Results tagged ‘ Hall of Fame ’

Tex calls it a career as Yanks bow out of season

As it turned out, Mark Teixeira got his wish. When he hit a game-winning grand slam Wednesday night against the Red Sox, Tex said afterward that he hoped it would be the last home run of his career.

It was.

Plenty of Yankees fans would have hoped Texeira might launch one more drive into the seats Sunday in his last major-league game. Alas, it was not to be. Teixeira had three plate appearances and grounded out twice and flied out once before he came off the field to a standing ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd of 33,277 at the start of the seventh inning as Tyler Austin replaced him at first base.

The slugging for the Yankees in Sunday’s season finale was by Brian McCann, who led off the fourth inning with his 20th home run of the season. It was the ninth consecutive season of 20 or more homers for Mac and the 10th of his career, which made him the fourth catcher in big-league history with at least 10 20-homer seasons. The others are Hall of Famers Mike Pizza and Johnny Bench with 11 apiece and Yogi Berra with 10.

With Gary Sanchez also having goes deep 20 times, the Yankees became the third team in history to have two hitters who played at least half their games behind the plate to hit at least 20 home runs in the same season. The Yankees had Elston Howard and Johnny Blanchard with 21 each in 1961. The Milwaukee Braves had Joe Torre, later the Yankees manager, with 27 and Gene Oliver with 21 in 1965.

A catcher had the big game for the wild-card Orioles in their 5-3 victory. Matt Wieters socked a two-run home run off Yankees starter Luis Cessa in the fourth inning and greeted reliever Tommy Layne with another two-run blast in the sixth. It was the seventh career multi-homer game for the switch-hitting Wieters and the first from both sides of the plate.

Teixeira, who holds the major-league record for homering from each side of the plate in a game (15 times), finished the season with a .204 batting average within 15 home runs and 44 RBI. Tex was a .268 career hitter with the same total of hits as games played (1,862) with 409 homers and 1,298 runs batted in.

In a pregame ceremony, Teixeira was on the field with his wife, Leigh, and their children, Jack, Addy and Will, when he was presented with a framed No. 25 jersey commemorating his final game by Yankees managing general partners Hal Steinbrenner and Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal and Christina Steinbrenner, Hal’s wife. Tex also received a framed base signed by all of the 2016 Yankees that was presented by CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner, his last remaining teammates from the World Series championship team of 2009. Harlem RBI, the organization for which Teixeira donated $1 million and raised more than $10 million over the years, presented him with a signed thank-you card signed by hundreds of youngsters from Harlem and the Bronx who have benefit from his efforts on their behalf.

The Yankees’ fourth-place finish in the American League East this year was their lowest position since 1992, when they were fourth in the then seven-team AL East.

Yanks’ playoff hopes vanish despite sweep of Red Sox

The Yankees got revenge on the Red Sox for that four-game sweep at Fenway Park two weeks ago by completing a three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium Thursday night, but there was little to celebrate afterward because they were finally eliminated from playoff consideration in the 159th game of the season.

The killing blow was the Orioles’ 4-0 victory at Toronto, a game that ended while the Yanks and Red Sox were still playing. It was Baltimore’s 87th victory and tied the O’s with Toronto for the first American League wild card position. The Yankees can win no more than 86 games, so their playoff hopes have vanished.

The Orioles will come to town Friday night for the start of a season-ending, three-game series with still plenty at stake for them. The Tigers, who were rained out, and the Mariners, who opened a four-game set at Seattle against the Athletics, are still within striking distance of a wild card berth.

The Yankees have won four straight games, but a 3-11 stretch Sept. 11-25 with that 3-8 trip through Boston, St. Pete and Toronto was a dagger in the heart of their playoff chances. To be in the hunt this long in a season that took a rebuilding turn of events was nonetheless a positive for the Yankees.

Despite dealing Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova before the non-waiver trade deadline for mostly prospects, the Yankees made a strong second-half run behind the heroics of catcher Gary Sanchez, who has emerged as a Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award candidate.

Sanchez had a rough go of it Thursday night at the plate (0-for-5, four strikeouts) but was his usual forceful self behind it in guiding CC Sabathia through a strong outing. The big lefthander ended a stretch of six winless starts with his first victory since Aug. 23.

A solo home run by Xander Bogaerts in the fourth inning was the lone blemish on the night for Sabathia, who allowed only three other hits and two walks with eight strikeouts to finish the season with a 9-12 record and an ERA below 4.00 (3.91), his lowest since 2012 (3.38).

