Results tagged ‘ Bud Selig ’

Torre steps into immortality

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — The annual pilgrimage to baseball’s mythical birthplace never ceases in its appeal. It provides the chance to reflect on all that is good about the game as the Hall of Fame opens its doors to a new class of immortals.

And what a class in 2014! Former Yankees manager Joe Torre has more than 300 friends and relatives scattered all over this area to witness his induction Sunday alongside fellow managers Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa as well as pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, the longtime Braves teammates, and first baseman Frank Thomas, one of two players with that name in town.

The other Frank Thomas, who was with the original Mets of 1962, is also here signing autographs on Main Street with Hall of Famers and non-Hall of Famers like Darryl Strawberry and Pete Rose. Also John Rocker, although I must say I have no idea why anyone would want his autograph.

Torre was feted Saturday night by the Yankees and Major League Baseball at a private party in a local brewery. Commissioner Bud Selig and Yankees managing partner Hal Steinbrenner spoke glowingly of Torre’s contributions to the game and the franchise. Joe was gracious in his remarks, a sort of test run for the big speech he will on stage at the Clark Sports Center Sunday.

The city is abuzz with former Yankees here and there, including Hall of Famers Whitey Ford, Dave Winfield, Phil Niekro, Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson and Goose Gossage. (Yogi Berra, not feeling well after a recent fall, canceled at the last minute. His boyhood friend from St. Louis, Joe Garagiola, also could not travel here to accept his Buck O’Neill Award Saturday at Doubleday Field but sent a taped message.)

Others here to witness Joe’s induction include actor-comedian Billy Crystal, Yanks chief operating officer Lonn Trost, Gene Michael, Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry, Lee Mazzilli and others. Among the Hall of Famers who have longstanding relationships with Torre are Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax, plus Tim McCarver, last year’s Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting.

This year’s Frick Award winner, Eric Nadel, the Brooklyn-born Texas Rangers radio voice, gave a lusty speech at Saturday’s ceremony. There was also a wonderful acceptance speech by New Yorker magazine’s ageless (93 actually) Roger Angell, this year’s J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner for baseball writing.

This is perfect company for Torre, whose 12 seasons at the helm of the Yankees continued the franchise’s connection with success. He turned around the attitudes of many a Yankees hater from 1996 through 2007. His ascension into the Hall’s gallery is long overdue.

Just another All-Star Game for Jeter

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MINNEAPOLIS — It was typical of Derek Jeter to take a matter-of-fact approach to the 2014 All-Star Game at Target Field and not place any special significance of his last go-round among the top players of the game.

The FOX network that is broadcasting Tuesday night’s event had wanted to have a microphone on Jeter to record his throughs during the game. You know his answer to that, an emphatic no. Yankees fans would have been proud of Jeter’s appearance at Monday’s media session at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. While most players were dressed casually, there was Jeter in a power blue suit complete with tie. Classy, as usual.

“I don’t go into things with expectations,” Jeter told reporters. “I’m looking forward to playing the game, and I pretty much stopped it right there. I’ve always enjoyed All-Star Games, and I’ve always appreciated it, so I don’t think I’ll treat this one any differently. Everybody wants me to be so emotional all of the time, but I’m coming here to play the game, and everything else that comes with it, I don’t know.”

Opposing catcher Jonathan Lucroy of the Brewers for one cannot wait to see what the reaction to Jeter will be.

“When he comes to the plate, you know he’s going to get a two-minute standing ovation,” Lucroy said. “I was telling my wife, ‘What am I going to do? It’s going to be awkward.’ I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my hands. I may drop everything and start cheering myself.”

Jeter has been pretty coy about this farewell tour stuff, not wanting teams to over-do it. He’s a different sort from Mariano Rivera, who basked in the glow of his farewell tour a year ago. Jeter just wants to go about his business. There is still baseball to play this year. He is still wearing a Yankees uniform. He is still ready to contribute on a daily basis.

I cannot believe that some writers criticized American League manager John Farrell of the Red Sox for batting Jeter leadoff in the game, claiming the Yankees captain was not deserving due to his .272 batting average. Give me a break. Have these people no sense of propriety. Jeter earned the spot not just for this season but for all 19 years that preceded it.

