Results tagged ‘ Reggie Jackson ’

Thunderstorm shortens A-Rod’s pregame ceremony

It rained all over Alex Rodriguez’s parade Friday night. A fierce thunderstorm with nor’easter winds whipping the rain shortened the pregame ceremony prior to Rodriguez’s last game with the Yankees.

Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, who worked out an agreement with Rodriguez whereby he will be released Saturday in order to sign a new contract as a consultant, presented A-Rod with a framed jersey No. 13 and a base signed by teammates. Mariano Rivera escorted Rodriguez’s daughters onto the field and Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson escorted A-Rod’s mother. Former Yankees outfielder and manager Lou Piniella, who was A-Rod’s first major league manager in Seattle, was featured on a taped message on the center field screen.

Whether Rodriguez intended to make a speech is not known, but he and the rest of the group were forced into the dugout because of the heavy downpour that delayed the start of the game for half an hour.

After the tarpaulin was removed and the grounds crew began working on the field, Rodriguez did wind springs in right field to hearty applause from the sellout crowd. The announcement of his name in the starting lineup for the last time in pinstripes drew the loudest ovation by far.

Matsui, Cone put on show at Old Timer’s Day

At the annual Yankees Homecoming Dinner this April in which Hideki Matsui was honored for his career he told a story about when he was playing in Japan and was asked if he thought he could compete in the United States.

He told a reporter that he had seen a game in which David Cone was pitching and said, “I can hit that.”

Cone and Matsui have been teasing each other over that for years. So it was inevitable that there would be a confrontation between them. What better environment than Old Timer’s Day, the 70th version of which was celebrated Sunday?

Cone came into the game specifically to pitch to Matsui. The first pitch was over the Japanese slugger’s head. The next delivery was what has become an annual grooved special by Cone in Old Timer’s Day games, right down Broadway, and Matsui jumped all over it and drove it into the second deck in right field.

Cone feigned surprise and embarrassment. Truth be told, it is all an act. Cone knows what the fans want to see on Old Timer’s Day, and that is not a pitcher burning it in to every batter and striking everybody out. I once asked the Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson why he seldom took part in Old Timer’s games, and he told me that all they want is for the pitcher to put the ball over the plate so the hitters can mash it. Gibby was too competitive to play that kind of game.

Coney is a different cat. He knows Old Timer’s games are entertainment, and he aims to please. A few years ago, he grooved a pitch to former teammate Tino Martinez, who went yard. Paul O’Neill also clipped Cone. Sunday was just Matsui’s turn.

Scoring ahead of Matsui on his homer was Reggie Jackson, who had lined a single to left field in the prior at-bat off Scott Kamieniecki. I talked with Reggie Saturday after he spent about half an hour taking batting practice in the indoor cage at Yankee Stadium.

“I don’t want to strike out tomorrow,” he said, laughing.

Gene Michael is the manager for both teams, the Clippers and the Bombers. “That way, I can’t lose,” Stick said.

He had the lineup cards for both teams taped onto the front of his uniform. Roy White saw that he was batting sixth in the Clippers’ lineup and asked Stick how come Lee Mazzilli was batting second in the Bombers’ lineup.

“That’s the Triple-A squad; do you want to play for them,” Michael said.

Next came Mazzilli’s voice from across the room, “Hey, Stick, we can hear every word you are staying.”

The camaraderie among the former players is the best part of Old Timer’s Day. Bernie Williams and John Wetteland and Mariano Duncan and Charlie Hayes exchanged stories about the 1996 team that won the Yankees’ first World Series title in 15 years. Hayes still refers to the area near the third base box seats where he caught the final out against the Braves as “the holy ground.”

Williams was still beaming over graduating from Manhattan College of Music. “I completed the four years in three,” said Bernie, who is having a second career as a guitarist. “It was quite an experience. I thought I knew a lot about music until I realized that I didn’t.”

In addition to “Mr. October,” other Hall of Famers on hand were Whitey Ford, Rickey Henderson, Goose Gossage and Joe Torre. Eddie Robinson, at 95 the oldest living former Yankees player, and 1956 World Series perfect game author Don Larsen, 86, were also in attendance.

