Welcome to the relaunched This Day in Yankees History. As the offseason has begun much sooner than anyone has ever hoped for, the Pinstripe Alley team has decided to continue the revived program in its new format. 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 16)
108 Years Ago
The Yankees become the sport’s first team to spend spring training abroad, conducting their preseason in Bermuda. In the first season after their name change from the Highlanders to Yankees, the newly minted club stumbled out of the gate, finishing their inaugural season with a 57-94 record. Playing in the Polo Grounds, it wouldn’t be until 1916 that the Yankees recorded their first winning season and didn’t win their first World Series until 1923, the year they built their own stadium.
Eight Years Ago
Brian Cashman breaks his fibula and dislocates his right ankle after jumping out of a plane with the US Army’s skydiving team, the Golden Knights at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida. In breaking his leg, Cashman inadvertently associated himself with the jump’s cause, the Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit focused on providing aid for injured veterans. He found himself in good company with Derek Jeter having broken his ankle at the end of the 2012 playoffs.
Though he expressed excitement for the additional coverage his injury brought to the charity, and gratitude towards the Golden Knights for granting him the “awesome experience,” he made sure to augment his perpetually sky-high self-appraisal by saying, “I would say it’s harder probably to be GM of the Yankees than jump out of an airplane.’’
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Born today in 1891, Hall of Fame pitcher Dazzy Vance was one of baseball’s most consistent strikeout kings in the early part of the 20th century. Though he was most famous for his peak years spent with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Vance actually appeared in ten games for the Yankees during the 1915 and ’18 seasons, years before being called up by the Dodgers at age 31 in 1922. Though he started later than most all-time greats, he wasted no time thereafter, leading the National League in strikeouts in his first seven full seasons, and the entire majors in five of those.
Though not quite the player that Vance was, Lefty O’Doul is the other standout from professional baseball’s first fifty years born today. Six years Vance’s junior, O’Doul also spent time on the Yankees before finding his footing as a full-time starter elsewhere. Starting at age 22 in 1919, a year after Vance’s final stint with the major league Yankees, O’Doul appeared in 40 games across three seasons for New York’s most storied professional ballclub.
After a short stay with the Boston Red Sox, he blossomed into a three-time MVP candidate and two-time batting title winner for the contemporary National League’s elite: the Giants, Phillies, and Dodgers. His time in the American League’s older sibling culminated with an appearance in MLB’s first All-Star Game and a World Series win as a member of the Giants all in 1933 before retiring after the following season.
Neal Brady, Mel Queen, and Jose De Paula also all began their short careers with the Yankees and share a birthday today. De Paula’s entire big-league career consisted of 3.1 innings pitched during the 2015 season during which he allowed just one run on a solo shot to Andrew Romine, brother of eventual Yankee, Austin.
Mel Queen pitched in 33 games for the Yankees across ’42, ’44, ’46, and ’47 before spending the remainder of his eight-year career with the Pirates. With a career ERA of 5.09 and WAR of -2.1, his lack of control seems to have gotten the best of his elite velocity for his era.
Neal Brady, born in 1897, pitched in just two games for the Yankees, twice, in 1915 and 1917. He resurfaced in the majors at age 28, eight years later as a member of the 1925 Reds, making 20 more appearances that season before vanishing from the majors for good.
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We thank Baseball-Reference and Nationalpastime.com for providing background information for these posts.