On Thursday night I was working, covering some high school hockey here in upper Westchester, New York. My job doesn’t require me to take photos of the athletes I’m covering, so usually my editor (who is also a photographer) will show up at the games and shoot the players for pictures.
In between periods during the hockey game I received some really interesting news.
My editor was giving me some background information on the game I covered last night, which happened to be a boy’s basketball game. After he let me know what to watch out for at the boy’s hoops game, he looked at me and said,
“I should be sending you to the Byram Hills/Fox Lane girls’ basketball game. Bernie Williams might be there.”
“His daughter Beatriz is a senior and plays on the Byram Hills team, and he attends a lot of her games,” he continued. “She’s pretty good; she got her 1,000th point the other night.”
I had no idea Bernie’s daughter plays on one of the teams my newspaper covers – and I didn’t know she was that good! 1,000 points in a high school career is quite impressive.
The news got even better when my editor explained to me that Bernie is very approachable at these games. In fact, one of the other reporters working for our paper met him at a game last year and has interviewed him already.
I was then told I could ask him for an interview as well, and maybe write a feature story on him and Bea. I can’t think of anything more amazing than writing a story on one of my favorite Yankees; a player I grew up with and might have the chance to interview.
Not to mention it would put Yankee Yapping over the top! If I can get this interview, I will undoubtedly write about the experience here. Maybe it would put Yankee Yapping into the category of elite internet Yankee blogs?
In any event, according to the local schedule, the Byram Hills girls play their next game on Friday Feb. 3 at home – most of the teams are off next week because of high school midterms. I remember those, and no, I do not miss them.
My editor is probably going to send me to that game, and that could very well be the night I get to talk to and possibly interview (or set up an interview with) Yankee legend Bernie Williams. I don’t want to get my hopes up if for some reason it doesn’t work out, but nonetheless I think it’s pretty cool his daughter is on one of the teams I’ll be covering.
Just getting the chance to shake Bernie’s hand and maybe getting to talk to him for a minute will be enough for me. He has always been and will always be one of my favorite Yankees, ever.
And speaking of communicating with Yankees, I was on Twitter this afternoon and noticed Joba Chamberlain tweeting about the New York Rangers vs. Boston Bruins game. I decided to switch over to the hockey game and attempted to tweet with the Yankee hurler.
Eventually I got Chamberlain to re-tweet me about the action. The Rangers were supposed to be going on a power play, and I asked him if he thought the Blueshirts could convert. But right after I tweeted the question, the referees reversed their decision and didn’t call a penalty.
“4-4. No PP.”
I can now put Chamberlain with Russell Martin on the list of Yankees who have replied to my tweets. Remember, if you want to follow me on Twitter, my handle is @AJ_Martelli.
Last night was a brutal night to be a Yankee fan, as the Bronx Bombers let a middle-innings lead slip away. The Seattle Mariners eked a 4-3 win over the Yanks. With the win, the Mariners are now a .500 team.
The highlight of the game was perhaps Mark Teixeira’s first inning solo home run off rookie phenom Michael Pineda, his 14th round-tripper of the year. Seattle’s defense played a huge role, considering Franklin Gutierrez’s brilliant thievery in centerfield, robbing a scuffling Nick Swisher of a home run in the top of the fourth.
After the game I asked myself, “How would this game have played out if Swisher had hit that home run?”
Probably a lot different, because it was a one-run game.
Instead of focusing on that ugly loss last night, I figured I would lighten the mood with an interesting blog topic: Stadium Giveaways.
Whenever I purchase tickets to a Yankee game or have the chance to go to a game, the first thing I ask myself is, “Are they giving anything away at this game, and if so, what?”
There’s nothing like taking a free keepsake away from the game you attend, along with memories of a day at a ballgame. Some of those Stadium Giveaways can become extremely valuable, depending on what happens in the game.
I’m not exactly sure what the precise value is, but something tells me if you went to David Wells’s perfect game on May 17, 1998, and received the Beanie Baby giveaway, you have yourself a truly valuable item worth a good amount of money.
Every Stadium, not just Yankee Stadium, uses promotions as a means to bring fans out to the park and get butts in the seats. And in the spirit of Stadium Giveaways, I am going to share my favorite treasures, as well as share the action that specific game provided.
Get ready for some stories! Here goes…
Batting Glove Day, July 22, 1999
I will never forget this day, only because it was the first time I sat in the upper deck at Yankee Stadium. It was quite interesting, considering me and heights mix about as well as peanut butter and ketchup.
The Yankee batting glove was given to children 14 and younger and it was a nice prize to carry up to the last row of seats at the old Stadium.
The Yanks hosted the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and beat them by a count of 5-4.
Bernie Williams went deep for the Yanks that day and Andy Pettitte tossed six innings on his way to his sixth win of the year.
Andy Pettitte Bobble Head Day, May 24, 2001
To this day, I am bitter about this.
My eighth grade class took a field trip to Yankee Stadium toward the end of the year. We were treated to a classic Yankees-Red Sox game, in which the Yankees won 2-1.
Mike Mussina and Pedro Martinez dueled it out, each fanning 12 batters in the game. Bernie Williams supplied some Yankees offense with a home run and Paul O’Neill notched an RBI.
The giveaway story was not a happy one, however.
