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Archive for the ‘Yankees History’ Category

“Part of a Yankee telecast on WPIX TV, Channel 11 from 1986. Bill White and Phil Rizzuto broadcast a 4th inning rain delay as the Yankees played the Twins at Yankee Stadium.”

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Bob Costas’ emotional eulogy at Mickey Mantle’s funeral on August 15, 1995.

“It brings to mind a story Mickey like to tell on himself and maybe some of you have heard it. He pictured himself at the pearly gates, met by St. Peter who shook his head and said, ‘Mick, we checked the record. We know some of what went on. Sorry, we can’t let you in. But before you go, God wants to know if you’d sign these six dozen baseballs.'”

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Jorge Posada’s retirement got me looking at the Yankees all-time catcher’s statistics. One thing that stands out in particular is Posada’s on base percentage, which is second only to Bill Dickey, which is 101 points above his career average. Also, each of these catchers played their entire career with the Yanks except a few at-bats for Berra with the Mets and Howard’s last two seasons were with Boston.

Accolades of Note:

All of them have their number retired with the Yankees.

Yogi Berra:  10 WS rings, 3 time MVP, HOF and did it all while standing 5’7” tall

Jorge Posada: 5 WS rings, 5 time All-Star

Bill Dickey: 7 WS rings, 11 time All-Star

Elston Howard: 1st African American player on NYY, 1963 MVP, 9 time All-Star, 4 WS rings

Thurman Munson: Captain, 2 WS rings, 1973 ROY, 1976 MVP

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Here’s some terrific 8mm footage taken by a fan back in 1968 at the original Yankee Stadium. It was really cool to watch these old-time players, and how many of them took the time to greet and sign autographs for the fans before entering the ballpark.

The steel beams holding the stadium together are really noticeable to the viewer, and were clearly obstructing views for many of the fans. My father told me that when he went to the games as a child with his dad, they would slip the usher a few dollars to have them put in different seats. Some other noteworthy things in the video include: the bullpen car, old stadium scoreboard, the layout of the baseball diamond (especially around home plate), old advertisements lining the walls behind the bleachers.

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During last night’s Yankee game history was made. No, I’m not talking about being the first team to hit 3 grand slams in a game. I’m talking about Jorge Posada’s first appearance at second base in his major league career.

Posada played second base in the minors in 1990 and then moved to catcher in 1991.

“That [throw] shows you right there exactly why they moved me behind the plate . . . I threw it too hard. I got super excited.” -Posada

Video: Posada at 2b: (Compliments of MLB.com)

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In the book, “Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero” by Tom Clavin and Danny Peary, chapter one opens up with a story about how Bob Dylan became a fan of Maris during his 1961 home run chase.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

“Among those rooting for Roger Maris as he closed in on Babe Ruth’s record in September of 1961 was a folksinger whose nascent career took off that month in New York City thanks to a rave in the Times and his first studio work. Although he wasn’t much of a sports fan, Bob Dylan felt pride when he learned that the ballplayer making national headlines also hailed from Hibbing, Minnesota.”

“Dylan was born in Duluth and didn’t arrive in Hibbing until he was seven and had nothing good to say or sing about it after he left and didn’t look back. So it’s ironic that he became the town’s favorite son, while Maris, who was born in Hibbing, was consigned to outsider status. The reason is that Dylan at least acknowledged he was from there. “It still burns me up that Roger claimed he was born in Fargo, North Dakota,” says Bill Starcevic, his childhood playmate in Minnesota. Roger didn’t care if the record books or trading cards got his birthplace wrong or if no one knew he’d changed his name to Maris from Aras in 1954, infuriating the many Marases of Hibbing. IF he thought something was trivial–or personal–he was surprised when others made a big deal of it.”

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     In 1985, Yogi Berra was brought back to manage the Yankees after an 87-win 1987 campaign. Steinbrenner wasn’t very happy with Berra’s laid back managing style. George wanted him in his players faces, but Berra would do nothing of the sort. After 16 games into the season, the club owned a 6-10 record and that was enough for George to let Yogi go. Billy returned, thinking that George would get off his back.