I would like to remind these critics that Jeter has had one of the best All-Star careers in the game’s history. He took a .440 average into Tuesday night’s game with five runs, one double, one home run and three RBI in 25 at-bats. He was the Most Valuable Player of the 2000 game at Turner Field in Atlanta when he went 3-for-3 with a double and two RBI. Later that year, he was the MVP of the Yankees’ World Series triumph over the Mets. His All-Star home run came in 2001 at Safeco Field in Seattle.

Farrell is not alone in his admiration for Jeter. Listen to what two other managers, AL coaches Ron Gardenhire of the Twins and Terry Francona of the Indians, had to say about Jeter to USA Today:

“Although he has kicked our butt a lot of times and knocked us out of the playoffs, I admire him so much,” Gardenhire said, referring to the Yankees beating the Twins, 12-2, in postseason games with Jeter at shortstop.

Added Francona, “That’s the single high point of being here, to watch him in person. I am thrilled. He represents what is good about this game.”

Chiming in was National League shortstop Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies: “He’s everything I always wanted to be. He’s why I play shortstop. He’s why I wear No. 2. And to be starting across the side opposite side of him in his final All-Star Game will definitely be cool.”

It was also typical of Jeter when asked his favorite All-Star moment not to pick a game in which he starred. He picked the 1999 game at Fenway Park in Boston when he was 0-for-1. What made it special to Jeter was that the All-Century Team was honored before the game.

“All those great players on the field, and I get a tap on my shoulder,” Jeter recalled. “It’s Hank Aaron. He said he was looking for me because he wanted to meet me. He wants to meet me? That’s one of the best moments on the baseball field that stands out for me.”

In the same vein, commissioner Bud Selig commented on Jeter during his annual question-and-answer session at the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s All-Star meeting at the Marriott City Center Hotel.

“If you said two decades ago that this is the guy you wanted to be the face of baseball and being what this generation will remember, you couldn’t have written a script better,” Selig said. “I said to a friend of mine last night talking about Henry Aaron, ‘How lucky can you be to have an American icon like Henry Aaron?’ How lucky can this sport be to have an icon for this generation like Derek Jeter? He has just been remarkable.”

AL reliever award to be named after Rivera

Mariano Rivera’s legacy received some more added cache Wednesday with the announcement by Major League Baseball that from now on the American League Relief Pitcher of the Year Award will be named after him. The corresponding award in the National League will be named after Trevor Hoffman, who was the first reliever to reach the 600-save plateau and whose record of 601 Mo obliterated by running the number to 652.

The new award replaces the Delivery Man of the Year Award that was presented to one reliever every year instead of one in each league as was done previously with the Rolaids Fireman of the Year Award. Rivera won the Delivery Man of the Year Award three times and the Fireman of the Year Award five times. Hoffman was a two-time Rolaids Award winner.

Those awards were based strictly on statistics. The Rivera and Hoffman Awards will be a vote of nine former relief artists. In addition to Rivera and Hoffman, the other committee members will be Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage as well as former closers Lee Smith, John Franco and Billy Wagner.

The committee members may vote up to three pitchers in order of preference with a tabulation system awarding five points for first place, three for second and one for third, similar to that of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year Awards.

Other MLB awards named after former players include the Henry Aaron Award for offensive performance and the Edgar Martinez Award for the top designated hitter in the AL. The BBWAA’s Most Valuable Player Award trophy is named for former commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. The writers’ pitching award is named for Cy Young.

“Both Mariano and Trevor represented our sport magnificently on and off the mound and earned the universal respect of our fans in their legendary careers,” commissioner Bud Selig said. “I believe it is important to redefine an existing award in honor of their contributions to baseball, and I am delighted that many of the most respected relievers decorated relievers in history will select the winners.”

2013 All-Star ballot released

Major League Baseball marked the official start of All-Star balloting today for the 84th All-Star Game that will be held Tuesday, July 16, at Citi Field.

