Results tagged ‘ Wade Boggs ’
The Yankees needed CC Sabathia to be a stopper Sunday, a losing streak stopper in the traditional sense, and that is what he was. Seven shutout innings against one of the toughest lineups in baseball tamed the Tigers and sent the Yankees off to Cleveland in a good frame of mind.
The 7-0 victory was an ensemble effort. Sabathia’s work was the centerpiece, but he had plenty of support. The Yankees knocked out 13 hits with all but one of the regulars (Lyle Overbay) contributing to the effort. Seven of the hits came off Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who left with one out in the eighth inning trailing 3-0.
Jayson Nix out of the 9-hole had the big hit off Verlander, a two-run home run in the second inning off a 2-1 changeup from Verlander, who probably wished he had stayed with the gas. Nix, hitless in seven at-bats with five punchouts prior to Sunday, had a field day with two other hits and two runs scored while filling in at shortstop for injured Eduardo Nunez (bruised right bicep). Nunez cannot throw right now, but he came in handy as a pinch runner for Travis Hafner (two hits) and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ichiro Suzuki (his first RBI of the season) in the eighth.
A run-scoring double in the second inning and a two-out, run-scoring single in the eighth for Francisco Cervelli gave the catcher the club lead in RBI with five.
Kevin Youkilis continued his hot start (.409) with a double off Verlander in the first inning and a two-run single off Octavio Dotel in the ninth. Are Yankees fans finally warming up to this guy? I know he annoyed fans this spring with that “I’ll always be a Red Sox” quote in reference to his time in Boston, but that just meant that he could not ignore what he had accomplished there. That was the opposite of what Wade Boggs said in his first spring training with the Yankees in 1993 that his 11 years with the Red Sox “never happened.” Really? Five batting titles did not count? We would all come to get used to Boggsy’s off-the-beam perspective on things.
Sabathia admitted to writers after the game that he did not have his best stuff, except for his changeup, which is becoming almost as important a weapon as his slider. CC was annoyed at himself for working in so many deep counts. The seventh inning, his last, was the only 1-2-3 inning for him, but he stranded seven Tigers runners over the first six innings and was especially effective against the 3-4-5 mashers Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez, who were a combined 0-for-9 against him. Overall, CC limited the Tigers to four singles and three walks with four strikeouts.
David Robertson followed Sabathia with a scoreless eighth, and in a non-save situation Mariano Rivera gave up two hits in the ninth but no runs in what might have been his farewell appearance in front of a Detroit audience (unless the clubs match up in postseason play as they did last year). The Tigers showed class by honoring Mo before the game with Detroit manager Jim Leyland unveiling a plaque of Rivera pitching at Comerica Park and old Tiger Stadium and containers of dirt from each field.
The Yankees did not let themselves get bullied by Verlander, who for all his accomplishments is only a .500 pitcher in his career against them. His record against the Yankees fell to 5-5 with a 3.74 ERA in 84 1/3 innings, during which he has allowed 90 hits, including 11 home runs.
Desperate situations call for desperate measures. Staring at a possible postseason elimination game Friday at Yankee Stadium in Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Orioles, Yankees manager Joe Girardi constructed a lineup without Alex Rodriguez. The die was cast in the previous two games when Girardi lifted Rodriguez in the late innings for pinch hitters Raul Ibanez in Game 3 and Eric Chavez in Game 4. For Game 5, A-Rod will be one of Girardi’s potential pinch hitters.
There is no getting around the fact that this is a major comedown for someone who won three American League Most Valuable Player Awards and is among the career leaders in home runs (fifth with 647), RBI (seventh with 1,950), extra-base hits (ninth with 1,189), total bases (ninth with 5,414) and runs scored (10th with 1,898).
This is hardly unprecedented in Yankees history. In Game 5 of the 1996 World Series at Atlanta, then Yankees manager Joe Torre had right-handed batting Cecil Fielder at first base and Charlie Hayes at third base against right-handed pitcher John Smoltz, over left-swinging Tino Martinez and Wade Boggs, respectively. The move paid off as Fielder had three hits and drove in the only run of the game as the Yankees took a 3-2 lead in the Series that they won in Game 6 back home.
