Results tagged ‘ Whitey Ford ’

Big Unit enjoyed time in Big Apple

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Randy Johnson’s two seasons with the Yankees may not have been the finest hours of his remarkable career, but he has fond memories from his time in the Bronx.

Johnson was 34-19 with a 4.37 ERA combined for the Yankees in 2005 and ’06 but was roughed up in two American League Division Series starts (0-1, 6.92 ERA). To his credit, he did pitch with a shoulder ailment much of his second Yankees season when he had a 5.00 ERA.

“I still remember getting a phone call from George Steinbrenner welcoming me to play for the New York Yankees,” Johnson said in his induction speech Sunday at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. “I also enjoyed playing for Joe Torre.”

The former Yankees manager, who was elected to the Hall in 2014, was among 49 former Hall of Famers seated on the platform for the ceremony honoring Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio.

Johnson took note of another returning Hall of Famer, Reggie Jackson, when he said, “Look behind me and you can see the best who ever played this game. I had the honor of playing against many of these gentlemen. Some I watched on TV. But it would have have really been fun to face you, Reggie.”

I had a brief chat with Johnson over the weekend, and he told me that he had no regrets about his Yankees experience.

“I actually enjoyed it,” Johnson said. “I remember being able to sit in the dugout and talk pitching with Whitey Ford. How can you not love that?”

No sooner had the words come out of Johnson’s mouth, but Whitey and his wife, Joan, walked out onto the veranda of the Otesaga Hotel. That ended our conversation. The “Big Unit” went right over to the “Chairman of the Board” and spent the rest of the afternoon with him.

Craig Biggio, who grew up on Long Island and played college ball at Seton Hall, had kind words for Yogi Berra in his speech. Yogi was a coach with the Astros when Biggio broke into the majors in 1988 to begin a 20-season career, all in Houston, his adopted home town.

“Yogi was the smartest baseball man I ever knew,” Biggio said. “I know he is known for his Yogisms, but he had a solid knowledge of the game. When I was at Seton Hall, he and [then owner] John McMullen came to scout me. How many owners bring a Hall of Famer to watch some college kid play?”

Unfortunately, Yogi was unable to attend the ceremony.

I ran into Phil Niekro at the Saturday night reception in the Hall of Fame gallery, and he told me a story I had never heard before. On the last day of the 1985 season for the Yankees, Niekkro won his 300th game with a complete-game shutout of the Blue Jays in Toronto. The famed knuckleballer actually threw just one knuckler the whole game — the last pitch — and had the Jays off balance with an array of fastballs and changeups.

“We get back to Yankee Stadium after the flight from Toronto,” Niekro said, “and there in the players’ parking lot is a brand new, white Chrysler LeBaron convertible with a license plate reading ‘300WINS.’ I said to my teammates on the bus, ‘Hey, is there anyone else on this team that has 300 wins?’ It turned out to be a gift from George Steinbrenner. I was shocked. It was a good car, too. The problem was that I could not keep the license plate. It was stolen twice, once in Cleveland the year I played there and once in Atlanta when I went back to the Braves. But I loved that car.”

Randolph to be honored at 69th Old Timers’ Day

Seven Hall of Famers will be among the roster of former Yankees players, managers and coaches who will be on hand for the 69th annual Old-Timers’ Day Saturday at Yankee Stadium.

Fans are asked to be in their seats by 4 p.m. for the ceremonies with the traditional Old-Timers’ game to follow. Pregame festivities will be aired exclusively on the YES Network. The Yankees will then play the Tigers at 7:15 p.m., also on YES. Gates will open to ticket-holders at 3 p.m.

As part of pregame ceremonies, the Yankees will honor former co-captain Willie Randolph with a Monument Park plaque. Randolph spent 13 seasons playing for the Yankees from 1976-88 and ranks third on the organization’s career list of stolen bases (251). The five-time American League All-Star (1976-77, ’80-81 and ’87) played in 37 postseason games with the Yankees from 1976-81 and won two World Series with the team (1977-78). He also spent 11 seasons coaching for the organization, serving as the club’s third base coach from 1994-2003 and bench coach in 2004, earning four additional World Series rings (1996, ‘98-2000).

The Old-Timers are headlined by Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Wade Boggs, Whitey Ford, Goose Gossage, Rickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson and Joe Torre. Former Yankees players and current YES Network broadcasters David Cone, John Flaherty and Paul O’Neill will also participate in the festivities.

Joining the Hall-of-Famers and former Yankees on the baselines will be the widows of five legendary Yankees – Arlene Howard (Elston), Helen Hunter (Jim “Catfish”), Jill Martin (Billy), Diana Munson (Thurman) and Kay Murcer (Bobby).

Scheduled to attend (Hall of Famers in BOLD face):

Jesse Barfield, Yogi Berra, Ron Blomberg, Brian Boehringer, Wade Boggs, Scott Bradley, Scott Brosius, Dr. Bobby Brown, Homer Bush.

Chris Chambliss, Jim Coates, David Cone.

Johnny Damon, Bucky Dent, Al Downing, Brian Doyle.

Cecil Fielder, John Flaherty, Whitey Ford.

Oscar Gamble, Joe Girardi, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Ken Griffey Sr., Ron Guidry.

Charlie Hayes, Rickey Henderson, Arlene Howard (Widow), Helen Hunter (Widow).

