Results tagged ‘ Babe Ruth ’
Next time you are out at Yankee Stadium, make a point to stop into the Yankees Museum Presented by Bank of America. A new exhibit this year is entitled “Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig: Baseball’s Hardest-Hitting Teammates.”
Featured artifacts include:
The bat used by Ruth to hit the first home run at Yankee Stadium April 18, 1923.
Ticket stub from Lou Gehrig Day July 4, 1939 when he gave his “luckiest man” speech.
Ticket stub from Ruth’s 60th home run game Sept. 30, 1927.
Ruth’s and Gehrig’s home jerseys from the Yankees’ World Series-winning 1932 season.
Game-worn Yankees caps from Ruth and Gehrig.
Authentic Ruth and Gehrig baseball cards.
The “notched” bat used by the Babe in 1927 and ’28 with notches on the barrel denoting home runs hit with the bat – 60 in 1927 and 54 in 1928.
The artifacts were borrowed from the private collections of Marshall Fogel and Dr. Richard C. Angrist, with all the photos coming from the Fogel collection.
April 11 is an anniversary of sorts for the Yankees. On this date exactly 100 years ago, they wore pin-striped uniforms for the first time. An urban legend grew up that the Yankees went to pin-striped home uniforms in the 1920s to camouflage Babe Ruth’s girth, but that was just a myth.
Ruth was an athletic figure when he came to the Yankees from the Red Sox in 1920 and did not put on excessive weight until later in the decade by which time the pinstripes had become a major part of the team’s identity.
The Yankees were in their last year at old Hilltop Park on Manhattan’s upper west side and the last season in which they went by the nickname Highlanders when they displayed pinstripes for the first time April 11, 1912, four days before RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic.
Contrary to another myth, the Yankees were not the first ballclub to wear pin-striped uniforms. The Cubs had worn them as far back as 1907. The Yankees returned to plain white home unis in 1913, their first year at the Polo Grounds, but brought back the pinstripes for good in 1915 and have worn them ever since, adding the inter-locking “NY” logo in the 1920s. They were also the first baseball team to wear numbers on the backs of uniforms on a regular basis starting in 1929.
With the Yankees in Baltimore to complete a three-game series at Camden Yards, they could not celebrate by wearing pinstripes because they were wearing road grays, but they will show off the famous home uniforms Friday at Yankee Stadium.
Gates will open at 11 a.m. for the 110th home opener that will start at 1:05 p.m. with the Yankees against the Angels, featuring their prized, off-season acquisition – three-time National League Most Valuable Player Albert Pujols.
Former Yankees catcher Jorge Posada will throw out the ceremonial first pitch following a rendition of the National Anthem by Jeremy Jordan from the cast of the Broadway musical Newsies and a Navy F-18 Super Hornet flyover. Another Broadway performer, Paul Nolan in the title role from Jesus Christ Superstar, will sing “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch.
The Yankees have a 72-36-1 record in home openers and have won 13 of their past 14, 18 of 20 and 24 of 28. They won a record 11 straight home openers from 1998 through 2008 and are 6-0 all time in home openers played April 13.
The Yankees treated Roger Maris more honorably Saturday in a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of his then-record 61-home run season than he was ever treated during his seven seasons with the team.
There is a bittersweet legacy to Maris’ accomplishment in 1961 that was forever smeared by then commissioner Ford Frick’s edict that the 61 home runs did not break Babe Ruth’s record total of 60 in 1927 because Maris achieved his mark in a 162-game schedule – eight games longer than when Ruth accomplished his feat. The American League schedule was expanded in 1961 from 154 to 162 games because of the addition of expansion teams in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. The National League followed suit the next year when it added the Mets and a franchise in Houston.
This silly argument was revived somewhat Saturday by two of Roger’s sons, two sons of his old teammate, Mickey Mantle, and several other members of the 1961 Yankees. Randy Maris and Roger Maris Jr., Danny Mantle and David Mantle and Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and Bob Cerv agreed that they consider Maris’ achievement the real home run record, which is nothing more than wishful thinking.
It is a reaction to the tainted home run totals of sluggers during the steroids era. But since the commissioner says that all the records count, we have no recourse but to regard Maris’ 61 home runs as the eighth highest total in history. That does not mean, however, that it is not special.
