Results tagged ‘ World Series ’
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.
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 MLB.com 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.”
The Yankees along with Major League Baseball made it a truly happy 90th birthday Tuesday for Yogi Berra with the donations of replicas of his 10 World Series championship rings and three American League Most Valuable Player Awards that were stolen last year from his museum in Little Falls, N.J. The Mets also chipped in to present Yogi with his World Series ring from 1969 when he was their first base coach and National League pennant ring in 1973 when he was their manager.
“To be able to get all of these rings and awards back is incredible,” said Larry Berra, the oldest of Yogi’s three sons.
There were smiles galore at the Yogi Berra Museum where the party featured a giant birthday cake and a youth drum orchestra. Yogi, the deliverer of delightful malaprops over the years, did not speak but cut a ribbon in front of the replicas and proclamations declaring Tuesday as Yogi Berra Day in New York and New Jersey presented by respective governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie.
The Berra family also announced a petition drive urging Berra be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. “There has been no greater ambassador to baseball than my grandfather,” Lindsey Berra said. “He has been very supportive of the idea.”
So here is where you fans come in. You need to click on the following link to take part in the voting for the petition: http://yogiberramuseum.org/vote-for-yogi-for-the-presidential-medal-of-freedom-2/.
The petition reads:
Yogi Berra should be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. A man of unimpeachable integrity and respect, he befriended the first black and Latino baseball players in Major League Baseball. He is currently an ambassador for Athlete Ally, which promotes LGBT rights in sports. Berra enlisted in the U. S. Navy during World War II and served during the D-Day invasion. He continues to be an avid supporter of our armed forces. Berra greatly values education. While with the Yankees, he created a scholarship at Columbia University that is still active 50 years later. His namesake Museum & Learning Center serves 20,000 students annually with character education programs and teaches the values of respect, sportsmanship and inclusion that Berra has demonstrated throughout his life and career.
The petition requires 100,000 signatures by June 8 to be taken under considered by President Obama. As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, there were around 8,000 signatures. You may recall how proud the late Stan Musial was four years ago when he received the Medal of Freedom. Let us do what we can in making such a special moment happen for Yogi Berra.
Here is the latest Yankees on Demand spot, The Zen of Yogi, from Yankees Productions.
And for some laughs, here are the outtakes.
Although he has not played a game in the major leagues since the end of the 2006 season and has already fallen off the Hall of Fame ballot, Bernie Williams has never officially announced his retirement as a player.
That will change at 5:45 p.m. Friday in the press conference room at Yankee Stadium before the first game of this season’s Subway Series when Williams will formally sign his retirement papers in a ceremony to be overseen by general manager Brian Cashman and assistant general manager Jean Afterman.
During Friday’s press conference, the Yankees will unveil a logo related to his uniform number (51) retirement and Monument Park plaque dedication, which will take place on Sunday, May 24, prior to the Yankees’ 8:05 p.m. game against the Texas Rangers.
Additionally Friday — in an on-field ceremony at approximately 6:45 p.m. — the Hard Rock Cafe will debut a souvenir pin that honors Williams. Fifteen percent of net sales from the pins will go to Hillside Food Outreach (www.hillsidefoodoutreach.org).
Bernie will also throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Friday’s 7:05 p.m. game against the Mets.
Williams, 46, played his entire 16-year major-league career with the Yankees (1991-2006). The switch hitter batted .297 over 2,076 games. In franchise history, the former center fielder ranks third in doubles (449), fifth in hits (2,336), sixth in games played and runs scored (1,366) and seventh in home runs (287) and RBI (1,257). The five-time American League All-Star (1997-2001), four-time Gold Glove winner (1997-2000) and Silver Slugger Award recipient (2002) won the American League batting title in 1998 with a .339 average.
A four-time World Series champion in pinstripes (1996, ’98, ’99, 2000), Williams is the Yankees’ all-time postseason leader in home runs (22) and RBI (80), ranks second in playoff runs scored (83), hits (128) and doubles (29) and is third in games played (121). He was named the 1996 AL Championship Series Most Valuable Player after batting .474 with two home runs and six RBI in 19 at-bats in the Yankees’ five-game series against the Orioles. In Game 1 of the 1999 ALCS against the Red Sox, Williams hit a 10th-inning home run to win the game for the Yankees.
I remember telling Bernie when the 2012 Hall of Fame ballot came out by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America that whether he liked it or not he was officially retired. He just laughed and said, “Man, I can’t believe five years went by so fast.”