Reggie Jackson.

Scott Kamieniecki, Pat Kelly.

Don Larsen, Jim Leyritz, Graeme Lloyd, Hector Lopez.

Jill Martin (Widow), Lee Mazzilli, Stump Merrill, Gene Michael, Gene Monahan (Trainer), Diana Munson (Widow), Kay Murcer (Widow).

Jeff Nelson.

Paul O’Neill.

Dan Pasqua, Joe Pepitone, Andy Phillips, Lou Piniella.

Willie Randolph, Bobby Richardson, Mickey Rivers.

Mel Stottlemyre, Tanyon Sturtze.

Joe Torre.

Roy White, Bernie Williams.

Here’s a number you’ll never forget, Bernie

In terms of profile and temperament, Bernie Williams and New York would not seem a comfortable fit. The city that never sleeps was the incubator that gave the culture such over-the-top performers from Cagney to Streisand to DeNiro, not to mention such flamboyant out-of-town athletes who conquered the Big Apple’s hard core, from Dempsey to Mantle to Namath.

But Bernie Williams? Bob Sheppard, the late majestic voice of Yankee Stadium, noted that even the syllables of Williams’ name failed to conjure up images of greatness. Except for his Puerto Rican heritage, which he shared with many Bronx residents, Williams did not appear to have much in common with the population of the borough that the Yankees call home which traditionally has revered players who thrive on being the center of attention.

Towards the end of the 2005 season when his tenure with the Yankees was drawing to a close, fans at the Stadium finally stood up and took notice at Williams on a regular basis with standing ovations before and after each of his plate appearances. Bernie Williams was at center stage at last. The outpouring of affection was a belated tribute by Yankees fans for all Williams meant to the franchise in one of the most significant periods of its glorious history.

And the penultimate experience occurs Sunday night when a packed Stadium will shower Williams with an abundance of affection as the Yankees will honor him with a plaque in Monument Park and officially retire his uniform No. 51. No player has worn that number since Williams’ last season 10 years ago, even the two who had worn it with distinction in Seattle, Randy Johnson and Ichiro Suzuki. After coming to the Yankees in trades from the Mariners, Johnson wore No. 41 and Suzuki No. 31.

Bernie Williams'  No. 51 joins Monument Park retirement list.

Bernie Williams’ No. 51 joins Monument Park retirement list.

While other teammates drew greater cheers and headlines over the years, Williams was the calming center of a team that went from spit to shinola in the 1990’s to complete a resounding history of baseball in the Bronx. The quiet, contemplative, switch-hitting center fielder batted cleanup in lineups that produced four World Series championships, including three in a row, over the last five years of the 20th century and the first year of the 21st.

Of all the players who took part in the Yankees’ extraordinary run during that period, Williams was the only one who was there when it all began, when the club started to make strides toward decency in 1992 and improved to such an extent that by the middle of the decade was on the verge of yet another dynastic era.

Yes, that Bernie Williams, whose way with a guitar rivaled that of his handling of bat and glove. Williams’ love of the guitar was so strong that he was just as much in awe of meeting Les Paul and Paul McCartney as he was shaking hands with Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra. Yet it is in the latter’s company that Williams will always hold a special place in Yankees lore.

It is a past as eventful as any in franchise history. Williams’ rankings on the Yankees’ career lists include third in doubles (449), singles (1,545) and intentional walks (97); fourth in at-bats (7,869); fifth in plate appearances (9,053), hits (2,336), bases on balls (1,069), times on base (3,444) and sacrifice flies( 64); sixth in games (2,076), total bases (3,756), extra-base hits (791) and runs (1,366) and seventh in home runs (287) and runs batted in (1,257). He is one of only 10 players who played 16 or more seasons only with the Yankees. The others are Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Frankie Crosetti, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter.

Not bad for an unassuming man who was often the cruel butt of jokes by veteran teammates when he came into the majors in 1991. “Bambi” was the nickname Mel Hall, Steve Sax, Jesse Barfield and others hung on Williams, a suggestion that his non-confrontational demeanor and love for classical guitar music somehow made him unfit for the rigors of professional sports.

As it turned out, Williams not only turned the other cheek but also left the gigglers in the dust. He carved out for himself a career that is superior to all his old tormentors and one that just might make him a serious candidate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame some day.

Williams batted .297 over those 16 seasons, with a .381 on-base average and .477 slugging percentage. He won a batting title, four Gold Gloves for fielding, a Silver Slugger for hitting and was named to five All-Star teams.

Even more impressive are Williams’ post-season numbers. He ranks second in most major offensive categories – games (121), at-bats (465), runs (83), hits (128), total bases (223), singles (77) and total bases (202). In each case, Williams is second to long-time teammate Derek Jeter. Williams is also the runner-up in post-season home runs (22) to Manny Ramirez and walks (77) to Chipper Jones.

Williams is the only player in post-season history to hit home runs from both sides of the plate in one game, and he did it twice, in the 1995 American League Division Series against the Mariners and in the 1996 AL Division Series against the Rangers. Also in ‘96, he was the Most Valuable Player of the AL Championship Series victory over the Orioles.

