The other night (before my power went out due to the insane blizzard that has plagued the northeast over the last few days) I happened to stay awake and catch a Stephen King horror movie late at night. “Riding the Bullet” was the name of the movie I watched and I have to admit, it freaked me out.
As I was watching, I kept thinking to myself how big of a Red Sox fan King is. Although the movie was creepy and gave me nightmares, it was the brainchild of a Red Sox fanatic. Then I asked myself, how many celebrities are Yankee fans?
Needless to say, a whole bunch of people came to mind. I have rounded up five of the best and most recognizable celebrity Yankee fans. (Keep in mind they are in no particular order of significance) Here they are:
5) Adam Sandler
He is probably the most proud celebrity Yankee fan there is. Actor/writer/producer Adam Sandler has starred in some of the best comedy movies. My personal favorites are “Big Daddy,” “Billy Madison,” and “Happy Gilmore.” All three of those films are cult classics and I recommend everyone watch them.
Sandler is such a devoted Yankee fan that he even incorporated the team into some of his films. In “Anger Management,” a film where Sandler’s character Dave Buznik is forced to undergo (you guessed it) anger management classes, the whole ending practically revolves around the Yankees.
Trying to propose to his fiancée Linda (Marisa Tomei) at a Yankee game, Buznik runs onto the field at Yankee Stadium. He bolts onto the field and just as he is about to give his monologue, Roger Clemens appears on screen and says, “Is this clown almost done? My arm is starting to ice over.”
Derek Jeter comes on and responds, “Chill Rocket. Goosfraba.” The term Goosfraba (according to the movie) is an expression Eskimos use to calm themselves down.
Don’t ask. Please.
Right as Buznik is about to kiss the girl, in a loud cry he proclaims, “GO YANKEES!”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Along with “Anger Management,” Sandler dropped another Yankee bomb in his movie “50 First Dates.” Now, granted the movie had a terrible premise–having to fall in love with the same girl day after day because of her severe memory problem–there was a scene that stands out in my mind as probably the best in the movie.
Sandler’s character Henry Roth decides to make a video tape of everything his love interest Lucy (Drew Barrymore) missed in the last year because she can’t remember anything. The movie came out in early 2004, right on the heels of the Yankees’ dramatic win over the Red Sox in the 2003 ALCS.
Lucy’s video showed a clip of the Red Sox celebrating and a caption appeared that read, “Red Sox win World Series.” Then the glorious Aaron Boone home run clip played and another caption came up that read:
“Just kidding.” What a great way to stick it to the Red Sox fans!
Being the type of diehard fan he is, Sandler is sometimes seen in the crowd at Yankee Stadium. In fact, when Joba Chamberlain made his first career start, Sandler was seen on TV at the game. I guess he figured it would be historic, but unfortunately the Yankees lost to the Blue Jays 9-3 and Chamberlain only tossed 62 pitches over 2 2/3 innings.
Come to think of it, when they showed him on TV, he was leaving the game in the seventh inning.
I hope Sandler includes the Yankees in some of his upcoming work, but first I hope he can finally start making funny movies again. Although I love him, Sandler has been making lackluster and rather dull movies for the last three or four years now. He should make a whole movie dedicated to the Yankees.
Now that’d be a movie worth seeing!
4) Spike Lee
Actor/director Spike Lee has been a longtime faithful follower of the Yankees.
Like Sandler, he has included the Yankees in his work. Lee directed the 1999 movie “The Summer of Sam,” which takes place in 1977 and revolves around the Son of Sam murders. All of the characters live in New York City and are Yankee fans.
The way Lee worked the Yanks into the story was quite clever. The murderer was known as the “Son of Sam” but also developed the nickname the .44 caliber killer, being that he used a .44 caliber handgun on his victims. The characters in the movie suspected Reggie Jackson as the murderer, being that he wore the uniform number 44.
In another scene towards the end, two men in the movie beat the living snot out of another character, simply because he admitted to being a Red Sox fan.
I haven’t seen many more of Lee’s movies, except for “Do the Right Thing,” which, if you ask me, was a great and meaningful movie. It deals with a ton of social issues and racial tension. In fact, I studied the film in my understanding movies class last year because it makes so many cultural references.
Lee not only directed “Do the Right Thing” in 1989, but he also starred in it playing the main character Mookie, a young black man working for Italian-Americans at a pizza shop.
I think Lee meant for there to be significance having Mookie wear a Jackie Robinson jersey for the duration of the film. Although Robinson was not a Yankee, the jersey symbolized where Mookie came from and his background. Robinson had to fight to gain respect and was basically caught in the middle of the racial tension his whole career.
Mookie was the same way–caught in between and needing to find middle ground.
Always a man with a sharp mind, Lee also helped develop a unique Yankee hat with New Era. It is basically the same hat the players wear on the field, only with pennants representing every year the Yankees have won the World Series covering the top and sides.
