Sunday marked the final day of the 2015 regular Major League Baseball season. Which, figuratively speaking, meant all 30 clubs used their might to push the sun back up into the sky and give us one more day of summer.
Even though it was a blustery October day.
The baseball world also learned the layout of this year’s postseason; who’s in the dance and who’s not. After days of waiting, we now know the Yankees will host the Houston Astros at 8:08 p.m. on Tuesday in a do-or-die Wild Card game. The defending American League champions and winners of the American League Central division, the Kansas City Royals, will take on whoever emerges victorious Tuesday night.
The road is going to be anything but easy for the pinstripers, who in terms of the playoffs, aren’t on the outside looking in for the first time since 2012.
But the playoffs start Tuesday. Now is yearly time for regular season reflection. A chance to tout the achievements of the 2015 Yankee team.
Yes, the annual awards.
Yankee Yapping Rookie of the Year
Winner: Greg Bird
Greg Bird flew in on Aug. 13, and could not have landed at a better time. Four days after he was promoted to the big club, first baseman Mark Teixeira fouled a ball off his leg and was injured. Bird was thrust into the role of everyday first baseman, and to say the least, he rose to the occasion and produced.
In his short time with the club (45 games), Bird knocked in 30 runs, slugged .523 and generated an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .862. What’s more, he flexed his muscles with 11 homers. This writer, in fact, saw one of those round-trippers live on Sept. 7, when he crushed a home run in the Yankees’ 8-6 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
The 22-year-old Bird truly soared like an eagle since his arrival. And if the Yankees want a deep run in the postseason this month, he really must spread his wings.
Yankee Yapping Comeback Player of the Year
Winner: Alex Rodriguez
The type of season Alex Rodriguez put together was nothing short of remarkable. Perhaps the most stunning aspect of his 33-home run, 86-RBI campaign is that no one predicted it.
If you would have asked even the staunchest proponent of A-Rod’s at the beginning of the season, they likely would have said his ceiling was 20 homers and 55 RBI.
Rodriguez not only proved the naysayers (including this writer) wrong, but he did so in historic fashion. On May 7 Rodriguez passed Willie Mays on the all-time home runs list, mashing a tater off Chris Tillman of the Orioles.
A month and 12 days later, Rodriguez blasted a first-inning home run off Justin Verlander of the visiting Detroit Tigers. It was his 3,000th career hit, and only the third time in baseball history (behind Wade Boggs and Derek Jeter) a player hit the ball into the stands for his 3,000th career hit.
Rodriguez also set an AL record for most career RBI, passed 2,000 career RBI, and passed Roberto Clemente on baseball’s all-time hits list.
Oh, and with three homers in one game against the Minnesota Twins on July 25, Rodriguez became the fifth-oldest player to hit three homers in a single game.
Some possible attribution to Rodriguez’s success: making him, at age 40, the full-time designated hitter. That decision by the Yankees has paid dividends. Rodriguez appearing in 150 games this season is proof of that.
Either way, the type of season he had – I’d call that a comeback. A comeback with a vengeance.
Yankee Yapping Ace of the Year
Winner: Masahiro Tanaka
Admit it. You thought Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow was going to fall off.
Last summer when it was revealed the Yankees’ big-ticket starting pitcher had a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching arm, most Yankee fans panicked. They feared the three words that are as common as a routine fly ball in this day and age: Tommy John surgery.
Tanaka opted to treat his tear with a platelet rich plasma injection, and came back to pitch in 2014. Before the season began, Yankee manager Joe Girardi said he expected Tanaka to make 34 starts.
Skip’ was 10 numbers off, as Tanaka made 24 starts. Forearm and wrist soreness sidelined him early in the season, plus when the opportunities arose, Girardi rested him.
Despite missing those 10 games and spending time on the disabled list, the man from Japan proved to be pretty effective when he needed to be.
On Sept. 13 in particular, he hurled seven shutout innings in the Bronx as the Yankees blanked the Toronto Blue Jays, 5-0. Although Toronto went on to win the AL East, the game was important in terms of staying in the race for the division title.
Against those same Jays at Rogers Centre on Aug. 15, Tanaka put on a virtuoso performance. He tossed a complete game five-hitter, and the Yanks beat the Jays, 4-1.
Tanaka’s won-lost record isn’t reflective of a very dominant season: 12-7. His season earned run average wasn’t bad, but not the lowest number out there: 3.51. He gave up 25 home runs over the course of the year, which in the eyes of many armchair managers, is probably too many.
But he gave the Yankees 150-plus innings. Tanaka kept the ball in the strike zone by fanning 139 hitters – and only issuing 27 walks. He performed when they needed him to perform.
And he will need to bring his maestro-like skills on Tuesday and serenade the Bronx with another rendition of the tune “Tanaka wins.”
Yankee Yapping Platinum Sluggers of the Year
Winners: Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran
The Yankees suffered a devastating blow on Aug. 17 when Mark Teixeira fouled a ball off his leg. The first baseman sustained a fracture, and the injury –a freak injury, at that – ended his season.
But before he was forced to watch the rest of the 2015 from the bench, Teixeira was raking. He crushed 31 homers and drove in 79 runs. He was on pace to smash 40 or more homers, drive in over 100 runs and analysts put his name and the term “American League Most Valuable Player” in the same sentence at certain times.
The injury may have negated it all, but make no mistake about it: Teixeira played well.
Carlos Beltran on the other hand avoided major injuries, and turned on the jets during the second half of the season. After the All-Star break, Beltran clubbed 12 of his 19 home runs. He finished with 67 RBI, 37 of which came after the midway point.
Beltran’s best may be yet to come, as he’s a well-known stud in the playoffs. So much so, in fact, that he’s earned the nickname “Senor Octubre” among some folks.
In the postseason, Beltran is a lifetime .333 hitter with 16 homers and 40 RBI. He’s also scored 45 runs, slugged .683 and owns a .445 on-base percentage.
In less than 48 hours we’ll see if he delivers, but he went out with a bang: three hits in the Yanks’ 9-4 loss to Baltimore in the season finale Sunday.
Yankee Yapping Reliever of the Year
Winner: Dellin Betances
Although he’s been struggling of late, Dellin Betances was as consistent as they come this year.
An almost automatic eighth inning shutdown machine, Betances struck out 131 hitters in just 84 innings pitched. Of those 84 innings, he only allowed 45 hits. However, his walk total was a bit high: he issued 40 free passes. But most of the time, he was able to wiggle out of danger.
Case in point: Sept. 7.
Betances walked the first three he faced, but bounced back to strike out the next three in order.
What’s more, he showed maneuverability. Betances took on the closer role when needed, and saved nine games.
Yankee Yapping Most Valuable Player
Winner: Andrew Miller
The formula was simple. A song with a statement played, the closer came in and then slammed the door.