The World Series victory over the Braves that followed remained a key moment in Williams’ career. Years later, he noted, “The World Series gives you confidence. Whenever a team goes through adversity, every player who has been to the World Series knows that this is the beauty of the game, how great it is. We don’t just play for the money or the records. There’s a reason to be the best. We realized it [in ‘96], not just because we won it, but the way we won it. We were down by two games, and we went down to Atlanta and swept the Braves. That taught us a lot about the game, what it means.”

Williams was distraught in the 1997 post-season when he was 2-for-17 in the ALDS loss to the Indians, a setback that seemed to galvanize the Yankees as they came back to win three straight World Series. They were memorable seasons for Williams, who won his batting title in 1998 with a .339 average to go with 26 home runs and 97 RBI and had an even better year in ‘99, batting .342 with 25 home runs and 115 RBI. His best overall season was in 2000, batting .307 with 30 home runs and 121 RBI.

Not even Yankees scout Fred Ferreira, with the recommendation of Roberto Rivera, who signed Williams to a contract Sept. 13, 1985, his 17th birthday, could have foreseen such a career, particularly in the heady atmosphere of center field at the Stadium that had been patrolled by Earle Combs, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Bobby Murcer and Mickey Rivers.

Bernabe Figueroa Williams was born in San Juan in 1968 and grew up in Vega Alta, P.R., where he played high school ball with future two-time AL MVP Juan Gonzalez. Williams’ parents also instilled in him a love for music, which proved a sustaining force at times when his baseball career became over-challenging.

One of the oddities of Williams’ time with the Yankees was that he was frequently the only player in the batting order who did not have a special song played for him when he came to bat, a practice that became prominent at ballparks in the ‘90s. Williams’ interest in music was so intense that he considered listening to a “theme song” before a plate appearance a distraction.

During Williams’ rise through the minors, the Yankees weren’t quite sure how to use him. Despite being fleet afoot, Williams lacked the larcenous behavior to be an effective base stealer, which made him less than an attractive leadoff hitter despite an excellent on-base percentage. His legs helped him run down any fly ball, but his throwing arm was never particularly strong or accurate

But in the early ‘90s, the Yankees were in no position to be over picky about prospects. When injuries cut into the playing time of outfielders Roberto Kelly and Danny Tartabull, Williams was summoned to the majors and the slow apprenticeship began. Brought along slowly by managers Stump Merrill and Buck Showalter, Williams came into his own in 1993 and took control of center field at Yankee Stadium, the most sacred patch of ground in the majors, for the next 10 years.

His breakthrough year was 1995 when Williams batted .307 with 18 home runs and 82 RBI and followed that by hitting .429 with two home runs and five RBI in 21 at-bats in the grueling, five-game ALDS loss to the Mariners, an exciting series that helped “sell” the new concept of an expanded round of playoffs.

Joe Torre arrived the next season, and while some of Williams’ eccentricities had the new manager shaking his head on occasion was won over by his almost childlike enthusiasm.

“I don’t think there is anything about Bernie that could surprise me – take that as a plus or a minus,” Torre told last year. “That’s just his personality, just him, basically. He’s very different in that he is not your typical baseball player. That’s probably why he was a little more sensitive than other players.”

But with that sensitivity also came with Williams a sense of loyalty. Despite being wooed by the Red Sox and the Diamondbacks when he was eligible for free agency after the 1998 season, Williams contacted Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and the sides worked out a seven-year contract for $87 million that kept Bernie in pinstripes.

Williams had been hopeful he could have played for the Yankees in 2007, but there was no longer a role for him. So the soft-spoken center fielder, now 46, enjoys a satisfying retirement and continues to write music. His 2003 CD, “The Journey Within,” drew praise from the likes of McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon.

“Don’t let your job define who you are,” Williams once said. “Your relationships will define who you are. No matter what you do in life, you are going to be in a position to make an impact on somebody’s life. In my experience with the Yankees, these are a few of the thing that I have learned. You’ve got to have a plan of action, you have to stay focused on the things you can control, and don’t get discouraged or distracted by the things you cannot control.”

Select the Yankees’ “Mount Rushmore” players

Got an idea which four players in Yankees history should qualify as the “Mount Rushmore” of the franchise? You will have the opportunity to express your opinion in Major League Baseball’s “Franchise Four” campaign that begins today.

Fans may visit to select the four most impactful players who best represent the history of each franchise
out of eight choices from its lineage. An additional write-in option will be available to fans on the ballot, which can also be accessed on their mobile devices. The balloting runs through Friday, May 8.
categories in the sport’s history. The winners of the month-long period of fan voting on will be announced during pregame ceremonies at the 86th All-Star
Game Tuesday, July 14, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

The eight players on the ballot were selected based on the recommendations of a blue-ribbon panel in consultation with the 30 clubs. The panel was asked to identify “the most impactful
players who best represent the history of each franchise [or special category”] for the ballot. Panelists were MLB’s official historian John Thorn and representatives from MLB’s official
statistician, the Elias Sports Bureau;; MLB Network; and the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA). In addition to the 30 franchises, fans may vote for three special categories: the “Greatest Living Players”; the greatest Negro Leagues Players; and the sport’s greatest Pioneers, encompassing players whose careers began more than a century ago.

“The All-Star Game is a celebration of the National Pastime, and Cincinnati’s rich baseball heritage makes it a perfect venue to highlight the great players who are synonymous with our clubs and those who played pivotal roles in the game’s history,” MLB chief operating officer Tony Petitti said. “We believe that the ‘Franchise Four’ campaign will engage fans in a fun and meaningful way and will link the past and the present in the manner that Baseball does so uniquely.”

