Results tagged ‘ World Series ’
“The other sports are just sports. Baseball is a love.“–Bryant Gumbel.
And God, do I love baseball. This weekend just increased my love for it.
Saturday I had the pleasure of going all the way up to Cooperstown, N.Y. to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Last week, my best friends David and Vito made me an offer for my birthday/graduation gift: Yankee tickets for Saturday’s game vs. the Toronto Blue Jays (which the Yanks won 11-3) or a day trip to the hall.
I have already been to three Yankee games this season and will probably go to more by season’s end. I have only been to the Hall of Fame and Museum once in my life; Memorial Day weekend in 2007 with my dad.
Now given the opportunity to share the experience with my best friends, I took them up on their offer to Cooperstown; a three hour road trip to upstate New York. To me, there was no better way to spend part of the Independence Day weekend.
When we arrived to Cooperstown, I felt the same way I did back in ’07. The town itself is small and gives you such an old-time feel. Complete with a General Store and even a trolley service, Main Street in Cooperstown, simply put, is awesome.
The one gripe I really have against Main Street is the food spots. There aren’t too many places to eat up there, at least not many of you want to eat something quickly. As a matter of fact, my friends and I ate at the same restaurant my dad and I ate at the last time I visited Cooperstown.
Not that the food is bad, it’s great. But not having fast food spots around just is not convenient when you want to move things along and see all the sights in one day. But I guess that goes with the old-time ambience; there was no such thing as McDonald’s back in the old days.
After we finished our lunch, my friends and I headed for the Museum. It was just as nice as I remember it; the big brick building at the end of the road filled with historical baseball artifacts from all over the world. More importantly, it’s filled with more historic Yankee memorabilia than you could ever imagine.
When we first walked in, the usher told us that the best place to start the tour was on the third floor of the museum. We ascended the stairs and right away it was almost as if the baseball history slapped us across the face. We were immediately greeted with the origin of baseball and how the game came to be.
One of my favorite parts about the “first origins of baseball exhibit” were the artifacts about Henry Chadwick. According the Museum, Chadwick was the “Father of Baseball” and reported on the sport for several newspapers. He dedicated his whole life to sports writing, and as an aspiring sports writer myself, I have to respect that and give him a lot of credit.
Without Chadwick, no baseball writer would be where they are today. For the record, Chadwick’s column was called Chadwick’s Chat. I think it is very cool title. It has the alliterative grammar quality, just like Yankee Yapping.
Next we entered the Babe Ruth Room at the Museum. Yes, the Babe Ruth Room. The Bambino had such an impact on the game of baseball that he owns his own private quarters in the hall.
On display are many of his jerseys, trophies, his cleats, and even the bat he smacked his final career home run with. While you visit the Babe Ruth Room, a video about his life plays, which really makes it a learning experience.
After Ruth’s Room we embarked on the “Pride and Passion” leg of the journey. On display–basically everything you can think of from every Yankee legend there is. We saw Babe Ruth’s crown (given to him by Ralph Kiner) Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle’s jerseys, the bat Roger Maris hit his 61st home run with in 1961, and even Yogi Berra’s Most Valuable Player Award from 1951.
It was overwhelming! A lot of Yankee history to take in all at once.
Eventually the Yankee memorabilia turned from old to contemporary. We moved on from relics of the ghosts of long past and onto the pinstripe mementos of the not-so-distant past.
On display were Derek Jeter’s spikes from the 1996 World Series, Mariano Rivera’s jersey from the 1999 World Series, and even a lineup card used by Joe Torre in 1998–the year the Bronx Bombers won 114 regular season games and eventually the Championship.
Also on display was the 1996 World Series trophy. One thought about that, however. I’m not sure if it was the actual trophy or a replica of the trophy. Today at Yankee Stadium, that trophy was on display in honor of George Steinbrenner, as it was his birthday and the Yanks won that title under him as principal owner. Did they take that trophy from Cooperstown and get it to Yankee Stadium for today’s game? Is there more than one trophy?
Who knows. Whatever the case, I took a picture with it.
After the “Pride and Passion” exhibit, we went into a room filled with pieces of old Stadiums. We got a feel for what Ebbets Field looked like, saw one of the original pinwheels from Comiskey Park in Chicago, and sat in old seats from Veteran’s Stadium in Philadelphia. Also showcased was the Phillies Phanatic…well, at least his costume.
In 2007 I remembered taking a picture of me pretending to smack the Phanatic with my program. I recreated the same picture yesterday.
We then entered the records room; a place reserved to acknowledge all the records held by active and retired players.
For example, Jeter is currently playing and leads all active players in the hits category. Pete Rose, on the other hand, is retired and owns the record for most all-time hits.
Same thing goes for Alex Rodriguez and Ricky Henderson; Rodriguez leads all current players in runs scored while Henderson is the all-time leader in runs scored.
It’s very fascinating and the museum seems to keep the record walls up-to-date.
After that we came to the “Autumn Glory” room. It is packed with World Series and postseason knick-knacks. The museum owns a ring from every World Series Championship team since rings began being distributed. Of course I spotted the Yankee rings from the Dynasty of the late ’90s and I really thought it was one of the better parts of the tour.
After all, winning isn’t everything. It’s just the only thing that matters. Win the World Series and your team’s ring gets a one-way ticket to enshrinement in the Hall.
I noticed in ’07 that the case in the “Autumn Glory” room contains mementos from the most recent World Series. So when I visited the Hall of Fame in 2007, artifacts from the 2006 World Series (played between the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers) were showcased.
If my memory serves me correct, the Yankees won the latest World Series. Therefore, a bunch of items from the 2009 World Series were on display, including CC Sabathia’s cleats, Hideki Matsui’s Game Six bat, and Jose Molina’s catcher’s mask.
But the item in the case that stood out like sore thumb…the 2009 Championship ring.
That’s what it’s all about.
After the “Autumn Glory” room, we entered the “No-Hit Games” exhibit. Showcased were baseballs used in practically every no-hitter and perfect game in history.
I was able to pick out David Wells’s and David Cone’s baseballs; both Yankee hurlers tossed perfect games; Wells in 1998 and Cone in 1999. Not only was each ball signed by the pitcher, but information on the score and opponent was given in a card underneath the ball.
Again, it all goes back to idea of learning and preserving history.
We came across one last Yankee portion of the museum before we entered the Hall of Fame: an exhibit entitled “Pinstripe Pictures.” There were so many photos of so many memorable Yankee moments that I almost cried. Everything from Aaron Boone’s blast in Game Seven of the ’03 ALCS to Gehrig and DiMaggio, it was amazing.
Probably the best picture I saw was the Yankees lifting Cone up on their shoulders after his perfecto in ’98. I couldn’t help but think of the words used by Buster Olney in his book about it:
“Cone’s teammates lifted him after his perfect game on July 18, 1999. Throughout the season, in more subtle ways, he lifted them.”
I think that really speaks to Cone’s character. He was always one of my favorites.
Once we were finished looking at all the Yankee pictures, we finally came to the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery. Every member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame is honored and remembered with a plaque with their likeness and a short description of their career accomplishments. We found all the Yankees and read about each player.
Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra, Jackson, Gossage…if you were to ask me, the Yankees virtually own the Hall of Fame. They have more members than any other team, and the reason for that is their history; the Yankees are the best and more storied team in baseball history. That’s pretty much the bottom line.
Once we were finished in the gallery, we headed upstairs to the final leg of our tour: a view of the Writer’s Wing of the hall (which I one day hope to be a part of), the library atrium, and the “Baseball at the Movies” exhibit, where they listed every baseball movie ever made.