“You can run on for a long time. Run on for a long time. Run on for a long time. Sooner or later, God’ll cut you down.”
The words heard each time Andrew Miller came in to finish off the opposing team.
Fightin’ words. One might even say words a little harsher than the lyrics to “Enter Sandman,” used by Mariano Rivera, one of Miller’s predecessors.
Harsher words, perhaps, but when the sweet sounds of Johnny Cash came blaring through the Yankee Stadium speakers, you knew the game was over.
Miller saved 36 games in 38 opportunities this season, striking out 100 batters in 61 2/3 innings. He held opponents to a .151 batting average, and tested hitters while attacking them.
A tactic Troy Tulowitzki knows about.
On Aug. 14 with the game on the line, the Blue Jays shortstop stood between the Yankees and a pivotal win. It took 12 pitches and the dramatic at-bat put the baseball world on the edge of its collective seat, but Miller got the job done.
His whiff of Tulowitzki was one of the most clutch performances of the season, and one of the many examples of how valuable he truly was.
Yankee Yapping Lifetime Achievement Award
Winner: Yogi Berra
The world – not just the baseball world, the world in general – lost a treasure the morning of Sept. 22.
Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra, the Yankees’ famed catcher and legendary philosopher, passed away at the age of 90.
Berra won the most World Series of any player in history with 13 (10 as a player, three as a coach). He smacked 358 home runs and possessed a lifetime batting average of .285. It’d be easy to sit here and write out every noted accolade Berra amassed over the course of his career.
But let’s talk about the man for a second.
Let’s mention how in love he was with his wife Carmen, and his family. Let’s mention how he served our great country as a gunner’s mate in the United States Navy during World War II. Let’s mention how his wit and easygoing personality impacted everyone around him, even those he didn’t personally know.
His fantastic “Yogi-isms” will be a part of our culture forever. Our millennial generation can now pass on his wisdom. The next era needs to know that you can observe a lot by watching, and that baseball is 90 percent half mental.
The rest is physical.
The YES Network publicly aired Berra’s funeral – a beautiful sendoff for a beautiful man. I noticed the gospel passage, which was elegantly read by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, was the same gospel passage read at my grandfather’s funeral on April 15 last year. John 14:1-7, a reading that explores comfort in a time of impending sadness.
I felt that only fitting, especially because I read an article with the headline “Yogi Berra, ‘everyone’s grandfather,’ dies.”
Again, fitting. Grandfathers have a way about them, brightening the lives of their grandchildren. How many lives has Berra illuminated with his wit and charm?
Too many to count.
Berra has a prime seat in Heaven now for the postseason. Maybe the proverbial fork in the road is the World Series.
Go ahead, Yankees. Take it.
Yankees vs. Houston Astros
What: American League Wild Card game
When: 8:08 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6
Where: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York
Houston probable pitcher: Dallas Keuchel (20-8, 2.48 ERA)
New York probable pitcher: Masahiro Tanaka (12-7, 3.51 ERA)
*To all of my football lovers out there: this one is for the Giants. Because we were ALL IN.*
Before Super Bowl XLII in February of 2008, then-Giants’ wide receiver Plaxico Burress predicted his team would beat the Patriots by a score of 21-17. New York wound up beating New England in exciting fashion, 17-14. It may have taken another four years but last night Burress’s prediction finally came to fruition.
In Super Bowl XLVI the Giants beat the Patriots 21-17, in another exhilarating title match.
I can’t really explain why – maybe it’s just God’s way – but whenever the Giants and Patriots meet, the Giants seem to have their number. Two weeks ago I wrote about all the similarities between this year and their last Championship season.
And both Super Bowls proved to be just as comparable.
2007: The Patriots led at halftime, but not by a lot: 7-3.
2011: The Patriots led at halftime, and again, not by much: 10-9.
2007: Eli Manning had the ball on his own 17-yard line, Giants trailing 14-10 with just 2:39 left in the game.
2011: Eli Manning had the ball on his own 12-yard line, Giants trailing 17-15 with just 3:46 left in the game.
2007: On third and five Manning evaded what looked like a sack, threw up a Hail Mary, and miraculously hit David Tyree, who pinned the football up against his helmet for a 32-yard completion and a first down. The catch laid the groundwork for the winning touchdown.
2011: On the first play from scrimmage, Manning found Mario Manningham near the sideline and beating double coverage, hooked up with him for a 38-yard gain, giving the Giants prime field position to set up a score.
2007: Manning hit Burress in the end zone for a TD with just 35 seconds left on the clock. Tom Brady and the Patriots failed to move the ball into field goal range as time ticked down and lost by three points, 17-14.
2011: Ahmad Bradshaw hesitantly ran the ball into the end zone for a TD, leaving Brady and the Pats with only 57 seconds to score a touchdown. And once again, Brady and his receivers failed to move the ball down the field, losing by four points, 21-17.
2007: Manning wins the Super Bowl XLII Most Valuable Player award. He went to Disney World and the Canyon of Heroes – in that order.
2011: Take a guess who won Super Bowl XLVI MVP….Yes. It was Manning again. Today Manning was once again at Mickey Mouse’s home – and tomorrow he’ll be with his teammates in the Canyon of Heroes.
This year truly was, as Yogi Berra would say, déjà vu. Or déjà blue, depending on which way you want to phrase it. New York once again triumphs over New England, and gets the opportunity to celebrate a huge win.
Jubilation in New York. And for the fans in Boston; New England: more heartache.
Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe had it right today when he wrote,
Instead of celebrating a grand slam–championships in every major sport over a period of four years and four months–New Englanders are spitting out pieces of their broken luck, bracing for the avalanche of grief from those annoying New Yorkers.”
Yeah, pretty much spot on.
Every fan of the Patriots must be saying “Mario (bleeping) Manningham” right now, the same way four years ago they were undoubtedly saying “David (bleeping) Tyree” – and just like most Red Sox fans in the past have exclaimed, “Bucky (bleeping) Dent” and “Aaron (bleeping) Boone.”
A win like yesterday is the type of victory that can carry New York bragging rights over New England for a long way.
I know as a fan of the Giants, and as a fan who doubted they would go anywhere this season, I was enthralled; fascinated. The familiar feeling of sports joy overcame me. One of my favorite teams won a title and I was so happy I got down on one knee and…I’m not calling it “Tebowing.” In the spirit of the win, I prefer to call it “Manning’ing.”
That’s what I did.
Tom Coughlin, the Giants’ Head Coach, seemed just as happy as I was, seeing as how he was on the hot seat when the Giants scuffled. Coughlin became the oldest Head Coach in the NFL to win a Super Bowl at 65 years. He is also only the second coach to lead the Giants to a Super Bowl win. Bill Parcells was at the helm of the squad for the Giants’ first two Super Bowl victories in 1986 and 1990.
