Results tagged ‘ David Cone ’

Gardner needs fans’ support to make AL All-Star team

Yankees fans have an opportunity to get Brett Gardner on the American League squad for the 2015 Major League All-Star Game July 14 at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark. Gardner is one of five AL candidates on the Final Vote Ballot to pick the last player on the 34-man roster.

The competition is stiff, so Gardner is going to need your help. The other candidates are Red Sox shortstop Zander Bogaerts, Tigers left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, Twins second baseman Brian Dozier and Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas. Considering how aggressive Kansas City fans were this year in voting four of the Royals into the starting lineup, Moustakas presents a major problem to Gardner’s chances of joining Yankees teammates Dellin Betances and Mark Teixeira on the AL team.

So let’s get out the vote for Gardy. Fans may cast their votes until 4 p.m. Friday. To receive the 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote mobile ballot, text the word VOTE to 89269 (USA) or 101010 (Canada). Message and data rates may apply. Up to five messages may be received following your vote. Text STOP to opt-out at any time. For help, text HELP.

Voting is also open on Twitter on Friday, using the hashtag #VoteGardy as well. Voting is very easy at yankees.com, so please visit that site.

Gardner deserves to be an All-Star. Yankees fans can make that happen.

Betances was chosen for the AL pitching staff for the second consecutive year. He did not get to pitch in last year’s game at Target Field in Minneapolis. Teixeira was able to make the team as a backup first baseman because the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera, who was voted into the starting lineup in the fans’ balloting, is on the 15-day disabled list. The Angels’ Albert Pujols will start instead.

This year marks the first time since 1992 that a player from either New York club is not in the starting lineup. At that year’s All-Star Game in San Diego, outfielder Roberto Kelly represented the Yanks and pitcher David Cone, now an analyst on YES Network cablecasts, represented the Mets. Kelly played three innings in center field and had a two-run double in two at-bats. Cone pitched the fourth inning and retired the side in order with one strikeout. The AL won the game, 13-6.

Pitch count halts Pineda’s record chase

Michael Pineda had a chance to make history Sunday, but the pitch count police did him in. Rather than rant on like an old man about how pitchers are being babied to death these days, let me just say quickly what they can do with pitch counts. Shove ’em.

Here was Pineda using high fastballs, swirling sliders and freeze-frame changeups to embarrass one Baltimore hitter after another before a Mothers Day crowd of 39,059 at Yankee Stadium. Five of his first six outs were by strikeout. Over the fifth and sixth innings, he punched out six hitters in a row. The righthander added two more Ks in the seventh to bring his total to 16.

The fans, naturally, were loving it with their typical hand-clapping reaction to every two-strike pitch, a tradition that began at the Stadium June 17, 1978 when Ron Guidry set the franchise record with 18 strikeouts against the Angels. Pineda had a very good chance at breaking that mark or at least tying it. His pitch count, however, stood at 111. That was enough for manager Joe Girardi, who by the way was the catcher in the only other two games in which a Yankees pitcher struck out 16 batters — David Wells and David Cone, both in 1997.

So out came Pineda, depriving the crowd of an opportunity for an historic moment. Quite a few headed for the exits what with the Yankees comfortably in front at that point by five runs. The drama had exited the game with Pineda.

Girardi said he was unaware wha the club record was and that even if he did it would not have mattered. Considering how early in the season it is and that Pineda has a history of arm miseries in his brief career the call to the bullpen was the choice to make.

“Maybe if he was coming off a serious injury, it might have been a different story,” Girardi said.

A manager cannot worry about records. I get that. The idea is to win the game, which the Yankees did, 6-2, to take the series and boost their lead in the American League East to three games over second-place Tampa Bay where they will open a four-game set Monday night.

Personally, I could not help but be disappointed. When a pitcher is on the way Pineda was Sunday, one cannot help but want to see more, particularly if he is in range of a major achievement. After all, he was within four strikeouts of the all-time mark for a nine-inning game by Roger Clemens (twice) and Kerry Wood.

I was reminded of a game I watched on television one night early in the 2007 season. Jake Peavy, then with the Padres, had 16 Ks through seven innings against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix. I was all prepared to watch him go for the record when Bud Black, then in his first year as San Diego’s manager, yanked him. Black, a former pitcher, yet!

Later that year when Peavy was named the National League Cy Young Award, I chatted with him by phone as the representative of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and asked him about that game.

“I’m with you, man,” Peavy told me. “I argued like crazy to stay in the game, but Skip hit me with that ‘It’s too early in the year’ stuff.”