The Pettitte bobble head was given to fans 14 and younger. I was only 13, turning 14 the next month. Because I had hit my growth spurt and I was tall, the Yankee Stadium bobble head distributors did not believe I was actually 13; they thought I was older and thus I did not receive a bobble head.
That day each of my eighth grade classmates got a bobble head and I didn’t. Words cannot describe how much that hurt me; I felt so left out. I was looking forward to a bobble head and I did not get one.
At least I still have the memory of a Yankee win over the Red Sox and a day with my eighth grade class at the Stadium. When we got back from the trip we all took a picture together. I guess I can carry that around with me instead of a bobble head.
Bat Day, June 30, 2001
Bat Day has been a longstanding tradition at Yankee Stadium, going back decades. It was my friend Vito’s 14th birthday and we celebrated at Yankee Stadium.
The Yanks played the Devil Rays that day; Ted Lilly vs. Ryan Rupe. Down 4-0 in the sixth, the Bombers struck back with a three-run inning. They put up two runs in the eighth and went on to beat the Rays 5-4.
Williams crushed two homers (his 13th and 14th of the season) and Tino Martinez also went deep for his 13th long ball of ‘01.
I left the Stadium that day with a bat and a Yankee win. And looking back it was almost déjà vu from the batting glove game; the Yanks beat the Devil Rays by the same score and the same player (Williams) went yard.
Yankee Binder Day, August 7, 2003
Although it was only the beginning of August, the Yankees knew school was soon set to begin. And what better way to bring us back into the school spirit with a Yankee binder, featuring legends and present players?
The Bombers were hosting the Texas Rangers on that hot afternoon, and played them to a 7-5 win.
The ball was jumping off the bats that day, and a number of players had big-time home runs. For the Rangers, Rafael Palmeiro smacked his 28th homer of the year in the first inning, a three-run bomb which gave Texas a quick lead.
But the Yanks answered in the bottom half of the second with four runs, all coming from the same source. Enrique Wilson stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and clubbed a grand slam, his second home run of the year, to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead.
Soon-to-be Yankee Alex Rodriguez also homered, his 30th of the season.
Starter Mike Mussina settled down and tossed 7 1/3 innings, allowing just four earned runs on eight hits. He walked none and struck out five en route to his 12th win of the year.
Not a bad way to end a day at the Stadium.
Old Timer’s Day: July 9, 2005 and July 7, 2007.
I was fortunate enough to be at Old Timer’s Day twice. If you are a Yankee fan, do yourself a favor and get out to an Old Timer’s Day at least once. You will not be disappointed.
Every Old Timer’s Day, the Yanks issue all fans a commemorative pin.
The first time I had the pleasure of attending Old Timer’s Day was July 9, 2005. The ceremonies were cut short because of rain, but the weather held up for the actual game.
The Yanks played the Cleveland Indians and lost 8-7, but nearly made miraculous comeback at the end.
Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Gary Sheffield, and Ruben Sierra each homered for the Yankees, as the ball was once again exploding off the bats.
Darrell May started for New York and did not impress anyone, pitching 4 1/3 innings and giving up seven earned runs on eight hits. On the bright side he didn’t issue any walks and K’d three.
On July 7, 2007, it was a much better experience.
We arrived at the game early, and it was a beautiful day – a contrast to my previous Old Timer’s Day experience. Our seats were behind home plate and Jorge Posada’s wife Laura was sitting a few seats in front of us.
The ceremony was classic; Don Mattingly, Reggie Jackson, Paul O’Neill, Scott Brosius, Ken Griffey, Sr., and many, many more were on hand to play in the Old Timer’s game.
With the retired players divided, they split up into teams: the Bombers and the Clippers. The Bombers beat the Clippers, 4-0.
As for the modern-day Yankees, it was a slow game. They wound up losing 2-1 in 13 innings to the Angels.
What was so ironic about the whole day was that Roger Clemens started for the Yankees in their game vs. the Angels – and he was older than three players who participated in the Old Timer’s Game!
May 24, 2008, Yankee Baseball Card Day
It wound up being my third-to-last game at the old Stadium, and it was a good one. All fans received a pack of collectible Yankee baseball cards.
Let’s be honest, who didn’t love collecting baseball cards as a kid? It certainly brought me back to my youth in a good way.
The Yanks played the Seattle Mariners and (unlike last night) beat them 12-6.
Mike Mussina pitched rather well, capturing his seventh win of his eventual 20-win campaign. The Yanks did it with their bats too, receiving home runs from Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu.
July 15, 2006, Collectible Stamp Day
This was one the best days I can remember from 2006. A day at the Stadium with my Uncle John and his two sons, my cousins Thomas and Gordon.
Each fan was issued an envelope with stamps of all-time great players: Mickey Mantle, Hank Greenberg, Mel Ott, and Roy Campanella.
Before the game the Yankees held a special ceremony behind home plate with relatives of each player represented on the stamps, including Mantle’s sons.
The Yankees played the White Sox that afternoon and crushed them, 14-3.
Bubba Crosby and Andy Phillips were the only two Yanks to go yard, but they played plenty of small ball. Derek Jeter had three RBIs and two doubles.
July 22, 2009, Yankee Stadium Puzzle Day
One of my fondest memories of the magical 2009 season was going out to Yankee Stadium on July 22, when they faced off with the Baltimore Orioles. Every fan in attendance was given a Yankee Stadium puzzle.
