Results tagged ‘ Billy Martin ’

New additions coming to Monument Park

Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park will continue to expand this year with plaques commemorating the careers of Hall of Fame relief pitcher Goose Gossage, Hall of Fame-elect manager Joe Torre and two of the most popular Yankees players of recent vintage, right fielder Paul O’Neill and first baseman Tino Martinez. The ceremonies are part of a recognition series that will include center fielder Bernie Williams in 2015.

Martinez and Gossage will be celebrated during Old-Timers’ Day weekend – Tino Saturday, June 21, and the Goose Sunday, June 22. O’Neill’s ceremony will take place Saturday, Aug. 9. The ceremony for Torre that will include the retiring of his uniform No. 6 will be Saturday, Aug. 23, in Monument Park.

Acquired by the Yankees in a trade with Seattle prior to the 1996 season, Martinez went on to play in seven seasons with New York (1996-2001, ’05), helping to lead the team to four World Series victories during that time (1996, ’98-2000). He combined to hit .276 with 192 home runs and 739 RBI in his pinstriped career. He is probably best known for his grand slam off the Padres’ Mark Langston in Game 1 of the 1998 World Series at the Stadium that gave the Yanks the lead and helped propel them to their 24th Series title in franchise history.

Gossage, who was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008, played in parts of seven seasons with the Yankees (1978-83, ’89), winning a World Series with the team in 1978. The nine-time All-Star compiled a 42-28 record with a 2.14 ERA with the Yankees, including 151 saves and 512 strikeouts in 319 games. He allowed just 390 hits in 533 innings pitched during his time in pinstripes. Gossage trails only Mariano Rivera (652) and Dave Righetti (224) on the all-time Yankees saves list.

O’Neill, who currently serves as a game analyst for the YES Network, spent the final nine seasons of his 17-year Major League career in the Bronx (1993-2001), winning four world titles in the Bronx (1996, ’98-2000). He concluded his Yankees career with a .303 batting average, 304 doubles, 185 home runs and 858 RBI. O’Neill won the American League batting title in 1994 with a .359 average. Affectionately known as a “warrior” to many of his fans, Paulie played in 235 consecutive games in right field without making an error from July 1995 to May 1997. In 2001, at the age of 38, O’Neill became the oldest player in history to steal 20 bases and hit 20 home runs in the same season.

Currently serving as Major League Baseball’s executive vice president of baseball operations, Torre spent 12 seasons as Yankees manager (1996-2007). He steered the team to six pennants (1996, ’98-2001, ’03) and four World Series championships (1996, ’98-2000). Torre compiled a 1,173-767 (.605) regular season record and a 76-47 (.618) postseason mark during his Yankees tenure, leading the club to the playoffs in each year that he managed the team. While with the organization, he went 21-11 in the World Series, 27-14 in the ALCS and 28-22 in the ALDS. His regular season wins total is second in club history to only Joe McCarthy, who went 1,460-867 (.627) over 16 seasons.

Torre, who will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in July, will become only the third manager to have his number retired by the team. The others are Casey Stengel (37) and Billy Martin (1). The No. 8 retired for Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra, both of whom also had stints as Yankees manager, was based on their playing careers as catchers.

Yankees keep their manager for four more years

Well, that was quick. All things considered, the Yankees were fortunate to keep their manager in place in a relatively quick period of time during an off-season that promises to be busy. Surely a fourth year on the contract extension was a deal doer. Other clubs – notably the Cubs, Nationals and Reds – as well as a television network or two may have had designs on Girardi, but four-year contracts at seven figures per annum are hard to come by, so the Yankees were able to retain the guy they wanted to continue running the club before his current pact was to expire Oct. 31.

Girardi was deserving of the extension. Even with the World Series championship of 2009 at the top of his accomplishments, Joe’s effort with the 2013 Yankees may have been his best work. It certainly was his most arduous. With the abundance of injuries the Yankees had to deal with, just running out a healthy lineup every day was an ordeal for the manager.

