Results tagged ‘ Gene Monahan ’

Too bad Pettitte was not warming up

What the Yankees needed on Andy Pettitte Day Sunday at Yankee Stadium was, well, Andy Pettitte.

Another nostalgic ceremony to retire Pettitte’s No. 46 and install a plaque in Monument Park honoring his pitching career with the Yankees was barely over when CC Sabathia gave up a two-run home run to Indians first baseman Carlos Santana in the first inning in what turned out an ominous day for the big lefthander.

There was no one warming up in the bullpen in the third inning when Sabathia had to come out of the game because of an injury to his surgical right knee. Yankees manager Joe Girardi had to rely on a couple of Scranton shuttle guys, Nick Rumbelow and Branden Pinder, to get through the middle innings.

A chant of “Andy Pettitte” from the bleachers sprung up several times from fans with fond memories of his grim determination on the mound over an 18-season major league career, all but three of them with the Yankees, that included an additional 276 1/3 innings of postseason work that produced a 19-11 record and four World Series championships.

“I just don’t remember ever going out there and feeling like I’m going to step on this mound and absolutely dominate this team because I am so good,” Pettitte told the crowd earlier. “I know some of the great players have felt like that. Every game at the big-league level, mentally, I had to be into it every pitch. It seemed like if I let my focus down for one inning, it was going to be a three-run inning. I needed every ounce of focus and energy to be successful.”

Andy Pettitte

Andy Pettitte

The Yankees had coaxed Pettitte out of retirement once before, in 2012. Too bad they could not do it again Sunday.

The only work for Pettitte Sunday was getting through a well-constructed speech in which he thanked his family, former teammates, the Steinbrenner family and even us writers, whom he said treated him fairly over the years.

Joining him on the field for the pregame ceremony were fellow Core Four partners Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Saturday’s honoree Jorge Posada as well as other former teammates Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, David Cone, Scott Brosius, Tino Martinez and Hideki Matsui; former trainer Gene Monahan; former executive Gene Michael; Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and former manager Joe Torre; managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and vice president Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.

“We experienced some amazing wins, some heartbreaking losses,” Pettitte added. “Through it all, this place has become home to me and my family.”

Sabathia was supposed to be Pettitte’s successor as the senior voice on the pitching staff, but he has been slowed down by a knee that has been operated on twice and which was drained twice over the past two months. Sabathia admitted to Girardi that he felt discomfort while warming up but did not say anything until he was interrogated by his manager on the mound.

“It has been a watch for us all year long as we knew it would be,” Girardi said. “For him to say something on the mound it had to be pretty sore.”

Sabathia, who was to undergo an MRI exam late Sunday, has not been himself most of the season. He is 4-9 with a 5.27 ERA, and his record could be worse if the Yankees had not come back from trailing in games to get him off the hook eight times, including Sunday when they tied the score in the seventh inning on a two-run double by Carlos Beltran.

A comeback victory was not forthcoming, however, as Francisco Lindor finished off his second straight three-hit game with a solo home run off Dellin Betances in the eighth inning that held up for a 4-3 victory for the Indians, who were 5-2 against the Yankees this year.

It was almost as painful a game for the Stadium crowd of 46,945 to watch as it was for Sabathia. This was an absolute walkathon with Yankees pitchers combining for 10 walks (four by Sabathia) and the Indians for six. Despite all those free base runners the Yankees allowed, the score stayed close because the Tribe was 1-for-10 (.100) with runners in scoring position and left 11 on base, which would have been more if the Yanks had not turned four double plays.

Sabathia’s injury, which general manager Brian Cashman said would likely put him on the 15-day disabled list, botches plans the Yankees had of going to a six-man rotation with the return from the DL of Michael Pineda, who is scheduled to start Wednesday at the Stadium against the Astros.

The idea was to give an additional day of rest to all the starters, but that will have to go on hold for now. The Yankees could return Adam Warren to the rotation, but as well as he has pitched in relief they are reluctant to do that. The more likely choice for a sixth starter would be Bryan Mitchell, who was on the seven-day concussion list after being struck in the face by a batted ball Aug. 17. Cashman said Mitchell may pitch a simulated game this week.

All these pitching woes and the possibility the Yankees could drop out of first place put a damper on the special day for Pettitte, who might have been a big help had he been able to don a unifiorm.

Andy Pettitte’s Monument Park plaque

ANDREW EUGENE PETTITTE
NEW YORK YANKEES 1995-2003, 2007-2010, 2012-2013

A FIVE-TIME WORLD CHAMPION AND THREE-TIME ALL-STAR, PETTITTE WAS A MODEL OF CONSISTENCY IN THE YANKEES ROTATION FOR 15 SEASONS, GOING 219-127 (.633) AND TYING THE FRANCHISE RECORD OF 438 STARTS.

