Results tagged ‘ George Steinbrenner ’

Painful ending to Mariano’s special day

And so the farewell tour finally came to Yankee Stadium.

Mariano Rivera’s year-long sojourn throughout North America in his last major-league season has given him the opportunity to connect with fans and employees of all teams. Sunday at the Stadium was about recognition and appreciation from the people who have felt that way about him all of the past 19 seasons.

No franchise handles ceremonies such as these better than the Yankees. And more often than not, the team tops it off with a victory. Not this time, however. The script that should have called for Rivera saving the victory in Andy Pettitte’s last start at the Stadium did not materialize. The two pitchers who have combined for the most victories and saves as a tandem did not push the record total to 73 as the Giants pulled out a 2-1 victory that put the Yankees’ wild-card chances on life support.

“We’re still alive,” manager Joe Girardi said, “but this one hurt.”

It hurt in many ways, not just in the back-to-the-wall posture it placed the team in reference to a postseason berth but also in the aesthetic quality of a feel-good conclusion to a special day before a crowd of 49,197 on a postcard afternoon.

The Yankees pulled out all stops in the pregame ceremony for Rivera, the all-time saves leader who is closing out the career of the game’s greatest closer. After a proclamation from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was read declaring Sunday “Mariano Rivera Day,” members of the families of the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and the late Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson stood beside Mo for the unveiling of special plaques to honor the most distinguished player to wear uniform No. 42.

The plaque for Jackie Robinson marked the first in Monument Park for a player from another team. Jackie competed against the Yankees with the Brooklyn Dodgers in six World Series. When ‘42’ was retired in perpetuity in 1997 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his breaking the color barrier in the big leagues, players wearing the number at the time could keep it. Rivera was the last of those players, and his ‘42’ was retired and placed where Robinson’s blue-toned ‘42’ has been located.

“I didn’t know what to feel,” Rivera said. “At the monument they retired my number, so I guess I am officially retired.”

On the infield in front of the mound were collected many of the people Mo considered important to his career – senior vice president and special adviser Gene Michael, former manager Joe Torre, former trainer Gene Monahan and former teammates Jeff Nelson, David Cone, John Wetteland, Hideki Matsui, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada.

Current teammate Robinson Cano escorted Rachel and Sharon Robinson, Jackie’s widow and daughter, respectively, onto the field; longtime teammate Derek Jeter did likewise for Clara, Mariano Jr., Jafet and Jaziel, Mo’s wife and children. Performing on a bandstand on the center field warning track, Metallica belted out a live version of “Enter Sandman,” which has been his entrance theme since 1999, eight years after the song’s initial release.

Rivera walked to the mound rather than making his usual trot as the band played. The group also presented him with a custom speaker from a recent tour with a sign reading “No. 42 Sandman” on the front. Yankees team president Randy Levine, chief operating officer Lonn Trost and the Steinbrenner family presented Rivera with a $100,000 donation to his foundation.

Even the Giants got into the act. Pitching coach Dave Righetti, first base coach Roberto Kelly, batting coach Hensley “Bam-Bam” Meulens and assistant hitting coach Joe Lefebvre – all former Yankees – gave Rivera a water-color painting of him pitching at San Francisco’s AT&T Park and an electric guitar featuring the signature of Willie Mays imbedded on the front.

Girardi and Jeter on behalf of the players presented Mo with a rocking chair and a Waterford crystal replica of his glove.

Morock

Mariano Rivera rocks
(USA Today photo)

In addressing the crowd, Rivera got off a good line about his parents, “Thank you for having me that day or that night – I don’t know which – but gracias!” and then to the fans, “Thank for 19 years of support. You were always there for me and the organization, and I will never forget it.”

After paying tribute to his homeland of Panama and his adopted country of the United States (he lives year-round in Westchester County), Rivera said, “So let’s play ball, man. We got to go!”

Pettitte did his best to top the ceremony by flirting with a perfect game and no-hitter for five innings. He retired the first 14 batters before walking Pablo Santoval with two out in the fifth inning. Pettitte was still working on a no-no with one out in the sixth when rookie shortstop Ehire Adrianza hit his first career home run to tie the score. Mark Reynolds had homered off Giants starter Yusmeiro Petit (pronounced puh-TEET) leading off the third inning.

Pettitte admitted he thought about a no-hitter but admitted, “I don’t know if my body would allow me to pitch nine innings anymore.”