Much was made in the media of Girardi’s Illinois background and ties to the Cubs as a fan while growing up and as a catcher as a player being a temptation for him to go off to Wrigley Field. On a conference phone hookup Wednesday, Girardi emphasized it was a family decision. Mom and the kids were A-OK with the Yankees and New York. The Girardi’s have made solid roots in Westchester County.

And let us not forget that Joe Girardi despite all the Cubs history has become a part of Yankees history as well. He fits in very well come Old Timers’ Day as a player who was part of three World Series championship clubs as a player (1996, ’98-99) as well as his one as a manager. He pointed out that in his conversation with the family that getting to manage in the same place for 10 years, which would be the case if Girardi fulfills the whole contract, is pretty special.

Over his first six years as Yankees manager the club has led the major leagues in home runs (1,236), ranked second in runs (4,884) and seventh in hits (8,836) and batting average (.265). The Yankees have also committed the fewest errors (484) over the span with a majors-best .986 team fielding percentage.

In 2013, Girardi did a good job getting the beaten-up Yankees to an 85-77 finish and third-place tie in the American League East with the Orioles. He got his 500th win as Yankees manager May 10 at Kansas City. The club made just 69 errors in 2013, the third-lowest total in the majors and tying the franchise record for fewest in a season (also 2010). Their .988 fielding percentage set a franchise record, fractionally better than their .988 mark in 2010.

In 2009, Girardi became the ninth Yankees manager to win a World Series, and just the fourth to do so in his postseason managerial debut, joining Casey Stengel (1949), Ralph Houk (1961) and Bob Lemon (1978). Girardi also joined Houk and Billy Martin as the only men to win World Series for the club as players and managers.

Girardi was named the 32nd manager of the Yankees Oct. 30, 2007, becoming the 17th Yankees manager to have played for the club and the fourth former Yankees catcher to skipper the team, joining Bill Dickey, Houk and Yogi Berra.

In 2006, Girardi was named National League Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America after guiding the Marlins to a 78-84 record in his first season as a big league manager. With the award, he matched the Astros’ Hal Lanier (1986) and the Giants’ Dusty Baker (1993) as the only managers to win the honor in their managerial debuts.

In 15 major-league seasons as a catcher, Girardi played for the Cubs (1989-92 and 2000-02), Rockies (1993-95), Yankees (1996-99) and Cardinals (2003) and batted .267 with 454 runs, 186 doubles, 36 home runs and 422 RBI in 4,127 at-bats over 1,277 games. He had a .991 career fielding percentage and threw out 27.6 percent of potential base stealers. Girardi was named to the National League All-Star team in 2000 with the Cubs.

With the Yankees, Girardi was behind the plate for Dwight Gooden’s hitter May 14, 1996 against the Mariners and David Cone’s perfect game July 18, 1999 against the Expos. In World Series Game 6 against the Braves in 1996, Girardi tripled in the game’s first run in a three-run third inning off Greg Maddux as the Yankees clinched their first championship since 1978 with a 3-2 victory. He has a .566 winning percentage with a 642-492 record as a manager and is 21-17 in postseason play.

Protest comes too late for Yanks

Former Yankees manager Joe Torre, now Major League Baseball’s vice president for baseball operations, acknowledged Thursday that the umpires made the wrong call in the third inning Wednesday night at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium that credited Royals designated hitter Billy Butler with a home run. The run proved crucial as the Yankees lost, 5-4.

What was left unsaid was what Torre would have ruled had Yankees manager Joe Girardi lodged a protest over the umpires’ call. The only satisfaction Girardi got was that the umpiring crew at least reviewed the play on video replay, which did not help because they upheld the original ruling.

Girardi’s reputation as a clean Marine kind of guy worked against him here. He took crew chief Dana DeMuth at his word that he knew the ground rules. It turns out that DeMuth completely misinterpreted the ground rules. Right after the game, umpiring supervisor Steve Palermo met with the four umpires at the scene of the crime, a clear indication that something was amiss.