Williams stayed on the ballot for only two years. He received 9.6 percent of the vote in 2012 and 3.3 percent in 2013. Players need to achieve 75 percent of the vote to gain election and are dropped from consideration if they do not get five percent of the vote. I voted for him both years and wish more of my colleagues recognized the Hall of Fame worthiness of his career.
There is a very good article in the April edition of Yankees Magazine by Bergen Record baseball columnist Bob Klapisch, “Honoring Ellie,” that details the life and career of the late Elston Howard, the first African-American player in franchise history.
Tuesday marked the 60th anniversary of Howard’s first game with the Yankees April 14, 1955, an 8-4 Red Sox victory at Fenway Park. Howard entered the game as a defensive replacement for Irv Noren in left field in the sixth inning. Two innings later, Howard got his first major-league hit and RBI in his first time up in the big leagues with a single that scored Mickey Mantle from second base.
Howard was used in the outfield and first base as well as serving as Yogi Berra’s primary backup catcher in the 1950s until he took over as the No. 1 catcher in 1960 with Yogi moving into a platoon in left field with Hector Lopez and catching on occasion.
Howard won two Gold Gloves for his defensive work behind the plate and was a major contributor to nine American League pennan-winning teams in his first 10 seasons with the club. The New York Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America honored him with its Babe Ruth Award as the outstanding player of the 1958 World Series. Five years later, Howard was again tabbed by the BBWAA as the AL Most Valuable Player for a 1963 season in which he batted .287 with 28 home runs and 85 RBI.
Ellie played in 11 All-Star Games and in 10 World Series overall (including 1967 after being traded to the Red Sox). A clubhouse leader as a player from 1955-67 and as a Yankees coach from 1969-79, Howard’s dignified manner and competitive spirit set a powerful example.
A little-known fact about Ellie is that he was credited with having developed the “doughnut,” the weighted circular device players use on their bats in the on-deck circle. Howard died in 1980 at the age of 51.
Stephen Drew’s pinch-hit, go-ahead grand slam in the seventh inning Monday night at Baltimore marked the first pinch-hit grand slam for the Yankees since Jorge Posada June 6, 2001, also against the Orioles and Mike Trombley. According to the Elias Bureau, since 1980, the only other Yankees players to hit a pinch-hit, go-ahead grand slam are Posada and Glenallen Hill (2000). It was Drew’s third career grand slam, his first for the Yankees and first overall since May 15, 2013 for the Red Sox at St. Petersburg, Fla. It was Drew’s second career pinch-hit home run. The other was Sept. 30, 2006 for the Diamondbacks off the Padres’ Cla Meredith.
The Yankees are back to being the Bronx Bombers. With 12 home runs in seven games this season, the Yanks are tied with Baltimore for the major league lead. They did not reach a dozen homers in 2014 until their 12th game. . .Michael Pineda struck out nine batters without issuing a walk Monday night at Camden Yards. CC Sabathia, Tuesday night’s scheduled starter, had eight strikeouts and no walks last Thursday against the Blue Jays. Only two other pitchers in the majors have recorded games with no walks and at least eight strikeouts: the Dodgers’ Brandon McCarthy and the Tigers’ Anibal Sanchez.
Former Yankees manager Joe Torre, who had his uniform No. 6 retired by the club last year following his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch Monday prior to the team’s 2015 season opener against the Blue Jays at 1:05 p.m. at Yankee Stadium. Torre will also be honored with the Pride of the Yankees Award at the 36th annual Homecoming Dinner following the game.
Gates will open to guests with valid tickets beginning at 10:30 a.m. with ceremonies slated to begin at approximately 12:30 p.m. with the introduction of both teams on the baselines. Fans are reminded to arrive early as new security measures will be in place.
Torre spent 12 seasons as Yankees manager from 1996 through 2007 and guided the team to six World Series appearances (1996, ’98-2001, ’03) and four World Championships (1996, ’98-2000). He compiled a 1,173-767-2 (.605) regular season record and a 76-47 (.618) postseason mark during his Yankees tenure and led the club to the playoffs each year. While with the organization, Torre’s postseason record was 21-11 in the World Series, 27-14 in the American League Championship Series and 28-22 in the AL Division Series. His regular-season victory total is second in club history only to Joe McCarthy, who went 1,460-867 (.627) over 16 seasons (1931-46).