He lasted until the first batter in the seventh when Sandoval doubled. Rivera was up in the pen, but Girardi brought in David Robertson, who got the first out on a ground ball but hung a curve to Tony Abreu, who doubled to right to score what proved the deciding run. Rivera entered the game at that point and got out of the inning aided by a sliding catch in center field by Curtis Granderson. Mo worked a scoreless ninth as well and was intent on staying in the game until the Yankees won it.

They wasted a prime scoring opportunity in the eighth after getting runners on second and third with none out but both were subsequently thrown out at the plate. The Yankees went down in order in the ninth, so no victory for them or Rivera. A tough loss was hung on Pettitte, who unless he wins his final start later this week at Houston will have a losing record (10-11) for the first time in his career.

The Rays, Indians and Royals all won their games Sunday. The Yankees are four games behind Cleveland for the second wild-card spot with six to play, three of which will be against Tampa Bay at the Stadium beginning Tuesday night. They hope that series won’t be a farewell for the team in 2013.

Putting Ichiro’s feat in perspective

There is no question that what Ichiro Suzuki has done is an amazing accomplishment. Banging out 4,000 hits in a professional baseball career is nothing short of astounding. Yet in his case some perspective is in order. Those who are already comparing Ichiro to the major leagues’ only 4,000-hit batters, Pete Rose and Ty Cobb, are not entirely accurate.

Suzuki’s 4,000 hits are a combined total, that of 2,722 here in the major leagues and 1,278 in Japan’s Pacific League. That is why his achievement is more in line with Henry Aaron and Stan Musial than with Rose and Cobb, who surpassed 4,000 hits entirely in the majors, Rose with 4,256 and Cobb with 4,189.

Aaron and Musial also had more than 4,000 hits if you count what they did in the minor leagues. Aaron had 3,771 career hits. Add his 324 hits in the minors and you get 4,095 (and that’s not counting what he had in the Negro Leagues, a number no one is quite sure of). Musial had 3,630 career hits. Add his 371 hits in the minors and you get 4,001.

Like it or not, Ichiro falls into their category.

Why? All he has to do is look at his American League Rookie of the Year trophy for the answer. If he was considered a rookie when he broke into the majors with the Mariners in 2001, then the statistics Suzuki piled up in Japan were not considered equal to the major-league standard. That is the opinion of Major League Baseball.

You can argue left and right about whether that is fair or not, but the fact is that if Ichiro was considered a rookie in 2001 then the hits he had in Japan are akin to what minor league records are in North America.

This issue was first broached in 1995 when Dodgers pitcher Hideo Nomo began the migration of Asian players to the majors. As the secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and responsible for conducting the annual awards voting, I contacted the commissioner’s office for a clarification of Nomo’s status. Did he or did he not qualify for the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award?

Yes, I was told, which was not good news for Chipper Jones that year. He finished second to Nomo in the voting. The reasoning used was that players who entered the majors from the Negro Leagues in the late 1940s and early 1950s were considered rookies in the majors even though they had been professionals playing in organized leagues, and that Asian players entering the majors fit the same profile. That opened the door for Kazuhiro Sasaki and Ichiro to also win Rookie of the Year honors in 2000 and 2001, respectively, the same way that Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe, Sam Jethroe, Willie Mays, Joe Black and Junior Gilliam won the award five decades earlier.

Not all the writers agreed with this viewpoint. Some still don’t. I remember how upset Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner was in 2003 when Hideki Matsui finished second to Royals shortstop Angel Berroa for AL Rookie of the Year. Two writers on that committee later admitted that they did not believe Matsui should have been considered a rookie and left him off their ballots.

Steinbrenner called me personally to complain about the balloting. I told him the two writers’ prejudice was expressed after the fact. How could I know when counting the ballots what was on the minds of every voter? I told him that if those writers had told me of their opinions beforehand I would have excused them from voting and replaced them. On Rookie of the Year ballots, it clearly states that players from foreign leagues who are in their first year of play in the American or National League are considered rookies.

What I am getting at is that it is a bit murky about how we should treat the statistics that Nomo, Ichiro and Matsui put up in Japan in comparison to their major-league achievements. In no way am I undermining what Ichiro has done. I have already written stories in two prominent Japanese publications that Ichiro is on a fast track to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

What Suzuki has done in the States is phenomenal — 10 straight seasons of 200 or more hits and the all-time record for hits in a single season (262 in 2004), breaking the previous mark of Hall of Fame first baseman George Sisler of the old St. Louis Browns that stood for 83 years. Despite that, Ichiro cannot fairly be placed in the same category with Rose and Cobb, but I would take being compared with the Hammer and the Man any day of the week.

