Results tagged ‘ Hal Steinbrenner ’
Major League Baseball awakened Sunday to the tragic news that Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, one of the most talented and popular young players in the game, was among three young men who were killed in a boating accident in Miami Beach. Fernandez was only 24 years old but had already put his stamp on baseball.
I remember when he was the National League winner of the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award in 2013. In my role as secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, I conduct the telephone conference calls of the award winner to the writers. Working mostly in the American League, I did not know much about Fernandez other than his pitching record and that he was born in Cuba. I asked MLB publicist Mike Teevan if we needed a translator on the call.
“Are you kidding?” Mike said. “He speaks better English than we do.”
Fernandez, who I found out came to the United States as a 15-year-old and went to high school in Tampa, turned out to be an absolute delight that night both on the MLB Network cablecast of the awards show and the conference call. It was the beginning of a fine career for the righthander who came back from Tommy John surgery in 2014 to go 6-1 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts last year and have an All-Star season this year (16-8, 2.86 ERA). His career record was 38-17 with a 2.58 ERA.
Former Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly, now manager of the Marlins, was near tears when he spoke of Fernandez Sunday at Marlins Park where the scheduled game against the Braves was canceled.
“When I think of Jose, it’s going to be thinking of that little kid,” Mattingly said. “I see such a little boy in him with the way he played. There was just joy with him when he played. When he pitched, I think that’s what the guys would say, too, as mad as he would make you with some of the stuff he’d do, you’d see that little kid you see when you watch kids play Little League or something like that. That’s the joy that Jose played with and the passion he felt about playing. That’s what I think about.”
The Yankees released the following statement:
“On behalf of Hal Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees, we offer our deepest condolences to Jose Fernandez’s family and loved ones, and to the entire Miami Marlins organization he so joyfully and proudly represented.”
The only negative note in Fernandez’s career was a dust-up he had in 2013 with Yankees catcher Brian McCann, who was with the Braves at the time. Fernandez did an animated bat flip after he hit a home run and took a long stroll around the bases, which McCann reacted to by getting into his face. Fernandez apologized for his behavior, and he and McCann eventually became friends.
“Beyond devastating,” McCann said. “I woke up this morning and saw the news. It’s sickening. One of those competitors you loved competing against because you knew he was going to bring his best. He was one of the best pitchers in the game. What he did in a short amount of time was incredible.”
Yankees infielder Donovan Solano was a teammate of Fernandez in Miami. “When I played over there, we were very close,” Solano said. “[Adeiny] Hechavarria, Jose and me were very close; all the Latins over there were very close. I know his family; his mom, his grandma, his uncle. I’m so sad. I’m just so sorry for the family. I’m still in shock from the news.”
So are we all.
It would have been an ideal situation if Dellin Betances came to the mound in the ninth inning Sunday to nail down a save on the same day Major League Baseball’s career saves leader, Mariano Rivera, was honored by the Yankees with a plaque in Monument Park.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, there was nowhere near a save situation for Betances as they lost a chance to pay the Rays back for that sweep in St. Petersburg, Fla., two weekend ago with a 12-3 loss that fell under the category of growing pains.
It certainly was a painful start for Luis Severino, whose record fell to 1-7 with a 7.19 ERA, in an erratic outing. He struck out seven batters in 3 2/3 innings but also allowed eight hits, including two home runs, and seven earned runs. Minutes after the game’s end, the Yankees optioned the righthander to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to continue to sort out his problems.
In watching Severino struggle, I could not help but see a possible connection to Rivera, who also had trying moments as a starter for the Yankees early in his career before finding a home in the back end of the bullpen. In three relief outings over 8 1/3 innings, Severino has allowed one run, and it was not earned. His ERA as a starter is 8.58. Could his future be in the pen?
“We are still looking at him as a starter,” manager Joe Girardi said, “but time will tell.”
It was not a good time for anyone named Luis Sunday. Luis Cessa was rocked for five earned runs and five hits in three innings. It was a much different picture for the youth corps from Saturday’s uplifting victory. Aaron Judge hit another home run, and Gary Sanchez also went deep, but it was a subdued day for the Yanks overall.
