My interest in Baseball began in my childhood like most fans.
I can remember NFL Football as the first sport I discovered but my passion and love for Major League Baseball started a few years later and quickly rose to favored status.
I consider 1972 as the year I started following Football with close interest. That’s the year I became a fan of Fran Tarkenton and the Minnesota Vikings. I was aware of Football in the immediate preceding years, but my father died in early 1972 at the age of 42. I found the Vikings gave me something to focus on as I processed my grief.
Along this same time period, I started following the Oakland A’s. In the 1970’s, they were a very colorful team with a unique owner and a collective cast of characters that were routinely championship caliber. But the one player that stood out to me was A’s starting pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter. As a North Carolina farmer, fisherman, and general outdoor enthusiast, Catfish had a very easy and engaging personality to go with the fantastic arm.
During the 1974 season, Catfish finished 25-12, with a 2.49 ERA, while winning the AL Cy Young Award. Meanwhile, the A’s were winning their third consecutive World Series championship.
I had been aware of the perfect game that Catfish had thrown during the 1968 season and it was easy to identify with him as my favorite active player.
One of the very first books that I read was a biography about Yankees legend Lou Gehrig so I naturally carried positive feelings about the Pinstripers and their rich, legendary history.
This set the stage for December 31, 1974. After aggressive pursuit by the majority of the MLB teams, Catfish, a free agent, signed a five-year contract with the New York Yankees.
I remember feelings of disappointment that the A’s had allowed Catfish to become a free agent and could not envision myself as an A’s fan without him on the mound despite their recent history of success.
So, on the day Catfish signed with New York, I officially decided to become a Yankees fan. The team had struggled during the preceding decade but my preference was to follow Catfish, even with a potentially losing team, over continuing to root for the A’s.
From that day forward, I have never looked back as the Yankees have been my team ever since.
After a couple of years, catcher Thurman Munson replaced Catfish as my favorite baseball player but the love of the Yankees deepened with each passing year.
I will always credit Lou Gehrig for creating my positive perception of the Pinstripes, and Catfish Hunter for bringing it all together.
42 has multiple meanings for me. It is the number of years I’ve been a Yankees fan, it was the number of years my father walked the Earth, it is the symbol of one of Baseball’s greatest players (Jackie Robinson), and the number of one of my all-time favorite Yankees (Mariano Rivera).
Today, December 31, 2016, I look back on the many great memories (the tremendous victories and the heartbreaking losses) the Yankees have provided, and look forward to the the bright future and continuation of the success of Baseball’s most storied franchise.
I am grateful to be a Yankees fan…
I was never a fan of good-byes…
Sadly, the 2013 Major League Baseball Season has come to an end. Well, at least for the New York Yankees. It was an eventful final week that saw a farewell to the great Mariano Rivera that was unmatched by any I have seen in recent years or even during my lifetime. Mo’s final game at Yankee Stadium turned out to be the final game of his professional career as he chose not to pitch during the season-ending series in Houston to preserve his Bronx goodbye as the final exit for a storied and soon to be Hall of Fame career.
I have been a Mariano Rivera fan since the days when he set up John Wetteland in the bullpen. His 7th and 8th inning appearances before the cardiac appearances by Wetteland were electric. The ball seemed to come screaming with blazing speed yet Mo seemed so effortless in letting the ball leave his hand. He made it look easy, and for the length of his career, he proved he was just a little better than everyone else. Sure, there were a few hiccups along the way. A couple of key blown saves in critical games, but these were few and far between. His success rate was far superior to any failures, and in those failures, you knew that Mo had left his all.
Looking back, I certainly have no regrets. It was an honor and privilege to be a Yankees fan and to witness the career of the latest Yankees legend. He’ll be someone that my grandchildren will be talking about, and I can say that I saw him pitch from the beginning to the end. Mo showed how special it was to play for one team, and he is forever embedded into Yankees lore. Ichiro Suzuki will be immortalized in Cooperstown one day as a Seattle Mariner, but Seattle will never be able to call Ichiro exclusively their own. They may have had his best years, but he still is playing his final years as a Yankee, not a Mariner. Fortunately, we never had to see Mo in another uniform or his former catcher, Jorge Posada.