RIP: Killer Kane, a baseball writer’s best friend

The Yankees lost one of the most colorful characters in their extended family last week with the passing of Bill “Killer” Kane at the age of 75. Kane served two separate terms as the Yankees’ travel director in the 1970s and ‘80s and in that role especially was a baseball writer’s best friend.

Killer told me that he probably was fired by principal owner George Steinbrenner more than any other Yankees employee – and rehired more often, too. Although they butted heads on a regular basis, Steinbrenner valued Kane’s devotion to the Yankees in a variety of positions. Kane, who was born in Brooklyn and was a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, got his start with the Yankees as a statistician for longtime broadcaster Mel Allen.

In those days, writers traveled on teams’ charter flights on a regular basis, a practice that ended in the early 1990s. I was the last newspaper reporter to travel regularly on the Yankees’ plane in 1991, four years after Kane’s last season as travel director.

I dealt with a lot of those guys over the years but none was better than Killer. On getaway games, the bus to the airport was always scheduled to leave 90 minutes after the last out. Writers with tight deadlines really had to scramble to make that bus. After hitting the clubhouse for postgame quotes, there would be a mad dash to get back to the pressbox to compose writethru stories and then pack up your gear to make the bus.

If a game had a wild finish that forced writers to do extra work, Killer always understood and would hold the bus. He would make up some excuse to the players about something being wrong with the carburetor or some other fib. The players did not take kindly to this and would they ever let us have it when we finally climbed onto the bus. But Killer had our backs, and we appreciated everything he did for us.

My favorite Killer story goes back to the Winter Meetings of 1984 at Houston. I was with the Bergen Record then, and my boss’ decision to cover the meetings was after the deadline to apply for credentials and hotel accommodations. I was able to get a credential but could not get into the main hotel and was booked in one several blocks away.

Killer and I turned out to be on the same commercial flight to Houston. He told me had a car and would drive me to my hotel. As we got into the downtown area, he said to me, “Never mind the other hotel; I’ll get you in the Grand Hyatt with us.”

After talking things over with the front desk, Killer gave me a key and told me I had a room for Saturday and Sunday but that I would have to move to another room Monday. I said okay and did not ask any questions. The only other thing he said to me was, “Whatever you do, don’t eat anything they may have spread out for that room.”

I was not quite sure what that meant until I got into the room. It was a luxury suite with two bedrooms, two baths and an enormous living room. On the coffee table in the main room was a spread of various fruits, vegetables and cheeses, plus several bottles of whiskey and a magnum of champagne. I called Killer’s room and told him they must have made a mistake at the front desk.

“It’s no mistake,” he said. “That’s George’s suite. But he’s not coming until Monday. By that time, I’ll have you in another room. Don’t sweat it.”

Steinbrenner was not a big fan of the Winter Meetings. He considered it an unnecessary junket and wanted nothing to do with the golf outings and other extracurricular activities that baseball executives took part in during the week-long meetings. The Yankees always had the smallest contingent at the meetings with George showing up for one or maybe two days to do business and then leave.

Saturday went well, but I was awakened Sunday morning with a phone call.

“Jack, it’s Killer,” Kane said. “You’ve got to get out of there. You got about an hour. George just landed at the airport.”

Fortunately, it was about an hour’s ride from Houston International to downtown, so I had time. I never took anything out of suitcase in the first place, so I just threw my laundry in the bag, packed up my writing gear and went down to the lobby. I could not find Killer anywhere, so I had a bellman put my stuff in layaway until I got another room. While I was tipping the bellman, Steinbrenner walked through the front door.

A close call, I thought, but everything was cool now. Then I realized that I had not erased the messages from my phone in the suite. I finally tracked Killer down and, sure enough, he had another room for me. I left the suite spotless, I told Killer.

“Yeah,” he said, “except George wants to know how come he keeps getting phone calls for O’Connell?”

Some years later when the New York Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America roasted Steinbrenner at our annual Pre-Dinner Dinner, I told that story and was glad to see that George enjoyed it. Killer wasn’t so sure. “Be careful, Jack,” he called out from the crowd, “I might get fired again.”