But since Girardi did not protest the upheld ruling before the next pitch, the Yankees had no recourse after the fact. They were left merely with the empty satisfaction of knowing they were correct in their objection to the call. You can be sure than a Billy Martin or a Lou Piniella would have protested the call on the spot. Girardi would have been wise to listen to his own first base coach, Mick Kelleher. He had been at the plate meeting before the first game of the series when ground rules at Kauffman were discussed and that issue specifically was addressed by Killer, who was told that a ball had to clear the green barrier to be considered a home run.

So what can the Yankees do about it now? Nothing. The best thing is to look ahead, not back. Yes, it was a one-run loss in a game in which the opposition got one more run than it should have. The Yankees had plenty of chances to win the game, but their starting pitcher, Bartolo Colon, struggled, and their hitters were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Jorge Posada kept his bat on the shoulder in making the last out of the game with the bases loaded.

That game is history. The Yankees need to regroup Thursday night in Minneapolis. There’s a good chance whoever was representing the Yankees in the pre-game meeting with the umpiring crew was paying extremely close attention to the ground rules at Target Field.

‘Domeball’ bites Yankees

I can hear Billy Martin screaming from the grave. No Yankees manager detested domed ballparks more than Martin, who wailed against the facilities in Seattle and Minneapolis during his time as the skipper.

I recall in 1988 when the Yankees ended spring training with two exhibition games at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, and Billy was so critical of the place he nearly got thrown out of the country.

Think of how much he would have hated this Yankees trip, eight games under domes in Toronto and St. Petersburg, Fla. Billy never managed in either Rogers Centre or Tropicana Field, but you can be sure he would have had little good to say about either place.

Martin might have given Toronto a break because the roof there is retractable. In fact, all four games the Yankees played there on the recent stop were with the roof open.

What infuriated Martin about most domes was having to play on an artificial surface and trying to track pop ups and fly balls against a roof. The Metrodome roof particularly bothered Martin because it was clear, similar to the one at the Trop.

Too often, routine fly balls get lost by fielders and fall free, such as the ball Rays pinch hitter Justin Ruggiano to center field that Curtis Granderson could not find. It dropped for a single that cost the Yankee an important out and loaded the bases with one out.

Boone Logan compounded the problem by making an error on a high chopper to the mound by another pinch hitter, Elliot Johnson, that allowed the tying run to score. Johnny Damon put the Rays ahead for good with a sacrifice fly. The runs were charged to Bartolo Colon and while they were unearned they were sufficient to stick him with an undeserving losing decision.

Coming back from his worst outing of the season when he allowed eight runs (three earned) in two-thirds of an inning, Colon looked more like the Comeback Player of the Year candidate he has resembled most of the year. He gave up three hits and two walks and had a season-high nine strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.

It was an important game for Colon, who was 0-2 with an 11.37 ERA over two prior starts and had the Yankees wondering if he would whither in the second half. If they can get the same kind of effort from Freddy Garcia Wednesday night, the Yankees can breathe a sigh of relief over the aging starters.

Robinson Cano ended a four-game power drought by the Yankees with his 16th home run, a two-run shot in the third, but Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson retired the next 12 batters and pitched out of trouble in the seventh by setting down Derek Jeter on an infield grounder that stranded runners on second and third.

Brett Gardner continued his torrid hitting since the All-Star break with two more hits. Since play resumed after the All-Star Game, Gardner is batting .591 with three doubles, one RBI, six stolen bases and six runs in 22 at-bats.

Gates for Sunday’s Old Timers’ Day open at 10 a.m.

Fans planning to attend Sunday’s 65th annual Old Timers’ Day are encouraged to get to Yankee Stadium early. Gates will open at 10 a.m. with the Old Timers’ Day ceremonies to start at 11:30 a.m., followed by the traditional, two-inning Old Timers’ Day game. The regularly scheduled inter-league game between the Yankees and the Rockies will have a first pitch of 2:20 p.m. The entire day’s activities will be cablecast on the YES Network.

