The Best Rookies of the Spring, The James P. Dawson Award Winners (Part 2, 1960-1964)
by Paul Semendinger
February 20, 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.
Here I continue 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.
1960 – Johnny James
Sometimes potential is just potential and it isn’t fully realized.
Sometimes players peak in the spring.
Such is how it seems when looking back on pitcher Johnny James.
After winning the award, he appeared in 28 games, all out of the bullpen. In 43.1 innings, he walked 26 batters. He only struck out 29. Johnny’s win/loss record was an impressive 5-1 and he also had two saves. But, it didn’t last.
After one appearance in 1961 for the Yankees, he was traded to the Los Angeles Angels. James pitched in that 1961 season for L.A. pitching to a 5.30 ERA in 36 appearances.
And that was it for his big league career.
All-Time WAR = -0.2
1961 – Rollie Sheldon
In 1961, Rollie had a pretty good year for the Yankees going 11-5, 3.60 in 35 games (21 starts). He pitched two shutouts for that powerhouse squad.
In 1962, he went 7-8, 5.49 in 34 games (16 starts).
After spending the 1963 season in the minors, he was back in New York during the 1964 season.
Sheldon was traded to the Kansas City A’s in 1965.
Overall as a Yankee, Rollie Sheldon amassed a 23-15, 4.14 record.
He finished his career pitching for the Red Sox in 1966.
All-Time WAR = 2.9
1962 – Tom Tresh
In 1962, the Yankees got it right. After winning the James P. Dawson Award, Tresh went on to win the A.L. Rookie of the Year Award by playing a solid shortstop and hitting .286/20/92.
Tresh never quite played at that level again, but he did have a nice career. In four different seasons, he earned MVP consideration. He was an All-Star in 1962 and 1963. He won a Gold Glove in 1965.
Tresh moved off shortstop and also played the outfield. Tresh actually played more games in the outfield (727) than at shortstop (351).
Tresh played with the Yankees into the 1969 season. In JUne of 1969, he was traded to the Detroit Tigers where he finished his career at the end of that season.
As a Yankee overall Tom Tresh played in 1,098 games batting .245/153/530.
All-Time WAR = 22.0
1963 – Pedro Gonzalez
In 1963, Pedro Gonzalez, primarily a second baseman, played in just 14 games with the Yankees batting only .192.
In 1964, he appeared in 80 games, played a variety of positions, and did somewhat well hitting .277 (albeit with no homers and just five runs batted in).
In 1965, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians. He stayed with Cleveland through the remainder of his career after the 1967 season.
All-Time WAR = 1.4
1964 – Pete Mikkelsen
In this period, the Yankees didn’t have much long-term success with the pitchers who impressed in the spring.
In 1964, he pitched well. He appeared in 50 games out of the bullpen. He went 7-4, 3.56. Then in 1965, he pitched in 41 more games to a 3.28 ERA.
After the 1965 season, the Yankees traded Mikkelsen to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He then bounced around to the Cardinals and the Cubs before landing with the L.A. Dodgers in 1969 and staying with them through the 1972 season.
As a Yankee, Mikkelsen did well: 91 games, 3.42 ERA.
Overall, in his nine-year career, he also did pretty well: 364 games, 3.38.
All-Time WAR = 2.1