Results tagged ‘ Yogi Berra ’
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.
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.
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 MLB.com/FranchiseFour 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 MLB.com/FranchiseFour 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.com; 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 MLB.com/Franchise 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.
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.”
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.
Derek Jeter’s election as the American League’s starting shortstop in next week’s All-Star Game at Target Field in Minneapolis marks the ninth time in his career that he has been voted in the fan balloting to start the game. He received 3,928,422 votes, which raised his career total to 47,433,242, second only to Ken Griffey Jr., the all-time leader with 50,045,065 total votes.
This year will mark the 14th All-Star appearance for Jeter as he passed former teammate Mariano Rivera and Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio into third place on the franchise list behind two other Hall of Famers, Mickey Mantle (20) and Yogi Berra (18).
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jeter is the only active player to be named to the All-Star Game with his current team at least 14 times. The record for All-Star Games by a player for only one team is 24 by Hall of Famer Stan Musial with the Cardinals. Hank Aaron was on 25 All-Star Game rosters — 24 with the Braves and one with the Brewers. Willie Mays played in 23 All-Star Games with the Giants and one with the Mets. The AL record is 19 games by Ted Williams with the Red Sox and Cal Ripken Jr. with the Orioles.
The other two Yankees on the AL squad are newcomers to the process, pitchers Masahiro Tanaka and Dellin Betances. This will be the first time the Yankees have had two rookies attending the All-Star Game.
These are all good choices, but I think more consideration should have been given to David Robertson and Brett Gardner. Rivera used to be an automatic choice. D-Rob isn’t at Mo’s level yet, but he has easily been one of the best closers in the league and leads AL pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings. Gardner got lost in the abundance of outfielders, but he has been the Yankees’ steadiest offensive player and remains the league’s top defensive left fielder.
Gardner got hits in his first two at-bats Monday night at Cleveland and has reached base safely in 22 straight games with a plate appearance since June 13. It is the longest such streak for the Yankees since Robinson Cano reached base safely in 26 straight games in 2012 from June 20 to July 20. It also matches Gardner’s longest such streak from 2009. He has hit safely in 18 of those 22 games.
Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki with three singles apiece Sunday at Minnesota became the third pair of teammates each in their 40s in major-league history to get at least three hits in the same game, joining the 1928 Philadelphia Athletics’ Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker and the 2006 San Francisco Giants’ Barry Bonds and Moises Alou. Elias also pointed out that notes Saturda, Jeter and Suzuki became the first pair of 40-year-old teammates with a stolen base in the same game since Bonds and Omar Vizquel for the Giants in 2007.
Prior to Monday night’s game at Progressive Field, the Indians organization paid tribute to the team’s late TV/radio personality Mike Hegan, who died last Christmas Day of a heart condition at the age of 71. Hegan was originally signed by the Yankees in 1961 and played for them in two separate stints. He was the son of former Indians All-Star catcher Jim Hegan, who later was a bullpen coach with the Yankees.
Mike Hegan spent 12 seasons in the majors and had some distinctions. With the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969, he hit the first home run for that franchise and made the AL All-Star team. The Pilots lasted only one season in Seattle and moved in 1970 to Milwaukee and became the Brewers.
Hegan was a member of the Oakland A’s team that won the first of three straight World Series in 1972 before returning to the Yankees. Mike was the last player to bat in the original Yankee Stadium Sept. 30, 1973 in a loss to the Tigers. By the time the Yankees opened the renovated Stadium, Hegan was back in Milwaukee. I was working in Detroit in the 1970s and was at Tiger Stadium covering the Sept. 3, 1976 game when Hegan hit for the cycle.
After his playing days, Hegan went into the broadcast booth with the Brewers for 12 seasons before returning to his hometown Cleveland and working Indians games for 23 seasons. A heart ailment forced him into retirement after the 2012 season.
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.
The Yankees came off a 3-3 trip to Anaheim and Milwaukee, during which they lost yet another starting pitcher to injury, for a week’s load of games in New York that begins with the home-and-away Subway Series in its 18th season.
For the second straight year, the series will be played in consecutive two-game sets Monday and Tuesday nights at Yankee Stadium and Wednesday and Thursday nights at Citi Field. The format did not work out so well for the Yankees last year as the Mets won all four games.
The Yankees have had the upper hand for the most part throughout the Subway Series, however, including the one that counted most, the 2000 World Series, which they won in five games over the Mets. The Yanks’ overall record against the Mets in regular-season play is 54-40, including 29-18 at Yankee Stadium (9-5 in the current Stadium). The Yankees have a 25-22 record in Queens (8-6 at Citi Field, 17-16 at Shea Stadium).