That game was played April 25. Sunday was May 10. But another big difference is eight years. Major League Baseball is married to the pitch count these days and challenging it only marks you as a dinosaur.

Still, there is no evidence I see that holding pitchers back protects them from arm problems. There are more pitchers on the disabled list and lining up for Tommy John surgery than every before. In his 18-strikeout game, Guidry threw 138 pitches. He went on to win the American League Cy Young Award that year, pitched for 10 more years and nearly won a second Cy in 1985 but was runner-up to the Royals’ Bret Saberhagen.

Pineda was no more aware of the record than was Girardi and made no argument to stay in the game. He must have used the word “happy” two dozen times after the game to describe how he felt. Think of how often he might have said it if he were allowed to take a shot at the Yankees’ record book.

The way Pineda was pitching it is hard to remember that he was actually behind in the score early on. He hung a 2-2 slider to J.J. Hardy, who drove it to left field for his first home run this season. That was in the second inning when Pineda also struck out the side, which he did again in the fifth. By then, the Yankees had moved in front after a four-run fourth inning against Bud Norris.

Carlos Beltran, who is starting to swing the bat better, got the Yankees even with his first home run of the year coming in his 100th at-bat. A walk to Chase Headley and singles by Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees the lead. Jacoby Ellsbury extended the advantage with a two-run double.

There was no stopping Pineda now. Fortified by more offense later on — a home run by Brian McCann in the fifth and an RBI double by Gregorius in the seventh — Pineda just proceeded to attack Orioles hitters.

“I felt great; everything was working,” Pineda said. “I was happy to do this on Mothers Day because I know my Mom was watching in the Dominican.”

She is not the only person watching. Pineda has become one of the dominant pitchers in the league with a 5-0 record and 2.72 ERA. He has stepped up big-time to help the rotation deal with the loss to injury of Masahiro Tanaka. Pineda was asked if he feels that he is now the Yankees’ ace.

“I’m not focusing on that,” he said. “I just want to keep helping this team win.”

Dellin Betances struck out one batter in the seventh and one in the eighth. It maked only the third time Yankees pitchers had 18 strikeouts in a nine-inning game. In addition to the Guidry game, they did it July 26, 2011 at Seattle.

Pineda tied Cone’s club mark for strikeouts in a game by a righthander, but I sure would have liked to see him try to go for the all-time record.

Big Unit, Pedro have fond memories of Stadium

The 2015 Hall of Fame election was one for the ages. For the first time in 60 years and for only the fourth time in the history of the voting that dates to 1936, as many as four players got the nod from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in this year’s election. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio are a classy quartet and proved so in Wednesday’s press conference at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Johnson and Martinez were particularly amusing discussing their time pitching at Yankee Stadium as opposing players. The “Big Unit,” of course, also wore the pinstripes for two seasons, although he readily admitted those were not the finest hours of his career. However, he conceded that he had a whale of a time.

“I won 34 games over those two seasons, but I didn’t pitch as well as people wanted,” Johnson said. “But to be able to sit down in the dugout and talk to Yogi Berra about the old days, to have Whitey Ford ask me to sign a jersey and then sit down and chat about pitching, what could have been better? To get to know Reggie Jackson really well and begin a long friendship, it was great. Reggie texted me [Tuesday] and said, ‘How did you get more votes than me?’ That’s Reggie.”

Johnson, who won five Cy Young Awards and was the co-Most Valuable Player of one of the most exciting World Series ever played (in 2001 for the Diamondbacks against the Yankees), has stronger memories of pitching against the Yankees than for them. He recalled the first time he was scheduled to pitch at the Stadium for the Mariners in 1992 he was followed into the park by Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver, then a Yankees broadcaster.

“I played college ball at the University of Southern California under the legendary coach Ron Dedeaux, who always referred to a player on the team as ‘Tiger,’ probably because he couldn’t remember names,” Johnson said. “So ‘Tiger’ became a sore of alumni sign. I was coming into the Stadium that day and I heard someone shout to me, ‘Tiger, Tiger.’ I knew it had to be a USC alum, and sure enough it was Tom Seaver. He wanted to know why I was carrying my own bags on a night when I was pitching. We became good friends after that. How can you not cherish such memories?”

“You were lucky,” Martinez chimed in. “You have no idea what it was like to pitch at Yankee Stadium for the Red Sox.”

Martinez was one of those Boston players Yankees fans loved to hate. The more abuse they could heap on him the better, but the diminutive righthander was never bothered by it. He eventually made New York his baseball home as well later with the Mets but saw a major difference between the two fan bases.