As affectionately as Yankees fans feel about Martinez and fully acknowledging that Boggs was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, neither player was of the stature of Rodriguez. Girardi is managing the A-Rod of today, however, and not the one who won MVP Awards in pinstripes in 2005 and 2007 or the one who was a postseason star when the Yankees last won a World Series three years ago.
The reality of the 2012 ALDS is that Rodriguez has 2-for-16 (.125) with nine strikeouts. All of the Ks are against right-handed pitching, against whom A-Rod is hitless in 11 at-bats. So it can hardly have come as a surprise to anyone that such a decision was made. That said, A-Rod is not the only culprit in this series.
Curtis Granderson (.063, nine strikeouts), Nick Swisher (.133) and Robinson Cano (.111) have not lit up the skies, either.
The Yankees’ Game 4 loss also hurt in that with a Game 5 of the ALDS they have to use CC Sabathia and not have him ready to start Game 1 of the ALCS if they had won Thursday night. If the Yankees should win Game 5, they would not be able to use Sabathia in the ALCS until Game 3 Tuesday night at Detroit against Justin Verlander, who would be starting on regular rest while CC would be on short rest.
The Yankees’ Japanese tandem of Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki has certainly found a comfortable home at Yankee Stadium. Sunday night’s 4-1 victory in the rubber game of the series against Boston was achieved mainly through their combined efforts.
Kuroda was brilliant again for eight innings, marking the seventh straight start in which he has allowed three runs or less. This time, it was only one. Kuroda was working on a two-hit shutout when he gave up a solo home run to Adrian Gonzalez with one out in the seventh. Suzuki had already helped stake Kuroda to a four-run lead with a pair of solo home runs.
“The thing about both Hiroki and Ichiro is that they are extremely well prepared,” manager Joe Girardi said. “They are ready to do and do their jobs.”
The Stadium seems to bring about the best in these two guys. Kuroda came to the Yankees as a free agent after pitching for four seasons for the Dodgers. There were concerns that he might not find hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium to his liking as much as pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium. It was reasonable to assume he would have to make adjustments, but one thing he did not change was his approach.
“This is a smaller park that some others, but you cannot be afraid,” Kuroda said. “You still have to stay aggressive, and I try to be as aggressive as possible.”
The key for Kuroda is to keep the ball down, which he has done with regularity.
“He has been on a tremendous roll,” Girardi said of Kuroda, who is 6-1 with a 2.29 ERA over his past 11 starts and 9-2 with a 2.22 ERA over his past 16 starts. “The consistency of his sinker and slider has been amazing, and he throws in a few splitters as well.”
In 15 starts at the Stadium this year, Kuroda is 9-4 with a 2.03 ERA in 113 2/3 innings. Opposing hitters are batting only .210 against him with eight home runs and 25 RBI in 377 at-bats. Kuroda is pitching better for the Yankees than he did for the Dodgers just as he pitched better for the Dodgers than he did in Japan.
“I try to evolve and be creative as a pitcher,” he said. “Every year I try to pitch better.”
As for Ichiro, he has really gotten into the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry and was jubilant after the victory. Sunday night capped off a terrific homestand in which he had 10-for-19 (.526) with a double, a triple and the two homers. He has 14 hits in his past 30 at-bats, a .467 stretch that has raised his batting average 12 points to .272. Suzuki is batting .322 in 87 at-bats since joining the Yankees and is even better at the Stadium as he has hit .358 with two doubles, one triple, three home runs and four RBI.
For his career, Ichiro is batting .345 with five home runs in 116 at-bats at the current Stadium and .343 with eight home runs in 280 at-bats at the old and new Stadiums combined.
“I haven’t changed at all,” Suzuki said when asked if his approach is different at the Stadium. “A guy my size (5-10, 170 pounds) is still going to find it tough to get the ball out there.”
Anyone who has seen Ichiro take batting practice knows that he can turn on a ball with power on occasion, similar to the way Wade Boggs used to be.
“I just feel so good coming into this clubhouse every day,” Suzuki said.
The feeling among the Yankees is mutual.
