Results tagged ‘ George Steinbrenner ’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Baseball in March. What a concept. The powers that be in Major League Baseball cannot seem to figure out a way to condense the regular-season schedule so that World Series games do not dip into November, so the season now starts at a time that used to be reserved for the winding down of spring training.
The weather was less than ideal for the Yankees’ season opener Thursday at Yankee Stadium. The first-pitch temperature was 42 degrees, and the wind was whipping the flags on the roof. Mike Mussina, who someone joked could probably still make the Yankees’ rotation, handled the duties of tossing out the ceremonial first pitch.
Not surprisingly, Derek Jeter received the loudest ovation from the crowd in pre-game introductions. The captain batted second in manager Joe Girardi’s first lineup of the season with center fielder Brett Gardner in the leadoff spot. This will be the look at the top of the order when the opposing starting pitcher is right-handed, as is Detroit’s Justin Verlander. Jeter will go back to leadoff and Gardner to ninth against left-handed starters. Nick Swisher will likely hit No. 2 vs. lefties.
Girardi made it clear before the game that Jorge Posada’s days as a catcher are all but over. Now a full-time designated hitter who batted seventh Thursday, Posada won’t be counted on to work behind the plate. Girardi, himself a former catcher, was asked if Posada would be considered an “emergency” catcher in the event that newcomer Russ Martin and backup Gustavo Molina get hurt in the same game.
“Well, we might put Jorgie out there before someone like [Eduardo] Nunez,” Girardi said, referring to the backup infielder.
Well, that’s pretty plain. It sounds as if Posada can throw his old shin guards away.
Wednesday night, the Yankees held their annual Welcome Home Dinner at the New York Sheraton, a splendid affair that was attended by all the members of the team as well as club executives and employees.
In the VIP cocktail hour before the game, Hall of Famer Goose Gossage signed autographs with fellow former Yankees Tino Martinez, Lee Mazzilli, Oscar Gamble and Rick Cerone.
Deborah Tymon, the Yankees’ vice president of marketing and the dinner’s organizer, was given a special award from managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner. Debbie said that the late George Steinbrenner told her when she began running the dinner to make sure the food and service was first rate but, most importantly, that the players get out early so they can get plenty of rest before the home opener.
The special moment of the night was the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, who was also at the Stadium bright and early Thursday to tour the clubhouse and wish the Yankees luck.
Also on hand was another Hall of Famer, Reggie Jackson, looking very fit after having undergone spinal surgery last September. Reggie suffered from spinal stenosis from straining his back while tiling an area in his home and last fall found it difficult to walk more than a few yards on his own power.
“I’m still having regular physical therapy, but I’m making progress,” he said. “It feels good to be back at Yankee Stadium.”
The day I arrived at what was the last spring training the Yankees had at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 1995, then manager Buck Showalter drove up to me in a golf cart on the sidelines of the main field and said, “Hop in; I want you to see someone.”
He drove to me to one of the back fields where two pitchers were warming up. I have long forgotten who one of them was, but the one I remember was Andy Pettitte. He wasn’t as cut as he would later become; he still had some love handles, but one pitch after the other sunk with stinging action.
Showalter, who grew up in the Florida panhandle and attended Mississippi State University, had an affinity for Southern players. Still does, probably, so I said to him, “Okay, which is it? Louisiana or Arkansas?”
“Texas,” Buck said. “You can’t quote me on this, but this guy might win 15 games for us this year.”
“Pretty tall order for a rookie,” I said.
Showalter missed on his prediction. Pettitte won 12 games, not 15, but he helped stabilize a rotation snagged by an injury to Jimmy Key, who finished second to David Cone, then with the Royals, in the previous year’s American League Cy Young Award race, and was a key ingredient in the Yankees’ reaching post-season play for the first time in 15 years, as the newfangled wild card.
Pettitte’s victory total was second on the staff only to another former Cy Young Award winner, Jack McDowell, who was 15-10. Pettitte’s 12-9 record and 4.17 ERA was not overwhelming, but it was good enough for him to finish third in the AL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award voting behind winner Marty Cordova of the Twins and runner-up Garret Anderson of the Angels, a couple of outfielders.