The positive aspect for the crowd of 41,473 at Yankee Stadium was the ceremony for Rivera, who joined other team immortals in Monument Park. Former teammates David Cone, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Paul O’Neill and Jorge Posada; former manager Joe Torre; former pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre; former trainer Gene Monahan and current trainer Steve Donohue took part in the ceremony along with managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, his wife Cristina and sister Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.
“Some closers are great, but nobody was like that,” Steinbrenner said in the hallway outside the clubhouse. “So to have kind of a sure thing was something that we never took for granted, but we certainly became comfortable with it, then all of the sudden he retires, and it’s a whole different world.”
Among accomplishments listed on Mo’s plaque was his records for saves (652) and games finished (952) and a remarkable postseason earned run average of 0.70 in 141 innings and an appropriate total of saves, 42, matching his uniform number that was retired last year.
“It’s amazing, thinking about all of the people out there in Monument Park, starting with Babe Ruth,” Rivera said after the ceremony. “You have Mickey [Mantle], you have Mr. Joe DiMaggio and my favorite Yogi Berra, and the list is going on and on. And then me, a humble guy from Puerto Caimito, Panama, being in that group of men means a lot.”
Rivera is the ninth pitcher to have a plaque in Monument Park. He joined Hall of Famers Lefty Gomez, Whitey Ford, Red Ruffing and Goose Gossage, along with Stottlemyre, Pettitte, Ron Guidry and Allie Reynolds.
As he was leaving the clubhouse area to rejoin his family, Mo told me a story I had never heard before. It seems that about a month after the Yankees won the 1998 World Series to complete that dominant 125-50 season (counting their 11-2 postseason mark), Rivera went to the Instructional League in Tampa to work with Stottlemyre.
“Mel wanted to help me work on using fewer pitches to get through innings,” Rivera said. “He emphasized me not trying to strike everybody out but to move the ball around the strike zone to get ahead in the count and make the hitters take more defensive swings. Mel was a great influence on my career.”
That episode in Rivera’s career says all there needs to be said about his devotion to his craft. The Yankees had just completed one of the most incredible seasons any team put together, and there was one of the club’s most important figures going back to the drawing board to make himself even better. That is why Mo earned that plaque.
There was no home run, which would have made the night ideal, but his final game for the Yankees Friday night was all that Alex Rodriguez could have hoped for. He got a run-scoring double his first time up, hit the ball hard in two of his three other at-bats and even got to take the field one last time at third base.
All the while he listened to a capacity crowd of 46,469 at Yankee Stadium shower him with applause, chants of “A-Rod!” and “We want Alex!” throughout the muggy summer evening. Manager Joe Girardi, who has faced criticism for not playing Rodriguez more often this week, broke down in the interview room after the 6-3 victory over the Rays, which indicated that his decision to bench A-Rod was purely based on the 41-year-old’s declining ability and not for any other reason.
It was Girardi who approached Rodriguez after his final at-bat in the seventh inning and asked him if he wanted to wear his glove one more time. The answer was easy for A-Rod. As fans were bellowing “We want A-Rod!” their hero trotted onto the field at the start of the ninth inning. After the first out by Dellin Betances, who struck out the side to earn his fourth save, Girardi sent Ronald Torreyes out to third base, which allowed Rodriguez to receive yet another ovation from the crowd.
“I can’t say enough about the fans,” Rodriguez said. “With all that I have been through, for all those people to be here and show me love was overwhelming.”
It is true that for the most part Yankees fans have rallied around Rodriguez, who has tried very hard to win back their support after an ugly period in 2014 when he was suspended for the season for violating Major League Baseball’s policy against anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs and went on a campaign to discredit the commissioner’s office, the Yankees, their doctors and even his union, the Major League Players Association.
Since his return in 2015, Rodriguez has apologized profusely for that behavior and has tried hard to make amends. But after a very strong first four months last year, A-Rod fell into a steady decline that continued into this season to the point that he lost at-bats as the designated hitter against right-handed pitching. An agreement with Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner led to Friday night, Rodriguez’s last in a Yankees uniform.