Jorge Posada homered, backing a solid outing from A.J. Burnett. The Yanks won 6-4.
I never put the puzzle together. It’s still in the box.
Hopefully this year I can get out to a Yankee game on a day they give away something neat. It’s always fun to collect and reflect on each game and the memories attached to each giveaway.
You know it’s Spring Training when you witness what happened in the ninth inning of today’s Yankees vs. Houston Astros exhibition game. Down 5-1 in the ninth, the Yankees capitalized on some sloppy defense by the Astros and won 6-5 on the strength of a walk-off bases-loaded walk drawn by Russell Martin.
Martin scored earlier in the frame on a throwing error by Jiovanni Mier, cutting the lead to 5-2. Then Astros’ pitcher Douglas Arguello, who labored in the ninth, tossed a wild pitch allowing Daniel Brewer to score.
Melky Mesa came up and singled to plate Austin Romine and Jordan Parraz to tie the game at five. In the bottom of the second the Yankees scraped their first run across the plate on a RBI groundout to third by Andruw Jones, which scored Alex Rodriguez.
But the game was secondary. There were bigger pictures to look at coming into today:
Obviously he was the biggest storyline coming into his first start of the spring today. A.J. Burnett had the worst statistical season a Yankee starter has ever had, going 10-15 with an ERA of 5.26 in 2010. In an interview before the game, Burnett said “he can never have another season like he did last year” and “he could throw fastball after fastball to every hitter this year and still do better.”
On Sunday it was documented that Burnett beaned Greg Golson in the head throwing batting practice. Faith may have waivered in Burnett after learning of his HBP to Golson on Sunday, but he quickly renewed his credibility with a good outing today.
Burnett pitched two innings and threw 21 pitches (15 for strikes) while only allowing two hits. He induced five groundball outs and recorded one strikeout. He did not issue a walk.
It was only Burnett’s first appearance of the spring, but there’s no doubt that he looks like a different pitcher. As Ken Singleton described on Saturday, his delivery has been “re-visited.”
Singleton was correct.
Today Burnett’s motion was smooth and he pitched the ball; he didn’t fling it. He didn’t turn his back to the batter as he normally does in his usual delivery. It was smooth and side-to-side, almost like Mariano Rivera’s delivery. He kept his front leg toward home plate and wasn’t swinging it around toward second base in the wind-up.
If today was any indication about the type of season Burnett might have, he just might be able to pull off a turnaround year. Burnett added that he wants to “close people’s mouths” about his ability to win games.
Maybe he can. We’ll have to wait and see.
The Captain only has two hits this spring and has been the subject of a lot of discussion lately. Analysts have been talking about Derek Jeter’s adjustment in his stride. So far he hasn’t shown much of that adjustment and has been frequently grounding out. He did have a hit today, although he grounded out to short and flied out to center.
Jeter himself has stated that his swing and batting stance aren’t going to change. He is simply eliminating the stride with his front leg. Today it looked like he used a bit of a toe-tap, something Bernie Williams used and perfected over the course of his career.
Joe Girardi said that eventually Jeter will get it right and make the adjustment completely. In the manager’s words, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
When it comes to Jeter there is very little to worry about. The Captain will come around. He is 2-for-9 at the plate to this point in the spring.
Notes & Things to Look Out For
Â· The Astros started a kid named Bud Norris (if that isn’t a name meant for someone in Texas, I don’t know what is. Notice the Walker, Texas Ranger reference. Norris!) It was revealed that his actual first name is David, but he got the nickname Bud because he was at a restaurant when he was a kid and his parents ordered Budweiser. He said he wanted a Bud (even though he was too young) and from there they called him Bud.
Â· Relieving A.J. Burnett today was Sergio Mitre. His line: One inning pitched, no runs, one hit, no walks, one K. He is working hard, I’ll give him that.
Â· After Mitre was Joba Chamberlain. He pitched an inning and only gave up a hit while not allowing a run. No walks and no strikeouts for him, but he looks pretty good this far. Like Burnett he still has to prove himself, though.
Â· Russell Martin didn’t even have to record a base hit to be called a winner. In his first game of the spring he had two at-bats, no hits, the game-winning walk, an RBI, and he left two men on base. He didn’t catch behind the plate, as he is still nursing his surgically repaired knee, but he will be back behind the plate eventually.
Â· Mark Teixeira went 1-for-2 with a walk and a double. After he came out of the game he went to the batting cages and got some extra work in. And that’s Tex for you: always looking for improvement and working hard. He is in mid-season form, batting .571 through the first five Spring Training games.
Â· Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, and Brett Gardner did not start today.
Â· Michael Kay compared centerfielder Justin Maxwell to Alex Rodriguez during the broadcast. Looking at Maxwell’s mannerisms at the plate and his batting stance, I understand where Kay was coming from. He did look like a miniature version of A-Rod. Maxwell drew a walk and recorded a base hit, but he did make the first out of the fifth inning at third base, trying to reach third from first on Jeter’s single. Rookie mistake: never make the first or third out of an inning at third base. I learned that in Little League.
Â· Francisco Cervelli fouled a ball off his left foot during an at-bat today in the second inning. He was noticeably hurt, limping before getting back into the batter’s box. He is likely to miss a couple of days and will probably undergo x-rays.