I paid my respects at the wake for him Sunday in the Tremont section of the Bronx where I gave him many lifts home after BBWAA events. He was one of a kind and it was my good fortune to have known him.

ACC aligns with New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Would the late George Steinbrenner ever be excited about this? The New Era Pinstripe Bowl has grown in merely three years to the extent that it now has affiliations with two of the top college football conferences. The Yankees and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl announced Tuesday a multi-year partnership with the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The six-year affiliation between the two renowned brands includes the ACC’s commitment to play in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl from 2014-19. Beginning in 2014, the ACC will face off against the Big Ten Conference, which entered into a multi-year partnership with the Yankees and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl June 3, in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.

“The addition of the ACC to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, along with the Big Ten, will provide an annual matchup of some of college football’s top-tier programs,” Yankees managing partner Hal Steinbrenner said. “With outstanding institutions all along the East Coast as well as the Northeast, the ACC is an attractive participant and partner for the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. We look forward to hosting the ACC, its fans and alumni in New York City for years to come during the holiday season.”

“The partnership between the ACC and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl makes sense on so many levels and we are extremely pleased that one of the league’s football teams will be showcased in this game annually,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said. “With our 15-member conference stretching along the entire Atlantic Coast, this will be a great opportunity for our fans and alums to connect in the media capital of world and with one of the most storied and successful franchises in sports.”

Yankees president Randy Levine called it a “phenomenal partnership” and that George Steinbrenner would be very pleased.

“Except for the Yankees, football was the Boss’ greatest passion,” Levine said. “He always believed college football would be a major success in the new Yankee Stadium. What we have done in just three years has been to have a bowl game that is second to none except for the Bowl Championship Series.”

And Levine did not rule out the possibility down the line that the Stadium could be the site of a BCS semifinal game or even the BCS title game itself.

Established in 2010, the New Era Pinstripe Bowl has featured some of the most memorable moments of bowl seasons in just three short years, including the exciting finish in the inaugural 2010 game in which Kansas State missed a game-tying two-point conversion in the final minute, and the record-setting 213-yard rushing performance by Syracuse’s Prince-Tyson Gulley in last year’s game.

The 2012 New Era Pinstripe Bowl featured six 2013 National Football League draft picks, including each of the game’s starting quarterbacks – Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib (Giants) and West Virginia’s Geno Smith (Jets).

The 2012 New Era Pinstripe Bowl, a 38-14 Syracuse victory over West Virginia, recorded a 3.9 household coverage rating. For bowls played prior to New Year’s Day, only the Chick-fil-A Bowl (5.6) and the Alamo Bowl (4.8) recorded better overall ratings. After drawing a 2.5 total rating in 2011, the New Era Pinstripe Bowl’s 56-perecent ratings increase was second largest for all bowls on ESPN this past season through Jan. 1, 2013. Only the Armed Forces Bowl (+62%) bested the New Era Pinstripe Bowl for largest HH increase in 2012 vs. 2011.

Additionally, the New Era Pinstripe Bowl has seen increased attendance each of its first three years of existence, including a record 41,203 in 2012.

“The New Era Pinstripe Bowl in its short history has featured great match-ups and delivered exciting football to fans,” New Era chief executive officer Christopher H. Koch said. “The addition of the Atlantic Coast Conference takes this event to the next level.”

The 2013 New Era Pinstripe Bowl will take place Saturday, Dec. 28, and be nationally televised by ESPN, which has also secured national and local radio rights for ESPN Radio. Fans are encouraged to visit newerapinstripebowl.com, the official website of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, for access to up-to-the-moment information regarding the game and to sign up to volunteer.

In the week prior to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl game, players, coaches and university staff take part in a variety of events, showcasing their respective universities to the New York metropolitan area. Special events, promotions and community outreach will take place throughout New York City during the week of the bowl game to create an unforgettable experience for fans, families, players and staffs of the two teams.

Prior to the inception of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in 2010, the last college football bowl game had been played in the Bronx in 1962 when Nebraska edged Miami (Fla.), 36-34, in the Gotham Bowl at the original Yankee Stadium.

The Atlantic Coast Conference, now in its 60th year of competition, has long enjoyed the reputation as one of the strongest and most competitive intercollegiate conferences in the nation. Since the league’s inception in 1953, ACC schools have captured 127 national championships – 67 in women’s competition and 60 in men’s. In addition, NCAA individual titles have gone to ACC student-athletes 146 times in men’s competition and 102 times in women’s action.