My favorite part of the Writer’s Wing was the setup of the announcing booth in the old Yankee Stadium. The Museum (in a devilishly clever way) built a mock announcer’s box, which gives you a sense of what it feels like to be a baseball broadcaster.
It’s such a neat feature they added to the Writer’s Wing of the hall and I can only hope one day I get to sit and work in the real reporting booth at Yankee Stadium.
We headed outside and looked at the crazy statues that are in the hall’s courtyard. There are some interesting likenesses of old-time pitchers and catchers. These statues really afforded me and my friends the opportunity to snap some funny-looking pictures. For instance, the statue of Satchel Paige and his high leg kick…
Go ahead and laugh. That’s why I took the photo.
We then took a walk down the road and visited Doubleday Field, the supposed birthplace of baseball. We jaunted inside the ballpark and wouldn’t you know it, a game was going on. We sat and watched about four innings of baseball from the grandstands. A small crowd was on hand; the building was nowhere near filled.
Last time I visited Cooperstown in ’07, I only got to see the exterior of the park. I was elated that I finally got to see the interior and even watch some a game that just happened to begin the minute we arrived at the park. I have to say, it’s a nice little field. And again, it’s one of the most historic parks in baseball lore.
After we paid our visit to Doubleday Field, we (lastly) traveled to the Cooperstown Baseball Heroes Wax Museum. I had gone back in ’07 and enjoyed enough that I wanted to go again, not to mention Dave and Vito wanted to see it for themselves.
The Wax Museum was again a wonderful experience. There are wax figures of many Yankees, including Mantle, DiMaggio (along with Marilyn Monroe), Wade Boggs (riding off on the horse like he did at the conclusion of the ’96 World Series) and countless others.
Yet my favorite sculpture has to be “The Georges.” The wax museum crafted a figure to look like George Costanza, Jason Alexander’s character from Seinfeld. George is sitting in his office opposite George Steinbrenner, his boss on the show. Costanza is one of my all-time favorite TV characters and to see the figures setup the way they were made me laugh.
Another one of my favorites was the Abbot & Costello “Who’s on First” figures. They even had the words from the comedy routine playing on a speaker in the background as you viewed the statues. Believe it or not, that comedy bit is a huge part of baseball history; it is so funny that it has withstood the test of time and is still remembered by die-hard baseball lovers, such as myself.
After we saw everything there is to see in Cooperstown, we headed back to the car; another three hour ride ahead of us. I can say that I got the same amount out of the experience of the National Baseball Hall of Fame the second time, probably even more.
After I went in ’07 with my dad, I thought to myself, “Going to Cooperstown was incredible, and it was very meaningful to share this experience with dad. I’d like to go back eventually and share it with my best friends.”
I got that chance and I jumped at it. And what an experience it was. One I won’t forget. As a result of this trip, my love for baseball just increased by tenfold, if that’s even possible.
Wow. It was yet another great day at a Yankee game and another great win for the Bronx Bombers in the new house today. This afternoon the Yankees beat their cross-town rivals, the New York Mets, by a score of 4-0.
I had a blast today at Yankee Stadium, going to my second game in five days. My seats were actually in the same exact section I was in Tuesday night vs. the Phillies, just a couple of rows back. And today I went to the game with my older sister, not my dad.
It probably would have made sense to go to the game with my dad today, it being Father’s Day and all, but…it’s kind of hard to explain. My dad got the tickets for me on Tuesday while my sister got the tickets for today. So I went to the game with my dad on my birthday and my sister today.
Yeah. I think that about sums it up.
When we arrived at the Stadium this afternoon, TV cameras were all over the field. Tyler Pennington was filming his show “Extreme Makeover Home Edition.” He used the new house for a scene for his show. A whole bunch of his crew members came onto the field and I guess they are going to help someone, as they always do.
In another pre-game ceremony, the reigning Super Bowl M.V.P. Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints was behind home plate. He brought his son with him and Mark Teixeira eventually came out and shook his hand. Brees threw out the honorary first pitch and not long after that the game began.
David Wright led off the first with a single off Yankees’ starter CC Sabathia. I wasn’t surrounded by Mets fans, but their presence sure was felt. There were quite a few of them scattered throughout our section. I was worried that Sabathia wasn’t going to be on his game today, or nearly as sharp as he was when I saw him Tuesday night.
But Sabathia came back and got out of the frame with no harm done.
Johan Santana, the starter for the Mets, was just as brilliant out of the gate. Santana sat down the Yankees in order in the first, not allowing a hit. “This could be a legitimate pitcher’s duel,” I said to my sister. “CC and Johan were both set on cruise control in the first!”
Santana was equally as effective in the second as he was in the first, but ran into a brick wall in the third. He loaded the bases with Teixeira coming to the plate and nobody out. Dan Warthen, the Mets’ pitching coach, came out to talk to Santana. It was then I knew something was going to happen.
“Tex is going to do something here,” I said. “I know it…” I had a funny feeling; it’s hard to explain. The bases were loaded and for some reason I knew he was going to come up big in this spot.
And that he did.
Teixeira, batting from the right side of the plate, pulled a long fly ball to left field. Jason Bay ran, ran, and ran some more. Like the rest of us, he looked up and watched the ball fly out of Yankee Stadium for a grand slam home run, his 12th homer of the year.
“OHHHHH!!! GRAND SLAM! A GRAND SLAM!!! MARK TEIXEIRA!” I boisterously cheered. I couldn’t contain my excitement. It was the first time I had seen a Yankee hit a grand slam in-person since Enrique Wilson did it back on Aug. 7, 2003. Obviously it was a special moment, so I had the right to go a little crazy. I high-fived my sister and all of the other Yankee fans in our section.
As us Yankee fans celebrated the granny, the Mets fans suddenly went silent.
In the fourth inning, something amazing almost happened–almost. Derek Jeter was batting and he fouled off a pitch to his right. The ball popped up foul and it was heading directly for me and I mean DIRECTLY FOR ME.
I swear to God, I thought the ball was going to hit me in the face!
I stood up, got ready to catch it, and at the last second it hooked to my right. It landed about three seats over to my right and rolled underneath our row of seats and into the row in front of us. A man sitting right in front of my sister retrieved the foul ball. It was probably the closest I have ever gotten to a foul ball in a Major League Baseball game.
It would have been nice to get it, but…I fell just short of it. Maybe next time.
Sabathia continued to mow down the Mets into the seventh inning. He got through the seventh with relative ease and went on to complete the eighth. Right as the Mets were coming off the field after the top of the frame, the rains came. My sister actually ran to the concession stand to get me ice cream (in the little Yankee helmet!) and I wound up meeting her in the upper concourse.
I was getting drenched! Yankee Stadium, out of nowhere, became a site of torrential rain.
A lot of fans fled the Stadium but my sister and I wanted to stay. We weren’t going to let the rain ruin the rest of our day, so we stuck through the 22-minute rain delay and moved down to the main level concourse. During the delay they played highlights from 2009 season and postseason.
So while we were in the delay, we were at least entertained by the clips from the 2009 World Series Championship season. It was fun to watch that video with a bunch of Mets fans standing around. It makes me appreciate it so much more; I mean, I wasn’t even born the last time they won the World Series!
The ninth inning eventually came and the Yanks brought in Mariano Rivera to slam the door. Rivera got Reyes, Wright, and Ike Davis out to end the game–a 4-0 win over the Mets on the strength of a genius outing by Sabathia and visit to granny by Teixeira. And not just a 4-0 win, but a Subway Series victory over the Mets as well.