As for Manning…well…
At the outset of the season he called himself an elite quarterback; a top five-caliber manager who deserves to be put on the same level as Brady. The media jumped all over that statement and put Manning under the microscope. When he struggled, they doubted his words.
But now that he has beaten Brady three times in his career – and twice on the worldwide stage – his bold words are now inarguable. Manning is an elite quarterback, and he is as every bit as good as Brady, if not better. He led his team in a total of eight game-winning drives in the fourth quarter this season (including the postseason).
If that isn’t considered clutch, what the heck is?
And now, if anyone tries to call out Manning; say he isn’t one of the best QBs in the league, their point will be invalid. The proof of his greatness lies in his stat columns and the number of Super Bowl rings on his fingers.
No more Manning-bashing.
The Giants became only the fifth team in NFL history to win four or more Super Bowls. The Pittsburgh Steelers own six titles, the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers both have five. The Green Bay Packers have four, and now, so does the so-called “Big Blue Wrecking Crew.”
That’s right. The Steelers have the most Super Bowl titles in history with six. Football certainly is a different game than baseball as far as the Championship goes, looking at the 27 World Series titles the Yankees have.
And speaking of the Yankees, Spring Training will be starting shortly. Pretty soon camp will start and before we know it camp will break, bringing the 2012 MLB season. Now that football season has come to a dramatic and happy ending, baseball is soon to begin.
And while we wait, we can enjoy yet another New York Championship.
Editor’s note: I know this blog is basically reserved for baseball highlights, personal Yankee-related stories, and analysis of the Yankees, but given the circumstances surrounding yesterday night’s game, I made an exception to write about my favorite football team, the New York Giants.
I spent Yesterday night in the same place I spent Game One of the 2011-12 NFL season on Sept. 11 – at my best friend’s house watching the New York Giants.
The Giants played the Washington Redskins in Week 1, and didn’t look very good coming out of the gate. Sometime during the first half of the game, Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning was under heavy pressure, he scrambled, and ran the ball into the end zone for a touchdown.
I jumped out of my seat and yelled out in sarcasm,
“Rushing touchdown for Eli Manning! Hey, this might be a good year after all.”
After getting laughed at by my friends and hearing from certain people how “The Buffalo Bill” (yes, the Buffalo Bill, not the Buffalo Bills) were the “only New York team” (inside joke, being that the Giants and Jets play their home games in New Jersey) the Giants went on to lose 28-14 to the typically bad Redskins.
Yet, my skepticism didn’t start during their first game. I was incredibly skeptical before the season even started. The so-called “Big Blue Wrecking Crew” allowed a number of their players to walk away, losing them to free agency. I thought for sure it would be another season in which the Jets – the other New York team – would overshadow them on the back pages of the newspapers.
The Jets had been to the last two AFC title games and came dangerously close to winning them both times, nearly punching their ticket to the Super Bowl. Not to mention the Jets added former Giant hero Plaxico Burress, who caught the game-winning TD in Super Bowl XLII to beat the 18-0 New England Patriots.
We all remember that happy story, right? I thought so.
Knowing the Giants were playing the Jets on Christmas Eve when the NFL schedule broke, I called and text messaged some of my friends who are Jets fans saying, “Congrats on the win on Christmas Eve. The Giants are going to have a horrible year.”
My faith in the team was just nonexistent.
However, it picked up a little bit as the season progressed, and the G-Men got on a little bit of a roll. They sort of came together, going 6-2 after eight weeks. The Giants began playing smash-mouth football, and most importantly they got healthy.
A number of their key players on the defensive end and their secondary were hurt, rendering them vulnerable to teams that weren’t necessarily stronger, but dictated games a lot better.
Case in point: their game vs. the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 9.
The Giants were certainly playing like the better team, but a few miscues on defense and a big mistake on offense – a fourth quarter interception by Manning – cost Big Blue the game.
Still, they were able to hang with teams, stay in the playoff race, and they obviously got healthy and red-hot at the right time. And it all started with, believe it or not, their game against the Jets.
Manning began a 29-14 rout of the Green Team with a 99-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Victor Cruz, who seemingly came out of nowhere to become one of the Giants’ top offensive weapons – and one of the league’s top receivers. The 99-yarder tied an NFL record, and his 89 yards after the catch is the most by a receiver on a 99-yard TD.
Not bad for a player who went undrafted.
Needless to say I was extremely happy the Giants beat the Jets and I learned a valuable lesson from that game: never lose faith in your team. Always have faith and always believe in them, even when it’s hard to and it looks as though defeat is imminent.
For a fan who congratulated fans of the other team months before the game even took place, and to have my team win – and win by a lot – was certainly humbling, to say the very least.
From there the G-Men just got on a win streak: a 31-14 victory over the Dallas Cowboys to get into the playoff dance, a 24-2 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Wild Card weekend, a 37-20 spanking of the heavily favored, 15-1 Green Bay Packers, and finally a 20-17 overtime win over the San Francisco 49ers.
And now we’re back to where we were in 2008: Giants vs. Patriots in the Super Bowl.
As Yogi Berra would say, “It’s déjà vu, all over again!”
There are so many eerie similarities between this season and the 2007-08 campaign in which the Giants defeated the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Let me count the ways…
2007: The Giants lost their first two games, but eventually caught fire and held a 6-2 record after eight games.
2011: The Giants lost their first game and became a bit streaky, yet held a 6-2 record after eight games.
2007: Up against tough odds, the G-Men played an undefeated 15-0 Patriots team on the last day of the regular season. Big Blue hung step-for-step with the Pats, but wound up losing 38-35.
2011: Again, up against unfavorable odds, the Giants played the defending champion Packers, who were 12-0 heading into their game vs. New York in Week 13. The G-Men kept themselves in it, and looked to be clicking on all cylinders. However, some sloppy defense at the tail end of the game led to a loss, 38-35.
2007: On the road, the Giants won 10 straight games – and if you include the Super Bowl, 11 wins in a row away from the Meadowlands.
2011: The Giants are currently on a four-game win streak on the road – and they will be the away team in the upcoming Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 5.
2007: In the NFC Championship Game on the “Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field,” the Giants and Packers played to a 20-20 tie in subzero temperatures. In overtime, a key turnover by Brett Favre (an interception, which was picked off by cornerback Corey Webster) set up a field goal for the Giants. Kicker Lawrence Tynes, from 47 yards out, booted Big Blue into the Super Bowl.
2011: In the NFC Championship Game at a wet and soggy Candlestick Park in San Francisco, the Giants and 49ers played to a 17-17 tie after regulation, forcing the title game into overtime. Niners’ punt return specialist Kyle Williams was stripped of the ball by New York linebacker Jacquian Williams. The fumble was recovered by Giants’ wide receiver/specialist Devin Thomas, a costly turnover. The play set up a 31-yard field goal – which was made by Tynes to send New York to the Super Bowl.
