Results tagged ‘ Lefty Gomez ’
It was Opening Day at Yankee Stadium Monday, but not for everybody with the Yankees. They opened the franchise’s 1111th season with five important ingredients missing due to injuries. No Derek Jeter. No Alex Rodriguez. No Curtis Granderson. No Mark Teixeira. No Phil Hughes.
With four major position players out of the lineup, the Yankees had a decidedly different look from the team that finished the 2012 season. Newcomers to the squad included Vernon Wells in left field, Kevin Youkilis at first base and Ben Francisco as the designated hitter with familiar faces from the bench getting starting nods, Eduard Nunez at shortstop, Jayson Nix at third base and Francisco Cervelli behind the plate.
It may take some time for Yankees fans to warm up to Youkilis, a long-time target of disdain during his years with the Red Sox. He was slow to acknowledge the bleacher creatures’ first-inning roll call and heard some boos then and again when he batted in the first inning. Youk did hear cheers when he threw a runner out at the plate in the second inning, a rough one for CC Sabathia, who was touched for four runs on four hits and two walks.
Brett Gardner, who missed most of last season with a wrist injury, was back but this time in center field. Yankees manager Joe Girardi toyed with the idea of flip-flopping Granderson and Gardner during spring training, but when Curtis went down with a forearm injury the experiment never materialized.
Sabathia made the 10th Opening Day start of his career and the fifth in a row for the Yankees. He became the sixth pitcher in franchise history make at least five Opening Day starts. The only pitchers with more were also lefthanders, Whitey Ford and Ron Guidry with seven apiece and Lefty Gomez with six.
A moment of silence was observed before the game in memory of former Yankees fireballer Bob Turley, the 1958 American League Cy Young Award winner and World Series hero who died last week at the age of 82.
There was also a touching tribute before the game in memory of the victims of the Sandy Hook School shooting in Newtown, Conn. An honor guard of Newtown police officers and firefighters were on the field as a list of the victim’s names appeared on the center field video screen. Yanks and Red Sox players wore special ribbons on their uniforms to commemorate the tragedy.
I have come full cycle with Old Timers Day, one of the great traditions at Yankee Stadium where it all began with a day to honor Babe Ruth in 1947. The first one I attended was in the late 1950s and getting to see Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, Lefty Gomez, Tommy Henrich, Red Ruffing and other stars of my parents’ generation’s youth. My father was actually a Giants fan when they still played in New York, but my mother’s family was all Yankees fans.
When I started covering the Yankees in the 1980’s, Old Timers’ Day was a favorite because I would not only get to see the Yankees stars of my youth such as Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Hank Bauer and Moose Skowron but also to talk to them. Bauer was one of the best interviews ever; blunt, outspoken, colorful.
One of my favorite stories came from Bauer’s old platoon partner, Gene Woodling. (Bauer, by the way, was not crazy about Casey Stengel, who platooned him early on in the outfield before he became the regular right fielder.)
Back to Woodling; he talked of a time when players were so worried about keeping their jobs that he played for about a week with a broken bone in his heel. It swelled so much, Woodling said, that he cut out the back of his cleat and spread black shoe polish on the heel so no one would notice and stayed in the lineup. Finally, Dickey, the Hall of Fame catcher who was then Casey’s first base coach, saw Woodling’s shoe with the big hole in it in his locker and told him that he needed treatment.
Think of something like that happened today when disabled lists are almost as big as rosters!
At Sunday’s Old Timers’ Day, I was reminded of the passage of time when I encountered so many players whom I covered when they broke into the majors – Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and David Cone in my years on the Mets and Bernie Williams, Pat Kelly and Kevin Maas during my time with the Yankees. I had them as rookies, and now they’re Old Timers, so what does that make me.
Don’t answer that.
This was Bernie’s first Old Timer’s Day, and he was one of the big hits of the afternoon. He got a rousing ovation from the crowd during the introduction ceremonies. Fans were on their feet again when he doubled to the warning track in left-center in the two-inning Old Timers’ game. Then the Stadium really exploded when Bernie’s old teammate, Tino Martinez, popped a two-run home run to right off Cone, another old teammate.