Bernie Williams and former managers Lou Piniella and Joe Torre will be making their Old Timers’ Day debuts. “Sweet Lou” will be putting on a Yankees uniform for the first time since 1988. Torre, whose Yankees teams defeated Piniella’s Seattle Mariners in the 2000 and 2001 post-seasons, is still active in the game as Major League Baseball’s vice president for baseball operations.

They will be among 50 former Yankees on hand for the ceremonies. Other headliners among returning Old Timers will be Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson and Goose Gossage, plus the perfect game trio of Don Larsen, David Wells and David Cone. The Yankees will also hold a special tribute honoring long-time team trainer Gene Monahan, who will retire at season’s end after 49 years of service to the organization.

In addition, players and coaches from Yankees championship teams of the past will include Dr. Bobby Brown, Jerry Coleman, Moose Skowron, Luis Arroyo, Homer Bush, Brian Doyle, Cecil Fielder, Joe Girardi, Dwight Gooden, Ron Guidry, Charlie Hayes, Graeme Lloyd, Hector Lopez, Tino Martinez, Lee Mazzilli, Ramiro Mendoza, Gene Michael, Jeff Nelson, Graig Nettles, Joe Pepitone, Mickey Rivers, Charlie Silvera, Darryl Strawberry, Mel Stottlemyre and Roy White.

Joining the Hall of Famers and other former Yankees on the baselines will be the widows of five legendary Yankees – Arlene Howard (Elston), Helen Hunter (Jim “Catfish”), Jill Martin (Billy), Diana Munson (Thurman) and Kay Murcer (Bobby).

Bernie an Old Timer? He will be June 26th

Are you ready to consider Bernie Williams an old timer? Well, get used to it. Bernabe will make his first appearance on Old Timers’ Day when Yankees alumni gather for the 65th annual event Sunday, June 26, at Yankee Stadium.

Also making their Old Timers’ Day debuts will be former managers Lou Piniella and Joe Torre. “Sweet Lou” will be putting on a Yankees uniform for the first time since 1988. Torre, whose Yankees teams defeated Piniella’s Seattle Mariners in the 2000 and 2001 post-seasons, is still active in the game as Major League Baseball’s vice president for baseball operations.

They will be among 50 former Yankees on hand for the ceremonies that begin at 11:30 a.m., followed by the traditional, two-inning Old Timers’ game. The current Yankees will play the Colorado Rockies in an inter-league game starting at 2 p.m. The entire day’s activities will be aired exclusively on the YES Network.

Other headliners among returning Old Timers will be Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson and Goose Gossage, plus the perfect game trio of Don Larsen, David Wells and David Cone. The Yankees will also hold a special tribute honoring long-time team trainer Gene Monahan, who will retire at season’s end after 49 years of service to the organization.

In addition, other players and coaches from Yankees championship teams of the past will include Dr. Bobby Brown, Jerry Coleman, Moose Skowron, Luis Arroyo, Homer Bush, Brian Doyle, Cecil Fielder, Joe Girardi, Dwight Gooden, Ron Guidry, Charlie Hayes, Graeme Lloyd, Hector Lopez, Lee Mazzilli, Ramiro Mendoza, Gene Michael, Jeff Nelson, Graig Nettles, Joe Pepitone, Mickey Rivers, Charlie Silvera, Darryl Strawberry, Mel Stottlemyre and Roy White.

Joining the Hall of Famers and other former Yankees on the baselines will be the widows of five legendary Yankees – Arlene Howard (Elston), Helen Hunter (Jim “Catfish”), Jill Martin (Billy), Diana Munson (Thurman) and Kay Murcer (Bobby).