The United States Military Academy at West Point Band will perform the national anthem and a giant American flag will be unfurled by 75 West Point Cadets. The West Point Color Guard will present the colors. During the seventh-inning stretch, Paul Nolan, currently starring in the Broadway musical Doctor Zhivago and formerly of the Tony Award-winning musical Once, will perform “God Bless America.”
Following Opening Day, the Yankees will continue their six-game homestand with two additional games against Toronto (Wednesday-Thursday, April 8-9) and a three-game set against the Red Sox (Friday-Sunday, April 10-12). Ticket specials will run Wednesday, April 8 (Military Personnel/Senior Citizen/Student Game) and Thursday, April 9 (MasterCard $5/Military Personnel Game).
For a complete list of ticket specials, including game dates, seating locations, and terms and conditions, fans should visit http://www.yankees.com/ticketspecials. Please note that all ticket specials are subject to availability.
The homestand will also feature the following promotional items and dates:
Friday, April 10 – Yankees vs. Red Sox, 7:05 p.m.
Yankees Magnetic Schedule Night, presented by AT&T, to all in attendance.
Saturday, April 11 – Yankees vs. Red Sox, 1:05 p.m.
Yankees Calendar Day, presented to all in attendance.
Tickets may be purchased online at http://www.yankees.com, http://www.yankeesbeisbol.com, at the Yankee Stadium Ticket Office, via Ticketmaster phone at 877-469-9849, Ticketmaster TTY at 800-943-4327 and at all Ticket Offices located within Yankees Clubhouse Shops. Tickets may also be purchased on Yankees Ticket Exchange at http://www.yankees.com/yte, the only official online resale marketplace for Yankees fans to purchase and resell tickets to Yankees games. Fans with questions may call 211-YANKEES [926-5337] or email email@example.com.
Following the path of last year’s honoring of Joe Torre, Goose Gossage, Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neill with plaques in Monument Park, the Yankees in the coming season will do likewise for Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Willie Randolph. Joining Torre, whose No. 6 was retired last year, the uniform numbers of Williams (51), Posada (20) and Pettitte (46) will be put away for good.
Williams will be honored Sunday, May 24, before the Yankees’ 8:05 p.m. game against the Rangers. Randolph will be feted during Old-Timers’ Day festivities Saturday, June 20, prior to the Yankees’ 7:15 p.m. game against the Tigers. Posada will take his place in Monument Park Aug. 22 and Pettitte Aug. 23.
Williams played his entire 16-season major league career with the Yankees (1991-2006) and batted .297. In franchise history, the former center fielder ranks third in doubles (449), fifth in hits, sixth in games played (2,076) and runs scored (1,366) and seventh in home runs (287) and RBI (1,257). The five-time American League All-Star (1997-2001), four-time Gold Glove winner (1997-2000) and Silver Slugger Award recipient (2002) won the AL batting title in 1998 with a .339 average.
A four-time World Series champion in pinstripes (1996, ‘98, ‘99, 2000), Williams is the Yanks’ all-time postseason leader in home runs (22) and RBI (80), ranks second in playoff runs scored (83), hits (128) and doubles (29) and third in games played (121). He was named the 1996 AL Championship Series MVP after batting .474 with six runs, two home runs and six RBI in 19 at-bats in the Yankees’ five-game series victory over the Orioles. In Game 1 of the 1999 ALCS against the Red Sox, Williams hit a 10th-inning, game-winning home run.
Posada also spent his whole major-league career – 17 seasons – with the Yankees from 1995-2011 and batted .273 with 900 runs, 379 doubles, 275 home runs and 1,065 RBI in 1,829 games. As a player on five World Series title teams (1996, ‘98, ‘99, 2000, ‘09), Posada finished his career among baseball’s all-time postseason leaders in games played (second, 125), doubles (third, 23) and hits (fourth, 103). His 119 postseason games behind the plate are the most all time. In 2011, the Puerto Rico native became the first big leaguer to catch at least one game with the same team in 17 straight seasons (1995-2011) since the Reds’ Johnny Bench did so over the same stretch of seasons from 1967-83.
A five-time AL All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner (each in 2000-03, ’07), Posada twice finished in the top 10 in AL Most Valuable Player balloting (third in 2003 and sixth in 2007). He is one of eight players to appear in at least one game with the Yankees in each of 17 different seasons, along with Derek Jeter (20), Mariano Rivera (19), Yogi Berra (18), Mickey Mantle (18), Frankie Crosetti (17), Bill Dickey (17) and Lou Gehrig (17). Along with Jeter and Rivera, Posada is part of the first trio of teammates in MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL history to appear in a game together in each of 17 straight seasons, a feat they accomplished from 1995-2011.