Sadly missing was the catcher who leaped into Larsen’s arms at the end of that game. Yogi Berra was a rookie in 1947 when the Yankees honored Babe Ruth to begin the Old Timer’s Day tradition and was a staple of the event over the years. He was there in spirit, however, as the Yankees used jeweled bases commemorating his legacy during the game.

70th Yankees Old-Timers’ Day coming June 12

Five Hall of Famers will be among more than 40 former Yankees scheduled to attend the 70th annual Old-Timers’ Day Sunday, June 12, at Yankee Stadium. Fans are asked to be in their seats by 11:30 a.m. for the festivities with the traditional Old-Timers’ game to follow. All pregame celebrations will be aired exclusively on the YES Network. The Yankees will then play the Tigers at 2:05 p.m., also on YES. Gates will open to ticket-holding fans at 10 a.m.

The Old-Timers are headlined by Hall of Famers Whitey Ford, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Rickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson and Joe Torre. Former Yankees and current YES Network broadcasters David Cone, John Flaherty and Paul O’Neill will also be part of the pregame with program.

Three-time All-Star closer John Wetteland, who won the 1996 World Series Most Valuable Player Award with saves in all four of their victories toward their 23rd World Series title, will make his Old-Timers’ Day debut, alongside 1996 teammate Mariano Duncan, as well as Bubba Crosby and the oldest living former Yankees player, Eddie Robinson, 95.

Joining the Hall of Famers and former Yankees on the field will be the widows of five legendary Yankees—Arlene Howard, widow of Elston Howard; Helen Hunter, widow of Jim “Catfish” Hunter; Jill Martin, widow of Billy Martin; Diana Munson, widow of Thurman Munson; and Kay Murcer, widow of Bobby Murcer.

A complete list of Old Timers’ Day attendees:

Jesse Barfield, Brian Boehringer, Scott Bradley, Dr. Bobby Brown, Homer Bush, David Cone, Bubba Crosby, Bucky Dent, Al Downing, Brian Doyle, Mariano Duncan, John Flaherty, Whitey Ford, Oscar Gamble, Joe Girardi, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Ron Guidry, Charlie Hayes, Rickey Henderson, Arlene Howard (widow), Helen Hunter (widow), Reggie Jackson, Scott Kamieniecki, Pat Kelly, Don Larsen, Graeme Lloyd, Hector Lopez, Jill Martin (widow), Hideki Matsui, Lee Mazzilli, Ramiro Mendoza, Stump Merrill, Gene “Stick” Michael, Gene Monahan (Trainer), Diana Munson (widow), Kay Murcer (widow), Jeff Nelson, Paul O’Neill, Joe Pepitone, Lou Piniella, Willie Randolph, Mickey Rivers, Eddie Robinson, Tanyon Sturtze, Ralph Terry, Marcus Thames, Joe Torre, John Wetteland, Roy White, Bernie Williams.

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

NEW YORK YANKEES 1995-2003, 2007-2010, 2012-2013




AUGUST 23, 2015

Big Unit enjoyed time in Big Apple

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Randy Johnson’s two seasons with the Yankees may not have been the finest hours of his remarkable career, but he has fond memories from his time in the Bronx.

Johnson was 34-19 with a 4.37 ERA combined for the Yankees in 2005 and ’06 but was roughed up in two American League Division Series starts (0-1, 6.92 ERA). To his credit, he did pitch with a shoulder ailment much of his second Yankees season when he had a 5.00 ERA.

“I still remember getting a phone call from George Steinbrenner welcoming me to play for the New York Yankees,” Johnson said in his induction speech Sunday at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. “I also enjoyed playing for Joe Torre.”

The former Yankees manager, who was elected to the Hall in 2014, was among 49 former Hall of Famers seated on the platform for the ceremony honoring Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio.

Johnson took note of another returning Hall of Famer, Reggie Jackson, when he said, “Look behind me and you can see the best who ever played this game. I had the honor of playing against many of these gentlemen. Some I watched on TV. But it would have have really been fun to face you, Reggie.”

I had a brief chat with Johnson over the weekend, and he told me that he had no regrets about his Yankees experience.

“I actually enjoyed it,” Johnson said. “I remember being able to sit in the dugout and talk pitching with Whitey Ford. How can you not love that?”