2007: The Patriots beat the San Diego Chargers in the AFC title game, only to lose to the Giants in the Super Bowl.
2011: The Patriots beat the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC title game, and will once again play the Giants in the Super Bowl.
It’s pretty incredible how many parallels can be drawn between this year and the magical championship run the Giants put together a few years ago. I never thought when I was sarcastically saying “this could be a good year after all” and when I was giving the Jets the win over the Giants months before the game that the G-Men would be where they are now.
After the big win over the 49ers, Giants’ safety Antrel Rolle said, “No one gave us a shot.”
Yes sir. I will admit I was guilty of that, even as a loyal fan.
Yet Rolle even admitted that at times throughout the season, the team didn’t even give themselves a shot – so maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself as far as my wavering faith in the G-Men.
I went into this NFL season as a fan with the lowest of expectations. The Giants just by making the postseason proved me wrong. And now as NFC Champs, going to their fifth Super Bowl in franchise history, have gone above and beyond anything I ever expected out of them this year.
There might not be as much pressure on the Giants, being that New England isn’t playing for an undefeated season this time around. The Giants had to win Super Bowl XLII, otherwise they would always be remembered as “that fluke Super Bowl team who the Patriots beat to go 19-0.”
Instead they became “that pesky, resilient team who stopped the Patriots from going 19-0, and embarrassed them in front of the world.”
As far as the rematch goes, I don’t know what to anticipate; I have no idea what to expect. But if history has shown us anything, things look good for the New York Football Giants. It’s bound to be another good game; one the world will undoubtedly be watching.
Think of Yankees vs. Red Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS – that’s the type of feel this game is bound to possess.
No matter what happens in Super Bowl XLVI, I am proud of the Giants. They turned a season in which I expected nothing into a season that could very well be something special.
When Jorge Posada made his Major League Baseball debut on Sept. 4 1995, he got to Yankee Stadium early. The 24-year-old switch-hitting second baseman-turned-catcher walked from the clubhouse down the tunnel to the dugout to soak in what would become his home for the next 17 seasons.
Posada looked around at the majesty of Yankee Stadium. Tears of joy filled his eyes. In the years that followed he afforded the Yankees and their fans countless unforgettable moments, and basically became the Bronx Bombers’ unofficial co-captain.
A leader, a gamer, and one of the most intelligent and fiery Yankees to ever don the pinstripes, Posada, 40, is expected to announce his official retirement from baseball in the coming weeks. The Yankees will lose one of the “Key Three” members of their Championship Dynasty of the late 1990s.
Off the top of my head I can come up with a number of Posada’s best moments as a Yankee. Here are some of his most memorable achievements; a few of his accomplishments that made him such a special Yankee.
Breaking Out and a Perfect Day
Although Posada got the call to the show in 1995, he didn’t become a full-time player until later on in his career. In ’97 he replaced Jim Leyritz as backup catcher to current Yankee manager Joe Girardi, who was filling the position as the Yanks’ everyday backstop.
Posada started 52 games behind the plate in 1997 and played in a total of 60 games for the season. He only managed to smack six homers and knock in 25 runs for the season, but had a sort of “coming out party” in 1998.
An old baseball adage suggests that having a catcher that can hit is a bonus – and the Yankees had that bonus. At the plate Posada crushed 17 homers and batted .268 while recording 68 RBIs in ’98, but arguably his best feat of the year came defensively, on May, 17, 1998 when he caught David Wells’ perfect game at home against the Minnesota Twins.
When a pitcher throws a perfect game, sometimes it gets overlooked that the catcher is the one calling the signs, and most of the time the first person the pitcher credits after notching the perfecto is the catcher. It takes the battery of a pitcher and a catcher to complete a perfect game and Wells recognized that, rewarding Posada and the rest of the team with diamond rings when it was all said and done.
Before the Yanks moved into the new Stadium in 2009, Posada was asked what his favorite moment in the old Yankee Stadium was. His answer was simple.
“Catching David Wells’ perfect game was probably (the best moment) for me. It was just a day that…nothing went wrong. We were in sync from the get-go. He had a bad bullpen session but he got stronger and stronger as the game went along. I get chills, still.”
A Sweet Moment before the ‘02 All-Star Game
Posada and the Yanks capped 1998 with a World Series title, their second in three years. In ’99 he appeared in 112 games and hit 12 homers, knocked in 58 runs, and averaged .245 at the plate. The Yankees once again won a World Series title in ’99 and again in 2000 – which to that point was Posada’s best year numerically: 28 homers, 86 RBIs, and a BA of .287.
For his outstanding numbers he was selected to his first of five All-Star games in the year 2000. In 2002 Posada started the Midsummer Classic and during player introductions a Posada took the field – but it wasn’t Jorge.
Well, it was, actually. Posada’s son Jorge Luis, who has craniosynostosis (a bone condition which affects the skull of an infant), dashed out onto the baseball diamond when Posada’s name was called. The short man was playfully wrangled by Yankee nemesis and then-Red Sox player Manny Ramirez, who presented Jorge Luis to his proud father.
You Talkin’ to Me, Pedro?
Posada pieced together one of his best seasons in 2003, clubbing 30 homers to become only the second Yankee catcher along with Yogi Berra to ever hit 30 home runs in a season.
He also drove in 101 runs, batted .281, and scored 83 runs. At the end of the year he finished third in the American League Most Valuable Player voting, showing just how important he was to his team.
But all of that was basically overshadowed by the biggest rivalry in sports.
In ’03 the Yankees and their archenemies, the Boston Red Sox, played in some heated games. Over the summer Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano were beaned with fastballs by the hated Boston ace Pedro Martinez. Roger Clemens, the Yanks’ outspoken number one hurler, plunked Kevin Millar in retaliation.
As fate would have it, the Yankees and Red Sox met in the 2003 American League Championship Series; the winner would go to the World Series. Both squads were not shy about their feelings towards one another, as they exchanged words in the media. You couldn’t open a newspaper or turn on ESPN without hearing what the Yanks and BoSox were saying about each other.
The ALCS was tied 1-1 and with tensions running high, all Hell broke loose in Game Three.
Yankees’ right fielder Karim Garcia was hit on the back by what looked like an intentional bean ball thrown by Martinez. Garcia didn’t take kindly to Martinez’s throw – and neither did Posada, who began to mouth off to Martinez from the dugout.
Some serious jaw-jacking ensued between Martinez and Posada, and eventually Martinez began to make seemingly threatening gestures at Posada from the mound. He put his index finger to his temple as if he was saying to the Yankee catcher, “I’ll hit you in the head.”
Things settled down and the game resumed after awhile, only for another fracas to begin in the next half-inning. Clemens threw a pitch high and tight to Ramirez; clearly no intent, yet the Boston left fielder tried to charge the mound and the benches cleared.
