Yankees' acquisition of Raines helps kick-start dynasty

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Craig Muder

The New York Yankees acquired Tim Raines for his legendary speed on the bases.

What they also received, however, was a kick-start to a dynasty.

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The Yankees, who stole an American League-low 50 bases in 1995, picked up Raines on Dec. 28, 1995, from the White Sox in exchange for a player to be named later who became minor leaguer Blaise Kozeniewski. The 36-year-old Raines had just completed his 15th full big league season and was the owner of 777 career steals, fourth on the all-time list at that point.

Kozeniewski never pitched in pro ball again after the 1995 season.

“I feel I still have foot speed,” Raines told the Associated Press after the trade. “With the Yankees, I get the opportunity to lead off and do something I haven’t done the last two years when I batted second and third.”

Raines stole only 13 bases in 1995, which tied his career-low for a full season. But while often batting in front of fellow future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, Raines felt talking chances on the bases was unnecessary.

The Yankees, meanwhile, were in the middle of an offseason that saw them hire manager Joe Torre and reshape their roster.

“We needed some speed and some leadership,” said Yankees general manager Bob Watson, who added a full year plus an option for 1998 to Raines’ contract following the deal. “And we heard Tim wanted to play in New York and with the Yankees. He brings a lot of what we’re looking for.”

Raines missed considerable time during the 1996 season with a fractured left thumb and pulled right hamstring, appearing in only 59 games.

But he was healthy for the postseason, scoring nine runs over 13 games while sharing time with Darryl Strawberry in left field. The Yankees defeated the Braves in six games in the World Series, giving Raines his first championship ring.

It was the first of four World Series titles in five years for the Yankees.

As a part-timer in 1997 and 1998, Raines helped the Yankees to two more postseason berths, compiling an on-base percentage of .399. Raines earned his second World Series ring in 1998, then signed with the Oakland Athletics as a free agent.

When he retired following the 2002 season, Raines had totaled 2,605 hits, 808 stolen bases and a .294 batting average.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2017.


Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series