Rain falls on Mattingly’s parade

If only the weather had cooperated. Tuesday night was supposed to be special for Don Mattingly, who would have made his first appearance on the field at Yankee Stadium since he retired as a player after the 1995 season. He came back along with former manager Joe Torre in September 2010 for the unveiling of the plaque for the late owner George Steinbrenner but not in uniform.

“Donnie Baseball” was expected to receive a very warm welcome from Yankees fans even if he was wearing Dodgers blue as their manager in the club’s first regular-season game in the Bronx. A persistent rain forced the postponement of the game, however, which will be made up as part of a split-admission doubleheader Wednesday. It is hoped that a good sized crowd is on hand for that first game, so Mattingly can receive the ovation he richly deserves.

He is that rarity (think Yogi Berra, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera) as a Yankees player than even Yankees haters liked. Mattingly wore the pinstripes proudly for 14 seasons as a player and was a loyal coach as well. He was a candidate for the managerial position after Torre left but lost the job to current skipper Joe Girardi, a situation Mattingly now considers a “blessing.”

“They treated me fairly, I thought,” Mattingly said of the Yankees’ front office. “Things work out for a reason. That would have been really bad timing for me. Terrible. I was going through some personal stuff that would have been miserable trying to manage for the first time and have that going on. So, that was a blessing in disguise. Coming to L.A. has been great, and obviously there’s been a lot of turmoil this year, but I love what I’m doing and I like being in L.A.”

Mattingly was going through a divorce at the time and ended up joining Torre with the Dodgers as bench coach. When Joe stepped down from the manager’s job two years ago, Mattingly succeeded him. Unfortunately, injuries have played a huge part in the Dodgers’ disappointing season, a situation for which his Yankees counterpart can relate. Girardi has had 13 players do 16 stints on the disabled list. Mattingly has had 15 players on the DL.

About coming back to New York, Mattingly said, “It’s not just the building, it’s the people. Seeing the guys in the clubhouse and around the Stadium, it’s a good feeling.”

Mattingly feels fortunate that he has been involved with two clubs with storied histories. He grew up in Evansville, Ind., where the Cardinals and the Reds were the clubs people listed to mostly on the radio. The Yankees were a dynasty from long ago to Mattingly until he finally arrived at the Stadium as a player.

“I’m always excited when we come back to New York,” he said. “I don’t quite understand the relationship [with the fans], to be honest. I came from a small town and just played. They seemed to appreciate that. That was nice for me because all I had to do was play.”

Mattingly had hoped to be a part of a Yankees-Dodgers World Series (they have opposed each other in October a record 11 times) in 2009, but Los Angeles lost to Philadelphia in the NL Championship Series.

“I didn’t really know much about the Yankees until I got here,” he said. “It starts in spring training. Mickey [Mantle] was still alive and came to camp. You’d see Whitey [Ford] and Yogi. You don’t understand the history until you get here. Now I’m in another place that it steeped in history, going back to Jackie [Robinson] breaking the color line, bringing baseball to the West Coast and having strong ties to the community. All the Rookie of the Year winners over the years that shows the commitment to players coming through the system, fighting for a championship year after year, it is very similar to the Yankees.”

“Donnie is one of the greatest Yankees that’s ever played,” Girardi said. “He’s one of the greatest teammates that has ever put on that uniform. I know I’ve always loved him and appreciated what he has done, and I know the fans have seen a lot more than I have. I think it’ll be a great day for him.”

It will just have to wait for one more day.

The only tickets valid for the 1:05 p.m. game Wednesday are tickets dated June 18. The game originally scheduled for June 19 remains scheduled for a 7:05 p.m. start. YES will cablecast the 1:05 p.m. game. Channel 9 will telecast the 7:05 p.m. game.

Fans holding paid tickets for Tuesday night’s game (June 18) may use them for the rescheduled game or exchange their paid tickets for any regular season game at Yankee Stadium during the 2013 season or 2014 season (subject to availability).

Fans holding Complimentary tickets (COMP) for the June 18 game must use them for the rescheduled game. Complimentary tickets (COMP) or equivalent tickets bear no cash value and do not have any additional benefits that may be offered to ticket(s) with a dollar value.

For complete information about the Yankees’ rainout policy, please visit http://www.yankees.com/rainout.

With respect to tickets purchased through Yankees Ticket Exchange, please visit http://www.yankees.com/ticketexchange or call 1-800-355-2396 for complete information about its rainout policy.