I have been a Yankees fan since 1974 when free agent Jim “Catfish” Hunter, then my favorite pitcher, signed with the Yankees. I had grown up very intrigued by the Yankees with their great history and tradition. Those early 70’s were still a tough time for the Yankees organization, but they were about to turn the corner following the acquisition of the team by George Steinbrenner and his partners. To digress, I always loved the quote “There is nothing in life quite so limited as being a limited partner of George Steinbrenner”. This quote is attributed to former Yankees minority owner and later Houston Astros owner John McMullen. The first baseball biography I recall reading when I was little was a book about Lou Gehrig, and I’ve been a fan of his ever since. So, when Catfish made the decision to join the Yankees, it was very easy for me to follow.
During the course of my Yankees fandom, I’ve considered the following players to be my favorite Yankees. Hunter, Thurman Munson, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Don Mattingly, and Mariano Rivera. All those years and I can still count my favorite active Yankees on one hand, well until today with Rivera’s retirement. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect other Yankees over the years, these guys just happened to be my personal favorites at the time they played.
Being someone who appreciates history and tradition, I’ve always felt that Rivera was the perfect man to take Jackie Robinson’s number to retirement for the final time. Mo proved that he had the character to stand with greatness, and he served the legacy of Jackie Robinson very proudly and understood its significance. I am glad that the last guy out of baseball with #42 wasn’t some thug just trying to hang on to a lost career, with rumors of a steroid past. He wears #13. Okay, sorry, I didn’t mean that, or maybe I did, but you get the point. Jackie Robinson was a great man who dealt with more adversity than any of us will ever knew. He did it while turning the other cheek and proving he was the better man. He did this while carving out a Hall of Fame career on the field. If there was a man who deserved to have his number retired across baseball, it was Robinson, and if there was a man who deserved to be the final one to walk off the field with it, it was Mo. The Baseball Gods made sure this one played out like it was supposed to.
Mo, we thank you for simply being you. You did it your way, and you never strived to be anything other than what you were. You proved better than most in shaking off the game’s failures and you never gloated in its successes. You were proud of your teammates and respectful of your opponents. Baseball needs you, and I hope that this is just the beginning as you move into the next phase of your career. I am proud, very proud, when I say that I am a Mariano Rivera fan. He exceeded my wildest expectations and he leaves as the best ever at his position. He deserves to be a first ballot entry to the Hall of Fame. Anything less is unacceptable. He was ours and he proved he belongs to the Hall like no other that I’ve personally witnessed during my lifetime. Farewell, Mo. This is not the end, but simply the closing of one chapter and the opening of the next.
AP Photo (courtesy of LoHud Yankees Blog)
The gaze from under the brim of his cat…
While the focus of this post is Rivera, I would be remiss for not saying thanks to Andy Pettitte. Time and again, he stopped losing streaks and he was clutch when it mattered most (October). He never had the brilliant stuff of Felix Hernandez or Roy Halladay, but he was a winner. His passion showed and he was a champion. It was tough watching him leave via free agency for those three years in Houston, but I am glad he came back. Even during his time in Houston, you’d hear stories about how Andy still followed the Yankees. He is part of the Yankees family and history and always will be. It was so very fitting that his final game was a complete game win in his hometown of Houston. A bit ironic that the opponent was named Clemens (Paul Clemens, no relation to Roger). For the final game of the season, Roger Clemens did make an appearance to wish farewell to Mariano, and he gave Andy a hug. There has been a lot of mudslinging between the former close friends and regardless of what Roger may have or have not done, I was glad to see the small reconciliation. Baseball is greater than any one of us, and at the end of the day, Clemens, Pettitte, and Rivera were teammates and they represented the our team. I fully expect to see all three at future Old Timer’s Day games and I am hopeful that old scars can be healed and that the game itself can move forward.
Back to Andy, he will be a hard act to follow. When you look at the Yankees pitching staff, there is not one that can match Andy’s heart. CC Sabathia appears to be on the downside of his career, Hiroki Kuroda could very well head to Japan for his final season or two, Phil Hughes has worn the pinstripes for the last time, Ivan Nova is a roller-coaster and the jury is still out on David Huff. Next season will be one of transition and it is unfortunate that we’ll no longer have Andy as an anchor to the rotation. Andy’s ceiling was never as a #1 pitcher. He came to the major leagues with question marks, but he left as one of its greatest post-season performers. We were lucky to call Andy one of our own, and I am glad that he was never dealt away in one of those knee-jerk type of trades that we saw during the George Steinbrenner regime. Sorry, George, I miss you but you gotta admit that some of those trades left a little bit to be desired…
Getting back on track, Andy leaves the game being able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the greatest lefty in Yankees’ history, the Chairman of the Board, Whitey Ford. The Core Four (Rivera, Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Derek Jeter) did an excellent job in reaching the pinnacle of their positions in franchise history. Posada may not have matched Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey or Thurman Munson, but he can stand in the same room. DJ is obviously one of the greatest shortstops in the team’s history (along with Phil Rizzuto). For a team so stacked in history and tradition, four contemporary players reaching the upper echelon is amazing. It is the end of a terrific Yankees era, and as much as I hate to see Derek Jeter go out with an injury filled career, I would prefer for him to leave now rather than to come back next year for what most likely will be a year of reduced relevance on the roster.
