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 (March 9th):
60 Years Ago
The Yankees announced that after 1961, they would no longer prepare for the season in St. Petersburg. Save for the World War II years and a brief facility swap with the Giants in 1951, the Florida city had been the Yankees’ primary spring training home since 1925. However, the team had grown less enchanted with St. Petersburg over time, and its disgusting segregation policies had forced rising star Elston Howard to stay in homes away from the rest of his team.
Finally fed up, the Yankees came to an agreement with the city of Fort Lauderdale, further south in Florida and on the opposite coast, near Miami. Howard and other African-Americans could stay with the rest of their team, and with a brand-new stadium, the amenities were far superior. The Yankees would ultimately train there for 33 years until returning to the Tampa area under much better conditions in 1996 at their current spring training home.
12 Years Ago
A whirlwind spring training continued for star third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who decided to undergo surgery to repair the torn labrum in his right hip. Mere weeks prior, A-Rod had admitted to using steroids with the Rangers from 2001-03, and the hip ailment had forced him to withdraw from the Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic.
The procedure took place out in Colorado, and A-Rod rehabbed away from the team, so few had any real idea of how his recovery was going. Hip injuries are always serious, and A-Rod wondered if his career would be dramatically altered in the same way as Bo Jackson. However, he recovered in just a few months and homered on the first pitch he saw of the 2009 season against the Orioles.
To say that it kicked off a memorable campaign for A-Rod would be an understatement. He would never regularly play the field as much as he did before the hip injury, but he had many big homers left in his bat.
11 Years Ago
The Yankees sold reliever Edwar Ramírez to the Rangers, bringing an end to a brief-but-fascinating career in pinstripes. This is a personal pick for me, as I definitely remember when he first joined the Yankees. Ramírez made an immediate first impression, striking out the side in his MLB debut to close out an 8-0 win on July 3, 2007:
Armed with a Bugs Bunny changeup and overwhelming minor league numbers, Ramírez looked like he could be part of the future of the Yankees’ bullpen even though he looked like a beanpole.
Unfortunately, Ramírez did not have enough to support his game outside the changeup. The rest of 2007 went poorly in the majors (8.14 ERA in 21 games), and while the off-speed pitch helped him stay decent in 2008, he wasn’t good enough to hang around as a bullpen regular in the championship season of 2009. Ramírez was demoted in mid-May, only returned for some garbage-time innings in September, and didn’t even make it through the end of 2010 spring training with his new team. The Rangers dealt him to Oakland and he made just seven MLB appearances before his career came to a close.
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Happy 48th birthday to Yankees skipper Aaron Boone! A third-generation big leaguer, Aaron is the brother of former Mariners slugger Bret Boone, the grandson of former third baseman Ray Boone, and the son of longtime catcher Bob Boone, who also managed for six years with the Royals and Reds.
Aaron quickly became a big-leaguer in the making too, playing baseball at USC and getting selected by the Reds in the third round of the 1994 MLB Draft. He debuted in 1997, got to play for his father, Bob, and gradually turned into an All-Star by 2003. Dealt to the Yankees at the trade deadline, Boone mostly failed to meet expectations with his bat, but came up big when it mattered most in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against the Red Sox:
Boone’s bat was one of many that went cold in the World Series against the Marlins, and he would never play for the Yankees again after the loss. A basketball injury voided his contract for 2004, and as the Yankees stunningly traded for A-Rod, Boone missed the season recovering from a torn ACL. He played five more years, bouncing to four different organizations before calling it a career in 2009.
Boone spent most of the next decade in the ESPN broadcast booth before becoming the Yankees’ surprise pick to replace Joe Girardi as manager in 2018. The team has had a superlative .615 winning percentage with Boone at the helm (a figure better than even Hall of Famers Joe Torre and Miller Huggins), but they have yet to return to the World Series. Perhaps 2021 will be the year for Boone.
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We thank Baseball Reference, SABR, and Nationalpastime.com for providing background information for these posts.