Posts Tagged ‘Joe Buck’

What #27 Means to Me

November 13, 2009

I was 11 in 1996 when the Yankees won their first World Series in my lifetime.  I went to bed before the game was over, but my parents woke me up in time for the bottom of the ninth inning.  I vividly remember a pop-up in foul territory on the third base side… Charlie Hayes hovering under the ball… Joe Buck exclaiming “The Yankees are champions of baseball” and the camera cutting to John Wetteland on the mound, holding one finger in the air, getting mobbed by teammates.  It was thrilling.

The Yanks would go on to win three more titles – all in a row – from 1998 to 2000.  I got used to winning.  What kid wouldn’t?  I stopped getting championship hats and I stopped begging to stay up for playoff games.  It stopped being special to me.

From 2001 to 2008, the Yanks made two World Series and lost both.  They were eliminated in the ALDS several times and humiliated by the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS after being up three games to none.  During this time, I started getting hungry for a championship again.  I had been spoiled by the four early titles in my lifetime and I wanted another.

This year, my love of the Yankees saw a new level.  I followed the team every single day.  I read the blogs, kept up on the transactions and lineup changes.  They were my team.  There were no blogs in the late 90s, so with this evolution in media, I was able to keep up with the team in a whole new way.  I also went to Opening Day for the first time since 1996, albeit in a different stadium.  I watched every playoff game and nearly every inning.  I was more nervous for this year’s playoffs than for anything else in the history of my fanhood.  I knew this was the Yankees’ year and I didn’t want to see them fail.  I loved this team… the pies, the salutes, the comebacks, everything.

As the bullpen door opened and Mariano Rivera jogged out in the 8th inning of game six, I set my Tivo, knowing that this was the beginning of the end.  I put on a jersey and hat and prepared a bottle of champagne.  I smiled, yelled, and jumped up and down as Joe Buck said “The Yankees are back on top” (pretty weak, if you ask me).  I watched every minute of the celebration and celebrated with the players.  The announcers made a big deal out of the nine years it took for Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera to win the World Series again.  It was my nine years, too.

After being so used to winning, it was taken away from me for a while, but the absence of the World Series trophy in the Bronx made me appreciate this one so much more.  It was the first title of my “adulthood” and it was beyond exciting.  It was the perfect finish to a very special Yankee year.

Goodbye Yankee Stadium

September 21, 2008

I never made it to the original Yankee Stadium, it was torn down before I was born.  For as long as I could remember I spent at least one summer afternoon or evening at baseball’s cathedral in the Bronx.  In my lifetime, I think I’ve been to Yankee Stadium somewhere between 60 – 100 times and there’s no way to tell given that I only started collecting my ticket stubs over the past 2-3 years.

This year, while my 5-9 record won’t indicate it, I saw some great games.  A personal high, 14 games seen in person this summer.  Two against Boston, two against the Mets in the final year of Yankee Stadium.

I’ve watched hundreds of games on tv.  I saw all four clinching outs of the 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 World Series’ and can still hear Joe Buck say “The Yankees are champions of baseball!” when Charlie Hayes caught the last out at Yankee Stadium in 1996.  I can still see Wade Boggs riding the horse and him being given a helmet at the parade down the canyon of heroes.  I saw Jim Abbott‘s no-hitter at my cousin’s house on Long Island.  I watched the games after 9/11 and Aaron Boone’s home run against Tim Wakefield in 2003.

I don’t remember exactly, but I think my first game was against Texas sometime in the very late 1980s or the early 1990s.  I’ve been to games in rain, snow, and sun.  I’ve been there for bat day, days celebrating the lives of Phil Rizzuto and Joe DiMaggio, and for Old Timers’ Day.  I’ve been to monument park at least a dozen times.  I’ve taken my friends on tours of the park, pointing out all the retired numbers and where I sat for some of my most memorable games.  I’ve sat in every section you could possible sit in: field level, main box, loge, both upper deck sections, and the bleachers.  I’ve chanted “Boston Sucks,” worn the shirt and been told to cover it up.  I’ve been to opening days, the last game of the regular season, and a ton of games in between.  I almost caught a foul ball last year, but I misplayed it and the ball hit me in the arm and bounced back a row. I’ve taken the Stadium tour, sat on the the dugout bench, and been in the clubhouse.  I saw the black square hanging from one locker with the white “15” on it, and i hit the sign from the clubhouse to the dugout with the immortal words of Joe DiMaggio: “I want to thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee.”

While I don’t remember the first time I was at the Stadium, I will remember the last, Thursday night, a win over the Chicago White Sox.  Since I got back home after that game, I have compiled a list of the top ten games I have been to in my life at Yankee Stadium, evoking my favorite memories of baseball, Yankee Stadium, and the summer.  If you had asked me two weeks ago, I would have said I haven’t really been to many special occasions at Yankee Stadium in my life, missing some milestones by one day (A-Rod‘s 500th home run, Derek Jeter passing Lou Gehrig for the all-time hits record at Yankee Stadium). When I made this list, though, I realized that I have been to a lot of special occasions at the Stadium.  I had a terrible time ranking these, because they are each special memories to me, so let me share them with you:

10.  Yankees vs. Mets [June 27, 2008] – This was the last Subway Series game to ever be played at Yankee Stadium and it was also part one of a subway doubleheader, where the Yankees hosted game one and the Mets hosted game two.  The Yanks got clobbered behind Carlos Delgado‘s nine RBIs, but it was cool to be there for that.  Box Score.

