Welcome to This Day in Yankees History. The New Year is upon us, and the winter hot stove continues to percolate. 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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15 Years Ago
Before the Yankees signed Johnny Damon in January of 2006 he was a nemesis on the Boston Red Sox. After officially signing with the Yankees on January 3, 2006, Damon took out a full-page ad in the Boston Globe to thank fans for their support over the years. It is now common place for athletes to do this on social media, but while not unprecedented it was not as common for an athlete to do this 2006. His time as one of the long haired self-proclaimed “idiots” endeared him to the Boston fan base. The Yankees lured him to the good side of the rivalry with a four-year, $52 million deal. Damon’s 112 OPS+ during his time with the Yankees was his best with any of the seven teams he played for during his 18-year career. He also recorded 14.4 bWAR as a Yankee, which by any calculation would make his contract an absolute steal.
Damon’s contributions went well beyond the regular season, including his heads up baserunning in Game 4 of the 2009 World Series where he stole two bases in one play which helped secure the victory and give the Yankees a 3-1 series lead. In that World Series he hit .364/.440/.895 while playing in all six games and helped deliver the Yankees’ latest championship. Overall he played in 23 playoff games across three seasons for the Yankees, hitting five home runs with 17 RBIs, and 15 runs scored.
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Fritz Peterson turns 79 years old today. The left-handed pitcher is one of those players in Yankees history who fit a really good career into one of the worst stretches in club history. From 1966-1974 he produced a 109-106 record with a 3.30 ERA over 2,218 innings pitched. He was an All-Star in 1970 when he tossed 260.1 innings with a 2.90 ERA. That was his third straight season with an ERA under 3.00. That season the Yankees went 93-69 and finished second in the AL East. Peterson led the American League in WHIP twice and BB/9 five consecutive seasons, never recording more than 1.6 BB/9 in that stretch. The Yankees correctly evaluated a decline in his abilities and traded him to Cleveland in May 1974 for Chris Chambliss and Dick Tidrow, who would play a role on future Yankees championships. Peterson finished his career with 21.0 bWAR over a solid 11 year career.
Other past members of the Yankees organization with birthdays today are Chase Wright, Bob Oliver, Don Heffner and Gene Elliott.
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We thank the New York Times, Baseball Reference, and Nationalpastime.com for providing background information for these posts.