Former Yankees executive Lee MacPhail, 95

Lee MacPhail, whose ties to the Yankees go back more than 60 years, died Thursday night of natural causes at his home in Delray Beach, Fla., two weeks after his 95th birthday. MacPhail had been the oldest living member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, a distinction that belongs now to former Red Sox second baseman Bobby Doerr, 94.

Born Oct. 25, 1917 in Nashville, Tenn., Lee MacPhail was the son of another Hall of Fame executive, Larry MacPhail. They are the only father-son combination in Cooperstown. Lee followed in his father’s footsteps by serving as a front office executive in baseball for 45 years.

“Baseball history has lost a great figure in Lee MacPhail, whose significant impact on the game spanned five decades,” Hall of Fame board chairman Jane Forbes Clark said. “As a Hall of Fame executive, Lee developed one of the game’s strongest farm systems for the New York Yankees before serving as American League president for 10 years. He will always be remembered in Cooperstown as a man of exemplary kindness and a man who always looked after the best interests of the game.”

MacPhail began his career with the Yankees in 1949. He served as farm director and player personnel director for 10 years and built a system that resulted in the team winning nine AL pennants and seven World Series championships during his tenure.

“Lee MacPhail was a good man, and I had a great relationship with him for many, many years,” Hall of Fame pitcher Whitey Ford said. “I was pleased to see him elected to the Hall of Fame because he was so talented at building winners. As farm director, he was integral in maintaining the Yankees’ championship run.”

MacPhail left the Yankees in 1959 to become general manager of the Orioles. In Baltimore, he laid the groundwork for the 1966 World Series championship squad that began a decade-long stretch of success for that franchise.

In 1965, MacPhail became the chief administrative assistant to newly-elected commissioner William Eckert. After being named Executive of the Year in 1966 by The Sporting News, MacPhail returned to the Yankees as general manager and served in that capacity from 1967 to 1973 before being elected president of the AL.

From 1974 to 1983, MacPhail oversaw expansion in Toronto and Seattle, helped develop the designated hitter rule and ruled on George Brett’s famous pine tar home run in 1983. MacPhail was not popular with Yankees fans for that decision which upheld Brett’s home run. Principal owner George Steinbrenner felt strongly that Brett had broken baseball’s rule for how much pine tar could be used on a bat, but MacPhail ruled that the spirit of the rule was violated by negating the home run. The incident still causes debates today nearly 30 years later.

MacPhail resigned after the 1983 season but continued his work in baseball as the president of Major League Baseball’s Player Relations Committee. He was elected to the Hall of Fame’s board of directors in 1974, making him the longest-tenured member of the current board, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998 by the Veterans Committee.

“Lee was one of the nicest, most considerate general managers I ever dealt with,” Hall of Fame executive Pat Gillick said. “And as president of the American League, he was one of the most professional individuals with whom I have ever worked.”

No services are planned at this time. A memorial will be held at a date to be announced.
In lieu of flowers, the MacPhail family has asked that donations in his memory be made to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Here is the reading on Lee MacPhail’s Hall of Fame plaque:

Leland Stanford MacPhail Jr.
One of the leading executives in baseball history, his name is synonymous with integrity and sportsmanship. As farm director and player personnel director of the Yankees (1949-58), helped build a system which yielded seven world championships. As Orioles general manager (1959-65), helped lay the groundwork for one of the game’s most consistently successful franchises; and he later rejoined the Yankees in the same capacity. Served admirably as American League president (1974-83) before concluding his 45-year career as president of the Player Relations Committee. He and his father Larry form the first father son tandem in the Hall of Fame.

Yankee doodles on the Fourth of July

The Yankees, who played Tampa Bay for the first time on July 4, entered play Wednesday with a 28-28 record on Independence Day in the expansion era (since 1961). The Yankees had lost their past three road games on the Fourth of July and seven of the past nine.

They played on the road on the Fourth of July for the second straight year, the first time they have done that in consecutive seasons since 1996 and ‘97. The Yankees will not play at home on Memorial Day (May 28), July 4 or Labor Day (Sept. 6) in the same season for the first time since 2006.

The Yankees have posted winning records in the month of July in each of the past 19 seasons (1993-2011). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it marks the longest winning stretch of Julys in major league history. The previous record was 15, held by the Pirates from 1899 to 1913.

