Who’s on First in the Bronx? Birthdays and a Tribute

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If you ask the Yankees the age-old baseball question “Who’s on first,” if Mark Teixeira gets hurt as he has every year since anybody can remember, the answer has been nobody.  One idea was to promote Gary Sanchez to catch and try Brian McCann at first.  Now, From the “Anybody with a pulse” department, the Yankees, who couldn’t get Juan Uribe ahead of the Indians, reached down to Chris Parmelee, who hit a resounding .216 with the Orioles in 2015. He’ll be 28 tomorrow, so going to the Yanks is an early birthday present. He received  a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training, but they’re so desperate he’d have to do himself a major injury not to make the team. They’re in this spot because Greg Bird didn’t get his shoulder operated on in the fall. He’d been working through pain all last season, we found out when it was announced he would lose this season. Parmelee  can play right field as well as first base, so he could spell either Mark Teixeira or Carlos Beltran, both of whom are  aged and injury-prone. Both spent the offseason filling out their Social Security paperwork and ordering new walkers to help them run the bases.  Parmelee was a first round pick by the Twins in 2006 out of high school in Los Angeles. He never did well at the big league level though he excelled in the minors.
Jimmy Rollins has signed with the White Sox. He was thought to be a Phillies lifer until he joined the Dodgers, soon to be joined in Chavez Ravine  by Chase Utley. The Oakland native turned 37 in November. He has 4 gold gloves to his name, the last in 2012. In 2007 he was the NL MVP, and in 2008 he and the Phillies won the World Series. They lost the next one to the Yankees in 2009. In spite of his itinerant status the last couple of years, the Rollins family still live in Woolwich township, NJ not too far from where I write these daily pieces.
The Braves welcome back outfielder Jeff Francoeur, who was with last year’s Phillies team. It seems like he’s been around forever, but he’s just 32. He made his debut in Atlanta in July 2005. He has one golden glove from 2007. He would have played for the legendary Jack Leggitt at Clemson, had the Braves not taken him in round 1 of the 2002 draft. Starting in 2009 Francoeur started changing teams faster than Antonio Cromarty changed girls.  Jeff went from the Braves to the Mets, then to the Rangers all in trades. Then he signed with the Royals as a free agent. Then it was off to San Francisco in 2013. I don’t know if he left his heart there, but he packed up for Cleveland in 2014 but didn’t make it out of spring training. The Padres sent him to their AAA team, the El Paso Chihuahuas, where the team pranked him into thinking pitcher Jorge Reyes was deaf. They played the prank out for a full month without Francoeur catching on. After his best year in ages with the Phillies, it’s back to the Baves for their final  year at Turner Field. the field, age 20 is the runway model of baseball stadiums. it will be abandoned for a new model next year.

The Rangers signed Jeremy Guthrie.  On April 8, he’ll turn 37. He’s been in the game since 2004 when he debuted with Cleveland. He is perhaps best known as an Oriole from 2007-2011.     He was with the Royals since 2012  but was left off the World Series roster this past October. He will be remembered perhaps in Kansas City for his start last May 25 when he went 1+ innings, giving up 11 runs on 9 hits and 3 walks.  4 of the hits were home runs. 8 runs scored in the first, 3 in the second as the Yanks demolished the future world champions 14-1.

Rondell White is 44 today. He was the leadoff hitter on the 1993 Harrisburg Senators, arguably as good a minor league team as I covered in 12 years at the mike. He was a September callup in 1993.  He went on to be leadoff hitter for the Expos and 6 other teams. As a Padre he was an All-Star in 2003. He hit .284 over his career that ended in 2007.

. Bobby Bonilla of the Pirates,  Mets, Marlins and others  is 53 today. He was an All-Star 6 times and took home a World Series ring with the Marlins. He nearly played in another World Series in 1999 but the Mets fell just short, losing to Atlanta in the NLCS.

John T-Bone Shelby is 58. He was a World Series winner with the Orioles in 1983 and the Dodgers in 1988.  He played from 1981 to 1991. His nickname was earned because of his slight stature. Over the years he’s been a minor league manager and coach in several organizations.

Ken Boswell of the ’69 and ’73 Mets is 70. He hails from Austin, Texas and held down second base for the Mets between late 1967 and 1974 when he went to Houston, his only other major league team. He went to Sam Houston State in Texas, which is newscaster Dan Rather’s alma mater.  According to Rather’s first book “The Camera Never Blinks,” the school was called Sam Houston Institute of Technology until somebody with a sense of humor printed a line of shirts with the school initials on the front. In Bible-Belt Texas in the 50’s that just would not do, and the school’s name was changed.

Ron Hunt, a Met of an earlier vintage is 75. He was their second baseman between 1963 and 1966, saying goddbye to the Polo Grounds and hello to Shea Stadium in 1964. in two of those Met seasons he was an All-star. In 1971 with the Expos he was hit with 50 pitches, more than anybody since 1900.  I’d like to have been the guy who sold him bandages and liniment.  that year was one of 7 in which he led the league in being a target. Only one man has ever been plunked more than 50 times. Huey Jennings stopped 51 in 1886.

Yankee great Elston Howard was born today in 1929 and died in 1980 at 51. I’m going to give you a quote from Casey Stengel concerning Howard, the first black Yankee. “They finally give me a n—-r and I get the one who can’t run.” can you imagine a manager today saying that about any minority, whether black, Latino or Asian?  Here is what former Yankee lefty pitcher Fritz Peterson has to say about Elston Howard.

“One of the best men I ever met was Yankee legend Elston Howard, a gentle and kind man and a great ballplayer. Ellie was my first Yankee catcher and Thurman Munson was my last; both ought to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Ellie played for the Yankees from 1955 to 1967, a nine-time All-Star and the 1963 American League MVP. He played in ten World Series’ and earned four rings. He was the catcher in my major league debut on April 15, 1966, and his kindness to me extends to the earliest days of spring training that season when I was trying to make the team. It stung when he got traded to the Red Sox at the end of his career, but I was thrilled when he came back as a Yankees coach. Ellie died way too young at age 51; I think of him often – especially today, when he would have celebrated his 87th birthday. I can’t believe he’s been gone so long.”


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