Yankees fans might have to make sure of write-in votes to help some of the players make it onto the team. The ballot does not include catcher Francisco Cervelli or outfielder Vernon Wells, for example. Chris Stewart is listed as the Yankees’ catcher, and the three outfielders on the ballot are Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Ichiro Suzuki. Granderson has yet to play a game. Nor have first baseman Mark Teixeira or shortstop Derek Jeter. All had been expected back in May, which is why they were named to the ballot.

Jeter’s case has changed, obviously, with another break in his surgical left ankle that will keep him out of action until after the All-Star break. Alex Rodriguez, recovering from hip surgery, was never expected to play before the All-Star break, so Kevin Youkilis is listed as the Yankees’ third baseman. Also on the ballot are second baseman Robinson Cano and designated hitter Travis Hafner.

MLB’s All-Star balloting program is the largest of its kind in professional sports. Last year, more than 40.2 million ballots were cast, which was a record. This year, more than 20 million Firestone All-Star ballots will be distributed at the 30 major-league ballparks, each of which will have 25 dates for balloting, and in approximately 100 minor-league parks.

Fans may also cast votes for starters 25 times exclusively at MLB.com and all 30 club web sites, including Yankees.com. – online or via their mobile devices – with the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by freecreditscore.com.

Every major-league club will have begun its in-stadium balloting no later than Tuesday, May 7. When the in-stadium phase of balloting concludes Friday, June 28, fans will have the opportunity to cast their ballots exclusively online at MLB.com, the 30 club web sites and their mobile devices until 11:59 p.m. Thursday, July 4. Firestone is once again the exclusive sponsor of the 2013 In-Stadium All-Star balloting program. The ballot features an All-Star sweepstakes, in which a winner will be rewarded with a trip for two to MLB All-Star Week, including airfare, hotel accommodations and tickets to the All-Star Game and other MLB All-Star Week events.

“All-Star Balloting is more popular than ever, and we hope for another record-setting year in 2013,” commissioner Bud Selig said. “Major League Baseball is thrilled that fans throughout the world will continue to choose their favorite players for the greatest sporting event of the summer. We look forward to adding a new chapter to the remarkable National League tradition of New York City at Citi Field this summer.”

This will mark the ninth time the All-Star Game has been in New York. The Yankees have been the host team four times in the Bronx – 1939 and the second of two games in 1960 in the original Yankee Stadium and 1977 and 2008 in the renovated Stadium. The game was also in Manhattan twice when the Giants were the host team at the Polo Grounds – 1934 and 1942 – and once each in Brooklyn when the Dodgers were the host team at Ebbets Field in 1949 and in Queens when the Mets were the host team at Shea Stadium in its inaugural season of 1964.

For the fifth consecutive year, this year’s ballot will feature the Home Run Derby Fan Poll. Fans will get to select three players in each league who they would most like to see participate in the Home Run Derby. The Fan Poll also will be available online at MLB.com.

Cano, the winner of the 2011 event at Chase Field in Phoenix, is one of the 10 American League candidates, along with designated hitter Adam Dunn of the White Sox; first baseman Prince Fielder of the Tigers; third basemen Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers, Evan Longoria of the Rays and Adrian Beltre of the Rangers; and outfielders Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays, Adam Jones of the Orioles and Josh Hamilton and Mike Trout of the Angels.

The 10 National League candidates are catcher Buster Posey of the Giants; first baseman Joey Votto of the Reds; third baseman David Wright of the Mets; and outfielders Carlos Beltran of the Cardinals, Ryan Braun of the Brewers, Bryce Harper of the Nationals, Jason Heyward of the Braves, Matt Kemp of the Dodgers, Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates and Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins.

The AL and NL All-Star teams will be unveiled Sunday, July 7, on the 2013 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Taco Bell, televised nationally on TBS. The AL All-Star Team will have nine elected starters via the fan balloting program, while the NL All-Star Team will have eight. The pitchers and reserves for both squads – totaling 25 for the N.L. and 24 for the A.L. – will be determined through a combination of “Player Ballot” choices and selections made by the two All-Star managers – the AL’s Jim Leyland of the Tigers and the NL’s Bruce Bochy of the Giants.

