I had a request on Twitter to say a few words about Andy Carey, the former Yankees third baseman (1952-1960) who passed away in mid-December at the age of 80. Carey played on four Yankees pennant winners, including the 1956 and 1958 championship teams. Carey has always been a hard player for me to get a fix on. He came to a couple of the Old Timers events that I’ve covered since beginning the Pinstriped Bible, but he seemed debilitated and I didn’t get to speak to him. He doesn’t seem to have been a particularly quotable guy and didn’t leave behind much in the way of colorful anecdotes. He played in Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956 and made some key plays. In 1958 he had three two-homer games, including a 5-for-5 at Fenway Park.
As a hitter, he was inconsistent. After a couple of cups of coffee, he arrived as a regular, or as regular as Casey Stengel’s players got, in 1954 and hit .302/.373/.423 in 122 games. That was good production for third base at the time—you had Al Rosen in the AL, Eddie Matthews in the NL, and a few other guys, but the position wasn’t deep—especially from a 22-year-old. That’s a nice base for growth, but the next season Carey was down to .257/.313/.378, albeit with a league-leading 11 triples (he tied with Mickey Mantle). He had another good part-time season in 1958, hitting .286/.363/.486, but for the rest of his career he was a league-average hitter at best.
Some of that was due to Yankee Stadium being as hard as it was on right-handed hitters back then. There were also some injuries, a debilitating case of mononucleosis, and some conflicts with Stengel—Stengel liked his players to play multiple positions, but Carey wasn’t interested in being one of the Professor’s interchangeable parts. Finally, in May 1960, with Carey behind glove wizard Clete Boyer on the depth chart, the Yankees dealt him straight up to their favorite trading partner, the Kansas City A’s, for a former Yankee, outfielder Bob Cerv, who was also heading towards the end of his major league career.
Carey spent three more seasons as a roster ping-pong ball, bouncing from the A’s to the White Sox to the Dodgers (there was also an abortive trade to the Phillies) before going on to a career in business. He had a good career, and given his presence on some great teams, a remarkable one. I do like this one story, from Dom Forker’s oral history, Sweet Seasons:
I was invited to the Yankees’ spring training camp in 1952… I went out to my position, and I drew a line between third and shortstop. Phil Rizzuto said, "What are you doing?" I said, "I’m drawing the line. Anything on your side of the line is yours. Rizzuto had been there for eleven years, and he couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t ego on my part. I had worked hard to get there. I was just sending a message to the regulars that I intended to stay.