Monahan to retire as Yanks’ trainer at season’s end

Gene Monahan, the last link to the first season George Steinbrenner took control of the Yankees, will retire as the club’s long-time head athletic trainer at the end of the season. This is Geno’s 49th season with the Yankees as the longest tenured employee in the organization. He began as a batboy and clubhouse attendant in 1962 as a 17-year-old high school senior in the Yankees’ first spring training in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., his hometown.

Monahan, 66, talked with general manager Brian Cashman, manager Joe Girardi and other team officials about his decision in recent weeks and made the announcement official in an impromptu meeting with the players before Tuesday night’s game against the Royals at Yankee Stadium.

He had gathered the players together to alert them to upcoming skin and oral cancer screenings and then added, ‘Oh, and by the way, this will be my last year with the team.”

That was so typical of Monahan, an admitted introvert who remained in the background except when doing his job – to keep players healthy over the course of the grueling, 162-game schedule. He followed the advice he received years ago from the Yankees’ legendary equipment manager Pete Sheehy – “Keep your ears open and your mouth shut.”

“I got a huge wakeup a year ago, and it had a profound effect on me,” said Monahan, who battled throat and neck cancer that is now in remission. “I realized there are other things in my life that I need to do – to spend more time with my kids, with my extended family. I need to have a dog, a house, a garden, a backyard, and maybe a pickup.”

Geno, as he was affectionately known over the years by managers, coaches and players, not to mention the principal owner, has lived in New Jersey most of the past 40 years but plans to move to North Carolina where he bought a house. That is in the heart of NASCAR country, which is appropriate for Monahan, a passionate auto racing enthusiast.

Monahan spent 10 years working in the Yankees’ minor-league system and graduated from Indiana University as a certified trainer along the way before he was named the team’s head trainer in 1973, the year a group headed by Steinbrenner bought the team.

“The Boss and I came on the scene together,” Monahan said. “We taught each other a lot of stuff. I was always grateful to him for the opportunity. I can’t thank him anymore, but I let his family know that all the time.”

Monahan said he made a point of not getting too close to players because they were all important to him, but he made special mention of a few over the decades – Bobby Murcer, Sparky Lyle, Thurman Munson and Jim “Catfish” Hunter. Monahan served under 16 managers from Ralph Houk to Girardi and including Billy Martin five times and Bob Lemon, Gene Michael and Lou Piniella twice apiece.

The announcement of Monahan’s retirement at season’s end comes the day after the May issue of Yankees Magazine hit the newsstands that features my profile of Monahan. Geno and I spent a couple of days together at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., back in February. The eldest son of a family of eight that migrated south from Pennsylvania, Monahan got a taste of baseball as a teenager and never looked back.

The normally reticent trainer let his hair down a little bit in the interview and takes us through a fascinating career on the front lines of a storied franchise that made a stirring comeback to major prominence during the Steinbrenner era. Look for Alex Rodriguez on the cover and enjoy a trip down Geno’s memory lane.

Monahan is the longest-tenured head athletic trainer in the majors, having worked in that capacity for the past 39 years. In December, he was honored along with longtime assistant Steve Donohue as the Best Athletic Trainers in Major League Baseball in 2010 by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainer Society. Other recent commendations include the 2009 Distinguished Athletic Trainer Award from the National Athletic Trainers Association and induction into the New York State Athletic Trainers’ Association Hall of Fame in 2007. Monahan and Donohue were also honored with Major League Baseball’s Athletic Training Staff of the Year Award in 1990.

Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement, “Gene Monahan embodies all the very best virtues that this organization strives to uphold. His devotion to his craft, passion for the game of baseball and tireless work ethic are only a few of the qualities that have made him a bedrock within this franchise for nearly 50 years. Gene has made a lifetime’s worth of sacrifices and contributions in order to best serve the Yankees, and our entire organization will always be grateful.”

Fordham to honor memory of Gil McDougald

With the Yankees not playing until 8:05 p.m. Saturday in Texas (on YES), why not take in a game in the Bronx in the afternoon? Former Yankees infielder Gil McDougald, who died last Nov. 28 in Wall Township, N.J., at the age of 82, will be honored prior to Fordham’s 4 p.m. game against Saint Joseph’s at Houlihan Field.