Immediately following the announcement of the rosters, fans will begin voting to select the final player for each league’s 34-man roster via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote Sponsored by freecreditscore.com. Fans will cast their votes from a list of five players from each league over a four-day period and the winners will be announced after the voting concludes Thursday, July 11. Now in its 12th season with more than 350 million votes cast, fans again will be able to make their Final Vote selections on MLB.com, club sites and their mobile phones.

This year’s final phase of All-Star Game voting again will have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the game, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com and the 30 club sites via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their collective voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining this year’s recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.

Sandy Hook tragedy to be remembered Opening Day

The Yankees and the Red Sox, legendary rivals, will stand together Opening Day in dedicating the April 1 game at Yankee Stadium to victims of the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, their families and the greater community of Newtown, Conn.

Pregame ceremonies will feature joint honor guards of Newtown police and firefighters, along with a moment of silence, during which a list of the Sandy Hook victims’ names will be recognized on the center-field video board.

Yankees and Red Sox players will wear a special ribbon on their uniforms for Opening Day to honor those lost and those affected by the tragedy. This ribbon will also be prominently painted on the field in front of both dugouts.

To show Major League Baseball’s solidarity in remembering the victims, their families and the greater community of Newtown, commissioner Bud Selig has asked the 28 other teams to follow suit in wearing the ribbon during their respective Opening Day games.

The Yankees have also invited approximately 3,000 children, families and members of Newtown to celebrate summer recess Sunday, July 7, by attending the Yankees’ 1:05 p.m. game that day against the Orioles. The Yankees have proclaimed the date “Newtown Day at Yankee Stadium” at a time of year after the school calendar is complete that allows for the greatest number of children and families to be able to attend.

“On Opening Day, we will reflect upon more important things and play the game to honor the community of Newtown,” Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said. “Since the day of the tragedy, our hearts and thoughts have been with those who were affected. We hope that bringing the families of Newtown together at Yankee Stadium later in the summer will give the community an opportunity to create new memories and aid in the difficult process of moving forward.”

Added Red Sox principal owner John Henry, “Months have passed, yet we are still trying to come to grips with this incomprehensible tragedy. “As our teams look to face each other on Opening Day, we will stand united in support of the families affected as we remember and honor those who were lost.”

“The Yankees organization has supported our community in several ways since the tragic events of December 14,” said Pat Llodra, First Selectman, Town of Newtown. “Their generosity and compassion during this difficult time means a lot to all of us. We also would like to thank Commissioner Selig, the Red Sox and Major League Baseball for this meaningful tribute to our community.”

Commissioner, union boss support Cano

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Commissioner Bud Selig and Michael Weiner, executive director of the Major League Players Association, were in complete agreement on one issue Tuesday. Both executives felt that fans here overdid it in their persistent booing of Robinson Cano during Monday night’s Home Run Derby at Kauffman Stadium.

Cano was taken to task by local fans for not including Billy Butler, the Royals’ representative on the American League squad, for the AL’s quartet in the Home Run Derby. Cano is captain of the AL team and Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp for the National League. Cano was booed whenever his face appeared on the video board and throughout his at-bat in the first round when he failed to hit a home run.

“I felt badly about Robinson Cano,” Selig said. “He picked the people he thought were deserving and did a good job. I really felt bad for him.”

“I don’t think anyone could quarrel with the players he took,” Weiner said. “They had the three most home runs in the competition.”

Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder won the event. Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista and Angels outfielder Mark Trumbo had the second and third highest totals, respectively. Even with Cano getting shut out, the AL out-homered the NL, 61-21.

Selig and Weiner spoke at the annual All-Star Game meeting of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America at the Kansas City Marriott County Club Plaza Hotel on a variety of topics on which they did not always agree except for the Cano situation.

Cano was not criticized by Butler, who said he did not fault the Yankees second baseman nor did he feel snubbed. KC fans, on the other hand, took it personally. Cano said he understood why the fans were upset and that part of being a Yankee is to get used to being booed on the road.