I teased Bernie around the batting cage before the game after he had told writers that he still did not consider himself retired. “But I think that’s closer now,” he said.
I told him that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America was in the process of putting together the 2012 Hall of Fame ballot that will go out to voters in December, and that he would be on it; in other words, like it or not, Bernie, you’re retired.
He was asked during the press conference what his favorite memory from his playing career was. Williams could not limit it to just one and gave a very thoughtful answer.
“I would say that three things stick out – winning our first World Series championship in 1996, winning the batting title in 1999 and being on the field before the last game at the old Stadium,” he said. “I got announced after Yogi, which was pretty cool.”
Bernie officially joined the pantheon of Yankees legends Sunday, and he sounded proud of it.
“It’s a really big thing for me,” he said. “If you take the word ‘old,’ I think I’d be a little uncomfortable with it. But when I was playing, I looked forward to these days. To me, it was a reminder of the fact that we’re part of a family that has been going on for 100 years, and thinking I was part of something that was bigger than myself. And now I’m on the other side, being in the same situation, so it’s good. It’s great. I’m just really proud of this organization. When I chose to stay and have my whole career as a Yankee, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.”
Also back for the first Old Timers’ Day appearance were former managers Lou Piniella and Joe Torre. “Sweet Lou,” who served the Yankees in nearly every category there is (players, coach, manager, general manager, broadcaster) put on the pinstripes for the first time since 1988. He had been busy elsewhere after that, winning a World Series with the Reds in 1990 and helping to build the Mariners into a viable franchise.
The pinstripes looked good on Torre, too, even while wearing a sling after recently undergoing right rotator cuff surgery. The man who won six American League pennants, four World Series and had the Yankee in post-season play all 12 of his seasons as manager had been invited before but was unable to attend because he was managing the Dodgers. Joe is now vice president for baseball operations in the commissioner’s office, but it is not really a desk job as he gets to spend a lot of time in ballparks.
With Jack McKeon (Marlins) and Davey Johnson (Nationals) back in big-league dugouts, I was curious if that gave either Lou or Joe the itch to return.
“There comes a time when you have to walk away, and I knew last year was that time for me,” Piniella said. “It was the same when I was a player. I was never one who wanted another at bat.”
“I was shopping with my wife recently,” Torre said, “and she told me how strange it was that here we were in the middle of a baseball season together and I wasn’t stressed out. I don’t miss all that stress.”
Both proudly wore rings linking them to their Yankees careers – Lou the World Series ring of 1977 and Joe of 1996. Those were the first championships for each.
“You never forget the first time,” Joe said on a day at Yankee Stadium that never gets old.
When Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera made their 2011 debuts Thursday, they also continued to make history. The Elias Sports Bureau reported that they are the first trio of teammates in Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League to play together in each of 17 consecutive seasons, extending the record they established in 2010.
Jeter, Posada and Rivera have been teammates since 1995. Mo is the senior member of the trio. He came up in May of ’95 and pitched in 19 games, including 10 as a starter. He gained nation-wide attention for his outstanding work in that year’s first Division Series against the Mariners (0 runs, 3 hits, 8 strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings).
Jeter played in 15 games in May and June as a replacement for injured shortstop Tony Fernandez and hit .250 in 48 at-bats. Posada played behind the plate in only one inning of one game as a September call-up and did not bat.
The previous pro sports record for consecutive seasons by three teammates was 15 by the Brewers’ trio of Jim Gantner, Paul Molitor and Robin Yount from 1978 through 1992. Tied for the second longest trio of Yankees who played 13 years together: Bill Dickey, Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing from 1930 through 1942 and Whitey Ford, Elston Howard and Mickey Mantle from 1955 through 1967.
I realize I am in the minority here, but so what. I believe the Yankees caught a big break with Cliff Lee going to the Phillies.
