Game 68: DET vs. NYY — #30, #30, and #30

Today featured a trio of gentlemen who have donned the number #30 for the Yankees and did so in extraordinary fashion. Plus, a host of amazing legends in their own rights graced the field for the annual Old Timers’ Day.

Before the regular season game tonight, the Yankees hosted their annual Old Timers’ Day, honoring the legends of the past and recent past who have donned the pinstripes including David Cone, Johnny Damon, Cecil Fielder, Whitey Ford, Joe Girardi, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Ron Guidry, Rickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson, Don Larsen, Stump Merrill, Gene “Stick” Michael, Jeff Nelson, Paul O’Neill, Willie Randolph, Bobby Richardson, Mel Stottlemyre, Joe Torre, and Bernie Williams; former trainer Gene Monahan; and a representing their husbands widows Arlene Howard (Elston Howard), Helen Hunter (Jim “Catfish” Hunter), Jill Martin (Billy Martin), Diana Munson (Thurman Munson), and Kay Murcer (Bobby Murcer).

And the Yankees also chose today to honor Willie Randolph, a former #30, with a plaque in Monument Park. Randolph played 2nd base for the Yankees 1976-1988, seeing both championship years and those very lean years. Randolph was a crucial member of the Yankees, even taking on a co-captain role with Guidry in the mid-80s before Randolph’s free agency took him elsewhere. Randolph ended up back in pinstripes in 1994 as a coach, eventually earning 4 more rings as part of the new dynasty of the late 90s. Congrats on the honor!

Then the Yankees pulled a surprise on everyone and honored another former #30, Mel Stottlemyre. Stottlemyre pitched for the Yankees 1964-1974, through the end of the Golden Era and into the early first set of years. He then came back as a coach under Joe Torre in 1996, and much like fellow honoree Randolph earned those 4 rings as part of that late-90s dynasty. Stottlemyre was diagnosed with cancer in 2000, and after a short battle, went into remission for a decade before doctors discovered its return in 2011. Stottlemyre has been fighting for four years, getting special permission to attend today’s game and then being surprised with his own plaque in Monument Park. Best of luck in your journey, Mel! We’re praying for you and your family.

And following a fun game of legends, the Yankees of today took the field against the Tigers in front of a sold-out crowd. The current #30 took the mound to start tonight’s game. And Nathan Eovaldi pitched a really great game. It certainly helped that he had quite the run support in the process, but most of his outing was rather reminiscent of his “Nasty Nate” moniker — 93 pitches into the 7th inning, just 3 hits, 1 walk, and 2 runs, and 4 strikeouts. Honestly, Nasty Nate held onto the game until the 7th inning when he put 2 consecutive runners on base with a lead-off double and a walk, making him responsible for those two runners (who would score).

Even with a double-digit lead (more in a moment), the Yankees opted to give Eovaldi a break and call on recent call-up Bryan Mitchell to finish up the inning and then the game. A force out left runners on the corners, but a ground-rule double scored the Tigers’ first run and a wild pitch scored the second. A single scored the Tigers’ third and final run of the evening before Mitchell got the final 2 outs of the inning. And then pitch a nice 8th and 9th innings, keeping the Tigers from doing any more damage, or rather minor denting into the Yankees’ lead.

Maybe it was the parade of legends that set the mood or dampened the spirits of the visiting Tigers. Whatever it was, it certainly worked on their pitching staff because the Yankees were hitting like crazy from the start of the game. In the 1st, Gardner led off with a big triple and then scored on an error-filled fielder’s choice, where Rodriguez ended up safe at 2nd due to a very sloppy throw to the plate (the Tigers’ 3rd baseman threw the ball at Gardner and it bounced off his helmet as he slid into home plate).

In the 2nd, Didi Gregorius led-off with a nice solo home run into the 1st row of the right field seats. Bases loaded as Drew singled, Gardner hit a 1-out double, and Headley walked. Alex Rodriguez’s sacrifice fly then scored Drew, though the outfielders nearly collided on the catch because they weren’t listening to the other on the “got it” call.

And on into the 3rd, Carlos Beltran led-off with a solo home run. Two outs later, Young and Gardner each singled, ending up on the corners. Headley’s single scored Young, moved Gardner to 3rd, and forced the starting pitcher out of the game. After 85 pitches in less than 3 innings, 8 allowed hits, 7 runs (well, 5 runs and 2 runners on base), and 3 walks, the Tigers’ starter headed back into the visitors’ dugout as the Yankees never stopped their offensive advance.