It was a night filled with joy and success. Starlin Castro drove in four runs with a two-run single and a two-run home run. Aaron Hicks, who has struggled himself to win over fans, also homered. CC Sabathia pitched six gutty innings for only his second victory in 10 starts since June 16.
Rodriguez was happy that he was able to contribute to a victory in his last game in pinstripes. Whether it is his last game in any big-league uniform seems to be a matter of conjecture.
“This will be pretty tough to top,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t know what else a man can ask for.”
Before leaving the field, Rodriguez walked over to his old third base position, scooped up some dirt and placed it in his pocket. He later put the dirt in a pouch when he changed into civvies.
“It was something I saw Roger Clemens do, and I thought it was cool,” Rodriguez said. “Third base is where I lived in my time with the Yankees. I wanted to take some of that with me.”
It rained all over Alex Rodriguez’s parade Friday night. A fierce thunderstorm with nor’easter winds whipping the rain shortened the pregame ceremony prior to Rodriguez’s last game with the Yankees.
Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, who worked out an agreement with Rodriguez whereby he will be released Saturday in order to sign a new contract as a consultant, presented A-Rod with a framed jersey No. 13 and a base signed by teammates. Mariano Rivera escorted Rodriguez’s daughters onto the field and Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson escorted A-Rod’s mother. Former Yankees outfielder and manager Lou Piniella, who was A-Rod’s first major league manager in Seattle, was featured on a taped message on the center field screen.
Whether Rodriguez intended to make a speech is not known, but he and the rest of the group were forced into the dugout because of the heavy downpour that delayed the start of the game for half an hour.
After the tarpaulin was removed and the grounds crew began working on the field, Rodriguez did wind springs in right field to hearty applause from the sellout crowd. The announcement of his name in the starting lineup for the last time in pinstripes drew the loudest ovation by far.
As the days and nights went by with his name missing from the lineup as the result of a lack of production (two hits in his past 28 at-bats), Alex Rodriguez took pause at his situation. Then a phone call from Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner came Wednesday that began a negotiating period that led to the event Sunday morning at Yankee Stadium.
At a rare news conference for which nothing had been leaked to a media outlet beforehand, the Yankees and Rodriguez announced that he will play his last major league game at the end of the week. Following Friday night’s game against the Rays, Rodriguez will be unconditionally released by the Yankees from his player contract in order to sign a contract to serve as a special advisor and instructor with the club through Dec. 31, 2017. A-Rod’s player contract was to run through the 2017 season, so the Yankees will pay off the remainder after Friday.
“This is a tough day,” Rodriguez said. “I love this game, and I love this team. Today, I am saying goodbye to both.”
Rodriguez, 41, was overtaken by emotion and openly wept before he could continue. He made the decision after several days of negotiations directly with Steinbrenner. Speculation had increased over the past two weeks as Rodriguez lost designated hitter at-bats to Carlos Beltran, who was later traded, and most recently to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre call-up Gary Sanchez.
“The last four weeks have not been fun,” Rodriguez said. “It has been extremely painful and embarrassing being on the bench. I am very excited about Friday.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he would have to talk to Rodriguez about how he might be used in the games prior to Friday that include a three-game series at Boston. A-Rod was not in Sunday’s starting lineup against the Indians. Brian McCann was the DH.
“You always think you have one more hit in you, but I am at peace with it,” Rodriguez said about his decision. “The goal in New York never changes, to work toward winning a championship. Hal recognized that I enjoy working with young players. I am invested in these kids.”
“After spending several days discussing this plan with Alex, I am pleased that he will remain part of our organization moving forward and transition into a role in which we know he can flourish,” Steinbrenner said in a prepared statement. “We have an exciting group of talented young players at every level of our system. Our job as am organization is to utilize every resource possible to allow them to reach their potential, and I expect Alex to contribute directly to their growth and success. Baseball runs through his blood. He’s a tireless worker and an astute student of the game. Alex has already proven to be a willing and effective mentor to many players who have come through our clubhouse, and I am confident that this next phase of his baseball life will bring out the best in Alex and the next generation of Yankees.”
General manager Brian Cashman recalled several years ago when Rodriguez came back from an injury-rehabilitation stint at Class A Tampa giving a glowing scouting report on Greg Bird, who was lost for the 2016 season because of an injury but who is in the Yankees’ sights as their future first baseman.