OK, hear me out. It would have been terrific to have Cliff Lee paired with CC Sabathia to give the Yankees a 1-2 punch that would be something out of Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens or David Cone and Jimmy Key or Whitey Ford and Bob Turley or Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez. Yes, for 2011 and 2012 and 2013 and maybe 2014, it may have been a beautiful thing to watch Sabathia and Lee try to outdo each other with every start.
Then again, something could have gone wrong. Sabathia, after all, is coming off knee surgery. Lee is 32 years old, and that is no small thing when you consider the Yankees’ offer was for seven years for money believed guaranteed at $138 million.
Forget about the money for a minute and look at the term – a seven-year contract. That was what the Yankees gave Sabathia after the 2008 season (for 161 large) when the big guy was 28, four years younger than Lee is now. CC’s deal will take him to age 35, but Lee’s would have gone until he was 39. I am uncomfortable signing any pitcher any age to a seven-year contract, but a 32-year-old who had some back issues last year?
Everyone expected Lee to stay in Texas if he decided against coming to New York, but again, the Yankees caught a break. He went to the National League where he can be a major headache for the Mets. Speaking of the Mets; how is that seven-year contract they gave Johann Santana a few years back looking now?
It is now up to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman to be creative in improving the rotation after being rejected by Lee. Cash is skillful enough an executive to do this. It could have been worse. Think of the Rangers having given up a major prospect in first baseman Justin Smoak to get Lee from the Mariners and having nothing now to show for it. The Yankees at least still have Jesus Montero and Eduardo Nunez.
Think of the old Yankee Stadium and clips of Lefty Gomez or Whitey Ford come to mind. The renovated Stadium provided a showcase for Ron Guidry and Andy Pettitte. And there is little doubt that the left-handed pitcher most associated with the new Stadium is CC Sabathia.
Talk about a comfort zone. Sabathia’s tenure with the Yankees coincided with the opening of the new place in 2009 and has it ever been home to him these past two seasons.
His work Thursday in a 5-0 victory over the Athletics was nothing short of masterful. Oakland puts out a lineup that seems the equivalent of a Triple A team, and that is just the way CC handled the A’s. They managed one hit off him in eight innings, but an even greater measure of his dominance was that Sabathia didn’t allow the A’s to hit a ball out of the infield for 5 1/3 innings covering a stretch of 19 plate appearances.
Landon Powell flied out to left field to end the second inning. The next ball to reach the outfield by an A’s hitter was Coco Crisp’s fly to right for the second out in the eighth. In between, there were eight groundouts (one of which was a double play), three infield pops (two of them foul), four strikeouts, two walks, one hit batter and a player reaching on a throwing error by catcher Jorge Posada after fielding a dribbler in front of the plate.
“That’s as good as it gets,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Sabathia seems to be as good as it gets whenever he pitches at Yankee Stadium. He has not lost in his past 21 starts in the Bronx, matching a streak Ford had during the 1964 and ’65 seasons in the original building. The Yankees are 19-2 in those Sabathia starts. His personal record in those starts is 16-0 with a 2.05 ERA.
CC is 11-0 with a 2.27 ERA at the Stadium this year, the first Yankees pitcher in 12 years to win his first 11 home decisions of a season. David Wells and David Cone both did it in 1998. Over his two seasons with the Yankees at the Stadium, Sabathia is 18-2 with a 2.63 ERA. And that does not count his three postseason starts of 2009 when he was 2-1 with a 1.66 ERA. Sabathia’s only loss was in Game 1 of the World Series when he pitched well against the Phillies except for Chase Utley, who homered off him twice.
“Maybe it’s because I like my wife’s cooking,” CC says with a smile. “I enjoy being home and relaxing with my family.”
CC was able to get back home early Thursday because of his efficiency. Mark Ellis’ leadoff single to left in the second was the lone hit Sabathia surrendered. Two home runs by Curtis Granderson, a late fill-in for ailing Nick Swisher (sore left knee) and one by Posada gave CC all the run support he needed.