“I learned a lot while coming over to New York as a visitor with the Red Sox and also coming later on and dressing in the uniform of the Mets,” Martinez said. “In Queens, fans are wild, they’re happy. They settle for what they have. The Yankees fans do not. It’s ‘Win or nothing. Win or nothing.’

“Yankees fans were really good at trying to intimate you. As the opposition, they wanted to intimidate you. But deep in their heart, they appreciate baseball. They appreciate everything that you do. They recognize greatness. And they’re gonna boo you and they’re gonna call you, ‘Who’s your daddy?’ They’re going to chant until you just go away.”

I pointed out at the press conference a footnote that Martinez is the first pitcher under six feet in height to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 41 years since Whitey went in with his teammate and pal, Mickey Mantle, in 1974. I added that today Pedro stands as tall as the 6-foot-10 Johnson.

They were equals in effectiveness. Johnson’s 4,875 career strikeouts are second only to Nolan Ryan’s 5,714 and the most by any lefthander. The Unit’s five Cy Young Awards are two shy of Roger Clemens’ record, and his four in a row with Arizona from 1999-2002 matched a similar run by Greg Maddux, who was elected to the Hall last year, from 1992-95. Martinez led his league in earned run average five times and had a career 2.93 ERA, remarkable considering the era of offensive explosiveness in which he pitched.

And was there ever a pitcher in baseball who excelled equally as a starter and a reliever more than Smoltz? As a starter, he won a Cy Young Award (1996), and as a closer he won a Rolaids Relief Award (2002). He had moved to the bullpen while recovering from elbow surgery. Talk all you want about Dennis Eckersley, but he did not have the career as a starter than Smoltz did. And after three years as the Braves’ closer Smoltz returned to the Atlanta rotation and led the National League in victories in 2006.

This was a unique pitcher, and as I told John on the phone Tuesday when I notified him of his election as the BBWAA secretary-treasurer, “Unique players go to the Hall of Fame, and they go in right away.”

He told me that he was relieved and mentioned a breakfast we had together at the Stadium one Sunday last summer with David Cone and Lee Mazzilli and the talk was about the Hall of Fame. “I had just seen what that induction weekend was all about as a broadcaster for MLB Network as I watched my old buddies [Maddux and Tom Glavine] give their speeches,” Smoltz said. “I just wanted to low-key it after that and not get too caught up in it. So it’s quite a special feeling right now.”

Smoltz was courted by the Yankees as a free agent after the 2001 season, but he chose instead to stay in Atlanta. Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson took the new class of elected players to dinner Wednesday night at ‘21’ in midtown Manhattan. That is precisely the place the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner would have wined and dined Smoltz to seal a deal to come to the Bronx.

Biggio grew up on Long Island and played football and basketball at Kings Park High School in Suffolk County. He was a Yankees fan whose favorite player was Thurman Munson. Yogi was a coach with the Astros during his estrangement period from the Yankees and encouraged Houston officials to move Biggio from behind the plate to second base where his career took off.

Among his 3,060 career hits were 668 doubles, the fifth highest total in history and the most by a right-handed batter. Think of it, more than the likes of Honus Wagner, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron or Paul Molitor, now that is distinctive.

Idelson visited with Yogi in New Jersey over the past weekend, and the first words out of the legendary catcher’s mouth was, “Is my man Biggio going to make it?”

That was the day before we counted the ballots and discovered that we could tell Yogi a resounding “Yes.”

Jeter still playing despite retirement party

Gerald Williams, Cal Ripken Jr., Dave Winfield, Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter. (New York Post photo)

Gerald Williams, Cal Ripken Jr., Dave Winfield, Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter.
(New York Post photo)

Derek Jeter saved the best for last. Another ceremony at Yankee Stadium, this one to commemorate the 20-year career of the shortstop who now holds many of the legendary franchise’s records, was drawing to a close.

Microphone still in hand, Jeter began walking off the field and said into it, “We got a game to play.”

Perfect. Sure, it was nice to have his parents, his grandmother, his sister, his nephew and a slew of old teammates and pals on the field to celebrate his impending retirement. But the actual fact will not occur until the last game of the 2014 season. The Yanks had a game Sunday afternoon against a Royals team they are competing against for a post-season berth, and Jeter was in the lineup.

That is what Jeter has always been about. As his former manager, Joe Torre, said before the game, “Derek was always ready to play every day. A manager knew he could count on him.”

Torre was among those closest to Jeter back at the Stadium for the ceremonies, along with former teammates Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Mariano Rivera, David Cone, Bernie Williams, Gerald Williams, Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui and Tim Raines; Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson; former trainer Gene Monahan; MLB Network broadcaster and former infielder Harold Reynolds and commissioner-elect Rob Manfred.

