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This Day in Yankees History: A Spark of inspiration

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Almost fifty years ago, the Yankees pulled off the second-best trade with the Red Sox in franchise history.

New York Yankees Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Welcome to the relaunched This Day in Yankees History. With the start of the 2020 season delayed for the foreseeable future, the Pinstripe Alley team decided to revive the program in a slightly different format. These daily posts will highlight a few key moments in Yankees history on a given date, as well as recognize players born on the day. Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

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This Day in Yankees History (March 22)

58 years ago

Today marks the birth of one of the great rivalries in the game. In a spring training game, the Yankees and the Mets squared off in their first-ever meeting. The newly-formed Mets were led by none other than former Yankee manager Casey Stengel. With the game tied at 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Stengel, eager to prevail over his former employers, put all his cards on the table. He subbed in future Hall of Fame outfielder Richie Ashburn to pinch-hit. The move payed off, as Ashburn delivered a walk-off single to win the game 4-3. The game would prove to be one of the highlights of the Mets’ debut season, as they would go on to finish 40-120, the most losses of any team in the twentieth century. However, Stengel ultimately was instrumental in growing the popularity of the Mets, including coining the nickname “Amazin’.”

58 years ago

During that same exhibition was an infamous spat between two legends of the game. Roger Maris refused to take a picture with Rogers Hornsby, then a coach for the new crosstown rivals. Hornsby had criticized Maris in his new autobiography My War with Baseball, saying Maris was “a mediocre hitter who couldn’t bat .400 if all of his averages were added up.” The Rajah had a notoriously caustic personality, and his abrasiveness in combination with his heavy gambling habits resulted in his dismissal from many teams at the end of his playing career and as a manager.

48 years ago

In a trade rivaled only by the acquisition of Babe Ruth in 1919, the Yankees sent first baseman Danny Cater to the Red Sox in exchange for reliever extraordinaire Albert Walter “Sparky” Lyle. While Cater was a decent enough player, whose career accomplishments include finishing second in the 1968 American League batting title race, this would prove to be one of the most lopsided trades in history. In New York, Sparky Lyle continued his ascendancy as one of the game’s great relief pitchers. The lefty closer became the anchor of the Yankees bullpen, leading the league in saves in 1972 and 1976, and won the Cy Young Award in 1977. His time in New York culminated in winning consecutive World Series in 1977 and 1978.

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Birthdays

Happy birthday to Glenallen Hill and Rich Monteleone. Hill, who turns 55 today, was traded to the Yankees mid-way through the 2000 season. Playing primarily as a DH, he batted .333/.378/.735 with the Bombers, helping them to a playoffs in which they would win their fourth World Series in five years. Celebrating his 57th birthday, Rich Monteleone was a relief pitcher for the Yankees from 1990-1993, appearing in 120 games with a 4.06 ERA. He also served as the Yankees bullpen coach from 2002 until 2008.

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We thank Baseball-Reference, Nationalpastime.com, and FanGraphs for providing background information for these posts.