KNOWN FOR HAVING ONE OF BASEBALL’S BEST PICKOFF MOVES, PETTITTE WILL BE MOST REMEMBERED FOR HIS EXTENSIVE OCTOBER RÉSUMÉ, AS HE WENT 18-10 WITH A 3.76 ERA IN 40 POSTSEASON STARTS WITH THE CLUB. IN 2009, HE BECAME THE FIRST PITCHER TO START AND WIN
THE CLINCHING GAME IN EACH OF THREE SERIES IN A SINGLE POSTSEASON.

THE LEFTHANDER RETIRED WITH THE THIRD HIGHEST WIN TOTAL IN FRANCHISE HISTORY, AND HE IS THE CLUB’S ALL-TIME STRIKEOUT LEADER, WITH 2,020. TWICE A 20-GAME WINNER, PETTITTE FINISHED HIS CAREER AS THE FIRST PLAYER TO PITCH MORE THAN 15 SEASONS IN THE MAJORS WITHOUT EVER HAVING A LOSING RECORD.

DEDICATED BY THE NEW YORK YANKEES
AUGUST 23, 2015

Posada joins legends in Monument Park

During Saturday’s ceremony at Yankee Stadium for former All-Star catcher Jorge Posada, whose uniform No. 20 was retired and who received a plaque in Monument Park, I got a text from my son Corey, who was watching on television from his home on Long Island.

“Watching this makes me feel very old!”

Corey is only 33. If he thought he felt old, how about me? I met Posada at his first spring training camp with the Yankees 20 years ago. There is a photo in the office of my Queens apartment of me presenting the James P. Dawson Award to Posada as the outstanding rookie in training camp for 1997 before a spring training game at Tampa, the year before there was a major league franchise in that area.

And now there was Posada, still trim but his wavy black hair turning grey, standing behind a podium surrounded by former teammates, Yankees dignitaries and his family drinking in praise from a sellout crowd in the Bronx talking about a career that does not seem all that long ago.

One of the feelings that these celebrations at the Stadium convey is the passage of time. Posada was an integral part of a period in Yankees history that was indeed glorious and to people of Corey’s generation a dominant part of their personal scrapbook, the way previous generations venerated the careers of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle, Bobby Murcer, Thurman Munson, Ron Guidry and Don Mattingly.

“I can’t believe I’m standing up here right now,” Posada told the crowd. “And I can tell you, I’ve never been nervous on a baseball field. Being here seems surreal. I can honestly tell you, this is one of the happiest days of my life.”

His partners in the Core Four — Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, who will be honored Sunday — were in attendance as well as former teammates Bernie Williams, David Cone, Hideki Matsui and Paul O’Neill; former manager Joe Torre; former trainer Gene Monahan; former player, coach, manager and executive Gene Michael and general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.

Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams (NY Daily News photo).

Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams (NY Daily News photo).

Posada was truly moved at being considered part of the legacy of great Yankees catchers that began with Bill Dickey and continued through Berra, Elston Howard and Munson, whose widow, Diane, was also on the field. Posada kept a baseball card of Munson in his locker throughout his playing career.

“I never saw myself as part of that group,” Posada said. “Just a lot of respect for the guys. It’s just being there with them now is such a great honor. I’m never going to forget this day.”

Berra, hobbled by painful knees, was unable to attend but sent Posada a personal message that was displayed and narrated on the video board in center field.

“You were a really good ball player for a long time,” Berra wrote. “I’m proud of you, kid.”

Posada could not help but appreciate the irony that he had resisted at first the Yankees’ suggestion that he convert to catcher from second base, his natural position, while in the minor leagues in 1991. He recalled a conversation he had with Mark Newman, then the Yankees’ director of player personnel.

“He said, you have a great arm. You’re going to be very strong because your legs are very strong. You haven’t been catching, so you’re going to be very durable. Your knees are not [worn out]. They haven’t caught.’ And he said, ‘It’s the fastest way to get to the big leagues.’ When he said that, that was it. That was it for me. I wanted to get to the big leagues. That’s all I wanted.”

Posada went on to play 17 seasons behind the plate, all for the Yankees, and batted .273 with 275 home runs and 1,065 RBI. He was a five-time All-Star, won five Silver Slugger Awards and wore four World Series rings. Only twice did the Yankees fail to reach postseason play in Posada’s time. He played in 125 postseason games, including 29 in the World Series.

Posada evoked DiMaggio when he said, “Today, I must say I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee.”

He was all Georgie when he said, “Ever since I can remember, all I wanted to ever do was play baseball. Honestly, I didn’t have a Plan B.”

That was a break for all of us, no matter how old it made us feel Saturday.