Don Zimmer, the Yanks’ 72-year-old bench coach, was tossed to the ground by Martinez in the brawl, proving just how ugly emotions between the two teams really were.
The ’03 ALCS was forced to a Game Seven, and with the Yankees trailing 5-2 in the eighth inning, it looked as though it was Boston’s time to “reverse the curse.”
But after a single by Bernie Williams that scored Derek Jeter, and a ground-rule double by Hideki Matsui, Posada stepped up to the plate in a huge situation: runners on second and third with one out.
And he was as clutch as can be.
Posada popped a blooper into shallow centerfield, a hit which no Boston outfielder or infielder could come up with. Williams and Matsui came to the plate to tie the game while he wound up on second base. Fired up, Posada clapped his hands together and pumped his fists in jubilation.
The game-tying bloop double set up Aaron Boone’s glorious home run in the bottom of the 11th, sending the Yankees to the World Series for the 39th time and the Red Sox home for the winter.
If it weren’t for Posada’s gritty, “never say die” attitude and his piece of late-game clutch hitting, Boone never would have had the chance to swing his bat in the 11th; the Yankees may have been doomed in the ‘03 ALCS.
As far as the Martinez-Posada feud: the two publicly expressed how they felt about one another: they both said they disliked each other. However aside from the argument in the ’03 ALCS, nothing physical ever transpired between the two.
Unless you count the four career home runs Posada hit off Martinez.
On a side note, over the course of his career Posada hit 275 home runs. The most he smacked off a single pitcher: five off another Red Sox hurler, Tim Wakefield.
A Wild and Crazy Tuesday vs. Texas
On Wednesday May 17, 2006 – exactly eight years after Posada caught Wells’ perfect game – I got up and went to class. Nearing the end of my first year in college, I was amazed at what I had seen the night before. Everyone knew what a huge Yankee fan I was, and when I got to class I was asked the age-old question from one of my classmates:
“Did you see the game last night?!”
Of course I had. It was one of the most improbable and incredible comebacks ever.
On May 16, 2006 the Yankees had been getting creamed by the Texas Rangers at home. In fact, through the first two and a half innings the Bombers were losing 10-1. But they never gave up, slowly chipping away at the deficit. The Yanks were able to knot the game at 12 before the ninth inning, only for Texas to plate a run on a Rod Barajas double and take a 13-12 lead going into the Yanks’ final set of at-bats.
When it looked as though the rally was for naught, Posada clubbed a game-winning two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth off Rangers’ closer Akinori Otsuka to complete the comeback and give the Yankees a serious come-from-behind, 14-13 win.
Posada drove in five of the Yanks’ 14 runs and also showed off his strength, as he survived a collision at home plate with future teammate Mark Teixeira. Posada nailed Teixeira at home plate for an out, but after the game admitted it was the hardest he had ever been hit.
“I never played football in my life,” Posada told the press after the game.
“But I think that’s what it feels like.”
One could argue that by age 35 most catchers are reaching the so-called “downhill side” of their careers. Their offensive numbers seem to dwindle and they just aren’t the same players they were at, let’s say, age 25.
That never happened to the Yankee catcher.
In 2007 Posada recorded the highest batting average of his career, securing a BA of .338. He also posted the highest slugging percentage of his career with .543 and for the first time since 2003 he made the All-Star team.
The rest of his numbers also looked solid: 20 homers, 90 RBIs, 91 runs scored, 42 doubles, and he even stole two bases.
With his ’07 power show he became the first catcher in MLB history to average .330 or better, record at least 40 doubles, hit 20 homers, and knock in at least 90 runs in a single season.
2007 was a renaissance year for the backstop, and you might say Posada turned 35 into the new 25.
Even the Red Sox Want to be Yankees
In a little comic relief, Posada starred in an ESPN commercial with hated Yankee killer David Ortiz.
When I first saw this, I couldn’t get enough of it.
The First Home Run
After the 2008 season wrapped, the Yanks moved from their beloved cathedral to their new house across the street. They started the 2009 season on the road, but on April 16 it was time for Opening Day in the new ballpark in the Bronx vs. the Cleveland Indians – and it was a day of firsts.
Babe Ruth hit the first home run in the old Yankee Stadium, and in the fifth inning Posada became the first player to homer in the new Yankee Stadium. He took a pitch off Cliff Lee deep to centerfield, a poetically just shot that landed in the netting above Ruth’s monument.
Unfortunately the Yanks had a bad day, dropping their first game at home 10-2. After the game Posada was proud to have done what Ruth did in terms of christening the ballpark, but was unhappy with the final score.
“I’m going to remember the home run, no question about it,” he told the press. “But right now it’s a little disappointing.”
Yankee manager Joe Girardi could not have been happier that his successor was the first player to homer in the new Stadium.
“For Jorgie to hit the first home run…he’s been here a long time and he’s meant a lot to this franchise. I was extremely happy for him.”
Resiliency (noun) – the ability to recover from, or adjust easily to, change or misfortune.
Resilient (adjective) – the ability to withstand, or recover quickly from, difficult conditions.
There is no better way to define the 2009 New York Yankees.
‘09 was a magical season for the Bombers. Solid pitching, all-around hitting, and if the score was close late in the game, you could almost be certain the Yankees were going to win.
The Yanks played the LA Angels at home on May 1, and squandered away a 4-0 lead when the Halos plated six runs in the sixth. They added three in the seventh and it seemed as though the Yankees were well on their way to an inevitable loss to the Angels, the only team in baseball with a lifetime winning record against the Bombers.
Not on Posada’s watch.
The Empire struck back in the eighth scoring four runs, setting the stage for one of their many comeback victories. Posada came up to bat in the bottom of the ninth with Teixeira and Angel Berroa aboard, and whacked a two-run game-winning single to finish the game, his first walk-off hit of the year.
When it was all said and done teammate A.J. Burnett gave Posada a whipped cream pie to the face, a tradition that became custom after every walk-off Yankee victory.
And there were more pie orders to fill.
On July 4 the Yanks hosted the Toronto Blue Jays and played them to a 5-5 tie into extra innings. In the bottom of the 12th Posada came up and singled home Alex Rodriguez, giving the Yanks a 6-5 walk-off win on America’s (and George Steinbrenner’s) birthday.
Another win, another pie.
The game-winner may have been huge but it wasn’t all Posada did in that game. In the fourth he smacked a solo round-tripper, which at that point in the game gave the Yanks a 3-2 lift over the Jays.
A Cushion in Game Two
The Yankees’ resilient nature brought them to the World Series in 2009 for the 40th time and the first time since 2003. They squared off with the Philadelphia Phillies and in Game Two (after dropping the first game of the Fall Classic) the Bombers needed a win at home.