What does the future hold?…
I really do not know what to expect next year. At the moment, it is uncertain if Robinson Cano or Curtis Granderson will be back. Joe Girardi is talking about needing time to decide if he wants to come back which is not a good sign in my opinion. Mark Texeira will be back next year, but he is deteriorating as he ages. I am not sure that CC can get back to being the dominant pitcher he once was, and the line-up is filled with age and injury-susceptible players. The farm system at the upper levels is weak, at best. While many of said that this has been a great year of managing by Joe Girardi, I’d argue that it has not been one of Brian Cashman’s best years. I do not know how much he has been constrained by ownership, but the 10 wins that the team could have used this season could have been acquired through smart and strategic moves. The farm system is very lacking at the upper levels and I know that injuries have played a part, but at some point, Cashman has to be held accountable. Like fine wine, it is harvest season except the Yankees do not have anything to harvest. They’ll have to overpay and to give up too much young talent to field a championship squad next season. Unfortunately, neither makes sense even for the Yankees, so it feels as though we are in the midst of an era of transition. Hopefully, greatness will be waiting on the other side…
Sadly, the fear is confirmed…
Today brought the news that this is the final season for Andy Pettitte. I knew we were getting close to the end and of course, a disappointing season does not help. If the Yankees were a cinch to make the play-offs, this might be a different story. Winning seems to make those aches and pains hurt a little bit less. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the time that Andy gave us. I missed him those three years he was in Houston and of course the prior year of retirement. But I am glad he came back both times and there’s no doubt that he’s a Yankee for life.
As much as I dislike and disrespect a certain third baseman on the active roster, I forgave Andy for the mistakes in his past. He came clean (unlike the “Fraud” or Roger Clemens) and he proved to us that his words were truthful and from the heart. Andy may never get into the Hall of Fame due to the steroid use, but he deserves a place in Memorial Park. Like Mariano Rivera, I truly enjoyed Andy in pinstripes and knew that he gave us his “all” with every performance, win or lose.
I hope the team is smart enough to give him an invitation to come to spring training as an instructor and of course his presence at Old Timer’s Day is a must. With Sunday being Mariano Rivera Day, it is so appropriate that the scheduled starting pitcher is Andy. There would be nothing better than to watch Andy hand the ball to Mo with the appearance of no other Yankee relievers. Hopefully, the game plays out to that form. I love that Andy’s final two games are the aforementioned Mo Rivera Day and the final game against his former team, the Houston Astros. There’s probably not a better away city for Andy to pitch his final game in than his home city. As George Strait would say, “The Cowboy Rides Away”…
Thanks, Andy. You gave us very memorable years and we always, without exception, were pleased when you took the ball. You brought your heart and soul to every game and as a fan, there is nothing more that I could ask for. Time and again, you stopped losing streaks and you were money in October. The pickoff move was simply the best. The guy from Deer Park, Texas proved that he bled pinstripes and you’ll always be remembered as one of the greatest lefties in Yankees history. There will never be anything that we could give to you that would approach what you gave to us. We will be forever your fans.
On the other hand…
While I was glad the Yankees emerged victorious against the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants (as a Bay Area resident, I might add), it was disturbing to see Alex Rodriguez eclipse the legendary Lou Gehrig for the all-time record for career grand slams. Man for man, there is no way that A-Fraud could even stand in the shadow of the Iron Horse. This is a travesty and in my opinion deserves an asterisk.
I will be glad when the day arrives that A-Fraud is a “former” Yankee. I never want to see this loser on Yankee Stadium turf ever again when that happens. Too bad the Yankees can’t trade the Fraud back to Seattle so that they can disassociate themselves from the worst mistake of the post-George Steinbrenner regime.