What fans here did not realize is that Cano had to name the Home Run Derby team before the AL squad was complete. Cano, Fielder and Bautista were voted into the starting lineup in the fans’ ballot, and Cano was told by a league official that Trumbo would be on the team. Butler was not named to the team until several days after Cano had to submit his list. He had inquired about two other stars, Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton and Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, but both declined to participate.

“Fans have the right to express their opinion,” Weiner said, “but it seemed to me that it was more than the traditional booing.”

ESPN, which cablecast the event, did not help matters, either. Cameras were focused on Cano for what seemed an inordinate amount of time, almost as if the network encouraged fans to boo him.

Bill “Moose” Skowron, 81

Bill “Moose” Skowron, an integral part of the Yankees’ dynasty of the 1950s and ‘60s, died Friday of congestive heart failure and lung cancer at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, Ill. He was 81.

Skowron, a power-hitting first baseman, played in eight World Series and was on eight All-Star squads in a 14-season career, nine with the Yankees on teams that won seven pennants and four World Series. He won an eighth pennant and fifth World Series with the Dodgers in 1963 at the expense of the Yankees.

Skowron is survived by his wife, Lorraine (known as Cookie), daughter Lynnette, sons Greg and Steve, granddaughter Addyson and grandsons Jordan, Grant and Blake. A moment of silence was observed at Yankee Stadium before Friday night’s Yankees-Tigers game.

Skowron was one of those right-handed sluggers whose power was compromised by the famous Death Valley of left-center field at the original Yankee Stadium that peaked at 467 feet. Only 60 of his 211 career home runs were hit at the Stadium, and many of those were to right field.

“Moose was my roommate for a while, and we were friends for so long,” said former pitcher Bob Turley, the Cy Young Award winner in 1958. “He was a good guy, and people loved him. Moose could really hit the baseball – especially home runs to right field – and he was a good first baseman. I was glad Moose was on my team because he always wanted to win.”

“Moose will always be remembered as being one of the key members of the Yankees’ dynasties in the ‘50s and early ‘60s,” Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said. “He was a winner in every sense of the word, and someone the Yankees family cared deeply for. Baseball lost one of its finest ambassadors, and on behalf of the entire organization, I extend my deepest sympathies to his wife, Cookie, and his entire family.”

Although he also played for the Dodgers, Senators, White Sox and Angels, Skowron considered himself a lifelong Yankee and was a regular returnee on Old Timers’ Days. The Chicago native worked in the White Sox’ community relations department the past 14 seasons and was at U.S. Cellular Field whenever the Yankees were in town.

“I got to know Moose really well,” Derek Jeter said. “Moose was one of the guys you always looked forward to seeing. Whether it was here, Old Timers Day, in Chicago, he used to always come out when we played in Chicago. I enjoyed getting to know him throughout the years. He always had positive things to say. He would always come over and comment on how you are playing or how things will turn around. He was just always positive.”

“I am saddened by the loss of Moose Skowron, a great baseball man who was an integral part of the wonderful Yankee teams of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris,” commissioner Bud Selig said. “As a Milwaukee Braves fan, I will always remember his two-out, three-run homer in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the 1958 World Series. Moose, a Chicago native who was an All-Star for the White Sox in 1965, continued to contribute to our game as a member of the front office of his hometown team since 1999. He was a wonderful storyteller and an important link to a great era in baseball history. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I send my deepest condolences to Moose’s wife Cookie, their children, their grandchildren and his many fans.”

“We all have lost a dear, dear friend today,” White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said. “While Moose may have become a star in New York with the Yankees, he was a Chicagoan through and through. I certainly will miss his priceless stories about Casey Stengel, Roger Maris, Hank Bauer and of course, his good friend, Mickey Mantle. My guess is that right now Mickey, Roger, Hank and Moose are enjoying a good laugh together.”

William Joseph Skowron was the son of a Chicago sanitation worker. Although a former football player who won a scholarship to Purdue, Skowron’s nickname was not based on his powerful, 5-foot-11, 195-pound frame. While in grade school, his grandfather gave him a very short haircut, and his classmates thought it made him resemble the Italian dictator, Benito Mussilini, or “Moose” for short.