Billy made a pact with Steinbrenner. The terms of the deal were that George could not enter the clubhouse or deliver speeches to the team, while Billy would have to fine players on a whim. And that’s exactly what Billy did. Peter Golenbock says: “He fined Phil Niekro for giving up a grand slam home run. He fined Rich Bordi for not trimming his mustache, and he fined Bobby Meachem one time for swinging at the first pitch.” He goes onto say: “It got so bad that Niekro described Billy as “The Maddest of the Game’s Madmen.” By mid-season, Steinbrenner would be down his throat once again, causing Billy to continue drinking himself to death. (more…)

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ESPN New York released their “50 Greatest Yankees” list the other day. I can’t really argue too much with their list, although I probably would have swapped Thurman Munson (#12) and Bill Dickey (#10). Yes, I know Dickey is in the Hall of Fame and Munson isn’t. But it was Munson’s leadership, as much as anything else that returned the Yankees to their winning ways in the ’70s. And who knows what kind of numbers he would have put up if not for the plane crash?

Anyway, here’s their list. I’ve added in the dates they played for the Yanks, along with their position. An asterisk denotes a playing career interrupted by a military commitment; # denotes a Hall-of-Famer. Current players are in red type. Feel free to let us know how you feel about the list!

50. Mike Mussina (RHP, 2001-2008)

49. Bob Meusel (LF, 1920-1930)

48. Albert “Sparky” Lyle (LHP, 1972-1978)

47. Gil McDougald (IF, 1951-1960)

46. Jim “Catfish” Hunter (RHP, 1974-1978)#

45. David Cone (RHP, 1995-2000)

44. Roy White (LF, 1965-1979)

43. Hank Bauer (RF, 1948-1959)

42. Jack Chesbro (RHP, 1903-1909)#

41. Eddie Lopat (RHP, 1948-1955)

40. Rickey Henderson (1985-1989)#

39. Vic Raschi (RHP, 1946-1953)

38. Joe Gordon (2B, 1938-1946)*#

37. Tommy Henrich (RF, 1937-1950)*

36. Charlie “King Kong” Keller (LF, 1939-1949)*

35. Bobby Murcer (CF, 1969-1974, 1979-1983)

34. Spurgeon “Spud” Chandler (RHP, 1937-1947)

33. Willie Randolph (2B, 1976-1988)

32. Waite Hoyt (RHP, 1921-1929)#

31. Mel Stottlemyre (RHP, 1964-1974)

30. Paul O’Neill (RF, 1993-2001)

29. Graig Nettles (3B, 1973-1983)

28. Dave Winfield (OF, 1981-1990)#

27. Herb Pennock (LHP, 1923-1933)#

26. Allie “Superchief” Reynolds (RHP, 1947-1954)

25. Rich “Goose” Gossage (RHP, 1978-1983, 1989)#

24. Elston Howard (C, 1955-1967)

23. Earle Combs (CF, 1924-1935)#

22. Roger Maris (RF, 1960-1966)

21. Jorge Posada (C, 1995-present)

20. Phil Rizzuto (SS, 1941-1956)*#

19. Bernie Williams (CF, 1991-2006)

18. “Poosh ‘Em Up” Tony Lazzeri (2B, 1926-1937)#

17. Ron “Gator” Guidry (LHP, 1975-1988)

16. Andy Pettitte (LHP, 1995-2003, 2007-2010)

15. Reggie Jackson (RF, 1977-1981)#

14. Vernon “Lefty” Gomez (LHP, 1930-1942)#

13. Alex Rodriguez (3B, 2004-present)

12. Thurman Muson (C, 1969-1979)

11. Don Mattingly (1B, 1982-1995)

10. Bill Dickey (C, 1928-1946)#

9. Charles “Red” Ruffing (RHP, 1930-1942)#

8. Edward “Whitey” Ford (LHP, 1953-1967)*#

7. Derek Jeter (SS, 1995-present)

6. Lawrence “Yogi” Berra (C, 1946-1963)#

5. Mariano Rivera (RHP, 1995-present)

4. Mickey Mantle (CF, 1950-1968)#

3. “Joltin” Joe DiMaggio (CF, 1936-1951)*#

2. Lou “Iron Horse” Gehrig (1B, 1923-1939)#

1. George “Babe” Ruth (RF, 1920-1934)#

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With pitchers and catchers celebrating our love of all things baseball by reporting to Spring Training on Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d share some reminiscences about Spring Trainings gone past.

First of all, this may come as a surprise to many of the Yankees younger fans, but the team didn’t always train in Tampa. Since the team’s founding as the New York Highlanders, they have trained in 19 locales. They spent a season in the Cactus League (1951). They trained in Atlantic City (1944 & 45). That was due to travel restrictions during World War II, but I can’t imagine the weather was much better in AC than it would have been in the Bronx. They even spent a season in Bermuda (1913).