I have to admit, the hat is very nice. I may eventually have to get one sometime.
At the World Series this year, I noticed Lee was wearing the same Yankee jacket I have. It was the most interesting thing (to me) because I honestly thought I was the only one who had that jacket–up until I saw him wearing it on TV, I had never seen anyone else with it on.
“Spike Lee’s wearing my jacket!” That was all I could say when I saw it.
A great Yankee supporter and a devoted fan, I salute you Mr. Lee. Keep on doing the right thing–rooting for the Bombers!
3) Paul Simon
Being one half of the great singer/songwriter duo “Simon and Garfunkel,” Paul Simon is a legendary Yankee fan. He is known for his powerful voice and unparalleled songwriting skills but when I think of Simon, I think of the Yankees.
I’d first like to mention that I had the pleasure of meeting Simon’s partner Art Garfunkel a few years back at a concert I helped work at. He was very nice and he sang some of the all-time best songs: “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Sounds of Silence,” and “Mrs. Robinson.”
After the concert, I talked to Garfunkel and told him what a wonderful job he did on “Mrs. Robinson,” it being my favorite song of theirs. He thanked me and said only one other thing:
“It would have been better if Paul Simon was here.”
Speaking of “Mrs. Robinson,” many people are familiar with the lyrics:
“Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Woo woo woo.
What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson?
Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away. Hey hey hey…Hey hey hey.”
Simon originally wanted to use Mickey Mantle instead of DiMaggio in the lyrics, but it was a matter of syllables. “Mick-ey Man-tle” only has four syllables while “Joe Di-Magg-io” has five, so he needed to use the Yankee Clipper.
Believe it or not, DiMaggio did not like the lyric and somewhat took offense to it, responding by saying “What do you mean where have I gone? I am right here!”
DiMaggio eventually dropped his complaint after taking a meeting with Simon. The songwriter explained to Joltin’ Joe that the lyric was a tribute to him. Back then, the heroes were becoming so pretentious and pop culture distorted how the American public perceive our role models, so Simon kindly told DiMaggio that there was nothing hurtful meant by the lyric.
Now understanding what Simon meant, DiMaggio accepted the lyric as a tribute.
Furthermore, when DiMaggio passed away in 1999, Simon performed “Mrs. Robinson” in centerfield (the position DiMaggio played) at Yankee Stadium. A somber capacity crowd wildly cheered for the lyric.
And here’s to you, Mr. Simon. You really are a Yankee fan for sure!
2) Jack Nicholson
“You want the Yankees? YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE YANKEES!”
Jack Nicholson is one of the most famous actors in American movie history, starring in classics such as “The Shining,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “A Few Good Men,” (see the modified quote above) and my personal favorite, “Batman.”
Yes, he was the Joker before Heath Ledger.
One of the other movies Nicholson starred in was “Anger Management” (opposite Adam Sandler) and his Yankee pride was on full display. He wore his Yankee cap with a regular shirt and blazer, much like he does when he attends the games at Yankee Stadium.
Nicholson likes to do it classy.
In September of 2006 his Yankee faith was put to the test. For his role in “The Departed,” Nicholson was asked to wear a Red Sox hat. He was playing the part of a gangster in Boston and the director wanted him to wear the cap with the evil “B” on the front.
Ever the loyalist, Nicholson refused to wear the Boston hat in the scene and better yet, wore a Yankee hat for it. That is loyalty and faith, in my view. His boss told him to wear a Red Sox hat and he basically said, “No. I am a Yankee through and through.”
For his love for the Yankees, he made the list. Good work Mr. Nicholson. You are a film legend and a devout follower of the Yankees. Good man!
1) Billy Crystal
He is the only person on the list that is not only a devout Yankee fan, has made a movie about the Yankees, but has actually been on the team for one game.
On March 13, 2008, the comedian/actor/director signed a one-game contract to play for the Yankees in a spring training game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Crystal only had one at-bat and he struck out swinging. He did however make contact, fouling off a pitch in the sequence before fanning.
I’d say he did well and it was such a neat thing to see. Crystal took part in the Yankees’ tune-up game as birthday wish; he had always wanted to play for the Yankees and on his 60th birthday he lived his dream (He also wore the uniform number 60 in accordance to his age)
But he was technically a member of the Yanks, even if it was only one at-bat.
If playing for the Yankees was not enough, Crystal directed “61*” in 2001, an HBO movie about the 1961 home run race between Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.
For those who have seen the movie, I think the most compelling scene in the film is the part when the Yankees are playing the Orioles at Camden Yards in Baltimore. What some people may not realize is that game was the 154th game the Yanks played in the ’61 season.
If Maris had not reached 60 home runs by that game, the media and Major League Baseball did not consider him the true Home Run King because Babe Ruth hit 60 homers in 154 games. 1961 was the first year MLB played 162 games like they do today.