The lefthander started Game 2 of the Division Series against the Mariners at Yankee Stadium and was not involved in the decision, a 7-5 Yankees victory on a two-run home run in the 15th inning by Jim Leyritz that gave them a 2-0 lead in the series before they went 0-for-Seattle.
With Showalter gone after turning down a two-year contract offer from George Steinbrenner, Pettitte had to prove himself all over again to a new manager, Joe Torre, in 1996. It wasn’t easy, either. Torre at first thought Pettitte, a deeply religious person, was a bit soft. Yet start after start, Pettitte kept the Yankees in games, and he ended up winning 21 of them and becoming a Cy Young Award candidate, although he finished second in the voting to the Blue Jays’ Pat Hentgen.
Pettitte never came closer to winning that award, but even better he won over Torre with 8 1/3 gutty innings of shutout ball in Game 5 of the World Series at Atlanta, a 1-0 Yankees victory that put them up 3-2 and in position to take the Series two nights later, which they did. From that point on, Torre never questioned Pettitte’s toughness again.
Here is what Joe said about Andy the other day:
“Andy took the ball every five days, and if he had it his way, he’d get it more often than that. What’s really unusual about him is that a lot of times pitchers are more consumed with themselves. Andy was probably the consummate team player, especially for a pitcher. He was so concerned not only about the day he pitched but he always had his arm around a young guy in between starts.
“He has been a huge favorite of mine because he’s such a stand up guy, and he hasn’t changed from day one. He was a great teammate, and I think that’s why he won so many games. The guys that play behind him understand how intense he is, and it becomes contagious.
“I think the impact he had on the teams we had in the mid-to-late 1990′s was enormous even though he was never the guy in the spotlight. He liked the fact that he wasn’t the No. 1 guy even though I trusted him like a No. 1 guy. But he didn’t have an ego that dictated he needed all that attention.
“He did a great job of channeling his energy into competing, and he was about as consistent a performer as anybody in terms of getting your money’s worth. He glued our staff together. When you’re performing with the same people year-in and year-out, it’s always nice to have that security blanket. He was certainly that guy on the pitching staff.”
For other managers, the Astros’ Jimy Williams and Phil Garner and the Yankees’ Joe Girardi, Pettitte proved just as reliable in a career he brought to a halt this week. There were no tears at Friday’s announcement. Pettitte thought long and hard about this decision, and when he said “My heart isn’t in it anymore,” that’s all he needed to say. Once a player no longer has the stomach for the game, it is time to go.
That Game 5 of the 1996 World Series four nights after the Braves handed his head to him in Game 1 remains the centerpiece of Pettitte’s Yankees career, but there were plenty of other times when he gave the Yankees everything they needed from a pitcher.
He was the Most Valuable Player of the 2001 AL Championship Series when he won both his starts and held a Seattle team that had won 116 games during the regular season to four runs in 14 1/3 innings. Even in defeat, Pettitte could be magnificent, such as the Game 6 showdown with the Marlins’ Josh Beckett in the 2003 World Series, Andy’s last start for the Yankees before signing as a free agent with his hometown Houston club.
Three years later, Pettitte was back with the Yankees reunited with Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada and helped ring in the new Yankee Stadium by winning the clinching games of all three post-season series in 2009 as the team achieved its 27th championship. Last year, he was a Cy Young Award candidate for half the season before a groin injury cost him at least a dozen starts. Now he is the first of the “Core Four” to call it quits.
“Andy was a great teammate and a wonderful guy,” Rivera said. “He was a fighter and all about winning, and he was respected by every person in the clubhouse.”
“I’m really sad that Andy is going to retire,” Posada said.”He was so much more than a teammate to me; he was one of my closest friends. I admire everything that he has accomplished as a Yankee, but Andy was someone who always put the team first. I’m going to miss him deeply.”
Added Jeter: “It has been a pleasure to play with Andy for all these years, and the Yankees have been fortunate to have him representing the organization both on and off the field. More importantly, it has been an honor to get to know him as a person, and I consider him family. I wish for nothing but happiness for him and his family, as I know how important they are to him.”