To get mentioned in the same sentence with Ruth takes some doing. Yankees fans at the time would have preferred that Mantle break the record. He was a lifelong Yankee, the heir to Joe DiMaggio’s reign in center field. Maris was an outsider, brought from Kansas City by trade and never quite comfortable with New York.
Yankees fans have changed since then. Wade Boggs, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, David Cone, Scott Brosius and others came here from other teams in the 1990s and were embraced. They did not have to deal with falling into the shadow of a great ghost as Maris did with Ruth. A sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium Saturday got to witness Maris’ 61st homer in a video while his widow, four sons and two daughters stood in the infield alongside Mantle’s sons, Berra, Ford and Cerv, who was Roger’s roommate both in Kansas City and New York.
It was during the 1961 season that Mantle lived with Maris and Cerv in an apartment in Forest Hills, Queens. “We’ve got rules,” Cerv recalled telling Mantle, who was noted for his love of the nightlife while the other two were devoted family men. “Mickey lasted with us until about Labor Day.”
By then, injuries had caused Mantle to drop out of his race with Maris, who felt very alone that final month. Randy Maris said he was born that year about a month before the final game when Maris finally got to 61. “That was how Mom was able to come to New York that day,” Randy said.
Pat Maris was escorted to the field by Mariano Rivera. Craig Muder and Bill Francis brought down from the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown the ball Maris hit that day and the bat he used. Sal Durante, the Brooklyn bus driver now living in Staten Island and who caught the ball in the right field stands that Oct. 1 afternoon, carried the ball onto the field. Derek Jeter carried the bat. The Yankees Foundation donated $10,000 to the Roger Maris Cancer Center in his home town of Fargo, N.D.
Also on hand were ’61 Yankees teammates Bobby Richardson and Moose Skowron and former bat boy Frank Prudenti. Cheryl Howard, the daughter of former Yankees catcher Elston Howard, sang the national anthem.
“I think Dad would have been excited about today,” Roger Jr. said. “He always said that the 1961 Yankees was the greatest team he ever played on. He has strong feelings about all of his teammates here. I know that when we were young and went to spring training it felt like we were all family.”
Yet it took a while for Maris to be treated like a true family member of the Yankees after he had been traded to St. Louis following the 1966 season. Credit former owner George Steinbrenner for bringing Maris back into the fold. The Boss invited Maris back to Old Timers’ Day celebrations and decided to retire No. 9 in his honor over such other worthy wearers of that number as Charlie Keller, Hank Bauer and Graig Nettles.
Maris has a fitting place in Monument Park, which was visited by Saturday’s guests. The reaction of the crowd to the ceremony was evidence that his memory has a fitting place with them now, too.
The Yankees postponed due to uncertain weather conditions Friday night their pregame ceremony to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Roger Maris setting the major league record of 61 home runs in a season that stood for 37 seasons, even longer than Babe Ruth’s 34-year-old mark that Maris broke in 1961.
The event has been rescheduled for Saturday. Fans attending the Yankees-Red Sox 4:05 p.m. game at Yankee Stadium should try to be in their seats by 3:20 p.m. to be in position to view the special ceremony beginning at 3:35 p.m.
Joining the Yankees for the celebration will be the families of Maris and Mickey Mantle, his teammate who finished that season with 54 homers. Family members attending will be Roger’s widow, Pat, daughters Susan and Sandra and sons Roger Jr., Kevin, Randy and Richard as well as Mickey’s sons, David and Danny.
The master of ceremonies will be actor-comedian Billy Crystal, who directed the 2001 HBO movie 61*, which depicted Maris’ and Mantle’s pursuit of the home run record half a century ago. Also expected to be on hand are former teammates Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Bob Cerv, Moose Skowron and Bobby Richardson, plus former Yankees bat boy Frank Prudenti and Sal Durante, the Brooklyn bus driver who caught the 61st home run in the right field stands Oct. 1, 1961 on the last day of the regular season.
That ball as well as the bat that Roger used for the historic blow will be on view during the ceremony on loan from the National Baseball Hall of Fame. After a video tribute, the Yankees Foundation will present a donation to the Roger Maris Cancer Center in his home town of Fargo, N.D.
Cheryl Howard, the daughter of another Yankees teammate, All-Star catcher Elston Howard, will sing the national anthem. A group of honorees is scheduled to arrive at the Stadium at 12:45 p.m. at Gate 4 where they will officially unveil the Gray Line New York Ride of Fame bus honoring Roger. They will then go on a private tour of the Yankees Museum presented by Bank of America, before heading to Monument Park.