The opening game of the Yankees-White Sox Series was a loss before the first pitch was thrown…
I am a Yankees fan and I’ve been one since 1974 but today, I am disgusted. It is revolting to see Alex Rodriguez take third base for tonight’s game against the Chicago White Sox on a day when he was suspended for 211 games. All other 12 PED users who were suspended accepted their fates and are serving their 50-game sentences. But the guiltiest of all (thus, the longer penalty) is playing baseball because he chose the appeal process. He has blood on his fingers and the gun was in his hand, yet as typical A-Fraud, he refuses to take personal responsibility for his actions. I am sure that somehow his cousin or maybe bad advice he received from Francisco Cervelli will ultimately be to blame for his latest problems, but for now, he only blames Bud Selig and the people who really know and understand what a miserable human being he is.
Even if it means counting A-Rod’s scheduled salaries against the Yankees for the purposes of the salary cap, I want this guy gone. He disgraces the Yankee pinstripes and he tarnishes the great storied franchise. Tonight, I actually found myself cheering for the Chicago White Sox because it was too hard to root for a Yankees lineup that features A-Fraud in the middle of the order. My lifelong idol has been Lou Gehrig. He wore the pinstripes very proudly and he was a true Yankee from start to finish. A-Fraud is the anti-Gehrig. He has disgraced the uniform since the beginning and the end can’t get here soon enough. I had truly wished that I had seen the last of A-Fraud in a Yankees uniform, yet here he is playing third base tonight.
Per the YES Network’s website, the Yankees released this statement:
“We are in full support of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. We also recognize and respect the appeals process. Until the process under the Drug Program is complete, we will have no comment. We are confident that the process outlined in the Drug Program will result in the appropriate resolution of this matter. In the meantime, the Yankees remain focused on playing baseball.
However, we are compelled to address certain reckless and false allegations concerning the Yankees’ role in this matter. The New York Yankees in no way instituted and/or assisted MLB in the direction of this investigation; or used the investigation as an attempt to avoid its responsibilities under a player contract; or did its medical staff fail to provide the appropriate standard of care to Alex Rodriguez.
Separately, we are disappointed with the news today of the suspension of Francisco Cervelli. It’s clear that he used bad judgment.”
Where does it say that the Yankees had to start Alex Rodriguez tonight? Why does this guy get a privileged card? Less guilty players are done for the year yet A-Fraud is on the field. It makes me sick, disgusted and angry. If I were Hal Steinbrenner, I can tell you there’s no way that A-Fraud would have been swinging a bat tonight. He’d be picking splinters out of his derriere.
Interesting that the Yankees call out Francisco Cervelli, yet sound like they are posturing with Alex Rodriguez without any condemnation. You can never convince me that Cervelli is as despicable and dishonest as A-Fraud.
I am a Yankees fan, but admittedly it is out of protest until the team does the right thing and separates themselves from the most dishonorable and narcissistic player in franchise history.
The White Sox are still throttling the Yanks in tonight’s game (8-0 in the bottom of the 6th inning). Good. Now, if Robin Ventura could take a bat and stick it up A-Rod’s…
He has been and always will be my hero…
It has been that long since the great Lou Gehrig departed this universe. Yet, his legacy still burns brightly and strongly throughout the world. He made a difference on and off the field and his model has continued to set the example for others to live their lives.
June 2, 1941. I will always remember it as well as August 2, 1979 even if I was only alive for one of those tragic days. 1941 was not a good year for the country nor was it a particularly good year for my family. My dad’s brother, then 21, died while moving out of his mother’s house after she had “evicted” him when she learned that he had secretly married. My uncle didn’t carve a life or legacy that others outside of the immediate family will remember, but he strived to be the man that Lou Gehrig. But like so many, we fail miserably.
Gehrig continues to be my all-time favorite Yankee. Mariano Rivera has long been my favorite current Yankee, but even he will have to take the bench when compared to Gehrig. Sorry Mo, I know you are the man that Gehrig was but there is only room for one at the top.
I’ve been a baseball fan since I was about 5 or 6 and read a book about Lou Gehrig. It was his story that propelled my interest in baseball. I didn’t become a Yankees fan because of him (I owe that to Catfish Hunter) but I would have never been a Catfish Hunter fan if not for Gehrig. So, I fully understand that the core root of my love of baseball and the Yankees lies solely with the Iron Horse.
Lou, I miss you even if I didn’t have the opportunity to meet you. My world is better because you were in it, and I thank you for simply being you.