Family members and former players will be on hand to salute McDougald, who reached the World Series eight times in his 10 seasons with the Yankees (1951-60) and won five rings. He was Fordham’s head baseball coach from 1970-76 and led the Rams to a 100-79-4 record.

That the tribute will be held May 7 is a sad piece of irony. On that date in 1957, a line drive hit by McDougald struck Indians pitcher Herb Score in the face in one of baseball’s most tragic accidents. McDougald vowed to quit the game if Score did not recover, which he did but was never again the imposing pitcher he had been in 1955 and ’56. It is fair to say that McDougald was not quite the same after that incident, either.

Later in life, long after his major-league career, McDougald fought a long battle with deafness. Below is a copy of the blog I wrote for The Cutoff Man after McDougald’s death. For those who may not have had a chance to read it, here it is again.

In memory of the late Gil McDougald, who died last week of prostate cancer at the age of 82, I would like to share a piece I wrote on the five-time All-Star Yankees infielder back in 1997 when the New York Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America honored him with the Casey Stengel “You Can Look It Up” Award.

For a long time, Gil McDougald lived in a noiseless world. Embarrassed by his deafness, the former Yankees infielder withdrew from his friends, turned away from all but his immediate family and settled into a chamber of silence.

The lively sounds at Yankee Stadium were once music to McDougald’s ears. A hearing disorder stemming from a concussion McDougald suffered in 1955 during a batting practice accident worsened to the point that in 1976 he resigned as Fordham’s baseball coach because of communication difficulties. In 1985, he felt compelled to sell his building-maintenance business. His suburban New Jersey home had become more a place of exile.

An article in 1994 by New York Times columnist Ira Berkow drew attention to McDougald’s situation. He was contacted by Dr. Stephen Epstein, a Yankees fan who directs the Ear Center in Maryland and recommended McDougald consult Dr. Noel Cohen, chief of otolaryngology at New York University Medical Center. That November, in a 3-hour operation, McDougald received a cochlea implant of a microcomputer that helped restore his hearing. McDougald lectured around the country on the benefits of the procedure.

“There’s a real need to build awareness of the technology,” McDougald told Sports Illustrated. “When you’re fortunate and something good happens, even though you weren’t expecting anything, that’s when the payback comes. When you see the progress, particularly with little children, it’s so satisfying. It’s like hitting a home run with the bases loaded.”

That was one of McDougald’s career highlights, a grand slam off the Giants’ Larry Jansen at the Polo Grounds in the 1951 World Series. The honor bestowed by the writers is most appropriate for McDougald because Stengel was the only manager he played for in his 10 major-league seasons, all with the Yankees, from 1951 through 1960 before he quit rather than go into the American League expansion draft.

McDougald was among the most gifted of the tough, heady infielders who were integral figures on Stengel’s teams such as Phil Rizzuto, Billy Martin, Jerry Coleman, Bobby Brown, Andy Carey, Tony Kubek, Bobby Richardson and Clete Boyer.

The Ol’ Perfessor would have loved Derek Jeter.

That brings us to the “You Can Look It Up” part, which refers to one of Casey’s pet expressions. Among Jeter’s accomplishments in his Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award season of 1996 was a .314 batting average. What’s the big deal, you say? Well, you have to go back 40 years to find a New York shortstop – Yankee, Met, Giant or Dodger – who hit .300 over a full season.

And that shortstop was Gil McDougald. True, Kubek hit .314 in 1962, but he played in only 45 games that year because of military duty and a back injury. McDougald’s .311 mark for the Yankees in 1956 was the highest for a fulltime shortstop before Jeter topped it in ‘96.

The AL Rookie of the Year Award is another link between the two Yankees shortstops. McDougald was the first and Jeter the most recent of the eight Yankees who have won the award. McDougald wasn’t a shortstop when he won in 1951 by two votes over White Sox outfielder Minnie Minoso, 13-11. The more heralded Yankees rookie, Mickey Mantle, did not receive a vote.