Pettitte was selected by the Yankees in the 22nd round of the 1990 First-Year Player Draft and pitched in 15 seasons with the club (1995-2003, ‘07-10 and ‘12-13). As a Yankee, Pettitte posted a 219-127 record with a 3.94 ERA and 2,020 strikeouts in 447 games (438 starts). The lefthander, who is the franchise leader in strikeouts (2,020), is tied with Whitey Ford for most games started and trails in victories and innings pitched only to Ford (236; 3,171) and Red Ruffing (231; 3,168) in club history. Pettitte made at least one start in each of his 15 seasons with the Yankees, tying Ruffing for second-most all-time in franchise history behind Ford (16 seasons). The three-time AL All-Star (1996, 2001 and ‘10) is the only pitcher drafted by the Yankees to win 200 games in the majors. Pettitte was the runner-up to the Blue Jays’ Pat Hentgen for the AL Cy Young Award in 1996.
In 40 postseason starts for the Yankees, Pettitte was 18-10 with a 3.76 ERA and is the club’s all-time playoff leader in victories, starts, innings pitched and strikeouts (167). He appeared in eight World Series (seven with the Yankees and one with the Astros) and earned clinching victories in Game 4 at San Diego in 1998 and Game 6 against the Phillies in 2009. He was also on Yankees staffs that won World Series championships in 1996, ‘99 and 2000. In 2001, Pettitte was ALCS MVP after going 2-0 with a 2.51 ERA in two starts against the Mariners.
Randolph played in 13 seasons for the Yankees from 1976-88 and hit .275 with 1,027 runs, 259 doubles, 58 triples, 48 home runs, 549 RBI and 251stolen bases in 1,694 games. He appeared in 1,688 games at second base with the team, more than any other player at the position in Yankees history, and ranks third on the organization’s all-time list in steals. The five-time AL All-Star (1976-77, ‘80-81 and ‘87) was also the 1980 AL Silver Slugger winner in the award’s inaugural season. Randolph played in 37 postseason games with the Yankees from 1977-81 and hit a game-tying home run in Game 1 of the 1977 World Series against the Dodgers. He and Ron Guidry were named co-captains of the Yankees March 4, 1986.
In addition to his 13 playing seasons with the Yankees, Randolph spent 11 seasons coaching for the organization. He was the club’s third base coach from 1994-2003 and bench coach in 2004.
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.”
Microphone still in hand, Jeter began walking off the field and said into it, “We got a game to play.”
Perfect. Sure, it was nice to have his parents, his grandmother, his sister, his nephew and a slew of old teammates and pals on the field to celebrate his impending retirement. But the actual fact will not occur until the last game of the 2014 season. The Yanks had a game Sunday afternoon against a Royals team they are competing against for a post-season berth, and Jeter was in the lineup.
That is what Jeter has always been about. As his former manager, Joe Torre, said before the game, “Derek was always ready to play every day. A manager knew he could count on him.”
Torre was among those closest to Jeter back at the Stadium for the ceremonies, along with former teammates Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Mariano Rivera, David Cone, Bernie Williams, Gerald Williams, Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui and Tim Raines; Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson; former trainer Gene Monahan; MLB Network broadcaster and former infielder Harold Reynolds and commissioner-elect Rob Manfred.
The Yankees had a few surprises for DJ by trotting out Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Dave Winfield and hoops legend Michael Jordan. The Steinbrenner family presented several gifts, including a Waterford Crystal tower with Jeter’s No. 2 atop it and a check for $222,222.22 donated to his Turn2 Foundation.
“It’s hard to believe 20 seasons have gone by so quickly,” Jeter said to the sellout crowd. “I want to take a brief moment to thank the Steinbrenner family and Mr. George Steinbrenner for giving me the opportunity to play my entire career with the only organization I wanted to play for.
“I thank my family and friends for all their support through the good times and more importantly through the tough times. All my managers, coaches, trainers and teammates current and former, I have been blessed to play with the best. I would not want to compete without you guys.
“Thank you fans for helping me feel like a kid the past 20 years. I got to be the shortstop of the New York Yankees, and there is only one of those. I have loved what I have done and loved to do it in front of you. From the bottom of my heart thank you very much.”