Maris had 59 home runs by the end of that game, meaning that if he had broken the record in 162 games, it would be “a separate record,” according to MLB commissioner Ford Frick. Obviously Maris broke it after 154 games, so the record technically was not his until Faye Vincent (the MLB commissioner in 1991) did away with the “two separate home run records.”
Unfortunately Maris passed six years before Vincent abolished the separate records and he never knew the home run record was his. But I think in most peoples’ minds, he was the true king and deep down in his heart, I’m sure Maris knew it too.
Crystal did such a wonderful job with “61*” My only hope now is that he makes another movie based off the Yankees. I feel he could certainly pull it off the way he did with “61*” but I think he would need a hot topic. After all, the 1961 Yankee season was one of the most revered campaigns in all of baseball history.
If you ask me, Crystal is one of a kind. A funny guy and a true Yankee man.
On a side note: I may have lost power for awhile because of this awful blizzard, but that did not stop me from playing in the snow like a five year-old and building a snowman.
Hope you all enjoy the picture.
Nice jacket, right Spike Lee?….
The game of baseball has been around since the 1800s but in the 1980s, a new way to play America’s favorite game was invented. 1985 saw the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System, an 8-bit way for kids to have fun. Many games were released for the gaming console, the most famous probably being Super Mario Brothers.
After the NES there was the Sega Genesis, the Super Nintendo, the Playstation, the Nintendo 64, Playstation 2, Game Cube, and Xbox…and the list goes on and on and on.
With these new gaming systems came a broad variety of baseball games. There were some that were just so fun to play, others that were not as good, and some that were completely out of whack.
I have played quite a few of these baseball games as a kid growing up and I’d like to retell my experience as a gamer. Without any further ado, here are some the most memorable baseball video games:
Triple Play ’99
This was the first baseball game I ever had for a gaming console and it was the first game I ever had for the Playstation.
Alex Rodriguez was the cover boy (of course as a member of the Seattle Mariners) and I have to say, the game wasn’t bad. I enjoyed playing it as my first baseball game and it met the expectations for a Playstation game: decent graphics, easy controls, and good sound.
Triple Play ’99 was made by EA Sports, who are synonymous with good sports games. After all, EA Sports are the makers of Madden, probably the best football game ever invented for a gaming system, so it’s no surprise that their baseball games are also very good.
Buck Martinez and Jim Hughson call the action and they weren’t a bad choice for this game. The game designers did a nice job of having them include a good amount of baseball jargon. For example, they mention a “can of corn” when a batter flies out.
They go on to tell you how the term originated–how it supposedly comes from a General Store clerk reaching up and dropping a can from a high shelf before catching it.
I don’t get it either, but nonetheless it is a baseball term I learned from the game.
Along with the lingo used by the announcers, Triple Play ’99 offers you the chance to play as all 30 teams, adding the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays to the baseball video gaming world. Both teams had never been in a video game before, so it was neat to see them make their gaming debut.
In addition to the new teams, you can use every Major League stadium aside from the Kingdome, which at the time was ready to be demolished. If you activate cheat codes, you can also play in Anytown U.S.A. (a ballpark designed to look like a regular old sandlot) Neo Vancouver (a stadium on the moon) and Ancient Rome (what could be better than playing baseball at the Coliseum?)
The Home Run Derby feature was also fun to use, especially with those secret stadiums. Can you imagine playing Home Derby on the moon? Doesn’t get more epic than that!
Overall Triple Play ’99 was a great way to begin a journey into baseball video games. If you have a Playstation, I highly recommend you check it out if you can get your hands on it.
My first game may have been Triple Play ’99, but MLB ’99 was the first baseball game I remember getting addicted to. My friends Joey and Tim lived across the street and (it seemed like) every day after school I would be over their house playing this game.
Cal Ripken Jr. of the Baltimore Orioles was featured on the cover and 989 Sports developed the game. In fact, MLB ’99 was the second game in a series of baseball games. The year before Bernie Williams graced the cover of MLB ’98 and the line of games continued all the way up to MLB 2006.
I collected the entire series except for ’98 and it had to be (in my opinion) the best line of baseball games ever, at least for its time. There was nothing like going over Joey and Tim’s house to play this game and just mashing up the competition playing as the Yankees.
The controls were extremely basic and the game play was nearly perfect. If you were playing the field and the batter hit a high fly ball to the outfield, a shadow would appear so you would know where to be positioned to catch the ball and make the put-out.
It doesn’t get simpler than that. On the other side when you are batting, you tap the X button to bat for average and the square to bat for power. It was easy enough for even the most inexperienced gamer.
As for announcing it is Vin Scully, the legendary voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers along with Dave Campbell, who played for the Detroit Tigers, the San Diego Padres, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Houston Astros.
Both announcers were so much fun to listen to. They included fun facts about each team and sometimes made me laugh with what they said. For example, one time my friends and I traded all the best players to the Yankees. We took Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, and Ken Griffey Jr. and lined them up 1-5.