With his his 223rd career victory, Sabathia passed Jerry Koosman for sole possession of 16th place on the all-time list for wins by left-handed pitchers. It was also CC’s 228th start for the Yankees that moved him past Hall of Famer Jack Chesbro for sole possession of 12th place on the all-time franchise list. The combined 10 strikeouts by Sabathia, Tyler Clippard and Richard Bleier raised the staff’s season total to 1,370, which ties the single-season franchise record also accomplished both last year and the year before.

Unlike so many of his starts this year, the Yankees gave Sabathia plenty of runs to work with. Starlin Castro, Jacoby Ellsbury and Aaron Hicks had run-scoring doubles. Tyler Austin got an RBI on a bases-loaded walk with another run scoring on a wild pitch. The Red Sox, who had clinched the AL East title the night before, had something of a makeshift lineup. In his final game at the Stadium, David Ortiz was honored in a pregame ceremony and struck out and walked in his two plate appearances before coming out of the game in the fourth inning.

Teixeira’s walk-off into the sunset

For the second straight night, the previous game’s hero was on the bench. Mark Teixeira switched places with Tyler Austin Thursday night. Tex was getting rest after his thrilling grand slam with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday night to climax a huge comeback for the Yankees, who avoided elimination from the American League wild card chase with a 5-3 victory over the Red Sox, who nevertheless clinched the AL East title.

Teixeira’s walk-off salami off Boston righthander Joe Kelly was the retiring first baseman’s first career regular-season walk-off home run. He hit one in the 11th inning of Game 2 of the AL Division Series in 2009 against the Twins. It was Tex’s 409th career home run. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Teixeira’s 408 homers were the most in major league history by a player who had never hit a regular-season walk-off home run.

It was his fifth career walk-off hit and first since May 24, 2011 against the Blue Jays. It was the ninth walk-off grand slam in Yankees history, the first since Alex Rodriguez in the bottom of the ninth April 7, 2007 against the Orioles’ Chris Ray. Teixeira also became the third Yankees hitter to slug a walk-off salami against the Red Sox. He joined Charlie Keller Aug. 12, 1942 off Mike Ryba and Red Ruffing, the Hall of Fame pitcher, April 14, 1933 off Bob Weiland.

The only other walk-off grand slam this season was by the Athletics’ Khris Davis May 17 against the Rangers. The grand slam was the 12th of Teixeira’s career and his second this year. He also connected with the bases loaded at Yankee Stadium Sept. 9 off the Rays’ Blake Snell. The only active -layer players with more career grand slams are the Phillies’ Ryan Howard (15) and the Angels’ Albert Pujols (13). Teixeira’s 206th home run with the Yankees moved him past Dave Winfield into 13th place on the all-time franchise list.

Teixeira’s salami got James Pazos his first major-league victory. Pazos was the 22nd different pitcher to earn a winning decision for the Yankees this year, which matched the club record set in 2007. Tyler Clippard earned victories for the Yankees in both seasons (1-3 in 2016, 3-1 in 2007). The Yankees can break the record if either Jonathan Holder and LHP Richard Bleier gets a victory over the final four games. The Yanks’ 22 winning pitchers are tied with the Dodgers for the third most in the majors behind the Braves (28) and the Angels (23).

Mariano Rivera returned to the Stadium Thursday night to be part of a tasteful ceremony celebrating David Ortiz, who like Teixeira will call it a career at the end of the Red Sox’ season. Yankees fans showed class by holding back the boos and giving the Red Sox designated hitter a standing ovation before his first at-bat. They cheered even louder when CC Sabathia struck Ortiz out.

Yankees get over the three-game series sweep hump


The Yankees found a way to sweep a three-game series — just make sure the other team does not score. Wednesday night marked the eighth time this season that the Yankees went into the finale of a three-game series after having won the first two games and the first time they completed a sweep.

They have had two sweeps of four games and one of two games this season, but it took me them until their 34th three-game series of the season to sweep an opponent, and not just any opponent but the team that came to town Monday night in first place in the American League East.

The Yankees cost the Blue Jays sole possession of the top spot earlier in the series as the Red Sox moved into a first-place tie. A possible Boston victory later Wednesday night at San Diego could have shoved Toronto into second place.