No sooner had the words come out of Johnson’s mouth, but Whitey and his wife, Joan, walked out onto the veranda of the Otesaga Hotel. That ended our conversation. The “Big Unit” went right over to the “Chairman of the Board” and spent the rest of the afternoon with him.

Craig Biggio, who grew up on Long Island and played college ball at Seton Hall, had kind words for Yogi Berra in his speech. Yogi was a coach with the Astros when Biggio broke into the majors in 1988 to begin a 20-season career, all in Houston, his adopted home town.

“Yogi was the smartest baseball man I ever knew,” Biggio said. “I know he is known for his Yogisms, but he had a solid knowledge of the game. When I was at Seton Hall, he and [then owner] John McMullen came to scout me. How many owners bring a Hall of Famer to watch some college kid play?”

Unfortunately, Yogi was unable to attend the ceremony.

I ran into Phil Niekro at the Saturday night reception in the Hall of Fame gallery, and he told me a story I had never heard before. On the last day of the 1985 season for the Yankees, Niekkro won his 300th game with a complete-game shutout of the Blue Jays in Toronto. The famed knuckleballer actually threw just one knuckler the whole game — the last pitch — and had the Jays off balance with an array of fastballs and changeups.

“We get back to Yankee Stadium after the flight from Toronto,” Niekro said, “and there in the players’ parking lot is a brand new, white Chrysler LeBaron convertible with a license plate reading ‘300WINS.’ I said to my teammates on the bus, ‘Hey, is there anyone else on this team that has 300 wins?’ It turned out to be a gift from George Steinbrenner. I was shocked. It was a good car, too. The problem was that I could not keep the license plate. It was stolen twice, once in Cleveland the year I played there and once in Atlanta when I went back to the Braves. But I loved that car.”

Randolph to be honored at 69th Old Timers’ Day

Seven Hall of Famers will be among the roster of former Yankees players, managers and coaches who will be on hand for the 69th annual Old-Timers’ Day Saturday at Yankee Stadium.

Fans are asked to be in their seats by 4 p.m. for the ceremonies with the traditional Old-Timers’ game to follow. Pregame festivities will be aired exclusively on the YES Network. The Yankees will then play the Tigers at 7:15 p.m., also on YES. Gates will open to ticket-holders at 3 p.m.

As part of pregame ceremonies, the Yankees will honor former co-captain Willie Randolph with a Monument Park plaque. Randolph spent 13 seasons playing for the Yankees from 1976-88 and ranks third on the organization’s career list of stolen bases (251). The five-time American League All-Star (1976-77, ’80-81 and ’87) played in 37 postseason games with the Yankees from 1976-81 and won two World Series with the team (1977-78). He also spent 11 seasons coaching for the organization, serving as the club’s third base coach from 1994-2003 and bench coach in 2004, earning four additional World Series rings (1996, ‘98-2000).

The Old-Timers are headlined by Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Wade Boggs, Whitey Ford, Goose Gossage, Rickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson and Joe Torre. Former Yankees players and current YES Network broadcasters David Cone, John Flaherty and Paul O’Neill will also participate in the festivities.

Joining the Hall-of-Famers and 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).

Scheduled to attend (Hall of Famers in BOLD face):

Jesse Barfield, Yogi Berra, Ron Blomberg, Brian Boehringer, Wade Boggs, Scott Bradley, Scott Brosius, Dr. Bobby Brown, Homer Bush.

Chris Chambliss, Jim Coates, David Cone.

Johnny Damon, Bucky Dent, Al Downing, Brian Doyle.

Cecil Fielder, John Flaherty, Whitey Ford.

Oscar Gamble, Joe Girardi, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Ken Griffey Sr., Ron Guidry.

Charlie Hayes, Rickey Henderson, Arlene Howard (Widow), Helen Hunter (Widow).

Reggie Jackson.

Scott Kamieniecki, Pat Kelly.

Don Larsen, Jim Leyritz, Graeme Lloyd, Hector Lopez.

Jill Martin (Widow), Lee Mazzilli, Stump Merrill, Gene Michael, Gene Monahan (Trainer), Diana Munson (Widow), Kay Murcer (Widow).

Jeff Nelson.

Paul O’Neill.

Dan Pasqua, Joe Pepitone, Andy Phillips, Lou Piniella.

Willie Randolph, Bobby Richardson, Mickey Rivers.