Full disclosure: I was on the BBWAA voting committee and submitted my eight choices for the Yankees. They were precisely the eight players who made the ballot — alphabetically Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford, Lou Gehrig, Derek Jeter, Mickey Mantle, Mariano Rivera and Babe Ruth. If I were voting for a ninth player, I would go with Bill Dickey by a slight margin over Don Mattingly.

The Yankees’ franchise is so rich with success that narrowing the field down to eight was a chore. I felt bad about having to leave off Dickey or Mattingly, not to mention such worthy choices as Red Ruffing, Lefty Gomez, Dave Winfield, Thurman Munson, Ron Guidry, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte. As for stars like Reggie Jackson and Rickey Henderson, their time with the Yankees was not long enough to qualify, in my view. But your view may be different, so give your opinion by logging on to Four.

The full ballot:

American League East

Baltimore Orioles (including St. Louis Browns): Paul Blair, Dave McNally, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Boog Powell, Cal Ripken Jr., Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson.

Boston Red Sox: Dwight Evans, Carlton Fisk, Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, Jim Rice, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Cy Young.

New York Yankees: Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford, Lou Gehrig, Derek Jeter, Mickey Mantle, Mariano Rivera, Babe Ruth.

Tampa Bay Rays: Carl Crawford, Scott Kazmir, Evan Longoria, Carlos Peña, David Price, James Shields, Melvin Upton Jr., Ben Zobrist.

Toronto Blue Jays: Roberto Alomar, Jose Bautista, George Bell, Joe Carter, Carlos Delgado, Tony Fernandez, Roy Halladay, Dave Stieb.

American League Central

Chicago White Sox: Luis Aparicio, Luke Appling, Harold Baines, Eddie Collins, Nellie Fox, Paul Konerko, Minnie Minoso, Frank Thomas.

Cleveland Indians: Earl Averill, Lou Boudreau, Larry Doby, Bob Feller, Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel.

Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera, Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Al Kaline, Alan Trammell, Justin Verlander.

Kansas City Royals: George Brett, Alex Gordon, Hal McRae, Amos Otis, Dan Quisenberry, Bret Saberhagen, Frank White, Willie Wilson.

Minnesota Twins (incl. original Washington Senators): Bert Blyleven, Rod Carew, Walter Johnson, Jim Kaat, Harmon Killebrew, Joe Mauer, Tony Oliva, Kirby Puckett.

American League West

Houston Astros: Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman, Craig Biggio, Jose Cruz, J.R. Richard, Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott, Jimmy Wynn.

Los Angeles Angels: Garret Anderson, Brian Downing, Chuck Finley, Jim Fregosi, Vladimir Guerrero, Nolan Ryan, Tim Salmon, Mike Trout.

Oakland Athletics (incl. Philadelphia and Kansas City): Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Rickey Henderson, Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Al Simmons.

Seattle Mariners: Jay Buhner, Alvin Davis, Ken Griffey Jr., Felix Hernandez, Randy Johnson, Edgar Martinez, Jamie Moyer, Ichiro Suzuki.

Texas Rangers (incl. expansion Washington Senators): Adrian Beltre, Juan Gonzalez, Josh Hamilton, Frank Howard, Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez, Nolan Ryan, Michael Young.

National League East

Atlanta Braves (incl. Boston and Atlanta): Hank Aaron, Tom Glavine, Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux, Eddie Mathews, Dale Murphy, John Smoltz, Warren Spahn.

Miami Marlins: Josh Beckett, Luis Castillo, Jeff Conine, Livan Hernandez, Charles Johnson, Mike Lowell, Gary Sheffield, Giancarlo Stanton.

New York Mets: Gary Carter, John Franco, Dwight Gooden, Keith Hernandez, Mike Piazza, Tom Seaver, Darryl Strawberry, David Wright.

Philadelphia Phillies: Richie Ashburn, Jim Bunning, Steve Carlton, Chuck Klein, Robin Roberts, Jimmy Rollins, Mike Schmidt, Chase Utley.

Washington Nationals (incl. Montreal Expos): Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Vladimir Guerrero, Dennis Martinez, Tim Raines, Steve Rogers, Rusty Staub, Ryan Zimmerman.

National League Central

Chicago Cubs: Ernie Banks, Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, Gabby Hartnett, Ferguson Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg, Ron Santo, Sammy Sosa, Billy Williams.

Cincinnati Reds: Johnny Bench, Dave Concepcion, Eric Davis, Barry Larkin, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Frank Robinson, Pete Rose.

Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun, Cecil Cooper, Prince Fielder, Rollie Fingers, Jim Gantner, Paul Molitor, Gorman Thomas, Robin Yount.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Barry Bonds, Roberto Clemente, Ralph Kiner, Bill Mazeroski, Willie Stargell, Pie Traynor, Honus Wagner, Paul Waner.

St. Louis Cardinals: Lou Brock, Dizzy Dean, Bob Gibson, Rogers Hornsby, Stan Musial, Albert Pujols, Red Schoendienst, Ozzie Smith.

National League West

Arizona Diamondbacks: Steve Finley, Paul Goldschmidt, Luis Gonzalez, Mark Grace, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Brandon Webb, Matt Williams.