Another visit to the new house for me and another win.
Doing a lot of thinking on the way home, I came up with some statistics in terms of me attending games these last few years. I have noticed that the Yankees have won a lot of the games I have been to in recent times.
Maybe I should go to the games more often!
- Dating back to 2007, the Yankees have won 12 of the last 12 games I have attended.
- In games I have been to at the new Yankee Stadium, the Yankees are 7-0. Three of those seven wins featured pie at the end of the game.
- In Subway Series games I have been to in my life, the Yankees are now 2-2.
- The last time the Yankees lost a game I attended: July 7, 2007; it was Old Timer’s Day and they lost 2-1 to the LA Angels in 13 innings.
Please do not ask me for L/R or Day/Night splits. :p
And on one last note: Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. Hope you guys had a wonderful and relaxing day!
“Nobody likes you when you’re 23.”–The great words of Blink-182 in their song “What’s My Age, Again?”
Yesterday was my 23rd birthday and I could not have picked a better way to spend it: with my dad at the Yankees-Phillies game. It’s almost as if I received two presents in one; I was privileged to go to the first game of the 2009 World Series rematch and the Yankees won 8-3.
It doesn’t get any better than that.
A few weeks before my College Graduation, I told my dad that the Yankees were playing the Phillies on my birthday. I expressed interest in going to the game, but because the game was such a hot ticket (it being a World Series rematch and all) I wasn’t sure if my dad could get the tickets.
In the end he was able to get them and I couldn’t have been happier.
Our seats were in the Terrace section on the first base side–in the front row. At first this frightened me, because I am deathly afraid of heights. The Terrace section, although not the highest part of Yankee Stadium, is pretty steep. When we walked into the Great Hall, I’ll admit I was a little apprehensive of going all the way up.
But once my dad and I reached our seats and the starting lineups were announced, I felt a little better. All of a sudden my feelings seemed content and the heights did not bother me at all. It was time for me to have some fun and be liberated of my acrophobia; after all, it was my birthday!
Not long after first pitch, a few people came in to sit in our row. As fate would have it, a young man (about my age) wearing a Phillies hat sat next to me. Thinking out loud, I said “Oh no! I’m sitting next to a Phillies fan?”
Everyone in our section heard me and laughed.
The kid looked at me, smiled and said, “Don’t worry! I’m not one of those obnoxious fans!” I could tell he was a good guy so I laughed, shook his hand, and said, “OK.”
I wound up talking a lot of baseball with him for the rest of the night. My birthday actually came up in one of our conversations and he even wished me a happy birthday.
To start the game, Roy Halladay shut down the Yanks 1-2-3. “Was he going to toss another perfect game tonight?” I wondered. Not on my watch!
In the bottom of the second, Brett Gardner tripled to score Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada, giving the Yankees a quick 2-0 lead. Not long after that I received a text message from my friend Dave that read, “Why is it that Brett Gardner triples every time you go to a game?”
Of course he was joking. But I was at the game last May when he tripled and hit the inside-the-park home run–that’s why he kidded with me about it.
In the third inning, Curtis Granderson stepped up to the plate. A lot of fans in our section were hoping for something to happen. I jokingly shouted, “Come on Curtis! Halladay is not a lefty, you can hit him!”
And hit him he did.
Granderson proceeded to belt a long home run to right field, a solo blast to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead. It was Granderson’s fifth home run of the year.
After Granderson’s solo job, it got better.
Later in the frame, Nick Swisher stepped up to the plate and smacked a two-run home run, his 11th round-tripper of the year. The Yankees were now leading 5-0 and the Phillies fan I was sitting next to suddenly became very silent. I think he had a feeling at this point that his team was not winning the game.
He may have piped down for awhile but in the fourth inning got loud again. The Phillies rattled Yankees’ starter CC Sabathia for three runs. Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez both cracked RBI singles, and Ben Francisco grounded into a fielder’s choice (thanks to a “mental lapse” by Sabathia) to score Ryan Howard.
Sabathia did not cover the bag at first on what should have been a double play. The man behind me had been drinking and yelled, “Hey CC! Pretend there’s a cheeseburger at first base and cover the bag!”
It was said out of inebriation, but it was still funny. The drunken fan provided me with more entertainment than the actual game…I think.
The next inning Mark Teixeira stepped up to the plate against Halladay. He pulled a fly ball that seemed to keep on tailing toward the right field foul pole. At first I thought it was a foul ball. But the crowd erupted and I looked over to my left and saw Teixeira rounding the bases; that’s when I knew it was a goner.
A solo home run to give the Yanks a 6-3 lead. The ball literally just cleared the 314 sign in right field–not the most glorious home run, yet I was happy he left the park. It was Teixeira’s 10th home run of the season.
The game moved on to the seventh inning and the Yankees tacked on two more runs. Francisco Cervelli singled to score Teixeira and Jorge Posada, giving the Yanks an 8-3 edge. A few sections to my right I noticed a girl (again, probably my age) holding a sign that read, “Francisco Cer-SEXY.”
I immediately thought of Virginia over on Live, Eat, and Breath Yankees. She always posts about Cervelli and how she likes him. I suppose there are many young ladies out there who think the Yankee backstop is a heartthrob!
The Yanks scored those two runs off reliever Antonio Bastardo. I don’t want to get into too many details about what the drunken man behind me had to say, but I’ll just say he had a lot to say about Bastardo’s last name.
Again, the fans probably entertained me just as much as the game.
Right after the eighth inning, the Phillies fan who I chatted with for the better part of the night was heading out. He once again shook my hand and wished me a happy birthday. He knew the game was just about over and the Yankees were going to win.
No hard feelings, though.
Chan Ho Park finished off the game against his former team and shut them down in the ninth. Park tossed a perfect ninth inning to end the ballgame and notch the win. The Yankees took down the almighty Halladay and beat the Phillies in the first game of their regular season World Series rematch.
It was a fantastic way to end my 23rd birthday yesterday.
As my dad and I were leaving Yankee Stadium for the train back to Westchester, I noticed an enormous amount of Phillies fans shuffling out; it looked like a sea of red hats with the letter “P” mixed in with white and navy blue pinstripes. A few Phillies fans were hearing it from the Yankee fans; in fact, a pair of Phillies fans were heckled by a couple of Yankee Stadium vendors.
“The Phillies got smoked tonight!” the vendor exclaimed.
“Yeah, well the Phils will be back tomorrow,” one of them responded.
“That’s right they’ll be back tomorrow–to lose to the Yankees again!”
Realizing they weren’t winning the argument, the two Phillies fans walked away.
When I got on the train, I sat across from a couple who was coming in from Manhattan; he and his girlfriend had gone to see Hair on Broadway. The gentleman was asking me how the game went and I gave him the full game report. He was pretty happy the Yankees won and I had a nice conversation with him about sports for the majority of the ride home.
When I got home plopped down on my bed and smiled. “I’m glad they won for me today,” I said to myself in exhaustion. “This was a great birthday.”
Dating back to last year, the Yankees are 6-0 in games I have attended at the new Stadium. Hope they keep up the trend, because on Sunday I am going again. My sister got me tickets to see the final game of the Subway Series.
I can only hope they keep up the winning while I am in attendance!
On May 15, 2009 Brett Gardner made history. In a game he wasn’t even originally part of (thank Johnny Damon for getting himself ejected) he raced 360 feet around the Yankee Stadium bases in a dashing 14 seconds for an inside-the-park home run against the Minnesota Twins.