Not much syrup, all on the mark and to the point. This is the Jeter all of us have watched and heard for two decades. What began Sunday was not just the passing of 20 years but that of an era. The Yankees’ most recent dynastic run of championships started in 1996, Jeter’s rookie season. What is harder to believe is that one of these days he will be in one of those seats for guests at Yankee Stadium events.
Throughout all those World Series triumphs from 1996 through 2009 and up to today Jeter has been the constant thread. Sunday was chosen by the Yankees to celebrate that career, but as Jeter plainly put it that career is not over yet.
As team captain, Jeter is the first to break from the dugout onto the field at the start of home games. He went into his similar trot Sunday, but when he reached his customary position at shortstop and turned around he noticed that he was the only player on the field.
His fellow starters had stayed back so that their captain could take center stage in front of the fans who have adored him all these years. Jeet then made a come-on gesture with his glove for the guys to get out there with him. Another Jeter trait: he has never believe he could do it alone. Once again, he was saying, ‘We got a game today.’ ”
And then there was one, which is actually two.
The discussion is about uniform numbers. The Yankees retired No. 6 for Joe Torre Saturday. It occurred to the popular former manager that the shortstop he brought to the major leagues and nurtured through his early career has another distinction besides being the Yankees’ all-time leader in games played and hits.
Looking into the dugout where Derek Jeter was leaning against the railing from the top step, Torre said to the sellout crowd of 47,594 in the pregame ceremony, “There’s one single digit left out there.”
That would be Jeter’s No. 2, the only single digit not yet retired by the Yankees but definitely will be at some point, perhaps as early as next year following his retirement. Yogi Berra, one of the two No. 8’s retired (fellow catcher Bill Dickey is the other) took part in the ceremony, along with several former players, including two others who have had their uniform numbers retired, Reggie Jackson (44) and Ron Guidry (49).
Berra and Dickey are in that group of single-digit retired numbers that also features Billy Martin (1), Babe Ruth (3), Lou Gehrig (4), Joe DiMaggio (5), Mickey Mantle (7) and Roger Maris (9). So DJ now stands alone.
Torre, his wife Ali and other members of the family began the ceremony in Monument Park where he unveiled his number and plaque alongside Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal. They eventually made their way to the center of the field for the ceremony amid former players David Cone, Hideki Matsui, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte; former coaches Guidry, Willie Randolph, Jose Cardenal and Lee Mazzilli; longtime managers Tony La Russa (who was inducted into the Hall of Fame this year with Torre) and Jim Leyland; former trainer Gene Monahan and Jackson.
An especially nice touch was Jeter escorting Jean Zimmer from the dugout to the field. Known by her nickname, “Soot,” she is the widow of the late Don Zimmer, Joe’s longtime bench coach. There was also a touching video message from former Yankees pitcher and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, who was unable to travel to the event.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who served for Torre both as a catcher and a bench coach, presented his old boss with a framed version of his Monument Park plaque. Hal Steinbrenner and his wife, Christina, presented a framed version of No. 6. Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal on behalf of the organization gave Torre a diamond ring with No. 6 embossed in the center.
Observing all this from the visitor’s dugout was another of Torre’s former players, White Sox manager Robinb Ventura.
“It feels like the World Series all over again,” Torre told the crowd. “To have a number retired for any team is something special, but when you’re talking about the history and tradition of the New York Yankees, it is a feeling you can’t describe. There wouldn’t have been a Cooperstown without Yankee Stadium. I want to thank Randy Levine, Lonn Trost and Brian Cashman and the woman behind the scenes, Debbie Tymon, who does so much for this organization. Arthur Richman mentioned my name to George, but it was Stick Michael who recommended me for the job.”
And what a job Torre did. The Yankees reached postseason play in all 12 of his managerial seasons and won six pennants and four World Series, including three in a row from 1998-2000.
Torre acknowledged his gratitude to the late owner George Steinbrenner for taking Gene Michael’s advice and hiring him despite a resume that included mediocre results as a manager with the Mets, Braves and Cardinals, the same three clubs for whom he had played during a 16-season career. The kid from Brooklyn who grew up a New York Giants fan clearly fell in love with the pinstripes.
“George gave me the greatest opportunity in my professional life,” Torre said, “I played in the majors for 16 years, but they could never match my 12 years in Yankees pinstripes. I will be forever grateful to the Steinbrenner family for trusting me with this team.
“One thing you never forget or lose feeling for are you people, all of you people, and it continues. I walk around and people thank me. They don’t realize what a good time i had. New York fans make this city a small town. When you get to this ballpark you feel the heartbeat, and it’s something that does not go away.