Meanwhile, up, up, up go the Yankees in the AL East standings and the wild card race. Should the Red Sox have also lost, the Yanks would have been only 3 1/2 games out of first place. As for the wild card scenario, the Orioles, Tigers and Astros all lost, so the Yankees trail Baltimore by 2 1/2 games, Detroit by 1 1/2 and Houston by 1/2. Tight, tight, tight.

The Yankees have won 10 of their past 14 games, 17 of their past 26 and are 29-21 since the All-Star break. Not bad for a club that dealt its three best players before the Aug. 1 non-waiver trading deadline and bid three-time AL MVP Alex Rodriguez farewell Aug. 12. The Yankees are 14-9 in the post-A-Rod era.

The vacancies have been filled by energetic pitchers and hitters up from the organization-wide success in the minor leagues. Two of the youth corps, Bryan Mitchell and Luis Severino, combined for eight scoreless innings in Wednesday night’s 2-0 victory.

The Yankees got both runs after two were out in the third off Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman. Starlin Castro slammed his 20th home run of the season. Didi Gregorius doubled into the left field corner and scored following a walk to Mark Teixeira on a single by Brian McCann. Castro’s homer was hits 20th, a career high. He is the fourth Yankees second baseman with a 20-homer season. Robinson Cano did it five times, Hall of Famer Joe Gordon four and Alfonso Soriano two.

Mitchell probably would have broken camp with the Yankees in April, but a left toe tear kept him on the disabled list until last month when he worked his way back with Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The righthander pitched one batter into the sixth and allowed four hits and two walks with two strikeouts before turning matters over to Severino.

Yankees officials still consider Severino a starter, but he has been far more effective as a reliever this year. The numbers do not lie. With three more scoreless, one-hit, one-walk, three-strikeout innings, Severino is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 14 1/3 innings out of the bullpen. As a starter, Severino was 0-8 with an 8.58 ERA in 43 innings.

Manager Joe Girardi’s plan was to have Severino available to support Mitchell (1-0), and it worked perfectly. Tyler Clippard worked a perfect ninth with two strikeouts for his second save.

More AL East competition is coming up with the last-place Rays coming to Yankee Stadium for a four-game set starting Thursday night. And just when the Yanks were getting a hand of this three-game series stuff.

Gardner Yanks’ nominee for Clemente Award

Brett Gardner is the Yankees’ nominee for the 2016 Roberto Clemente Award and will be recognized before Wednesday night’s game against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium as part of the 15th annual Roberto Clemente Day.

The award has been presented annually since 1971 and named for the Hall of Fame outfielder two years later after his death in a plane crash while on a mission to Nicaragua to aid victims of an earthquake. The Roberto Clemente Award recognizes a player from each major league club who “best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.”

Gardner was a charter member of the Taylor Hooton Foundation’s Advisory Board to educate youth about performance-enhancing drugs. The left fielder’s extensive community outreach also notably includes heavy involvement with the Ronald McDonald House in both New York and his home state of South Carolina.

Yankees winners of the award were Derek Jeter in 2009, Don Baylor in 1985 and Ron Guidry in 1984.

The Yankees’ top-five minor league affiliates all qualified for the 2016 postseason in their respective leagues: Triple-A Scranton/WB (91-52), Double-A Trenton (87-55), Single-A Tampa (77-58), Single-A Charleston (76-63) and Short-season Single-A Staten Island (44-31). The Yankees are one of two organizations whose minor league affiliates qualified for the postseason at all four full-season levels. The other is the Mariners. The Yankees’ four Yankees affiliates combined for a 331-228 (.592) record.

Severino should learn from Rivera’s example

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.

Thunderstorm shortens A-Rod’s pregame ceremony

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.

Celebratory weekend at Yankee Stadium

The Yankees will open a six-game homestand with an especially busy weekend as they honor Alex Rodriguez Friday night, the 20th anniversary of the 1996 World Series champions Saturday and Mariano Rivera Sunday in the three-game series against the Rays.

The Yanks will recognize Rodriguez in a pregame ceremony prior to his final game with the club. Fans are encouraged to arrive early and be in their seats by 6:50 p.m. with ceremonies to follow soon thereafter. Please note that the Yankees-Rays game is now scheduled to start at 7:35 p.m.

The Yankees’ celebration of their World Series triumph of 20 years ago will begin Friday night as the first 15,000 people in attendance will receive a 1996 World Series replica trophy, presented by Delta Air Lines.

An on-field reunion of the 1996 champs will take place before Saturday’s game. Hall of Famers Joe Torre and Wade Boggs will be in attendance, along with Rivera, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, David Cone, Jimmy Key, John Wetteland, Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, among others.