Of course, it didn’t take long for Hall of Fame talk about Pettitte to sprout. Let’s give it the five-year wait before getting serious about that. Pettitte has a lot going for him – a won-loss record more than 100 games over .500 at 240-138, a post-season record 19 victories, and winning five rings in eight World Series overall. He also has some things going against him – allowing more hits than innings pitched, a rather high ERA (3.88) and three more dangerous capital letters, HGH, which he admitted to using after his name surfaced in the Mitchell Report.
His path to Cooperstown won’t be smooth. Over the next few years, the ballot will contain the names of starting pitchers superior to him in terms of statistics – Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, even Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina.
“I’ve never considered myself a Hall of Famer,” Pettitte said. “I guess I’ve gotten close to having those kinds of credentials or guys wouldn’t be talking about it.”
The writers who do the voting will be talking about him for a while. But to Yankees fans, Pettitte will always be in their personal Halls of Fame for his competitiveness and remarkable consistency.
Cliff Lee’s invincible reputation as a post-season pitcher took its first hit Wednesday night in Game 1 of the World Series. The lefthander spit out a 2-0 lead and watched from the dugout after being knocked out in the fifth inning as the Giants rolled to an 8-2 spread on the way to an 11-7 victory.
Given his previous work in the post-season this year for the Rangers and last year for the Phillies, Lee seemed in total control at 2-0. He even helped build the second run with his bat on a double off a butcher-boy swing that got tortoise-slow Bengie Molina to third base from where he scored on a fly ball by Elvis Andrus.
Door closed, everybody might have thought considering that Lee had won three starts on the road in this post-season (two at Tropicana Field and one at Yankee Stadium) with a 0.75 ERA and had a career post-season mark of 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA.
The Giants’ comeback started with their starting pitcher, Tim Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young Award winner with the violent delivery who settled in effectively after a shaky first two innings. Mitch Moreland, who doubled and was stranded in the fourth, was the only base runner off Lincecum after the Andrus sac fly until two out in the sixth when Ian Kinsler walked and scored on a double by Molina.
The Giants began chipping away in the third when an error by third baseman Michael Young opened the gate for a rally which Lee fed into by hitting a batter and giving up the second of three doubles to Freddy Sanchez. It looked as if Lee righted himself with two called strikeouts to end that inning followed by a perfect fourth. But he failed to stop San Francisco’s merry-go-round in the fifth after one-out doubles by Andres Torres and Sanchez tied the score.
After striking out Buster Posey, Lee, who never walks anybody, put Pat Burrell on with a wayward 3-2 pitch and gave up two-out singles to Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff as the Giants moved ahead. Lee was at 104 pitches, which is usually where he is in the ninth.
Juan Uribe, whose home run against the Phillies in the National League Championship Series got the Giants into the World Series, greeted reliever Darren O’Day with a three-run shot.
For Yankees fans, there was a dual pleasure in watching what happened to Lee after the way he had tormented them in the World Series last year and the American League Championship Series this year. The Yankees nearly traded for Lee in July, and it is no secret that he is high on their off-season shopping list. Should the Rangers triumph in the Series with Lee playing a major role, Texas may be able to persuade him to stay with a club on the rise located only a 40-minute flight away from his Arkansas home.
If the Rangers don’t win the Series, however, Lee might find rejoining his former Indians teammate CC Sabathia a better option. Much was made this week of a story in USA Today in which Lee’s wife, Kristen, complained about rude behavior toward Rangers family members in the stands at Yankee Stadium in which she said beer was tossed at them and that some fans in the upper deck spat upon them.
Lee said he could not blame the Yankees organization for the oafish behavior of some fans. Still, a wife’s view can be important to where a player signs. One of George Steinbrenner’s many strengths in the pursuit of free agents was his penchant for charming players’ wives in convincing them there was no better place to play, or shop, than in New York. The current front office could find Mrs. Lee to be quite a challenge.
At the seventh inning stretch at AT&T Park, Tony Bennett sang “God Bless America.” The singer, 84, has long been identified with the Bay Area because of his 1962 hit, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” He is, however, a native New Yorker. The former Anthony Benedetto grew up in Astoria, Queens, in the same neighborhood as a guy named Edward Ford, who would find success with the Yankees by the nickname of “Whitey.”
