The Best Rookies of the Spring, The James P. Dawson Award Winners (Part 2, 1960-1969)
by Paul Semendinger
NOTE - I originally ran this series a few years ago. As Spring Training dawns, I figured it was worth revisiting again.
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.
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
1965 – Arturo Lopez
Known better as Art, Arturo Lopez, was a Yankee (and a Major Leaguer) for just one season, 1965.
That year he appeared as an outfielder, pinch hitter, and pinch runner.
He batted only .143 in 38 games.
All-Time WAR = -0.6
1966 – Roy White
Roy White, of course, became a Yankee great. White played on the Yankees through the 1979 season amassing a collection of impressive stats.
Roy White was a two-time American League All-Star. He earned MVP votes in four of his seasons.
He batted over .290 four times. He collected 1,803 hits.
White is on many of the Yankees’ All-Time leader boards including: Games (7th), At Bats (9th), Plate Appearances (7th), Walks (8th), Stolen Bases (6th), and more.
Roy White was an important member of the 1976-1978 World Series teams. He was vastly underrated and unappreciated. (Hopefully his new autobiography changes some of this!)
All-Time WAR = 46.8
1967 – Bill Robinson
Bill Robinson also had a long big league career that lasted until 1983. Most of that career was spent in the National League.
Robinson played for the Pirates for 8 years and the Phillies for 5 seasons. A solid outfielder, Robinson amassed 1,127 hits as he batted .258/166/641 over his career that saw him play in the post season with the Pirates in 1975 and 1979.
Bill Robinson earned MVP consideration in 1976 and 1977 when he batted over .300 and blasted over 20 homers each year.
Bill Robinson played as a Yankee from 1967 to 1969. In 310 games, he batted only .206 with just 16 home runs. The Yankees traded Robinson for pitcher Barry Moore (who never appeared as a Yankee).
All-Time WAR = 7.6
1968 – Mike Ferraro
Mike Ferraro became a long time coach in the big leagues. As a player, though, he wasn’t great.
In 1968, he appeared in 23 games batting .161. He played for the Seattle Pilots in 1969 and the Milwaukee Brewers in 1972.
All-Time WAR = -0.4
1969 – Jerry Kenney & Bill Burbach
Jerry Kenney, an infielder and part-time outfielder, was a Yankee until 1973. He was one of the players traded to the Cleveland Indians for Graig Nettles.
As a Yankee, Kenney played in 465 games batting .237/7/103.
He played just five games with Cleveland.
All-Time WAR = 9.0
Bill Burbach was a right-handed pitcher. He pitched in 31 games in 1969 which was the bulk of his career.
He pitched in 4 games in 1970 and 2 games in 1971.
His entire career was spent with the Yankees.
In 37 total games (28 starts), he went 6-11, 4.48.
All-Time WAR = -0.9