The Ice Man Cometh…
I have to admit that I was/am a bit concerned about Mark Teixeira’s late start to the season. Granted, he hit a grand slam in tonight’s win over the Cleveland Indians, but he is a notoriously slow starter. To start slow at the beginning of June is not good. Tex needs to hit the ground running. I can only hope that the grand slam will propel him forward and bypass the usual ice freeze that starts any Teixeira season. I feel bad for Lyle Overbay. He’s done everything asked of him, and he has won a few games with his bat. Now, he takes the back seat to Teixeira which, given the aforementioned history of slow starts, might not be a move for the better…at least in the short run.
As much as I want the return of the other injured players, I still do not want the return of Alex Rodriguez. I have never dreaded seeing a player put on pinstripes as much as I do him. Well, maybe Ed Whitson or Carl Pavano, but as for as $30 million a year players go, I’d rather see A-Rod elsewhere.
If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all…
I am still making bets with Julia of the former MLBlog’s Julia Rants. The latest bet, thanks to the Yankees series failure, has me sporting a picture of Carl Yastrzemski as my profile pic on FaceBook for a week. Sometimes, I just wish the Yankees would come through for me on these bets! I am getting tired of getting the short straw…
Oh well, it’s June and we’ve moved past the start of the season. The Yanks need to shake off the doldrums of getting swept by the New York Mets and the series loss to the Red Sox to propel themselves to a 10-game win streak to regain some momentum…
Let’s go, Guys, we can do this!
The Year of the Disabled List…
Just as we start to get some of the regulars back to reinforce the over-achieving bargain bin replacements, Curtis Granderson is headed back to the bench for a month due to a broken pinkie suffered in Friday night’s Tampa Bay Rays game. This season seems to prove the old adage that if it can go wrong, it will. In Granderson’s case, each return to the DL almost solidifies that he is playing his final year in pinstripes.
Yesterday morning, I was reading an article about how the Yankees were trying to figure out how to rotate four outfielders into three spots. The article seemed to imply that among Vernon Wells, Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Granderson, Ichiro would be the odd man out given how strong Wells has played so far this year. I guess Granderson’s pinkie came to the defense of Ichiro as it will keep him on the field for the foreseeable future.
I hope that Granderson’s return to the DL results in the return of Brennan Boesch who has been spending a few weeks at Scranton/Wilkes Barre.
I saw the Yankees have activated Ivan Nova. I suppose that Nova now knows what it must have felt like to be Wally Pipp. Granted, David Phelps is no Lou Gehrig but Phelps is clearly the better starting pitcher than Nova. The battle for a spot in the starting rotation is no doubt between Nova and Phil Hughes. I have watched enough of The Phil Hughes Show. I am ready to change the channel even if that means putting Nova in his spot. Of course, Hughes will probably go to another city and win a Cy Young but some guys just aren’t cut out for New York and I think Hughes is one of those guys. Or it could be that he’s just not a good or consistent pitcher…
David Adams has been a pleasant surprise at third since his call-up from the minors. When the Yankees placed him on waivers earlier in the season in order to remove him from the 40 man roster and return him to the minor leagues, I was surprised that he wasn’t claimed by another team. He has always had potential and it is good to see him finally enjoy a cup of coffee in the big leagues. I wonder how this bodes for Kevin Youkilis when he returns. As well as Adams is playing, he does not deserve to be sent back down. I like the idea of Adams and Youk at third so I am sure that Joe Girardi will find time for both. My only disappointment will be when Alex Rodriguez returns. I have truly enjoyed the time away and frankly I’d love it if A-Rod never returned.
Can Sox Blood Succeed in the Bronx?…
I would really like to see Austin Romine start to hit. All of the reports indicate that his defense will ensure a career as a backup catcher and the difference in the ability to start is his offensive game which has been feeble thus far. Everyone knows that Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli and Romine are just keeping the plate warm for the next couple of years until highly touted prospect Gary Sanchez arrives. Still, I’d like to see ex-Red Sock Kevin Romine’s son succeed in the Bronx.
#23 deserves so much better than this…
I feel really bad for Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. Going into the season with ridiculously high expectations, it was clear that this would be a very challenging season for Donnie Baseball. His recent comments about the ill-construction of the team were on mark and were said in a very professional Donnie-like manner. I see that the Dodgers executive team is giving Mattingly a vote of confidence, however, that’s never a good sign. I still hope to see the day where Mattingly takes the field as Yankees manager, but I do not want to see him unceremoniously dumped in LA. He is playing with the hand he was dealt. I do not blame Mattingly for the Dodgers’ early season struggles as I feel that he is doing the best he can. The blame should be placed on the GM and the ownership group.
