Saturday, September 20, 2008

Yankee Stadium All-Time Team

Last night, the football team of East Brunswick High School made only their second trip ever to Hudson County. It was a considerably better result than that 1989 disaster at Bayonne. The Bears beat North Bergen, 28-14.

It wasn't that close: North Bergen's 2nd touchdown was late in the 4th quarter, after we fumbled deep in their territory, and then scored on a long run, and we then took it deep into their end again, and we ran out the clock inside their 10-yard line. It was more like a 35-7 win, against a team with some talent, but not a team that could compete in the Red Division of the Greater Middlesex Conference.

There was one play on which I should elaborate: That long run? It was made by their Number 7, who finished it with a jumping high-five and a chest-bump. This when down by 28-7 with about 4 minutes left in regulation play.

Who does this dope think he is, Jose Reyes? Maybe it's the Number 7. Maybe we should change the lyrics of the old song to, "Where have you gone, Mickey Mantle?" instead of Joe DiMaggio.


Which brings me to today's bottom-of-the-9th walkoff 1-0 win for the Yankees over the Baltimore Orioles in the next-to-last-game, the last day game, at the real Yankee Stadium. The game-winning hit was by Robinson Cano, who, if no home runs are hit tomorrow night, will also be the man who hit the last home run in The Stadium.

It really hurts. Losing The Stadium hurts more than this season's mediocre performance ever could.

With that, let me post this: The Yankee Stadium All-Time Teams.

One for the Yankees, one for the opposition. The enemy first.

1B Jimmie Foxx. Now almost forgotten, this guy played for the 1927-33 Philadelphia Athletics powerhouse and the strong Boston Red Sox teams of the late '30s and early '40s. He hit 534 home runs, including a 1937 blast to the upper deck in left field, off Lefty Gomez. Someone asked Gomez how far it went. He said, "I don't know, but I do know it took somebody 45 minutes to go up there and get it back."

2B Roberto Alomar. First for getting in the Yankees' way with the early 1990s Toronto Blue Jays, then for being "Ol' Spithead" with the 1996-97 Baltimore Orioles, then for opposing the Yankees in the 1998 Playoffs with the Cleveland Indians.

SS Cal Ripken. Of all the players I've ever seen, Ripken probably played better against the Yankees with me in the park than anybody.

3B George Brett. You had to ask? From the 1976 Playoffs to the 1985 season that ended with Kansas City's only World Series win, including the fight he picked in the '77 ALCS and the Pine Tar homer in '83, the greatest player the Royals have ever had was the biggest Yankee-killer ever to step to the plate, until...

DH David Ortiz. If you hate the Yankees, The Red Sox' Big Papi is your Mack Daddy.

LF Ted Williams. No, he was not the greatest hitter who ever lived. Babe Ruth was. But Ted helped his claim considerably by his visits to The Stadium with the Red Sox, taking advantage of that short porch in right field.

CF Johnny Damon. The holiest position at Yankee Stadium, this was actually the hardest spot to fill on the opposing team. I couldn't go with Ty Cobb or Tris Speaker, because by the time The Stadium opened in 1923, they were already winding down. I couldn't go with Willie Mays or Duke Snider, because they spent their entire careers in the National League. Mays played a grand total of 7 games that counted at The Stadium -- 3 in the 1951 World Series, 3 in the '62 Series, and 1 of the 2 1960 All-Star Games. Snider played in a few more: 15, all in World Series play, between 1949 and 1956. I couldn't go with Ken Griffey Jr., who spent the 1st half of his career in the American League with the Seattle Mariners, but then went to the National League and only came in during Interleague play before being traded to the Chicago White Sox this year.

So, why Damon, who's not a future Hall-of-Famer and has done well for the Yanks? Because he did lots of damage to the Yanks, with the Royals, with the Oakland version of the A's, and finally with the Red Sox. He was a big factor in breaking the Curse of the Bambino. Putting him here is, if you think about it, a way to forgive him. Not that I forgive the others.

RF Manny Ramirez. For all the hitting he did with the Red Sox, it's easy to forget what a great hitter he was with the Indians in the late 1990s. Especially when you see that footage where he's... bald. Yes, Manny Being Bald. Shaving his head. Then, he went to Boston and discovered that long hair worked for him, too.

