Old Timers remind fans of good times
Old Timers’ Day never gets old, if you know what I mean. The Yankees were the first team to celebrate their history with an annual reunion that began in 1947 to honor Babe Ruth, and they are the last team to bring back stories players from their past every year on a scheduled date.
The Yankees’ great tradition lends itself perfectly to such an exercise. It seems as if everyone invited back had a part in producing one of the 27 World Series championships, some of them more than others but no one more so than Yogi Berra.
The practice of Old Timers’ Days with other clubs gained popularity in the 1960s, but by the 1990s nearly every team, including such other tradition-rich franchises as the Dodgers, Giants and Cardinals stopped doing them regularly. The Red Sox did a nice job of inviting back many of the players from their past to celebrate Fenway Park’s centennial back in April, but that was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. For the Yankees, it is an annual get together that is the result of the hard work of vice president for marketing Debbie Tymon and her staff.
Yogi was clearly the focus Sunday as the introductions wound down to those so close to him in his long connection with the team, such as old pal Whitey Ford; former American League president Bobby Brown, who roomed with Yogi during their years together as players in the late 1940s and early ‘50s, and Don Larsen, whom Berra navigated through a perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, the only no-hitter in Series history.
Every Yankees era was represented: the 1950s with Berra, Ford, Brown, Larsen, Jerry Coleman and Bob Turley; the 1960s with Hector Lopez, Luis Arroyo, Bobby Richardson, Ralph Terry, Joe Pepitone, Al Downing, Jake Gibbs and Mel Stottlemyre; the 1970s with Reggie Jackson, Bucky Dent, Brian Doyle, Mickey Rivers, Ron Guidry, Lou Piniella, Willie Randolph, Roy White and Ron Blomberg; the 1980s with Tommy John, Goose Gossage and Rickey Henderson; the 1990s with Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, David Cone, Cecil Fielder, Charlie Hayes, Darryl Strawberry, Jesse Barfield, Pat Kelly, Bernie Williams and Joe Torre.
It was the first invitation for Stump Merrill, who has served in numerous capacities for the organization the past 38 years, including manager in the lean times of 1990 and ’91. It was Stump who helped convert a Puerto Rican second baseman named Jorge Posada into an All-Star catcher.
“I can’t kick about waiting 38 years,” Stump said, laughing. “Last year, they invited Geno for the first time in 49 years!”
Long-time trainer Gene Monahan, who retired after the 2011 season, was also back at Yankee Stadium Sunday for the one day every year that could be renamed Good Times Day.