Each player proceeded to hit a solo home run. After the fourth homer, Campbell blurts out “This is starting to feel like a video game now.”
“…Correct me if I’m wrong, but THIS IS a video game!” That was all I could say as I was laughing at that comment. We are playing a video game and the announcer in the video game is comparing a video game to a video game.
I could only muster one cheat code in the game and that was to create a player by the name of Scott Murray. If you created this player, no matter how big or how small you made him, he would always hit a home run measured at exactly 506 feet. I don’t know where the developer came up with that name or number, but it worked every time.
This one time, I created a whole team of all Scott Murrays and eventually had to restart the game. I played as the away team and before the end of the first half-inning the score was 50-0. I had to bunt to make the three outs.
At any rate, the game is a classic in my view. It was great for its time and the rest of the games in the series were basically the same up until MLB 2004 (the only difference being roster moves). After 2003, the series was only released on Playstation 2 and after MLB 2006, 989 Sports turned the line of games over to Sony, who renamed it “MLB The Show.”
If you ever see MLB ’99 or any of the other classic MLB games for PS1, do yourself a favor and play them. I guarantee you will have a fun time.
MLB Slugfest 20-03
“Why did I buy this? Why?” – the words I uttered after the first few days I played this game. I thought this was going to be one of the best baseball games ever. Boy was I wrong! What a waste of time, money, and effort.
Midway developed Slugfest 20-03 for the Playstation 2 and I wish they hadn’t. I wish they had just not done anything and never came up with the idea to make a baseball game. The Slugfest game line should just not exist.
A-Rod once again made the cover, this time as a member of the Texas Rangers. If I were him, I would have asked Midway to have my image removed from the cover because it was the most horrible baseball game in the history of the existence of this universe.
When I mention MLB Slugfest, I will gladly admit that I was suckered. The commercials and TV spots made this game look like the most unbelievable baseball game ever–good graphics, outstanding game play, and simplistic controls. But none of that was true. The graphics were terrible, the game play was abominable, and the controls were ridiculous.
I’ll admit the Stadiums looked OK, but the players themselves were not even close. Derek Jeter looked like a raccoon run over by an 18-wheeler. It was pathetic! What a joke!
Speaking of jokes, the announcers for this game were just awful. They weren’t even real people–Tim Kitrew and his partner Jim Shorts. I am not lying, his name was Jim Shorts. If the name wasn’t bad enough, his comments were absolutely ridiculous and borderline offensive. Here is an excerpt from a conversation between the two announcers taken from the game:
Jim: “Hey Tim, there’s a woman behind home plate lifting up her shirt. It’s distracting the pitcher!”
Tim: “Yes! I see that, Jim. Except for one thing–it’s a guy.”
Are you serious? What would possess someone to say something like that in a video game or just in general? Tim also says things like, “Dive for that you sissy,” after making a routine catch. It’s like, why would I dive for a routine catch? Another one of my personal favorites: if you strike out looking Tim says,
“He is standing there like he’s waiting for a pizza delivery guy. He’s going to BE the pizza delivery guy if he doesn’t swing the bat!”
If you didn’t think it could get any worse than that, it does. You cannot trade players, you can’t use more than three pitchers per team, and you can’t create new players.
You can however punch and kick the other team’s players. Yes, you heard right, you can literally stand there and punch and kick the other team’s players. I guess trades, pitchers, and the create-a-player function were not important enough. Fighting was more logical.
It’s so unrealistic it makes it laughable.
In terms of cheat codes, there are a wide variety of them. You can put in codes to make your players’ heads look like horses or eagles, make the baseball bigger, maximize your speed and power, use a mace or a log as a bat, and unlock some secret stadiums.
I honestly haven’t tried out all of the cheats because I didn’t play this game enough times to utilize them. It has to be the worst baseball game ever. Stay away from it all costs!
Being a huge fan of the MLB series, I was very excited when the ’06 game came out. This was the last MLB game 989 produced before handing the series over to Sony, so in my view ’06 was historic.
It was only the third MLB game on Playstation 2 and Vladimir Guerrero of the Angels was our cover boy.
Unfortunately the game was not as good as I thought it would be. Sure the graphics were great on Playstation 2, the controls were once again easy to manage, and you could play as every team in the league. But there were so many things wrong with the game.
I can remember one night I was playing against the Pirates (of course as the Yankees) and I was on fire. I was winning 5-0 and tossing a perfect game with Shawn Chacon (remember him?!) I was on my way to the pitcher’s dream, nothing was stopping me. I was going to do it. I had no doubt in my mind I was going to make video game history and be among the elite gamers who can say, “I pitched a perfect game in MLB ’06.”
Right as I was about to do it–I’m talking two outs in the ninth–the game froze. The game FROZE. You had never seen a person go from being on top of the world to the bottom of the underbelly of the universe so fast. I was outraged, I was really mad, and I almost cried.
In one deft move the game stole my livelihood away from me. What a selfish game.