The Yankees had a few surprises for DJ by trotting out Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Dave Winfield and hoops legend Michael Jordan. The Steinbrenner family presented several gifts, including a Waterford Crystal tower with Jeter’s No. 2 atop it and a check for $222,222.22 donated to his Turn2 Foundation.

“It’s hard to believe 20 seasons have gone by so quickly,” Jeter said to the sellout crowd. “I want to take a brief moment to thank the Steinbrenner family and Mr. George Steinbrenner for giving me the opportunity to play my entire career with the only organization I wanted to play for.

“I thank my family and friends for all their support through the good times and more importantly through the tough times. All my managers, coaches, trainers and teammates current and former, I have been blessed to play with the best. I would not want to compete without you guys.

“Thank you fans for helping me feel like a kid the past 20 years. I got to be the shortstop of the New York Yankees, and there is only one of those. I have loved what I have done and loved to do it in front of you. From the bottom of my heart thank you very much.”

Not much syrup, all on the mark and to the point. This is the Jeter all of us have watched and heard for two decades. What began Sunday was not just the passing of 20 years but that of an era. The Yankees’ most recent dynastic run of championships started in 1996, Jeter’s rookie season. What is harder to believe is that one of these days he will be in one of those seats for guests at Yankee Stadium events.

Throughout all those World Series triumphs from 1996 through 2009 and up to today Jeter has been the constant thread. Sunday was chosen by the Yankees to celebrate that career, but as Jeter plainly put it that career is not over yet.

As team captain, Jeter is the first to break from the dugout onto the field at the start of home games. He went into his similar trot Sunday, but when he reached his customary position at shortstop and turned around he noticed that he was the only player on the field.

His fellow starters had stayed back so that their captain could take center stage in front of the fans who have adored him all these years. Jeet then made a come-on gesture with his glove for the guys to get out there with him. Another Jeter trait: he has never believe he could do it alone. Once again, he was saying, ‘We got a game today.’ ”

Derek Jeter banner unveiled in Great Hall at Yankee Stadium

Derek Jeter banner unveiled in Great Hall at Yankee Stadium

Yankees deep-6 number for Joe Torre

At the latest number retired in Monument Park (left to right) Joe Torre’s sisters, Sister Marguerite and Rae; his son, Michael; his daughters Andrea and Lauren; his wife, Ali; Joe; Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and his wife, Christina; and Yankees general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.

At the latest number retired in Monument Park (left to right) Joe Torre’s sisters, Sister Marguerite and Rae; his son, Michael; his daughters Andrea and Lauren; his wife, Ali; Joe; Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and his wife, Christina; and Yankees general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.


And then there was one, which is actually two.

Huh?

The discussion is about uniform numbers. The Yankees retired No. 6 for Joe Torre Saturday. It occurred to the popular former manager that the shortstop he brought to the major leagues and nurtured through his early career has another distinction besides being the Yankees’ all-time leader in games played and hits.

Looking into the dugout where Derek Jeter was leaning against the railing from the top step, Torre said to the sellout crowd of 47,594 in the pregame ceremony, “There’s one single digit left out there.”

That would be Jeter’s No. 2, the only single digit not yet retired by the Yankees but definitely will be at some point, perhaps as early as next year following his retirement. Yogi Berra, one of the two No. 8’s retired (fellow catcher Bill Dickey is the other) took part in the ceremony, along with several former players, including two others who have had their uniform numbers retired, Reggie Jackson (44) and Ron Guidry (49).

Berra and Dickey are in that group of single-digit retired numbers that also features Billy Martin (1), Babe Ruth (3), Lou Gehrig (4), Joe DiMaggio (5), Mickey Mantle (7) and Roger Maris (9). So DJ now stands alone.

Torre, his wife Ali and other members of the family began the ceremony in Monument Park where he unveiled his number and plaque alongside Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal. They eventually made their way to the center of the field for the ceremony amid former players David Cone, Hideki Matsui, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte; former coaches Guidry, Willie Randolph, Jose Cardenal and Lee Mazzilli; longtime managers Tony La Russa (who was inducted into the Hall of Fame this year with Torre) and Jim Leyland; former trainer Gene Monahan and Jackson.

An especially nice touch was Jeter escorting Jean Zimmer from the dugout to the field. Known by her nickname, “Soot,” she is the widow of the late Don Zimmer, Joe’s longtime bench coach. There was also a touching video message from former Yankees pitcher and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, who was unable to travel to the event.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who served for Torre both as a catcher and a bench coach, presented his old boss with a framed version of his Monument Park plaque. Hal Steinbrenner and his wife, Christina, presented a framed version of No. 6. Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal on behalf of the organization gave Torre a diamond ring with No. 6 embossed in the center.