Finishing off the weekend will be Sunday’s Monument Park plaque dedication ceremony for Rivera, which will feature many notable Yankees alumni and special guests to honor Major League Baseball’s all-time saves leader.

Fans are asked to be in their seats by noon for the introductions and subsequent ceremonies prior to the regularly scheduled Saturday and Sunday games, which will air exclusively on the YES Network along with the pregame festivities. On both dates, Yankee Stadium gates will open to ticket-holding fans at 11 a.m.

The Hard Rock Cafe presents Little Steven’s Underground Garage Concert Series, powered by JBL will continue in the Pepsi Food Court on the third-base side of the Field Level Friday with The Connection. The performance is scheduled to take place from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. Admission to the pregame concert is included with a valid game ticket for that date. Future acts are currently scheduled to perform throughout the summer. More information on the series can be found at

Ticket specials will run Monday Military Personnel Game), Tuesday (Military Personnel Game) and Wednesday (MasterCard Half-Price, Military Personnel, Senior Citizen, Student and Youth Game). For a complete list of ticket specials, including game dates, seating locations, and terms and conditions, fans should visit Please note that all ticket specials are subject to availability.

The homestand will also feature the following promotional items and dates:

Monday, Aug. 15 – Yankees vs. Blue Jays, 7:05 p.m.
* Yankees T-shirt Night, presented by Kowa, to first 18,000 in attendance.

Tuesday, Aug. 16 – Yankees vs. Blue Jays, 7:05 p.m.
* Yankees Coloring Book Night, presented by Party City, to first 18,000 in attendance, 14 and younger.

Wednesday, Aug. 17 – Yankees vs. Blue Jays, 1:05 p.m.
* CC Sabathia Growth Chart Day, presented by Catch 24 Advertising, to first 10,000 Guests in attendance, 14 and younger.

Tickets may be purchased online at,, at the Yankee Stadium Ticket Office, via Ticketmaster phone at 877-469-9849, Ticketmaster TTY at 800-943-4327 and at all Ticket Offices located within Yankees Clubhouse Shops. Fans with questions may call 212-YANKEES [926-5337] or email

For information on parking and public transportation options to the Stadium, please visit and click on the Yankee Stadium tab at the top of the page.

Chapman lighting up jugs gun in record figures

Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman had the Yankee Stadium crowd ooing and ahhing in the ninth inning of Monday night’s 2-1 victory over the Orioles as he threw the five fastest pitches ever tracked by MLB Statcast. They ranged in speeds of 104.0 to 105.1 miles per hour.

Chapman’s 105.1-mph fastball, on the sixth pitch to J.J. Hardy, matched his major-league-record 105.1-mph fastball that was clocked by FanGraphs’ PITCHf/x Sept. 24, 2010 with the Reds against the Padres at San Diego’s Petco Park. Statcast reports that Chapman has a majors-leading 217 pitches of at least 100 mph this season. The next most is 73 by the Braves’ Mauricio Cabrera. According to Statcast, 46.1 percent of Chapman’s 471 total pitches have hit triple digits.

One of Chapman’s No Runs DMC partners, Andrew Miller, had his franchise record streak of consecutive relief appearances with at least one strikeout end at 28, the longest by a major-league reliever since the Indians’ Cody Allen had 29 in a row from Sept. 29 through July 8 last year.

Miller pitched the eighth inning Monday night and retired Manny Machado on a tap to the mound, gave up a single to right-center by Mark Trumbo and got Matt Wieters on a 6-4-3 double play. The DP may be a pitcher’s best friend, but in this case it cost Miller a chance to extend his streak. He will just have to start a new one.

The trio of Chapman, Miller and Dellin Betances has combined for a 2.02 ERA with 26 walks and 191 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings.
The Yankees are 18-1 when all three pitch in the same game. In those 19 games, No Runs DMC has teamed to post a 1.21 ERA with 16 walks and 90 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings and held hitters to a .138 batting average in 203 at-bats.

Carlos Beltran went 3-for-4 Monday night, his ninth game this season with at least three hits. He has had three such games in his past 10 games and six his past past 24. Beltran has a slash line of .379/.419/.552 (33- for-87) with 10 runs, six doubles my three home runs, 14 RBI, five walks and a hit by pitch in 24 games and 87 at-bats since April 20.