Facing a familiar adversary, Pedro Martinez, the Yanks trailed 1-0 heading into the bottom of the fourth. Teixeira came up and knotted the game at one with a solo homer. Hideki Matsui followed suit, breaking the tie with a solo home run of his own in the sixth.
Clinging to a small 2-1 lead in the seventh, Posada gave the Yanks a little breathing room. He hit a seeing-eye single off reliever Chan Ho Park to plate Jerry Hairston, Jr. and the Yanks went ahead, 3-1.
They would win Game Two by the same count.
The Texas Two-Step
In June of 2010 Posada had a chance to flex his muscles.
On June 12 in an interleague matchup at home vs. the Houston Astros, he clubbed a grand slam off Wandy Rodriguez in the bottom of the third, breaking a 2-2 tie to give the Yanks a 6-2 lead. They went on to win 9-3 on the strength of Posada’s go-ahead trip to granny’s house.
And he was just getting warmed up.
The very next day, June 13, he crushed another grand slam in the fifth inning off Brian Moehler, giving his team a sizeable 7-1 lead. The Bombers once again were en route to another win, a 9-5 decision over the Astros.
With his two slams in two days, Posada became the first Yankee since Bill Dickey in 1937 to homer with the bases loaded in consecutive games. Ironically enough, Dickey was also a catcher.
A Bittersweet Home Run
On Aug. 22, 2010 vs. the Seattle Mariners at home, the Yankees practically had the game won in the fourth inning. Austin Kearns hit a solo homer in the fourth, which was pretty much all the offense the Bombers needed because CC Sabathia was in shut-down mode, setting down the Mariners hitters one by one.
The game turned into a stinker for Seattle in the fifth when Robinson Cano clubbed a grand slam. The Yanks added three runs in the sixth to distance themselves even further from Seattle, who did not put up any runs in the game.
The Mariners eventually called on Brian Sweeney, a relief pitcher whom I have interviewed, in a mop-up situation.
Posada came to the plate to face Sweeney and took his changeup for a ride into the right field seats, giving the Yankees a 9-0 lead. The Bombers would add another run in the eighth on an RBI single off the bat of Marcus Thames, winning by a knockout score of 10-0.
For this writer it was bittersweet. I was happy for Posada; that he hit a home run for my favorite team, yet at the same time I was unhappy and I felt bad. I would have liked to see Sweeney maybe get a strikeout, being that he and I both came from the same college.
From the experience, I can say this: it feels weird wanting to simultaneously root for both the pitcher and the batter.
The Last Stand
2011 was a rollercoaster of sorts for Posada. There were ups and downs, lefts and rights. He was removed as the Yanks’ everyday catcher and made to be the team’s designated hitter. Everyone knows about the mountain made of the molehill when he took himself out of the game on May 14 against the Boston Red Sox, and he was limited at best when it came to playing.
On Aug. 13, his first start since the benching incident, he was 3-for-5 with a grand slam and six RBIs. It marked the 10th slam of his career and with it he passed Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra on the all-time Yankee grand slams list.
Later in the month on Aug. 25 Posada played second base for the first time in his career, fielding the position in the ninth inning. He recorded the final out in the Yanks’ 22-9 win over the Oakland Athletics, cleanly taking a grounder and completing the 4-3 putout.
He might have had a perfect frame at second base, but on Sept. 10 against the LA Angels he returned to familiarity. Russell Martin was injured behind the plate by a foul tip and Francisco Cervelli was unavailable to catch due to concussion-like symptoms. Girardi had no choice but to allow Posada to catch – and he made it count, throwing out Howie Kendrick attempting to swipe second base in the third.
The Yankees made the postseason for the 16th time in Posada’s career and for his last playoff series, he performed extraordinarily well. He recorded six hits – one of which was a triple – scored four runs, drew four walks, and at the DH position notched a .429 batting average with a .579 on-base percentage.
Not bad for his last hurrah.
The Yankees and their fans will never forget Jorge Posada. He spent his entire career in pinstripes, somewhat of a rarity these days; not a lot of players in this day and age remain with one team their entire career.
Girardi, who has always been close to Posada, credits him for a lot of the strength the Yankees showcased throughout the years.
“He’s been a big part of the Yankees since really 1997, and (a big part of) the success that we’ve had here.”
Truer words were never spoken.
Friend and teammate Derek Jeter once said Posada would make a great baseball manager someday.
Who knows. Posada succeeded Girardi once in his life – as the Yankees’ everyday catcher. Maybe in the future he will succeed him as Yankee skipper.
I’m not going to try and argue right now about whether or not Posada is worthy of the Hall of Fame. It doesn’t matter to me; whether he makes the Hall of Fame or not, he’ll always be a real Yankee soldier in my eyes.
Yankee Yapping would like to thank Jorge Posada for all the memories and congratulate him on a wonderful career. I don’t know if the team will be the same without him, but nonetheless, we love him.
THANK YOU, JORGE.
The San Francisco Giants are World Series Champions for the first time since 1954. I wonder if that means Danny Tanner, Jesse Katsopolis, and Joey Gladstone will be attending the victory parade…
I am just kidding about the second part, of course. But in all seriousness, hats off to the G-Men on a well-played 2010 World Series. They had everything go right for them; solid pitching, stellar defense, and incredible offense.
Last summer ESPN’s Baseball Tonight program hosted their “Chatter Up” segment, a part of the show in which viewers can submit their ideas and thoughts about a subject chosen by the panel. ESPN picks the best comments sent in, puts them on TV, and the analysts discuss them. The topic in question was, “Which team in the National League, currently not in first place, do you think has the best chance of making the postseason?”
My comment was, “I think it’s the Giants, because Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez remind me of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz.”
As I was watching the program, to my surprise, my name and comment showed up on ESPN.
Steve Berthiaume, the panel moderator, said, “OK, I get the Greg Maddux-Tim Lincecum thing; I’m with him on Matt Cain-Tom Glavine…but I’m a little lost on John Smoltz-Jonathan Sanchez. I don’t think…But that’s OK…”
My sports writing inspiration and BBTN panelist Buster Olney then said, “A.J., I’m not sure about Sanchez. He’s not quite at the level yet, but good idea.”
I had only mentioned Sanchez in comparison to Smoltz because..well…they are both pitchers who started in the bullpen and became starters. Plus, Sanchez had already thrown a no-hitter, which I feel made him worthy of the mention.
The point is, even last year I knew the Giants were good. It was only a matter of time before they put it all together.
In a lot of ways the Giants had exactly what the 1996 Yankees had; that’s the team I thought of when I looked at them. When Madison Bumgarner tossed a shutout in Game Four, it reminded me of the same way Andy Pettitte battled in ’96.
Brian Wilson was a stud shutting down Texas, the same way John Wetteland mowed down Atlanta.