Observing all this from the visitor’s dugout was another of Torre’s former players, White Sox manager Robinb Ventura.

“It feels like the World Series all over again,” Torre told the crowd. “To have a number retired for any team is something special, but when you’re talking about the history and tradition of the New York Yankees, it is a feeling you can’t describe. There wouldn’t have been a Cooperstown without Yankee Stadium. I want to thank Randy Levine, Lonn Trost and Brian Cashman and the woman behind the scenes, Debbie Tymon, who does so much for this organization. Arthur Richman mentioned my name to George, but it was Stick Michael who recommended me for the job.”

And what a job Torre did. The Yankees reached postseason play in all 12 of his managerial seasons and won six pennants and four World Series, including three in a row from 1998-2000.

Torre acknowledged his gratitude to the late owner George Steinbrenner for taking Gene Michael’s advice and hiring him despite a resume that included mediocre results as a manager with the Mets, Braves and Cardinals, the same three clubs for whom he had played during a 16-season career. The kid from Brooklyn who grew up a New York Giants fan clearly fell in love with the pinstripes.

“George gave me the greatest opportunity in my professional life,” Torre said, “I played in the majors for 16 years, but they could never match my 12 years in Yankees pinstripes. I will be forever grateful to the Steinbrenner family for trusting me with this team.

“One thing you never forget or lose feeling for are you people, all of you people, and it continues. I walk around and people thank me. They don’t realize what a good time i had. New York fans make this city a small town. When you get to this ballpark you feel the heartbeat, and it’s something that does not go away.

“It’s a short distance from the old Stadium to here but a long, long way from the field to Monument Park. I was blessed to make that journey on the shoulders of some very special players.”

In his previous managerial stops, Torre had worn No. 9, but he could not get that with the Yankees because it had been retired for Maris. Early in his playing career with the Braves, Torre wore No. 15 (his brother, Frank, had No. 14), but that was also not available with the Yankees since it was retired in honor of the late Thurman Munson.

Actually, Torre is one of four Hall of Famers who have worn No. 6 for the Yankees. Some fans may not know that Mickey Mantle wore No. 6 as a rookie in 1951 before switching to 7 the next year. Tony Lazzeri was the Yankees’ first No. 6, followed by his successor at second base, Joe Gordon.

Perhaps some karma was in the air because the Yankees second baseman Saturday, Martin Prado, was a huge factor in their 5-3 victory over the White Sox that was a fitting accompaniment to the afternoon.

Prado, who won Friday night’s game with a walk-off single in the ninth inning, had a part in four of the Yankees’ runs Saturday. His bunt single in the second helped build a run that subsequently scored on a double play. He drove in two runs in the fourth with the first of his two doubles in the game. He also doubled in the sixth and scored on a fly ball by Stephen Drew. Carlos Beltran drove in the other Yanks’ run in the sixth with his 15th home run.

Perhaps the only thing more appropriate would have been if the Yankees had scored six runs. What is definitely appropriate is that the number was retired for the person who wore it the longest, one more year than the player who had it for 11 seasons, Roy White (1969-79).

Now all that awaits is the day when Jeter, who got a rare day off Saturday, completes the single-digit retirement.

O’Neill finds deserving spot in Monument Park

Paul and Nevalee O'Neill unveil Monument Park plaque (USA Today photo)

Paul and Nevalee O’Neill unveil Monument Park plaque (USA Today photo)

Chants of “Paul O-Neill” returned to Yankee Stadium Saturday as the popular right fielder dubbed “The Warrior” by the late George Steinbrenner was honored on the field before the game to mark the dedication of a plaque that will hang in Monument Park, the 29th in that special gallery.

I do not know how many people thought such a day was possible back in 1993 when O’Neill joined the Yankees. Several National League scouts I talked to that spring wondered if O’Neill had the temperament for New York or that he was too temperamental to succeed under the glare of the city and its omnipresent media.

Gene Michael, the general manager at the time, swapped two-time All-Star outfielder Roberto Kelly for O’Neill, who had a .259 career batting average at the time and was known for his clashes with former manager Lou Piniella in Cincinnati. Michael certainly got the last laugh, didn’t he?

O’Neill absolutely blossomed in New York. Coming under the influence of Don Mattingly and Wade Boggs, O’Neill became a more selective hitter and in his second season with the Yankees won the American League batting title with a .359 average. He would go on to bat .303 over his nine seasons in New York and was a central figure in the Yankees’ four World Series titles in 1996, ’98, ’99 and 2000.