Alex Rodriguez’s relationship with the National Baseball Hall of Fame began Wednesday night. A-Rod met with Brad Horn, the vice president for communications and education for the Museum, before the game.
Horn drove down from Cooperstown, N.Y., to be part of the pre-game ceremony in which Rodriguez presented to the Hall the cleats he wore at Yankee Stadium the night of Aug. 4 against the Blue Jays when he hit his 600th career home run. A-Rod also received gifts from his teammates to commemorate the occasion presented by manager Joe Girardi: a Hublot Swiss-made watch in recognition of hitting his
600th home run, a Steuben Glass custom engraved piece in recognition of
hitting his 600th home run and a Steuben Glass custom engraved piece in recognition of his
reaching 600 career home runs and 300 stolen bases.
You can be sure this won’t be the last time the Hall will receive a souvenir of one of Alex’s record achievements.
That was not all Brad brought back with him from Cooperstown. When he heard a Hall of Fame executive was at the Stadium, Nick Swisher came up to Horn and donated the bat he used the night of July 16 against the Rays when the Yankees had a pre-game memorial in honor of the late owner George Steinbrenner. With that bat, Swisher hit a game-tying home run in the eighth inning and a game-winning single in the ninth of the Yankees’ 5-4 victory.
Watching Curtis Granderson at the plate much of this year made one wonder how it was that this guy hit 30 home runs last year, especially playing half his games at Detroit’s Comerica Park, hardly a power hitter’s haven.
When the Yankees acquired Granderson in an off-season trade from the Tigers, it was thought that he might be a regular 30-homer guy what with the friendlier dimensions at Yankee Stadium for left-handed batters.
At the midway point of the season, however, Granderson had seven home runs and was batting .240. The idea that he could approach 30 homers seemed out of the question. Now look at him. There are only two weeks left in the regular season, so Granderson won’t get to 30, but he just may get close.
The center fielder is up to 21 after his two-homer performance Monday night in the Yankees’ 8-6 victory over the Rays that kicked off the four-game series between the American League East contenders on the occasion of George Steinbrenner’s plaque being added to Monument Park.
Granderson thrust the Yankees into a 2-0 lead with a two-run shot in the second inning off Matt Garza. The second home run, a three-run blast off a 2-1 changeup from Grant Balfour in the sixth, was pivotal and majestic.
The Yankees had blown all of a 4-0 lead in a four-run Tampa Bay sixth when their pitchers struggled to satisfy plate umpire Tim McClelland’s strike zone. Of 42 pitches thrown that inning by three Yankees pitchers, 24 were balls. The Yankees walked three batters, including one with the bases loaded, and had another hitter, Carl Crawford, reach base on catcher’s interference. The hardest hit ball by the Rays was a grounder by Evan Longoria that was turned into a double play.
The Yankees came back in the bottom half and regained the lead on a singles by Brett Gardner, Francisco Cervelli and Derek Jeter. Granderson added on big time with his second dinger. The ball hit the foul pole next to the fourth deck. Mark Teixeira is the only player to hit a fair ball into the seats there, which is where Granderson’s would have landed if it had not struck the pole. This was a Ruthian clout for a guy generously listed at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds.
“People ask me a lot about home runs,” Granderson said later, “and I say, ‘Hey, I’m the fourth lightest guy on the team. ‘ “
For all his power in 2009, Granderson produced only a .249 batting average, which is also what it is right now. He hit over .300 in 2007 but hasn’t come close to that since. Yet this is the fourth straight year that he has hit at least 20 home runs.
Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long has worked with Granderson in the second half to calm down an overly busy approach and has gotten some results, mostly related to power.
As late as Aug. 11, Granderson was batting .239. He entered September with a .243 average and began the month with a 5-for-10 only to suffer a 0-for-14 stretch not long after that. Overall, however, the month has been a good one for Granderson. In 62 September at-bats, he is hitting .290 with four doubles, six home runs and 17 RBI. He has 14 home runs and 41 RBI in the second half.
“I feel with my swing more contact I can get to the ball quicker,” Granderson said. “I’m not pulling off the ball as much.”
“Every since Grandy made that minor adjustment, he has played really well,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “That second home run was huge for us.”
“He just got hot right now and has been hitting home runs the whole month,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “He was able to keep that sucker fair.”