Welcome to the relaunched This Day in Yankees History. With the offseason well underway, the Pinstripe Alley team is continuing this revived program. 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 29)
91 Years Ago
The Boston Red Sox sell a former home run king to the New York Yankees — no, not Babe Ruth — Ken Williams. The let fielder hit 196 home runs in a 14-year career with the Cincinnati Reds, the St. Louis Browns, and the Red Sox, briefly snatching the AL home run crown from Ruth while with the Browns in 1922 by leading the league with 39 dingers (Ruth had been suspended for the first six weeks of the season). Although 196 homers might not seem like much now, it was good enough for fourth on the all-time list at the time Williams’s career ended in 1929.
If you’ve done the math though, you probably know that Williams did not last long in New York. Unlike Ruth, Williams never played a game with the Yankees, as Yankees released him before the 1930 season began. He played a couple more years in the Pacific Coast League with the Portland Beavers, but never returned to The Show.
39 Years Ago
Graig Nettles, about to start his tenth season in pinstripes, is named the first Yankees captain since Thurman Munson’s death in 1979. Ironically, following the season, owner George Steinbrenner accidentally insulted him, saying that he had more than earned his salary and implying that Nettles was past his prime.
Nettles would have the captain title for two seasons, until he was traded, at his own request, to the San Diego Padres, when they attempted to platoon him with Toby Harrah. It worked out for Nettles, as he helped lead the Padres to their first NL pennant in 1984.
Eight Years Ago
A week after the Miami New Times had obtained documents linking Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, and Yasmani Grandal — all three of whom had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2012 — to Biogenesis Laboratories, a new report emerges that four more players had been turned up in an investigation to the Coral Gables, FL, clinic. The most prominent of these was Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who would later be suspended for the entirety of the 2014 season. Additionally, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and former prospect Jesús Montero were also suspended for connections to Biogenesis.
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Happy 61st birthday to Steve Sax! The popular former Dodger and Rookie of the Year signed a three-year, $4 million deal to join the Yankees in 1989, and he played well. Sax made his fourth career All-Star team that season and hit .315/.364/.387 with a 113 OPS+, 43 stolen bases, and 4.4 WAR.
Unfortunately for Sax, he was joining the team at the wrong time, as the Yankees were dreadful for all three seasons of his tenure. They lost 87 games in ‘89, sank to last place with 95 losses in ‘90, and could only rebound to a 91-loss season ‘91. Sax had actually signed an extension prior to 1991, but while he rebounded from a down year, the Yankees elected to trade him to the White Sox in January 1992 in a deal for pitchers Mélido Pérez, Bob Wickman, and Domingo Jean.
The worst part of that year, though? When an innocent softball experience in Springfield turned sour and over 100 random murder cases were pinned on him.
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We thank Baseball Reference, SABR, and FanGraphs for providing background information for these posts.