One off Beltran’s three hits Monday night was a double, career No. 523 to tie Hall of Famer Willie Mays for 45th place on the all- time list. Next up at 524 is Ken Griffey Jr., who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this coming weekend. In 43rd place at 525 is yet another Hall of Famer, Ted Williams. Beltran has 15 seasons with at least 20 doubles, which is tied with Chili Davis for fifth most by a switch hitter in the modern era. The only switch hitters with more such seasons are Eddie Murray (20), Chipper Jones and Pete Rose (18 each) and Roberto Alomar (16).

Alex Rodriguez’s ninth home run of the season and 696th of his career was his 1,758th hit with the Yankees, which broke a tie with Wally Pipp for 17th place on the franchise’s career hit list. A-Rod has 69 career home runs against the Orioles, his second most against any opponent, topped only by the 70 he has slugged against the Angels.

Nathan Eovaldi, back in the rotation to start Tuesday night, is averaging 97.1 mph on his fastball this season, according to FanGraphs’ PITCHf/x, which is the highest average velocity in the American League and the second highest in the majors only to the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard (98.1). Eovaldi earned his way back into the rotation by pitching 7 2/3 scoreless innings in three relief outings.

Matsui, Cone put on show at Old Timer’s Day

At the annual Yankees Homecoming Dinner this April in which Hideki Matsui was honored for his career he told a story about when he was playing in Japan and was asked if he thought he could compete in the United States.

He told a reporter that he had seen a game in which David Cone was pitching and said, “I can hit that.”

Cone and Matsui have been teasing each other over that for years. So it was inevitable that there would be a confrontation between them. What better environment than Old Timer’s Day, the 70th version of which was celebrated Sunday?

Cone came into the game specifically to pitch to Matsui. The first pitch was over the Japanese slugger’s head. The next delivery was what has become an annual grooved special by Cone in Old Timer’s Day games, right down Broadway, and Matsui jumped all over it and drove it into the second deck in right field.

Cone feigned surprise and embarrassment. Truth be told, it is all an act. Cone knows what the fans want to see on Old Timer’s Day, and that is not a pitcher burning it in to every batter and striking everybody out. I once asked the Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson why he seldom took part in Old Timer’s games, and he told me that all they want is for the pitcher to put the ball over the plate so the hitters can mash it. Gibby was too competitive to play that kind of game.

Coney is a different cat. He knows Old Timer’s games are entertainment, and he aims to please. A few years ago, he grooved a pitch to former teammate Tino Martinez, who went yard. Paul O’Neill also clipped Cone. Sunday was just Matsui’s turn.

Scoring ahead of Matsui on his homer was Reggie Jackson, who had lined a single to left field in the prior at-bat off Scott Kamieniecki. I talked with Reggie Saturday after he spent about half an hour taking batting practice in the indoor cage at Yankee Stadium.

“I don’t want to strike out tomorrow,” he said, laughing.

Gene Michael is the manager for both teams, the Clippers and the Bombers. “That way, I can’t lose,” Stick said.

He had the lineup cards for both teams taped onto the front of his uniform. Roy White saw that he was batting sixth in the Clippers’ lineup and asked Stick how come Lee Mazzilli was batting second in the Bombers’ lineup.

“That’s the Triple-A squad; do you want to play for them,” Michael said.

Next came Mazzilli’s voice from across the room, “Hey, Stick, we can hear every word you are staying.”

The camaraderie among the former players is the best part of Old Timer’s Day. Bernie Williams and John Wetteland and Mariano Duncan and Charlie Hayes exchanged stories about the 1996 team that won the Yankees’ first World Series title in 15 years. Hayes still refers to the area near the third base box seats where he caught the final out against the Braves as “the holy ground.”

Williams was still beaming over graduating from Manhattan College of Music. “I completed the four years in three,” said Bernie, who is having a second career as a guitarist. “It was quite an experience. I thought I knew a lot about music until I realized that I didn’t.”

In addition to “Mr. October,” other Hall of Famers on hand were Whitey Ford, Rickey Henderson, Goose Gossage and Joe Torre. Eddie Robinson, at 95 the oldest living former Yankees player, and 1956 World Series perfect game author Don Larsen, 86, were also in attendance.

Sadly missing was the catcher who leaped into Larsen’s arms at the end of that game. Yogi Berra was a rookie in 1947 when the Yankees honored Babe Ruth to begin the Old Timer’s Day tradition and was a staple of the event over the years. He was there in spirit, however, as the Yankees used jeweled bases commemorating his legacy during the game.