Jorge Posada’s Plaque

JORGE RAFAEL DE POSADA VILLETA
NEW YORK YANKEES
1995 – 2011

A MEMBER OF FIVE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TEAMS AND A FIVE-TIME SILVER SLUGGER AWARD- WINNER, POSADA WAS A HOMEGROWN YANKEE, PLAYING ALL 17 OF HIS MAJOR LEAGUE SEASONS IN PINSTRIPES.

CONTINUING THE LEGACY OF GREAT YANKEES CATCHERS, HE APPEARED IN 1,829 CAREER GAMES, COMPILING A .273 BATTING AVERAGE, WITH 275 CAREER HOME RUNS, 1,065 RBI, AND A .374 ON-BASE PERCENTAGE.

THE FIVE-TIME ALL-STAR SET CAREER HIGHS WITH 30 HOME RUNS AND 101 RBI IN 2003, FINISHING THIRD IN AL MVP VOTING AND MATCHING YOGI BERRA’S SINGLE-SEASON RECORD FOR MOST HOME RUNS BY A YANKEES CATCHER.

IN 2007, POSADA HAD A HISTORIC SEASON, BATTING .338, WITH 20 HOME RUNS, 90 RBI, 42 DOUBLES, AND A .426 ON-BASE PERCENTAGE.

DEDICATED BY THE NEW YORK YANKEES
AUGUST 22, 2015

Jeter still playing despite retirement party

Gerald Williams, Cal Ripken Jr., Dave Winfield, Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter. (New York Post photo)

Gerald Williams, Cal Ripken Jr., Dave Winfield, Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter.
(New York Post photo)

Derek Jeter saved the best for last. Another ceremony at Yankee Stadium, this one to commemorate the 20-year career of the shortstop who now holds many of the legendary franchise’s records, was drawing to a close.

Microphone still in hand, Jeter began walking off the field and said into it, “We got a game to play.”

Perfect. Sure, it was nice to have his parents, his grandmother, his sister, his nephew and a slew of old teammates and pals on the field to celebrate his impending retirement. But the actual fact will not occur until the last game of the 2014 season. The Yanks had a game Sunday afternoon against a Royals team they are competing against for a post-season berth, and Jeter was in the lineup.

That is what Jeter has always been about. As his former manager, Joe Torre, said before the game, “Derek was always ready to play every day. A manager knew he could count on him.”

Torre was among those closest to Jeter back at the Stadium for the ceremonies, along with former teammates Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Mariano Rivera, David Cone, Bernie Williams, Gerald Williams, Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui and Tim Raines; Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson; former trainer Gene Monahan; MLB Network broadcaster and former infielder Harold Reynolds and commissioner-elect Rob Manfred.

The Yankees had a few surprises for DJ by trotting out Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Dave Winfield and hoops legend Michael Jordan. The Steinbrenner family presented several gifts, including a Waterford Crystal tower with Jeter’s No. 2 atop it and a check for $222,222.22 donated to his Turn2 Foundation.

“It’s hard to believe 20 seasons have gone by so quickly,” Jeter said to the sellout crowd. “I want to take a brief moment to thank the Steinbrenner family and Mr. George Steinbrenner for giving me the opportunity to play my entire career with the only organization I wanted to play for.

“I thank my family and friends for all their support through the good times and more importantly through the tough times. All my managers, coaches, trainers and teammates current and former, I have been blessed to play with the best. I would not want to compete without you guys.

“Thank you fans for helping me feel like a kid the past 20 years. I got to be the shortstop of the New York Yankees, and there is only one of those. I have loved what I have done and loved to do it in front of you. From the bottom of my heart thank you very much.”

Not much syrup, all on the mark and to the point. This is the Jeter all of us have watched and heard for two decades. What began Sunday was not just the passing of 20 years but that of an era. The Yankees’ most recent dynastic run of championships started in 1996, Jeter’s rookie season. What is harder to believe is that one of these days he will be in one of those seats for guests at Yankee Stadium events.

Throughout all those World Series triumphs from 1996 through 2009 and up to today Jeter has been the constant thread. Sunday was chosen by the Yankees to celebrate that career, but as Jeter plainly put it that career is not over yet.

As team captain, Jeter is the first to break from the dugout onto the field at the start of home games. He went into his similar trot Sunday, but when he reached his customary position at shortstop and turned around he noticed that he was the only player on the field.

His fellow starters had stayed back so that their captain could take center stage in front of the fans who have adored him all these years. Jeet then made a come-on gesture with his glove for the guys to get out there with him. Another Jeter trait: he has never believe he could do it alone. Once again, he was saying, ‘We got a game today.’ ”

Derek Jeter banner unveiled in Great Hall at Yankee Stadium

Derek Jeter banner unveiled in Great Hall at Yankee Stadium

Yankees deep-6 number for Joe Torre

At the latest number retired in Monument Park (left to right) Joe Torre’s sisters, Sister Marguerite and Rae; his son, Michael; his daughters Andrea and Lauren; his wife, Ali; Joe; Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and his wife, Christina; and Yankees general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.

