Just before the trade deadline in the summer of 1995, the Toronto Blue Jays were flailing — mired in 5th place with a 35-47 record on July 28th. On that date they finalized a deal with the Yankees — acquiring Marty Janzen, Jason Jarvis and Mike Gordon from New York in exchange for pitcher David Cone. And the fortunes of both organizations were dramatically altered in the outcome.
The Yankees were in second place at the time of the trade, and hung on to become the first American League Wild Card team with Cone going 9-2 (3.82 ERA) down the stretch. In the opening post-season series against the Seattle Mariners, he pitched the pinstripes to victory in Game 1, and started the deciding Game 5 — departing in the 8th inning with the score tied at 4. The M’s would take the game and series in extra innings, and Cone was a free agent after the game.
Cone — a ‘rental player’ in today’s jargon — was a prized piece of the puzzle for the Yankees at the time, but it wasn’t a slam dunk he’d re-sign. Posting a 20-3 (2.22 ERA) season with the Mets in 1988, a Cy Young Award winner with the Kansas City Royals in 1994, and consistent double-digit win totals over his career, he had numerous suitors over the winter of ’95. The Baltimore Orioles put on a full-court press to sign the right-handed hurler.
The Bird’s GM at the time Pat Gillick envisioned a starting rotation one-two punch of Mike Mussina and David Cone — which was ironic as both would be wearing pinstripes. The upstart Florida Marlins also made a run at Cone, but his decision would come down to either Baltimore or New York.
When the dust settled, the Yankees emerged as victors under the efforts of GM Bob Watson, signing Cone to a 3-year/$19.5M deal that made the free agent the highest paid pitcher in MLB at the time. The deal included a no-trade clause, which in hindsight was unnecessary on both parties accounts.
Part II coming next : Return To Glory. Thanks in great part to Watson and Gene ‘Stick’ Michael, the pieces were falling into place for what would be one of the greatest eras in Yankee history — which is no small statement. And Coney was right in the middle of it.
MEMORY LANE : On today’s date in 1927, another one of those rare transactions between the Yankees and the Red Sox happened. Ya gotta love the names of the players involved. Boston sent pitchers Ernie Shore, Hubert Benjamin “Dutch” Leonard, and outfielder Duffy Lewis to New York for Frank Gilhooley, Slim Love, Ray Caldwell, and Roxy Walters, along with $15,000. To our present efforts, none of three players acquired by the Bombers actually appeared in a game during the 1927 season..
Speaking of player names, here’s a classic on the 1927 roster that could easily be a hip-hop star’s moniker today — Urban Shocker, pictured here. The right handed pitcher (whose birth name was Urbain Jacques Shockcor) made his major league debut with the Yankees in 1916, going 4-3 with a 2.62 ERA. He went 8-5 with a 2.61 ERA the following season, then was traded to the Cleveland Browns, where he spent the next 7 seasons before being re-acquired by New York for the 1925 campaign.
Interesting note via Wikipedia, Urban was the last Yankee pitcher to legally throw a spitball, as he and a handful of other pitchers were grandfathered into the practice after it was banned by baseball in 1920. Shocker spent the remainder of his 13-year career with the Yankees, going 18-6 with a 2.84 ERA over 27 starts in 1927, with 13 complete games and 2 shutouts.
(h/t: Baseball Almanac, Baseball-Reference.com, Today in Baseball History, National Pastime) | Urban Shocker Photo Credit: George Grantham Bain Collection / Library of Congress