Results tagged ‘ Bernie Williams ’

Monument Park Just Ain’t What It Used to Be

 

I HATE computer problems :(

First I’d like to apologize for not blogging in awhile. I have had a number of computer problems these past couple of weeks; my laptop has not been functioning properly and I haven’t been able to do any writing or Yankee Yapping.

Needless to say, not being able to write has been killing me!

My dad temporarily solved the problem and allowed me to borrow his laptop while mine gets fixed. So a big thank you goes out to him for that.

Anyway onto the topic of this entry…

Last Wednesday I visted Yankee Stadium for the fourth time this season and for the fourth time they won. The Bronx Bombers beat the Detroit Tigers 9-5 and went on to take three out of four from them.  Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, and Curtis Granderson led the way for the Yanks, each with a home run on the night.

Detroit’s  Miguel Cabrera put on a hitting show, smacking two homers of his own. Left fielder Don Kelly also homered for Detroit, as the ball was certainly exploding off the bats last Wednesday night.

The real story however was where I went before the game.


New Monument Park. Meh. 

For the first time in the New Yankee Stadium I visited Monument Park.  I only remember visiting Monument Park in the old Stadium once–July 2, 2002. Monument Park in the old Stadium was positioned behind the left-centerfield wall. It now sits directly behind the centerfield wall, and I have to say, the experience of going there in the new house just wasn’t the same.

 


You can take pride in this.Watching one of the first games in the new Stadium on TV last year, and subsequently taking notice of Monument Park, I remember thinking to myself, “How can the Yankees take any pride in what Monument Park looks like? In all honesty, it looks as if they decorated the area behind the centerfield wall with used furniture.”

I hate to think that way, but it’s the truth.

Modern day Monument Park simply doesn’t have the old school feeling anymore. With all the up-to-date features in the new ballpark, the place where the Yankees once honored their legends seems to have become just another  meaningless, new-age attraction. Of course all of the same Monuments and plaques are still out there, but it is not the same.

Although I dislike the way Monument Park is constructed, I cannot say I am entirely unhappy with it. I loved seeing all the retired numbers and momentos, which I had not seen in eight years.  For the first time I saw the monument built to remember those who lost their lives on September  11, 2001, which was a moving experience.

 


Never forget. 

Along with the 9/11 monument, it was great to see the plaque the Yankees  put up for Pope Benedict XVI. His Holiness celebrated mass in April of 2008, following in the footsteps of Pope Paul IV and Pope John Paul II, both of whom also celebrated mass at the old Stadium.

 

 


Benedict XVIThe aren’t kidding when they say Yankee Stadium is a cathedral.

After I left Monument Park Wednesday night I got to thinking: who will be the next Yankee to have is number retired? I came up with a number of possible candidates. Here they are…

Bernie Williams, 51

Retire Bernie's number!

The Yankee centerfielder spent 16 seasons in pinstripes. He won four World Series Championships, six American League pennants, four Gold Glove Awards, the 1996 American League Championship Series MVP Award, the 1998 Batting Title, and was selected to the All-Star Game five times.

That’s a lot of accomplishments for one player with one team.

Looking past all of the awards and accolades, the most telling point about Williams is that he spent his entire career with the Yankees. In this day and age with free agency and trades, it’s remarkable that he was able to stay with the Yanks his whole career.

Although it almost didn’t happen.

After the 1998 season, Williams came dangerously close to leaving, due to the expiration of his contract. The Boston Red Sox were one of the leading teams that seeked out Williams and believe it or not, he almost went to the Red Sox. The Yankees were trying to acquire Albert Belle and nearly gave up their prize centerfielder.

I just could not have imagined Williams in a Red Sox uniform. It would have broke my heart, but honestly, I still would have loved him for all he did as a Yankee. Thankfully it did not get that far.

The Bronx Bombers came to their senses, dumped the idea for acquiring Belle, and Williams was back in pinstripes—not only for 1999, but for the rest of his career. He went on tho scale the Yankee all-time lists in hits, doubles,  extra base hits, home runs, walks, and RBIs.

