons, although he wasn’t at his best. After another down season in the final year of his deal, Hunter would retire after ‘79 with injuries and a diabetes diagnosis having caught up with him.

16 Years Ago

Following three years away playing with the Cardinals and Rays, Tino Martinez returns to the Bronx on a one-year deal. The Yankees brought back Martinez as insurance for Jason Giambi, who had missed most of 2004 after being diagnosed with a benign tumor.

Martinez would play 131 games in 2005, splitting time at first with Giambi, who DH-ed a fair amount. He hit .241/.328/.439 with 17 homers, good for a 104 OPS+. He and the Yankees would lose in the ALDS to the Angels, and the following February, the first baseman announced his retirement.

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Happy birthday, Tommy Byrne!

The pitcher had two different stints in New York, the first from 1943-51 and then returning for the 1954-57 seasons. He helped the Yankees to two championships (‘49 and ‘56) and made one All-Star team (‘50).

He had some good seasons in pinstripes, and he had some bad ones. No matter how well he was pitching, one thing was almost always the same: he was wild. He “led” the league in walks three times, while hitting the most batters in five other seasons. Even in his All-Star season, he walked 160 people in 203.1 innings. For his career, he had a K/BB ratio of 0.74.

However, after returning to the Yankees later in his career, he came a pivotal starter on the 1955 AL Pennant-winning team. In 160 innings across 27 games (22 starts), he put up a 3.15 ERA and led the league in winning percentage. Byrne allowed four runs across two World Series starts, but was the losing pitcher in the Game Seven loss to the Dodgers.

Other Yankees with birthdays today include Esteban Loaiza and Ted Gray.

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We thank SABR, the New York Times, Baseball Reference, and for providing background information for these posts.