Considering what the American League East standings look like, the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry could use a little boost. It got it Friday night with Ichiro Suzuki’s first game at Yankee Stadium wearing the pinstripes. The sellout crowd of 49,571 responded to every move the hit maker made during the game, another sound drubbing of Boston, 10-3. The Yankees are 6-1 this year against the Red Sox, who are last in the division and trail the Bombers by 11 1/2 games.
“Usually when I came here [with the Mariners], the fans were all over me the whole game,” Ichiro said. “But the fans tonight were awesome. They cheered for me all night. I hope that continues.”
Right from the start, Suzuki enjoyed the fans’ reaction. The Bleacher Creatures’ roll call did present a problem in his mind, but he was able to doff his cap in response.
“I wanted to take my hat off and acknowledge them,” he said. “But I was worried that if I tipped my cap while a ball was hit to me and I couldn’t catch it that those cheers would turn to boos.”
Suzuki’s contributions were modest, but they were there. He had one hit in four at-bats, a single in the fourth inning before Russell Martin homered. Ichiro was also on base in the eighth after hitting into a fielder’s choice and scored another run on Curtis Granderson’s grand slam. Raul Ibanez also homered in the first inning with a runner on first base.
That was the difference in the game. Both sides hit three home runs, but the trio socked by the Sox off Phil Hughes were all with the bases empty – Dustin Pedroia in the first, Carl Crawford in the third and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the fourth.
“You can usually live with those,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of the solo home runs.
The long ball has haunted Hughes all season. He gave up home runs in each of his first 12 starts of the season, but that pace slowed. The three home runs Hughes allowed Friday night equaled the total the righthander had allowed over his previous five starts. For the season, Hughes has given up 25 home runs in 121 1/3 innings.
All those home runs might have given Suzuki the idea that perhaps he, too, might take advantage of the Stadium’s cozy dimensions in right field. Anyone who has witnessed Ichiro taking batting practice is aware he can go deep, but just like Wade Boggs he has been fearful that he might ruin his stroke by trying to hit home runs.
Suzuki has a great respect for the game. He has been to the National Baseball Hall of Fame four times. When I contacted him in my role with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in 2001 to notify him that he was voted the AL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award winner, he answered the call from an office in the Cooperstown, N.Y., museum while on a visit there.
So it was hardly a surprise to hear him talk about one of baseball’s greatest rivalries.
“For a long time, the Yankees organization expects to win, and the players are accustomed to winning,” Suzuki said. “That is the mentality here. To have played my first game here with them against the Red Sox was special. There is an expression in Japan that on nights like this you grab your cheek to see if it is real and that you are not dreaming.”
In the United States, we pinch ourselves in the same situation. The cultures came together for Ichiro Suzuki Friday night.
No sooner had a I filed the previous blog about how the Yankees are the top fielding team in the majors this season that Derek Jeter booted a hard liner by Scott Hairston for an error that gave the Mets runners on first and third base with one out in the second inning of Saturday night’s Subway Series game at Citi Field.
Such misplays have a way of opening the door for teams, but Ivan Nova slammed it shut. The righthander got a big out when he struck out Omar Quintanilla on a nasty slider that the Mets shortstop foul-tipped into Russell Martin’s mitt.
Pitching carefully to Josh Thole with the pitcher on deck, Nova walked the Mets catcher on four pitches. Chris Young, who was batting for only the third time this year, went after the first pitch and hit a chopper up the middle that was gloved by Jeter, who stepped on second for the inning-ending force play that made his error insignificant.
The same could not be said of a muffed ground ball by Alex Rodriguez two innings later. A-Rod failed to grab a grounder by Hairston, and Quintanilla lined a double to left. With none out, Nova had to go after Thole and got him on a grounder to first as Hairston scored on the contact play. It increased the Mets’ lead to 2-0. They had gotten on the board in the third on Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ seventh home run of the season.
What was even weirder about the two errors is that the Yankees had not made an error with Nova on the mound this season, spanning a stretch of 86 1/3 innings.
Mets closer Frank Francisco’s pre-series reference to the Yankees as “chickens” continued to stir the pot of the latest match-up. Mets reliever Tim Byrdak went so far as to bring a live chicken into their clubhouse.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he could not remember hearing of a chicken being in a major-league clubhouse. But he did recall a time when Yankees teammates Wade Boggs and Jimmy Key went turkey hunting on an open date late one season but failed to catch anything. Girardi said the next day Key brought a frozen turkey from the supermarket to the clubhouse and gave it to Boggs, saying, “Here’s your turkey.”
