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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48 Years Ago
A difficult era in Yankees history officially came to an end when CBS sold the Yankees for $10 million. The company had purchased the club after the 1964 season, and its ownership immediately coincided with the decline of the Yankees’ dynasty. The team was old at that point, but CBS also did not run it very well at all. So they gave up during the 1972-73 offseason, when a Cleveland shipbuilder named George Steinbrenner put together a group of investors who were interested in taking the franchise off the network’s hands.
For $10 million, it was an absolute steal. Steinbrenner would later struggle with bad impulse signings, hirings, and trades, but early on, he let smart baseball minds like Gabe Paul take the lead on building a dominant club while approving big-money contracts for stars like Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson. The Yankees went from also-rans in the early ‘70s to two-time champions by the end of the decade. The rest is history, and the team is now a multi-billion dollar franchise still owned by the Steinbrenner family (for better or for worse).
16 Years Ago
The Yankees’ plans for acquiring future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson to head their 2005 rotation were approved by commissioner Bud Selig. We’ll further explore this trade later on for the anniversary of when the blockbuster deal became official (January 11th), but it was no guarantee that Selig would approve it. After all, there was a lot of money changing hands between the Yankees and D-backs to get this done.
Steinbrenner and GM Brian Cashman had desperately wanted to add the intimidating lefty for quite some time, and they finally got their man. They took on Johnson’s contract and sent $9 million to the D-backs in addition to a package of players led by past offseason free agent bust Javier Vázquez. It was extremely exciting in the wake of the awful way that the 2004 season went down in flames, but the results were anticlimactic. Johnson was good in ‘05 but awful in his lone playoff start, and ‘06 was just bad. The Yankees never advanced past the ALDS and Johnson was ultimately sent back to Arizona prior to the ‘07 season.
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Happy 44th birthday to A.J. Burnett! The righty pitcher was drafted by the Mets but rose to prominence with the Marlins and Blue Jays before the Yankees signed their former AL East nemesis to a five-year, $82.5 million contract during their 2008-09 offseason spending spree. They saw Burnett and CC Sabathia as the new leaders of their rotation, and it worked out pretty damn well in that first year. Burnett turned in a 4.5 WAR debut season in pinstripes, pitching 207 steady innings with 195 strikeouts and a 114 ERA+. Although sometimes erratic, he earned every penny by turning in the biggest start of the Yankees’ season in Game Two of the 2009 World Series:
If Burnett doesn’t look like aces in Game Two, the Yankees probably fall behind in that series, 0-2, and who knows if they end up coming back against the defending champion Phillies. As it stood, Burnett became a hero of the most recent championship team.
The rest of Burnett’s Yankees tenure did not go well. He struggled in 2010 and 2011, and watching him labor through starts became a constant headache for fans and coaches alike. He was traded to the Pirates in a salary dump prior to the 2012 season and fared better by the Allegheny for the latter stages of his career. Burnett’s Yankees tenure may have been a rollercoaster ride, but never forget that flags fly forever.
Bonus birthday wishes also go out to another World Series hero: Luis Sojo. A bench infielder on the dynasty Yankees of 1996-2000, Sojo turns 55 today, and it’s hard to believe that it’s now been over 20 years since he delivered the game-winning hit of the 2000 Subway Series. Watching that thousand-hopper up the middle off Al Leiter always brings a smile to my face.
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We thank Baseball Reference and SABR for providing background information for these posts.