A mini-history of Yankees ejections

The proud, storied tradition of the New York Yankees can be documented in many ways. With the subject of pennants, championships and memorable personalities exhausted by the many books on the subject (including mine!), I decided to take a look at their history in another way – through their ejections.

Retrosheet recently made the Doug Pappas ejection database available on its website (since taken over by David Smith). It is a wonderful and incredibly comprehensive tool. It’s one that allows us to look at the Yankees in an entirely different light. With the help of newspaper accounts from the time, here are some of our most interesting (and humorous) findings.

Just the Facts

From 1903 to 2019, there have been 803 Yankees ejections, with at least one in every season. That streak was extended in 2020 with Phil Nevin got run by Angel Hernandez and tacked onto when Aaron Boone and Marcus Thames got tossed over the weekend. The Yankees have had at least two ejections in every season since 1961, so multiple ejections in 2020 is not surprising.

The record for most ejections by a Yankees player is 17 by Kid Elberfeld.

Who is Kid Elberfeld, you ask?

Let’s look at a couple of paragraphs from his SABR BioProject

Kid Elberfeld, called “the dirtiest, scrappiest, most pestiferous, most rantankerous [sic], most rambunctious ball player that ever stood on spikes” for his vicious arguments on the diamond, patterned his combative style after that of his favorite team, the Baltimore Orioles of the mid-1890s. He believed, like those Oriole players, that an umpire should be kept in his place, and that what happened behind an arbiter’s back was none of his business. “

In late 1906 he also had two memorable run-ins with umpire Silk O’Loughlin. The first, on August 8, occurred when Elberfeld was denied first base by after being hit by a pitch, prompting him to menace the umpire with a bat. Then, on September 3, the two went at it again in a brawl described by the New York Times as “one of the most disgraceful scenes ever witnessed on a baseball field.” The Highlanders were in a close pennant race with Chicago, and when Elberfeld was suspended for only a total of eight games by President Johnson, some viewed it as an act of favoritism toward the Highlanders.

Yikes!

Kid Elberfeld, New York Highlanders, baseball card portrait ...

One additional note: The Yankees had 19 ejections in that 1906 season, more than any other year (1984 had 17).

As you’ll see in the chart below, there are some familiar names on the list but they didn’t quite reach the level of anger of Elberfeld.

Most Ejections as a Yankees Player

Kid Elberfeld17
Yogi Berra13
Paul O’Neill11
Ben Chapman11
Lou Gehrig9
Ray Caldwell9
Many8*

* Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Lou Piniella, Jake Powell, Red Kleinow, Bob Shawkey

If you’re reading this, you probably would have guessed that Berra and O’Neill ranked high on the list of most ejections as a Yankees player. If you’re not familiar with Ben Chapman, he was the racist villain manager in the Jackie Robinson biopic, 42. Caldwell was a talented pitcher with a penchant for the nightlife from the 1910s.

Joe Girardi has the Yankees record for most ejections overall with 36, 35 coming as manager. Don Zimmer’s 8 are the most by a Yankees coach.

Most Ejections as a Yankees manager

Joe Girardi35
Ralph Houk24
Joe Torre22
Clark Griffith22
Billy Martin15
Miller Huggins14
Casey Stengel12
Lou Piniella11

Most Ejections as a Yankees coach

Don Zimmer8
Art Fletcher6
Charley O’Leary5
Gene Michael5

Most Ejections with Yankees overall

Joe Girardi36
Ralph Houk27
Clark Griffith23
Joe Torre22
Kid Elberfeld21
Yogi Berra20
Billy Martin19
Lou Piniella19

The previously-mentioned Silk O’Loughlin has the most ejections of Yankees by an umpire with 39. Tim McLelland has the most by an umpire you’ve likely heard of with 12. It’s not surprising that old-time umpires like Silk have so many more than the newer ones. There are a lot more umpires now given the size of the sport compared to 100-plus years ago.

Most in 1 game

The Yankees have had 5 people ejected from a game twice. The first was on June 28, 1915 against the Red Sox when Dick Nallin tossed four pitchers and a catcher for bench jockeying. There wasn’t much more to it than that and the newspapers didn’t share many other details.