It wasn’t the first time it happened, either. In fact, it always happened. You could be halfway through a game and the whole thing would just stop working. It was one of the most annoying and frustrating things to ever happen to a gamer. 989 should have maybe, you know, tested the game before they released it.
Along with the freezing glitch, I hated the fact that you could not edit your players. For example, Johnny Damon was on the Red Sox at the time and I eventually had to trade him to the Yankees. In the game he had a huge beard and long hair and he had to stay that way; there was nothing I could do to change it.
Everybody knows the Yankees do not allow facial hair and long hair, so I was stuck playing with Damon as a caveman Yankee. It just didn’t look right. They should have come up with better ways to edit the players and shouldn’t have had the freezing problem–especially when you are about to accomplish something amazing.
Overall I think it was sad to see 989 screw up the last MLB game they compiled.
Awhile back I had wanted to play some of the classic Nintendo games. I downloaded a fascinating application to my computer known as Console Classix. This allowed me to play virtually every Nintendo game for the original system.
I checked out some baseball games and came across Baseball Stars. I wish I hadn’t.
From what I read, the game garnered great critical success and some people have even gone as far as saying it was the best baseball game on Nintendo. My only question is, “What game were they playing?!”
The cover features some guy who today would probably be suspected of steroid usage wearing a red “Crushers” uniform wearing the number 7. No clue where they got that idea from.
Although it was not licensed by Major League Baseball, the players are so obviously named after actual major leaguers. There’s Pete (after Pete Rose), Babe (do I even have to get into this one?) and Hank (of course after Hank Aaron).
When I first played it, I noticed that the teams’ initials were abbreviated. I saw one team’s initials were “L.L.” and got curious so I picked them to play against my team, thinking it might be a team of “Little Leaguers” or something.
I was shocked to see that “L.L.” stood for “Lovely Ladies” and the all-women team was dressed like the players from “A League of Their Own.” I had to laugh but not soon after that I almost cried.
Playing as the “American Dreams” (with Pete, Babe, and Hank) I started to play the Lovely Ladies. Unable to figure out the controls on my computer, I proceeded to get massacred by a team of girls. They hit home run after home run and beat me 10-0 to the Mercy Rule.
No offense to any girls out there, but Pete Rose, Babe Ruth, and Hank Aaron lost to Geena Davis and Rosie O’Donnell. Now that’s just sad.
I will say, the game at least provided me with a little comic relief, much like MLB Slugfest 20-03 did. And the controls were probably easier to manage playing from a regular Nintendo controller rather than a laptop. Feel free to check this game out, but if you’re playing on the computer, good luck!
MLB ’07 The Show
Believe it or not, this was the last baseball game I bought and it was the second game in the MLB series that was not produced by 989 sports. Sony handled everything with this game and they did not disappoint.
David Wright of the New York Mets made the cover of this game and let’s just say they did this game the right way (pun intended).
You can choose to use classic controls or the new controls for base running, pitching, and hitting. You can easily trade players during a season mode without having to have the other team approve of it and best of all you can edit your players!
They finally decided to put the edit feature in. If a player gets traded you can edit their uniform number and position, a feature that was not included on any past edition of MLB. It was one thing that annoyed me for years and years.
For example, I had to trade David Justice to the Yankees from the Braves in MLB 2001. I couldn’t edit his number so he wore 23 on the Yanks, the same number he wore on the Braves.
23 is Don Mattingly’s number! Justice wore 28! So thankfully they put that option into the game because it was something that simply needed to be done.
Along with the editing feature, MLB ’07 The Show offered a new “road to the show” mini-game. You can play as a minor leaguer and work your way up to the majors in what was an innovative and brilliant concept. I’m not sure if it was also offered in the 2006 version of The Show, but if it was, then it was a good idea to continue it.
In terms of cheats, there are only two that come to mind. First, you can unlock the Golden and Silver Era teams, consisting of classic legendary players from the past. The Golden Era team owns players like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Satchel Paige, Ty Cobb, and Rogers Hornsby.
The Silver Era team is made of more contemporary players like Reggie Jackson, Yogi Berra, Joe Morgan, and Don Drysdale. To have these teams available in the game was a great idea. There’s nothing like playing with your favorite team and going up against a group of legends.
To go along with the renowned players are classic stadiums, the second cheat. Type in the code and you can play at the Polo Grounds, Forbes Field, and a number of other old-time ballparks. It really is a great code to include in the game; if you want to take a break from your season, wind down and play an exhibition or Home Run Derby at one of the old-time Stadiums.
Really the only gripe I have against the game is the create-a-player mode. You can create a player using the eye-toy, which is a neat feature if you want to create yourself, but you are only allowed a certain number of players to create.
I tried to create some of the players left out of the game and after awhile a message popped up telling me “You cannot create anymore players.”
You’d think the amount of players you can create would be unlimited. Well, think again.