Â· Alex Rodriguez was 1-for-2 with a walk, a double, and a run scored. He is batting .429 so far this spring.
Â· 2010 Pitcher of the Year David Phelps gave up four runs in the seventh inning after tossing a perfect top of the sixth. All four of the runs he surrendered were unearned.
Â· Hector Noesi (two innings pitched, no runs, one hit, no walks, and two strikeouts) registered the win. As noted, Arguello struggled mightily in the ninth (threw 37 pitches and was charged with five runs ) and as a result took the loss.
Â· The Yankees will play the Tampa Bay Rays in an exhibition tomorrow and then will come back to Steinbrenner Field Friday night to host the Boston Red Sox–which is the next televised game on the YES Network. Bartolo Colon will start Friday vs. Boston’s Clay Buchholz.
Yesterday I added a new piece to my seemingly never-ending Yankee memorabilia collection. I purchased the official “Winning Streak Dynasty” banner from Modells, since they were having a sale and marketing it for a relatively low price.
Just by glancing at the banner, and each of the 27 years the Yankees have won the World Series, gave me an idea: a look inside some of the World Series the Yankees have won. I figured I would explore the reasons why the Yankees won that specific year, provide some background on the regular season, examine turning points that made each fall classic special, and identify the key players who made it what it was.
I figured I would first relive a very magical season: 1998.
Regular season record: 114-48
Postseason record: 11-2
Manager: Joe Torre (3rd season)
The 1998 Yankees, who went on to set a Major League record for most games won overall in a season, began their year in a slow fashion. They lost four out of their first five games to start the year, including a 10-2 beat-down at the hands of the California Angels.
Manager Joe Torre called an “angry meeting” and aired out some of his feelings to his players. The pitchers and the position players noticed somewhat of a rift between each other; some batters were hit and felt the pitchers did not do enough to retaliate.
They eventually found their groove on April 7 against the Seattle Mariners, beating the M’s 13-7. From there, they won their next seven games and wound up ending April with a record of 17-6.
On May 17 starting pitcher David Wells tossed a perfect game at home vs. the Minnesota Twins. He retired 27 consecutive batters leading the Yanks to a 4-0 win. It was only the 15th perfect game in MLB history and only the second perfecto thrown by a Yankee.
Later in the season on Sept. 1, Wells almost threw another perfect game. Facing the Oakland Athletics, Wells was perfect through 7 2/3 innings. Needing only seven outs for another perfect game, Jason Giambi lined a single off an 0-2 count to break it up.
May 19 marked a turning point in the season. After Baltimore Orioles’ closer Armando Benitez allowed a three-run home run to Bernie Williams, he pegged Tino Martinez in between his shoulder blades. He was immediately run from the game, but the HBP practically caused a riot.
A fracas ensued and the Yanks and O’s exchanged shoves, and eventually punches.
The Yankees went on to beat the Orioles 9-5 in that game, and also swept them in that series three games to one.
A Year-Long Tear
The Yankees only lost 17 games in the summer months of July and August, while winning 42. Williams described the season as a “year-long tear,” as there really was no other way to characterize how the Bronx Bombers played.
In the ALDS, the Yankees easily handed the Texas Rangers a clean sweep. Juan Gonzalez, the player who eventually captured the 1998 A.L. MVP Award was no match for the starting pitching the Yanks had. David Wells, Andy Pettitte, and David Cone shut down the Rangers three games in a row, each notching a playoff win.
Rookie Shane Spencer, Brosius, and right field warrior Paul O’Neill led the Yanks, all hitting home runs in the first round of the postseason.
The American League Championship Series pitted the Yanks against began the defending A.L. Champs, the Cleveland Indians. New York was looking to erase their 1997 ALCS defeat and beat the Tribe 7-2 in Game One.
Game Two however was an ugly defeat for the Yanks. The game was tied up until inning number 12 when Travis Fryman laid down a bunt. Reliever Jeff Nelson threw the ball to first base, as the second baseman Knoblauch covered the bag. The ball hit Fryman in the back and Knoblauch argued with the umpire instead of retrieving the ball, which at that point was trickling down the first baseline.
Enrique Wilson scored and the Indians went on to win 4-1. The momentum carried into Game Three, as the Indians brought the lumber with them. Playing at home, sluggers Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez left he yard twice, and Mark Whiten added a homer en route to a 6-1 win over the Yanks. They pounded Pettitte while newly acquired Yankee Bartolo Colon cruised to a complete game victory.
But the Game Three loss marked the last time the Yanks would lose a playoff game in ’98.
Down two games to one, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez took the hill, needing a clutch outing to keep the Yanks alive. Seven shutout innings later, and with some help from O’Neill (who homered) Hernandez and the Yanks picked up a 4-0 Game Four win.
Game One winner Wells took the ball again in Game Five. Now with the ALCS even at two, the Yanks rolled to a 5-3 win, under the strength of a fourth inning home run off the bat of Davis to give the Yanks a three-run lead. Kenny Lofton and Thome both hit home runs, but the Yankee bullpen was able to hold off the rest of the Cleveland lineup.