A couple of scary incidents during the Subway Series involving Yankees starting pitchers have proved not long-lasting. Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte were both hit by batted balls over the weekend against the Mets, but it appears that they will be able to stay on turn in the rotation.
Kuroda was struck in the left ankle Friday night by a line drive by David Murphy with the ball ricocheting to third baseman Alex Rodriguez for the last out of the seventh inning. That was also the final out for Kuroda, who limped off the mound and was seen leaving the clubhouse several hours later on crutches. He was able to go through his normal between-starts throwing regimen, however, and is expected to start Wednesday night at Atlanta.
Pettitte pulled a pitching no-no Sunday by reaching with his bare hand for a chopper toward the mound by Scott Hairston in the sixth inning. It was a stylish maneuver by Pettitte because the ball was actually behind him. It was also painful. Pettitte sustained a bruise that left him with a purple mark below the left index finger but no broken bones. He told reporters at Turner Field that he sees no reason why he shouldn’t make his next assignment Saturday at Washington, D.C.
Russell Martin’s game winning home run Sunday marked the Yankees’ second walk-off victory this season and their first game-ending homer since Sept. 8, 2010, against the Orioles, by Nick Swisher. The span of 641 days was the longest amount of time between walk-off homers for the Yankees since a span of 650 games between Sept. 18, 1991 (Roberto Kelly against the Brewers) and June 29, 1993 (Wade Boggs against the Tigers).
It was Martin’s fourth home run in the past six games, as many as he had over his first 44 games. Russell was the first Yankees catcher with a walk-off home run since Jorge Posada May 16, 2006, against the Rangers. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Martin became the second Yankees catcher since 1950 to homer twice in a game with one a walk-off. The other was Yogi Berra Sept. 16, 1955 against the Red Sox.
The jersey Derek Jeter wore when he became the 28th player in history – and the first Yankee – to get 3,000 hits in a major-league career will go on display Tuesday through the remainder of the 2011 calendar year at the New York Yankees Museum Presented by Bank of America.
The Captain reached the plateau in the third inning July 9 at Yankee Stadium with a home run off Tampa Bay lefthander David Price as part of a 5-for-5 game that included a game-winning, RBI single in the eighth inning of the Yankees’ 5-4 victory over the Rays.
Jeter joined former teammate Wade Boggs as the only players whose 3,000th hit was a home run. The five-hit game also matched the achievement of the previous player to reach 3,000 hits: Craig Biggio, in 2007 for the Houston Astros.
In addition to the historic Jeter jersey, fans should also check out the newly added “Latino Living Legends” exhibit. Constructed in partnership with the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame, the exhibit pays homage to the six living Hall of Famers of Latino descent currently enshrined in Cooperstown – Roberto Alomar, Luis Aparicio, Rod Carew, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal and Tony Pérez. The exhibit features player jerseys, trophies, collectible merchandise and autographed memorabilia.
The New York Yankees Museum presented by Bank of America is located on the Main Level of the Stadium near Gate 6. Guests can access the museum on game days from the time gates open until the end of the eighth inning, and on non-game days as part of the Yankee Stadium tours.
Move over, Craig Biggio, and make room for Derek Jeter.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Earlier, I wrote the same lede for a blog when Jeet cracked a home run for his 3,000th hit, matching Hall of Famer Wade Boggs as the only players to do that. Well, Biggio had been the only player to get his 3,000th hit in a five-hit game, and now he is not alone with that distinction.
That was the sort of day Jeter had Saturday at Yankee Stadium. He will have no problem years from now remembering July 9, 2011 because it was one of the best games of his career. One thing everyone agrees about Jeter is that he is all about winning, so the most satisfying of the quintet of hits he had was the single through a drawn-in infield in the eighth inning that scored Eduardo Nunez with the deciding run of a 5-4 victory over the Rays. If DJ had not been thrown out at second base trying to steal for the third out of the inning, it would have been a perfect day.