(UPDATE: On July 30, 2009, it was revealed that Papi and Manny flunked steroid tests in 2003. Meaning, among other things, that Manny might be the only player who ever took steroids and his hair got longer, instead of falling out.)

C Mickey Cochrane. Not Carlton Fisk? No, with the A's and the Detroit Tigers, this old-timer, a serious challenger for the title of greatest catcher, ever messed up 5 Pennant races for the Yankees in 7 years, between 1929 and 1935. Unfortunately, his career came to an end when he was beaned by Yankee pitcher Bump Hadley in 1937. No batting helmets then.

The pitching rotation is a little tougher, because there can be only 5. Walter Johnson doesn't make it due to timing: When The Stadium opened, he had 5 seasons left. Josh Beckett doesn't make it due to timing, either: Despite his pitching for the Florida Marlins in the 2003 World Series and for the Red Sox since 2006, he hasn't had as many chances to be a "Yankee Killer" as you might think. Frank Lary, who pitched for the Detroit Tigers in the Eisenhower and Kennedy years, got called "The Yankee Killer" for some strong performances against them in 1958 and '59, but in 1961, the one Pennant race between 1935 and 1987 in which the Yanks and Tigers were both really in it into September, he got rocked by the Yanks, so he's out.

The starting pitchers are: Lefty Grove of the 1930s A's and Red Sox, Bob Feller of the 1940s Indians, Luis Tiant of the 1970s Red Sox, Dave Stieb of the 1980s Blue Jays, and Curt Schilling -- a spectacular performance in a 1997 Interleague game with the Philadelphia Phillies, three more strong performances in the 2001 World Series with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and, of course, the Bloody Sock Game in the 2004 ALCS. Not a lot of performances -- certainly not as many strong ones as Grove, Feller, Tiant and Stieb, who always seemed to be standing in the Yanks' way -- but indelible performances.

And the reliever? There's no one reliever who really drives the Yankees nuts, but Tom Henke of the 1980s-90s Jays stands out. Unless you'd like to bring in... Armando Benitez.

The manager is Al Lopez. From Lou Boudreau of the Indians in 1948 to Sam Mele of the Minnesota Twins in 1965, he was the only manager to lead a team other than the Yankees to an American League Pennant, the 1954 Indians and the 1959 White Sox.

The batting order can be: Damon, Brett, Williams, Foxx, Ortiz, Ramirez, Cochrane, Alomar, Ripken. I know that's 3 lefties to start, but that's where these guys best fit in the order.


And for the Yankees...

First, the manager, Number 37, Casey Stengel. Number 37.

Leading off, the shortstop, Number 2, Derek Jeter. Number 2.

Batting 2nd, the center fielder, Number 5, Joe DiMaggio. Number 5.

Batting 3rd, the right fielder, Number 3, Babe Ruth. Number 3.

Batting 4th, the 1st baseman, Number 4, Lou Gehrig. Number 4.

Batting 5th, the designated hitter, Number 7, Mickey Mantle. Number 7. (Yes, I know, he never played the "position." You don't like it, write your own damn list.)

Batting 6th, the left fielder, Number 31, Dave Winfield. Number 31.

Batting 7th, the catcher, Number 8, Yogi Berra. Number 8.

Batting 8th, the 2nd baseman, Number 6, Tony Lazzeri. Number 6.

Batting 9th, the 3rd baseman, Number 9, Graig Nettles. Number 9. (He won 4 Pennants and 2 World Championships. Also unlike Alex Rodriguez, can be trusted in the clutch.)

And pitching, Number 16, Whitey Ford. Number 16.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, would you please rise, and join Robert Merrill as he sings our National Anthem.


Since tomorrow's game is on ESPN, today was the YES Network's last broadcast from the original Yankee Stadium. They closed with a song Joe Raposo wrote about Ebbets Field, sung by Frank Sinatra. Not the song most associated with Sinatra and the Yankees, but totally appropriate.

"There Used to Be a Ballpark."

I'd better wrap this up. Tears are not good for a computer keyboard.

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