Put a great manager in a good organization and see what happens…
It’s fun to see Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona having fun again. He is another one of my favorite managers, even during his time in Boston. He is 1-1 in the first two games of a four game set in Boston, but winning the first game had to be a thrill. Here’s to hoping for more success for Tito on Saturday and Sunday.
I guess Larry Platt (aka “Pants on the Ground”) is unavailable…
I didn’t watch American Idol this past season (apparently I wasn’t alone), but I find the show’s choice of Jennifer Hudson to be a curious one. I heard that they are also looking at Kelly Clark and Adam Lambert or Clay Aiken for the other two judge seats. Interesting that they are only looking at their own homegrown talent. I am not sure if it will be enough to bring the viewers back. I am watching The Voice (and have from the start). I like the chemistry among the show’s judges and their format is much more positive with a better focus on quality talent. The show didn’t lose anything in judge chemistry with the substitutions of Shakira and Usher for Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green. I think it is time to sunset American Idol and let the younger shows take the main stage. Well, on the latter point, they already have…
Grace and dignity…
Unfortunately, this day was inevitable. Father Time catches up with everyone, including the greatest closer in the history of Major League Baseball.
Saturday, the great Mariano Rivera confirmed the speculation of the last few days. The 2013 season will be his final one as the champion of the 9th inning at Yankee Stadium.
Mo has been my favorite Yankee since the time he was the “lights-out” set up guy for closer John Wetteland in the 1996 season. Wetteland was effective, but there were always a few anxious moments. Rivera, on the other hand, completely dominated the hitters prior to turning the ball over to Wetteland. There were so many times that I had wished manager Joe Torre would have stayed with Rivera rather than pulling him for Wetteland. While it was Rivera’s talent and ability that caught my attention, it was his character…full of grace, dignity, and professionalism…that has made me an enduring fan all these years.
Rivera has taught so many over the years how to forget life’s failures and how to enjoy its successes without gloating or antagonizing opponents. He has always respected the game and never once in his career has he placed himself above the game or above others.
Relievers have had their struggles gaining acceptance into the Hall of Fame, but in my mind, Rivera should be a first ballot entry.
It was appropriate that Mo wore the number #42. As the final active player to wear the number after it was retired league-wide, he has upheld the legacy of Jackie Robinson…perhaps better than anyone else could have. Jackie endured far more challenges and difficulties than I’ll ever be able to fully comprehend, but he paved the path for others including Mariano Rivera to succeed. Mo embodies the depth of character that Jackie Robinson had and it is tremendous that #42 hanging in Memorial Park will stand for two of the greatest men in baseball’s long history.
It has been a privilege to call Mo my favorite player for so many years. As I think back upon my life as a Yankees fan, it was Jim “Catfish” Hunter who first attracted me to the Yankees when he signed as a free agent in 1974, along with my high regard for the legendary Lou Gehrig. Once a Yankees fan, my favorite player quickly changed to the heart and soul of the team…catcher Thurman Munson. I have always loved to see passion in doing what you enjoy, and Thurman was certainly as fiery and passionate as they come. The 1976 World Series still stands out to me. Although the Yankees were swept by the Cincinnati Reds, it wasn’t because of Munson, who hit over .500 in the series. If the rest of the team could have matched Munson’s intensity that year, they would have defeated the Big Red Machine.
After Thurman’s untimely death in 1979 (a day that I will always vividly remember, like so many Yankee fans), Rich “Goose” Gossage became my favorite player. After a few years, he had moved on to the San Diego Padres as a free agent. But by that time, Don Mattingly had become my favorite player. Donnie Baseball was one of the great ones and it’s unfortunate that back problems caused the premature end of his production and subsequently career. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’d be in the Hall of Fame if he had been able to sustain his production for a few more years. Donnie Baseball will always be a favorite and he’s the reason that I consider the Los Angeles Dodgers to be my favorite NL team. When Mattingly retired after the 1995 play-off loss to the Seattle Mariners, I became a Mariano Rivera fan.
As I look to life beyond 2013, I cannot say that any one player stands out as a potential favorite player. But as history has proven to me, the door will open for the next great Yankees superstar to take the stage.
None of this is meant to knock Derek Jeter. He has been a terrific player for so many years and can match Rivera in depth and quality of character stride for stride. He’ll be taking his place in Cooperstown one day, but for me, this day is about Mariano Rivera. Enter the Sandman…Exit the Legend.
I look forward to watching Mo for one more season. Regardless of the outcome, he is a champion…