Posts Tagged ‘Yogi Berra’

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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Is George Steinbrenner a Hall of Famer?

November 22, 2008

With the passing of the Yankee ownership torch from George to Hal Steinbrenner, George is effectively in retirement and therefore, a candidate for the Baseball Hall of Fame in five years.  Just how strong a candidate is “The Big Stein?”

First off, George M. Steinbrenner III purchased the Yankees from CBS in 1973 for somewhere between $8-$9 million.  Since then, Steinbrenner has been suspended from baseball, banned for life (and subsequently reinstated), and has seen the team win six championships.  Most Yankee fans, at this point anyway, respect and honor Steinbrenner, who always did what he could to ensure the Yanks would be competitive.

This wasn’t always the case, however.  During the Presidency of Richard Nixon, Steinbrenner actually pled guilty to making illegal contributions to Nixon’s re-election campaign and felony obstruction of justice.  Getting away form the government with a fine, Steinbrenner was suspended from baseball for two years, with a reduction granting Steinbrenner re admittance to the game after 15 months.  He was eventually pardoned by President Reagan in 1989.  In 1990 Steinbrenner was thrown out of baseball for life for hiring some seedy character to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield after Winfield accused The Boss of not paying $300K to Winfield’s foundation, which was part of his contract.  News of his ban was greeted by a standing ovation at Yankee Stadium.  The ban for life lasted three years and Steinbrenner was reinstated in 1993.

The Boss also got on fans’ nerves when he would hire and fire managers (including fan favorites and Yankee legends in their own right Yogi Berra and Billy Martin) at an astounding rate.  He would even rip team employees and broadcasters in public.

So aside from these ever-so-minor problems with Steinbrenner’s candidacy for Cooperstown, he did help the game develop in new ways.  He was the first owner to sell TV cable rights when he sold the Yankees’ rights to the MSG Network.  Despite his ~$9 million purchase price, Steinbrenner helped the Yankees build their brand to surpass the $1 billion mark for franchise valuation by Forbes in 2005, the first franchise to be valued that high.  His 10 year deal with ADIDAS in 1997 was ground-breaking and brought the club $97 million.  The creation of the YES Network was a masterful move to build the brand to new levels as the Yankee product could be consumed in a new way.  Since then, other teams have followed suit (see: NY Mets) and even leagues have ventured into creating networks (NFL Network, MLB Network debuts in 2009).  Maybe he had something to do with player salaries skyrocketing…  Steinbrenner, however, definitely did things differently and was an innovator.

I will say that, at least in terms of “contributors/pioneers,” the Baseball Hall of Fame does have other figures that promoted controversy.  Former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey faced charges of racism as he passed up opportunities to sign Jackie Robinson and Wilie Mays and his Sox were the last team to integrate and did so in the embarassing year of 1959.  Former Comissioner Bowie Kuhn had a minor problem when the baseball writers tried to put Negro League players in the Hall of Fame by saying there were no accurate records for the players; he did offer to build the Negro Leaguers their own wing.  When the writers threatened to boycott Hall elections, he gave in.  Perhaps the most staunch opponent of racial integration was former commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis who prolonged integration for 24 years, according to his successor Happy Chandler.

So does George Steinbrenner belong in Cooperstown?  The Nixon thing shouldn’t matter too much because it really didn’t have anything to do with the game.  The Dave Winfield situation is troublesome, but is it as serious as threatening racial integration?  I’m not sure.  Realistically, in five years, will the baseball writers remember The Boss for the controversy?  Honestly, I doubt it because that will have happened so long ago.  Steinbrenner will be remembered for stirring the pot, his contributions to free agency, franchise valuation, and for the Yankee run in the late 1990s.  Maybe his legacy will be as an often polarizing figure, but I think Steinbrenner’s personality and his contributions to the game will be unforgettable and for that reason, he belongs in Cooperstown.