Yes, 14 seconds. The Flash and Sonic the Hedgehog can eat their hearts out.
Many people are familiar about the real story behind the home run. A young lady by the name of Alyssa Esposito had given Gardner a bracelet earlier in the day, claiming that if he held onto the bracelet he would hit a home run.
Her premonition came true.
Gardner became the first Yankee since Ricky Ledee to hit an inside the park home run. Ledee accomplished the feat on Aug. 29, 1999 vs. the Seattle Mariners. The speedy Gardner finished the night 3-for-3 with the in-the-parker, and even led off the ninth inning with a triple that sparked the Yankees’ come-from-behind rally.
The Yanks went on to win the game 5-4 on a Melky Cabrera walk-off single.
Gardner left the Stadium that day, not only with an inside-the-park homer, but with a lifelong friend–Esposito. The 18 year-old (now 19) was waiting for four months for a heart transplant and received it the night of Gardner’s amazing show of speed.
The courageous young lady recently spoke to Yankee Yapping about her experience, what she is up to now after her successful surgery, and how she made it to the back of Gardner’s baseball card.
Yankee Yapping: Were you always a Yankee fan, or did your experience with Brett Gardner make you one?
Alyssa Esposito: I was never a Yankee fan, but I also was never a baseball fan in general either. I guess I was raised a Mets “fan” until I met Brett Gardner at the hospital. Now I watch every game on TV, and root for the Yankees. I never realized how cool and exciting baseball was until after Brett hit the inside the park homerun.
YY: What was Brett’s initial reaction when you gave him the bracelet?
AE: Overall Brett is a really sweet and humble guy. He really connected with each patient after he read a book at the hospital event, provided by Project Sunshine. When I gave him the bracelet he gave me a really big smile that just made my day. I could tell that he was hesitant about the fact that I said it would help him hit a homerun, but like I said, that’s the humble guy inside.
YY: After your heart surgery you found out Gardner hit the inside-the-park home run. What were your thoughts after it happened?
AE: It’s actually a pretty funny story. Supposedly my family told me Brett hit the inside-the-park home run right before I went into surgery, but the heavy duty drugs the doctors give me to put me to sleep must have gotten to my memory which made me not remember.
But I was reminded as soon as I woke up from my surgery.
My family also showed me the replay after my transplant but apparently I had to watch it several times and I was told I had said “He’s running for me”, which brought tears to my Mom’s eyes. At that time the medicine from surgery and also the pain medicine was still wearing off.
YY: A number of publications and media outlets called you Gardner’s good luck charm that night. Can you explain how that feels?
AE: I smile whenever I hear or read that I am Brett’s good luck charm but honestly I really think God just set it all up. He took two unlikely circumstances and made them into two miracles. As of this day whenever I think about what has happened, I get the chills.
YY: After the May 15 win over the Twins, the Yankees went on a stretch where they went 17-9. Did you at all feel you really were their good luck charm?
AE: I like to think that I am their good luck charm in a way that they just got a boost from the inside-the-park home run Gardner hit. Maybe they felt that anything is possible and that just made them want to try even harder.
YY: It’s every little boy’s dream to have his face printed on a baseball card. You are on the back of Brett Gardner’s card. How did that happen?
AE: I didn’t know about the story being on the back of Gardner’s baseball card until a mother of a girl I graduated high school with asked me on Facebook if I knew about it.
Her son has a collection of baseball cards and his mother was looking through them one day and came across Brett’s. She had said her son wanted me to have it, which I thought was the absolute sweetest thing. She mailed it to me and when I went to a Yankee game, Brett signed it for me.
YY: After your transplant you reunited with the Yanks and Gardner. How special was it to see Brett again and was it an emotional experience?
AE:The first time I saw Brett after my heart transplant was at a press conference at the hospital. It was very emotional seeing all of my doctors there to support the hospital.
Brett and I spoke for a few minutes to just catch up and talk personally. It was just an overwhelming feeling being there with the healthy new heart inside of me and reuniting with Brett. I thought it was a special day because I got to meet him when I was actually healthy and full of energy.
YY: The other Yankees gave you some pretty cool gifts when you went to your first game after the operation, huh?
AE: The first Yankee game my family and I went to after my heart transplant was the most fun I have had in a long time. The stadium is amazing and it was my first time going there. Each one of the Yankees I met are extremely nice and they were all concerned about how I was feeling after my surgery.
Nick Swisher was full of excitement and energy and I loved his huge smile on his face. He referred to me as “The Gardner Girl” when he came up to me, and I absolutely love that nickname!
Alex Rodriguez had signed both of his gloves he had just used for batting practice and gave them to me. He was very sincere about it and did not want to make a big deal at all in front of the cameras.
I got a baseball signed by a few players as well and have it in my room along with the batting gloves inside a case. I also have a signed jersey by some of the players that I wore on the field the day I went to the game. I plan on making a scrapbook with the hundreds of pictures my family and I took that day as a beautiful memory.
YY: The Yankees capped off the 2009 season with a World Series title. When the last out was made– the Shane Victorino groundout to Robinson Cano–like most Yankee fans you were probably very excited. Was it especially a sweet win for you, considering what you went through earlier in the year?
AE: It was for sure a sweet win for me and it was so great to see the excitement. Every bit of hard work they put in playing, was worth it.
I look back all the time and realize how much I have gone through and I truly believe the Yankees deserved every bit of that title with their hard work. Just like every bit of strength and fighting power I gave in to survive, was worth the gift of life I received. I continue to thank God for my precious donor who gave me a priceless gift.
YY: Now that you have had the successful heart surgey, what are you doing in terms of your future?
AE: I am in college right now. I took one semester of courses all online and I plan on continuing to do that until I feel it is time to attend the actual classrooms. I have to be careful because my immune system is suppressed. I love the online classes because it is convenient and if I have a visit to the hospital it won’t interfere with them.
In less than 24 hours I will officially be ending (what seems like) a pretty long and important chapter in my life. I will be graduating from Mercy College Wednesday morning.
Over the past couple of days I have been reflecting on what life has been like for the time I spent in college. There have been a lot experiences and different things I have been able to do. Some semesters were better than others, some good and some not as good. I can say I had many good times and just as many difficult times.
But as Derek Jeter once said, “You find out a lot about yourself when dealing with adversity.” The Yankee captain couldn’t have been more right. I did learn a lot about myself through difficult times.
I think the busiest semester had to be last spring, or the spring of 2009. There was a lot going on at the time, both good and bad. One of the good parts about that semester was the weekend of March 13. I had a cool story to cover (and a date with the girl I liked at the time the next day…but that’s another story for another time!)
That Friday, former New York Yankee catcher and current YES Network broadcaster John Flaherty was the guest of honor at a fundraiser breakfast my college’s softball team hosted. As the sports editor of the school newspaper, my job was to cover the event and write an article about it.
Cover an event and talk to an ex-Yankee? Yeah, I was up for it! (Please don’t laugh at the picture; it was REALLY early in the morning…I am NOT a morning person!)
After the breakfast was over, Flaherty spoke to us about his career and what it was like playing for the Yankees. He told some great stories and encouraged the Mercy teams to enjoy their time together as friends and teammates.
Probably the best story Flaherty told was how he got called up to the majors. He mentioned that he and his friends had gone out for “sodas” the night before and his first day on the job in the majors he felt a little…hung-over.
I asked him what it felt like to be in the Major Leagues, seeing as how it’s every little boy’s dream to be there. He said aside from being hung-over that it was a whirlwind; it took awhile for it to sink in that he was a major leaguer. He even said he didn’t believe it until Kirk Gibson told him he was not going back to the minors.