Now needing one win to get the fall classic, the Yanks came home to play Game Six. They jumped all over Charles Nagy, scoring six runs in the first three innings. Cleveland did not give up easily however, scoring five runs in the fifth, with the main blow being a grand slam from Thome.
The Yankees answered with three runs in the six, plating runs on a triple by Derek Jeter and a single by Williams. They went on to make a winner out of Cone, beating the Indians 9-5 and winning the A.L. pennant for the 35th time.
The Yankees were then headed for the World Series, set to play the San Diego Padres.
The World Series
1998 was the 94th World Series played in MLB history and the Yankees were gunning for their 24th title in franchise history. The Padres were looking for their first World Series victory, having lost the fall classic in 1984–the only other year in their history that they won the National League pennant.
In Game One, San Diego took a 5-2 lead, getting home runs from sluggers Greg Vaughn and Tony Gwynn. But going into the seventh inning, the Yanks came up with a plan. Knoblauch atoned for his ALCS blunder, smacking a game-tying three-run home run into the left field seats.
Later in the frame with the bases loaded, everything changed.
Martinez came up with the bases loaded and on a full count, blasted a grand slam home run into the upper deck tier seats in right field, giving the Yankees a 9-5 lead.
Yankee Stadium exploded.
And it was the turning point in the series, simply because the Yankees carried the momentum from that home run with them the rest of the way. In Game Two, the Yankees beat the Padres 9-3, with home runs off the bats of Williams and Jorge Posada.
Heading out to San Diego and the Yankees up two games to none, Cone took the mound in Game Three. Both teams didn’t score until the sixth, when the Padres plated three runs. The Yanks answered with two in the seventh, receiving a two-run home run from Brosius.
Trevor Hoffman was called on in the eighth inning. San Diego manager Bruce Bochy wanted his closer to nail down a six-out save leading 3-2 going into the frame. Hoffman folded however, giving up a three-run home run to Brosius, which gave New York a 5-3 lead.
Vaughn cut the lead to one with a sac fly in the bottom of the eighth, but the Padres could not rally all the way back, and the Yankees took Game Three, 5-4.
Many people argue that Game Four was just a formality, and in a lot of ways it was. The Padres were all but defeated in the ’98 World Series after Game Three, having been outscored 24-13 in the previous three games. Pettitte toed the rubber, hoping to wrap up New York’s 24th Championship.
Both teams were kept off the board until the sixth, when the Yankees plated a run on a groundout by Williams that scored Jeter. The Yankees added two more runs in the eighth, with an RBI single by Brosius and a sac fly by Ricky Ledee to score O’Neill.
The Padres made an effort to come back in the eighth, loading the bases on Nelson. However, Mariano Rivera wiggled out of the jam and pitched a scoreless ninth to clinch the World Series title.
1998 was just one of those special seasons that nothing went wrong. They have been described as “The Greatest Team Ever” being that they won 125 total games and only lost 50. Those types of seasons don’t come around very often and when they do, it’s important to remember them.
I will always remember the 1998 baseball for the Yankees–not Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa breaking the home run records. I had more fun watching a team play every game as if it were their last than watching two guys race for a hallowed baseball record.
I think that says a lot about how exciting the Yanks were.
First I’d like to apologize for not blogging in awhile. I have had a number of computer problems these past couple of weeks; my laptop has not been functioning properly and I haven’t been able to do any writing or Yankee Yapping.
Needless to say, not being able to write has been killing me!
My dad temporarily solved the problem and allowed me to borrow his laptop while mine gets fixed. So a big thank you goes out to him for that.
Anyway onto the topic of this entry…
Last Wednesday I visted Yankee Stadium for the fourth time this season and for the fourth time they won. The Bronx Bombers beat the Detroit Tigers 9-5 and went on to take three out of four from them. Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, and Curtis Granderson led the way for the Yanks, each with a home run on the night.
Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera put on a hitting show, smacking two homers of his own. Left fielder Don Kelly also homered for Detroit, as the ball was certainly exploding off the bats last Wednesday night.
The real story however was where I went before the game.
For the first time in the New Yankee Stadium I visited Monument Park. I only remember visiting Monument Park in the old Stadium once–July 2, 2002. Monument Park in the old Stadium was positioned behind the left-centerfield wall. It now sits directly behind the centerfield wall, and I have to say, the experience of going there in the new house just wasn’t the same.
Watching one of the first games in the new Stadium on TV last year, and subsequently taking notice of Monument Park, I remember thinking to myself, “How can the Yankees take any pride in what Monument Park looks like? In all honesty, it looks as if they decorated the area behind the centerfield wall with used furniture.”
I hate to think that way, but it’s the truth.
Modern day Monument Park simply doesn’t have the old school feeling anymore. With all the up-to-date features in the new ballpark, the place where the Yankees once honored their legends seems to have become just another meaningless, new-age attraction. Of course all of the same Monuments and plaques are still out there, but it is not the same.
Although I dislike the way Monument Park is constructed, I cannot say I am entirely unhappy with it. I loved seeing all the retired numbers and momentos, which I had not seen in eight years. For the first time I saw the monument built to remember those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, which was a moving experience.
Along with the 9/11 monument, it was great to see the plaque the Yankees put up for Pope Benedict XVI. His Holiness celebrated mass in April of 2008, following in the footsteps of Pope Paul IV and Pope John Paul II, both of whom also celebrated mass at the old Stadium.
