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The Best Rookies of the Spring, The James P. Dawson Award Winners (Part 4, 1970-1974)

by Paul Semendinger

February 27 , 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.


The 1970-1974

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.

All-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.

I also wrote about Otto Velez here.

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.

I also wrote about Tom Buskey here.

All-Time WAR = 4.1


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