Posts Tagged ‘Reggie Jackson’

The World Series Parade

November 15, 2009

No one throws a celebration like New York City, although I could have told you that after attending the Giants parade in February 2008.  Despite having been at the Giants’ parade, there was nothing that could have prepared me for the chaos that was the Canyon of Heroes on November 6th for the Yankee parade.  If New York had a great celebration for the Giants, the Yankee parade blew that out of the water entirely.

I left my parents’ house in Westchester County at about 7:00 a.m., thinking there wouldn’t be a problem getting to the parade in time for its 11:00 a.m. start.  I took Metro North and the subway to get down to city hall, which wasn’t too bad, in terms of crowds.  It was rush hour and aside from people wearing Yankee jerseys, it couldn’t have been much worse than usual.  I walked out of the subway station at about 9:00 a.m., two hours before the parade start time.  It was a madhouse.  Walking along Broadway (where the parade was to come through) wasn’t even possible, so I went on Church Street and figured I would walk down a side street.  The first several streets was blocked off by the NYPD, as crowds had already reached capacity down those streets.  This was never the case at the Giants parade.

I made it to Fulton Street where crowds were already about 20 people deep from Broadway.  As the clock inched closer to parade time, the crowds swelled and everyone got stuck in place.  Literally.  I couldn’t raise my hands, people were so close.  Every so often a group of people near Broadway would decide they’ve had enough and would try to leave the area by going back the way they came… through the mob.  Imagine how well that worked.  At this point it was really walking through someone as opposed to walking by someone.  Each time someone would leave their spot to abandon watching the parade, it would get incredibly uncomfortable as people would stop in awkward places, trying to create room where there wasn’t any.  After deserters would get through, the rest of the mob would push up, trying to get closer to Broadway.  At the Giants’ parade, I could walk freely on the sidewalks along Broadway.  Not even remotely possible at this one.

Maybe crowds were 20 deep when I got to where I thought my spot would be on Fulton Street, but by the time the parade was starting, the crowd down the street was probably near 50 deep.  I think I ended up around 10 people deep, off the street.  I had never experienced such a crowded spot in my life.  I don’t think the word “crowded” does the situation justice.  People were packed together so tightly that someone always had their back on my chest, their arms on my arms.  I eventually got my arm up to get some pictures as the Yankee players came by on float.

Some of the Yankee legends, like Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson came by in classic cars, but they were so low on the street that I never saw them.  The players were up higher and visible to most everyone and got huge cheers, the way champions should be greeted.  There were huge gaps on the parade, as 10 minutes would go by before I would see another float of players after one had gone by.  The floats also drove by us pretty quickly and I only got a glimpse of the World Series trophy.

Regardless of the discomfort of the crowd, it was still an awesome experience seeing the happy players get treated like royalty.  Why not shower multi-millionaires with shredded paper?  This type of exuberance in New York City is only seen when a team the Yankees win a championship and it was thrilling to be a part of.

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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.

A New Kind of American Hero

July 15, 2008

Last December baseball hit arguably its lowest point since the 1994 strike cancelled the World Series, when MLB released its infamous Mitchell Report which identified current and former major leaguers that used some sort of performance enhancing drugs.

Isn’t it ironic then that in one of the highest points of the 2008 season, it is a recovering drug addict that hears his name chanted by 55,000+ fans on baseball’s grandest stage, Yankee Stadium.  Josh Hamilton blasted 28 mammoth home runs in the first round of the 2008 Home Run Derby last night and had the crowd screaming louder for a visiting player than I have ever heard.

It was a magic night for baseball and a magic night for Hamilton as this recovering addict became baseball’s newest hero hitting balls farther than I have ever seen anyone hit a ball in Yankee Stadium, reaching near the top of “The Black” (batter’s eye in centerfield) and sending a bomb over the rightfield bleachers and off an advertisement.   Not since the days of Reggie, The Mick or The Babe has someone captivated the nation with massive home runs at Yankee Stadium.

Hamilton is not just another reincarnated bash brother, in fact, his story is much more compelling.  Like Mantle and Ruth, Hamilton was once troubled by alcoholism and Hamilton went even further and was into drugs.  He was eventually banished from baseball and was completely absent from anything baseball related for an astounding three years.  Three years without seeing a major league pitch is a long time.

As a resident of the lower Hudson Valley in New York, I had the opportunity to see Hamilton play first-hand in the New York- Penn League (low A ball) with the Hudson Valley Renegades, the class A affiliate of the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays.  The first time around, Hamilton was this mega prospect that seemed destined for Cooperstown.  After his fall from grace, he came back through Hudson Valley and I got to watch him again.

Though I didn’t know him, since he played locally, I have always taken an interest in his career, the ups, downs, recovery and now, stardom.  Good for him, I thought, as I sat on the edge of my couch and watched him do things I have never seen done before at a place I like to think of as my summer home.  What he did last night was simply amazing.

I think Josh Hamilton is great for baseball.  Heroes aren’t always pure, clean, and perfect.  It’s been for too long that the stars of the baseball world have had squeaky clean images and say all the right things (see: Derek Jeter).  That’s great and all, but here’s a guy that truly exemplifies what America is all about.  He messed up…BIG TIME… but earned his way back the right way through hard work and dedication.  He remembers the lessons learned from being among the dregs of society and works to stay where he is – clean.

The guy talks with kids about drugs and messing his life up when not on the diamond, barely goes out with his teammates, and keeps a personal coach to make sure he stays in check.

Josh Hamilton’s showcase in the Bronx last night is evidence that you should never give up hope because hard work can take you anywhere.

What better role model can you ask for?