During the pre-game ceremony, O’Neill mentioned his daughter, Allie, was born the day before spring training began in 1996, “and to this believes she is the reason for our first championship.”

O’Neill was in the middle of those glorious seasons. There was his running catch on an aching hamstring for the final out of Game 5 of the 1996 World Series; his playing the clinching Game 4 of the ’99 Series 18 hours after the death of his father, Charlie; his 10-pitch at bat in drawing a walk off Mets closer Alfonso Benitez to start the game-tying rally in Game 1 of the 2000 Series, etc.

And, of course, Game 5 of the 2001 World Series, his last game at the Stadium, which he recalled in his speech.

“Now to you fans, a remarkable thing Nov. 1, 2001, Game 5 of the World Series out in right field and 50,000 people singing my name,” he said. “I want to thank you for one of the special nights of my life. Thank you, fans of New York.”

O’Neill’s sons, Andy and Aaron, were also on the field with their mother, Nevalee, and his mother, Virginia. Also participating were Michael, former trainer Gene Monahan, Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre and former teammates David Cone, Tino Martinez, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera.

Two other former teammates, captain Derek Jeter and manager Joe Girardi, also made presentations to O’Neill on behalf of the team and the organization. Jeter presented a framed version of the plaque and Girardi a career milestone diamond ring with No. 21 in the center.

“The best thing that happened to all of us was playing for the New York Yankees,” O’Neill said.

The plaque reads:

PAUL ANDREW O’NEILL
“THE WARRIOR”

NEW YORK YANKEES
1993 – 2001

AN INTENSE COMPETITOR AND TEAM LEADER, O’NEILL WAS BELOVED FOR HIS RELENTLESS PURSUIT OF PERFECTION.

IN NINE SEASONS WITH THE YANKEES, HE WON FOUR WORLD SERIES AND MADE FOUR ALL-STAR TEAMS, COMPILING A .303 BATTING AVERAGE WITH 185 HOME RUNS AND 858 RBI.

WAS ALSO KNOWN FOR HIS STRONG ARM AND RELIABLE GLOVE IN RIGHT FIELD.

WON 1994 AL BATTING CROWN WITH A .359 AVERAGE.

DEDICATED BY THE
NEW YORK YANKEES
AUGUST 9, 2014

Fans responded to O’Neill’s energy, his blatant disdain for making an out, the all-out, full-throttle effort he gave on a daily basis.

Brandon McCarthy, who pitched well but ended up the losing pitcher in the Indians’ 3-0 victory, paid homage to O’Neill after the game. McCarthy was struck in the left foot by a batted ball but remained in the game. Asked if he thought he might have to come out of the game, McCarthy said, “This is Paul O’Neill Day, not a game to leave early day.”

I remember talking to O’Neill back when people were questioning whether this Ohio Buckeye could handle the pressure of New York where his sister, Molly, was already well known as a food writer for the New York Times.

“What a lot of folks didn’t realize is that it was actually easier for me in New York that it was in Cincinnati,” O’Neill said. “It’s tough to play in your home town. Right from the start, I was accepted here by the fans. I hope I gave back to them as much as they gave to me.”

I would say he did.

Paul O'Neill, Gene Michael, Gene Monahan, Joe Torre, Tino Martinez, David Cone, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada

Paul O’Neill, Gene Michael, Gene Monahan, Joe Torre, Tino Martinez, David Cone, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada

Old-Timers’ Day never gets old

Funny thing about the Yankees’ Old-Timers’ Day is that the event itself never gets old.

Other organizations that followed the Yankees’ lead over the years in staging reunions of their old players discontinued the practice except for special occasions.

With the Yankees, however, the exercise remains an annual event, and each year it seems something new is added. This year’s 68th annual gathering marked a return for the first time of favorites such as Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon, key stars of the franchise’s last World Series championship of 2009. Another new returning alumni was John “The Count” Montefusco, a former National League Rookie of the Year with the Giants who became part of the Yankees’ rotation in the 1980s.

“I have been waiting to come to this almost as much as I waited to get to the majors when I was in the minors,” Montefusco said. “I just wanted my grandson [Nicholas] to see what his grandpa did for a living and some of the great guys he played with.”

One of the great things about new blood joining the exercise is that new old timers like Matsui and Damon are still agile enough to play in the three-inning game. Matsui hit a home run this year in the Hall of Fame Classic last month and after watching him swat a few into the stands during batting practice I thought he might pop one during the game but no such luck.