“It’s a short distance from the old Stadium to here but a long, long way from the field to Monument Park. I was blessed to make that journey on the shoulders of some very special players.”
In his previous managerial stops, Torre had worn No. 9, but he could not get that with the Yankees because it had been retired for Maris. Early in his playing career with the Braves, Torre wore No. 15 (his brother, Frank, had No. 14), but that was also not available with the Yankees since it was retired in honor of the late Thurman Munson.
Actually, Torre is one of four Hall of Famers who have worn No. 6 for the Yankees. Some fans may not know that Mickey Mantle wore No. 6 as a rookie in 1951 before switching to 7 the next year. Tony Lazzeri was the Yankees’ first No. 6, followed by his successor at second base, Joe Gordon.
Perhaps some karma was in the air because the Yankees second baseman Saturday, Martin Prado, was a huge factor in their 5-3 victory over the White Sox that was a fitting accompaniment to the afternoon.
Prado, who won Friday night’s game with a walk-off single in the ninth inning, had a part in four of the Yankees’ runs Saturday. His bunt single in the second helped build a run that subsequently scored on a double play. He drove in two runs in the fourth with the first of his two doubles in the game. He also doubled in the sixth and scored on a fly ball by Stephen Drew. Carlos Beltran drove in the other Yanks’ run in the sixth with his 15th home run.
Perhaps the only thing more appropriate would have been if the Yankees had scored six runs. What is definitely appropriate is that the number was retired for the person who wore it the longest, one more year than the player who had it for 11 seasons, Roy White (1969-79).
Now all that awaits is the day when Jeter, who got a rare day off Saturday, completes the single-digit retirement.
Joe Torre Day is scheduled for Saturday. Torre will not only have his number uniform retired but also will be honored with a plaque in Monument Park, the fourth new one this year joining Goose Gossage, Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neill. Family members, former players and other guests are expected to participate. Fans are encouraged to arrive early and be in their seats by noon.
Torre spent 12 seasons as Yankees manager from 1996 through 2007. He led the team to six World Series appearances (1996, ’98-2001, ’03) and four championships (1996, ’98-2000). He compiled a regular-season record of 1,173-767-2 (.605), a postseason mark of 76-47 (.618) and guided the club to the playoffs in each of his managerial seasons. Torre’s Yankees teams went 21-11 in the World Series, 27-14 in the American League Championship Series and 28-22 in the AL Division Series. His regular-season victory total is second in club history to Joe McCarthy, who had a 1,460-867 (.627) record over 16 seasons.
Ticket specials will run Tuesday, (Military Personnel Game), Wednesday, (Military Personnel and Student Game), Thursday, (MasterCard half-price, Military Personnel and Senior Citizen Game) and Saturday (Youth Game).
For a complete list of ticket specials, including game dates, seating locations, and terms and conditions, fans should visit http://www.yankees.com/ticketspecials. Please note that all ticket specials are subject to availability.
The homestand will also feature the following promotional items and dates:
Tuesday, August 19 – Yankees vs. Astros, 7:05 p.m.
Yankees USB Car Charger Night, presented by Avis, to first 18,000 customers, 21 and older.
Wednesday, August 20 – Yankees vs. Astros, 7:05 p.m.
Joe Girardi Bobblehead Night, presented by AT&T, to first 18,000 customers.
Thursday, August 21 – Yankees vs. Astros, 1:05 p.m.
Masahiro Tanaka Poster Day, presented by Catch 24 Advertising, to first 18,000 customers, 14 and younger.
Friday, August 22 – Yankees vs. White Sox, 7:05 p.m.
Yankees Water Bottle Night, presented by Budweiser, to first 18,000 customers, 21 and older.
Sunday, August 24 – Yankees vs. White Sox, 1:05 p.m.
Yankees Hello Kitty Bobblehead Day, presented to first 18,000 customers, 14 and younger.
Tickets may be purchased online at http://www.yankees.com, http://www.yankeesbeisbol.com, at the Yankee Stadium Ticket Office, via Ticketmaster phone at 877-469-9849, Ticketmaster TTY at 800-943-4327 and at all Ticket Offices located within Yankees Clubhouse Shops. Tickets may also be purchased on Yankees Ticket Exchange at http://www.yankees.com/yte, the only official online resale marketplace for Yankees fans to purchase and resell tickets to Yankees games. Fans with questions may call 212-YANKEES (926-5337) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.