It’s official: Monument Park may have been made far too small for all the celebrated Yankees that will be honored this year (and in the near future). 2015 will see 4 new plaques (3 of them will accompany their newly retired numbers) among greats like Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, and (more recently) Torre.
Bernie Williams’ number 51 will be the first honored with retirement on Sunday, May 24 before a night game against the visiting Texas Rangers. Williams, often called the fifth member of the famed “Core Four” and one of the “homegrown players”, played for the Yankees for 16 years (1991-2006), often considered one of the major players to help the Yankees return to they new dynasty status and helped them win their four championships in five years (1996, 1998-2000). Williams was the last player to wear #51, something even recent Yankee Ichiro Suzuki (who wore #51 with Seattle for all his years there) respected by opting to wear #31 instead.
On Old Timers’ Day this year (Saturday, June 20), the Yankees will honor former Yankee player and coach Willie Randolph with his own plaque in Monument Park. Randolph played for the Yankees 1976-1988, as part of his 18 years in the majors, and then as Yankee’s bench coach for 11 seasons (1994-2004). In that time, Randolph accumulated 6 World Series rings, as a player in the 1977-78 wins and as a coach in the new dynasty era of 1996 and 1998-2000.
Then the Yankees will retire the numbers of two more “Core Four” members over the weekend games against the visiting Cleveland Indians — Jorge Posada’s #20 on Saturday, August 22 and Andy Pettitte’s #46 on Sunday, August 23. Actually, the ball started rolling on all these retired numbers because of a tweet by Pettitte’s oldest son Josh over the weekend to announce his dad’s news.
Posada actually wore #62 in 1995, 41 and 55 in 1996 (he won the ’96 Championship wearing #55), and 22 briefly in 1997 before settling on his signature number #20 for his remaining seasons in 1997-2011. Ask any Yankee fan from that era what number was synonymous with Posada’s power and legacy, and they’ll assure it’s only #20. Pettitte, however, only wore #46 in his career with the Yankees, even opting to not wear the number while a member of the Astros; in fact, while Pettitte was in Houston (2004-2006), the Yankees allowed 5 other players to wear #46 — Donovan Osborne, Alan Embree, Darrell May, Scott Erickson & Aaron Guiel (it’s okay if you don’t remember them, even I had to look them up).
Monument Park is going to be jam-packed by the end of August. Or as Yogi might say, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) February 16, 2015
And in other Yankee news…
In preparation for Spring Training, all eyes shift from the Yankees that were to the Yankees that are. Today, reports from the field feature early reporting players like Tanaka, Whitley, Nova, and Miller (along with a slew of others) starting workout routines, getting loose and back on a field in the sunny Florida weather. (I should note that as I write this, the sky has now opened up and is now drenching sunny Tampa with a rather impressive afternoon downpour. Welcome to Florida.) Pitcher and catchers officially report on Friday with their first official 2015 workout day on Saturday. The remaining players report the following week.
Returning the team this year following his year-long suspension is Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez has reportedly reached out to the returning 3rd baseman Chase Headley, though they didn’t talk about who was to be playing in the “Hot Corner”. It is assumed that Headley will take the majority of that burden due to Rodriguez’s absence, shifting the former 3rd baseman over to a more permanent role as designated hitter, with some platooning at 3rd. Rodriguez today released a handwritten apology for his participation in the events that led to his suspension last year.
The transcript reads:
To the Fans,
I take full responsibility for the mistakes that led to my suspension for the 2014 season. I regret that my actions made the situation worse than it needed to be. To Major League Baseball, the Yankees, the Steinbrenner family, the Players Association and you, the fans, I can only say I’m sorry.
I accept the fact that many of you will not believe my apology or anything that I say at this point. I understand why and that’s on me. It was gracious of the Yankees to offer me the use of Yankee Stadium for this apology, but I decided that next time I am in Yankee Stadium, I should be in pinstripes doing my job.
I served the longest suspension in the history of the league for PED use. The Commissioner has said the matter is over. The Players Association has said the same. The Yankees have said the next step is to play baseball.
I’m ready to put this chapter behind me and play some ball.
This game has been my single biggest passion since I was a teenager. When I go to Spring Training, I will do everything I can to be the best player and teammate possible, earn a spot on the Yankees and help us win.
In light of many calls to “Forgive” (including a very on-point t-shirt by ultimate Yankees’ fan Bald Vinny), it will be good to focus not on what was or has been but rather on what can be for this season. I was once told the reason God put our eyes on the front of our face was because He wanted us to look forward and not back; I think that is the message for this season — forward with hope for good things in the future.