Matsui even pitched to one batter, a Hall of Famer no less, and gave up a single to Reggie Jackson. Meanwhile, there were pitchers all over the field. David Cone played some third base. So did “El Duque,” Orlando Hernandez. David Wells made a sparking scoop of a short-hopper at first base. Coney had a tough day on the mound. He gave up a home run to Jesse Barfield and a hit to his old running mate, Wells.

Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson told me during batting practice that he has been bothered by a sore toe. He said he went to the doctor thinking it was broken, but that x-rays were negative.

“Turns out I have arthritis from all the pounding I took,” said the all-time stolen base leader. “I guess I’m officially old.”

I told him, “No, that just means you’ll steal only two bases instead of five.”

Actually, stolen bases are frowned upon in the Old-Timers’ game. In the first inning, Henderson drove a liner to left-center and sore toe and all legged out a double.

A special treat in this year’s event Sunday was the dedication of a plaque in Monument Park for Hall of Fame relief pitcher Rich “Goose” Gossage, the day after first baseman Tino Martinez was installed.

image

The inscription reads:

RICHARD MICHAEL GOSSAGE
“GOOSE”

NEW YORK YANKEES
1978-1983, 1989

ONE OF THE MOST INTIMIDATING PITCHERS
EVER TO DON PINSTRIPES, GOSSAGE HAD AN EXPLOSIVE FASTBALL AND FEARLESS DEMEANOR, FREQUENTLY PITCHING MULTIPLE INNINGS PER APPEARANCE.

IN SEVEN SEASONS WITH THE YANKEES, COMPILED A 42-28 RECORD WITH 151 SAVES AND A 2.14 ERA. WAS A FOUR-TIME ALL-STAR WITH THE CLUB AND 1978 A.L. RELIEF MAN OF THE YEAR.

INDUCTED INTO THE BASEBALL HALL OF FAME IN 2008.

DEDICATED BY THE NEW YORK YANKEES
JUNE 22, 2014

“To receive this today in front of all those guys and all you fans is overwhelming,” Goose said. “I can’t think of another word for it.”

Gossage reminisced that Old-Timers’ Day was always his favorite day of the year. He grew up in Colorado Springs with a father who was a huge Yankees fan. Goose followed the career of Mickey Mantle closely and got to see his hero at the first Old-Timers’ Day he attended while a visiting player. When he came to the Yankees in 1978, he made sure to circle that day on the calendar.

So it was fitting that Old-Timers’ Day was the venue for Goose’s entrance into Yankees immortality.

Tino turned out to be a legend, too

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The current issue of Yankees Magazine features an article I did on Tino Martinez, who was honored Saturday at Yankee Stadium with a plaque in Monument Park. Tino still couldn’t believe it until he finally got a look at the plaque itself.

​The inscription reads:

CONSTANTINO “TINO” MARTINEZ
NEW YORK YANKEES
1996 – 2001, 2005

KNOWN FOR HIS POWERFUL BAT AND SUPERLATIVE DEFENSE AT FIRST BASE, MARTINEZ WAS A FAN FAVORITE ON FOUR YANKEES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TEAMS. HIT TWO OF THE MOST MEMORABLE HOME RUNS IN YANKEES POSTSEASON HISTORY – A GRAND SLAM IN GAME 1 OF THE 1998 WORLD SERIES AND A GAME-TYING, NINTH-INNING HOMER IN GAME 4 OF THE 2001 FALL CLASSIC. AMASSED 192 HOME RUNS AND 739 RBI IN SEVEN SEASONS WITH THE CLUB.

DEDICATED BY THE
NEW YORK YANKEES
JUNE 21, 2014

I was thinking after I finished the interview with him for the piece that I must have talked with Tino hundreds of times and thought I knew everything there was to know about him. But what I was not aware of until that interview was that Martinez wanted to succeed Don Mattingly as the Yankees’ first baseman.

It is always a tough assignment for a player to come to a new team and try to replace a legend. There is an enormous amount of pressure in that situation. This is not to say Martinez did not feel that pressure because he certainly did. He could have avoided it. There were other clubs interested, the Cubs and the Padres specifically, who coveted Martinez if the Mariners indeed were going to trade him after the 1995 season.

The Yankees were, too, of course, and Martinez told his manager, Lou Piniella, that New York was where he wanted to be. That was the part of which I was not aware beforehand. Martinez actually pushed for the trade despite knowing that a huge spotlight would be foisted on him as the man to follow Donnie Baseball.

