Today is Selection Sunday for the NCAA Basketball Tournaments, and plenty of people are going to spend today both thinking about and filling out brackets. Well, here’s one more.
I personally am a fan of weird, old-timey baseball stories, which you may have noticed if you’re a regular reader here at Pinstripe Alley. For this post, I have collected eight of the weirdest Yankees from history that I have written about in the past. I’ve seeded them and put them into a bracket, and given a brief rundown of all of them. Feel free to refresh yourselves on their odd tales as well by clicking their names to take you to their respective articles.
Now, I want to know which one you think is the funniest and/or weirdest!
1. Ping Bodie
Bodie played nine seasons in the majors, including four with the Yankees from 1918-21. He was a pretty good hitter over his career and got the nickname “Ping” from the sound the ball made coming off his bat. He was often Babe Ruth’s roommate, and when asked what that was like, said “It was like living with a suitcase.” However, he is most known for the fact that during spring training with the Yankees in 1919, he took part in a spaghetti eating contest against an ostrich.
Caldwell’s career lasted just 2.2 innings, but his impact may have gone well beyond that. There is a story (of unclear truth) that while throwing batting practice on June 1, 1925, he hit Wally Pipp on the head with a pitch. The story goes that the next day, Pipp was complaining about a headache, and Lou Gehrig was given the start at first base instead. Gehrig had come in for the later innings on the first, and the next day would be the second of his iconic 2,130 consecutive games played streak.
4. Cy Pieh
There are many things from old-timey baseball that will never happen again, and a pitcher getting his first career start because of a poker game is near the top of that list. The story goes that Yankees pitcher Pieh successfully bluffed his manager, Frank Chance, while the two were involved in a poker game. After the hand, Chance quipped “If you’d show as much nerve on the ball field as you do in a poker game, you might amount to something.” Pieh then replied “How can I show any nerve on the lot when you won’t let me pitch?” Chance then acquiesced and Pieh went on to make 12 career starts with the Yankees.
5. Roy Luebbe
For his career, catcher Roy Luebbe finished 0-for-15, the most at-bats of any non-pitching Yankee who never recorded a hit. That’s pretty weird in and of itself, but he also made news at points for both reportedly once being traded for a plane and for going and cutting down a tree that he said had been annoying him while he was batting at the plate.
Schreiber’s major league career ended after pitching 4.1 innings with the 1945 Yankees as a 42-year old. On the surface, that’s far from an unheard of thing to happen, but it’s the previous years of his MLB career that makes Schreiber an oddity. The 1945 season came during World War II, and the Yankees had players missing due to military service. Towards the end of the season, in a bit of a pinch, the Yankees added the former MLB pitcher Schreiber to their roster after he had spent that year and previous ones as a coach and batting practice pitcher with the team. At age 42, he took the mound on September 4th, 22 years and 2 days after his last MLB appearance for the Dodgers in 1923, a gap that is the longest in league history.
The then-Highlanders ostensibly signed McClure as a pitcher in 1910. However, he never pitched a major league game. Instead, his only big league game came as a left fielder, replacing a player who had broken a finger. He was called upon to play the outfield that day, despite an actual outfielder being on the Highlanders’ bench that day. It was rumored that said outfielder was hungover that day, necessitating the rookie McClure playing an unfamiliar position instead. The team intended to use him as a pitcher, but during the next season, he was plagued by a sore arm and never made it back to the majors.
2. Julie Wera
A backup third baseman on the 1927 and ‘29 Yankees, Wera had left baseball for a few years before emerging as a minor league manager in the ‘40s ... until he was tragically found dead while managing the California-based Oroville Red Sox in 1948. Except, Julie Wera was actually still alive and well in Minnesota, where he had been the whole time after his playing career ended. At some point, an imposter claimed to be the former Yankee, was hired for baseball jobs, and even got married and starting a family while claiming that he had been the man on the 1927 “Murderers’ Row” team. Meanwhile, the real Julie Wera was completely unaware of that and was just going about a fairly normal life, working as a butcher, and living until 1975.
7. Bill Otis
Otis recorded just one major league hit in his career, with it impressively coming off Hall of Famer Walter Johnson. That’s a bit weird, but ever weirder is the fact that he was called Bill for his whole career despite it not being his name. His name was Paul Franklin Otis, with the reason for his moniker of “Bill” seemingly lost to time. The best guesses out there are that he went to Williams College, or that he had a brother named Bill. Either one is a weird reason to completely rename a guy.