Still in the 3rd inning, with 2 outs, and runners on the corners, it’s Alex Rodriguez to hit his 3,001st career hit — a 3-run home run. And despite getting that final out of the 3rd, the reliever’s 4th inning wasn’t great for anyone in a Tigers’ uniform. Beltran hit a 1-out solo home run, his 2nd of the game (and from the opposite side of the plate, as a switch hitter). Gregorius and Drew each singled before Chris Young’s single scored Gregorius. And that put the Yankees at double digits on the scoreboard, and the Tigers calling on their second reliever of the game, who didn’t fare all that well either.

In the 5th, he quickly loaded the bases with Headley’s single, Rodriguez’s single, and Teixeira’s walk. Brian McCann’s single kept the bases loaded as Headley scored, and then Beltran’s hit-by-pitch essentially walked in a run and kept those bases loaded. A ground out from Gregorius scored Teixeira (and got the Tigers their first out of the inning), before the Tigers’ pitching staff suddenly remembered how to pitch. From there, the Tigers’ relievers were pretty decent, keeping the Yankees’ roaring offense down to a meow, except for a lead-off solo home run by Chris Young in the 8th.

 

Final score: 14-3, Yankees.

Every single starting player got at least one of the 18 total hits or one of the 6 walks to get on base, and almost everyone scored at least one run. Brett Gardner continued his hitting streak by being a home run short of a cycle. (A “cycle” is hitting a single, a double, a triple, and a home run in a single game; the last Yankee “cycle” was in 2009.) The Yankees took a bit of that legend magic running around the stadium again, combined it with their rising success, general talent, and a bit of luck, and just went for it tonight. Well, that and the 5 home runs they hit tonight.

I’m not a huge fan of blowout games, but even I was getting excited through the first half of this game, watching the score rise higher and higher. I blame #30… you pick which one you want to blame for the Yankee win.

Go Yankees!

Game 127: CHW vs. NYY — Happy Joe Torre Day

To me, one of the iconic Yankee greats will always be Joe Torre. It is under his leadership that I fell in love with the Yankees and learned to appreciate their history and legacy and amazingness. I cannot think back to my later growing up years, watching the Yankees win championship after championship after championship after championship, without thinking of Mr. Torre. They are forever intertwined in my memories.

So, it was no surprise on the year Torre is elected to the Hall of Fame that the Yankees continue to honor the legacy of the man who was the most successful team manager in recent history (at least in my lifetime) by selecting today to memorialize him in Monument Park and retire his #6 alongside other legends like Rivera, Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, Maris, and Berra. Showing up today to honor him included an All-Star lineup of both Yankee fame and Yankee rivals — players David Cone, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Hideki Matsui, and Bernie Williams; coaches Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry, Lee Mazzilli, and Jose Cardenal; and rival managers Jim Leyland and (recent Cooperstown inductee himself) Tony La Russa. Current manager Joe Girardi presented Torre’s plaque to him, and Derek Jeter (the only guy in full pinstripes on the field prior to the game) made sure to give his first MLB manager a big hug. Torre returned the sentiment and noted that with his retired number there was only one more single digit left from Monument Park… for now.

(Torre talking about his experiences today with the YES Network broadcasters during the game is very worth the link.)

And then the Yankees played the White Sox, led by Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda threw 101 pitches over his 6 innings, giving Chicago 5 hits, 2 runs, and 2 walks, and striking out 6. The White Sox struck first in the 2nd inning, with back-to-back doubles that led to an easy run scored. Chicago’s second run scored was an RBI single in the 5th inning.

On the other side of things, that pesky run the White Sox got in the 2nd was quickly regained in the bottom of that inning by the Yankees. With no outs and the bases loaded, a ground out scored a run to tie up the game. And in the 4th inning, the Yankees just pounced. McCann led off with a double; he and a walked Beltran scored on Martin Prado’s double. As Kuroda left the mound in the middle of the 6th inning, the score was 3-2 Yankees.

But that really wasn’t enough cushion for a win for them (and can we call the bottom of the 6th inning the “challenged inning”?). Carlos Beltran led off with a solo home run (that was rightly upheld after a review). And then Prado hit a double — originally ruled an out, challenged by the Yankees, overturned at MLB HQ, and ended up a double. Prado moved to 3rd on Headley’s ground out and then scored on Stephen Drew’s sacrifice fly.

It was now 5-2 Yankees.

Shawn Kelley took the 7th inning and struggled some only getting 2 outs, allowing an RBI groundout to push the score to 5-3 Yankees. Failing to get that 3rd out of the inning, it was Betances to the rescue; 4 pitches and they’re out of the inning. (Can we all just agree that a 6’8″ pitcher would make a great new superhero? I claim rights Marvel/DC/other comics I don’t know because I’m not a 14-year-old boy.) Warren’s quick 8th inning set up Robertson’s 34th save with a quick 15-pitch 9th inning.