No one has worn his number 51 since he retired…or I should say since he did not return to the Yankees in 2007. If you ask me, Williams deserves the honor of having his number sit in Monument Park alongside the Yankee legends of old.

 

 

51

 

Paul O’Neill, 21

Paul O'Neill is worthy of a monument in the park.   

“The Warrior” spent nine seasons with the New York Yankees, all of them as a fan favorite. The short-temepred right fielder was selected to five All-Star Games and won a total of five World Series titles, four of them in pinstripes.

If anyone should be in Monument Park, it’s Paul O’Neill.

The late George Steinbrenner gave O’Neill his “Warrior” nickname sometime in the mid-’90s. Steinbrenner had seen how O’Neill reacted to certain calls made by umpires. When he did not agree with a call, he would let the ump know about it…most of the time in angry fashion.

O’Neill’s toughness never came into question.

In the past I have given my opinion on O’Neill, and I cannot say enough good about him. He was one of my all-time favorite Yankees and one of the most fierce competitors I have ever seen play the game of baseball. He had a strong hatred for losing and he will always be remembered by me as a winner.

In 2008, LaTroy Hawkins wore the number 21. Running in from the bullpen at Yankee Stadium, he was booed overwhelmingly. He asked Derek Jeter why he was being booed at home, and Jeter responded by saying that his number was the issue.

The next day Hawkins swapped his number 21 for 22.

Since then, the Yankees have taken the number out of circulation and no other player has worn it. It is my best guess that it will be retired by the Yankees at some point.

 


21 

 

Joe Torre, 6

Joe Torre in Monument Park

Although he is the current manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Joe Torre’s number is worthy of retirement in Yankee lore. Torre served as Yankee manager from 1996-2007, standing at the helm of 12 playoff appearances, four World Championships, and six A.L. pennants. He is also one of the winningest managers in Yankee history.

Before the Yanks won the World Series in 1996–Torre’s first year as Yankee skipper–the Bronx Bombers had not been to the World Series since 1981. There is no denying the fact that Torre brought the Yanks back from mediocrity and led the team to a Dynasty.

There’s no way the Yanks would have been as good as they were without his leadership.

However, the one thing that might prevent his number from being retired was his book. “The Yankee Years” (in a way) strained his relationship with the organization, and overall his departure left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

Nonetheless he is still a legendary Yankee and like Williams and O’Neill, his number has not been used by another Yankee player since he left.

I have mixed feelings about Torre right now. I love and respect everything he did as Yankee skipper but some of the remarks he made left me thinking about him. I also don’t agree with how he managed the bullpen toward the end of his tenure in pinstripes.

Yet I still believe he deserves a spot in Monument Park.

Maybe when Torre retires and all the smoke is cleared, he and the Yankees can reunite; possibly patch things up. In order for his number to be retired, I believe that has to happen. When it does, I look forward to his special day when we celebrate everything he did for the Yanks and all of his wonderfull accomplishments.

 


6 

 

The last Yankee to have his number retired was Ron Guidry, back in 2003. Before Guidry, Don Mattingly’s number was retired in 1997. Looking at every number out in Monument Park, it seems there is at least one Yankee represented for every era.

I think what the team needs now is a player from the Dynasty of the late ’90s represented. Williams, O’Neill, and Torre all fit the bill and are all deserving of the honor. The question is, when will the next Yankee number be retired?

I hope they don’t wait until Jeter is done playing. If you ask me, they should give some other players their due and then when Jeter retires, hold the biggest ceremony ever in his honor.

Until then, consider Williams, O’Neill, and Torre.

 

You Know You’re a REAL Yankee Fan When…

 

Big Game James beat us yesterday

 

Yesterday the New York Yankees dropped the rubber game of a three game series against the Tampa Bay Rays, a 3-0 shutout at the hands of “Big Game” James Shields. 7 1/3 innings, no runs, four hits, one walk, and 11 strikeouts later, the Yankees lose.