Flaherty said his favorite Yankee teammate was Jorge Posada and that he still keeps in touch with him to this day. Well, I guess working for YES and just being a former Yankee, he can probably pretty much keep in touch with all of the current Yankees.
There were also some things Flaherty talked about that day which took me by surprise. First off, until then I had no idea he was originally drafted in the 25th round by the Boston Red Sox. Long before he swung his bat and beat the BoSox on July 1, 2004, he was a member of the Red Sox.
Another thing he spoke about was how he almost passed on being a Yankee. The Texas Rangers called him and they wanted him to be their everyday catcher. When he realized the deal with Texas was not going to work out, he had to call Brian Cashman back and tell him he wanted in.
He came to Spring Training in 2003 as a non-roster invitee and ultimately made the team.
One last thing he said (that I didn’t even think of until he mentioned it) was the 2003 World Series, which the Yankees played in against the Florida Marlins. “Even though we didn’t win, it felt good to be there,” Flaherty said. “There really is nothing like playing in the fall classic.”
After it was all over, Flaherty took a picture (above) with me and signed a ball for me.
He was very friendly and overall I feel it was one of the better and more interesting articles I wrote as sports editor of the school newspaper. I put a lot of hard work into that article.
I can pretty much say that was one of the best experiences I have ever had in college. It was just a perfect weekend; everything that happened meant a lot to me and it’ll be a memory I’ll carry with myself for the rest of my life.
There were good times, bad times, easy times, and difficult times. Ups and downs, lefts and rights. But looking back, I probably would not have changed anything. I feel I worked as hard as I possibly could and tomorrow I will get what I went to college for; reach the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel and receive my Bachelor’s degree.
I’d just like to take this time now and thank everyone who helped me along the way; my family and my friends. They all believed in me, even in times when I really didn’t believe in myself.
I’d especially like to thank all my friends from Mercy at the newspaper (Perrota, John, Kevin, Jenn, Ashley, Kristina, Katie, Shedeiky, Sean, Paul, Bloomy…and everyone else, there’s too many to list!) I’ll never forget meeting every week to discuss story ideas, learn about new things in terms of how to write articles, and of course laughing at all the jokes we cracked in between work.
Lastly I’d like to thank the loyal readers of this blog. I started Yankee Yapping last summer and I honestly never thought it would even go as far as it has. It has been the featured blog on the MLBlogs page and has amassed over 600 fans on Facebook.
So to all you readers, THANK YOU! I really appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and your kind words are truly encouraging.
Tomorrow is the big day; wish me luck everyone. I am nervous, which kind of strikes me; the day I graduated High School I was not nervous at all. In fact, I could not have been more thrilled to be leaving. But even right now I have butterflies in my stomach and I am a little saddened that college is over.
As for the Yankees: well, hopefully they learn how to hit the ball again and beat the Minnesota Twins tonight. This losing nonsense is getting quite ridiculous!
It’s been a crazy weekend in baseball!
I’d first like to begin by letting everyone know the Yankees have now won four in a row and have taken the first four series of the young season from their opponents. This is the first time the Yankees have done this since 1926, indicating one of the finest starts I have ever seen the team get off to.
Michael Kay said yesterday that “New Yorkers always look for the negatives,” speaking of Mark Teixeira’s huge slump. He may or may not be out of it, what with his towering, second-deck home run in the Yanks’ 5-2 win over the Texas Rangers this afternoon.
That moon shot marked Teixeira’s first homer this year.
Maybe when the Yanks hit the road this week and head out west he can really breakout and have a monster tear. I know Teixeira is historically a slow starter, but he is too good to keep down for so long. I still feel he will finish with a ton of home runs, over 100 RBIs, and close to, if not over, 100 runs scored.
As they say, it’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish.
The Yankees will now head to Oakland to start a series against the Athletics, who are turning a lot of heads in the AL West division. The A’s are currently in first place with a record of 9-4 in the West.
Tuesday, Javier Vazquez and Gio Gonzalez will open up the series. Phil Hughes will square off with Ben Sheets on Wednesday night. Finally on Thursday, CC Sabathia will face Dallas Braden to close it all out.
It should be a good set of games out in Oakland and the Yankees will be on the road for the next nine games. After Oakland they will travel to Anaheim to play the Angels for three games. After that, they come back to the east coast to play against the Orioles in Baltimore.
The Yankees return home on April 30 to host the White Sox. Long trip! Looks like their frequent-flier miles will be put to good use.
I wanted to mention the struggles of the Boston Red Sox. At this point in the season they are probably one of the worst teams in the American League, just coming off being swept in three games by the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Yankees and Rays sit atop the division with identical 9-3 records.
Toronto is in third with a record of 7-6, one game over .500. Boston is 4-8 in fourth while the Baltimore Orioles are 2-11.
It seems this year could very well be a two-team race. I know it’s way too early to be speaking about the Division title, but if Boston keeps struggling the way they are, they might fall so far out of first place it will very difficult to make a comeback.
Not saying it can’t happen; in the 1970s the Yankees were 14 games behind the Red Sox in July and somehow came back to win the AL East. They called it the “Boston Massacre” back when it happened. If Boston wants the crown enough, they can certainly come back and get it.
At this point in the season however, the Yankees and Rays are better.
What a great story!
Last night, Ubaldo Jimenez became the first pitcher in the Colorado Rockies’ 18 year history to toss a no-hitter. The 26 year-old righty no-hit the Atlanta Braves en route to a 4-0 Rockies win.
His no-no reminded me a lot of A.J. Burnett’s back in 2001. When with the Marlins, Burnett tossed a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres and the Fish won 3-0. Burnett did get his no-no, but he walked nine batters in the game.
Although he was in shutdown mode, Jimenez walked six Braves in the game.
Jimenez owes his life to Dexter Fowler, who made a spectacular circus catch in the seventh inning to preserve the no-hitter. Fowler got on his horse, dove, and robbed Troy Glaus of a hit in the left-centerfield gap.
Pretty play. Jimenez should buy Fowler a Rolex for that one.
That catch reminded me of Dewayne Wise’s catch last summer to save Mark Buerhle’s perfect game. Wise leapt the wall and took a home run away from Gabe Kapler and helped lead Buerhle to a perfect game. Keep in mind Buerhle had already thrown a no-hitter in 2007.
As for Jimenez, great work. And congrats on the big no-no.
I never though it would end. I have to give the New York Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals all the credit in the world for how they both played this game.
On Saturday, the Mets and Cards played for six hours and 53 minutes, a 20-inning game. The Mets came out on top, 2-1.
I’m not sure what it was. I suppose a combination of terrible hitting, very good pitching, and strange choices. The Mets first three hitters (meaning Jose Reyes, Luis Castillo, and David Wright) were a combined 3-for-20 in the game.
Reyes and Jeff Francoeur were the only two Mets who recorded RBIs. The team left a total of 18 men on base and struck out 16 times. It took the Mets five innings to record a hit, as Cardinals’ starter Jaime Garcia no-hit the Mets up until Angel Pagan singled in the top of the sixth.
The Cardinals just confused me with some of their moves. They had Kyle Lohse, a pitcher, playing the outfield. Later in the game they had two position players on the mound. Joe Mather, an outfielder, recorded the loss in this game.
In the 14th and 16th innings, the Cardinals sent their relief pitcher to the plate to bat with the bases loaded. In both instances, the Cardinals could have won the game by using a pinch-hitter, yet instead they opted to use relief pitchers to hit.