The search for that story led me down a rabbit hole: In looking at other games that day, there’s a reference to a Tigers win over the Senators in which the Tigers successfully executed a triple steal and two double steals!!

The other 5-ejection instance came on August 24 2017 against the Tigers and involved Tom Kahnle and Dellin Betances throwing at Tigers hitters. This was ugly. You can watch it here.

The First One

The first ejection for the Yankees as we know them came on May 6, 1903 in a game in which they were dominated by Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Eddie Plank.

The reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer was unsparing. In his lede paragraph, the unnamed writer said the Highlanders were not just bad on the field, but “worse than that was the spectacle they made of themselves by their childish efforts to bully the umpire.”

Pitcher-manager Clark Griffith and non-playing catcher Jack O’Connor were both tossed by future Hall of Famer Tom Connolly. Griffith’s ejection was from an argument over a ground rule regarding a ball hit out of play. That resulted in a Yankee being awarded only a double on a hit when Griffith thought it should be a triple. O’Connor was then ejected for “choice language” but refused to leave (prompting the comments from the Inquirer)

“It is to be hoped that the team will learn manners while away on its long trip,” the writer wrote.

That was not to be the case. Two Yankees were ejected for foul language 3 days later.

Bye Bye, Bambino

Babe Ruth was ejected from a game 8 times as a member of the Yankees!

These probably warrant an article in itself, but for now, I’ll share the story of two of them.

On August 21, 1931, Babe hit his 600th career home run in a game against the St. Louis Browns. The ball would be retrieved by a youngster who found himself $10 richer after presenting it to Ruth.

But Ruth didn’t make it all the way through this game. When Red Kress (later a famous scout) homered in the 7th inning, Ruth argued that the ball had hit the fence and was not a homer. He argued enough such that he got ejected.

From the Daily News:

Ruth’s last ejection with the Yankees came on May 7 1932 when he was unhappy after being called out on strikes on a pitch that nearly hit him (per the newspaper accounts). Ruth complained and threw his bat in frustration.

What’s significant here is that the umpire who ejected Ruth was Brick Owens. That’s the same Brick Owens whom Ruth punched after facing one batter in a game for the Red Sox in 1917. Ernie Shore relieved Ruth and retired the next 27 hitters!

Lou Gehrig had that many???

It seems unfathomable to me that Lou Gehrig was ejected from a game 9 times. It just doesn’t fit with the Gehrig narrative.

But the database shows what the database shows.

It turns out that The Iron Horse could get angry and when he did, he would get loud with an umpire, usually over bad calls on pitches and at first base. One example took place on June 29, 1926 in a game with the Athletics, he griped too loudly with George Hildebrand and was banished (the newspapers usually used “banished” in describing ejections at this time).

Gehrig’s replacement at first base was none other than … Babe Ruth (one of 32 games in which Ruth played first base).

And Billy Martin only had …

Billy Martin was ejected 19 times, 15 as a manager and 4 as a player. The 15 seemed a little low given Martin’s fiery reputation.

Some of Martin’s highlights (lowlights) included

– A nasty fight with the White Sox on June 13, 1957 that included Larry Doby of the White Sox and Martin’s Yankees teammate, Enos Slaughter. Doby punched Yankees pitcher Art Ditmar after feeling that Ditmar had thrown at him. Martin tried to start a separate fight with Doby after the fact. The game was delayed by 28 minutes. Martin, Doby, and Slaughter each ended up getting fined $150.

Throwing a baseball on the field in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 1976 World Series against the Reds. The Yankees lost the game and got swept in the series.

– He got his money’s worth with his last ejection on May 30, 1988 against the Athletics, in which he threw and kicked dirt on an umpire. The result was a 3-game suspension. Martin’s final managerial tenure ended a few weeks later.

He’s throwing the spitter!

The Yankees unhappiness towards the Astros the last few years was not the first time they got annoyed at some baseball skullduggery. On June 25, 1973, Yankees coach Dick Howser was ejected for repeatedly complaining that Gaylord Perry was throwing a spitball. Howser griped after fielding a wet foul ball in the eighth inning.