 

The Bronx Bombers’ lead over Tampa Bay in the American League Eastern Division is now only one game, signifying a likely “two horse race” down the stretch run and into September. The Yanks and Rays own the two best records in the majors and both teams can and probably will make the playoffs.

 

While the Yanks lost, their cross-town rivals, the New York Mets, were beaten 14-1 by the National League West’s worst team, the Arizona Diamondbacks.

 

Mets lost too 

 

Ed, one of my close friends from high school who happens to be a devout Mets fan, proclaimed his disgust at the team and how poor their play has recently been. I suggested to him that he switch sides, and I said he should become a Yankee fan.

 

“Come to the good side, and soon you’ll be having dreams of pinstripes, strong, winning seasons, and World Series Championships.”

 

Ed responded, “Oh, you mean the dark side? I think I’ll trust the force and try to will the Mets to victory!”

 

I have to tip my cap to him. He is a true fan. Even when I tempted him, which (to him) must have been like the Devil tempting Jesus Christ, he stood by his team. He has been a Mets fan his whole life and he will never disrespect his loyalty to his favorite team.

 

The whole exchange with Ed got me thinking…what makes a real fan, and more particularly, what makes a true Yankee fan?

 

Here are some ways (that I came up with) to tell if you are a REAL Yankee fan.

 

You know you’re a REAL Yankee fan when…

 

You (at least try) to watch every game

 

 


Real fans watch ALL the games. 

Let’s face it: following the team religiously is an important aspect of being a true fan.

 

The best part of my night during the baseball season is tuning into the YES Network and enjoying a Yankee game. Things can get difficult with work and in recent years school, and sometimes I am not able to watch every inning. But rest assured, even when I can’t watch the games, I constantly check my phone for updates, box scores, and stats.

 

Even when I can’t physically see what’s happening, I know what’s happening.

 

What really annoyed me last year were all the “Yankee fans” who watched maybe 30 innings during the regular season celebrate the World Series victory, as if they followed the team throughout the year. They probably only knew the key players, like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

 

Which leads into my next point…

 

 

You know all of the Yankee players, even the most obscure ones

 

 


If you know these guys, you're a REAL fan 

Everyone knows the brand name players, like Jeter, Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Mariano Rivera. They are the faces of the Yankees organization and can easily be recognized by even the most distant Yankee fan. Any person who claims to be a Yankee fan can tell you who these players are.

 

But what about Ramiro Pena or Colin Curtis? David Robertson and Alfredo Aceves?

 

If you ask a Yankee fan who these players are and they have no idea, then there is no way they are a real fan. Knowledge of every player–even the lesser-known ones–is a must in terms of being a real Yankee fan.

 

And it doesn’t just mean lesser-known players from this year.

 

For example, back in 2005, the Yanks had two starting pitchers to fill in for a banged up rotation; one by the name of Aaron Small the other by the name of Shawn Chacon. Combined, these hurlers went 17-3 and helped lead the Yankees to the A.L. East title, which they won on the second-to-last day of the ’05 season.

 

Any real Yankee fan would and very well should know that.

 

 

You own a decent amount of Yankee Memorabilia

 

 


A very small sample of my Yankee collection 

Support of the team is important. One of the best ways to show your allegiance, if not the best, is wear your team’s colors with pride. I, for one, wear a Yankee necklace which I only take off before I shower.

 

I also own a wide variety of Yankee merchandise, including seven pinstripe jerseys, hats, pennants, bobble heads, framed photos…you name it, I probably have it. Come to think of it, a friend actually once asked me if I own any other clothing that doesn’t have an interlocking NY on it.

 

Although it doesn’t seem like it, I do have clothes that are not Yankee related.

 

I am not saying a real Yankee fan has to be as hardcore about it as I am; I am a special case! But the fact is that a real Yankee fan will, at least once in awhile, wear a Yankee shirt or a Yankee hat.

 

There is no way (in good conscience) a real Yankee fan can’t wear a Yankee shirt once in awhile.  