Skowron also played baseball at Purdue where his coach was Hank Stram, who later went on to fame as the head coach of the NFL Kansas City Chiefs. Moose chucked football for baseball in 1951 when the Yankees offered him a $25,000 contract. He could hit but was not as adept with a glove. A poor outfielder, Skowron was converted to first base, a position he shared in a platoon with left-handed Joe Collins when he reached the majors in 1954.

The home run Commissioner Selig mentioned was one of three Skowron hit in World Series Games 7. The others were in 1956, a grand slam, against the Dodgers, and in 1960 against the Pirates. A .282 career hitter with 888 runs batted in, Moose hit .293 with 4 doubles, 1 triple, 8 home runs and 29 RBI in 39 games and 133 at-bats in World Series play. In All-Star play, he had 6-for-14 (.429) with a double.

He was one of six Yankees players who hit more than 20 home runs for the 1961 team that had a then-record 240, topped by Maris’ 61 and Mantle’s 54. Moose, the third “M,” had 28. Yogi Berra, Elston Howard and Johnny Blanchard also topped the 20-homer plateau. But Moose’s best overall season was probably the previous year, 1960, when he hit .309 with 26 home runs and career-high totals in doubles (34) and RBI (91).

“There weren’t many better guys than Moose,” Yogi said. “He was a dear friend and a great team man. A darn good ballplayer, too. ‘I’m going to miss him.”

To clear space at first base for Joe Pepitone, the Yankees traded Skowron to the Dodgers after the 1962 season for pitcher Stan Williams. Moose came back to haunt the Yankees as he hit .385 with a homer and three RBI in the Dodgers’ sweep of the Yanks in the 1963 World Series.

“Moose was a Yankee all the way,” said former pitcher Ralph Terry, the 1962 World Series Most Valuable Player. “He was a true professional who always worked hard and took the game as serious business. I am proud to have been able to call him a good friend. I remember during spring training when I was 18, he took me for my first pizza.”

Terry won Game 7 of the ’62 World Series, 1-0, over the Giants. No, Moose did not hit a home run in that game, but he did score the only run. He was in the middle of the action a lot in those days.

Swish takes to the charts

Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher will take his swings behind a microphone with the release next week of a 12-song CD geared to children entitled “Believe,” through digital outlets. A portion of the proceeds will go to Swish’s Wishes, the outfielder’s charitable foundation that is dedicated to enriching lives and lifting the spirits of children facing vital health issues.

“I had an absolute blast working on this project, but I couldn’t have done it without having a true pro as my producer, Loren Harriet,” Swisher said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for all of the talented artists and musicians that performed on this album, but most of all I want to thank the kids. They sound amazing, and I’m honored just to have been given this opportunity.”

Harriet was the producer of two critically acclaimed albums by former Yankees center fielder and Latin Grammy Award nominee Bernie Williams, who will play guitar on Swisher’s album along with Giants pitcher Barry Zito, who was Nick’s teammate in Oakland from 2004-06.

The title song, which is the 12th cut on the album, will feature several other prominent musicians: drummer Kenny Aronoff (who has accompanied John Mellencamp and Melissa Etheridge), bassist Leland Sklar (James Taylor, Phil Collins), guitarist Tim Pierce (Goo Goo Dolls, Michael Jackson) and keyboardist Matt Rollings (Tim McGraw, Lyle Lovett).

In addition, a group of talented youngsters ages 8-13 sing backup vocals on each song. Included are kids from the nationally acclaimed music education franchise, “School Of Rock,” as well as Natalie Prieb, 13, granddaughter of commissioner Bud Selig.

The track list selected by Swisher includes such tunes as David Bowie’s “Heroes,” Bill Winters’ “Lean On Me,” the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends,” Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People,” Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary,” Three Dog Night’s “Joy To The World,” the Rolling Stones’ “Jumping Jack Flash” and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “I Won’t Back Down.”

Of personal interest to Swisher are two other favorites: John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” a tribute to his hometown of Parkersburg, W. Va., and the McCoys’ “Hang On Sloopy,” a nod to his alma mater, Ohio State University.