Why? I have no clue. I guess they wanted to save their bullpen, but it cost them.
In any event it was a good game; very fun to watch. It was one of the more exciting games to watch this year, and maybe it can turn things around for the Mets. For as much of a Yankee fan as I am, I think the NL East is too boring.
The Phillies have dominated that division for too long. If the Mets can win games like yesterday (in that never-say-die attitude) they can make it more interesting. I don’t want to see the Phillies back in the World Series.
Besides, I’d rather see a Subway Series in October. But of course we all know which team would win that…
Luck: a force that brings good fortune or adversity. Yankee legend Lou Gehrig once claimed to be the luckiest man on the face of the earth. Yesterday afternoon, I felt I was the luckiest man on the face of the earth.
I was fortunate enough to spend the day with my friends and family at Yankee Stadium for the Bronx Bombers’ home opener against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Not only was it their home opener, it was their ring ceremony, held to commemorate their 2009 World Series Championship.
After a beautiful ceremony, the Yankees beat the Angels, 7-5.
But the day wasn’t just about RBIs, base hits, and runs scored. It wasn’t just about the Yankees receiving their championship rings. It went far beyond anything that anyone can really understand. Overall, it was a wonderful experience; one I will never forget.
A Meaningful Day
My cousin Thomas, who invited me and my other cousin Krystina to the game, could not have been more excited for Opening Day. He got the tickets and graciously invited us to this historic game. His father (my Uncle John) recently passed away. I know that Thomas would have loved nothing more than to share the day with his dad.
Since his dad could not be there, I find it so honorable that he wanted me there to share the day with him. I could not have felt better. The fact that he asked me to go with him nearly drove me to tears.
And it didn’t get any easier when we reached the ballpark.
Getting off the train, we noticed the old Yankee Stadium. The building is nearly torn down completely. It was an unbelievable sight to behold. I can remember so many great and meaningful memories for me in that Stadium, and my only thought was, “is it really right for them to just gut it and rip it down?”
I guess they had to do it, but it didn’t make me feel very good. I could tell Thomas was taken back by the whole thing; he was as overwhelmed as I was. The same building where Babe Ruth, Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and countless other Yankee legends made history is now in shambles; it’s merely a skeleton of what used to be a beautiful ballpark.
Heartbreaking, to say the least.
When we got inside the new Stadium, it was madness. Everywhere you looked the words, “2009 World Series Champions” were visible. The Great Hall was buzzing with Yankee fans, all ready to watch the team accept their 27th World Title.
Thomas, Krystina, and I went down to the field level. There we met up with Thomas’s sister (another one of my cousins) Ashley, who went to the game with her friend Matthew. We took a picture together–in my mind, the best picture I took all day. I took a ridiculous amount of photos of the players, the ceremony, and the game.
But I would say the group shot we took together was the best. I would not be anywhere without my family and they mean so much to me. I was honored that they invited me to the game, and for that I cannot thank them enough.
Ashley and Matt went to their seats while Thomas, Krystina, and I stayed on the field level to watch the Angels take batting practice, as the Yanks took BP before the gates opened to the public. We were literally pressed directly up against the wall in right field. We had a perfect view of everything!
Thomas kept yelling for a ball. He wanted one more than anything. Former Yankee Bobby Abreu was practically right in front of us. He lobbed a couple loose baseballs into the stands, but not any that came near us. Two security guards however were standing near us and Thomas chatted with them, trying to coerce them into getting him a ball.
Whoever was in the Angels’ batting cage smoked one down the right field line. The ball ricocheted off the side of the wall and onto the grass.
“Can you get that for me?” Thomas politely asked.
“We are not allowed to go on the grass,” one of the security guards answered.
Not long after that, another ball was ripped down the right field line in foul territory, landing safely on the dirt. It was right in front of the guards.
“Please!” Thomas persisted. “Please get that for me!”
The guard smiled, bent over, picked up the ball, and placed it softly in Thomas’s glove.
I have never in my life seen a child happier. Thomas, with a grin as wide as the Grand Canyon, had gotten a foul ball in batting practice, a feat I never accomplished at a Major League game. He was ecstatic and I was overjoyed that he was able to get it.
I’m sure it will be something he’ll remember forever.
What I thought was significant about the day was the team the Yankees were playing. They played the Angels. And I have no doubt in my mind that Thomas’s dad, my Uncle John, was one of the Angels at the Stadium yesterday–but he was an Angel for the Yankees. It truly felt as though he was right there with us.
After batting practice wrapped, the ring ceremony festivities were set to begin. I watched from behind centerfield and everything looked wonderful. Michael Kay and John Sterling emceed the ceremony and the World Series trophy was even on display.
First the team paid homage to owner George Steinbrenner, who was in attendance for the days’ events. I have never heard a louder ovation for a non-player in my life. The crowd roared for him and rightfully so. Without Mr. Steinbrenner, there would be no Yankee team.
Then Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra came out to help hand out the rings. Manager Joe Girardi also helped distribute the rings and he congratulated each player as they accepted their prize. One by one, every Yankee from last year’s team was called out to get their ring.
Really the only players who were missing were Johnny Damon and Melky Cabrera. Jerry Hairston, Jr. (although no longer with the team) was in the ballpark to get his ring. As was Hideki Matsui, the MVP of the ’09 World Series who is now a member of the Angels.
They saved Matsui’s introduction for last, and he received a humungous, deafening ovation. I think every Yankee fan recognized Matsui’s hard work and dedication over the seven years he played in the Bronx. I know he will always be a Yankee in my heart.
When the ceremony was ready to conclude, the whole team ran in and showed Matsui a lot of love; the team got together one last time and embraced for a group hug. The hug almost brought a tear to my eye, because I know how close the 2009 team was.
I didn’t realize until I got home how they had tricked Matsui. Girardi handed him a bootleg ring and later during the Opening Day ceremony ran the real ring over to him. Matsui laughed and I could see his Angel teammates also teasing him for it.
A little playful humor now and then is relished by the best teams, I guess.
And speaking about the Opening Day ceremony: once again, overwhelming. They called the Angels out of their dugout and they all lined up along the third baseline. The Yankees lined up on the first baseline, and cadets from West Point stood in center field to unfurl the American flag. Not long after the anthem ended, two enormous jets flew over Yankee Stadium.
Those fighter jets were LOUD! When I tell you they were loud, they were LOUD! The ground literally shook as they flew over the new house. And once again, it was quite a sight to behold. My only word for it: “Amazing.”
After the anthem and beautiful aerial presentation, Bernie Williams, the great former center fielder, tossed out the honorable first pitch. Talk about an ovation! Williams received a rousing hand from us Yankee faithful, but it somewhat shocked us how he bounced the pitch. Being a former All-Star center fielder, you would think Williams would hit home plate! He missed, much to the surprise of the crowd. The gentleman standing next to me yelled, “Oh, come on Bernie! You gotta hit the glove!”
It’s Ok, Bernie. I still love you.
After the Yankees were finished warming up and all pre-game ceremonies were over, it was time to, as they say, play ball! Yankees vs. Angels.
The Yankees struck first in the bottom of the first. Designated hitter Nick Johnson blasted a solo home run to right field, a shot that (as I understand) landed right next to Bald Vinny–the legendary Bleacher Creature who starts the famous Yankee “roll call” at the beginning of each home game.
Unfortunately I was on line for food when this happened, but I heard the crowd roar and got into a spot just in time to see Johnson cross home plate. In any event it was the first of many home runs the Yankees will hit in their house in 2010.
