Welcome to This Day in Yankees History. The New Year is upon us, and the winter hot stove has begun to heat up. That being said, there has not been much movement on the Yankees’ front as of yet, so in the meantime let’s dig into the history books. These daily posts will highlight a handful of 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 4)
117 Years Ago
A year after the franchise started playing in New York, the Highlanders attempted to increase their revenue potential by announcing a plan to play their Sunday home games at Ridgewood Park on Long Island. The Highlanders’ main home ground, Hilltop Park, was located in Washington Heights, Manhattan, and therefore was subject to the blue laws of New York City.
Ridgewood Park was located in Queens County, which in 1904 was not yet incorporated into Brooklyn, and was therefore not subject to the Sabbath laws under the purview of the city. This loophole allowed teams to charge admission for Sunday home games, including the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers. The Highlanders’ plan was short-lived, as mere months later, the National Commission disallowed them from playing there due to the proximity to the Brooklyn Superbas. (The Brooklyn baseball team went by the Superbas from 1899-1910, and carried the nickname “Trolley Dodgers” until it was shortened to Dodgers permanently in 1932.)
15 Years Ago
Midway through the offseason in 2006, the Yankees signed relief pitcher Octavio Dotel on a one-year free agent contract. The righty had been fairly effective in his major league career up until that point, with a 3.63 ERA and 71 saves in just over 600 innings across seven seasons with the Mets, Astros, and Athletics. However, he missed the first four months of the 2006 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, and was completely ineffective for the Yankees, giving up 12 earned runs in only ten innings that season.
Dotel is most famous for having held the record for most franchises played for in major league history. In 2012, he joined his record-breaking 13th team, the Tigers, surpassing the twelve-team mark jointly held by Mike Morgan, Matt Stairs, and Ron Villone. Dotel held the record for seven years, until it was broken by Edwin Jackson in 2019, when he suited up for his 14th different team, the Blue Jays.
Two Years Ago
Winter before last, the Yankees signed Troy Tulowitzki as their starting shortstop while Didi Gregorius rehabbed from Tommy John surgery. Tulo made five appearances for the team, registering a lone home run in 12 plate appearances. His season was cut short by a calf strain, and after experiencing several setbacks, he retired from baseball on July 25, 2019. Such was the story of Tulo’s career, as he was arguably the best shortstop in baseball in the first half of the 2010’s, but injuries derailed what could have been a Hall of Fame career.
This wasn’t the first time Tulowitzki had been linked to the Yankees. A lifelong Derek Jeter fan, Tulo’s most famous connection to the club happened nine years prior, in the offseason following the 2010 season. Jeter was a free agent, and negotiations with Brian Cashman were particularly rancorous. Cashman felt that Jeter had declined, and publicly commented that Jeter should test the open market in response to Jeter’s inflated self-valuation.
Where does Tulo come into all of this? Well, according to Cashman, the two held a meeting to discuss his free agency, during which Jeter asked, “Who would you rather have playing shortstop this year than me?” Cashman responded by naming Tulowitzki, although he would have to wait nine more years before finally getting his wish.
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Happy birthday to Ted Lilly, who turns 45 today. The southpaw was traded from the Expos to the Yankees alongside Jake Westbrook for Hideki Irabu on March 17, 2000. He pitched in three seasons for the Bombers, going 8-12 with a 4.65 ERA, 4.55 FIP, and 182 strikeouts in 205 1⁄3 innings.
Just as Lilly seemed to be hitting his stride in 2002 with a 3.40 ERA in 76 2⁄3 frames, he was traded to the Athletics as part of a three-team deal that brought Jeff Weaver to the Bronx and sent Jeremy Bonderman to the Tigers. Given that Lilly flourished into a two-time All-Star after leaving New York while Weaver floundered, it’s a deal that Brian Cashman would probably want back.
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We thank Baseball Reference, Nationalpastime.com, and FanGraphs for providing background information for these posts.