As it was, the day was magnificent for the Captain. It could not have been much better. A homer for 3-ding-ding, a threat for the cycle, the first five-hit game at the current Stadium all adding up to a Yankees victory. Type a script of this and send it to a Hollywood producer, and it would be torn up with the executive saying, “Now give me something plausible!”
“You don’t need a script,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s already movie-ready.”
“I wouldn’t even believe it,” Jeter said.
Yet it all happened in real life, not a movie. Jeter provided so many highlights in the past at the old Stadium and is doing the same at the new Stadium. The 2009 World Series was a starter, and Saturday was a continuation.
“This has to be number one, the first one to do it for the New York Yankees,” Mariano Rivera said. “When you think that [Babe] Ruth and [Yogi] Berra and [Joe] DiMaggio and [Mickey] Mantle did not do it, all Hall of Famers. I hope he has another one or two thousand more.”
Said Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, “Derek has always played with a relentless, team-first attitude. And that mind-set has helped sustain this organization’s objective of fielding championship-caliber teams year after year. It’s only fitting that he reach 3,000 hits during a victory against one of our American League rivals. Today we celebrate a remarkable individual achievement by one of the game’s greatest ambassadors. On behalf of the entire New York Yankees family, we congratulate Derek on his historic accomplishment.”
A crowd of 48,103 has an indelible memory to cling to, especially a guy from upstate New York named Christian Lopez, who got his hands on the 3,000th-hit home run and didn’t let go of the ball until he handed it to Jeter after the game.
“He actually took it away from his girlfriend, so he has some making up to do,” Jeter said.
After Jeter singled in the first inning, the anticipation so intensified that the dugout became over-populated. It seemed Girardi that everyone on the field level of the Stadium was in the dugout.
“It was like when we had one out to go in the 2009 World Series,” Girardi said. “The dugout was packed. He really knows how to do it, a big-time guy in the big moment.”
Waiting for Jeter as he crossed the plate was close buddy Jorge Posada, the first to hug the 28th member of baseball’s 3,000 Hit Club.
“It was very spontaneous,” Posada said. “I told him I was proud of him. I was so happy for him that I got emotional. He looks forward to things like this. There is nobody better in the clutch. You guys saw that in post-season play.”
“The best thing is how he prepares himself day in and day out,” said Rivera, who was able to chalk up his 22nd save by pitching a 1-2-3 ninth after Jeter’s eighth-inning single put the Yankees back into the lead. “To be honest, I was expecting a triple.”
That was the hit Jeter needed for the cycle. He had doubled in the fifth. To Jeter, the best part of the fifth hit was the RBI attached to it.
“It would have been awful to be out there on the field after the game being interviewed and waving to the crowd if we had lost,” Jeter said.
The Captain opened up a bit after the game, admitting that his answers to questions leading up to 3,000 hits were not entirely truthful, particularly those with regard to the pressure he felt about getting the milestone hit at Yankee Stadium.
“I have been lying to you, saying there was no pressure, but I felt a lot of pressure trying to do it here,” Jeter told reporters. “It would not have felt right if it happened somewhere else. I’m pretty happy the way it went.”
Jeter also said he changed his approach at the plate somewhat since coming off the disabled list earlier this week and was not as patient. He walked one time in five games. Jeter battled Rays lefthander David Price in the first inning running the count to 3-2 before hitting a single off a 95-mph fastball.
“He could have thrown the ball in the dugout, and I’d have swung at it,” Jeter said.
Price tried something different in the third when the count to Jeter again went to 3-2. He threw a curve that Jeter drove into baseball history. Price, the runner-up for the AL Cy Young Award in 2010, is a very quality pitcher to have given up a 3,000th hit. Only one player, Dave Winfield, Jeter’s favorite growing up, got his 3,000th off a future Hall of Famer, Dennis Eckerlsey, in 1993. The only Cy Young Award winner other than Eck to give up a 3,000th career hit was Frank Viola, to Rod Carew in 1985.
“I knew [left fielder Matt Joyce] wasn’t going to catch it,” Jeter said, “but I didn’t think it was going out. To be honest, I was relieved.”
DJ said he had never envisioned what the 3,000th hit would be and that “I didn’t care as long as [a fielder] didn’t catch it. I just didn’t want it to be a slow roller that they would replay forever.”
