Yankee fans were crushed when Jimmy Key left the Bronx and signed with the Orioles after the ’96 win in the World Series, and the fact that David Wells left the Birds and signed with the Yanks on December 17, 1996, was not greeted with glee. But “The Boomer” would enjoy two, two-year stints in the Bronx afterward, and went 34-14 each time, very impressive numbers.
The Yankees signed free agent outfielder Gary Sheffield, who had been with the Braves, to a three-year contract with a club option for 2007 on December 17, 2003. The hard-swinging Sheffield was a consistent source of power, with home run/rbi totals of 36/121 and 34/123 in the next two years. Negatives of the Sheffield stint include the wrist injury that ruined his 2006 season, and the fact that the three young arms he netted in a trade with Detroit were all flops.
After he had pitched with success in the Bronx, 7-0 in late 2017, the Yankees signed free agent lefthander J.A. Happ on December 17, 2018. Hidden in the opening stat, however, is that J.A. struggled in the 2017 postseason, a trend that has continued despite a 14-10 regular-season record since.
On December 17, 2015, the Yankees completed their acquisition of Starlin Castro from the Cubs for Adam Warren a week earlier by revealing that infielder Brendan Ryan would be the player to be named later in the swap.
The inking of righty reliever Paul Quantrill on December 17, 2003, got off to a great start, and Quantrill went 7-3 with a save as the seventh-inning guy in 2004. But he tailed off badly in an 86-appearance 2005, and pitched his way off the team.
Once Rondell White signed a free-agent deal with the Yanks on December 17, 2001, he managed to avoid injury more than the Yanks had feared, but he had a disappointing year anyway, contributing just 14 homers with 62 rbi’s.
The trade for first baseman Dick Wakefield on December 17, 1949, was even less productive. He kicked in one rbi during two at bats for the 1950 Yanks, while first sacker Dick Kryhoski, shipped to the Tigers in exchange, cleared the fences 16 times for the Tigers in 1950 and 1951, to the tune of 76 rbi’s. Wakefield had hit more than 50 homers with 300-plus rbi’s over several seasons with Detroit, but he barely registered in New York.
The Yankees spent three arms for one on December 17, 1924, going for broke in acquiring aging, four-time 20-game winner Urban Shocker from the St. Louis Browns. He didn’t achieve that number in the Bronx, but he did win 19 once and posted a 49-29 mark with four saves in a career-ending four-year stint from 1925-1928. The Yanks won their second and third World Championships with Shocker in their rotation.
Not beloved of baseball players in general, the Houston Astrodome hosted its premiere event on December 17, 1965, a concert featuring Judy Garland, and the Supremes.
It was on this day in 1920 that both leagues agreed to outlaw the spitball, while allowing the 17 hurlers (eight in the National League, nine in the American) who had it in their pitching arsenals to use it until they retired. Jack Quinn was the only Yankee among the bunch at the time, but Urban Shocker had pitched in New York earlier and would again from 1925-1928; Stan Coveleski would pitch for the Bombers in 1928; and Burleigh Grimes was the last legal spitballer, finishing up his career by throwing in 10 games for the 1934 Yankees.
Of the four Yankee players to have died on December 17, one played just in the Bronx, two others ended long careers there, and one had a very brief stay. Righty Lou McEvoy (1953) appeared in 34 games (just one start) with the 1930-1931 Yankees, posting a 1-3-4 mark. Outfielder Ping Bodie (1961) cleared 16 fences and drove in 196 runs playing 385 games for the 1918-1921 Yankees, accruing 369 hits in 1,557 at bats during that time. Catcher Hank Sevareid (1968) did not add to his 17 homers but drove in the last 13 runs of the 539 he accumulated from 1911-1926 with the 1926 Yanks. An 11-year stint with the Browns dominated Eric’s career. And most recent to have passed, righthander Hal Brown (2015) threw two games (one start) and went 0-1 with the 1962 Yankees during a 1951-1964 career in which he pitched to an 85-92 record with 11 saves.
Righthander Rollie Sheldon (1936), who started his big-league career in the Bronx, is the Yankee born on December 17 with the longest career in Pinstripes. He posted a fine 23-15 record with two saves in New York from 1961-1965. Lefty-hitting first baseman Kent Hadley (1934) finished his career by blasting four homers and 11 rbi’s for the 1960 Yanks after two years in K.C. Hadley arrived on the team with the trade that brought Roger Maris to New York.
The remaining four birthday guys made brief appearances, with the first two sharing the trait of lefthandedness. Bobby Ojeda (1957) threw three innings in two starts for the 1994 club to cap a 15-year career that featured six years in Boston and five with the Mets. Lefty-hitting catcher Charlie Sands (1947) whiffed in his only at bat for the 1967 Yanks, then returned to the majors in 1971 to play two seasons with the Pirates, two with the Angels, and one with the A’s. And hearing-impaired Curtis Pride (1968) made his only hit for the 2003 Yankees a big one as he homered to bring the Yanks from behind in a big game. Infielder Donovan Solano (1987) joined the 2016 Yankees as a free agent after four years playing in Miami, for whom he hit eight home runs and knocked in 97 runs from 2012 through 2015. In nine games with the ’16 Yanks, Solano hit one home run with two rbi’s.