All in all, this is a great game and my favorite of the newer versions. Of course the ’08 and ’09 versions are out and maybe when I get the time I will pick up the latest edition of MLB The Show, which obviously is ’10. But keep in mind, MLB The Show is basically the same game re-released every year, just with updated rosters.
However, I am curious to see how they made the new Yankee Stadium, so I will eventually buy ’10 and see if it lives up to my expectations.
I had heard awhile back (through the hot stove grape vine) that the only way Johnny Damon would be able to return to the Yankees would be if he crawled back on his hands and knees and begged. Obviously he did not proceed to do that and now he is officially gone and not coming back.
Yesterday Damon and the Detroit Tigers cut a one year, $8 million deal.
I have to say, this was not completely his fault. For the most part, I blame this move on his agent Scott Boras. According to reports, the Yankees had attempted to negotiate with the left fielder several times with talks eventually stalling out before a deal was reached.
Boras has been known to do these types of things to players in the past. If you remember back to the end of the 2007 season, Alex Rodriguez had an opt-out clause in his contract. Rodriguez, also represented by Boras, chose to opt-out of his contract at the most inopportune time imaginable: in the middle of the World Series.
The Yankees had tried to negotiate with Rodriguez prior to the end of 2007 season, but no deal was made. Rodriguez told the Yanks that he was not interested in working out a new deal in the middle of the season. The Yankees responded by basically telling Rodriguez, “if you opt-out now, we are not chasing after you.”
Unlike Damon, Rodriguez became a free agent and reached out to the Yankees. The team and Rodriguez had a meeting and eventually worked out a new deal. Along with the new contract, Rodriguez distanced himself from Boras because of the ugly press he received for the opt-out move.
Good move, A-Rod. Unfortunately Damon was not as smart. He received ugly press and he allowed Boras to make a deal for him/control his destiny.
I’ll admit, I liked Damon and I will miss him. He was a hard worker, played the game the right way, and really did not make any excuses. The whole time he was in New York, I don’t think I ever heard him make an excuse for a bad game or a failure.
On top of that, he enjoyed many moments of success as a Yankee. Here are five:
5) June 7, 2008– A six hit day
The Yankees played the Royals on a hot Saturday afternoon–should have been an easy win by any Yankee fan’s standards. But it looked like a lost cause at the end of the third inning when Kansas City was winning 5-1.
Never underestimate your opponent, but also never underestimate the Yankee left fielder.
Damon put together a career day at the plate, going 6-for-6 with four RBIs and a run scored as the Yankees battled back. He even drove in the winning run on a walk-off ground rule double in the bottom of the ninth.
The Yankees won the slugfest, 12-11.
The ground-rule double was Damon’s first walk-off hit as a member of the Yankees, and he became the first Yankee since Myril Hoag to have six hits in a game. (Hoag accomplished the feat in 1934).
I would say Damon showed how valuable he can be on that day.
4) Boston Massacre, 2006
It was a really fun weekend to be a Yankee fan.
Heading into a five-game weekend series in Boston on Aug. 18, the American League title was basically up for grabs. We knew that whichever team won this series was the favorite to win the East.
Damon had been blasted when he returned to Boston earlier that season on May 1. Red Sox fans even held up a sign in center field that read “JUDAS DAMON” (the ‘N’ in his last name of course being the interlocking ‘NY’)
But never one to let things bother him, Damon kept his focus on the game. In the first three games of the five game series, he hit two homers, scored eight runs, and drove in eight runs.
Talk about letting your former team know what they are missing. And if you are wondering, the Yankees swept the Red Sox that weekend and went on to win the AL East. The Red Sox did not make the playoffs in ’06.
They had the Yankees to thank for that.
3) Walk-off Against Minnesota
Many people say the series the Yankees played against the Twins in May of last year was the turning point of their Championship season.
Melky Cabrera hit a walk-off single on May 15, Alex Rodriguez smacked a walk-off homer on May 16, and on May 17 it was Damon’s turn to ignite the team.
With two hits already under his belt on the day and the game knotted at two in the bottom of the tenth, Damon crushed a long, solo home run into the right field seats to win the game for the Yankees.
Damon’s walk-off blast marked the first time since 1972 the Yankees won three games in a row in their final at-bat. After the win, Damon proudly proclaimed faith in the team and the Yankees’ ability to win tough games.
He also received a pie in the face from A.J. Burnett, a tradition that occurred after every walk-off Yankee win in 2009.
2) Oct. 7, 2007–Game 3 of the ALDS
Down two games to none and facing elimination in Game Three, “The Boss” George Steinbrenner had issued an edict to then-manager Joe Torre: “Beat Cleveland or you are gone.”
Roger Clemens started the game and quickly let the Yankees fall into a hole. Clemens was forced to an early exit because of a strained hamstring and rookie Phil Hughes took over on the mound. The youngster was able to toss 3 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball, but the Yankees were still down 3-1 by the fifth inning.