Colorado Rockies: Dante Bichette, Vinny Castilla, Andres Galarraga, Carlos Gonzalez, Todd Helton, Matt Holliday, Troy Tulowitzki, Larry Walker.

Los Angeles Dodgers (incl. Brooklyn): Roy Campanella, Don Drysdale, Steve Garvey, Clayton Kershaw, Sandy Koufax, Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Fernando Valenzuela.

San Diego Padres: Nate Colbert, Steve Garvey, Adrian Gonzalez, Tony Gwynn, Trevor Hoffman, Randy Jones, Jake Peavy, Dave Winfield.

San Francisco Giants (incl. New York): Barry Bonds, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, Christy Mathewson, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Mel Ott, Buster Posey.

Greatest Living Players
Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson, Sandy Koufax, Pedro Martinez, Willie Mays, Tom Seaver.

Greatest Negro Leagues Players
Cool Papa Bell, Oscar Charleston, Martin Dihigo, Josh Gibson, Judy Johnson, Buck Leonard, Buck O’Neil, Satchel Paige.

Greatest Pioneers (Pre-1915)
Grover Cleveland Alexander, Cap Anson, Buck Ewing, Wee Willie Keeler, Mike “King” Kelly, Kid Nichols, George Sisler, George Wright.

Big Unit, Pedro have fond memories of Stadium

The 2015 Hall of Fame election was one for the ages. For the first time in 60 years and for only the fourth time in the history of the voting that dates to 1936, as many as four players got the nod from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in this year’s election. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio are a classy quartet and proved so in Wednesday’s press conference at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Johnson and Martinez were particularly amusing discussing their time pitching at Yankee Stadium as opposing players. The “Big Unit,” of course, also wore the pinstripes for two seasons, although he readily admitted those were not the finest hours of his career. However, he conceded that he had a whale of a time.

“I won 34 games over those two seasons, but I didn’t pitch as well as people wanted,” Johnson said. “But to be able to sit down in the dugout and talk to Yogi Berra about the old days, to have Whitey Ford ask me to sign a jersey and then sit down and chat about pitching, what could have been better? To get to know Reggie Jackson really well and begin a long friendship, it was great. Reggie texted me [Tuesday] and said, ‘How did you get more votes than me?’ That’s Reggie.”

Johnson, who won five Cy Young Awards and was the co-Most Valuable Player of one of the most exciting World Series ever played (in 2001 for the Diamondbacks against the Yankees), has stronger memories of pitching against the Yankees than for them. He recalled the first time he was scheduled to pitch at the Stadium for the Mariners in 1992 he was followed into the park by Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver, then a Yankees broadcaster.

“I played college ball at the University of Southern California under the legendary coach Ron Dedeaux, who always referred to a player on the team as ‘Tiger,’ probably because he couldn’t remember names,” Johnson said. “So ‘Tiger’ became a sore of alumni sign. I was coming into the Stadium that day and I heard someone shout to me, ‘Tiger, Tiger.’ I knew it had to be a USC alum, and sure enough it was Tom Seaver. He wanted to know why I was carrying my own bags on a night when I was pitching. We became good friends after that. How can you not cherish such memories?”

“You were lucky,” Martinez chimed in. “You have no idea what it was like to pitch at Yankee Stadium for the Red Sox.”

Martinez was one of those Boston players Yankees fans loved to hate. The more abuse they could heap on him the better, but the diminutive righthander was never bothered by it. He eventually made New York his baseball home as well later with the Mets but saw a major difference between the two fan bases.

“I learned a lot while coming over to New York as a visitor with the Red Sox and also coming later on and dressing in the uniform of the Mets,” Martinez said. “In Queens, fans are wild, they’re happy. They settle for what they have. The Yankees fans do not. It’s ‘Win or nothing. Win or nothing.’

“Yankees fans were really good at trying to intimate you. As the opposition, they wanted to intimidate you. But deep in their heart, they appreciate baseball. They appreciate everything that you do. They recognize greatness. And they’re gonna boo you and they’re gonna call you, ‘Who’s your daddy?’ They’re going to chant until you just go away.”

I pointed out at the press conference a footnote that Martinez is the first pitcher under six feet in height to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 41 years since Whitey went in with his teammate and pal, Mickey Mantle, in 1974. I added that today Pedro stands as tall as the 6-foot-10 Johnson.

They were equals in effectiveness. Johnson’s 4,875 career strikeouts are second only to Nolan Ryan’s 5,714 and the most by any lefthander. The Unit’s five Cy Young Awards are two shy of Roger Clemens’ record, and his four in a row with Arizona from 1999-2002 matched a similar run by Greg Maddux, who was elected to the Hall last year, from 1992-95. Martinez led his league in earned run average five times and had a career 2.93 ERA, remarkable considering the era of offensive explosiveness in which he pitched.

And was there ever a pitcher in baseball who excelled equally as a starter and a reliever more than Smoltz? As a starter, he won a Cy Young Award (1996), and as a closer he won a Rolaids Relief Award (2002). He had moved to the bullpen while recovering from elbow surgery. Talk all you want about Dennis Eckersley, but he did not have the career as a starter than Smoltz did. And after three years as the Braves’ closer Smoltz returned to the Atlanta rotation and led the National League in victories in 2006.