At the latest number retired in Monument Park (left to right) Joe Torre’s sisters, Sister Marguerite and Rae; his son, Michael; his daughters Andrea and Lauren; his wife, Ali; Joe; Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and his wife, Christina; and Yankees general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.


And then there was one, which is actually two.

Huh?

The discussion is about uniform numbers. The Yankees retired No. 6 for Joe Torre Saturday. It occurred to the popular former manager that the shortstop he brought to the major leagues and nurtured through his early career has another distinction besides being the Yankees’ all-time leader in games played and hits.

Looking into the dugout where Derek Jeter was leaning against the railing from the top step, Torre said to the sellout crowd of 47,594 in the pregame ceremony, “There’s one single digit left out there.”

That would be Jeter’s No. 2, the only single digit not yet retired by the Yankees but definitely will be at some point, perhaps as early as next year following his retirement. Yogi Berra, one of the two No. 8’s retired (fellow catcher Bill Dickey is the other) took part in the ceremony, along with several former players, including two others who have had their uniform numbers retired, Reggie Jackson (44) and Ron Guidry (49).

Berra and Dickey are in that group of single-digit retired numbers that also features Billy Martin (1), Babe Ruth (3), Lou Gehrig (4), Joe DiMaggio (5), Mickey Mantle (7) and Roger Maris (9). So DJ now stands alone.

Torre, his wife Ali and other members of the family began the ceremony in Monument Park where he unveiled his number and plaque alongside Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal. They eventually made their way to the center of the field for the ceremony amid former players David Cone, Hideki Matsui, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte; former coaches Guidry, Willie Randolph, Jose Cardenal and Lee Mazzilli; longtime managers Tony La Russa (who was inducted into the Hall of Fame this year with Torre) and Jim Leyland; former trainer Gene Monahan and Jackson.

An especially nice touch was Jeter escorting Jean Zimmer from the dugout to the field. Known by her nickname, “Soot,” she is the widow of the late Don Zimmer, Joe’s longtime bench coach. There was also a touching video message from former Yankees pitcher and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, who was unable to travel to the event.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who served for Torre both as a catcher and a bench coach, presented his old boss with a framed version of his Monument Park plaque. Hal Steinbrenner and his wife, Christina, presented a framed version of No. 6. Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal on behalf of the organization gave Torre a diamond ring with No. 6 embossed in the center.

Observing all this from the visitor’s dugout was another of Torre’s former players, White Sox manager Robinb Ventura.

“It feels like the World Series all over again,” Torre told the crowd. “To have a number retired for any team is something special, but when you’re talking about the history and tradition of the New York Yankees, it is a feeling you can’t describe. There wouldn’t have been a Cooperstown without Yankee Stadium. I want to thank Randy Levine, Lonn Trost and Brian Cashman and the woman behind the scenes, Debbie Tymon, who does so much for this organization. Arthur Richman mentioned my name to George, but it was Stick Michael who recommended me for the job.”

And what a job Torre did. The Yankees reached postseason play in all 12 of his managerial seasons and won six pennants and four World Series, including three in a row from 1998-2000.

Torre acknowledged his gratitude to the late owner George Steinbrenner for taking Gene Michael’s advice and hiring him despite a resume that included mediocre results as a manager with the Mets, Braves and Cardinals, the same three clubs for whom he had played during a 16-season career. The kid from Brooklyn who grew up a New York Giants fan clearly fell in love with the pinstripes.

“George gave me the greatest opportunity in my professional life,” Torre said, “I played in the majors for 16 years, but they could never match my 12 years in Yankees pinstripes. I will be forever grateful to the Steinbrenner family for trusting me with this team.

“One thing you never forget or lose feeling for are you people, all of you people, and it continues. I walk around and people thank me. They don’t realize what a good time i had. New York fans make this city a small town. When you get to this ballpark you feel the heartbeat, and it’s something that does not go away.

“It’s a short distance from the old Stadium to here but a long, long way from the field to Monument Park. I was blessed to make that journey on the shoulders of some very special players.”

In his previous managerial stops, Torre had worn No. 9, but he could not get that with the Yankees because it had been retired for Maris. Early in his playing career with the Braves, Torre wore No. 15 (his brother, Frank, had No. 14), but that was also not available with the Yankees since it was retired in honor of the late Thurman Munson.

Actually, Torre is one of four Hall of Famers who have worn No. 6 for the Yankees. Some fans may not know that Mickey Mantle wore No. 6 as a rookie in 1951 before switching to 7 the next year. Tony Lazzeri was the Yankees’ first No. 6, followed by his successor at second base, Joe Gordon.

Perhaps some karma was in the air because the Yankees second baseman Saturday, Martin Prado, was a huge factor in their 5-3 victory over the White Sox that was a fitting accompaniment to the afternoon.