The only thing close to a rough patch was in the eighth when he hit the first batter and walked the next. Sabathia had plenty left in his tank as he struck out pinch hitter Daric Barton, got Crisp on that fly ball and Rajai Davis on another infield out.
Sabathia wanted to come out for the ninth, but Girardi decided to have the big guy call it a day.
“It was really hot,” Girardi said, “and we need to give him a break once in a while. He’s a big, strong man. He’s a football player playing baseball.”
“I can see myself playing the offensive line,” said Sabathia, who is 6-foot-7 and 290 pounds.
“He had no-hit stuff,” Posada said. “He had a great slider and changeup, especially the slider. His slider in, his slider away, he just kept throwing strikes.”
At 19-5 with a 3.02 ERA, Sabathia is a strong candidate for his second American League Cy Young Award. He has always said his Cy Young year of 2007 with the Indians was his most consistent, but 2010 is pretty close. What CC is also doing is working his way into the AL Most Valuable Player Award conversation.
No knock on Robinson Cano, but it could be argued that Sabathia has been equally as valuable to the Yankees, who have had issues with other pitchers in the rotation.
“He has been the one constant,” Girardi said. “That’s what aces do.”
It wasn’t exactly what Camden Yards is like when the Yankees are in Baltimore, but Yankee Stadium had a fair share of Phillies fans in the seats for Thursday night’s finale of the 2009 World Series rematch, won by the Phils, two games to one. Who would have thought the Yankees’ only victory in the series was the game started by Roy Halladay?
The visitors from Philadelphia, many of whom were clad in the team’s color red, did not have much to cheer about the first three innings when Andy Pettitte retired the first nine batters in order. Along the way, Andy picked up two strikeouts to move into sole possession of second place on the franchise’s career list. The first punchout tied Pettitte with Ron Guidry for the runner-up spot, and he moved ahead of Gator with the second, career No. 1,779. Andy still has a ways to go catch the all-time leader, Whitey Ford, at 1,956.
Cheering could be heard when the Phillies struck for a run in the fourth on a single by Ryan Howard. It was unearned due to an error by Ramiro Pena, who was playing third base in place of Alex Rodriguez, again the designated hitter as he works his way back from tendinitis of the right hip flexor.
Yankees fans then began booing Phillies fans. This went back and forth again in the fifth when Shane Victorino pushed the Phils’ lead to 3-0 with a two-run home run.
The Yankees didn’t give their fans much to cheer about until the sixth. Held to two singles and a walk through five innings by Kyle Kendrick in his first career start against the Yankees, they put together a two-out rally on a walk to Mark Teixeira and singles by Rodriguez and Robinson Cano.
A-Rod, whose running of late has been gingerly, should have been dead at third base, but Howard inexplicably held the ball after cutting off right fielder Jason Werth’s throw and made no attempt for Rodriguez. Nothing came of it as Nick Swisher fouled out to third baseman Placido Polanco, who made a terrific catch sprawling across the tarpaulin.
Yankees fans took charge of the noise in the seventh when Pettitte struck out Howard with the bases loaded to end the inning. It was another milestone for Andy, who tied Bob Shawkey for fifth place on the Yankees’ career innings list at 2,493. Fourth place belongs to Lefty Gomez at 2,497.
With disgruntled Yankees fans leaving early, the Stadium sounded more like Citizens Bank Park in the ninth as Joba Chamberlain, Damaso Marte and Chan Ho Park let the Phillies pull away with four runs. The inning ended because a hard grounder by Ben Francisco struck Raul Ibanez running between second and third.
But none of the umpires apparently saw it. Derek Jeter pointed to Ibanez’s leg and ran off the field, followed by the rest of the Yankees. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel wondered what was going on. There were no Yankees on the field, yet there was no call by an umpire until after a conference among the four plate umpire Tom Hallion made an out sign. Truly weird.
There will be more of this cheering for both sides Friday night when the second installment of this year’s Subway Series comes to the Stadium. Yankees fans must hope to do a better job of drowning out the sounds of Mets fans than they did against the Phillies.