Just the other day, I was interviewed by a young writer from the newspaper in Fargo, and I told him that it is my belief that what Roger accomplished 50 years ago is more revered today than it was then. Friday night’s ceremony will be a chance to relive one of the greatest moments in the history of a franchise that has had more of them than any team in professional sports.
Who would have thought it would ever come to this? Throughout New England, Red Sox fans are rooting for the Yankees.
True. The franchise that once felt cursed for having sold Babe Ruth’s contract to the Yankees is watching its fan base root for them in this week’s series against the Rays. Tampa Bay had closed to two games behind Boston – one in the loss column – in the wild card race. The Rays are at Yankee Stadium for a four-game set that began Tuesday night and will continue with a split-admission doubleheader Wednesday and a rainout makeup game Thursday night.
And Red Sox Nation will be cheering on the Yankees all the way.
Oh, those nice round numbers in baseball – 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, 300 victories, 3,000 strikeouts.
But 600 saves?
It remains to be seen whether the 600-save plateau for relief pitchers will ever be viewed as the equivalent of 300 victories for a starter. The save statistic have always been a debated issue, but somehow I feel that now that Mariano Rivera has hit that number, 600 will forever be considered a major milestone in the game.
Mo is only the second pitcher to get there. The other, Trevor Hoffman, is merely one save ahead of him. Not to take anything away from Hoffman, but the 600-saves achievement became truly legitimized Tuesday night when Rivera got his 41st save in his 41st year on this planet preserving a 3-2 victory for the Yankees and A.J. Burnett, who desperately needed a victory to keep his slim hold on a rotation position.
Rivera’s 600th career save came in a game in which he did record the final out. Ichiro Suzuki tried to steal second base with two out and was cut down by Russell Martin’s throw with the tag applied by Derek Jeter. How appropriate. Jeter has been on the field for nearly all 600 of those saves. The only thing that would have completed the picture was if Jorge Posada had been the catcher.
Rivera really didn’t need to get to 600 saves to be considered the greatest relief pitcher of all time. Remember, that total does not include the 42 saves he notched in postseason play, which is a bit like when Babe Ruth retired with 714 career home runs, not including the 15 he hit in the World Series.
But baseball fans love round numbers. Ask Al Kaline, who finished his career with 399 home runs. Mickey Mantle always said his greatest disappointment was that his career batting average fell below .300 at .298. Early Wynn took forever to get his 300th career victory, but there was no way he could walk away from the game without getting there.
Rivera took the congratulations from his teammates in his usual, cool manner. Just like Jeter, Mo is all about winning, and the most important thing to him about his saves total is that it means he was a part of 600 Yankees victories.
Somewhat obscured by the way the game ended was the start by Burnett, who had a devastating curve that helped him to 11 strikeouts in six innings. Oh, sure, A.J. had his usual control issues (two wild pitches, two hit batters), but he limited the Mariners to two runs and four hits and won for only the second time in 13 starts since June 29. In his previous four starts, Burnett was 0-2 with an 11.00 ERA, so this was a victory he needed and has reason to savor. And years from now he can always say he was the winning pitcher in the game that Rivera scored his 600th save.
The Yankees’ offense was a bit spotty. One of their runs scored on a wild pitch. Robinson Cano drove in the other two with his 26th home run and a fielder’s choice to run his RBI total to 111, tying Curtis Granderson for the team lead and continuing to make the American League Most Valuable Player situation a two-man race for the Yankees.
But in the end, it was the end that was the story of the game as a player got to a magic number. The save has only been an official statistic since 1969, which was the year Mariano Rivera was born. There is some mystical symmetry to that.
Now that Alex Rodriguez is back in the Yankees’ lineup, let us take time to thank Robinson Cano for picking up the slack. Granted, all the Yankees had a hand in posting a 25-13 record (.658) in the time A-Rod was on the disabled list recovering from right knee surgery, but Cano was most often the cleanup hitter counted on to produce the way A-Rod does.
Cano came through in a major way. During Rodriguez’s absence, the second baseman hit .320 with a .527 slugging percentage based on 11 doubles, a triple and six home runs with 31 RBI in 38 games. Cano has a history of coming through for the Yankees when A-Rod has been out of the lineup. In 151 games and 600 at-bats – nearly a full season – when Rodriguez has been out of the Yankees lineup, Cano has batted .317 with 38 doubles, 28 home runs and 113 RBI.