Elias also reported that Derek Jeter became only the third major league player in the past 80 years to get his 100th hit of a season before the Fourth of July, in his age group (38 or older) on that date of the year. The others were Paul Molitor with 110 hits at age 39 for the Twins in 1996 and Pete Rose with 100 hits at age 38 for the Phillies in 1979.

The Yankees have long been associated with the Fourth of July. Lou Gehrig delivered his famous farewell speech July 4, 1939 at Yankee Stadium. Other major events in Yankees history on the Fourth of July were Mickey Mantle’s 300th career home run in 1962, Dave Righetti’s no-hitter against the Red Sox in 1983 and Phil Niekro’s 3,000th career strikeout in 1984. Independence Day was also the birthday of former owner George Steinbrenner and current radio voice John Sterling.

Buck: No. 1 and No. 1,000 in the Bronx

Yankees fans of a certain age may remember where they were on the afternoon of April 7, 1992. I know it was 20 years ago, but think about it. I recall where I was that day, at Yankee Stadium for Opening Day the season after the Yankees lost 91 games and replaced their manager, Stump Merrill, with the previous year’s third base coach, a former minor-league designated hitter and manager by the name of William Nathaniel Showalter, known by family and friends as Nat and within baseball as Buck.

Not much was expected of the Yankees that season, and indeed they finished a mediocre 76-86. But they beat the Red Sox and Roger Clemens that day, 4-3, before a crowd of 56,572 with the final out recorded by Steve Farr on a foul pop by Jody Reed. It was Showalter’s first victory as a major-league manager and the beginning of a startling six-game winning streak. Not too many managers are 6-0 before they lose a game.

I was reminded of just how long ago that was Tuesday night when the same Buck Showalter was back in the Bronx at the helm of the Orioles and earned his 1,000th big-league victory, this time at the expense of the Yankees, 7-1. Particularly satisfying for Buck was that his pitcher, hard-luck Brian Matusz, ended a 12-game losing streak with his first winning decision in 11 months.

“I’m kind of embarrassed,” Buck said afterwards. “It’s all about the players. But I’d be lying to say that it wasn’t emotional. Not a day goes by in this game that doesn’t tug at your emotions.”

Showalter enjoyed winning seasons with the Yankees in 1993, ’94 and ’95, earning American League Manager of the Year honors in the middle season that might have landed them in the World Series had the event not been canceled by commissioner Bud Selig because of a strike. The Yankees did make the playoffs in 1995 but lost to the Mariners in a tightly-played Division Series, the first of its kind in the new alignment.

After turning down a two-year contract extension, Showalter left the Yankees and was succeeded by Joe Torre, who took the Yankees to 10 division crowns, six pennants and four World Series titles in 12 years. Showalter moved on to Arizona as the expansion Diamondbacks first manager and then to Texas where he earned a second AL Manager of the Year Award in 2004. In between job, he manned the desk on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight programs.

Showalter may have missed out on the Yankees’ glory years, but this was a glorious night for him and his team, which is 15-9 and challenging for the top spot in the AL East.

“The significance is more about this being a game we wanted to win and get close to doing something this year that will be great for our fans in Baltimore, a great baseball town,” he said. “I am appreciative that Mr. [George] Steinbrenner gave me my first opportunity to manage in the big leagues. I’ll never forget that.”

Beyond a titanic home run by Curtis Granderson, it was not much of a night for the Yankees, who got another lackluster start from Phil Hughes, who pitched into the sixth but gave up four runs, so his ERA came down only slightly, from 7.88 to 7.48, with his record falling to 1-4.

Hoo-Ray for Yanks in Tampa Bay

Despite their success in recent years in becoming an annual threat in the American League East, the Rays still have to share the regard from fans in the Tampa Bay area with the Yankees. That was obvious in the very first at-bat of the 2012 season in which Derek Jeter lined a single to center field off James Shields, and the crowd reacted with stirring cheers for the Yanks’ captain.

It has been that way since the franchise originally called the Devil Rays entered the AL in 1998. Having been owned by Tampa resident George Steinbrenner and his family and having established Tampa as their spring training headquarters, the Yankees have had a firm grip on the area. Remember also that the Yankees trained nearly every spring from 1926 to 1961 in St. Petersburg, currently the site of Tropicana Field, the Jays’ home.

