New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

Category Archives: Baseball

Buck Showalter

(Baseball.  Born, DeFuniak Springs, FL, May 23, 1956.)  Generally acknowledged today as a top major league manager, William Nathaniel Showalter, III, began his career as a player in the Yankees farm system in 1977. Buck (so nicknamed because he would walk around minor league clubhouses naked) played in the minors for seven seasons.  His first managing job was with Oneonta (NY) in the New York-Penn League in 1985, when was 29.  Showalter managed five seasons in the minors and then was a Yankees coach for two seasons before being hired to succeed Stump Merrill as Yankees manager for the 1992 season.  In the strike-shortened 1994 campaign, Showalter led the Yankees to an American League-best record of 70-43 and was named AL Manager of the Year.  The next season, the Yankees finished the regular season 26-7 to qualify for the playoffs as the wild card by 1½ games.  In the first round of the playoffs, the Yankees lost to Seattle in five games after winning the first two.  Showalter was not offered a new contract, and he was succeeded as Yankees manager by Joe Torre.  Showalter went on to manage Arizona (1998-2000), Texas (2003-2006), and Baltimore. – By Kyle Anderson


Frank Cashen

Frank Cashen  (Baseball.  Born, Baltimore, Md., Sept. 13, 1925.)  There is little doubt that J. Frank Cashen was the principal architect of the Mets championship team of 1986.  Having previously served the Orioles in his native Baltimore, Cashen was working in the office of Commissioner Bowie Kuhn when the Mets were sold by the Payson family, which had owned the club since its inception.  When new owner Nelson Doubleday asked Kuhn for a recommendation for general manager, the Commissioner suggested Cashen.  He became the team’s g.m. Feb. 21, 1980, and held the position longer (1980-91) than anyone else in Mets history.  Cashen was named major league executive of the year by The Sporting News when his 1986 club was 108-54 and went on to win the World Series.  In four years (1985-88), the Mets won 398 games.  Cashen remained chief operating officer through 1992 and then became senior vice president.  He is a graduate of Loyola (Md.) and the University of Maryland Law School.  Early in his career, Cashen was a sportswriter with the old Baltimore News-American.

Bobby Richardson

Bobby Richardson (Baseball.  Born, Sumter, SC, Aug. 19, 1935.) Robert C. Richardson was the Yankees second baseman who spanned the Casey Stengel-Ralph Houk eras, succeeding Billy Martin at the position.  He played in seven World Series and earned seven All-Star Game selections in a career that spanned from 1955-66.  While most noted for his fielding, which yielded five Gold Glove awards, he twice topped .300, and in 1962, when he was second to Mickey Mantle in MVP voting, delivered 209 hits.  In the 1960 World Series he had six RBIs in a single game (in which he hit a grand slam), and 12 for the full seven-game series, still records a half-century later, a performance that earned him World Series MVP honors.  He is the only player on a losing team so honored since the award began in 1955.   He also tied the World Series hit record with 13 in the 1964 World Series, in which he batted .406.  A lifetime .266 hitter, he batted .305 in the World Series.  A lay preacher who spoke at Billy Graham rallies, he retired at 31, and was instrumental in the formation of the Baseball Chapel and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  He also coached at the University of South Carolina and Liberty College.  He delivered the on-field benediction at the opening of the revamped Yankee Stadium in 1976 and was at Mantle’s bedside as Mantle lay near death in 1995, offering Christian testimony to his onetime teammate. — M.A.