The aren’t kidding when they say Yankee Stadium is a cathedral.
After I left Monument Park Wednesday night I got to thinking: who will be the next Yankee to have is number retired? I came up with a number of possible candidates. Here they are…
Bernie Williams, 51
The Yankee centerfielder spent 16 seasons in pinstripes. He won four World Series Championships, six American League pennants, four Gold Glove Awards, the 1996 American League Championship Series MVP Award, the 1998 Batting Title, and was selected to the All-Star Game five times.
That’s a lot of accomplishments for one player with one team.
Looking past all of the awards and accolades, the most telling point about Williams is that he spent his entire career with the Yankees. In this day and age with free agency and trades, it’s remarkable that he was able to stay with the Yanks his whole career.
Although it almost didn’t happen.
After the 1998 season, Williams came dangerously close to leaving, due to the expiration of his contract. The Boston Red Sox were one of the leading teams that seeked out Williams and believe it or not, he almost went to the Red Sox. The Yankees were trying to acquire Albert Belle and nearly gave up their prize centerfielder.
I just could not have imagined Williams in a Red Sox uniform. It would have broke my heart, but honestly, I still would have loved him for all he did as a Yankee. Thankfully it did not get that far.
The Bronx Bombers came to their senses, dumped the idea for acquiring Belle, and Williams was back in pinstripes—not only for 1999, but for the rest of his career. He went on tho scale the Yankee all-time lists in hits, doubles, extra base hits, home runs, walks, and RBIs.
No one has worn his number 51 since he retired…or I should say since he did not return to the Yankees in 2007. If you ask me, Williams deserves the honor of having his number sit in Monument Park alongside the Yankee legends of old.
Paul O’Neill, 21
“The Warrior” spent nine seasons with the New York Yankees, all of them as a fan favorite. The short-temepred right fielder was selected to five All-Star Games and won a total of five World Series titles, four of them in pinstripes.
If anyone should be in Monument Park, it’s Paul O’Neill.
The late George Steinbrenner gave O’Neill his “Warrior” nickname sometime in the mid-’90s. Steinbrenner had seen how O’Neill reacted to certain calls made by umpires. When he did not agree with a call, he would let the ump know about it…most of the time in angry fashion.
O’Neill’s toughness never came into question.
In the past I have given my opinion on O’Neill, and I cannot say enough good about him. He was one of my all-time favorite Yankees and one of the most fierce competitors I have ever seen play the game of baseball. He had a strong hatred for losing and he will always be remembered by me as a winner.
In 2008, LaTroy Hawkins wore the number 21. Running in from the bullpen at Yankee Stadium, he was booed overwhelmingly. He asked Derek Jeter why he was being booed at home, and Jeter responded by saying that his number was the issue.
The next day Hawkins swapped his number 21 for 22.
Since then, the Yankees have taken the number out of circulation and no other player has worn it. It is my best guess that it will be retired by the Yankees at some point.
Joe Torre, 6
Although he is the current manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Joe Torre’s number is worthy of retirement in Yankee lore. Torre served as Yankee manager from 1996-2007, standing at the helm of 12 playoff appearances, four World Championships, and six A.L. pennants. He is also one of the winningest managers in Yankee history.
Before the Yanks won the World Series in 1996–Torre’s first year as Yankee skipper–the Bronx Bombers had not been to the World Series since 1981. There is no denying the fact that Torre brought the Yanks back from mediocrity and led the team to a Dynasty.
There’s no way the Yanks would have been as good as they were without his leadership.
However, the one thing that might prevent his number from being retired was his book. “The Yankee Years” (in a way) strained his relationship with the organization, and overall his departure left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
Nonetheless he is still a legendary Yankee and like Williams and O’Neill, his number has not been used by another Yankee player since he left.
I have mixed feelings about Torre right now. I love and respect everything he did as Yankee skipper but some of the remarks he made left me thinking about him. I also don’t agree with how he managed the bullpen toward the end of his tenure in pinstripes.
Yet I still believe he deserves a spot in Monument Park.
The last Yankee to have his number retired was Ron Guidry, back in 2003. Before Guidry, Don Mattingly’s number was retired in 1997. Looking at every number out in Monument Park, it seems there is at least one Yankee represented for every era.
I think what the team needs now is a player from the Dynasty of the late ’90s represented. Williams, O’Neill, and Torre all fit the bill and are all deserving of the honor. The question is, when will the next Yankee number be retired?
I hope they don’t wait until Jeter is done playing. If you ask me, they should give some other players their due and then when Jeter retires, hold the biggest ceremony ever in his honor.
Until then, consider Williams, O’Neill, and Torre.
Yesterday the New York Yankees dropped the rubber game of a three game series against the Tampa Bay Rays, a 3-0 shutout at the hands of “Big Game” James Shields. 7 1/3 innings, no runs, four hits, one walk, and 11 strikeouts later, the Yankees lose.
The Bronx Bombers’ lead over Tampa Bay in the American League Eastern Division is now only one game, signifying a likely “two horse race” down the stretch run and into September. The Yanks and Rays own the two best records in the majors and both teams can and probably will make the playoffs.