Curtis Granderson found out in his first at-bat following Jeter the price he may pay for that 41-home run season a year ago. Rays manager Joe Maddon employed a shift against the lefty-swinging center fielder by stationing three infielders to the right side of second base. It worked, too, as Granderson hit a hard, two-hopper near the middle that was fielded by shortstop Sean Rodriguez, who stepped on second and threw to first base for a double play.

Before the game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi indicated that he did not expect pitcher Michael Pineda, disabled because of right shoulder tendinitis, to return to the club before May. That is also the earliest the Yankees will be able to see Andy Pettitte, who is scheduled to start Monday against Phillies minor leaguers in Florida.

Monahan to retire as Yanks’ trainer at season’s end

Gene Monahan, the last link to the first season George Steinbrenner took control of the Yankees, will retire as the club’s long-time head athletic trainer at the end of the season. This is Geno’s 49th season with the Yankees as the longest tenured employee in the organization. He began as a batboy and clubhouse attendant in 1962 as a 17-year-old high school senior in the Yankees’ first spring training in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., his hometown.

Monahan, 66, talked with general manager Brian Cashman, manager Joe Girardi and other team officials about his decision in recent weeks and made the announcement official in an impromptu meeting with the players before Tuesday night’s game against the Royals at Yankee Stadium.

He had gathered the players together to alert them to upcoming skin and oral cancer screenings and then added, ‘Oh, and by the way, this will be my last year with the team.”

That was so typical of Monahan, an admitted introvert who remained in the background except when doing his job – to keep players healthy over the course of the grueling, 162-game schedule. He followed the advice he received years ago from the Yankees’ legendary equipment manager Pete Sheehy – “Keep your ears open and your mouth shut.”

“I got a huge wakeup a year ago, and it had a profound effect on me,” said Monahan, who battled throat and neck cancer that is now in remission. “I realized there are other things in my life that I need to do – to spend more time with my kids, with my extended family. I need to have a dog, a house, a garden, a backyard, and maybe a pickup.”

Geno, as he was affectionately known over the years by managers, coaches and players, not to mention the principal owner, has lived in New Jersey most of the past 40 years but plans to move to North Carolina where he bought a house. That is in the heart of NASCAR country, which is appropriate for Monahan, a passionate auto racing enthusiast.

Monahan spent 10 years working in the Yankees’ minor-league system and graduated from Indiana University as a certified trainer along the way before he was named the team’s head trainer in 1973, the year a group headed by Steinbrenner bought the team.

“The Boss and I came on the scene together,” Monahan said. “We taught each other a lot of stuff. I was always grateful to him for the opportunity. I can’t thank him anymore, but I let his family know that all the time.”

Monahan said he made a point of not getting too close to players because they were all important to him, but he made special mention of a few over the decades – Bobby Murcer, Sparky Lyle, Thurman Munson and Jim “Catfish” Hunter. Monahan served under 16 managers from Ralph Houk to Girardi and including Billy Martin five times and Bob Lemon, Gene Michael and Lou Piniella twice apiece.

The announcement of Monahan’s retirement at season’s end comes the day after the May issue of Yankees Magazine hit the newsstands that features my profile of Monahan. Geno and I spent a couple of days together at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., back in February. The eldest son of a family of eight that migrated south from Pennsylvania, Monahan got a taste of baseball as a teenager and never looked back.

The normally reticent trainer let his hair down a little bit in the interview and takes us through a fascinating career on the front lines of a storied franchise that made a stirring comeback to major prominence during the Steinbrenner era. Look for Alex Rodriguez on the cover and enjoy a trip down Geno’s memory lane.

Monahan is the longest-tenured head athletic trainer in the majors, having worked in that capacity for the past 39 years. In December, he was honored along with longtime assistant Steve Donohue as the Best Athletic Trainers in Major League Baseball in 2010 by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainer Society. Other recent commendations include the 2009 Distinguished Athletic Trainer Award from the National Athletic Trainers Association and induction into the New York State Athletic Trainers’ Association Hall of Fame in 2007. Monahan and Donohue were also honored with Major League Baseball’s Athletic Training Staff of the Year Award in 1990.

Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement, “Gene Monahan embodies all the very best virtues that this organization strives to uphold. His devotion to his craft, passion for the game of baseball and tireless work ethic are only a few of the qualities that have made him a bedrock within this franchise for nearly 50 years. Gene has made a lifetime’s worth of sacrifices and contributions in order to best serve the Yankees, and our entire organization will always be grateful.”

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