Rodriguez, who rejoined the team Thursday and worked out for three days in Minneapolis, returned to his familiar cleanup spot and played third base as Derek Jeter was in the designated hitter role with Eduardo Nunez, who spelled A-Rod at third, playing shortstop. That fulfilled manager Joe Girardi’s desire to get Nunez at-bats with an occasional start.
With A-Rod (626 home runs) and Twins DH Jim Thome (601) opposing each other, it marked the first time that two players with 600 or more career home runs played in the same game since July 17, 1973 at Atlanta when the Braves’ Henry Aaron and the Mets’ Willie Mays were on opposite sides. Remember, before Willie got to 600 in 1970 and Hank in ’71, the only other player with more than 600 jacks was Babe Ruth, then the all-time leader with 714. Aaron passed the Babe in 1974 and finished his career two years later with 755. There are now eight members of the 600 Club.
What was interesting about that Mets-Braves matchup in ’73 is that Mays did not get into the game until the ninth inning. Aaron was Atlanta’s cleanup hitter and left fielder and hit his 25th home run of the season in the sixth to boost its lead to 7-1. The Mets rallied for seven runs in the top of the ninth and eventually won, 8-7. Mays came off the bench as a pinch hitter and came through with a two-run single that scored the tying and go-ahead runs.
What happened Monday night at Detroit’s Comerica Park fell into that “How Times Flies” category. Could it have possibly been 20 years ago that I sat in the press box at Yankee Stadium and watched a rookie named Jim Thome hit his first home run in the major leagues? The answer, of course, is yes, and I thought a lot about that when he slugged two balls over the left field fence to bring his career total to 600.
Back on Oct. 4, 1991, Thome made his very first big-league homer memorable. It was a two-run shot in the top of the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium off righthander Steve Farr and wiped out a 2-1 Yankees lead and pushed the Indians toward a 3-2 victory before a meager crowd of 14,627. Farr, then the Yankees closer (he was 5-5 with 23 saves that year), entered the game with one out and a runner on first base in relief of lefthander Lee Guetterman.
Despite the fact that Thome was a left-handed batter, Yankees manager Stump Merrill brought in Farr because he preferred the gutsy veteran against the raw kid. Over the years, the Yankees would see a lot of Thome’s swing. He has hit 26 home runs in his career against the Yankees, plus another four against them in the 1998 American League Championship Series.
I was supposed to meet up with Thome in the winter of 2008 when he was scheduled to go to Cooperstown, N.Y., to present the ball he hit during the 2007 season for his 500th home run to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. I had been assigned to cover the event, but it was twice canceled because of blizzards. I think he finally got to the Hall on an off-day during the season, but I was off covering something else.
Thome is only the eighth player in history to reach 600 home runs in a career. This is a special group that also has Barry Bonds, Henry Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Junior Griffey, Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa.
A-Rod, who is on an injury-rehabilitation assignment at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, probably summed up the consensus opinion about the latest member of the 600 Club by saying, “Jim is one of the easiest players of our generation to root for. It’s hard to overshadow 600 home runs, because it is a tremendous accomplishment and an exclamation point on a career bound for the Hall of Fame. But to me, the way he has treated the game – and the people in and around it – will always be the first thing that I think of when I think of Jim Thome. In so many ways, he is a legend of our game.”
Move over, Craig Biggio, and make room for Derek Jeter.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Earlier, I wrote the same lede for a blog when Jeet cracked a home run for his 3,000th hit, matching Hall of Famer Wade Boggs as the only players to do that. Well, Biggio had been the only player to get his 3,000th hit in a five-hit game, and now he is not alone with that distinction.
That was the sort of day Jeter had Saturday at Yankee Stadium. He will have no problem years from now remembering July 9, 2011 because it was one of the best games of his career. One thing everyone agrees about Jeter is that he is all about winning, so the most satisfying of the quintet of hits he had was the single through a drawn-in infield in the eighth inning that scored Eduardo Nunez with the deciding run of a 5-4 victory over the Rays. If DJ had not been thrown out at second base trying to steal for the third out of the inning, it would have been a perfect day.
As it was, the day was magnificent for the Captain. It could not have been much better. A homer for 3-ding-ding, a threat for the cycle, the first five-hit game at the current Stadium all adding up to a Yankees victory. Type a script of this and send it to a Hollywood producer, and it would be torn up with the executive saying, “Now give me something plausible!”