This was a unique pitcher, and as I told John on the phone Tuesday when I notified him of his election as the BBWAA secretary-treasurer, “Unique players go to the Hall of Fame, and they go in right away.”

He told me that he was relieved and mentioned a breakfast we had together at the Stadium one Sunday last summer with David Cone and Lee Mazzilli and the talk was about the Hall of Fame. “I had just seen what that induction weekend was all about as a broadcaster for MLB Network as I watched my old buddies [Maddux and Tom Glavine] give their speeches,” Smoltz said. “I just wanted to low-key it after that and not get too caught up in it. So it’s quite a special feeling right now.”

Smoltz was courted by the Yankees as a free agent after the 2001 season, but he chose instead to stay in Atlanta. Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson took the new class of elected players to dinner Wednesday night at ‘21’ in midtown Manhattan. That is precisely the place the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner would have wined and dined Smoltz to seal a deal to come to the Bronx.

Biggio grew up on Long Island and played football and basketball at Kings Park High School in Suffolk County. He was a Yankees fan whose favorite player was Thurman Munson. Yogi was a coach with the Astros during his estrangement period from the Yankees and encouraged Houston officials to move Biggio from behind the plate to second base where his career took off.

Among his 3,060 career hits were 668 doubles, the fifth highest total in history and the most by a right-handed batter. Think of it, more than the likes of Honus Wagner, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron or Paul Molitor, now that is distinctive.

Idelson visited with Yogi in New Jersey over the past weekend, and the first words out of the legendary catcher’s mouth was, “Is my man Biggio going to make it?”

That was the day before we counted the ballots and discovered that we could tell Yogi a resounding “Yes.”

Monument Park plaque for Goose on Old-Timers’ Day

Rich “Goose” Gossage will be honored with a Monument Park plaque dedication at the 68th annual Old-Timers’ Day celebration Sunday, June 22, at Yankee Stadium that will feature 50 former Yankees players and family members.

Ceremonies are scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. with the traditional Old-Timers’ game to follow, which will be aired exclusively on the YES Network. The Yankees will then play the Orioles at 2:05 p.m., also airing on YES. Gates will open to ticket-holding guests at 10 a.m. Fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 11:15 a.m. for the festivities.

As part of the pre-game ceremonies, the Yankees will unveil a Monument Park plaque for Gossage, who was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008. He pitched in parts of seven seasons with the Yankees (1978-83, ’89) and won a World Series with them in 1978.

In addition to Gossage, the Old-Timers are headlined by Hall-of-Famers Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Rickey Henderson and Reggie Jackson, as well as Joe Torre, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. Former Yankees and current YES Network broadcasters David Cone, John Flaherty and Paul O’Neill will also participate.

Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, teammates on the Yankees’ World Series title team in 2009, will make their Old-Timers’ Day debuts along with pitcher John Montefusco, who helped the club produce three seasons of at least 90 victories from 1983-86.

Joining the Hall-of-Famers and former Yankees on the baselines will be the widows of six legendary Yankees – Maggie (Jerry) Coleman, Arlene (Elston) Howard, Helen (Jim “Catfish”) Hunter, Jill (Billy) Martin, Diana (Thurman) Munson and Kay (Bobby) Murcer.

List of those Scheduled to Attend

Jesse Barfield, Yogi Berra, Brian Boehringer, Scott Bradley, Dr. Bobby Brown, Maggie Coleman, David Cone, Johnny Damon, Bucky Dent, Al Downing, Brian Doyle, John Flaherty, Whitey Ford, Jake Gibbs, Joe Girardi, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Ron Guidry, Charlie Hayes, Rickey Henderson, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, Arlene Howard, Helen Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Scott Kamieniecki, Pat Kelly, Don Larsen, Graeme Lloyd, Hector Lopez, Jill Martin, Tino Martinez, Hideki Matsui, Lee Mazzilli, Stump Merrill, Gene Michael, Gene Monahan, John Montefusco, Diana Munson, Kay Murcer, Jeff Nelson, Paul O’Neill, Joe Pepitone, Andy Phillips, Willie Randolph, Bobby Richardson, Mickey Rivers, Joe Torre, David Wells, Roy White.

Tanaka brilliant in 4-hit shutout of Mets

Quality pitching finally arrived in this year’s Subway Series, courtesy of Masahiro Tanaka. The Japanese righthander gave the Yankees precisely what they needed Wednesday night at Citi Field after being outscored by the Mets, 21-14, in the first two games at Yankee Stadium.

Tanaka earned his first complete game and shutout in the United States with a dazzling four-hitter, 4-0. He did not walk a batter and struck out eight. In addition, he rubbed the Mets face in it a bit by getting his first major-league hit, a single to center field off reliever Jose Valverde with two out in the eighth inning. Mets pitchers do not have a hit this season. Their 0-for-64 is the longest hitless streak of any pitching staff from the start of a season in history.

Tanaka silenced the Mets’ bats as well as most throats in the crowd of 35,577. In doing so, he improved his record to 6-0, which is a quarter of the way towards the 24-0 mark he compiled last year in Japan. Yankees fans surely see by now why the club was so high on signing Tanaka in the off-season. Six weeks into the season, he has emerged as the staff ace in a rotation that has been beset with injuries.