McDougald played third base and second base until 1956 when Stengel tabbed him to succeed Rizzuto at shortstop. In the 10 years McDougald played for the Yanklees, they won more than 90 games nine times, eight pennants and five World Series, including ‘56, which made him a precursor to Jeter as a .300-hitting shortstop for a Series champion.

In that ‘56 Series, McDougald made an alert play that helped preserve Don Larsen’s perfect game against the Dodgers in Game 5 at Yankee Stadium. Jackie Robinson led off the second inning with a line drove to third that glanced off Carey’s glove to McDougald, who threw out Robby at first base.

Hitting out of an unorthodox, open stance which he moderated midway through his career, McDougald compiled a .276 career average with 112 home runs before retiring at age 32 after the 1960 World Series rather than play for the expansion Los Angeles Angels or Washington Senators.

McDougald was an unwilling participant in a baseball tragedy May 7, 1957. Indians lefthander Herb Score, then in the third year of a career that might have led him to Cooperstown, was struck in the face of by a liner off McDougald’s bat. Score was never the same pitcher again.

Less known is the incident two years earlier in which a BP liner by Bob Cerv hit McDougald above his left ear. It was diagnosed as a concussion, and McDougald was back in uniform in several days. He later learned that he had inner ear damage from an undetected fractured skull, which began McDougald’s quiet retreat.

“Except for playing golf, Gil had really become a recluse,” said former AL president Bobby Brown, one of McDougald’s oldest and closest friends. “But now since he can hear again, he’s his old self and able to contribute. It’s an emotional thrill for all of us.”

McDougald’s struggle against silence

In memory of the late Gil McDougald, who died last week of prostate cancer at the age of 82, I would like to share a piece I wrote on the five-time All-Star Yankees infielder back in 1997 when the New York Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America honored him with the Casey Stengel “You Can Look It Up” Award.

For a long time, Gil McDougald lived in a noiseless world. Embarrassed by his deafness, the former Yankees infielder withdrew from his friends, turned away from all but his immediate family and settled into a chamber of silence.

The lively sounds at Yankee Stadium were once music to McDougald’s ears. A hearing disorder stemming from a concussion McDougald suffered in 1955 during a batting practice accident worsened to the point that in 1976 he resigned as Fordham’s baseball coach because of communication difficulties. In 1985, he felt compelled to sell his building-maintenance business. His suburban New Jersey home had become more a place of exile.

An article in 1994 by New York Times columnist Ira Berkow drew attention to McDougald’s situation. He was contacted by Dr. Stephen Epstein, a Yankees fan who directs the Ear Center in Maryland and recommended McDougald consult Dr. Noel Cohen, chief of otolaryngology at New York University Medical Center. That November, in a 3 -hour operation, McDougald received a cochlea implant of a microcomputer that helped restore his hearing. McDougald lectured around the country on the benefits of the procedure.

“There’s a real need to build awareness of the technology,” McDougald told Sports Illustrated. “When you’re fortunate and something good happens, even though you weren’t expecting anything, that’s when the payback comes. When you see the progress, particularly with little children, it’s so satisfying. It’s like hitting a home run with the bases loaded.”

That was one of McDougald’s career highlights, a grand slam off the Giants’ Larry Jansen at the Polo Grounds in the 1951 World Series. The honor bestowed by the writers is most appropriate for McDougald because Stengel was the only manager he played for in his 10 major-league seasons, all with the from Yankees, from 1951 through 1960 before he quit rather than go into the expansion draft.

McDougald was among the most gifted of the tough, heady infielders who were integral figures on Stengel’s teams such as Phil Rizzuto, Billy Martin, Jerry Coleman, Bobby Brown, Andy Carey, Tony Kubek, Bobby Richardson and Clete Boyer.

The Ol’ Perfessor would have loved Derek Jeter.