While the Yanks lost, their cross-town rivals, the New York Mets, were beaten 14-1 by the National League West’s worst team, the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Ed, one of my close friends from high school who happens to be a devout Mets fan, proclaimed his disgust at the team and how poor their play has recently been. I suggested to him that he switch sides, and I said he should become a Yankee fan.
“Come to the good side, and soon you’ll be having dreams of pinstripes, strong, winning seasons, and World Series Championships.”
Ed responded, “Oh, you mean the dark side? I think I’ll trust the force and try to will the Mets to victory!”
I have to tip my cap to him. He is a true fan. Even when I tempted him, which (to him) must have been like the Devil tempting Jesus Christ, he stood by his team. He has been a Mets fan his whole life and he will never disrespect his loyalty to his favorite team.
The whole exchange with Ed got me thinking…what makes a real fan, and more particularly, what makes a true Yankee fan?
Here are some ways (that I came up with) to tell if you are a REAL Yankee fan.
You know you’re a REAL Yankee fan when…
You (at least try) to watch every game
Let’s face it: following the team religiously is an important aspect of being a true fan.
The best part of my night during the baseball season is tuning into the YES Network and enjoying a Yankee game. Things can get difficult with work and in recent years school, and sometimes I am not able to watch every inning. But rest assured, even when I can’t watch the games, I constantly check my phone for updates, box scores, and stats.
Even when I can’t physically see what’s happening, I know what’s happening.
What really annoyed me last year were all the “Yankee fans” who watched maybe 30 innings during the regular season celebrate the World Series victory, as if they followed the team throughout the year. They probably only knew the key players, like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.
Which leads into my next point…
You know all of the Yankee players, even the most obscure ones
Everyone knows the brand name players, like Jeter, Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Mariano Rivera. They are the faces of the Yankees organization and can easily be recognized by even the most distant Yankee fan. Any person who claims to be a Yankee fan can tell you who these players are.
But what about Ramiro Pena or Colin Curtis? David Robertson and Alfredo Aceves?
If you ask a Yankee fan who these players are and they have no idea, then there is no way they are a real fan. Knowledge of every player–even the lesser-known ones–is a must in terms of being a real Yankee fan.
And it doesn’t just mean lesser-known players from this year.
For example, back in 2005, the Yanks had two starting pitchers to fill in for a banged up rotation; one by the name of Aaron Small the other by the name of Shawn Chacon. Combined, these hurlers went 17-3 and helped lead the Yankees to the A.L. East title, which they won on the second-to-last day of the ’05 season.
Any real Yankee fan would and very well should know that.
You own a decent amount of Yankee Memorabilia
Support of the team is important. One of the best ways to show your allegiance, if not the best, is wear your team’s colors with pride. I, for one, wear a Yankee necklace which I only take off before I shower.
I also own a wide variety of Yankee merchandise, including seven pinstripe jerseys, hats, pennants, bobble heads, framed photos…you name it, I probably have it. Come to think of it, a friend actually once asked me if I own any other clothing that doesn’t have an interlocking NY on it.
Although it doesn’t seem like it, I do have clothes that are not Yankee related.
I am not saying a real Yankee fan has to be as hardcore about it as I am; I am a special case! But the fact is that a real Yankee fan will, at least once in awhile, wear a Yankee shirt or a Yankee hat.
There is no way (in good conscience) a real Yankee fan can’t wear a Yankee shirt once in awhile.
You know the history between the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox
With every great team comes a great adversary.
For as long as there has been baseball, there has been a heated rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox. There have been brutal fights, players who have switched sides, and countless numbers of classic games played between the two teams.
In my lifetime, there are two games between the Yankees and Red Sox that stand out as being the absolute greatest. The first was on July 1, 2004. Both teams left everything they had on the diamond, as evidenced by Jeter’s effort diving into the stands to make a play. The Red Sox were trying to avoid a three game sweep and the Yankees were trying to complete the sweep.
Neither team wanted to lose.
The Red Sox took a 4-3 the lead in the top of the 13th inning, setting up an improbable comeback win for the Yanks in the bottom of the frame. Miguel Cairo doubled to score Ruben Sierra (again, going back to the idea of knowing who the obscure players are) to tie the game, and John Flaherty (who now works for the YES Network) drove in the winning run to give the Yankees a win.
What a game. I’ll never forget it.
The second all-time best Yankees-Red Sox battle (for me) was Oct. 16, 2003–Game Seven of the 2003 American League Championship Series. The ALCS was knotted at three games apiece, and the Yanks and BoSox went through hell to get to the final game.
The winner of Game Seven was given a one-way ticket to the World Series, the loser was going home.
Boston looked to be in complete command of everything in the fourth inning. They had jumped out to a 4-0 lead and knocked Yankees’ starter Roger Clemens out of the game. Jason Giambi cut into the Red Sox lead with two solo home runs, but David Ortiz smacked a long ball of his own, giving the BoSox a 5-2 edge heading into the bottom of the eighth inning.
I watched that game at home, biting my fingernails and trembling in fear. I thought the Yankees were doomed. My thought process in the middle of the eighth inning was, “The Yankees would be the ones walking back in shame and the Red Sox were going to the World Series.”
But the Empire struck back in the bottom of the frame.
Jeter doubled. Bernie Williams singled. Hideki Matsui doubled. Jorge Posada blooped a single to center field. Just like that, the game was tied. It was the best comeback and by far the most unbelievable game I had ever seen–and it wasn’t even over yet!