The Yankees spoiled the major-league debut of righthander Rafael Montero, a top pitching prospect for the Mets who has nothing to be ashamed about in his first outing. He gave up home runs to the Yanks’ two hottest hitters, Yangervis Solarte and Mark Teixeira, and another tainted run on one of Brian Roberts’ two triples that was misplayed by left fielder Eric Young Jr.

Tanaka got the Yankees through a game in which they were quite a bit short-handed. Not only did he bring relief to a worn-out relief corps but also allowed Carlos Beltran (right elbow bone spur) and Ichiro Suzuki (back and right knee soreness) additional time to heal their wounds.

Tanaka has won more games without a loss from the start of the season than any Yankees rookie pitcher since Hall of Famer Whitey Ford started his career 9-0 in 1950. Tanaka is also the first Yankees pitcher rookie or otherwise to pitch at least 6 1/3 innings in eight consecutive starts from the beginning of a season since Mel Queen did so in his first nine starts of 1944.

So desperate were the Mets for runs they tried to exploit the Yankees’ use of the over-shift by going for cheap stolen bases. It worked in the first inning for Daniel Murphy, who swiped an unprotected second base in front of Roberts, who was stationed in shallow right-center field with David Wright at the plate. It was to no avail as Wright and Curtis Granderson both flied out.

Chris Young tried the same thing in the fifth after he led off with a single. This time, Solarte from his over-shifted third base position was quick to cover second base as Young was thrown out by catcher Brian McCann.

Tanaka allowed only two Mets players to get as far as second base. In addition to Murphy in the first, Eric Young Jr. got there with a two-out double in the sixth before Murphy grounded out. Playing right field with Beltran and Suzuki unavailable, Alfonso Soriano made the fielding play of the game with a leaping catch to haul down a warning-track drive by Murphy in the fourth inning.

The definition of a stopper is a starting pitcher to stops losing streaks. Tanaka did just that in ending a four-game slide and also a six-gamer at the hands of the Mets over the past two seasons. Quality pitching will do that every time.

Familiar with retirement, Pettitte will try it again

This time he means it.

Andy Pettitte knows what retirement is all about. He experienced it in 2011 but decided to come back and pitch again in 2012. Friday he announced his retirement again for good.

“I was 100-percent convinced coming into the season that this would be it,” Pettitte said. “I came back last year and broke my leg, which put a wrinkle in that. I just felt now was the time. There was nothing that would happen during the season that would change my mind.”

Petttite had lunch with Mariano Rivera while the team was in Toronto earlier this week. Mo told Andy he needed to make an announcement to the fans. Pettitte said he was reluctant to take away from Rivera’s special day Sunday when the Yankees plan a ceremony in the closer’s honor. The Yankees’ starting pitcher that day will be Pettitte.

Rivera insisted this was the best time. And it seems to work out perfectly all around for Pettitte because his final start of the regular season will be next weekend in Houston not far from his Deer Park, Texas, home against the Astros for whom he pitched for three seasons, including that franchise’s only World Series appearance in 2005.

“I’m announcing my retirement prior to the conclusion of our season because I want all of our fans to know now—while I’m still wearing this uniform—how grateful I am for their support throughout my career,” Pettitte said. “I want to have the opportunity to tip my cap to them during these remaining days and thank them for making my time here with the Yankees so special.

“I’ve reached the point where I know that I’ve left everything I have out there on that field. The time is right. I’ve exhausted myself, mentally and physically, and that’s exactly how I want to leave this game. One of the things I struggled with in making this announcement now was doing anything to take away from Mariano’s day Sunday. It is his day. He means so much to me, and has meant so much to my career that I would just hate to somehow take the attention away from him.”

Pettitte, 41, has a 255-152 (.627) career record with a 3.86 ERA in 3,300 innings over 529 games (519 starts) inn 18 seasons with the Yankees (1995-2003, ’07-10, ’12-13) and Astros (2004-06). At 103 games over .500 in his career, Pettitte is the only active pitcher—and one of 26 pitchers in baseball history—to post a record of 100-or-more games over .500. Of the 25 other pitchers to accomplish the feat, 18 have been enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

“I don’t think about the Hall of Fame unless I’m asked about it,” Pettitte said. “I feel blessed that people will bring my name into that conversation. Have I been a pitcher who dominated? Every game has been a grind for me. I’d continue to pitch if [the Hall of Fame] was a desire of mine. I wouldn’t have retired in the first place.”

Originally selected by the Yankees in the 22nd round of the 1990 First-Year Player Draft, Pettitte has played 15 seasons with the club, going 218-126 with a 3.95 ERA and 2,009 strikeouts in 445 games (436 starts) and 2,780 innings. He is the franchise leader in strikeouts and is on pace to finish his career tied with Whitey Ford (438) for the most starts in Yankees history.

Pettitte trails only Ford (236 victories, 3,171 innings) and Red Ruffing (231 victories, 3,168 innings) in winning decisions and innings pitched with the Yankees and ranks fifth in franchise history in appearances. He appeared in eight career World Series (seven with the Yankees) and won championships in 1996, ‘98, ’99, 2000 and ’09.

Andy is the all-time winningest pitcher in postseason history with a 19-11 record and 3.81 ERA (276.2IP, 117ER) in 44 career starts totaling 276 2/3 innings. He also ranks first all time in postseason starts and innings pitched and is second with 183 strikeouts. His personal career postseason victory total is more than that of eight other franchises (Royals 18, Diamondbacks 17, Mariners 15, Brewers 14, Padres 12, Rays 11, Rockies 9, Expos/Nationals 7).