That brings us to the “You Can Look It Up” part, which refers to one of Casey’s pet expressions. Among Jeter’s accomplishments in his Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award season of 1996 was a .314 batting average. What’s the big deal, you say? Well, you have to go back 40 years to find a New York shortstop – Yankee, Met, Giant or Dodger – who hit .300 over a full season.

And that shortstop was Gil McDougald. True, Kubek hit .314 in 1962, but he played in only 45 games that year because of military duty and a back injury. McDougald’s .311 mark for the Yankees in 1956 was the highest for a fulltime shortstop before Jeter topped it in ’96.

The American League Rookie of the Year Award is another link between the two Yankees shortstops. McDougald was the first and Jeter the most recent of the eight Yankees who have won the award. McDougald wasn’t a shortstop when he won in 1951 by two votes over White Sox outfielder Minnie Minoso, 13-11. The more heralded Yankees rookie, Mickey Mantle, did not receive a vote.

McDougald played third base and second base until ’56 when Stengel tabbed him to succeed Rizzuto at shortstop. In the 10 years McDougald played for the Yanklees, they won more than 90 games nine times, eight pennants and five World Series, including 1956, which made him a precursor to Jeter as a .300-hitting shortstop for a Series champion.

In that ’56 Series, McDougald made an alert play that helped preserve Don Larsen’s perfect game against the Dodgers in Game 5 at Yankee Stadium. Jackie Robinson led off the second inning with a line drove to third that glanced off Carey’s glove to McDougald, who threw out Robby at first base.

Hitting out of an unorthodox, open stance which he moderated midway through his career, McDougald compiled a .276 career average with 112 home runs before retiring at age 32 after the 1960 World Series rather than play for the expansion Los Angeles Angels or Washington Senators.

McDougald was an unwilling participant in a baseball tragedy May 7, 1957. Indians lefthander Herb Score, then in the third year of a career that might have led him to Cooperstown, was struck in the face of by a liner off McDougald’s bat. Score was never the same pitcher again.

Less known is the incident two years earlier in which a BP liner by Bob Cerv hit McDougald above his left ear. It was diagnosed as a concussion, and McDougald was back in uniform in several days. He later learned that he had inner ear damage from an undetected fractured skull, which began McDougald’s quiet retreat.

“Except for playing golf, Gil had really become a recluse,” said former AL president Bobby Brown, one of McDougald’s oldest and closest friends. “But now since her can hear he can hear again, he’s his old self and able to contribute. It’s an emotional thrill for all of us.”

Matsui always welcome

If there were any doubt of Hideki Matsui’s popularity with Yankees fans, their reaction to him Tuesday night dispelled that. He received a loud ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd before his first at-bat for the Angels in the second inning.

Yes, I know, Matsui was very warmly received at the home opener April 13, but that was the day the Yankees received their 2009 World Series rings, and last year’s championship plus Hideki’s contribution to it as the Most Valuable Player was very fresh in everyone’s minds.

Four months later, it was impressive to see the fans’ feelings for Matsui were still as warm. I suspect this will be the case whenever he returns to the Stadium. Certain players have that standing with Yankees fans. When I was a kid, I remember Billy Martin always getting a big reception when he returned to the Stadium with the Athletics, Tigers, Indians and Twins. I especially remember one game against Minnesota in 1961 when Martin, then in his last season as a player, batted third in the lineup and was teased from the Yankees dugout by former teammates Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra, among others.

More recently, Tino Martinez was given the welcome-home treatment at the Stadium when he came back with Tampa Bay in 2004. In fact, Martinez received one of the finest ovations I ever heard for a visiting player in New York when he played his first game for the Cardinals in New York at Shea Stadium in 2002, the year after he left the Yankees. His popularity was such that even Mets fans applauded him. That was very odd, which made it notable.

Yankees fans being Yankees fans, however, even louder cheers were directed at Matusi when he grounded into a rally-killing double play in the third.