Yankees hitters had been complaining all game. Bobby Murcer was particularly unhappy with Perry’s gooping up the ball, claiming afterwards that the AL president was telling umpires to ignore complaints. Manager Ralph Houk had home plate ump Lou DiMuro check Perry’s glove, pants, and hat to no avail, though Houk claimed he made the request that in good fun.

Perry finished the game, a complete game 4-2 win for his Indians.

His brother Jim was not as fortunate, as he and the Twins lost to the Red Sox on a late-game homer by the Boston catcher.

The headline in the Spokane Review the next day was:

“One Perry Frisked, Other Fisked.”

Love that!

Too funny

Bobby Meacham played in 457 MLB games and coached six seasons. He was ejected once.

On September 21, 1985 in a 5-2 win over the Orioles in an important game, he got tossed in an unusual fashion. Meacham’s teammate, Rex Hudler, was called out at second base trying to steal on what appeared to be a missed call. When Meacham went back out to the field to play second base, he saw umpire Joe Brinkman, put his head down and laughed. Brinkman was not happy, particularly when told that he was the reason that Meacham was laughing. Brinkman subsequently ejected Meacham.

Though Orioles manager Earl Weaver said after the game that he may have once been ejected for laughing, there is no record of this in the database.

Amazon.com: 1987 Topps Baseball Card #62 Bobby Meacham ...

A New Meaning to ‘Fall ‘Foli’age’

This was a meaningless game on September 29, 1984, as the Yankees were just playing out the string and the race for the batting title between Dave Winfield and Don Mattingly. But Tim Foli made it interesting by providing a unique entry into the ejection database. Before the game even began, Foli was complaining about how the game baseballs were dirty.

Eventually the word got to home plate ump Richie Garcia and after Foli said “Do your job right, Garcia,” he got tossed (h/t The Journal News for details)

More dirty baseball

Hall of Famer Frank Chance managed the Yankees for two frustrating seasons – 1913 and 1914- after having won two World Series and 90 games in seven straight seasons with the Cubs. Chance went 117-168 in just under two seasons as player-manager (mostly manager).

On August 30, 1914, about two weeks before Chance’s last game as skipper, the Yankees beat the Tigers, 6-5. In the eighth inning, umpire George Hildebrand tossed a muddy baseball out of play. The ball found its way to Chance, who was unhappy that the ball was not kept. He took it and chucked it to right field. Hildebrand then told Chance to take his exit.

Score one for gamesmanship

Ever hear about the time the Yankees won, but not really? This is a fun ejections story on which to end.

They beat the White Sox 3-1 on July 27, 1951 in a rain-shortened eight-inning game. But what’s missing from the box score is the story of the White Sox top of the ninth.

The visitors put the first two men on base in the midst of what the newspapers (h/t New York Daily News for every detail here) described as a light rain.

As it started to rain harder, Yankees third baseman Gil McDougald called time out and went to talk to Yankees pitcher Tom Morgan. First base ump Bill McGowan realized that McDougald was stalling, hoping the rain would come down harder, which it did.

McGowan ejected McDougald, who took his time leaving as Casey Stengel began arguing as well. After Stengel finally stopped, Floyd Baker singled home a run to cut the Yankees lead to 3-2. Stengel then signaled for a new pitcher, reliever Joe Ostrowski, who was in no rush to reach the field.

The umpires stopped the game for 26 minutes which led to a slow tarpaulin placement and more silliness, with both managers protesting the game (the White Sox for obvious reasons, Stengel for what he deemed an unwarranted ejection of McDougald).

When the game resumed, Stengel got even more creative. He kept making pitching changes as the White Sox extended the inning, taking the lead on a two-run single by Bert Haas. In all, Stengel called for four relievers in the inning. The deliberate pace led to … more rain. An hour’s delay resulted in the game being called due to an unplayable field at 12:32 a.m. Because the ninth inning was not completed, by rule, the game reverted to the score through eight innings.

Thus, with the White Sox protest denied, the Yankees “won” (with an emphasis on the quotations), 3-1 in a game they really should have lost.

Newspapers.com is a dream tool for compilations of this sort. If you like reading old baseball stories and can afford it, I highly recommend a subscription.

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