9. Yankees vs. Twins [July 2, 2007] – In this game, on his third or fourth attempt, Roger Clemens secured career win number 350, a number I thought would never be reached ever again (Greg Maddux did it this year). Box Score.

8. Yankees vs. Blue Jays [June 3, 2008]Joba Chamberlain‘s first start.  I’ve never seen so much excitement leading up to a game than Joba’s first start.  The Yanks lost and Chamberlain left in the third inning, but this was a dawning of a new era to many Yankee fans and people were screaming and taking pictures the whole pre-game.  Box Score.

7. Yankees vs. Cubs [June 18, 2005] – Not only was this the first regular season series between two of baseball’s most historic teams, but after a little over nine years in the big leagues, Derek Jeter hit his first career grand slam.  Box Score.

6. Yankees vs. Red Sox [May 7, 1994] – I think this was my first Yankee-Red Sox game and it featured Clemens and Melido Perez.  Somehow the Bronx Bombers won this one, but what I remember the most about this game was that it is my earliest memory of monument park.  I remember being in monument park and we walked right next to the visitor’s bullpen where Clemens was preparing for the start.  I could barely see over the wall there, but my Dad lifted me up and showed me Clemens throwing, not five feet from me.  Box Score.

5. Yankees vs. Devil Rays [September 27, 1998] – Last day of the regular season.  We sat on the main level of the left field outfield.  Shane Spencer, the September hero of 1998, hit a grand slam and Bernie Williams won the batting title that day.  Williams had gone back into the locker room and when people were standing, screaming for him, someone had to go get him and Bernie came out with his pants on, a t-shirt, sandals and his glasses for the curtain call.  Box Score.

Andy Pettitte started for the Yankees on Opening Day 1996

4. Yankees vs. Royals [April 9, 1996] – Opening Day, 1996, in the snow.  Fresh off their first postseason appearance since the 1980s, Don Mattingly and Buck Showalter were gone and this was the beginning of the Joe Torre/Derek Jeter era.  We were sitting in right field in the last occupied section of the loge (amazing how the place wasn’t always sold out until they started winning championships again).  I was at the end and I kept complaining to my Dad about how cold I was.  He was about ready to smack me when he got up and noticed that my whole right side was covered in snow.  I think we lasted four to five innings of the Yankee win.  Box Score.

Paul Simon on Joe DiMaggio Day

3. Yankees vs. Blue Jays [April 25, 1999] – Joe DiMaggio Day.  The Yankee Clipper had passed away a few months earlier and this was George Steinbrenner‘s tribute to him.  Paul Simon came out and sang Mrs. Robinson in centerfield.  Although I never saw DiMaggio play, I was smart enough to realize that he was one of the best and most revered Yankees of all-time and it was an emotional day.  Box ScoreVideo.

2. Yankees vs. Rangers [April 26, 1995] – Opening Day after the strike.  My father pulled me out of school for this and that alone is worth being in the top five memories.  Fathers and sons at baseball game, passing the love of the game on, is really what baseball is all about.  One of my favorites of this era, Jimmy Key, made the start for the Yanks.  I remember that my father and I went down early to see the players and Reggie Jackson was there, signing autographs and some of the other players signed too.  My other favorite, Paul O’Neill, walked into the ballpark and didn’t wave or anything. I love the guy for the way he played the game, but when baseball was trying to earn fans’ respect back, that wasn’t the way to do it.

1. Yankees vs. Red Sox [July 1, 2004] – Derek Jeter diving into the stands.  Yankee-Boston games are always special, but this game had the feel of a World Series game.  In the top of the 12th, Trot Nixon popped a ball up near the stands on the third base side of the field, a ball that, from our seats in the first row of the upper deck on the foul side of the right field foul pole, was clearly going into the stands was snagged by Jeter as he dove into the stands.  Wow.  That’s what everyone in the place said.  He was banged up and needed help being brought back to the dugout, but that was a baseball player.  This also marked the only time that A-Rod played shortstop with the Yankees, replacing Jeter in the field in the top of the 13th with Gary Sheffield moving to third base.  The Yanks won in the bottom of the 13th when John Flaherty pinch hit for Tanyon Sturtze (with all the defensive changes, the Yanks needed starting DH Bernie Williams in the field, so they sacrificed the DH) and hit a double down the left field line, scoring Miguel Cairo. I’ve seen two Stanley Cup final games in my life and they don’t come close to the energy in Yankee Stadium after the win that night.  There was constant screaming and excitement on the way down the ramps and you couldn’t hear anything.  That memory represents how special the Yankees and Yankee Stadium are.

Honorable Mentions: Derk Jeter going for Gehrig’s record against he White Sox on September 15, 2008 with a ton of camera flashes; seeing Joba Chamberlain’s father Harlan on April 3, 2008 and everyone stopping and chanting Joba’s name; the day the Yankees were given their 1996 World Series rings in 1997 (don’t remember the date and would appreciate help!).

We all have our special memories of Yankee Stadium.  I don’t agree with them tearing it down and I will miss it.  The Stadium was like my second home in the summer, especially since I’ve gotten older and bought my own ticket packs.  I will cherish the memories of the games I have been to, many I can’t remember right now, and allow the Stadium to live on through those memories.

As we approach 8:00 and the first pitch of the last game of the Stadium, I warn that next year will not be the same and the new Yankee Stadium won’t replace the old, but I guess that’s what my father would say about this stadium.  I have taken a ton of pictures and will always remember Yankee Stadium as an important part of my summers.  The players changed, the teams changed, but Yankee Stadium was always a constant.

For now though, the only thing left to say is Goodbye.