Prado, who won Friday night’s game with a walk-off single in the ninth inning, had a part in four of the Yankees’ runs Saturday. His bunt single in the second helped build a run that subsequently scored on a double play. He drove in two runs in the fourth with the first of his two doubles in the game. He also doubled in the sixth and scored on a fly ball by Stephen Drew. Carlos Beltran drove in the other Yanks’ run in the sixth with his 15th home run.

Perhaps the only thing more appropriate would have been if the Yankees had scored six runs. What is definitely appropriate is that the number was retired for the person who wore it the longest, one more year than the player who had it for 11 seasons, Roy White (1969-79).

Now all that awaits is the day when Jeter, who got a rare day off Saturday, completes the single-digit retirement.

O’Neill finds deserving spot in Monument Park

Paul and Nevalee O'Neill unveil Monument Park plaque (USA Today photo)

Paul and Nevalee O’Neill unveil Monument Park plaque (USA Today photo)

Chants of “Paul O-Neill” returned to Yankee Stadium Saturday as the popular right fielder dubbed “The Warrior” by the late George Steinbrenner was honored on the field before the game to mark the dedication of a plaque that will hang in Monument Park, the 29th in that special gallery.

I do not know how many people thought such a day was possible back in 1993 when O’Neill joined the Yankees. Several National League scouts I talked to that spring wondered if O’Neill had the temperament for New York or that he was too temperamental to succeed under the glare of the city and its omnipresent media.

Gene Michael, the general manager at the time, swapped two-time All-Star outfielder Roberto Kelly for O’Neill, who had a .259 career batting average at the time and was known for his clashes with former manager Lou Piniella in Cincinnati. Michael certainly got the last laugh, didn’t he?

O’Neill absolutely blossomed in New York. Coming under the influence of Don Mattingly and Wade Boggs, O’Neill became a more selective hitter and in his second season with the Yankees won the American League batting title with a .359 average. He would go on to bat .303 over his nine seasons in New York and was a central figure in the Yankees’ four World Series titles in 1996, ’98, ’99 and 2000.

During the pre-game ceremony, O’Neill mentioned his daughter, Allie, was born the day before spring training began in 1996, “and to this believes she is the reason for our first championship.”

O’Neill was in the middle of those glorious seasons. There was his running catch on an aching hamstring for the final out of Game 5 of the 1996 World Series; his playing the clinching Game 4 of the ’99 Series 18 hours after the death of his father, Charlie; his 10-pitch at bat in drawing a walk off Mets closer Alfonso Benitez to start the game-tying rally in Game 1 of the 2000 Series, etc.

And, of course, Game 5 of the 2001 World Series, his last game at the Stadium, which he recalled in his speech.

“Now to you fans, a remarkable thing Nov. 1, 2001, Game 5 of the World Series out in right field and 50,000 people singing my name,” he said. “I want to thank you for one of the special nights of my life. Thank you, fans of New York.”

O’Neill’s sons, Andy and Aaron, were also on the field with their mother, Nevalee, and his mother, Virginia. Also participating were Michael, former trainer Gene Monahan, Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre and former teammates David Cone, Tino Martinez, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera.

Two other former teammates, captain Derek Jeter and manager Joe Girardi, also made presentations to O’Neill on behalf of the team and the organization. Jeter presented a framed version of the plaque and Girardi a career milestone diamond ring with No. 21 in the center.

“The best thing that happened to all of us was playing for the New York Yankees,” O’Neill said.

The plaque reads:

PAUL ANDREW O’NEILL
“THE WARRIOR”

NEW YORK YANKEES
1993 – 2001

AN INTENSE COMPETITOR AND TEAM LEADER, O’NEILL WAS BELOVED FOR HIS RELENTLESS PURSUIT OF PERFECTION.

IN NINE SEASONS WITH THE YANKEES, HE WON FOUR WORLD SERIES AND MADE FOUR ALL-STAR TEAMS, COMPILING A .303 BATTING AVERAGE WITH 185 HOME RUNS AND 858 RBI.

WAS ALSO KNOWN FOR HIS STRONG ARM AND RELIABLE GLOVE IN RIGHT FIELD.

WON 1994 AL BATTING CROWN WITH A .359 AVERAGE.

DEDICATED BY THE
NEW YORK YANKEES
AUGUST 9, 2014

Fans responded to O’Neill’s energy, his blatant disdain for making an out, the all-out, full-throttle effort he gave on a daily basis.

Brandon McCarthy, who pitched well but ended up the losing pitcher in the Indians’ 3-0 victory, paid homage to O’Neill after the game. McCarthy was struck in the left foot by a batted ball but remained in the game. Asked if he thought he might have to come out of the game, McCarthy said, “This is Paul O’Neill Day, not a game to leave early day.”