Boston, five defensive outs from embarrassing the Yankees, blew the lead and they headed into extras.
In the bottom of the 11th inning Aaron Boone was due up first. I remember thinking to myself, “He’s not going to do anything. He isn’t a power hitter.” But Alfonso Soriano and Derek Jeter were due up after Boone, and I prayed one of them would at least get on base.
My thoughts were soon proven wrong, as Boone came up and hammered the first pitch he saw for a game-winning home run to win the A.L. Pennant for the Yankees. It was the most glorious home run I had ever seen and one of the most meaningful; very rarely will you ever see a walk-off home run to cap off a game of that magnitude.
“There’s a fly ball deep to left! It’s on its way! There it goes…AND THE YANKEES ARE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES! AARON BOONE HAS HIT A HOME RUN!”
Those words still resonate with me to this day.
There are plenty of other games and moments in Yankee-Red Sox history. But those two stand out as my favorites. If you are a real Yankee fan, you can recollect moments from the rivalry as vividly I have.
You know about the Yankee Stadium Regulars
At Yankee Stadium, the home of the New York Yankees since 1923…well, 2009 if you count the new Stadium…in any case, the Bronx is where Yankees play. If you go to a Yankee game, there are certain traditions and loyalists who are always at the ballpark to root for the Yanks.
The most loyal fan I can really think of is Vinny Milano, A.K.A. “Bald Vinny” of the right field Bleacher Creatures. He conjures up all the fans in the right field bleachers and leads them in a roll call right after the first pitch of the game is thrown. They yell out to every Yankee on the field until they are given some sort of acknowledgment, whether it is a pose or wave.
The roll call has become a staple of Yankee Stadium, and the real Yankee fans know about Bald Vinny and how important he has become to Yankee Stadium.
Another Stadium regular is Freddy Schumann, an older fan who is commonly known as “Freddy Sez.” He walks around Yankee Stadium with a pan painted with a four-leaf clover on it. Attached to the pan is generally a sign that has some sort of encouraging words on it directed at the Yankees.
Freddy also carries a spoon, which is used to bang on the pan. The sound of the spoon on the pan makes a distinctive noise which can be heard throughout the whole Stadium. He always allows the fans around him to bang on the pan, in attempt to stimulate a Yankee rally.
Bald Vinny and Freddy Sez are the number one Yankee fans I know. If you don’t know them, you really don’t know the Yankees very well, or at least not Yankee Stadium.
And the last and probably most important part of being a real Yankee fan…
You Know Your Yankee History
Knowledge is power.
If you are a real Yankee fan, you know the background on the team. Everyone knows they are the winningest team in sports history with 27 World Titles. But do they know how many times the Yankees have been to the World Series? Do they know which Yankee player has the most World Series rings? Do they know all the retired numbers?
Only true fans know that the Yankees have been to the World Series 40 times, Yogi Berra has the most World Series titles as a Yankee (with 10) and there are 16 retired numbers–I can name them all, right off the top of my head.
But naming them all is much too vulgar a display of Yankee intelligence.
Knowing the background of the players is just as important as knowing the background of the team. There are many ways to learn about each player. Interviews, Yankeeography documentaries, and feature stories in sports magazines are probably the easiest ways to increase knowledge about players.
For instance, I read a story about former Yankee ace Chien-Ming Wang in Sports Illustrated a couple of years ago. By reading that feature story, I found out Wang learned his sinker from the Yankees went he came over from Taiwan. One of his pitching coaches in the minor leagues showed him how to hold the ball, and from there he was able to shut the opposition down.
He worked his way up and became the number one Yankee starter.
Yet Wang’s pitching style wasn’t the only thing I learned about from that story. I learned about his life. According to the article, he is (or at least at the time was) revered as Taiwan’s number one athlete; he is a superstar over there. He could not even walk down the street without getting mobbed by legions of fans.
But when he walked down the street in New York City, he was hardly recognized. He felt there was less pressure on him in New York, and that is why he opted to stay there instead of going back to pitch in his native land. That also explains why he was so relaxed as a member of the Yanks and never looked rattled or uneasy when he pitched.
The article on Wang is a perfect example of how to learn about players in an easy way. It was an informative article, pointing out a lot of “You may have not known, but now you do” facts about his life and career.
If you are a real Yankee fan, learning about the players is equally as important as team history.
These are merely a few ways to tell if you are a real Yankee fan. Bandwagon fans can always be told apart from the hardcore ones, simply by conversation. If you talk to someone who claims to be a Yankee fan (or a fan of anything, for that matter) and has no idea about key aspects of the team, then, in my eyes, they aren’t true fans.
I tend to respect the true fans more than those who just root the Yankees on when they win, a la last fall. It’s easier to respect true fans’ opinions when they have more knowledge and follow the team closely. It’s also easier to hold a conversation with the real fans than the bandwagon fans.
Nothing annoys me more when I hear people give me false Yankee info.
The bottom line is that if you are going to be a Yankee fan, be a real fan. Watch more than 30 innings a year, know about the players, and know about the Stadium. Know what the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry means and wear a Yankee hat once in awhile, in undying support of your favorite baseball team.
If you want to be a real fan, then KNOW the Yankees. And if you don’t know them, then don’t act like you do.