“I look forward to his impacting our young players,” Cashman said. “Alex has always been a leader and a mentor.”
“I’ll remember how much he loved the game and gave back to it,” Girardi said. “He has been a teacher forever. Alex has what every person should have — a passion for something. He has had that for baseball.”
Rodriguez thanked his mother and two daughters; friends and other family; managers, coaches and teammates; commissioner Rob Manfred and fans “for letting me enjoy playing this game.”
Cashman, who was very busy at the non-waiver trade deadline with deals involving Beltran, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, said there had been no interest expressed by clubs in Rodriguez, who could still change his mind after the Friday night game and pursue talks with other teams on his own. He made that seem doubtful, however.
“I have not thought past the pinstripes,” Rodriguez said. “My horizon is Friday.”
BBWAA secretary-treasurer Jack O’Connell presents 2007 AL MVP Award to Alex Rodriguez April 2, 2008 at Yankee Stadium
Rodriguez, a three-time American League Most Valuable Player (2003, ’05, ’07) and 14-time All-Star (1996-98, ’00-08, ‘10-11), ranks fourth on baseball’s all-time list with 696 home runs, including a record 25 grand slams. He is second in major-league history with 2,084 runs batted in (trailing only Hank Aaron’s 2,297), eighth with 2,021 runs scored and 19th with 3,114 hits. Rodriguez has had 14 seasons of at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI (1996, ’98-2010), the only big leaguer to accomplish the feat.
Originally acquired Feb. 16, 2004, from the Rangers in exchange for Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named (Joaquin Arias), Rodriguez shifted from shortstop to third base before settling in as the DH last year. In 12 seasons for the Yankees, A-Rod reached postseason play nine times and won the World Series in 2009. During that postseason, he batted .365 with 15 runs, five doubles, six home runs and 18 RBI in 15 games and 52 at-bats and won the Babe Ruth Award from the New York Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America as the outstanding player of the 2009 postseason.
Displaying his 2009 World Series ring, Cashman said, “We do not have this in our trophy case if not for the significant contributions of Alex Rodriguez.”
A-Rod concurred. He spoke of that World Series victory as his most memorable achievement. Referring to the final out, he said, “Mariano [Rivera] on the mound, Robinson [Cano] throwing the ball to Tex [Mark Teixeira] at first base is something I will never forget.”
In 1,506 career games with the Yankees, Rodriguez has hit .284 with 1,012 runs, 262 doubles, nine triples, 351 home runs, 1,094 RBI, 779 walks, 152 stolen bases, a .378 on-base percentage and a .901 OPS in 5,568 at-bats. On the Yankees’ all-time lists, A-Rod ranks second in grand slams (15), sixth in homers and slugging percentage (.523), seventh in OPS (min: 2,500PA), 10th in runs, 11th in RBI and stolen bases, 12th in walks, 17th in games played and 18th in on-base percentage.
Rodriguez acknowledged that not all of his career was glorious. He was suspended for the entire 2014 season for violating Major League Baseball’s policy against performance enhancing drugs, which has tainted his legacy.
“I want to be remembered as someone who was madly in love with baseball, as someone who slipped and fell a lot but still got back up,” Rodriguez said.
He got back up one last time when he hit 33 home runs in 2015, although he tailed off dramatically the final two months of the season. That stretch continued into 2016. Over the calendar year since last August, Rodriguez had batted .198 with 124 strikeouts in 398 at-bats.
As Cashman said, “The game tells you when.”
With Teixeira’s announcement last week that he will retire at season’s end, CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner will be all that remains from the 2009 postseason roster. We are truly seeing the end of an era.
Managerial decisions in this age of pitch counts and crowded bullpens often lead to head-scratching among fans. The Yankees’ Joe Girardi and the Diamondbacks’ Chip Hale made questionable moves Wednesday night that in the end proved more costly to Arizona.
The Yankees avoided being swept in the series by the D-backs with a 4-2 victory in the finale, but Girardi put himself on the spot when he decided to remove Nathan Eovaldi after six nearly perfect innings and turn the final three innings over to the power arms of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman. It worked out eventually, but it was touch-and-go there for a while.