Ross Youngs

Ross Youngs (Baseball.  Born, Shiner, TX, Apr. 10, 1897; died, San Antonio, TX, Oct. 22, 1927.)  Of all the players he managed during his lengthy reign (1902-32) at the helm of the New York Giants, John McGraw had no more than three personal favorites.  Christy Mathewson was certainly one, the young Mel Ott was probably another, and Royce Middlebrook Youngs was definitely one.  Thus, the tragedy of Ross Youngs’ death at age 30 was a great blow even to the tough-minded skipper.  During his first seven full seasons with the Giants, Youngs never hit less than .300.  From 1920-24, the lefthanded hitter batted .351, .327, .331, .336, and .356, as the Giants won four straight pennants (1921-24) and two World Series (’21-22).  In 1925, Youngs’ averaged plummeted to .264 and at the end of that season, he was diagnosed as having Bright’s Disease.  This disorder, which produced high blood pressure, kidney malfunction, and nephritis, was also to claim club owner Charles Stoneham in 1936.  McGraw hoped to help Youngs recover and still keep him as a part of the team.  Youngs was used sparingly in 1926 (95 games) and was under constant medical supervision.  McGraw hired a male nurse to accompany him at all times.  Yet Youngs was literally a dead man walking in 1926 despite his .306 batting average.  His 114 hits included only 21 for extra bases.  He had led the N.L. in doubles in 1919 with 31 and in his five best years, 224 of his 941 hits had been for extra bases.  He was simply unable to play in 1927.  Youngs had been a key element in the Giants’ becoming the first N.L. team ever to win four straight pennants with his great seasons.  But his loss was more than just the absence of a quality player.  McGraw’s Giants were never the same, inspired team after Youngs’ illness.  Many observers felt that his loss, coming on top of Mathewson’s death in 1925 of tuberculosis, killed McGraw’s, and the Giants’, spirit.  The team was almost immediately revitalized after Bill Terry  became the manager in 1932.

Whit Wyatt

Whit Wyatt (Baseball.  Born, Kensington, GA, Sept. 27, 1907; died, Buchanan, GA, July 16, 1999.)  In a nine-year A.L. career during which he was 26-43 (1929-37), John Whitlow Wyatt was at best a journeyman righthander.  But after a 23-7 season at Triple-A (Milwaukee of the American Association) in 1938, Wyatt was sold to Brooklyn and returned to the majors.  In his first five years with the Dodgers, he was 78-39.  In 1941, Brooklyn won its first pennant since 1920 on the strength of Wyatt’s league-best 22-7.  The Dodgers lost the 1941 World Series to the Yankees in five games, with Wyatt throwing two complete games.  He won Game 2, 3-2, at Yankee Stadium, but lost Game 5, 3-1, despite his six-hitter at Ebbets Field.  At age 34, he was 19-7 as Brooklyn finished second, two games out, in 1942.  Wyatt finished his career in 1945 with the Philadelphia Phillies (0-7) and had a career record of 106-95 (80-45 with Brooklyn).

Dave Winfield

Dave Winfield (Baseball.  Born, St. Paul, MN, Oct. 3, 1951.)  After an elaborate mating dance that he began by chasing off other suitors, David Mark Winfield signed what was then the richest contract in baseball history to join the Yankees.  On Dec. 15, 1980, Winfield signed for 10 years with a deal estimated to be worth $21 to $23 million.  Over time, the contract itself was to be the subject of dispute, accusation, and recrimination revolving around contributions to the Winfield Foundation.  But at the start, at least, Winfield was a great outfielder who hit .294 as the 1981 Yankees won the East Division title (in the first half of a strike-split season) and advanced to the World Series.  It was perhaps that Series loss to Los Angeles that began to fray the relationship between Winfield and Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner (who eventually called Winfield “Mr. May,” in contrast to Series hero Reggie Jackson, who was known as “Mr. October”).  Winfield hit only .045 (with one hit, a single) in the six-game Series.  His two most productive seasons followed as Winfield hit a career-high 37 homers  in 1982 (with 106 r.b.i.) and 34 more (with 116 r.b.i.) in 1983.  But the Yankees didn’t win.  Winfield drove in 100 or more runs six times in seven years (1982-88) but the Yankees failed to make the playoffs in any of those seasons.  Rickey Henderson’s arrival in 1985 caused Winfield to be moved from left to right field but the move made no appreciable difference in Winfield’s performance or the Yankees’ fortunes.  He missed the entire 1989 season due to injury and, on May 11, 1990, was traded to California for pitcher Mike Witt.  Winfield hit .290 during his Yankees career with 205 homers and 818 r.b.i.  He eventually completed a 22-year career with Cleveland in 1995, having amassed 3,110 hits.  One of a very exclusive group to be drafted by baseball, the N.F.L., and the N.B.A., Winfield began his career in 1973 with San Diego without ever playing in the minors.