This week’s all-New York matchup marks the final one for a player who has been at the center of it from the beginning, Derek Jeter. The Captain is a .368 career hitter against the Mets with 13 home runs and 43 RBI in regular-season play. He was also the Most Valuable Player of the 2000 World Series in which he batted .409 with two doubles, one triple, two home runs and two RBI in 22 at-bats.
Hiroki Kuroda was paired against former teammate Bartolo Colon in Monday night’s opener. The Yanks will have Vidal Nuno Tuesday night and Masahiro Tanaka Wednesday night as starters. No decision has yet been made about the Yankees’ starter Thursday night, which was to have been CC Sabathia before he was placed on the 15-day disabled list due to fluid buildup in his right knee. Alfredo Aceves could be in line as the Thursday night starter but only if he is not needed out of the bullpen in the first three games of the series.
With Sabathia’s disabling, the Yankees have lost 60 percent of their Opening Day rotation to injuries. Ivan Nova is gone for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Michael Pineda is still probably a month away while recovering from a right shoulder ailment.
“Our surplus is not a surplus anymore,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of the rotation situation. “We have to fight our way through it.”
The Yankees were also without Mark Teixeira Monday night. Tex complained of what he called “cement legs,” but Girardi indicated that the first baseman has been bothered by a tweaky groin. Kelly Johnson started in Tex’s place.
Yogi Berra on his 89th birthday made an appearance at the Stadium and had a chat with Teixeira in the clubhouse runway before the game. Yogi was unaware of Tex’s groin situation and said, “You better stay healthy.”
Tuesday, the Stadium will be the first stop of a special tour by the National Baseball Hall of Fame showcasing Babe Ruth’s Hall of Fame plaque. Following a pregame ceremony with the plaque and members of the Hall of Fame, the plaque will be on display in the Yankees Museum presented by Bank of America during that nights game from approximately 7:30 p.m. through the end of the eighth inning.
The Yankees will return to the Stadium Friday night to start another inter-league series against the Pirates that will continue at 4:05 p.m. Saturday and 1:05 p.m. Sunday.
Saturday’s game will be a Youth Game. All fans 14 and younger, when accompanied by an adult (18 and older), are eligible for half-price tickets in designated seating locations. Tickets may be purchased only the day of the game at Yankee Stadium Ticket Windows, adjacent to Gate 4.
Also on Saturday, the Yankees will host honorary bat girl Elizabeth Tague. A lifetime Yankees fan and native of Roselle Park, N.J., Tague was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in May 2011. After undergoing surgery, 16 rounds of chemotherapy and 28 rounds of radiation, she returned to work as a sixth-grade teacher in January 2012, just eight months after her initial diagnosis. Tague will watch batting practice, take part in a pregame ceremony at the plate and bring the lineup card out to the umpires prior to the game.
The stretch of home games this week will also feature the following promotional items and dates:
Friday, May 16 – Yankees vs. Pirates, 7:05 p.m.
Yankees Reusable Tote Night, presented by MLB Network, to all Guests.
Saturday, May 17 – Yankees vs. Pirates, 4:05 p.m.
Yankees Keychain Day, presented by NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, to first 18,000 guests.
Sunday, May 18 – Yankees vs. Pirates, 1:05 p.m.
Yankees Drawstring Backpack Day, presented by Kumon, to first 18,000 guests, 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 email@example.com.
Although he was not part of the Opening Day festivities, Yogi Berra was not going to let Derek Jeter’s final home opener go by without coming to Yankee Stadium to wish the captain good luck in his farewell season.
The Hall of Famer and three-time American League Most Valuable Player, who has thrown out many a ceremonial first pitch at the Stadium, is confined to a wheelchair these days, but the 87-year-old legend was in good spirits as he entered the hallway to the Yankees’ clubhouse just as Jeter was heading out to the field for batting practice.
“Hey, kid, you ready for one more big year?” Yogi asked Jeter.
“I hope so,” DJ said. “Thanks for coming. It means a lot to us. I’ve got to go stretch now. You want to come with me?”
Yogi’s pre-game stretching days are well behind him, but as Jeter pointed out his presence is greatly appreciated by Yankees players. Yogi lost his lifetime partner, Carmen, last month to a long illness, so it was good to see him out and about in the venue that continues to embrace him.
Berra was among several popular former Yankees on the scene for the first home game against the Orioles. Jeter and best pal Jorge Posada did the duty of catching the ceremonial first pitches tossed by the other half of the “Core Four,” Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte.
Even before the game, it was a home opener to remember.