But the period I remember from my youth is when the team trained in Ft. Lauderdale, from 1962 through 1995. In the early and mid-1970’s, I was lucky enough to make annual pilgrimages to south Florida. Ostensibly, my folks were sending me down to spend time with my grandparents. But I would invariably end up spending more time with my uncle at Ft. Lauderdale Stadium, watching my boyhood idols. Oh, and nabbing a few autographs; they were easier to get back then – I suppose because nobody had thought up the idea of holding events where people would pay $500 and up for one.

I remember in 1975 watching a tall, skinny kid routinely striking out some of the game’s better hitters. I didn’t know it then, but that was my first glimpse of the Gator. Then there was the time Bobby Bonds hit a ball that landed near the pitchers mound on one of the auxillary fields. I still think that’s the longest homer I’ve ever seen in person, and it brought everyone in attendance to their feet. In 1976, the Yankees debuted Mickey Rivers as their new center fielder – and his speed completely floored me.

There were other moments of baseball greatness that dazzled my preteen brain during those years, but they were my preteen years, after all. I wasn’t always as transfixed on the game as the happenings around me. One of the great things about those years was that not only did the Yankees invite back some of the former greats as guest coaches (a tradition they still follow today, thankfully), but you would often find others watching the games from the stands. Once we sat a row behind Moose Skowron, who was pretty much like any other fan. On another occassion, the guy next to me spilled his beer on me. My uncle was about to give him what-for – until he realized the guy he was getting ready to blast was none other than Tom Tresh. Mr. Tresh was a real gentleman about it. He got me a #15  jersey. At the time, I didn’t know it was his old number – I thought he got me a Thurman Munson jersey, who was (and still is) my favorite Yankee. As you might imagine, I was completely dumbfounded – and hoping to get more beer spilled on me by other former Yankees.

The memories from the halcyon days of my youth are a big reason why I’m such a huge fan today. It is why baseball, for me (and I suspect many of you) goes far beyond statistics, contracts and all of the other stuff we spend so much time talking about. It’s about great and not-so-great players, human beings not unlike us except for an incredible talent to play the game. In “Field of Dreams“, James Earl Jones‘ character Terrance Mann gives one of the best monologues about baseball ever written:

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again”

So, with that…let’s play ball! Mission 28 is officially underway!

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Andy speaks to reporters / Courtesy NY Times

For some reason, a large number of Yankee fans were surprised by the news that Andy Pettitte decided to call it a career. Mr. Mailbag’s inbox is overflowing with questions; I figured this is as good a time to answer them as any.

Dr. Mr. Mailbag,

Since Andy isn’t returning this year, does this mean the Yankees season is doomed?

Sincerely, Afraid

Well, afraid…in a word, no. Even if everything stands pat, the current rotation isn’t as bad as everyone seems to think. The line-up should be actually be better than last year’s. Boston did improve their team, but Tampa Bay is much worse. And if we’ve learned one thing about the Yankees in the Steinbrenner era, the Yankees won’t stand pat if the team needs something come mid-season. Barring a sudden surge by a surprise team, the Yankees should wind up in the playoffs in 2011.

Mr. Mailbag:

How can I live without Andy? The Yankees just won’t be the same without him!

-Crying in my pillow

Well, Crying, you’re not alone. I’ve seen a lot of these in the last 24 hours. I understand that to a certain generation of Yankees fans – pretty much those under the age of 30 – Andy is the starting pitcher of record. But you should understand that what makes the Yankees the most successful franchise in sports history is the way this team replaces great players with other great players. If you’re of the current generation, you probably find it hard to understand how fans of my generation can hold such high regard for Thurman Munson or Chris Chambliss. (To me, Chambliss’ homer in the ’76 ALCS is still the most thrilling Pinstripe moment I’ve ever witnessed). For fans of my father’s generation, it was Mickey Mantle. And on through time it goes, back for 90 years, to the time of the Babe and Lou. There’s a crop of talented players making their way up from the minors now; guys named Betances, Banuelos, Brackman, Montero, and a whole bunch more. Andy Pettitte can’t necessarily be replaced anymore than Munson could. But other great players will come along who will carve out their own dynasties. It’s the Yankee way.

Dear Mr. Mailbag,

How many ballots will it take for Andy Pettitte to get into the Hall of Fame? If it takes more than one, It’s a damn shame!