As Andy Pettitte worked brilliantly through the first three innings, the Yankees held a 1-0 lead until the bottom of the frame. The Yankee captain, Derek Jeter, stepped up to the plate and crushed a solo home to right field, his first of the year.
It really is amazing how many games I have been to that have featured a home run by Jeter. It seems every game I get out to, he hits a home run. I can think of at least five games off the top of my head in which Jeter has homered. Maybe I bring some kind of luck to him, who knows.
In any event, 2-0 Yankees at the end of three innings of play.
One of the more special moments during the day was Matsui’s first at-bat. The former beloved Yankee received yet another rousing ovation from the fans while he stepped into the batter’s box. Pettitte respectfully tipped his cap and stepped off the mound and allowed his former teammate to soak up the moment.
Matsui removed his helmet and acknowledged the fans who once called him a hero. Unfortunately for the 2009 World Series MVP, the Yankees were not very kind to him in terms of his day at the plate. He was 0-for-5 on the day with a strikeout.
The Yankees tacked on three more runs before the end of the sixth inning. Jeter was at it again in the fourth, reaching on an infield single that scored Curtis Granderson. In the sixth, Alex Rodriguez reached on yet another infield single, which brought home Johnson and Nick Swisher.
5-0, all Yankees at the end of six innings. It was looking good for us.
That is, until Kendry Morales stepped up in the top of the eighth. The Angels’ first baseman smashed a long, solo home run into the second deck in right field, putting the Angels on the board, 5-1.
The Yankees got two runs back in the bottom of the eighth, both of them proving to be the difference in the game. Jorge Posada doubled to score Johnson and Granderson singled to score Robinson Cano, giving the Yankees a 7-1 edge.
Posada’s double put him ahead of Mantle on the all-time Yankee doubles list.
You would think with a 7-1 lead heading into the ninth inning everything would be safe and secure. Well, think again. Feeling that the game was practically over, my cousins and I watched the end of the game from the concourse on the first base side.
And we received a pleasant surprise followed by a not-so-pleasant surprise, followed by a happy ending.
Right before the ninth inning began, two gentleman sitting in the field box seats decided to leave. One of them tapped me on the shoulder and handed me his tickets.
“Here you go,” he said. “You guys can watch the end from the field level seats.”
“WOW!” I exclaimed. “Thank you very much!”
“Don’t mention it,” he replied.
How awesome is that?! You never really see that type of chivalry anymore. A man, not knowing who I was, just gave up his seats to me, a stranger. Granted, the game was almost over, it was still a very noble gesture and overall a kind act.
Who says New Yorkers are mean-spirited?
In any event my cousins and I, now sitting in comfortable, padded box seats, watched David Robertson surrender hit after walk after hit, eventually loading the bases. I still thought the Yankees were in great shape, even if they only gave up a run or two.
To our dismay, former Yankee Abreu stepped up and slaughtered a grand slam home run to left field, something he specialized in when he played for the Yankees. I will always like Abreu; in my mind he was the best Yankee right fielder since Paul O’Neill. But yesterday…I did not like him. He burned us pretty bad.
I mean, Abreu’s home run was a real shot. I’m talking way back into the left field seats.
Now with the score at 7-5 and a save situation in place, Girardi was prompted to bring in Mariano Rivera. The great Rivera struck Torii Hunter out swinging and then got his former teammate Matsui to pop out to end the game.
Ballgame over. Yankees win. THEEEEE Yankees win!
We stayed and watched the Yankees take congratulations and improve their record to 5-2.
We exited the ballpark and once again looked at the demolished old stadium. Thomas looked at it once more, and looking at it again, I could not help but think of all the games his father took us to. I think a part of us went down with that stadium.
But then we glanced back at the new stadium and thought about the days’ events. The Yankees had just won and we had just witnessed history; the first ring ceremony in the new Stadium, a batting practice foul ball, a great game, a seat upgrade from a gracious fan and a Yankee win.
And not only that, a day spent with my friends and family.
I could not have asked for anything better. It was just a day where nothing went wrong. I can truly say that I felt like the luckiest man on the face of the earth yesterday.
And Uncle John: I know you were there with us. We miss you.
Keep smiling down on us and the Yankees.
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.
Yesterday, one of the biggest pitchers of our generation stepped down and retired. And he was big not only in terms of his height, but what he accomplished on the baseball field.
Pitcher Randy Johnson (all 6’10” of him) better known by his famous nickname “The Big Unit,” announced his retirement from baseball after 22 illustrious seasons. He stepped down at the young age of 46, proving that 40 is pretty much the new 30.
Over the course of his 22 seasons in the majors, Johnson pitched for six teams; The Montreal Expos, the Seattle Mariners, the Houston Astros, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the New York Yankees, and he finished his career in 2009 as a member of the San Francisco Giants.
Johnson accomplished so much over the course of his career and he is basically a dead lock for a first ballot Hall of Fame induction. He made 10 All Star Game appearances and tossed a perfect game against the Atlanta Braves on May 18, 2004.
He won Five Cy Young Awards, 303 Games, a World Series Championship and a World Series Most Valuable Player Award (he shared the honor in 2001 with teammate Curt Schilling as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who beat the Yankees in the ’01 fall classic).
With the type of career he had, he practically deserves his own room in Cooperstown.
Oftentimes people wonder how he got the nickname “Big Unit.” When Johnson was a member of the Expos back in 1988, his teammate Tim Raines accidentally collided with him in a batting practice session. Raines exclaimed, “You really are a big unit!”
The rest, as they say, is history.
I’ve only had the pleasure of seeing Johnson pitch one time, of course as a member of the New York Yankees. The night was June 21, 2005, Yankees vs. the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Yankee Stadium. I was so psyched to see this future Hall of Famer pitch a game for my favorite team.
Unfortunatley the Big Unit had a rough night.
Johnson scattered seven earned runs behind eight hits in just three innings, giving Tampa Bay a commanding 7-2 lead by the end of the third inning. He walked a batter, struck out three, and gave up three home runs.
It was frustrating to watch, but believe it or not, the Yankees came back and won the game, beating Tampa Bay by a score of 20-11. By the end of the game, Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, and Gary Sheffield all hit home runs (Sheffield even left the park twice!)
Yes, the final box score looked like something you might see at Giants Stadium across the river, but I was just thankful the Yankees won. It was an eventful game to say the least!
Although Johnson had a miserable outing, I can vividly remember the reception he got when he jogged out to the bullpen to warm up before the start of the game; the crowd roared for him and showed him a lot of respect; all the respect well-deserved for a pitcher of his caliber. He just didn’t fit in with the Yankees and that was evident from the moment he got to New York.
When he first arrived in the Big Apple, Johnson went to take a physical examination in Manhattan. A CBS camera crew caught him and tried to follow him around the City while asking him questions. Johnson got annoyed and shouted angrily at the cameraman, resulting in a confrontation.
Sure enough, all over the newspapers and media outlets the next day was the Big Unit, slapping away the camera. He apologized for the incident, but everyone I talked to said they didn’t think he could handle New York after what had happened. Those thoughts were well-founded, because after just two seasons in pinstripes, he was gone.
As a member of the Yankees, Johnson won 34 games, had some rough postseason starts, and was involved in a little scrap on the streets of Manhattan. But on the bright side, he never lost to the Red Sox when he faced them.
Following 2006, Johnson had one more year left on his contract with the Yankees. However, he asked for a trade back to Arizona, where he spent most of his career and a good portion of his life. His brother had died and he wanted to be closer to his family, so he asked for the trade and the Yanks granted him his wish.