The Giants had the right mixture of talented rookies–players like Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, and Buster Posey–and chiseled, championship-tested veterans, like Edgar Renteria, Juan Uribe, Aaron Rowand, and Pat Burrell–all of whom have already played in (and won, no less) at least one World Series prior to 2010.
Renteria was a great choice for World Series MVP, as he has come a long way in his career. He became only the fourth player in MLB history to knock in the game-winning run in two World Series clinching games. In 1997, Renteria knocked in the go-ahead run for the Florida Marlins in their clinching game, and of course his three-run homer won the game for the Giants last night.
With that, Renteria joined legendary Yankees Yogi Berra, Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio on the list of players who have knocked in game-winning runs in the clinching game of a World Series twice in their careers. The veteran Giant journeyman is certainly in great company.
What I also liked about the Giants winning was the fact that since 2005, the World Series Champions have alternated from league to league. Meaning:
· 2005 Chicago White Sox (A.L.)
· 2006 St. Louis Cardinals (N.L.)
· 2007 Boston Red Sox (A.L.)
· 2008 Philadelphia Phillies (N.L.)
· 2009 New York Yankees (A.L.)
· 2010 San Francisco Giants (N.L.)
It makes it more interesting because one league has not been dominating for a number of years; it’s been a back-and-forth battle for the past six years and I hope it continues this way for the next few seasons.
As for the Texas Rangers? Well, they were an excellent team this season. They just seemed to have run out of gas. We found out Cliff Lee is not Jesus Christ and is a human being after all. In Game One of the fall classic, Lee only tossed 4 2/3 innings and gave up seven runs on eight hits. On the bright side the invincible Lee demonstrated his solid control and only walked one batter and struck out seven, but unfortunately it was a losing effort.
In the decisive Game Five Lee had it going right until the seventh, when he gave up a three-run home run to Renteria. As we saw in Game Four of the ALCS–A.J. Burnett’s home run to Bengie Molina–even when you are throwing a good game, one pitch can cost you the game; one bad inning can kill you.
Lee was just not the same guy in the seventh inning last night. And now, for the second year in a row, he has been on the losing World Series team. However, it does not mean he has pitched poorly in the World Series; the only forgettable game for him was Game One this year.
And of course most Yankee fans remember how incredible he was in 2009 for Philadelphia.
That being said, will Lee be in pinstripes next year? Right now, who’s to say? Lee has already said he would like to stay in Texas, but if the Yanks make him the right offer, there’s no telling where he will decide to go.
It’s going to be a long off-season and the Yankees already have other deals to make first, namely re-acquiring Derek Jeter who just filed for free agency. Signing back Mariano Rivera is also at the top of the Yanks’ to-do list and they also have to make Pettitte a deal, should he choose to play next season.
Yet, Yankees’ General Manager Brian Cashman has already said that another frontline starter and left-handed relief will be the focal point of this off-season. That only adds to my belief that they will indeed make a strong push for Lee when the winter meetings begin next month.
But that’s another story for another day. Today is the Giants’ day. And they deserve to be called World Series Champs in 2010. Once again, congratulations from Yankee Yapping to the fans in San Francisco and the Giants on a great season and a World Title.
I know that somewhere out in the bay area, there’s a Giants fan feeling the same way I did last year. And in 2000. And 1999. And 1998. And 1996…
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.
“The other sports are just sports. Baseball is a love.“–Bryant Gumbel.
And God, do I love baseball. This weekend just increased my love for it.
Saturday I had the pleasure of going all the way up to Cooperstown, N.Y. to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Last week, my best friends David and Vito made me an offer for my birthday/graduation gift: Yankee tickets for Saturday’s game vs. the Toronto Blue Jays (which the Yanks won 11-3) or a day trip to the hall.
I have already been to three Yankee games this season and will probably go to more by season’s end. I have only been to the Hall of Fame and Museum once in my life; Memorial Day weekend in 2007 with my dad.
Now given the opportunity to share the experience with my best friends, I took them up on their offer to Cooperstown; a three hour road trip to upstate New York. To me, there was no better way to spend part of the Independence Day weekend.
When we arrived to Cooperstown, I felt the same way I did back in ’07. The town itself is small and gives you such an old-time feel. Complete with a General Store and even a trolley service, Main Street in Cooperstown, simply put, is awesome.
The one gripe I really have against Main Street is the food spots. There aren’t too many places to eat up there, at least not many of you want to eat something quickly. As a matter of fact, my friends and I ate at the same restaurant my dad and I ate at the last time I visited Cooperstown.
Not that the food is bad, it’s great. But not having fast food spots around just is not convenient when you want to move things along and see all the sights in one day. But I guess that goes with the old-time ambience; there was no such thing as McDonald’s back in the old days.
After we finished our lunch, my friends and I headed for the Museum. It was just as nice as I remember it; the big brick building at the end of the road filled with historical baseball artifacts from all over the world. More importantly, it’s filled with more historic Yankee memorabilia than you could ever imagine.
When we first walked in, the usher told us that the best place to start the tour was on the third floor of the museum. We ascended the stairs and right away it was almost as if the baseball history slapped us across the face. We were immediately greeted with the origin of baseball and how the game came to be.
One of my favorite parts about the “first origins of baseball exhibit” were the artifacts about Henry Chadwick. According the Museum, Chadwick was the “Father of Baseball” and reported on the sport for several newspapers. He dedicated his whole life to sports writing, and as an aspiring sports writer myself, I have to respect that and give him a lot of credit.
Without Chadwick, no baseball writer would be where they are today. For the record, Chadwick’s column was called Chadwick’s Chat. I think it is very cool title. It has the alliterative grammar quality, just like Yankee Yapping.
Next we entered the Babe Ruth Room at the Museum. Yes, the Babe Ruth Room. The Bambino had such an impact on the game of baseball that he owns his own private quarters in the hall.
On display are many of his jerseys, trophies, his cleats, and even the bat he smacked his final career home run with. While you visit the Babe Ruth Room, a video about his life plays, which really makes it a learning experience.
After Ruth’s Room we embarked on the “Pride and Passion” leg of the journey. On display–basically everything you can think of from every Yankee legend there is. We saw Babe Ruth’s crown (given to him by Ralph Kiner) Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle’s jerseys, the bat Roger Maris hit his 61st home run with in 1961, and even Yogi Berra’s Most Valuable Player Award from 1951.
It was overwhelming! A lot of Yankee history to take in all at once.
Eventually the Yankee memorabilia turned from old to contemporary. We moved on from relics of the ghosts of long past and onto the pinstripe mementos of the not-so-distant past.
On display were Derek Jeter’s spikes from the 1996 World Series, Mariano Rivera’s jersey from the 1999 World Series, and even a lineup card used by Joe Torre in 1998–the year the Bronx Bombers won 114 regular season games and eventually the Championship.