Mel Stottlemyre, Tanyon Sturtze.

Joe Torre.

Roy White, Bernie Williams.

Big Unit, Pedro have fond memories of Stadium

The 2015 Hall of Fame election was one for the ages. For the first time in 60 years and for only the fourth time in the history of the voting that dates to 1936, as many as four players got the nod from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in this year’s election. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio are a classy quartet and proved so in Wednesday’s press conference at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Johnson and Martinez were particularly amusing discussing their time pitching at Yankee Stadium as opposing players. The “Big Unit,” of course, also wore the pinstripes for two seasons, although he readily admitted those were not the finest hours of his career. However, he conceded that he had a whale of a time.

“I won 34 games over those two seasons, but I didn’t pitch as well as people wanted,” Johnson said. “But to be able to sit down in the dugout and talk to Yogi Berra about the old days, to have Whitey Ford ask me to sign a jersey and then sit down and chat about pitching, what could have been better? To get to know Reggie Jackson really well and begin a long friendship, it was great. Reggie texted me [Tuesday] and said, ‘How did you get more votes than me?’ That’s Reggie.”

Johnson, who won five Cy Young Awards and was the co-Most Valuable Player of one of the most exciting World Series ever played (in 2001 for the Diamondbacks against the Yankees), has stronger memories of pitching against the Yankees than for them. He recalled the first time he was scheduled to pitch at the Stadium for the Mariners in 1992 he was followed into the park by Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver, then a Yankees broadcaster.

“I played college ball at the University of Southern California under the legendary coach Ron Dedeaux, who always referred to a player on the team as ‘Tiger,’ probably because he couldn’t remember names,” Johnson said. “So ‘Tiger’ became a sore of alumni sign. I was coming into the Stadium that day and I heard someone shout to me, ‘Tiger, Tiger.’ I knew it had to be a USC alum, and sure enough it was Tom Seaver. He wanted to know why I was carrying my own bags on a night when I was pitching. We became good friends after that. How can you not cherish such memories?”

“You were lucky,” Martinez chimed in. “You have no idea what it was like to pitch at Yankee Stadium for the Red Sox.”

Martinez was one of those Boston players Yankees fans loved to hate. The more abuse they could heap on him the better, but the diminutive righthander was never bothered by it. He eventually made New York his baseball home as well later with the Mets but saw a major difference between the two fan bases.

“I learned a lot while coming over to New York as a visitor with the Red Sox and also coming later on and dressing in the uniform of the Mets,” Martinez said. “In Queens, fans are wild, they’re happy. They settle for what they have. The Yankees fans do not. It’s ‘Win or nothing. Win or nothing.’

“Yankees fans were really good at trying to intimate you. As the opposition, they wanted to intimidate you. But deep in their heart, they appreciate baseball. They appreciate everything that you do. They recognize greatness. And they’re gonna boo you and they’re gonna call you, ‘Who’s your daddy?’ They’re going to chant until you just go away.”

I pointed out at the press conference a footnote that Martinez is the first pitcher under six feet in height to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 41 years since Whitey went in with his teammate and pal, Mickey Mantle, in 1974. I added that today Pedro stands as tall as the 6-foot-10 Johnson.

They were equals in effectiveness. Johnson’s 4,875 career strikeouts are second only to Nolan Ryan’s 5,714 and the most by any lefthander. The Unit’s five Cy Young Awards are two shy of Roger Clemens’ record, and his four in a row with Arizona from 1999-2002 matched a similar run by Greg Maddux, who was elected to the Hall last year, from 1992-95. Martinez led his league in earned run average five times and had a career 2.93 ERA, remarkable considering the era of offensive explosiveness in which he pitched.

And was there ever a pitcher in baseball who excelled equally as a starter and a reliever more than Smoltz? As a starter, he won a Cy Young Award (1996), and as a closer he won a Rolaids Relief Award (2002). He had moved to the bullpen while recovering from elbow surgery. Talk all you want about Dennis Eckersley, but he did not have the career as a starter than Smoltz did. And after three years as the Braves’ closer Smoltz returned to the Atlanta rotation and led the National League in victories in 2006.

This was a unique pitcher, and as I told John on the phone Tuesday when I notified him of his election as the BBWAA secretary-treasurer, “Unique players go to the Hall of Fame, and they go in right away.”

