Down on the Farm 1956 (Guest Post)
By Robert Seidenstadt (Guest Post)
May 21, 2022
Longtime Yankees fan Robert Seidenstadt reached out with this wonderful post looking back at the Yankees minor leagues in 1956. We hope for more posts from Robert in the future.
1956 was a magical year for the New York Yankees. They won the World Series
over the Brooklyn Dodgers, Don Larsen pitched his perfect game in Game 5 and
Mickey Mantle won the Triple Crown (.353 BA, 52 HR, 130 RBI). But in addition
to all this majesty that is now deeply embedded in Yankee history, there were
also exciting developments Down on the Farm. Let’s review!
Denver Bears (AAA) 87 wins 67 losses Manager: Ralph Houk
Of the 31 players listed on the Bears roster, 23 had or eventually would have big
league experience. Notable future Yankees were Marv Throneberry, Bobby
Richardson, Tony Kubek, Woody Held and Norm Siebern.
Marv Throneberry 1B 315 BA 42 HR 145 RBI .997 OPS
Throneberry played one more year in Denver before spending the next two
seasons with the Yankees. He never lived up to his potential as a left-handed,
power-hitting first baseman. He was traded to the Kansas City Athletics in 1959
(details to follow) and eventually made his way to the 1962 New York Mets roster
where, under the tutelage of Casey Stengel and the help of the New York
newspapers, he morphed into “Marvelous Marv”. Marv retired in 1964 and then
re-appeared on the scene as one of the many athletes who participated in the
Miller Lite “Less Filling, Tastes Great” advertising campaign.
Bobby Richardson 2B .328 BA 10 HR 73 RBI .847 OPS
Bobby made it to the Yankees for “cups-of-coffee” in 1955 and 1956 before
starting his ten-year career in earnest in 1957. Bobby’s specialty was the World
Series, 36 games with a .305 BA and a .736 OPS. In the 1960 Series,
Richardson had 12 RBI with 6 of them coming in Game 3. He also caught the
final out of the 1962 World Series, a screaming line drive off the bat of Willie
McCovey. After the 1966 season, he retired at the age of 31.
Tony Kubek SS .331 BA 6 HR 85 RBI .831 OPS
Kubek had a 9-year major league career, all with the New York Yankees. He won
the Rookie of the Year in 1957 (.296 BA) while playing four different positions.
Kubek was a steady performer throughout his career hitting 14 HRs in 1960 and
batting .314 in 1962. He retired from baseball in early 1966 and went on to have
a 24-year career as a broadcaster culminating in receiving the Ford C. Frick
award in 2006.
Woody Held 3B .276 BA 35 HR 125 RBI .897 OPS
Woody played only 5 games for the Yankees but he did go on to have a 14-year
big league career, seven of them with the Cleveland Indians. Held has a unique
place in Yankee history but not for his on-field performance. Held was involved in
two headline breaking trades. After the infamous “Copa” incident in 1957, the
Yankees traded Billy Martin along with Woody to the Kansas City Athletics. This
set the stage for a more significant trade. In 1958, the Athletics sent Held, and
Vic Power (an ex-Yankee farmhand) to the Cleveland Indians for Presto Ward,
Dick Tamanek and, you guessed it, Roger Maris. This, of course was the prelude
to the Maris-to-Yankee trade (more on that in a moment).
Norm Siebern OF .349 BA 8 HR 19 RBI 1.093 OPS
Siebern split the 1956 season between the Yankees and Denver. He played the
1957 season in Denver before making it to the majors for good in 1958. After two
seasons with the Yankees, Siebern was traded with Don Larsen, Marv
Throneberry, and Hank Bauer for Kent Hadley, Joe DeMaestri and, you guessed
it, Roger Maris. Including the Yankees, Siebern played for six big league clubs in
his 12 year career.
The Denver Bears were special. The hitting statistics were gaudy (yes, part mile-
high altitude effect) but at the end of the day, three of their best five players were
instrumental in the Roger Maris trade to the Yankees and setting up their dynasty
of the early 1960s. Richardson and Kubek retired after the 1966 season thus
paving the way for the Horace Clarke era.
Richmond Virginians (AAA) 74 wins 79 losses Manager: Eddie Lopat
Jerry Lumpe IF .279 BA 4 HR 41 RBI
Lumpe was on the Yankee roster the next year as a utility infielder and pinch-
hitter. He had a 12-year big league career with the Yankees, Kansas City
Athletics and the Detroit Tigers.
Jim Coates RHP 6 Wins 12 Losses 5.6 BB/9
Coates had a four-year Yankee career (1959-62) with 37 wins and 15 losses
(.698). He was credited with 15 lifetime saves. After his Yankee career, Coates
banged around the majors and minors for another 8 years.
Birmingham (AL) Barons (AA) 81 wins 74 Losses
Johnny Blanchard C .270 BA 17 HR
Blanchard was a left-handed, power-hitting catcher. He had a six-year Yankee
career with 1961 being his best year. As a part-time catcher and sometime
outfielder he played in 93 games and was one of six Yankees to hit 20 or more
home runs that year. Over a five-day, three game span, Blanchard hit home runs
in four consecutive at bats, two as a pinch-hitter and two as a starting line-up
guy. When Mazeroski’s home run went over the ivy to end the 1960 World
Series, it was Blanchard who was behind the plate and called the fatal, final
Binghamton (NY) Triplets (A) 84 Wins 55 Losses
Frank Leja 1B .226 BA 12 HR
In 1956, Leja played with Winston-Salem (B) and Richmond (AAA) in addition to
Frank was a “bonus baby”. At that time, if a club signed a player to a bonus of
$4,000 or more he was designated as a “bonus baby” and had to remain on the
major league roster for two years. During 1954 and 1955 Leja amassed 7 at bats.
How cruel. Leja missed crucial developmental time at ages 18 and 19. The most
notable “bonus babies” of that era were Al Kaline, Harmon Killebrew, Sandy
Koufax and Catfish Hunter. The Yankees had two: Leja and Tom Carroll, a
Monroe (LA) Sports 54 Wins 68 Losses
Bill Short 9 wins 11 Losses 3.40 ERA 1.575 WHIP 6.3 BB9 (ouch)
Bill Short was a 5’9” left-handed who was projected to be the next Whitey Ford.
In 1960 he started 10 games for the Yankees and had a record that reflected his
minor league performance: 3 wins, 5 losses and a 5.7 BB/9. In 1963, he pitched
four innings for the Orioles and walked 6 batters. He bounced around until the
end of his career came in 1969.
Kearny (NE) Yankees 35 Wins 28 Loses
Deron Johnson OF .329 BA 24 HR .687 SLG
Johnson had a 16-year big league career and hit 245 home runs. He played for
the Yankees in 1960 and 1961. He was traded with Art Ditmar to the Kansas City
Athletics for Bud Daley, a left-handed pitcher and two-time AL All-Star.