Pinstripe Empire Explains Why the Yankees Became Losers for 11 Long Seasons

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Pinstripe Empire Explains Why the Yankees Became Losers for 11 Long Seasons
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Marty Appel, in his latest book. Pinstripe Empire, explains why the New York Yankees fell on hard times following the 1964 season.

The Yankees won five consecutive pennants from 1960-64, but unlike the well-remembered first streak of five when they also won the World Series after each pennant (1949-53), this time the Yankees won only two world championships.

Appel explains that a major reason was that elite athletes were no longer choosing baseball as they had in the past. Other sports, especially football, were attracting them.

Despite the fact that some "experts" later concluded that owners Dan Topping and Del Webb knew that they were about to sell the team and decided to let the heralded farm system deteriorate, the Yankees did sign young players.

In 1960, the Yankees signed pitcher Howie Kitt, who had gone 18-0 at Columbia, for $100,000. Kitt was born in Brooklyn, was left-handed and was Jewish. He was sent to Class A Binghamton, but had control problems, which resulted in his demotion to Class C Modesto.

Vern Rapp, the Modesto manager was not impressed with his new pitcher.

"He throws hard," said Rapp. "He's coming down here to get experience and we'll correct that wildness."

It never happened. Kitt spent five seasons trying to develop control. In 607 innings, he walked 501 batters.

Appel thinks that the Yankees might not have been aggressive enough after Kitt because they had been burned many times before signing him.

Paul Hinrichs ($40,000 in 1948), Ed Cereghino ($80,000 in 1950) and Bob Riesener, who was 20-0 in the minors, never became major leaguers.

In addition, the Yankees gave infielder Tommy Carroll and first baseman Frank Leja large bonuses. The two were forced onto to the team by the bonus rule in effect at the time.

By the middle to late 1960s, Appel posits that the only superstars to select baseball were Tom Seaver, Johnny Bench and, of course, Reggie Jackson. Yankees' scouting direction Johnny Johnson supported Appel's contention.

"We don't have the quality of player we used to have, but neither does anyone else, because it just isn't there anymore."

The amateur draft, started in 1965, hurt the Yankees more than most team because it temporarily negated the Yankees willingness to spend.

The Kansas City Athletics drafted Rick Monday with the first choice. The Yankees, forced to select 19th, took right-hander Bill Burbach. Monday became a fine player while Burbach didn't have much of a career.

The Yankees no longer had an edge in signing players and it would take years before Mr. George Steinbrenner helped them regain some of their former glory.

 

Reference:

Appel, Marty. Pinstripe Empire. New York: Bloomsbury USA. May, 2012. pp. 358-59.

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