Knowing Jeter, he would like that game-winner in the eighth to be replayed alongside No. 3,000.
Move over, Wade Boggs, and make room for an old teammate. Before Saturday, Boggs had been the only member of the 3,000 Hit Club whose milestone hit was a home run. It was ironic in that Boggs was one of the game’s greatest singles hitters.
So, too, has been Derek Jeter, who has singled for nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of his hits, including the one he got in the first inning for No. 2,999. Jeter made No. 3,000 special by driving a 3-2 curveball from Rays lefthander David Price over the left field auxiliary scoreboard and into the first section of stands at Yankee Stadium.
The best thing about a milestone hit being a home run is that there is more time to savor the moment because the player gets to round the bases while the crowd shows its appreciation. Jeter’s quest had been on hold for three weeks while he was on the disabled list nursing a right calf strain. The sense of anticipation with each at-bat was getting excruciating. Despite being banged up physically with Alex Rodriguez (left knee ligament tear) and Nick Swisher (strained left quad) out of the lineup, the Yankees had been willing to play two games Saturday following Friday night’s rainout in order for Jeter to have the best shot of getting to 3,000 at the Stadium.
What Jeter did was a first not only for the Yankees franchise but also for New York City. No one had ever gotten his 3,000th hit wearing a Yankees uniform, and no player had achieved the feat in a New York ballpark. It hadn’t happened at the previous versions of Yankee Stadium or at the old Polo Grounds across the Harlem River where the New York Giants once played or at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn that the Dodgers used to call home or at either of the Queens yards which have housed the Mets, Shea Stadium or Citi Field.
“Long before joining the 3,000 Hit Club, hit club, Derek Jeter became another one of New York’s icons,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement, “because he represents what is best in the spirit of our city: an unbreakable belief that with hard work and determination, anything can be accomplished.
“Perhaps above all else, Derek is someone who loves this city and has a long history of giving back to the place and people that helped make him the superstar he is. New York has a greater baseball tradition than any other city, but we’ve never had a player get all 3,000 hits in a New York uniform until today. Congratulations, Derek. You’ve made all of New York City proud.”
The first player to greet Jeter at the plate was his closest friend on the team, Jorge Posada, who had been waiting a long time to give the shortstop this special hug. DJ looked up to the luxury box where his parents and other relatives and friends were standing and waved to them. Then it was hugs all around from his teammates, coaches and manager Joe Girardi. Pitchers ran in from the bullpen to join the lovefest.
Even the Rays – including another former teammate, Johnny Damon – stood on the top step or just in front of the third base dugout and applauded Jeter. And somewhere in the Stadium, Don Zimmer, the former Yankees coach and current Rays adviser who was here for the series, smiled and wondered how many of those hits came after Jeter had rubbed his bald head.
Jeter’s home run was his third this season and his first at Yankee Stadium since July 22 last year, also against Tampa Bay. It was the 237th home run of his career, so Jeter is not exactly a Judy of a hitter. Boggs had 118 home runs but had singles in almost exactly three-quarters (74.9 percent) of his 3,010 hits.
I talked to Boggs a few weeks ago for Yankees Magazine’s special edition on Jeter that went on sale at the Stadium immediately after the 3,000th hit. “Don’t be surprised if he goes deep, too,” Wade told me.
The only thing different is that Jeter did not kneel down and kiss the plate the way Boggs did when he got to 3,000 Aug. 7, 1999 for Tampa Bay against Cleveland at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., just across the Howard Frankland Bridge from his home town of Tampa.
When Jeter hit a double to left in his third at-bat leading off the fifth, it created a possibility that he might be the first player to hit for the cycle in the game in which he got his 3,000th hit. All he needed to complete it was a triple, which sure would have tested that calf. But he’d have plenty of time to rest with the All-Star break coming up.
“It is a monumental achievement, and Derek has climbed the mountain,” Boggs said Saturday. “He has reached that honor, where he can stake his flag in the mountain and call it his own. I had the opportunity to play with Derek when he was a rookie in 1996, and I had no doubts that Derek would reach this milestone. He is a very consistent player and never deviated from his game.