Damon then came up to bat with two runners on base and took Indians’ starter Jake Westbrook deep to put the Yankees up 4-3. I had never breathed such a sigh of relief in my life. Damon had practically single-handedly saved Torre’s life as Yankee manager with one swing of the bat.
The Yanks were able to tack on four more runs and win the game by a count of 8-4. Unfortunately the next night in Game Four they were not as lucky and lost 6-4 in Torre’s last game as Yankee skipper.
Yet I cannot forget Damon’s effort in Game Three. He once again showed credibility in the playoffs and came through in the clutch. We Yankees fans had seen how capable he was in the 2004 playoffs and I for one was happy to see it translate in ’07.
In humility, Damon had five words to say after the game:
“We won it for Joe.”
1) Man of Steal: Game Four, 2009 World Series
It was the most epic base-running play I have ever seen in a World Series game.
After giving a warrior-like effort at the plate (a nine-pitch at-bat) and tapping a two-out single off the end of his bat into left field, Damon stood on first base in the ninth inning of a 4-4 game. The Philadelphia Phillies’ infield was playing the over-shift with Mark Teixeira batting from the left side of the plate.
With third baseman Pedro Feliz playing where the shortstop normally would, no one was covering third base. Damon took off like a shot and hustled to second base, the throw down to second being late. In a heads-up move, Damon right away noticed no one covering the bag and bolted to third, basically uncontested, and made it there safely.
You cannot coach that. It was just self-awareness. Damon was awarded with two steals.
Teixeira got hit with a pitch, setting up Alex Rodriguez who knocked in the go-ahead run with a double to left field. The Yankees tacked on two more runs after Rodriguez’s double and went on to win 7-4.
Damon kept the team alive with his valiant effort with two outs in the inning and his great instinct on the base path. I have never seen a player keep his wits about him in such a pressure-laden situation. He maintained his bearings and made a terrific play.
I still feel if Damon had made an out, the Yanks would have lost Game Four.
On behalf of Yankee fans everywhere, THANK YOU Johnny Damon!
You afforded us some wonderful memories and like Hideki Matsui, we will truly miss you. It’s unfortunate how your tenure in New York ended, but at least you helped bring the city another title.
Have fun in Detroit with Austin Jackson.
P.S. We are sorry Scott Boras ruined it for you. Be smart and dump him. Please.
What’s up Yankee fans?
The date is February 15, 2010.
As for news around the sports world, the NFL Super Bowl is over. The great Peyton Manning fell to Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in what was (in my opinion) the best Super Bowl game since the New York Giants upset the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
The winter Olympics are in full swing in Vancouver and at press time the U.S.A. has claimed six medals.
The NBA is at their All-Star point and Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks became the only player in history to win the Slam Dunk Contest three times.
And last but never-the-least, MLB pitchers and catchers report to camp this week. We now know that baseball is almost back. Almost back, but we’re not quite there yet.
The Yankees obviously made a number of moves in the off season, bidding farewell to players like Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Melky Cabrera, and Chien-Ming Wang.
But they welcomed in new (and old) players like Curtis Granderson, Randy Winn, Javier Vazquez, and Nick Johnson.
Some of these moves haven’t been very popular among Yankee fans, but it remains to be seen how these players will perform. The best time to find out how well each player might do in the season is obviously in spring training.
With that being said, here are my five players to keep an eye on in March:
5) Javier Vazquez
At first, I was completely against the Javier Vazquez deal and part of me still is. I never liked him during his first stint with the Yankees in 2004. The only lasting image I have of him was that meatball he served up that Johnny Damon clobbered for a grand slam in the 2004 ALCS–a bomb that solidified the Yankees’ Game Seven collapse.
But I suppose I’ll give him a second chance as the number four starter in 2010.
Everyone keeps talking about how Vazquez had a very low ERA these past few seasons, so who knows. He may surprise us. After all, I thought Hideki Matsui was going to have a horrible season in 2009. He went on to win the World Series MVP.
I have decided to give Vazquez until July 15–if he has decent numbers then, I’ll approve of the trade. But if he is basically hanging on by a thread with an inflated ERA and a record of .500, then I’ll stand by my initial thought: what are the Yankees thinking?!
I realize the Vazquez trade was a panic move to counter the Red Sox signing John Lackey. But the Yanks could have figured out another way to get a pitcher without having to give up a promising outfielder (Cabrera) for a one-year rental (Vazquez).
We’ll see how he does. But without question, he’ll be under the microscope in Tampa.
4) Jesus Montero
I have heard a lot of great things about this kid. I get the feeling he’ll one day be a star, but he’s just too young right now. Nonetheless, non-roster invitee Jesus Montero will be a player to watch this spring.
At 20 years old, Montero has been named the Yanks’ best prospect and the fifth best player by Baseball America. In his 2008 minor league season with the Charleston River Dogs, Montero batted .326 with 17 homers and 87 RBIs. He only stole two bases, but hey…he’s a catcher, we cannot expect a ton of steals from him.