Betances walked the first two batters in the seventh, then bounced back to retire the next three hitters, two on strikeouts. Miller hung a 0-2 slider to Chris Owings, who homered leading off the eighth to cut the Yanks’ lead to 3-2, and then struck out the next three hitters. A run in the top of the ninth on a bases-loaded wild pitch provided insurance for Chapman, who did not need it as he retired the side in order in the bottom of the inning to notch his fourth save.
Utilizing all three flame throwers in the same game for the third time was a sign of the importance Girardi placed on winning this game. Earlier in the day, principal owner Hal Steinbrenner leveled criticism at some players and singled out pitchers Luis Severino and Michael Pineda, first baseman Mark Texeira and third baseman Chade Headley. Tex had another tough game (0-for-5, three strikeouts). Headley was 2-for-4 but made a hesitating play in the field in the first inning that allowed the only run charged to Eovaldi, who was nothing short of magnificent.
Brett Gardner’s two-run home run in the first gave Eovaldi a lead before he took the mound. Jean Segura led off with a grounder up the middle that struck the second base bag with the second baseman legging out a double. He crossed to third on a groundout and came home on another, although he stopped in the base path at one point but Headley threw to first base for the sure out.
Eovaldi retired 18 batters in a row following Segura’s hit. The righthander kept the ball down and got 10 outs on ground balls to go with five strikeouts. Of the three fly ball outs against him, two were caught in foul ground. Eovaldi threw 85 pitches through six innings, so it was something of a surprise not to see him come out for the seventh. Girardi admitted he would have kept Eovaldi in the game if he were still working on a no-hitter but added he would not hesitate to use the Betances-Miller-Chapman combine when they were well rested and the opportunity presented itself.
Hale’s questionable decision came in the sixth inning with the score 2-1 Yankees. Eovaldi helped himself with the bat by dropping a sacrifice bunt to move Headley to second base with two out. Hale went to the mound to talk to D-backs starter Shelby Miller but let him pitch to Jacoby Ellsbury, who had already reached base three times in the game and had never made an out against Miller. That statement held when Ellsbury hit a ground single to left that scored Headley and made Ellsbury 6-for-6 in his career against Miller. Ellsbury reached base five times in the game with a double, two singles and two walks and scored on the ninth-inning wild pitch. Right behind him was Gardner with two hits, a run and two RBI.
Eovaldi has four consecutive winning decisions over his past five starts with a 3.48 ERA over 31 innings. Chase Field is also something of a home away from home for Eovaldi, who in six career games (five starts) in the Phoenix yard is 3-0 with a 2.67 ERA in 30 1/3 innings and has held opponents to a .165 batting average in 103 at-bats.
What the Yankees needed on Andy Pettitte Day Sunday at Yankee Stadium was, well, Andy Pettitte.
Another nostalgic ceremony to retire Pettitte’s No. 46 and install a plaque in Monument Park honoring his pitching career with the Yankees was barely over when CC Sabathia gave up a two-run home run to Indians first baseman Carlos Santana in the first inning in what turned out an ominous day for the big lefthander.
There was no one warming up in the bullpen in the third inning when Sabathia had to come out of the game because of an injury to his surgical right knee. Yankees manager Joe Girardi had to rely on a couple of Scranton shuttle guys, Nick Rumbelow and Branden Pinder, to get through the middle innings.
A chant of “Andy Pettitte” from the bleachers sprung up several times from fans with fond memories of his grim determination on the mound over an 18-season major league career, all but three of them with the Yankees, that included an additional 276 1/3 innings of postseason work that produced a 19-11 record and four World Series championships.
“I just don’t remember ever going out there and feeling like I’m going to step on this mound and absolutely dominate this team because I am so good,” Pettitte told the crowd earlier. “I know some of the great players have felt like that. Every game at the big-league level, mentally, I had to be into it every pitch. It seemed like if I let my focus down for one inning, it was going to be a three-run inning. I needed every ounce of focus and energy to be successful.”
The Yankees had coaxed Pettitte out of retirement once before, in 2012. Too bad they could not do it again Sunday.