“You don’t need a script,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s already movie-ready.”
“I wouldn’t even believe it,” Jeter said.
Yet it all happened in real life, not a movie. Jeter provided so many highlights in the past at the old Stadium and is doing the same at the new Stadium. The 2009 World Series was a starter, and Saturday was a continuation.
“This has to be number one, the first one to do it for the New York Yankees,” Mariano Rivera said. “When you think that [Babe] Ruth and [Yogi] Berra and [Joe] DiMaggio and [Mickey] Mantle did not do it, all Hall of Famers. I hope he has another one or two thousand more.”
Said Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, “Derek has always played with a relentless, team-first attitude. And that mind-set has helped sustain this organization’s objective of fielding championship-caliber teams year after year. It’s only fitting that he reach 3,000 hits during a victory against one of our American League rivals. Today we celebrate a remarkable individual achievement by one of the game’s greatest ambassadors. On behalf of the entire New York Yankees family, we congratulate Derek on his historic accomplishment.”
A crowd of 48,103 has an indelible memory to cling to, especially a guy from upstate New York named Christian Lopez, who got his hands on the 3,000th-hit home run and didn’t let go of the ball until he handed it to Jeter after the game.
“He actually took it away from his girlfriend, so he has some making up to do,” Jeter said.
After Jeter singled in the first inning, the anticipation so intensified that the dugout became over-populated. It seemed Girardi that everyone on the field level of the Stadium was in the dugout.
“It was like when we had one out to go in the 2009 World Series,” Girardi said. “The dugout was packed. He really knows how to do it, a big-time guy in the big moment.”
Waiting for Jeter as he crossed the plate was close buddy Jorge Posada, the first to hug the 28th member of baseball’s 3,000 Hit Club.
“It was very spontaneous,” Posada said. “I told him I was proud of him. I was so happy for him that I got emotional. He looks forward to things like this. There is nobody better in the clutch. You guys saw that in post-season play.”
“The best thing is how he prepares himself day in and day out,” said Rivera, who was able to chalk up his 22nd save by pitching a 1-2-3 ninth after Jeter’s eighth-inning single put the Yankees back into the lead. “To be honest, I was expecting a triple.”
That was the hit Jeter needed for the cycle. He had doubled in the fifth. To Jeter, the best part of the fifth hit was the RBI attached to it.
“It would have been awful to be out there on the field after the game being interviewed and waving to the crowd if we had lost,” Jeter said.
The Captain opened up a bit after the game, admitting that his answers to questions leading up to 3,000 hits were not entirely truthful, particularly those with regard to the pressure he felt about getting the milestone hit at Yankee Stadium.
“I have been lying to you, saying there was no pressure, but I felt a lot of pressure trying to do it here,” Jeter told reporters. “It would not have felt right if it happened somewhere else. I’m pretty happy the way it went.”
Jeter also said he changed his approach at the plate somewhat since coming off the disabled list earlier this week and was not as patient. He walked one time in five games. Jeter battled Rays lefthander David Price in the first inning running the count to 3-2 before hitting a single off a 95-mph fastball.
“He could have thrown the ball in the dugout, and I’d have swung at it,” Jeter said.
Price tried something different in the third when the count to Jeter again went to 3-2. He threw a curve that Jeter drove into baseball history. Price, the runner-up for the AL Cy Young Award in 2010, is a very quality pitcher to have given up a 3,000th hit. Only one player, Dave Winfield, Jeter’s favorite growing up, got his 3,000th off a future Hall of Famer, Dennis Eckerlsey, in 1993. The only Cy Young Award winner other than Eck to give up a 3,000th career hit was Frank Viola, to Rod Carew in 1985.
“I knew [left fielder Matt Joyce] wasn’t going to catch it,” Jeter said, “but I didn’t think it was going out. To be honest, I was relieved.”
DJ said he had never envisioned what the 3,000th hit would be and that “I didn’t care as long as [a fielder] didn’t catch it. I just didn’t want it to be a slow roller that they would replay forever.”
Knowing Jeter, he would like that game-winner in the eighth to be replayed alongside No. 3,000.
I have come full cycle with Old Timers Day, one of the great traditions at Yankee Stadium where it all began with a day to honor Babe Ruth in 1947. The first one I attended was in the late 1950s and getting to see Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, Lefty Gomez, Tommy Henrich, Red Ruffing and other stars of my parents’ generation’s youth. My father was actually a Giants fan when they still played in New York, but my mother’s family was all Yankees fans.
