The Best Rookies of the Spring, The James P. Dawson Award Winners (Part 1, 1956-1959)
by Paul Semendinger
February 15, 2021
Of note – My research for this project took me to the wonderful site Baseball Almanac where I was able to access the list of all the James P. Dawson winners in Yankees history. I also used Baseball-Reference for the players’ statistics.
In 1956, the Yankees began awarding the James P. Dawson Award to the best rookie in Spring Training.
I began to wonder how many of these players went on to successful careers with the Yankees or other teams.
Today I began my examination of that important award and the players who earned it.
James P. Dawson was a longtime Yankees’ reporter with the New York Times. He served as the Chairman of the New York Chapter of the BBWAA.
It was very difficult to find an image of the award itself and it seems there is no actual trophy. Rather, it seems that the player is given a watch. Here is an auction from 2013 that highlights Johnny James’ watch. This photo shows Masahiro Tanaka being presented with a watch as well. In 2018, Miguel Andujar tweeted this photo of him earning his watch. The cover image on our home page is cropped from this Tweet.
1956 – Norm Seibern
Norm Seibern had a distinguished big league career that lasted from 1956-1968. He played for the Yankees (1956, 1958-59), The Kansas City Athletics (1960-63), Baltimore Orioles (1964-66), California Angels (1966), San Francisco Giants (1967), and Boston Red Sox (1967-68).
In his career, Seibern batted .272. He blasted 132 home runs and drove home 636 runs.
As a Yankee, he appeared in 308 games batting .273/29/129. He won a Gold Glove in 1958.
With Kansas City, Seibern became a star. He earned MVP consideration in 1961, 1962, and 1963 and was an American League All-Star from 1962 to 1964.
Seibern was, of course, one of the players the Yankees traded in their famous deal for Roger Maris. He was also a member of the 1967 Impossible Dream Red Sox team.
All-Time WAR = 21.0
1957 – Tony Kubek
Tony Kubek was a Yankee star for many years. He played from 1957 to 1965, spending his entire career with the Yankees. A shortstop, Kubek was one of the players that solidified the Yankees infield throughout that period. The Yankees went to the World Series in six of Kubek’s first seven seasons.
Kubek won the 1957 American League Rookie of the Year Award. He earned MVP votes in 1957, 1960, and 1963. He was an A.L. All-Star in 1958, 1959, and 1961 (twice!).
For his career, Kubek batted .266/57/373.
After his excellent playing career, Tony Kubek went on to a long career as a broadcaster. He earned the Ford C. Frick Award and is in the Hall-of-Fame as a broadcaster.
All-Time WAR = 18.4
1958 – Johnny Blanchard
After a one game cameo on 1955, John Blanchard played with the Yankees from 1959 to 1965. He was never a star, but he was a potent and powerful left-handed hitter who also played a variety of positions including catcher, outfield, pinch hitter, and (rarely) first base.
With Elston Howard and Yogi Berra as the primary catchers, it wasn’t easy for Blanchard to get playing time and he actually played more games in his career as an outfielder (169 games) than as a catcher (155).
In 1965, Blanchard also played for the Kansas City Athletics and the Milwaukee Braves.
Johnny Blanchard’s best year was 1961 when he hit .305/21/54 in just 93 games. He also hit two home runs in the 1961 World Series.
All-Time WAR = 1.5
1959 – Gordie Windhorn
It is not too often that I come across a player for the Yankees who I never heard of. Gordie Windhorn was one.
An outfielder, he played all of seven games with the 1959 Yankees going 0-for-11. In 1961, Windhorm played for the L.A. Dodgers (34 games, .242) and in 1962, he played for the Kansas City Athletics (14 games, .158) and the Los Angeles Angels (40 games, .178).
After his MLB career, he played six seasons in Japan.
All-Time WAR = -0.6