 

 

You know the history between the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox

 

 


Yankees/Red Sox...biggest rivalry in sports 

With every great team comes a great adversary.

 

For as long as there has been baseball, there has been a heated rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox. There have been brutal fights, players who have switched sides, and countless numbers of classic games played between the two teams.

 

In my lifetime, there are two games between the Yankees and Red Sox that stand out as being the absolute greatest. The first was on July 1, 2004. Both teams left everything they had on the diamond, as evidenced by Jeter’s effort diving into the stands to make a play. The Red Sox were trying to avoid a three game sweep and the Yankees were trying to complete the sweep.

 

Neither team wanted to lose.

 

The Red Sox took a 4-3 the lead in the top of the 13th inning, setting up an improbable comeback win for the Yanks in the bottom of the frame. Miguel Cairo doubled to score Ruben Sierra (again, going back to the idea of knowing who the obscure players are) to tie the game, and John Flaherty (who now works for the YES Network) drove in the winning run to give the Yankees a win.

 

 


Flaherty wins it! 

What a game. I’ll never forget it.

 

The second all-time best Yankees-Red Sox battle (for me) was Oct. 16, 2003–Game Seven of the 2003 American League Championship Series. The ALCS was knotted at three games apiece, and the Yanks and BoSox went through hell to get to the final game.

 

The winner of Game Seven was given a one-way ticket to the World Series, the loser was going home.

 

Boston looked to be in complete command of everything in the fourth inning. They had jumped out to a 4-0 lead and knocked Yankees’ starter Roger Clemens out of the game. Jason Giambi cut into the Red Sox lead with two solo home runs, but David Ortiz smacked a long ball of his own, giving the BoSox a 5-2 edge heading into the bottom of the eighth inning.

 

I watched that game at home, biting my fingernails and trembling in fear. I thought the Yankees were doomed. My thought process in the middle of the eighth inning was, “The Yankees would be the ones walking back in shame and the Red Sox were going to the World Series.”

 

But the Empire struck back in the bottom of the frame.

 

Jeter doubled. Bernie Williams singled. Hideki Matsui doubled. Jorge Posada blooped a single to center field. Just like that, the game was tied. It was the best comeback and by far the most unbelievable game I had ever seen–and it wasn’t even over yet!

 

Boston, five defensive outs from embarrassing the Yankees, blew the lead and they headed into extras.

 

In the bottom of the 11th inning Aaron Boone was due up first. I remember thinking to myself, “He’s not going to do anything. He isn’t a power hitter.” But Alfonso Soriano and Derek Jeter were due up after Boone, and I prayed one of them would at least get on base.

 

 


What a moment. 

My thoughts were soon proven wrong, as Boone came up and hammered the first pitch he saw for a game-winning home run to win the A.L. Pennant for the Yankees. It was the most glorious home run I had ever seen and one of the most meaningful; very rarely will you ever see a walk-off home run to cap off a game of that magnitude.

 

“There’s a fly ball deep to left! It’s on its way! There it goes…AND THE YANKEES ARE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES! AARON BOONE HAS HIT A HOME RUN!”

 

Those words still resonate with me to this day.  

 

There are plenty of other games and moments in Yankee-Red Sox history. But those two stand out as my favorites. If you are a real Yankee fan, you can recollect moments from the rivalry as vividly I have.

 

 

 

You know about the Yankee Stadium Regulars

 

 


Bald Vinny! 

At Yankee Stadium, the home of the New York Yankees since 1923…well, 2009 if you count the new Stadium…in any case, the Bronx is where Yankees play. If you go to a Yankee game, there are certain traditions and loyalists who are always at the ballpark to root for the Yanks.

 

The most loyal fan I can really think of is Vinny Milano, A.K.A. “Bald Vinny” of the right field Bleacher Creatures. He conjures up all the fans in the right field bleachers and leads them in a roll call right after the first pitch of the game is thrown. They yell out to every Yankee on the field until they are given some sort of acknowledgment, whether it is a pose or wave.