The only work for Pettitte Sunday was getting through a well-constructed speech in which he thanked his family, former teammates, the Steinbrenner family and even us writers, whom he said treated him fairly over the years.
Joining him on the field for the pregame ceremony were fellow Core Four partners Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Saturday’s honoree Jorge Posada as well as other former teammates Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, David Cone, Scott Brosius, Tino Martinez and Hideki Matsui; former trainer Gene Monahan; former executive Gene Michael; Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and former manager Joe Torre; managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and vice president Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.
“We experienced some amazing wins, some heartbreaking losses,” Pettitte added. “Through it all, this place has become home to me and my family.”
Sabathia was supposed to be Pettitte’s successor as the senior voice on the pitching staff, but he has been slowed down by a knee that has been operated on twice and which was drained twice over the past two months. Sabathia admitted to Girardi that he felt discomfort while warming up but did not say anything until he was interrogated by his manager on the mound.
“It has been a watch for us all year long as we knew it would be,” Girardi said. “For him to say something on the mound it had to be pretty sore.”
Sabathia, who was to undergo an MRI exam late Sunday, has not been himself most of the season. He is 4-9 with a 5.27 ERA, and his record could be worse if the Yankees had not come back from trailing in games to get him off the hook eight times, including Sunday when they tied the score in the seventh inning on a two-run double by Carlos Beltran.
A comeback victory was not forthcoming, however, as Francisco Lindor finished off his second straight three-hit game with a solo home run off Dellin Betances in the eighth inning that held up for a 4-3 victory for the Indians, who were 5-2 against the Yankees this year.
It was almost as painful a game for the Stadium crowd of 46,945 to watch as it was for Sabathia. This was an absolute walkathon with Yankees pitchers combining for 10 walks (four by Sabathia) and the Indians for six. Despite all those free base runners the Yankees allowed, the score stayed close because the Tribe was 1-for-10 (.100) with runners in scoring position and left 11 on base, which would have been more if the Yanks had not turned four double plays.
Sabathia’s injury, which general manager Brian Cashman said would likely put him on the 15-day disabled list, botches plans the Yankees had of going to a six-man rotation with the return from the DL of Michael Pineda, who is scheduled to start Wednesday at the Stadium against the Astros.
The idea was to give an additional day of rest to all the starters, but that will have to go on hold for now. The Yankees could return Adam Warren to the rotation, but as well as he has pitched in relief they are reluctant to do that. The more likely choice for a sixth starter would be Bryan Mitchell, who was on the seven-day concussion list after being struck in the face by a batted ball Aug. 17. Cashman said Mitchell may pitch a simulated game this week.
All these pitching woes and the possibility the Yankees could drop out of first place put a damper on the special day for Pettitte, who might have been a big help had he been able to don a unifiorm.
Andy Pettitte’s Monument Park plaque
ANDREW EUGENE PETTITTE
NEW YORK YANKEES 1995-2003, 2007-2010, 2012-2013
A FIVE-TIME WORLD CHAMPION AND THREE-TIME ALL-STAR, PETTITTE WAS A MODEL OF CONSISTENCY IN THE YANKEES ROTATION FOR 15 SEASONS, GOING 219-127 (.633) AND TYING THE FRANCHISE RECORD OF 438 STARTS.
KNOWN FOR HAVING ONE OF BASEBALL’S BEST PICKOFF MOVES, PETTITTE WILL BE MOST REMEMBERED FOR HIS EXTENSIVE OCTOBER RÉSUMÉ, AS HE WENT 18-10 WITH A 3.76 ERA IN 40 POSTSEASON STARTS WITH THE CLUB. IN 2009, HE BECAME THE FIRST PITCHER TO START AND WIN
THE CLINCHING GAME IN EACH OF THREE SERIES IN A SINGLE POSTSEASON.
THE LEFTHANDER RETIRED WITH THE THIRD HIGHEST WIN TOTAL IN FRANCHISE HISTORY, AND HE IS THE CLUB’S ALL-TIME STRIKEOUT LEADER, WITH 2,020. TWICE A 20-GAME WINNER, PETTITTE FINISHED HIS CAREER AS THE FIRST PLAYER TO PITCH MORE THAN 15 SEASONS IN THE MAJORS WITHOUT EVER HAVING A LOSING RECORD.