He told me that he was relieved and mentioned a breakfast we had together at the Stadium one Sunday last summer with David Cone and Lee Mazzilli and the talk was about the Hall of Fame. “I had just seen what that induction weekend was all about as a broadcaster for MLB Network as I watched my old buddies [Maddux and Tom Glavine] give their speeches,” Smoltz said. “I just wanted to low-key it after that and not get too caught up in it. So it’s quite a special feeling right now.”

Smoltz was courted by the Yankees as a free agent after the 2001 season, but he chose instead to stay in Atlanta. Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson took the new class of elected players to dinner Wednesday night at ‘21’ in midtown Manhattan. That is precisely the place the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner would have wined and dined Smoltz to seal a deal to come to the Bronx.

Biggio grew up on Long Island and played football and basketball at Kings Park High School in Suffolk County. He was a Yankees fan whose favorite player was Thurman Munson. Yogi was a coach with the Astros during his estrangement period from the Yankees and encouraged Houston officials to move Biggio from behind the plate to second base where his career took off.

Among his 3,060 career hits were 668 doubles, the fifth highest total in history and the most by a right-handed batter. Think of it, more than the likes of Honus Wagner, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron or Paul Molitor, now that is distinctive.

Idelson visited with Yogi in New Jersey over the past weekend, and the first words out of the legendary catcher’s mouth was, “Is my man Biggio going to make it?”

That was the day before we counted the ballots and discovered that we could tell Yogi a resounding “Yes.”

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.


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.

Old-Timers’ Day never gets old

Funny thing about the Yankees’ Old-Timers’ Day is that the event itself never gets old.

Other organizations that followed the Yankees’ lead over the years in staging reunions of their old players discontinued the practice except for special occasions.

With the Yankees, however, the exercise remains an annual event, and each year it seems something new is added. This year’s 68th annual gathering marked a return for the first time of favorites such as Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon, key stars of the franchise’s last World Series championship of 2009. Another new returning alumni was John “The Count” Montefusco, a former National League Rookie of the Year with the Giants who became part of the Yankees’ rotation in the 1980s.

“I have been waiting to come to this almost as much as I waited to get to the majors when I was in the minors,” Montefusco said. “I just wanted my grandson [Nicholas] to see what his grandpa did for a living and some of the great guys he played with.”

One of the great things about new blood joining the exercise is that new old timers like Matsui and Damon are still agile enough to play in the three-inning game. Matsui hit a home run this year in the Hall of Fame Classic last month and after watching him swat a few into the stands during batting practice I thought he might pop one during the game but no such luck.

Matsui even pitched to one batter, a Hall of Famer no less, and gave up a single to Reggie Jackson. Meanwhile, there were pitchers all over the field. David Cone played some third base. So did “El Duque,” Orlando Hernandez. David Wells made a sparking scoop of a short-hopper at first base. Coney had a tough day on the mound. He gave up a home run to Jesse Barfield and a hit to his old running mate, Wells.

Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson told me during batting practice that he has been bothered by a sore toe. He said he went to the doctor thinking it was broken, but that x-rays were negative.

“Turns out I have arthritis from all the pounding I took,” said the all-time stolen base leader. “I guess I’m officially old.”

I told him, “No, that just means you’ll steal only two bases instead of five.”

Actually, stolen bases are frowned upon in the Old-Timers’ game. In the first inning, Henderson drove a liner to left-center and sore toe and all legged out a double.

A special treat in this year’s event Sunday was the dedication of a plaque in Monument Park for Hall of Fame relief pitcher Rich “Goose” Gossage, the day after first baseman Tino Martinez was installed.


The inscription reads:


1978-1983, 1989




JUNE 22, 2014

“To receive this today in front of all those guys and all you fans is overwhelming,” Goose said. “I can’t think of another word for it.”

Gossage reminisced that Old-Timers’ Day was always his favorite day of the year. He grew up in Colorado Springs with a father who was a huge Yankees fan. Goose followed the career of Mickey Mantle closely and got to see his hero at the first Old-Timers’ Day he attended while a visiting player. When he came to the Yankees in 1978, he made sure to circle that day on the calendar.

So it was fitting that Old-Timers’ Day was the venue for Goose’s entrance into Yankees immortality.