 

The roll call has become a staple of Yankee Stadium, and the real Yankee fans know about Bald Vinny and how important he has become to Yankee Stadium.

 

 


Freddy Sez 

Another Stadium regular is Freddy Schumann, an older fan who is commonly known as “Freddy Sez.” He walks around Yankee Stadium with a pan painted with a four-leaf clover on it. Attached to the pan is generally a sign that has some sort of encouraging words on it directed at the Yankees.

 

Freddy also carries a spoon, which is used to bang on the pan. The sound of the spoon on the pan makes a distinctive noise which can be heard throughout the whole Stadium. He always allows the fans around him to bang on the pan, in attempt to stimulate a Yankee rally.

 

Bald Vinny and Freddy Sez are the number one Yankee fans I know. If you don’t know them, you really don’t know the Yankees very well, or at least not Yankee Stadium.

 

And the last and probably most important part of being a real Yankee fan…

 

 

You Know Your Yankee History

 

 


History lesson 

Knowledge is power.

 

If you are a real Yankee fan, you know the background on the team. Everyone knows they are the winningest team in sports history with 27 World Titles. But do they know how many times the Yankees have been to the World Series? Do they know which Yankee player has the most World Series rings? Do they know all the retired numbers?

 

Only true fans know that the Yankees have been to the World Series 40 times, Yogi Berra has the most World Series titles as a Yankee (with 10) and there are 16 retired numbers–I can name them all, right off the top of my head.

 

But naming them all is much too vulgar a display of Yankee intelligence.

 

 


Retired numbers 

 

Knowing the background of the players is just as important as knowing the background of the team. There are many ways to learn about each player. Interviews, Yankeeography documentaries, and feature stories in sports magazines are probably the easiest ways to increase knowledge about players.

 

For instance, I read a story about former Yankee ace Chien-Ming Wang in Sports Illustrated a couple of years ago. By reading that feature story, I found out Wang learned his sinker from the Yankees went he came over from Taiwan. One of his pitching coaches in the minor leagues showed him how to hold the ball, and from there he was able to shut the opposition down.

 

He worked his way up and became the number one Yankee starter.

 

 


Chien-Ming Wang's journey through baseball has been documented 

Yet Wang’s pitching style wasn’t the only thing I learned about from that story. I learned about his life. According to the article, he is (or at least at the time was) revered as Taiwan’s number one athlete; he is a superstar over there. He could not even walk down the street without getting mobbed by legions of fans.

 

But when he walked down the street in New York City, he was hardly recognized. He felt there was less pressure on him in New York, and that is why he opted to stay there instead of going back to pitch in his native land. That also explains why he was so relaxed as a member of the Yanks and never looked rattled or uneasy when he pitched.

 

The article on Wang is a perfect example of how to learn about players in an easy way. It was an informative article, pointing out a lot of “You may have not known, but now you do” facts about his life and career.

 

If you are a real Yankee fan, learning about the players is equally as important as team history.

 

 

 

 

Real Yankees fans rule. Bandwagoners suck.

 

These are merely a few ways to tell if you are a real Yankee fan. Bandwagon fans can always be told apart from the hardcore ones, simply by conversation. If you talk to someone who claims to be a Yankee fan (or a fan of anything, for that matter) and has no idea about key aspects of the team, then, in my eyes, they aren’t true fans.

 

I tend to respect the true fans more than those who just root the Yankees on when they win, a la last fall. It’s easier to respect true fans’ opinions when they have more knowledge and follow the team closely. It’s also easier to hold a conversation with the real fans than the bandwagon fans.

 

Nothing annoys me more when I hear people give me false Yankee info.

 

The bottom line is that if you are going to be a Yankee fan, be a real fan. Watch more than 30 innings a year, know about the players, and know about the Stadium. Know what the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry means and wear a Yankee hat once in awhile, in undying support of your favorite baseball team.

 

If you want to be a real fan, then KNOW the Yankees. And if you don’t know them, then don’t act like you do.    

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