The highest level he’s played at is AA Trenton Thunder, but mark my words; he’ll probably make it to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees in 2010.
With Jose Molina leaving the Yankees, it’ll most likely be Francisco Cervelli backing up Jorge Posada. So in all likelihood, we won’t see Montero in the show this year. In 2011, he’ll more than likely be on the Major League squad.
But Montero will undoubtedly be on the field this spring. This is his chance to show Yankee Universe what he’s made of and for us to get a feel for what he is about.
3) Brett Gardner
Brett Gardner has given the Yankees something they haven’t had in recent times–speed. And I’m not talking about just a decent pair of wheels. I’m talking the Flash/Sonic the Hedgehog type horse power here.
I mean, if he sprinted on the highway, he’d probably get a speeding ticket.
Gardner has also offered a great deal of defense in the outfield. With the departure of Melky Cabrera, the Yankees are obviously putting a lot of stock in him. Gardner can run and he can play some unbelievable defense. But he needs to get on base and become a better offensive player.
In 2009, Gardner had 67 hits in 248 at-bats, which translates to a .270 average–not too shabby. He drew 26 walks and stole 26 bases, which again, are decent stats.
But centerfield is a position that requires power; you need to have some pop coming from that spot on the field. Gardner only hit three home runs last year, two of which left the park (and yes, it was pretty sweet watching that inside-the-park home run on May 15…it was even sweeter because I saw it in-person!)
This spring, the Yankees will be trying out a number of different outfielders. There’s even talk that if Gardner is good enough, recent acquisition Curtis Granderson might play left field and Gardner will man center.
Well, that scenario remains to be seen, but in any event, Gardner has to take his game up to the next level. We’ll see how he responds next month.
2) Robinson Cano
Boy has this young man come a long way. I can remember the day he was called up to the big leagues in 2005 and how nervous he looked. He would make frequent errors and he looked so uneasy at the plate.
But Robinson Cano worked his game up to a Major League level, finishing in the top three in the 2006 batting title race. He was even compared to the incomparable Rod Carew. And from there, the rest is basically history. In my opinion, he’s unlike any other second baseman in the American League–and that’s a good thing.
He plays defense so well, gliding across the infield and making spectacular plays. I still believe he should have won a Gold Glove Award this past year. His hitting has certainly improved, as well. In 2009 he set a career-high in home runs with 25 and averaged .320 at the dish.
I have to say, of the younger players who are currently on the Yankees, Cano is my favorite. You can mention Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and all the legendary players of the so-called “core four,” but (for me) Cano has been the most exciting Yankee these past couple of seasons.
But some philosophize that Cano only performed so well for so long because of the presence of his best friend Melky Cabrera. The two became bosom buddies in 2007 and since then, both have played very well in each other’s friendship.
But Cabrera is now an Atlanta Brave and Cano is on his own.
I am anxious to see how Cano is going to perform in the absence of his best friend. I still feel he can play the same way he has these last few years. However, the only minor concern I have is how Cano played in 2008 without Cabrera; when his buddy was sent down to the minors because of a nasty slump, Cano struggled a little bit and fell into a funk of his own.
Hopefully nothing like that will happen to him this upcoming year. But if Cano gets off to a slow start and cannot find his rhythm, I might have to side with those philosophers.
1) Joba Chamberlain
It’s no secret that Joba Chamberlain had a rough 2009. It started back when he was arrested for a DUI after the 2008 campaign. Then he was put back on the “Joba Rules,” only being allowed to toss a certain amount of innings according to the Yankees’ discretion.
He had some forgetful starts and some brilliant starts in ’09, posting a record of 9-6 with a 4.75 ERA. If that wasn’t enough, the 24 year-old flamethrower was sent to the bullpen for the playoffs and World Series as the Bronx Bombers chose to go with a three-man rotation. In relief, he posted an ERA of 2.84 and was 1-0 with one save and seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings pitched.
Not too bad, if you ask me. Chamberlain seems to excel when he knows his role.
There’s a lot of speculation on which pitcher will land the fifth spot in the starting rotation. Chamberlain seems to be the logical choice, unless they either opt to pull Phil Hughes from his spot in the bullpen or allow Sergio Mitre or Chad Gaudin the opportunity.
It all depends on who is performing at the highest level in spring training. If we see Chamberlain in a dominant form next month, it could be him. But if he is going to be that fifth pitcher, the Yankees NEED to take him off the “Joba Rules.”
Chamberlain will have his growing pains, all young players do. But if they do not take the leash off, the only thing he’ll ever be is a caged animal.
I understand that the Yankees are not trying to wreck his arm because it’s happened to too many young pitchers (Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez…etc.) But the Yanks should not tell him exactly how many innings they want him to throw. I think that can upset the balance of his psyche.
So who will be that fifth starter? We’ll know when we see what they all bring to Tampa.