DEDICATED BY THE NEW YORK YANKEES
AUGUST 23, 2015
Bernie Williams, a man of few words in his playing career, was downright eloquent in his remarks Sunday night in response to the Yankees’ presenting him with a plaque in his honor in Monument Park and retiring his uniform No. 51.
Williams, whose last season with the Yankees was in 2005, was joined on the field by his mother, Rufina, his brother and his children as well as former Yankees executive Gene Michael, former manager Joe Torre, former coaches Roy White and Willie Randolph and former teammates David Cone, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter.
Williams thanked Michael “for not trading me” when he was a younger player. He thanked White for helping him with his left-handed stance that made him more effective as a switch hitter and Randolph for the advice never to be afraid of success. He also thanked his old teammates for all their support during his 16-season career, all with the Yankees.
Manager Joe Girardi, another former teammate of Williams, presented Bernie’s mom with a bouquet of flowers. Stephen Swindal Jr., grandson of the late Yankees owner George M. Steinbrenner, presented Williams a replica of his plaque. Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner present Bernie a milestone, diamond ring embossed with No. 51.
“Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought as a 17-year-old in Puerto Rico that I could be here this day,” Bernie said. “I am overwhelmed. I remember something Joe Torre told me once. ‘God does not give you the ability — he just lets you borrow it.’ I want to thank God for letting me borrow the ability to play for this franchise all those years.”
The years were filled with great memories on teams that won four World Series titles and was on the losing end of two other World Series, of exciting Division Series and League Championship Series games.
“I am frequently asked what my greatest memory as a player was,” he said. “There were so many. I will say this: all those memories you fans were involved in every one of them.”
Sunday night was yet one more.
And then there was one, which is actually two.
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.
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — The annual pilgrimage to baseball’s mythical birthplace never ceases in its appeal. It provides the chance to reflect on all that is good about the game as the Hall of Fame opens its doors to a new class of immortals.
And what a class in 2014! Former Yankees manager Joe Torre has more than 300 friends and relatives scattered all over this area to witness his induction Sunday alongside fellow managers Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa as well as pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, the longtime Braves teammates, and first baseman Frank Thomas, one of two players with that name in town.
The other Frank Thomas, who was with the original Mets of 1962, is also here signing autographs on Main Street with Hall of Famers and non-Hall of Famers like Darryl Strawberry and Pete Rose. Also John Rocker, although I must say I have no idea why anyone would want his autograph.
Torre was feted Saturday night by the Yankees and Major League Baseball at a private party in a local brewery. Commissioner Bud Selig and Yankees managing partner Hal Steinbrenner spoke glowingly of Torre’s contributions to the game and the franchise. Joe was gracious in his remarks, a sort of test run for the big speech he will on stage at the Clark Sports Center Sunday.
The city is abuzz with former Yankees here and there, including Hall of Famers Whitey Ford, Dave Winfield, Phil Niekro, Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson and Goose Gossage. (Yogi Berra, not feeling well after a recent fall, canceled at the last minute. His boyhood friend from St. Louis, Joe Garagiola, also could not travel here to accept his Buck O’Neill Award Saturday at Doubleday Field but sent a taped message.)
Others here to witness Joe’s induction include actor-comedian Billy Crystal, Yanks chief operating officer Lonn Trost, Gene Michael, Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry, Lee Mazzilli and others. Among the Hall of Famers who have longstanding relationships with Torre are Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax, plus Tim McCarver, last year’s Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting.
This year’s Frick Award winner, Eric Nadel, the Brooklyn-born Texas Rangers radio voice, gave a lusty speech at Saturday’s ceremony. There was also a wonderful acceptance speech by New Yorker magazine’s ageless (93 actually) Roger Angell, this year’s J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner for baseball writing.
This is perfect company for Torre, whose 12 seasons at the helm of the Yankees continued the franchise’s connection with success. He turned around the attitudes of many a Yankees hater from 1996 through 2007. His ascension into the Hall’s gallery is long overdue.