I will always feel that his heart and soul was never in New York, but always with the Diamondbacks and in the National League in general. To me he was never an American League pitcher, even after all the years he spent with the Mariners.
When I think of Johnson, I think of the National League because almost everything that he really ever accomplished came when he pitched there. And that isn’t a bad thing; it’s good that he was able to find a niche in the NL and have such a successful career pitching in that league.
My congratulations to you, Mr. Johnson. You are truly one of a kind and one of the all-time greats. With such prodigious longevity you will undoubtedly be in the Hall of Fame some day. Nice work!
“He was really my first…you know,’ warrior’ guy.”–George Steinbrenner on Paul O’Neill.
Right field is a sacred position in Yankee history. Reggie Jackson, Roger Maris, and even the immortal Babe Ruth have all played the glorious corner outfield position. It’s one of the most beloved positions ever.
Growing up a Yankee fan during the late 1990s, I was brought up with one right fielder. A man who hated to lose. A man who worked probably harder than 90 percent of the players in the league. A man who defined the word “game.”
I am of course speaking about Paul O’Neill.
There’s no doubt that in my lifetime, O’Neill was the absolute best right fielder the Yankees have had. His love of winning and powerful clubhouse presence helped propel the Yankees to four World Championships and five pennants in the nine years he played in pinstripes.
It’s almost as if O’Neill needed to win.
Buster Olney, beat writer for The New York Times in the ’90s and author of “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty,” basically described O’Neill as a “lifetime must-winner;” even when he was a child he hated to lose.
For example, he would play basketball games against his brother Robert as a young man, the first to 25 points wins the game. O’Neill would reach 23 points, victory in his sights. Then Robert would sink bucket after bucket until he reached 25, a tactic used to demoralize O’Neill.
Siblings can be so cruel, can’t they?
O’Neill would call his mother at work and claim that Robert cheated. And after a loss, he wanted more. He would goad his brother to give him a return match. “What’s the matter cheater,” he would antagonize. “You’re not getting lucky again!”
He hated to lose, but even when he won, the past defeats clung to him.
For instance, if he went 4-for-5 in a game, he would sit by his locker and think about the one hit he missed out on. He would not focus on the four hits, but the one he missed and he tried to think about what to do differently the next time up.
I would say O’Neill was a little hard on himself; it’s difficult to get a major league hit, let alone multiple hits in a single game. But really any poor at-bat he saw as a failure, and it affected his psyche.
Another interesting point Olney made in his book about O’Neill (that really struck me) was how his attitude rubbed off on his own children. His kids saw how he behaved while playing baseball and mimicked it in a way when they played organized sports.
His son Andy played in an eight-year old basketball league. During a game, he missed a shot and began to cry as he made his way back down the court. O’Neill and his wife Nevalee were in the bleachers watching the game. Nevalee tapped her husband on the shoulder.
She could only say one thing to her husband as she watched her son cry:”It’s all your fault.”
It’s obvious that although O’Neill had that warrior-like mentality and gamesmanship, it went the other way sometimes and had negative effects on those around him.
He also drew criticism from it; when he was extremely upset with a call from an umpire or a failed at-bat, he would toss his helmet, throw his bat, argue, smash the bat rack and Gatorade coolers, and/or throw his batting gloves.
He used to fume when things didn’t go his way and his teammates drew fascination and amusement from it. His opponents thought he was acting like a child. Basically his antics were amusing to his friends but not his enemies.
Me–I thought he was awesome. It was never something I incorporated into my own routine as a Little Leaguer; I always tried to be as respectful as possible (and still do). But watching O’Neill was great. He just never gave up and never wanted to lose.
My favorite memory of O’Neil came in 1997; I was in fourth grade and at Yankee Stadium on a class field trip and it was the first regular season Subway Series. In the bottom of the ninth with the score tied 2-2 and O’Neill standing on third base, Tino Martinez hit a long fly ball to center, a sac fly that allowed O’Neill to score the winning run.
Yankees beat the Mets, 3-2. It was one of my more special games attended and one of my favorite sports moments ever.
I was also happy to see O’Neill play in the Old Timer’s game in 2007; I went to the game with my family and it felt like the old days, watching O’Neill and all the former players put on their cleats for one more day. That was also a great memory I had of him and the Yankees in general.
After the 2001 season, O’Neill called it a career. It was heartwarming in Game Four of the World Series that year; the Yankee faithful serenaded the beloved Yankee, chanting, “Paul O-Ne-ill” for almost an entire half inning. You could just tell how emotional it was for him by his body language; I think it nearly brought him to tears.
Even though the Yanks lost the World Series in ’01 to the Arizona Diamondbacks, O’Neill finished his career on a high note; Five World Series titles (including the Championship he won in 1990 with the Cincinnati Reds) Five All-Star selections, 281 home runs, a .288 lifetime batting average, 1,269 RBIs.
He certainly left a lifetime of memories for us fans.
Since he retired, I don’t think there has been a right fielder who has made as much of an impact as O’Neill. Even after he retired (in 2002, to be exact) then-Yankee manager Joe Torre reached out to O’Neill asking him to come out of retirement because he was in dire need of a right fielder.
A year after he retired, they wanted him back because nobody was as good as him.
O’Neill maintained his retirement and turned Torre down, which prompted Torre and the Yankees’ front office to make a trade for Raul Mondesi, who played right field for about a year in pinstripes before he was traded away.
They say true heroes live on in those who continue their legacy. And there have been many players who have taken over right field, yet none of them staying as long as O’Neill.
Mondesi lasted until 2003 and after Karim Garcia ruined right field for me, it was Gary Sheffield, who could hit but also ran his mouth too much. Sheffield publicly stated that he should have been the team captain.
Yeah…sure, Sheff. You were in pinstripes for a cup of coffee; Derek Jeter played his whole career in pinstripes with an enormous amount of success. You, not Jeter, should be captain. Dream on, buddy.
Sheffield played 2004, 2005, and was injured for the majority of the 2006 season, which yet again forced the Yankees to make a trade for a right fielder.
In ’06 the Yankees acquired Bobby Abreu, who I think without a shadow of a doubt, was the best right fielder since O’Neill. His calm personality and humble demeanor was a stark contrast to O’Neill’s, but he could hit for average, power, and maintained control of right field the way O’Neill would have wanted.
Abreu was and still is a very special player and even though he is an Angel right now, I still like him, respect him, and wish he was still with the Yankees.
In 2009, the Yankees called on Nick Swisher to play right field, due to the season-ending elbow injury of Xavier Nady. Swisher was not too shabby, what with his goofy personality and funny antics.
But no matter who plays right field in the years to come, O’Neill will always hold a special place in Yankee lore and certainly in my heart.
Now the real question is, will they retire his number 21? I was so happy to see his giant banner in the Great Hall at the New Yankee Stadium this year and when you think about it, no one has really worn the number 21 since he retired. The Yanks have sort of taken it out of circulation.
LaTroy Hawkins tried out the number in 2008, only to get booed by the Yankee fans. Hawkins asked Jeter why the fans were booing him, and Jeter told him that his number was “close to the fans.”
Hawkins then changed his number from 21 to 22.
Whatever happens with his number, O’Neill will forever be immortal. No Yankee fan like me, who grew up with the Yankee Dynasty of the late ’90s, will forget him. He was just an everyday guy who everyday went out and played his guts out.
He was a warrior. And I don’t think we will ever see another Yankee quite like him.
“Paul O’Neill’s daily fight for success became our fight.“–David Cone