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This Day in Yankees History: Raúl Ibañez joins the Bombers

A playoff hero began his Yankee career on this day in history.

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees - Game Three

Welcome to This Day in Yankees History. Now that spring training is officially open, it’s time to get amped for the upcoming season. 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 (February 20th):

25 Years Ago

The Yankees come to terms with free agent pitcher Dwight “Doc” Gooden.

Gooden was a phenom for the Mets in the 80s, debuting at 19, winning a Cy Young Award the next year when he was just 20, and helping the Mets win the ‘86 World Series. However, he then spent a lot of the next decade dealing with substance abuse problems, culminating with him being suspended for the entire 1995 season.

The Yankees picked him up when he was eligible again in ‘96. While he wasn’t on the postseason roster, Gooden was a useful pitcher during the regular season, including a no-hitter he threw in May.

Gooden would spend the ‘97 season with the Yankees as well, but would sign with Cleveland for ‘98. He rejoined the Yankees in 2000, winning one more ring before retiring the following year.

Nine Years Ago

The Yankees try to bolster their lineup and sign Raúl Ibañez to a one-year deal.

Originally signed as a platoon bat to face right-handed pitchers, Ibañez ends up appearing in 130 regular season games due to an injury to Brett Gardner, which caused him to miss most of the season. Ibañez spent most of the season as a league average bat, who was known for being, uh, less than stellar in the field.

However, on September 22nd, Ibañez hit a 13th inning, game-tying home run against the Athletics, helping the Yankees rally from four runs down and eventually win in the 14th. From that day forward, he hit .405/.450/.811 over the last 12 games of the season, helping the Yankees win in a tight AL East race.

They would then have to face off against their AL East competitor, the Orioles, in the ALDS, where Ibañez’s heroics would continue. With one out in the ninth inning of Game 3, the Yankees trailed 2-1, on the verge of also falling down 2-1 in the series. Facing Orioles’ All-Star closer Jim Johnson, who finished seventh in Cy Young voting that season, Ibañez homered to tie the game and send it to extra innings. The game was still tied when his spot came back around and he led off the 12th. On the first pitch of the inning, Ibañez went yard again, giving the Yankees a 3-2 win and a crucial lead in the series, which they eventually won in five games.

In Game 1 of the ensuing ALCS, Ibañez hit yet another game-tying home run, completing a rally after the Yankees went into the inning trailing 4-0. That game and series wouldn’t end well for the Yankees, as they ended up getting swept by the Tigers.

Although the 2012 season would be Ibañez’s only experience as a Yankee, he’ll always be fondly remembered for his heroics.

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It’s a busy day in Yankees birthdays, but the most notable one is probably current Yankee Luis Severino! The two-time All-Star turns 27 today.

Since debuting in 2015, Severino has been mostly an excellent pitcher for the Yankees, including a third-place Cy Young finish in 2017. However in recent years, he’s dealt with injury troubles. In 2019, he only threw 12 regular season innings, and then went down with Tommy John surgery ahead of the 2020 season. He’s seemingly on track to return at some point this season, where hopefully he can regain the form that made him the exciting pitcher he’s been so far in his Yankees’ career.

Other Yankees with birthdays today include Boardwalk Brown, Tom Buskey, Bill Gullickson, Tommy Henrich, Phil Lombardi, Brian McCann, Donzell McDonald, Muddy Ruel, Clarke Schmidt, and Shane Spencer.

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We thank Baseball Reference and for providing background information for these posts.