I remember talking to O’Neill back when people were questioning whether this Ohio Buckeye could handle the pressure of New York where his sister, Molly, was already well known as a food writer for the New York Times.

“What a lot of folks didn’t realize is that it was actually easier for me in New York that it was in Cincinnati,” O’Neill said. “It’s tough to play in your home town. Right from the start, I was accepted here by the fans. I hope I gave back to them as much as they gave to me.”

I would say he did.

Paul O'Neill, Gene Michael, Gene Monahan, Joe Torre, Tino Martinez, David Cone, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada

Paul O’Neill, Gene Michael, Gene Monahan, Joe Torre, Tino Martinez, David Cone, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada

Tino turned out to be a legend, too

image
The current issue of Yankees Magazine features an article I did on Tino Martinez, who was honored Saturday at Yankee Stadium with a plaque in Monument Park. Tino still couldn’t believe it until he finally got a look at the plaque itself.

​The inscription reads:

CONSTANTINO “TINO” MARTINEZ
NEW YORK YANKEES
1996 – 2001, 2005

KNOWN FOR HIS POWERFUL BAT AND SUPERLATIVE DEFENSE AT FIRST BASE, MARTINEZ WAS A FAN FAVORITE ON FOUR YANKEES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TEAMS. HIT TWO OF THE MOST MEMORABLE HOME RUNS IN YANKEES POSTSEASON HISTORY – A GRAND SLAM IN GAME 1 OF THE 1998 WORLD SERIES AND A GAME-TYING, NINTH-INNING HOMER IN GAME 4 OF THE 2001 FALL CLASSIC. AMASSED 192 HOME RUNS AND 739 RBI IN SEVEN SEASONS WITH THE CLUB.

DEDICATED BY THE
NEW YORK YANKEES
JUNE 21, 2014

I was thinking after I finished the interview with him for the piece that I must have talked with Tino hundreds of times and thought I knew everything there was to know about him. But what I was not aware of until that interview was that Martinez wanted to succeed Don Mattingly as the Yankees’ first baseman.

It is always a tough assignment for a player to come to a new team and try to replace a legend. There is an enormous amount of pressure in that situation. This is not to say Martinez did not feel that pressure because he certainly did. He could have avoided it. There were other clubs interested, the Cubs and the Padres specifically, who coveted Martinez if the Mariners indeed were going to trade him after the 1995 season.

The Yankees were, too, of course, and Martinez told his manager, Lou Piniella, that New York was where he wanted to be. That was the part of which I was not aware beforehand. Martinez actually pushed for the trade despite knowing that a huge spotlight would be foisted on him as the man to follow Donnie Baseball.

Tino explains in the article that he had the utmost respect for Mattyingly, but that he was retiring as a player and his team needed a new first baseman. Martinez said he felt it would have been different if Mattingly had become a free agent and signed with another team. The pressure then would have beeb worse. But Mattingly’s retirement left a void, and Martinez was anxious to try and fill it.

He did all the smart things, beginning with not wearing Mattingly’s old uniform No. 23, the same numeral Martinez wore in Seattle. I think Yankees fans appreciated that sign of respect right from the get-go.

Martinez pointed out in the article and reiterated Saturday that he got off to a slow start in ’96 and that fans did not warm up to him immediately. But once he took off, so did the fans, whom he thanked Saturday.

His former manager, Joe Torre, and teammates Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Paul O’Neill and David Cone plus former trainer Gene Monahan took part in the pregame ceremony in which Martinez continued to express surprise that he was so honored.

From now on, whenever he comes to Yankee Stadium Tino can stop by Monument Park and see that the plaque is more than a dream.

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A sorry day for Sori-less Yankees

The Yankees were in trouble Saturday before they even took the field at Fenway Park. Once again – and how often has this happened this year? – a player was scratched from the lineup due to injury. Not just any player, either. Down this time was none other than Alfonso Soriano, the offensive force who has been at the center of the team’s renaissance the past six weeks.

Soriano was unavailable because of a sprained right thumb, which he sustained while making a diving catch Thursday night at Baltimore. He played Friday night but aggravated the condition and could not grip a bat Saturday. X-rays were negative, which was a good sign. A not so good sign, however, was that the thumb was worse Saturday than it was Friday night.

Without Soriano, Yankees manager Joe Girardi had to add another left-handed hitter, Ichiro Suzuki, as an outfielder in the batting order against lefthander Jon Lester (14-8), who pitched eight solid innings for the Red Sox. Ironically, two of the Yankees’ three hits were by a left-handed hitter, Curtis Granderson, who tripled and doubled.

Granderson batted out of the leadoff spot the past two games in place of regular center fielder Brett Gardner, who could be lost for the remainder of the regular season because of a left oblique strain. Shortstop Derek Jeter is also gone for the rest of the regular season due to lingering issues with his surgical left ankle.

