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History Highlights for December 11

“We play today; we win today.” The acquisition of free agent infielder Mariano Duncan on December 11, 1995, is not the biggest Yankee news ever on this day, but his trademark quote from the 1996 return-to-glory season is just too good to bury. The defense-challenged Duncan’s eight homers, 56 rbi’s, and in particular .340 ba were crucial to the ’96 team’s success.

The biggest event in Yankee history on December 11 is perhaps the official retirement of The Yankee Clipper, Joe DiMaggio, in 1951. With his 56-game consecutive-game hitting streak in 1941, his flawless work patrolling the vast stretches in Death Valley with grace and skill, and his .325 career batting average, I consider his most impressive accomplishment the 361 home runs for a righty hitter who played in a ballpark where the fences in left center were virtually unreachable.

Record-setting home-run hitter Roger Maris was acquired from the Kansas City A’s on December 11, 1959, in a seven-player trade that saw pitcher Don Larsen, outfielders Hank Bauer and Norm Siebern, and first baseman Marv Throneberry moved to the Athletics. “Rajah” would win back-to-back MVPs in addition to his magical “61 in ’61.”

The Yanks erected two huge building blocks to the team that would win three pennants and two World Series the next three seasons on December 11, 1975. First, pitcher Doc Medich was shipped to Pittsburgh for pitchers Dock Ellis and Ken Brett and second baseman Willie Randolph. Then Bobby Bonds was sent to California for speedy center fielder Mickey Rivers and reliable starter Ed Figueroa.

Lefty reliever Mike Stanton, who garnered a 30-12 record with 15 saves in the Bronx from 1997 through 2002, was signed by the Yanks to a free agent contract on December 11, 1996. Mike proved his mettle even more in the postseason.

The Yanks lost lefty Andy Pettitte, a fixture with the Torre Championship teams his whole career, when he signed a free agent contract with the Houston Astros on December 11, 2003.

It may be the only list he’ll ever top, but Bob Sykes (1954) is just one of three players born this day who spent time with the Yankees but who did not play for them. Sykes went 23-26 with two saves for the Tigers and the Cardinals before flopping with the Yanks once they sent minor-leaguer Willie McGee to St. Louis for him in 1981.

Read more history for December 11 on TakeHimDowntown.com

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