The Yankees handed in a win on Joe Torre Day. And as happy as I am that coincides, I never need a reason to be happy for a win. I mean, who doesn’t like winning?

I guess it was reminiscent of Yankee days under Torre’s leadership. In that case, how about the next 36 games are played for him so they can head into October with the zeal and confidence of that late 1990s dynasty team. I miss those days sometimes, and today might be just what I needed to remember all those good things. Sometimes you just need to “remember when” so you can “hope for whatever”… a little faith, a little hope, but a whole lot of love. Because if you know me at all, that’s about right for me and that’s about right for my boys. And the memories of Joe’s Boys.

Go Yankees!

Quick update: Monument Park additions this year…

A brief update on this off-day:

The Yankees released a statement today that they will honor Joe Torre, Goose Gossage, Tino Martinez, and Paul O’Neill with plaques in Monument Park this summer. Over Old-Timers’ Day weekend, Martinez and Gossage will have their own ceremonies (June 21-22). On August 9th, they will honor O’Neill.

And the big celebration will be Torre’s plaque reveal on August 23, where the Yankees also plan on retiring his #6. This, of course, paves the way for the almost automatic retirement of #2 at the end of this season, meaning that all the single digit Yankee uniforms will be forever enshrined beyond center field.

Torre will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer. So be prepared for a lot of Joe Torre news and stories and memories over the next few months, especially from those of us who remember fondly his Yankee years.

Also, the Yankees announced that they will also honor Bernie Williams sometime next season, leading some to speculate that they might be retiring his #51 as well. No one has worn that number (at least not long-term) since Williams retired in 2006. But that’s a little bit of a cliffhanger until 2015…

Go Yankees!

Touring Traditions

Gehrig4
“The Iron Horse” Lou Gehrig
Photo: New York Yankees

The Yankees have been tweeting pictures of popular players’ numbers to help gear up their fans for the start of Spring Training, beginning with Pitchers and Catchers’ Reporting Day this coming Tuesday. For a while, it was recent and even current players — Don Mattingly (#23), Curtis Granderson (#14), and Brett Gardner (#11). Now, getting into the single digits leaves us with mostly retired numbers (in descending order) — Phil Rizzuto, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra (over Bill Dickey), Mickey Mantle, Joe Torre (though not yet a retired number), Joe DiMaggio, and (today’s number) Lou Gehrig. This weekend we should see (and I’m following their pattern): Babe Ruth (#3), Derek Jeter (#2), and Billy Martin (#1).

When it comes to reverence of its organization’s history, there is no comparison to Yankee reverence or history. Most clubs recognize a handful of retired numbers on a wall in the outfield and maybe a plaque at some random spot in their stadium. But Yankees have an almost sacred respect for their history, and rightly so.

Last fall for my birthday, I was in the City and trying to figure out where to go that would really make my birthday something special. Honestly, I could only think of one place — Yankee Stadium. The team was in Baltimore on a road trip, but there are stadium tours you can take every day. They’re modified to suit whatever’s been going on in the stadium. Like on game days, they only run part of the day and are limited to a few locations to give the players and crew privacy to prepare for the game. The day I went there had been a concert the night before and the tour crew was still tearing down the stage and its complex lighting arrangements, and as the stage was right in front of Monument Park, the tour skipped it. (Side note: trying to see the Museum or Monument Park on a game day is nearly impossible unless you are at the gates the moment they open. We tried to do that too, to no avail.) But we did get to see the Museum, the Press Box, and the Clubhouse.

The funny thing was the only real Yankees fans were my mom and I that day. I have to wonder why someone would tour a sports park if you’re not a fan of baseball or the team that regularly plays there. Our tour guide was so excited to actually talk about current baseball with actual fans that we even discussed a blown call from the previous night and got a couple of updates on the game being played in Baltimore, which began as we were ending the tour, and they were already up 1-0 by the end of the 1st inning.

I realize at this point I must sound like I’m promoting the Stadium Tour, and maybe to some extent I am. But we all have days we want to remember and last forever. I’m sure every one of those names in Monument Park had one of those days playing at Polo Grounds or Yankee Stadium. I remember the look on Nick Swisher’s face the second game of the ALCS (the last game played last season at Yankee Stadium), as he looked around, smiling and taking it all in. Somehow he knew that would be his last game in Yankee Stadium as a Yankee, and it just seemed like he wanted that moment to last forever.

They won on my birthday last year, as they have for all but one year since 2000. They play in Baltimore again this year on my birthday, so let’s hope the tradition continues. And as we all know well, the Yankees love their traditions.

Go Yankees!