Commissioner comes to Jeter’s defense

PHOENIX – Derek Jeter’s name has been bandied about quit a quite a bit at the All-Star Game, and it has not always been flattering. Several team officials and a few players have commented that Jeter should have come here for the game even if he did not intend to play. The situation got to the point that commissioner Bud Selig felt it was necessary for him to nip it in the, well, bud.

The commish made his annual appearance at the Baseball Writers’ Association of America meeting Tuesday afternoon at the Sheraton Phoenix Hotel for a question-and-answer session with the writers and addressed the controversy surrounding Jeter, who decided not to come here so that he could use the time to rest his right calf to be ready for the second half.

“There isn’t a player than I’m more proud of in the last 15 years than Derek Jeter,” Selig said before taking questions. “He has played the game like it should be played. He is even a better human being off the field than he is a great player on the field. I know why Derek Jeter isn’t here, and I respect that. I think I would have made the same decision Derek Jeter did.

“He has brought to this sport great pride. He has been a role model. He has earned it, and he keeps earning it. Any suggestion that I or anybody else around here is unhappy with him not being here is false. I am proud of what he has done. I told him that Saturday when I spoke with him on the phone [after getting his 3,000th hit], and I have told him that quite often.”

Sitting at the front table while Selig spoke was the vice president of baseball operations, a fellow named Joe Torre, who was Jeter’s first manager with the Yankees, and nodded with approval at the commissioner’s every sentence.

I was glad to hear Bud go on the record about this matter because some of the talk the day before during the workouts was a bit nasty. More than one player suggested that Jeter was not grateful to the fans for voting him into the American League starting lineup when he didn’t really deserve it. For all we know, DJ’s choice not to play could have been one way to assure that the Indians’ Asdrubal Cabrera got to start the game.

There is nothing new about players passing up the All-Star Game for health reasons. I have been around Derek Jeter for 16 years and know how much he enjoys going to the All-Star Game and all the festivities around it. He has always considered his Most Valuable Player Award from the 2000 game at Turner Field in Atlanta one of the top moments of his career (although not as much as his World Series MVP the same year in the Yankees’ triumph over the Mets).

Jeter just got over a three-week recovery period from a strained calf muscle. He is 37, not 27, and has been under a ton of pressure to get over the 3,000-hit hump at Yankee Stadium rather than disappoint his fans by reaching the milestone on the road. This was all pretty draining, so cut him some slack. DJ would rather sit out a game that doesn’t count in the standings than not be as close to 100 percent as possible in a Yankees regular-season game.

One player here told me one of the reasons some players were sniping at Jeter is because they wanted to get autographs themselves from the newest member of the 3,000 Hit Club. At All-Star Games, players are signing all kinds of things, from baseballs to pictures to gloves to bats, you name it. There are quite a few items that are signed by every player on a league roster, which are a lot more valuable if a player who just reached 3,000 career hits is on there.

An All-Star who summed up the situation best was White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, who said, “I promise you his injury is not 100 percent. Nobody ever comes back from an injury in the middle of the season at 100 percent. It’s never gone. So he’s playing with it, I guarantee you that. It is one of those things where I understand people voted him in and wanted to see him, but if there is any guy in the game who bought a rain check for one of these, he’s the one. Let’s move on and not make such a big deal about it.”

And believe it or not, Yankees fans, another of the Captain’s major supporters was Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz. “If he’s not here, there’s a good reason for it,” Big Papi said.

I wrote the other day that what Jeter and Mariano Rivera and Alex Rodriguez were doing by not coming to the All-Star Game while nursing ailments was justified. As for coming out here just to wave to the fans, well, that would have been nice (except for A-Rod, who would have to leave a hospital bed), but what would be the point?

In an indirect way, Mo’s decision allowed AL manager Ron Washington of the Rangers to make an All-Star of David Robertson, which was fitting. A lot of the people who were criticizing Jeter had no explanation for why CC Sabathia was not an obvious choice for the AL staff based on his pitching in the first half. You can’t have it both ways, guys.