-A Yankee in Texas

Well, Texas… I hate to break it to you, but Andy probably isn’t getting into the Hall of Fame. He has a borderline case: in his favor, he did finish his career 102 games over .500; right now, only one other pitcher with a similar number isn’t enshrined (oddly, former teammate Mike Mussina). But when compared to the other pitchers of his era; well, his numbers don’t particularly stack up well. His career ERA is higher than that of non-HOF candidates like Kevin Brown, Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, and Al Leiter. If anything, Andy should root really, really hard for Mike Mussina to get a HOF nod – because their final career numbers are eerily similar. In fact, Mussina’s are better than Pettitte’s (higer ERA+, more strikeouts, wins, complete games, higher winning percentage and lower OPS allowed), so you can bet if Mussina doesn’t get in, Pettitte won’t. Plus, Pettitte has the whole PED’s issue hanging over his career. I don’t think in the grand scheme of things it will make a huge difference, but if he’s close and that negatively influences a couple of voters…well, you get the idea.

Dear Mr. Mailbag,

When are the Yankees going to retire #46?

-A Huge Andy Fan

Um, Probably never. Was Andy an important cog in the past 5 championships? Yes. Does that mean he’ll get his number retired? No. Consider how many players from the 90’s dynasty have their numbers hanging on the outfield wall. Bernie Williams? Tino Martinez? David Cone? Paul O’Neill? Each was as integral to those championships as Pettitte; each as beloved in the Bronx as Andy – and none has their number retired. I strongly suspect that unless a player winds up in the Hall of Fame, their number will remain in circulation.

Mr. Mailbag,

Why did Andy Pettitte retire? The Yankees need him!

-Alarmed in the Bronx

Well, alarmed, as Andy said this morning, his heart just isn’t in it anymore. If you’ve watched Andy pitch over the past 5 years, then you know he’s gotten by mostly on heart. His once overpowering cut fastball doesn’t have the life it once did and neither do his secondary pitches. Perhaps more importantly for an athlete his age, he doesn’t have the drive to overcome injury – and a 38 year old pitcher is likely to step out on the mound with a nagging injury as not. Given his current state of mind, he’s making the right decision. Based on physical ability, he’s probably still better than Sergio Mitre. But without that competitive fire, Andy Pettitte would finish his career reminding Yankee fans why we hated Kevin Brown.

That’s it for now. These are representative of the most common questions I’ve seen. Somehow, I’m sure there will be more over the weekend, so stay tuned! Oh, and if you have one, feel free to shoot it out to me at Twitter or Facebook!


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After watching the sports documentary, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (an Aviva Kempner film), I found an interesting connection between the Yankees organization and the legendary slugger.

In 1947,  Detroit Tigers owner Walter Briggs became infuriated with his star slugger, Hank Greenberg because he was asking for more money than he wanted to pay. Hank was at the tail end of his career, but he just came off a tremendous 1946 season, where he hit 44 home runs and knocked in 127 RBI’s. Briggs also saw a picture of Greenberg in the Sporting News paper, which displayed a picture of Hank sitting in a clubhouse with a Yankees uniform on his lap. The general idea was that Hank wanted to go to the Bronx (where he grew up) and finish his career as a New York Yankee.

Soon after this photo was released in the newspaper, Hank learned that he had been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates over the radio airwaves. He didn’t believe it until a telegram was delivered to him. It read: “Your contract has been assigned to the Pittsburgh Baseball Club of the National League. We wish you good luck.” The photo really infuriated Briggs and he let him go without investigation. They would later find out that the picture was taken years ago during Hank’s service in WWII. Hank took part in an All-Star benefit game while in the service and they didn’t have a uniform that would fit him, so they gave him a Yankees uniform to wear.

Briggs made sure that nobody in the American League would pick up Greenberg through waivers, so he couldn’t come back and haunt them. At the time, baseball owners had complete control over their players and they could send players to other teams on a whim. You couldn’t get away with such a thing today.

It came as a shock to Greenberg and the Detroit fans. Hank was so upset over the situation, he was ready to retire. The Pirates contacted him, making him an offer he couldn’t refuse. They were set to make him the highest paid player in baseball. Greenberg wound up being the first player to ever break the $80,000 barrier (Ruth’s 1930-31 Salary). Pittsburgh gave Hank $115,000 to play for them in 1947. It was the last season he would ever play.

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