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  • Writer's picturePaul Semendinger

The Best Rookies of the Spring, The James P. Dawson Award Winners (Part 3, 1970-1979)

by Paul Semendinger


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.



1970 – John Ellis

John Ellis is one of two Dawson Award winners to be traded for Graig Nettles. He, and the 1972 winner (Rusty Torres) were both in the Nettles trade.

Ellis was a Yankee from 1969 to 1972. He caught and played first base. As a Yankee, he hit .260.

For the Yanks, he had his best season in 1972 when he hit .294 making him an attractive trade piece.

Ellis went on to play for the Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers putting up a lifetime .262 batting average over 13 big league seasons.


ll-Time WAR = 3.0

1971 – No Selection Made

1972 – Rusty Torres

After winning the award, Torres hit just .211 for the Yanks and was shipped off to Cleveland. He also played for the White Sox and the Royals.

He was a .212 lifetime hitter.

All-Time WAR = -0.5

1973 – Otto Velez

For a little known player, his lifetime WAR of 9.9 is pretty good.

Velez played for the Yankees through the 1976 season, also spending time in the minor leagues. He hit .228 with only 6 home runs in 105 total games as a Yankee.

He was taken by the Blue Jays in the Expansion Draft and had a nice career with them (6 years, .257/72/243).

He played his final season (1983) in Cleveland.

All-Time WAR = 9.9

1974 – Tom Buskey

Tom Buskey was eventually traded to the… Indians. In this period, the conversation might have gone like this, “Hey kid, you won the Dawson Award. Congrats. Pack your bags, you’re heading to Cleveland.”

After pitching for the Yankees in just 12 games over 1973 and the beginning of 1974, he was traded in the deal that brought the Yankees Chris Chambliss.

Tom Buskey also pitched for the Blue Jays.

All-Time WAR = 4.1


1975 – Tippy Martinez

Tippy was an excellent left-handed pitcher who was involved in one of the biggest (and most lopsided) trades in Yankees history when he was sent to the Baltimore Orioles, I have written about that trade numerous times. Tippy Martinez pitched for the Yankees from 1974 to 1976. As a Yankee, he went 3-2 with 10 saves and a 2.67 ERA in 44 games.

All-Time WAR = 8.6

1976 – Willie Randolph

No Yankee who ever won this award has ever gone on to a Hall of Fame career. (A few have come close, as we shall see…) Willie Randolph might yet still…

Randolph ranks by WAR as the 16th greatest second baseman in history. All above Randolph are in the Hall of Fame except Robinson Cano, Bobby Gritch, Chase Utley, and Lou Whitaker.

Willie was a 6-time All-Star.

On the All-Time Yankees boards, Randolph is: 8th (tie) in WAR, 2nd in dWAR, 10th in At Bats, 9th in Runs Scored, 6th in Walks, and 4th in Stolen Bases.

He was a Yankee great.

All-Time WAR – 65.9

1977 – George Zeber

Zeber played in all of 28 Major League games, all with the Yankees between 1977 and 1978. In 1977, in just 25 games, he hit .323.

He was a switch-hitter who played infield.

All-Time WAR = 0.3

1978 – Jim Beattie

Beattie, a right-handed pitcher was once famously sent to the minor leagues by George Steinbrenner after a terrible start (only the 11th in his career) agaisnt the Red Sox, actually had a better career than most remember.

In 1978, he pitched in 25 games to a 3.73 ERA.

In the 1978 post season, he won games against the Royals (ALCS) and the Dodgers (WS). Jim Beattie’s lifetime post season record is: 2-0, 1.88.

After the 1979 season, Jim Beattie was sent to Seattle as part of the trade for Ruppert Jones.

All-Time WAR = 14.8

1979 – Paul Mirabella

Mirabella pitched in only 10 games with the Yankees in 1979. He didn’t have much success (0-4, 8.79).

He came to the Yankees in the trade that brought them Dave Righetti (among others) and left in the trade that brought them Rick Cerone (among others).

Mirabella pitched for 13-years in the Major Leagues. He pitched in 298 games (making 33 starts). HIs lifetime record was 19-29, 4.45. He also had 13 saves.

All-Time WAR = 0.6

2 comentários

Cary Greene
Cary Greene
22 de fev. de 2023

Fun article! Well done Paul!


22 de fev. de 2023

jim Beattie was another guy that George skewed over, quite unreasonably

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