“When you stay healthy and you are consistent and compile a lengthy career like Derek has done, you have the opportunity to reach that 3,000 hit plateau. Reaching the 3,000 hit mark is another piece of the legacy that Derek has created. It won’t be too long now before we are on the veranda in Cooperstown at the Otesaga Hotel celebrating his induction into the Hall of Fame.”
The Yankees lost two members of their extended family in recent days, one of whom was truly a tragic case. It was a shock to discover that the 9-year-old girl who was among those gunned down in the attack in Tucson, Ariz., was Christina Taylor Green, the granddaughter of former Yankees manager Dallas Green and daughter of John Green, who had pitched in the Yankees’ minor-league system in 1989 and ’90 and is now the Dodgers’ supervisor of East Coast amateur scouts.
Young Christina had recently been elected to the student council at her school and because of her newfound interest in politics was brought to the town meeting to get an up-close look at U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was mortally wounded by an assailant who killed six people in a shooting barrage. Her grandfather managed the Yankees for most of the 1989 season and later managed the Mets in the early 1990s. In 1980, he guided the Phillies to their first World Series championship.
Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner issued a statement saying, “The Steinbrenner family and the New York Yankees organization join the entire nation in mourning Christina and send our deepest condolences to Dallas Green and his family as they deal with this tremendous loss. This is a tragedy that is beyond words and our thoughts and prayers are with the Green family, as well as all of the affected families.”
Last Thursday, one of the Yankees’ most faithful alumni, Ryne Duren, passed away. The former relief pitcher fought a long battle with alcoholism that shortened his career, but he eventually sobered up to live a productive life that took him to age 81.
Unlike baseball’s current era in which closing relievers are revered (where would the Yankees have been the past 15 seasons without Mariano Rivera?) not to mention well paid, Duren pitched at a time when those who inhabited the bullpen did so primarily because they weren’t consistent enough to be trusted as starters. Duren’s problem was lack of control.
The righthander found a spot in the Yankees’ bullpen and became a favorite weapon of Casey Stengel. Yankees fans of a certain age surely remember the terror Duren inflicted on opposing batters with a fastball that came close to 100 miles per hour.
An imposing figure at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, Duren also wore thick glasses and went looking toward the plate seemed to have trouble locating it. Not too many batters dug in hard against Duren, who on occasion would throw a warmup pitch to the backstop.
His old catcher, Yogi Berra, said the other day, “Ryne could throw the heck out of the ball. He threw fear in some hitters. I remember he had several pair of glasses, but it didn’t seem like he saw good in any of them.”
“Everyone agreed that it was a dangerous combination: a guy wearing glasses that thick and throwing a pitch that fast,” Duren wrote in his 1978 memoir, The Comeback. “But what everyone didn’t know was that there was another dimension that made me even more dangerous than they thought I was. I had a drinking problem.”
Duren had great impact on Yankees’ World Series teams of that late 1950s. The save did not become an official statistic until 1969. Had it been kept earlier, Duren’s 20 saves would have led the league in 1958 when he had 87 strikeouts in 75 2/3 innings. The next year, Duren fanned 96 batters in 76 2/3 innings, and in 1960 had 67 strikeouts in 49 innings.
He was traded in 1961 to the expansion Los Angeles Angels in a deal that brought outfielder Bob Cerv back to the Bronx. Duren’s career went on a downward path as he moved on to Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Washington and finished with a career record of 27-44. His drinking became so severe that Senators manager Gil Hodges had to talk him down from a bridge in the middle of the night after a game in which Duren was pounded by the Yankees.
Several years after his 1965 retirement as a player, Duren responded positively to treatment and got off the bottle. He devoted the rest of his life to drug and alcohol counseling to athletes and was a regular visitor to Yankee Stadium on Old Timers Day.
He never made it to the Hall of Fame, of course, but his name did. Duren was one of only two players in major league history with the surname Ryne. The other is Ryne Sandberg, who was born in 1959. Sandberg’s father was a Yankees fan and named his son after Duren. Sandberg was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2005 with Wade Boggs.
The Phillies executive who originally signed Sandberg to a pro contract later became the general manager of the Cubs and traded for him. That executive was Dallas Green.