Also on display was the 1996 World Series trophy. One thought about that, however. I’m not sure if it was the actual trophy or a replica of the trophy. Today at Yankee Stadium, that trophy was on display in honor of George Steinbrenner, as it was his birthday and the Yanks won that title under him as principal owner. Did they take that trophy from Cooperstown and get it to Yankee Stadium for today’s game? Is there more than one trophy?
Who knows. Whatever the case, I took a picture with it.
After the “Pride and Passion” exhibit, we went into a room filled with pieces of old Stadiums. We got a feel for what Ebbets Field looked like, saw one of the original pinwheels from Comiskey Park in Chicago, and sat in old seats from Veteran’s Stadium in Philadelphia. Also showcased was the Phillies Phanatic…well, at least his costume.
In 2007 I remembered taking a picture of me pretending to smack the Phanatic with my program. I recreated the same picture yesterday.
We then entered the records room; a place reserved to acknowledge all the records held by active and retired players.
For example, Jeter is currently playing and leads all active players in the hits category. Pete Rose, on the other hand, is retired and owns the record for most all-time hits.
Same thing goes for Alex Rodriguez and Ricky Henderson; Rodriguez leads all current players in runs scored while Henderson is the all-time leader in runs scored.
It’s very fascinating and the museum seems to keep the record walls up-to-date.
After that we came to the “Autumn Glory” room. It is packed with World Series and postseason knick-knacks. The museum owns a ring from every World Series Championship team since rings began being distributed. Of course I spotted the Yankee rings from the Dynasty of the late ’90s and I really thought it was one of the better parts of the tour.
After all, winning isn’t everything. It’s just the only thing that matters. Win the World Series and your team’s ring gets a one-way ticket to enshrinement in the Hall.
I noticed in ’07 that the case in the “Autumn Glory” room contains mementos from the most recent World Series. So when I visited the Hall of Fame in 2007, artifacts from the 2006 World Series (played between the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers) were showcased.
If my memory serves me correct, the Yankees won the latest World Series. Therefore, a bunch of items from the 2009 World Series were on display, including CC Sabathia’s cleats, Hideki Matsui’s Game Six bat, and Jose Molina’s catcher’s mask.
But the item in the case that stood out like sore thumb…the 2009 Championship ring.
That’s what it’s all about.
After the “Autumn Glory” room, we entered the “No-Hit Games” exhibit. Showcased were baseballs used in practically every no-hitter and perfect game in history.
I was able to pick out David Wells’s and David Cone’s baseballs; both Yankee hurlers tossed perfect games; Wells in 1998 and Cone in 1999. Not only was each ball signed by the pitcher, but information on the score and opponent was given in a card underneath the ball.
Again, it all goes back to idea of learning and preserving history.
We came across one last Yankee portion of the museum before we entered the Hall of Fame: an exhibit entitled “Pinstripe Pictures.” There were so many photos of so many memorable Yankee moments that I almost cried. Everything from Aaron Boone’s blast in Game Seven of the ’03 ALCS to Gehrig and DiMaggio, it was amazing.
Probably the best picture I saw was the Yankees lifting Cone up on their shoulders after his perfecto in ’98. I couldn’t help but think of the words used by Buster Olney in his book about it:
“Cone’s teammates lifted him after his perfect game on July 18, 1999. Throughout the season, in more subtle ways, he lifted them.”
I think that really speaks to Cone’s character. He was always one of my favorites.
Once we were finished looking at all the Yankee pictures, we finally came to the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery. Every member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame is honored and remembered with a plaque with their likeness and a short description of their career accomplishments. We found all the Yankees and read about each player.
Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra, Jackson, Gossage…if you were to ask me, the Yankees virtually own the Hall of Fame. They have more members than any other team, and the reason for that is their history; the Yankees are the best and more storied team in baseball history. That’s pretty much the bottom line.
Once we were finished in the gallery, we headed upstairs to the final leg of our tour: a view of the Writer’s Wing of the hall (which I one day hope to be a part of), the library atrium, and the “Baseball at the Movies” exhibit, where they listed every baseball movie ever made.
My favorite part of the Writer’s Wing was the setup of the announcing booth in the old Yankee Stadium. The Museum (in a devilishly clever way) built a mock announcer’s box, which gives you a sense of what it feels like to be a baseball broadcaster.
It’s such a neat feature they added to the Writer’s Wing of the hall and I can only hope one day I get to sit and work in the real reporting booth at Yankee Stadium.
We headed outside and looked at the crazy statues that are in the hall’s courtyard. There are some interesting likenesses of old-time pitchers and catchers. These statues really afforded me and my friends the opportunity to snap some funny-looking pictures. For instance, the statue of Satchel Paige and his high leg kick…
Go ahead and laugh. That’s why I took the photo.
We then took a walk down the road and visited Doubleday Field, the supposed birthplace of baseball. We jaunted inside the ballpark and wouldn’t you know it, a game was going on. We sat and watched about four innings of baseball from the grandstands. A small crowd was on hand; the building was nowhere near filled.
Last time I visited Cooperstown in ’07, I only got to see the exterior of the park. I was elated that I finally got to see the interior and even watch some a game that just happened to begin the minute we arrived at the park. I have to say, it’s a nice little field. And again, it’s one of the most historic parks in baseball lore.
After we paid our visit to Doubleday Field, we (lastly) traveled to the Cooperstown Baseball Heroes Wax Museum. I had gone back in ’07 and enjoyed enough that I wanted to go again, not to mention Dave and Vito wanted to see it for themselves.
The Wax Museum was again a wonderful experience. There are wax figures of many Yankees, including Mantle, DiMaggio (along with Marilyn Monroe), Wade Boggs (riding off on the horse like he did at the conclusion of the ’96 World Series) and countless others.
Yet my favorite sculpture has to be “The Georges.” The wax museum crafted a figure to look like George Costanza, Jason Alexander’s character from Seinfeld. George is sitting in his office opposite George Steinbrenner, his boss on the show. Costanza is one of my all-time favorite TV characters and to see the figures setup the way they were made me laugh.
Another one of my favorites was the Abbot & Costello “Who’s on First” figures. They even had the words from the comedy routine playing on a speaker in the background as you viewed the statues. Believe it or not, that comedy bit is a huge part of baseball history; it is so funny that it has withstood the test of time and is still remembered by die-hard baseball lovers, such as myself.
After we saw everything there is to see in Cooperstown, we headed back to the car; another three hour ride ahead of us. I can say that I got the same amount out of the experience of the National Baseball Hall of Fame the second time, probably even more.
After I went in ’07 with my dad, I thought to myself, “Going to Cooperstown was incredible, and it was very meaningful to share this experience with dad. I’d like to go back eventually and share it with my best friends.”
I got that chance and I jumped at it. And what an experience it was. One I won’t forget. As a result of this trip, my love for baseball just increased by tenfold, if that’s even possible.