Tino explains in the article that he had the utmost respect for Mattyingly, but that he was retiring as a player and his team needed a new first baseman. Martinez said he felt it would have been different if Mattingly had become a free agent and signed with another team. The pressure then would have beeb worse. But Mattingly’s retirement left a void, and Martinez was anxious to try and fill it.

He did all the smart things, beginning with not wearing Mattingly’s old uniform No. 23, the same numeral Martinez wore in Seattle. I think Yankees fans appreciated that sign of respect right from the get-go.

Martinez pointed out in the article and reiterated Saturday that he got off to a slow start in ’96 and that fans did not warm up to him immediately. But once he took off, so did the fans, whom he thanked Saturday.

His former manager, Joe Torre, and teammates Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Paul O’Neill and David Cone plus former trainer Gene Monahan took part in the pregame ceremony in which Martinez continued to express surprise that he was so honored.

From now on, whenever he comes to Yankee Stadium Tino can stop by Monument Park and see that the plaque is more than a dream.

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HOPE Week: Reunion of previous recipients

The Yankees opened HOPE Week 2014 (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) Monday by bringing together representatives from all 25 prior HOPE Week days for a reunion at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum at Pier 86 on Manhattan’s West Side. The gathering celebrated the five-year anniversary of the initiative.

Attending the event to support the former HOPE Week honorees were Yankees general partner and vice chairperson Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal, general manager Brian Cashman, former pitchers Mariano Rivera and David Cone and disabled pitcher Ivan Nova, who is recovering from right elbow surgery.

“Everyone in our organization – from my family to the players to the front office – have been touched by our honorees’ struggles and inspired by their spirit,” Steinbrenner Swindal said. “HOPE Week shines a light on stories that need to be told and people who might otherwise go unnoticed. It is our privilege to give honorees a well-deserved moment in the sun and a chance to affect others with their message.”

No sale for Yanks against Sale

Zoilo Almonte may not have realized it, but his single with two out in the sixth inning Thursday night off Chris Sale took pressure off opposing manager Robin Ventura. Before that at-bat, Sale was working on a perfect game as the 6-foot-6 lefthander continued his dominance over the Yankees.

Where Ventura comes in is that Sale was on a strict pitch count. He was making his first start after coming off the disabled list and a left arm flexor injury. The White Sox skipper was likely relieved when Almonte poked his single into center field. Sale kept the shutout in place by striking out Jacoby Ellsbury to end the inning and as it turned out his outing.

Any temptation Ventura might have had in sending Sale out there to keep a perfecto in place went out the window at that point. It reminded me of that game in Oakland in 1996 when David Cone had a no-hitter through seven innings in his first start after coming back from an aneurysm.

Manager Joe Torre refused to risk Cone’s health to let him continue the no-no and took him out. The Athletics broke up the no-hitter in the eighth, but the Yankees held on to win the game. Torre did the right thing, and I think Ventura would have done the same but did not have to face the question.

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Chris Sale (naplenews.com)

Sale was as unhittable as a pitcher can be. While on rehab at Triple A, he faced 12 batters and struck out 11. Sale treated the Yankees pretty much the same. Other than Almonte’s hit, only one other batted ball off him went to the outfield, not that there were all that many batted balls. Sale had 10 strikeouts and got seven other outs in the infield.

Sadly, the Yankees are getting used to this type of treatment from Sale. His earned run average in eight career appearances against them is 0.85 with a 3-0 record and 40 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings. Sale has been even tougher in his five games against them at U.S. Cellular Field where he is 3-0 with a 0.38 ERA and 33 K’s in 23 2/3 innings while holding them to a .125 batting average in 80 at-bats.

For the second straight game, the Yankees came up with a two-run rally in the ninth after being scoreless for eight innings, but this time it only cut the deficit to one run instead of tying the game and sending it into extra innings where they won in the 13th.

A two-out, two-run single by Mark Teixeira off Chicago closer Ronald Belisario got the Yanks on the board finally, but Alfonso Soriano was called out on strikes to leave them one run short.

It was a tough loss for David Phelps to absorb. The righthander gave the weary bullpen a break by going seven innings in an efficient 104 pitches. He gave up two runs in the second after two out on successive doubles by Paul Konerko and Alejandro De Aza and a single by Adam Eaton. Phelps retired the final 10 batters he faced from the fourth through the seventh.

Alfredo Aceves pitched the eighth and gave up what proved an important run for the White Sox. After getting two infield outs following a leadoff double by Gordon Beckham, Aceves yielded a single to Adam Dunn for that valuable third run.

The Yankees have now gone 25 innings without an extra-base hit, a power outage of epidemic proportion.

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