Mookie Wilson

Mookie Wilson (Baseball.  Born, Bamberg, SC, Feb. 9, 1956.)  Coming to the Mets late in the 1980 season, William Hayward Wilson almost immediately became a fan favorite.  In his first full season (the strike-shortened 1981 campaign), Wilson established himself as a more-or-less regular centerfielder, hitting .271 with 24 stolen bases in 92 games.  He set a club record for steals (58) the following year.  But certainly the instant for which Mets fans will most clearly remember the switch-hitting Wilson is the grounder to first base in the 10th inning of the sixth game of the 1986 World Series.  It was Wilson’s ball that eluded Boston first baseman Bill Buckner for an error as the winning run scored in the 6-5 game.  Earlier in the same at-bat, Wilson had fought off several Bob Stanley pitches before a wild pitch enabled the tying run to score.  The Mets won the Series in the seventh game.  Often used as a leadoff man because of his speed, Wilson twice scored from second base on infield grounders by George Foster (1984).  He was traded to Toronto in 1989 and played with the Blue Jays through 1991.  Wilson is the Mets career leader in triples (62) and stolen bases (281).  He was a career .274 hitter.  Wilson served two terms as Mets first base coach, for five years ending in 2002 and then again in 2011.

John Williamson

John Williamson (Pro basketball.  Born, New Haven, CT, November 10, 1952; died New Haven, CT, Nov. 30, 1996.)  Signed as a free agent in 1973 by the New York Nets, John Lee (Super John) Williamson was a powerhouse guard who played critical roles in the Nets’ A.B.A. championships in 1974 and 1976.  Williamson averaged 14.5 points per game and was an All-Rookie choice in 1974.  In 1976, he scored at a 16.2 rate (second on the club to Julius Erving).  When the Nets entered the N.B.A. in 1976, Williamson went with them but was traded to Indiana during the team’s first season in the league before returning almost exactly a year later in another trade after the Nets had moved to New Jersey.  From 1978-80, during the franchise’s early years at the Rutgers Athletic Center, he was the team’s big star (averaging 22.2 in 1978-79) before finishing his career with Washington in 1980.

Bernie Williams

Bernie Williams (Baseball.  Born San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sept. 13, 1968.)  Signing with the Yankees organization at age 17, Bernabe Williams (Figueroa) over time proved to be a worthy successor to the centerfield job once held by Earle Combs, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle. After the 1992 season, the Yankees traded incumbent centerfielder Roberto Kelly to Cincinnati to clear the way for Williams. (In the process, the Yankees acquired rightfielder Paul O’Neill, Williams’ steady outfield partner for nearly a decade.) One of the rarest of players – a switch-hitter with power from both sides of the plate, Williams, a gentle, thoughtful man with a passion for the guitar, began to fulfill his promise in 1995, when he hit .307. In 1996, he had 102 r.b.i. with 29 homers and hit .305 for the World Series champions and, in 1998, won the A.L. batting title (.339) as the Yankees again won the World Series. After that season, he became a free agent and after strongly considering an offer from the rival Red Sox, he signed a seven-year, $87.5 million deal to stay with the Yankees.  In 2000, he helped the club to its third straight world championship with a .307 average and career highs in home runs (30) and r.b.i. (121). Williams, like teammate Derek Jeter, scored 100 or more runs seven years in a row, a feat not matched by a Yankee since 1961, when Mantle did it for the ninth straight season. He batted a team-high .333 in 2002.  He retired after the 2006 season with 287 career homers, a lifetime .297 batting average, and an OPS of .858.

Hoyt Wilhelm

Hoyt Wilhelm (Baseball.  Born, Huntersville, NC, July 26, 1923; died, Sarasota, FL, Aug. 23, 2002.)  Starting a career that was to last 21 years with nine teams, James Hoyt Wilhelm joined the New York Giants in 1952 and was 15-3 in a league-high 71 appearances.  Wilhelm was unique as a knuckleballer who specialized in relief work.  In five seasons with the Giants, he was 42-25 in 219 games (never fewer than 57 in a season).  Wilhelm helped the Giants win the 1954 N.L. pennant with a 12-4 record and innumerable saves (although that statistic did not become official until 1969).  He was traded to St. Louis Feb. 26, 1957, in the deal that brought first baseman Whitey Lockman back to the Polo Grounds.  Wilhelm is also the answer to the trivia question about the player who homered in his first big league at bat, played over 1,000 games, and never homered again.  Wilhelm was the first pitcher to work over 1000 games (1,070) in his career (1952-72) and was 143-122 with 222 saves (43 officially from 1969).  He was also the first reliever inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame.

About This Dictionary

The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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About Bill Shannon

A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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