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This Day in Yankees History: George Weiss crosses town

Longtime Yanks GM George Weiss joins the new Mets; MLBPA stands strong against replacement-player threat; YES Network finally comes to Cablevision

Casey Stengel and George M. Weiss in Private Conversation

Welcome to the relaunched This Day in Yankees History. 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 (March 14th)

60 Years Ago

A year before the Mets began play at the old Polo Grounds as a new expansion team, they made a well-known hire for the first general manager. George Weiss built a Hall of Fame career with the Yankees over the course of the previous decade, taking over the GM job in 1947 and capturing 7 World Series titles and 10 AL pennants in just 13 years (albeit while also shamefully keeping the Yankees from integrating until 1955). After the Yankees’ stunning loss to Bill Mazeroski’s Pirates in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, co-owners Dan Topping and Del Webb not-so-subtly showed Weiss and skipper Casey Stengel the door.

Neither man truly felt that they were retired though, and the Mets gave them another chance — first by hiring Weiss, and then, at Weiss’s urging, Stengel. Although Weiss was pivotal to building the Mets’ fanbase by getting them on the radio and TV airwaves and organizing the construction of Shea Stadium in Queens, his days of assembling good baseball teams were behind him. The Mets drew well, especially once Shea was built, but never finished above ninth place before Weiss’s true retirement in 1966.

26 Years Ago

With Major League Baseball threatening to use replacement players if the Players’ Association continued to boycott spring training, the MLBPA chose to stand strong. They had been on strike since August of 1994 in protest of the owners’ demand for a salary cap (among other issues), cancelling the World Series. They weren’t about to start the 1995 season unless their demands were met.

Although MLB went through with replacement players in spring training, the league never reached the point of actually using them in regular season games. Partially because the MLBPA called the league’s bluff, they were able to eventually come to an agreement at the end of March after future Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotamayor issued an injunction against the owners. The 1995 season began a few weeks later under the terms of the previous CBA.

18 Years Ago

When the Yankees branched out to form the YES Network in 2002, they left the Cablevision-approved MSG behind. Throughout their first season on YES, Cablevision subscribers were unable to watch the Yankees, as Cablevision had refused to air it as a basic cable channel. I remember it well, as my family was one of many to switch to DirecTV prior to 2002 so that we knew we wouldn’t lose the Yankees.

It was an acrimonious year of legal battles between YES and Cablevision, but with the assistance of the state of New York, the two sides came to a tentative agreement in mid-March of 2003. YES wouldn’t be on basic cable that year, but it was at least an affordable $1.95 per month while the sides continued to negotiate throughout the season. (They came to a long-term agreement just before the start of the 2004 campaign.)

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Birthdays

Happy 56th birthday to Kevin Brown, whose excellent pitching career had a disappointing ending with the Yankees. The right-hander was drafted fourth overall out of Georgia Tech by the Rangers in 1986 and built himself into a ferocious competitor and workhorse with a devastating fastball/splitter combo. Through the end of the 1998 season, he had compiled 45.4 rWAR with a 3.30 ERA and 3.35 FIP, striking out 1,480 batters, and twice finishing in the top three in voting for the Cy Young Award.

Brown had moved on from Texas and was the ace of the World Series-winning Marlins in 1997 before serving that same role for the Padres during a similarly surprising run to the NL pennant in 1998. He signed a then-record seven-year, $105 million deal with the Dodgers, and after good results in the first two seasons, his body finally began to wear down after over 2,600 innings.

Brown did rebound in 2003 to make his sixth All-Star team while notching a 2.39 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 211 innings. When George Steinbrenner strangely let Andy Pettitte walk in free agency, GM Brian Cashman decided to roll the dice on Brown, trading another embattled pitcher in Jeff Weaver to L.A. as part of a deal for the 39-year-old.

In short, it was a bust. Although decent on the mound in ‘04, back injuries limited Brown to 22 starts, and he drew the ire of skipper Joe Torre by breaking two bones in his hand after punching a clubhouse wall in frustration. That kept him out for most of September, and when he returned for the postseason, he followed a fine ALDS outing against the Twins by twice getting torched by Boston in the ALCS.

The next year, Brown only made 13 starts and was awful. He was toast and never pitched again. The 2007 Mitchell Report revealed Brown as a PED user, and despite a career WAR of 68.2, he fell off the Hall of Fame ballot on his first attempt with just 2.1 percent — 12 votes out of 581. Womp womp.

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