Yanks win one for Geno

At the risk of sounding corny, the Yankees just could not lose Sunday. What a downer that would have been on one of the best Old Timers’ Day celebrations in the 65-year history of this classic event.

And yet for a while it looked like a loss was definitely possible. Rockies starting pitcher Juan Nicasio was perfect through 13 batters making a 3-0 lead seem insurmountable. Then two of the current Yankees who seemed to enjoy the Old Timers’ Day festivities more than most got the Yankees back into the game with back-to-back home runs in the fifth inning to tie the score.

“We couldn’t let Tino have the only homer of the day for us,” Nick Swisher said, referring to the two-run shot Martinez had off David Cone in the two-inning Old Timers’ exhibition.

Swisher followed a single by Robinson Cano drilling a 3-1 fastball to right field for his ninth home run and was still shaking hands in the dugout when Jorge Posada went yard for his eighth on a 1-2 heater. Suddenly, the game was tied.

“We didn’t want to let the Old Timers down,” Swish added.

The second of two home runs by Ty Wigginton returned the lead to Colorado in the sixth, but Alex Rodriguez singled in a run to extend his streak of RBI games to six in the bottom half to knot the score again.

As Derek Jeter, absent on his 37th birthday while rehabilitating his strained right calf in Tampa, Fla., likes to tell new Yankees, “Wait for the ghosts to come out around here.”

How else to explain that Troy Tulowitzki, at Jeter’s shortstop position and wearing DJ’s No. 2 for Colorado, misplayed a grounder by Russell Martin for an error (only his fourth in 75 games) that led directly to the go-ahead run in the seventh on a single by, yep, Jeter’s backup shortstop, Eduardo Nunez?

Swisher, Posada and Mariano Rivera, who struck out the side in the ninth for his 20th save, had been particularly active during the Old Timers’ Day celebration, which got especially emotional with the tribute to Gene Monahan, who is beloved by the players he has kept on the field for 49 years as the Yankees’ athletic trainer.

Geno, as he is known, is a shy man who is uncomfortable in the spotlight, but since announcing that this would be his last season the Yankees have endeavored to let their fans know just how important he has been over the years to the organization. And what better day to do so than the annual reunion of Yankees players from seasons past.

“It was a great day,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who put the perfect end to the afternoon by calling on the current squad’s old timer, Rivera.

“We were teasing Mo during the ceremony that he should come out there with us,” Girardi said.

The looks on the faces of the Yankees were precious as Monahan’s grown daughters and fiancée came on to the field to hug him during the ceremony.

“That was a big surprise,” Posada said. “He didn’t know they were coming. He lost it after that. Gene probably didn’t hear half the stuff that was presented to him.”

Monahan acknowledged that later, saying, “I’m just numb and quivering and can’t feel my feet, if you want to know the truth.”

Okay, Gene, so here’s the list of gifts you received:

• A letter of congratulations from commissioner Bud Selig.
• The Stadium frieze from your original Yankee Stadium locker, presented by assistant trainer Steve Donohue.
• Two seats from the original Stadium, presented by Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson and Goose Gossage.
• A Thomas Kinkhade painting of the original Stadium, presented by Yankees general partner/vice chairperson Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.
• Toro TimeCutter lawn mower and a supply of Scotts products, presented by the Stadium grounds crew.
• Round-trip travel for two for a weekend in Las Vegas to see Garth Brooks and a personally autographed Stetson hat from Brooks, presented by Ron Guidry and Bernie Williams.
• Round-trip travel for two and VIP package to NASCAR Championship Weekend and an autographed NASCAR helmet from Kevin Harvick, presented by Martinez.
• Perillo Tours 15-day Alpine Wonders Tour for four, including airfare, presented by Posada and Rivera.
• 2012 Ford F-150 fully loaded Harley Davidson Edition pickup truck, presented by the 2011 Yankees team.

That was quite a haul.

Posada and Rivera also lent Geno a hand in his throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before the Old Timers’ Day game. Posada put on catcher’s gear for the first time this year and Rivera gave the trainer some tips on throwing the cutter. Monahan did not disappoint. He threw a strike.

Now how could the Yankees possibly lose on a day like that? So they didn’t.

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