With the Yankees in postseason play, Pettitte is 18-10 with a 3.76 ERA (251.1IP, 105ER) in 40 career starts and 251 1/3 innings. While winning his final World Series with the Yankees in 2009, he became the first pitcher in baseball history to start and win the clinching game of all three series in a single postseason (ALDS vs. the Twins, ALCS vs. the Angels and World Series against the Phillies).

This season, Pettitte has gone 10-10 with 3.93 ERA (169.1IP, 74ER) in 28 starts and 169 1/3 innings. He struck out the Red Sox’ David Ross Sept. 6 to become the first Yankees pitcher in franchise history to reach 2,000 strikeouts with the club. With his 10 wins in 2013, he has earned at least 10 victories in 14 different seasons for the Yankees, surpassing Ford (13) to set a club record.

Pettitte will finish his career as one of 12 players to spend at least 15 seasons with the Yankees. He joins teammates Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera with 19 apiece, Todd Helton (17 with the Rockies) and Paul Konerko (15 with the White Sox) as the only active players to have spent at least 15 seasons with their current team. Pettitte has earned the victory in games in which Rivera also earned a save 72 times, the highest victory-save combination for any pair of pitchers since saves became an official statistic in 1969.

The Louisiana-born, Texas-raised lefthander was a three-time All-Star (1996, 2001, ’10) and the 2001 ALCS Most Valuable Player. He is the only pitcher in major league history to pitch at least 17 seasons (1995-2010, ’12) without having a losing record. Pettitte also posted a winning record in each of the first 13 seasons of his career (1995-2007), the third-longest such streak to begin a career, trailing only Hall of Famers Grover Cleveland Alexander (17) and Cy Young (15).

“The only regret I have in my career is my time with HGH,” Pettitte said in reference to his admission of using the performance-enhancing drug to overcome an injury. “I never tried to cheat the game. I hate it that if any young person would think that I cheated the game. I would like to be remembered as a great teammate who took the ball every day and gave it all I got.”

Long ball returns to Yankees’ arsenal

The power is back for the Yankees, is it ever. I don’t think we will hear people complaining about the Yankees relying too much on the long ball the way they did last year. As tepid as the Yanks’ offensive attack has been this year, watching balls go over fence is a welcome sight.

Alfonso Soriano led the way Tuesday night with two home runs and four RBI in the Yankees’ 7-1 victory over the Blue Jays. Sori fell into a slump as he approached his 2,000th career hit, but the same thing did not happen as he approached his 400th home run. He reached it one pitch after he cranked out No. 399 two innings earlier. Soriano also made a dazzling defensive play in left field in the ninth inning with a terrific, running and leaping catch to help stall a late Toronto rally.

Alex Rodriguez hit career home run No. 651, and Mark Reynolds went hard as well. Reynolds also played one inning at second base as both Robinson Cano and Eduardo Nunez came out of the game with injuries. Reynolds, normally a corner infielder, played second base twice in 2007 with the Diamondbacks. His ninth-inning, fill-in role included being part of a double play that ended the game. It was one of four twin killings for the Yankees in the game.

Cano left the game in the first inning after being hit by a pitch from Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ in the left hand. X-rays were negative. Nunez, who took over at second base and was a part of two double plays, twisted his right knee in the eighth. He remained in the game and got a single in the ninth. Manager Joe Girardi decided to play it safe and had Lyle Overbay pinch run for Nunez. Overbay stayed in the game at first base with Reynolds moving over to second.

Andy Pettitte pitched another beauty with seven shutout innings in which he allowed five hits and two walks with three strikeouts. Pettitte pushed his season record over .500 at 10-9 and in so doing reached double figures in victories for the 14th time pitching for the Yankees, which set a franchise record as he broke the tie he had shared with Whitey Ford.

It was a continuation of good fortune for Pettitte, who hit a bit of a wall at mid-season but has rebounded nicely. In his past six starts, Pettitte is 3-1 with a 2.94 ERA in 33 2/3 innings and has allowed two runs or less in five of those starts.

Derek Jeter, in his second game back from the disabled list, got into the mix with two hits and an RBI.

This was a satisfying victory all around for the Yankees, who were hoping to gain some ground in the postseason chase and moved within one game of third place in the American League East.

CC, Andy donate items to Hall of Fame

Brad Horn, the National Baseball Hall of Fame director of communications and education, was at Yankee Stadium Saturday and got a special bonus on his mission. Brad was here to pick up items from CC Sabathia’s 200th career victory July 3 at Target Field in Minneapolis.

CC agreed to give the Hall the glove and spikes he wore during that game to the Hall. While in the Yankees clubhouse, Horn ran into Andy Pettitte, who recently broke Whitey Ford’s franchise record for strikeouts by a pitcher.

“The thought hit me that maybe I could get something from the game Andy passed Whitey,” Horn said. “Normally, the Hall doesn’t get caught up too much in club record, but this being the Yankees and a record that belonged to a great Hall of Fame pitcher, I thought an artifact would be important.”

Pettitte did not hesitate to comply. He took his glove out of his locker and said to Brad, “Here, take this.”

It is always good to see players recognize the value of the Hall of Fame.


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