There is an event coming up that is making me both leery of the future and question my own mortality...it happens every year on May 22nd; my birthday. There are a number of celebrities who share my birthday, including Lawrence Olivier, Wagner, and Morrisey, but for baseball players, I had to do a little research. According to Baseball-reference.com, there have been 44 players born on that date. Four of them played before 1901, but the rest were active during the modern era (ie, when the American and National leagues merged). As for act active players now, there are two: Colin Cowgill and Eric Sogard. Vaughn Eshelman, who was a Rule 5 draft pick and pitched a few seasons for the Red Sox in the mid '90s, is, and will remain, (barring a 44 year old rookie breaking in this year) the only big leauger who shares my EXACT birthday, 5/22/69.
Other notables include Chad Tracy, an infielder for several teams in the '90s, Jim Colburn, a pretty good starter for the Royals in the '70s, among other teams. Walt Hriniak, who was more well known as a hitting coach for the Red Sox than as a player. Jose Mesa saved over 300 games for The Indians, Mariners and Phillies. Ed Morgan had a short career, but batted .349 with 26 homers and 136 RBI's for the 1930 Indians (He also led the league with a whopping 66 strikeouts...in comparison, current Indians player Mark Reynolds already has 44 and still has 3/4 of the 2013 season left).
Then there's journeyman pitcher Julian Tavares, who played for over 15 years for the Indians, Cardinals, Red Sox and others as a reliever and spot starter. It was one of those spot starts that I witnessed, as the Sox played the Yankees in Yankee stadium in 2007 on, you guessed it May 22nd. I was by myself, so I wore my Expos shirt...I'm no martyr. Tavares won that day on our birthday, being aided by a Mike Lowell homer. I also remember Okijima being ineffective, which was a rarity; Oki was money that year.
Though by far the most famous players sharing my birth date are a hall of famer, and a man more famous for a procedure done to him than his antics on the field. The first player is Al Simmons, who played on Connie Mack's 2nd Philidelphia A's Dynasty from the late '20s, early '30s. He went by the nickname "bucketfoot", which he received because of his unique batting stance. Simmons was no joke, though, batting .334 for his career, with 307 homers and over 1,800 RBI's. He was over shadowed by his more famous team mates, such as fellow Hall of fame inductees, Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Cochrane and Lefty Grove.
Perhaps the most famous player born on May 22nd, is Tommy John, a name that is mention dozens of times over the course of the year, mostly with the word "surgery" following it. John was a hot shot starter for the LA Dodgers in the early to mid '70s, until he hurt his arm in '75. He had two options; quit, or try this brand new surgery in which the ulner collateral ligament in the medial elbow is replaced with a tendon elsewhere in the body. It was the invention of Doctor Frank Jobe, who first tried the procedure in 1974. When Tommy came back from surgery, he was good as new. Better in fact, as he won many more games after the surgery than before. He ranks 7th on the all time list among lefties with 288 wins...and most importantly, was a reference on the great, short lived T.V. show, "Police Squad", which inspired the Naked Gun films...no w THERE's fame...