Yes, the Yankees are pretty beat up, which they have been much of the season. It has been a medical nightmare for them. I teased trainer Steve Donohue the other day that the club must have run out of tape before the All-Star break. Referring to former head trainer Gene Monahan, Stevie said, “Geno sure picked the right time to retire.”

CC Sabathia got beat up Saturday as well. Boston did not enjoy a slugfest but did tag Sabathia (13-13) for five earned runs, nine hits and four walks in six innings. Five different players drove in runs for the Red Sox. CC had another troubling season against the Red Sox. He was 2-2 but had a 7.22 ERA in 28 2/3 innings, including 1-1 with a 9.92 ERA in 16 1/3 innings at Fenway Park.

Conversely, Lester was 2-1 with a 3.29 ERA in 27 1/3 innings against the Yankees this year. Of the 24 outs Lester recorded Saturday, 16 were in the infield and five were on strikeouts. The Yankees’ only run scored on an infield out as they were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. The 2-through-6 hitters were a combined 0-for-18.

Old Timers remind fans of good times

Old Timers’ Day never gets old, if you know what I mean. The Yankees were the first team to celebrate their history with an annual reunion that began in 1947 to honor Babe Ruth, and they are the last team to bring back stories players from their past every year on a scheduled date.

The Yankees’ great tradition lends itself perfectly to such an exercise. It seems as if everyone invited back had a part in producing one of the 27 World Series championships, some of them more than others but no one more so than Yogi Berra.

The practice of Old Timers’ Days with other clubs gained popularity in the 1960s, but by the 1990s nearly every team, including such other tradition-rich franchises as the Dodgers, Giants and Cardinals stopped doing them regularly. The Red Sox did a nice job of inviting back many of the players from their past to celebrate Fenway Park’s centennial back in April, but that was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. For the Yankees, it is an annual get together that is the result of the hard work of vice president for marketing Debbie Tymon and her staff.

Yogi was clearly the focus Sunday as the introductions wound down to those so close to him in his long connection with the team, such as old pal Whitey Ford; former American League president Bobby Brown, who roomed with Yogi during their years together as players in the late 1940s and early ‘50s, and Don Larsen, whom Berra navigated through a perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, the only no-hitter in Series history.

Every Yankees era was represented: the 1950s with Berra, Ford, Brown, Larsen, Jerry Coleman and Bob Turley; the 1960s with Hector Lopez, Luis Arroyo, Bobby Richardson, Ralph Terry, Joe Pepitone, Al Downing, Jake Gibbs and Mel Stottlemyre; the 1970s with Reggie Jackson, Bucky Dent, Brian Doyle, Mickey Rivers, Ron Guidry, Lou Piniella, Willie Randolph, Roy White and Ron Blomberg; the 1980s with Tommy John, Goose Gossage and Rickey Henderson; the 1990s with Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, David Cone, Cecil Fielder, Charlie Hayes, Darryl Strawberry, Jesse Barfield, Pat Kelly, Bernie Williams and Joe Torre.

It was the first invitation for Stump Merrill, who has served in numerous capacities for the organization the past 38 years, including manager in the lean times of 1990 and ’91. It was Stump who helped convert a Puerto Rican second baseman named Jorge Posada into an All-Star catcher.

“I can’t kick about waiting 38 years,” Stump said, laughing. “Last year, they invited Geno for the first time in 49 years!”

Long-time trainer Gene Monahan, who retired after the 2011 season, was also back at Yankee Stadium Sunday for the one day every year that could be renamed Good Times Day.

Yanks get first look at Nationals Park

The Yankees played their first game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Friday. Since 1961, the beginning of the expansion era in the major leagues, the Yankees have an 18-18 record in their first games at new ballparks.

The Yankees and Nationals entered the game with six-game winning streaks. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the Yankees played a game in which both they and their opponent entered with winning streaks of six or more games was Sept. 16, 1968 at old Tiger Stadium in Detroit with the Yanks carrying a 10-game winning streak into the game against the Tigers, who were on a six-game winning streak. Detroit won, 9-1.

The Nationals, who were 38-23 (.623), were one of only two clubs with better records than the Yanks’ American League leading 37-25 (.597). The other was the Dodgers at 40-24 (.625). The last time the Yankees played a Washington club with a better record was in 1969 against the Senators, who entered the AL as an expansion club in 1961 and moved to Texas in 1972 and became the Rangers. The original Senators franchise moved to Minnesota in 1961 and became the Twins. The current Washington franchise was originally the Montreal Expos, who started in the National League in 1969 and became the Nationals in 2005.

