Welcome to the relaunched This Day in Yankees History. The New Year is upon us, and the winter hot stove continues to percolate. That being said, the Yankees seem to have made their big moves in DJ LeMahieu and Corey Kluber, so that gives us more 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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This Day in Yankees History (January 21)
68 Years Ago
Baseball’s Hall of Fame voting has always generated a fair amount of drama, and The Yankee Clipper’s path to Cooperstown is one of the weirder ones in MLB history. While DiMaggio was widely considered to be the best player in the game during his playing career, BBWAA voters decided against enshrining Joltin’ Joe on this day in 1953, the first year he appeared on the ballot.
When DiMaggio hung up his cleats after the 1951 season, there was just a one-year waiting period before players could become eligible to have their name appear on the Hall of Fame ballot. However, during his first year of eligibility in 1953, DiMaggio received only 44.3 percent of the BBWAA writers’ vote, well shy of the 75 percent required for induction.
Because Hall voting wasn’t as regulated and uniform back then, it’s hard to say exactly why DiMaggio was skipped over. Many baseball historians believe The Yankee Clipper failed to earn more votes because the writers were hesitant to vote for a player a mere year after he retired. Up until that point, Lou Gehrig was the only player to be inducted into the Hall in such a short time period — and Gehrig’s case, of course, was posthumous.
He didn’t earn enough of the vote to be inducted in 1954, either. In 1955, his third year of eligibility, DiMaggio finally garnered 88.8 percent of the writers’ vote and earned his place in Cooperstown.
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Today’s birthday wishes go out to Preston Claiborne, who turns 33 today. The former Yankees reliever returned to the organization this past year, and was slated to start work as a pitching coach for one of the Yankees’ two Gulf Coast League rookie ball teams before MLB canceled the Minor League Baseball season.
Claiborne first entered the organization when the Yankees drafted him back in 2010 as a 17th round pick. A few years later, the right hander made his major league debut in May 2013 by relieving Andy Pettitte. Claiborne made 62 relief appearances for the Yankees between 2013 and 2014, before being sidelined by successive shoulder injuries which ultimately cut short his career in the majors.
As a late-round draft pick who bounced between the Bronx and Triple-A, and who also knows what it’s like to wear the pinstripes, Claiborne is well-suited to coach and mentor Yankees pitchers just starting out in the lowest level of the minor leagues. Catcher Johnny Oates, who’s better known for his managerial career with the Rangers, also has a birthday today. Oates spent 11 seasons in the majors and served as a backup catcher for the Yankees from 1980-81, the last years of his playing career.
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We thank Baseball Reference and Nationalpastime.com for providing background information for these posts.