When I started covering the Yankees in the 1980’s, Old Timers’ Day was a favorite because I would not only get to see the Yankees stars of my youth such as Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Hank Bauer and Moose Skowron but also to talk to them. Bauer was one of the best interviews ever; blunt, outspoken, colorful.
One of my favorite stories came from Bauer’s old platoon partner, Gene Woodling. (Bauer, by the way, was not crazy about Casey Stengel, who platooned him early on in the outfield before he became the regular right fielder.)
Back to Woodling; he talked of a time when players were so worried about keeping their jobs that he played for about a week with a broken bone in his heel. It swelled so much, Woodling said, that he cut out the back of his cleat and spread black shoe polish on the heel so no one would notice and stayed in the lineup. Finally, Dickey, the Hall of Fame catcher who was then Casey’s first base coach, saw Woodling’s shoe with the big hole in it in his locker and told him that he needed treatment.
Think of something like that happened today when disabled lists are almost as big as rosters!
At Sunday’s Old Timers’ Day, I was reminded of the passage of time when I encountered so many players whom I covered when they broke into the majors – Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and David Cone in my years on the Mets and Bernie Williams, Pat Kelly and Kevin Maas during my time with the Yankees. I had them as rookies, and now they’re Old Timers, so what does that make me.
Don’t answer that.
This was Bernie’s first Old Timer’s Day, and he was one of the big hits of the afternoon. He got a rousing ovation from the crowd during the introduction ceremonies. Fans were on their feet again when he doubled to the warning track in left-center in the two-inning Old Timers’ game. Then the Stadium really exploded when Bernie’s old teammate, Tino Martinez, popped a two-run home run to right off Cone, another old teammate.
I teased Bernie around the batting cage before the game after he had told writers that he still did not consider himself retired. “But I think that’s closer now,” he said.
I told him that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America was in the process of putting together the 2012 Hall of Fame ballot that will go out to voters in December, and that he would be on it; in other words, like it or not, Bernie, you’re retired.
He was asked during the press conference what his favorite memory from his playing career was. Williams could not limit it to just one and gave a very thoughtful answer.
“I would say that three things stick out – winning our first World Series championship in 1996, winning the batting title in 1999 and being on the field before the last game at the old Stadium,” he said. “I got announced after Yogi, which was pretty cool.”
Bernie officially joined the pantheon of Yankees legends Sunday, and he sounded proud of it.
“It’s a really big thing for me,” he said. “If you take the word ‘old,’ I think I’d be a little uncomfortable with it. But when I was playing, I looked forward to these days. To me, it was a reminder of the fact that we’re part of a family that has been going on for 100 years, and thinking I was part of something that was bigger than myself. And now I’m on the other side, being in the same situation, so it’s good. It’s great. I’m just really proud of this organization. When I chose to stay and have my whole career as a Yankee, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.”
Also back for the first Old Timers’ Day appearance were former managers Lou Piniella and Joe Torre. “Sweet Lou,” who served the Yankees in nearly every category there is (players, coach, manager, general manager, broadcaster) put on the pinstripes for the first time since 1988. He had been busy elsewhere after that, winning a World Series with the Reds in 1990 and helping to build the Mariners into a viable franchise.
The pinstripes looked good on Torre, too, even while wearing a sling after recently undergoing right rotator cuff surgery. The man who won six American League pennants, four World Series and had the Yankee in post-season play all 12 of his seasons as manager had been invited before but was unable to attend because he was managing the Dodgers. Joe is now vice president for baseball operations in the commissioner’s office, but it is not really a desk job as he gets to spend a lot of time in ballparks.
With Jack McKeon (Marlins) and Davey Johnson (Nationals) back in big-league dugouts, I was curious if that gave either Lou or Joe the itch to return.
“There comes a time when you have to walk away, and I knew last year was that time for me,” Piniella said. “It was the same when I was a player. I was never one who wanted another at bat.”
“I was shopping with my wife recently,” Torre said, “and she told me how strange it was that here we were in the middle of a baseball season together and I wasn’t stressed out. I don’t miss all that stress.”
Both proudly wore rings linking them to their Yankees careers – Lou the World Series ring of 1977 and Joe of 1996. Those were the first championships for each.
“You never forget the first time,” Joe said on a day at Yankee Stadium that never gets old.