Relief pitcher David Robertson was back on the Yankees’ 25-man roster as righthander David Phelps was optioned to Class A Tampa. Phelps will eventually go to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as a starter, but the Yankees want him to build up arm strength. Phelps, who was 1-2 with a 2.94 ERA, has pitched only two-thirds of an inning since May 28.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi plans to keep Rafael Soriano in the closer role with Robertson likely to return to his familiar eighth-inning setup role. Lefthander Boone Logan has pitched 10 consecutive scoreless outings since May 22, a period covering five innings. He has allowed one earned run in 17 appearances on the road this season, having surrendered a solo home run to the Rays’ Jeff Keppinger in his first road outing April 8 at St. Petersburg, Fla. Logan has held opponents scoreless in each of his past 16 outings. He has not allowed a left-handed batter to reach base since May 6 at Kansas City (Jarrod Dyson on a single) and has retired his last nine.

There was a familiar face in the Yankees’ dugout. Gene Monahan came out of retirement to work this weekend’s series for his successor and long-time partner, Steve Donohue, who is attending his daughter’s high school graduation.

An official scoring change was made by Major League Baseball for the Yankees-Rays game
June 7. In the top of the fourth inning, Drew Sutton’s two-run double has been changed to a double, one RBI with the second run scoring on an error by right fielder Jayson Nix. That made the run unearned against CC Sabathia, who gave up five runs but four were not earned. Nix was in Friday night’s game at second base as Robinson Cano was not in the starting lineup for the first time this season and got an extra day’s rest following Thursday’s open date.

Yankees Homecoming Dinner April 12

Yankees fans interested in getting a close-up view of the team that will compete for the American League East title in 2012 should consider attending the 33rd annual Yankees Homecoming Dinner April 12 at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in Manhattan on the eve of the club’s home opener against the Angels.

Players, coaches, ownership, front-office personnel and former Yankees greats will attend, with all proceeds from the event benefiting the New York Yankees Foundation. Recently-retired catcher Jorge Posada and longtime head athletic trainer Gene Monahan will be honored at the dinner.

Posada, who retired in January after 17 seasons with the Yankees, will receive this year’s Pride of the Yankees Award. During his time in pinstripes, Posada batted .273 with 275 home runs and played on four World Series champions.

Monahan, who retired following the 2011 season, began his 50-season career with the Yankees as a bat boy and clubhouse attendant during spring training in his hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 1962. At the time of his retirement, Monahan was the longest-tenured employee in the organization and the longest-tenured head athletic trainer in Major League Baseball.

There are several different table packages available, as well as two different individual-ticket options for the event, which begins at 5 p.m. with a cocktail reception followed by dinner at 6.

Prices range from $900 to $50,000, with all proceeds going to the charitable initiatives of the New York Yankees Foundation, which includes national charities, supports various national and worldwide disasters and local initiatives.

“The Yankees Homecoming Dinner welcomes the team back to New York and is the celebration of a brand new baseball season,” Yankees senior vice president of marketing Debbie Tymon said. “With the entire team present you’ll welcome home Yankee heroes, but you’ll also get to know new members. It’s a great celebration of baseball and the primary fundraiser of the New York Yankees Foundation. It’s a great time that raises a lot of money for good charities.”

Table package options include:

• The $50,000 “Champions Package” includes a premier table for 10, early entry to the pre-dinner reception with the Yankees at 4:30 p.m., 10 tickets for the home opener, four tickets for the 2012 Old Timers’ Day game July 1, an invitation for four to be the Yankees’ personal guests in a party suite July 30 against the Orioles, a commemorative Posada collectible piece for each of the 10 guests and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a boy or girl between the ages of 7-14 that begins with an on-field visit prior to a game.

• The $35,000 “Grand Slam Package” includes a premier table for 10, early entry to the pre-dinner reception with the Yankees at 4:30 p.m., 10 tickets for the home opener, four tickets for the 2012 Old Timers’ Day game July 1, an invitation for four to be the Yankees’ personal guests in a party suite July 30 against the Orioles and a commemorative Posada collectible piece for each of the 10 guests.

• The $15,000 “Home Run Package” includes a prime table for 10, invitations for 10 to join the reception with the Yankees at 5 p.m., 10 tickets for the home opener, four tickets for the 2012 Old Timers’ Day game July 1, an invitation for two to be the Yankees’ personal guests in a party suite July 30 against the Orioles.

• The $8,500 “Slugger Package” includes a table for 10, invitations to a pre-dinner cocktail reception with Yankees legends and 10 tickets to the home opener.

Individual ticket options are:

• The $1,500 “MVP Ticket” includes one ticket to the dinner, an invitation to the reception with the Yankees at 5 p.m. and a ticket to the home opener.

• The $900 “Designated Hitter Ticket” includes one ticket to the dinner, an invitation to a pre-dinner reception with Yankees legends and a ticket to the home opener.

For more information, contact the Homecoming Dinner office at 212-843-1758 or log on to http://newyork.yankees.mlb.com/nyy/fan_forum/coming_home.jsp