Monday, June 22, 2015

An Emotional Old-Timers Day and a LOT of Runs

Saturday was Old-Timers Day -- the holiest day on the Yankee calendar. It usually comes in July or August, but, this year, it was on June 20.

It looked like rain for most of the day, but a full ceremony, a full 3-inning Old-Timers Game, and a full 9-inning regular game were all held.

The ceremony began with Willie Randolph being honored with a Plaque in Monument Park. I'm not going to put the text here; instead, I'm going to make up a separate page that shows the Monuments and Plaques.

Willie gave a speech thanking his family, his teammates, George Steinbrenner and God. (George now knows that he isn't God.) He had a lot of people to thank, and he joked that his old teammates told him not to talk too long, so their old muscles didn't stiffen up. Willie's from Brooklyn: No one can tell him what to do.

The Old-Timers introductions usually go like this:

1. A bunch of "Who's he? I don't remember him" and "He was a Yankee? When was that?"

2. More familiar Yankees, who played on the 1996-2003 and 1976-81 Dynasties.

3. The oldest (or furthest-back) guys who don't fall into the last 2 categories.

4. The Hall-of-Famers who aren't in Monument Park.

5. The players (not necessarily Hall-of-Famers) who are in Monument Park.

6. Introduction of "Yankee Widows." In the past, this included Claire Ruth, Eleanor Gehrig, and, more recently, Cora Rizzuto. Now, it includes Arlene Howard (Mrs. Elston), Helen Hunter (Mrs. Catfish), Diana Munson, Kay Murcer, Jill Martin (Billy's 4th and final wife), and, most recently, Soot Zimmer (Mrs. Don). Oddly, while Randy Maris (Roger's son) took part in the old Yankee Stadium's closing ceremony in 2008, Roger's widow Pat has never been introduced on Old-Timers Day. Nor was Mickey Mantle's widow Merlyn, who, like Cora Rizzuto, died in 2010. (There were extenuating circumstances.) David Mantle stood in for his father at the old Stadium's closing.

7. A roll call of the fallen, figures connected with the Yankees who have died since the last Old-Timers Day. This used to also include figures from the baseball world who did not have a connection to the Yankees.

8. Robert Merrill's recording of "The Star-Spangled Banner" (and, up until 2000 or so, Merrill himself, wearing, on this one occasion of the year, a Yankee uniform with the Number 1½. He died in 2004).

9. The Old-Timers Game.

10. The regular game.

In the 1970s, '80s and early '90s, the last 2 players introduced would be Mickey Mantle, then Joe DiMaggio. After they died, and George patched things up with Yogi Berra, the last 3 would usually be Reggie Jackson, Whitey Ford, and Yogi.

The last few years, as Yogi has turned 90 and gotten increasingly frail, he and Whitey (now 87) have been driven in on a golf cart from center field, as if they were coming in from the bullpen. It's usually shaded to protect them from the sun (not that it was necessary this time), making it hard for anyone inside the ballpark to see them, unless they look on the DiamondVision board.

This time, Yogi wasn't feeling up to it, but let the team know he'd be watching on television. As a courtesy to the great man, this was mentioned first, and he got a nice hand.

Dr. Bobby Brown, the 3rd baseman-turned cardiologist who, along with Yogi, is the last surviving member of the Yankee teams that won the 1947 and 1949 World Series, was driven in on a golf cart, along with Don Larsen, who pitched the perfect game in the 1956 World Series. Brown, despite his age, seemed to be fine, but Larsen needed a cane, and had a lot of trouble.

The next-to-last player introduced was Whitey Ford. And when he was, for an entire minute, nothing happened. Finally, a small figure wearing a Yankee cap and a Yankee jacket was shown in the dugout by a YES Network camera. He looked so old, and like he didn't know where he was.

Granted, it's not the Yankee Stadium he knew, but a dugout is a dugout, a field is a field, he was capable of walking up the steps, and a closeup revealed a hearing aid, so clearly, he heard his name. He finally walked out, took a few steps from the dugout, waved a little, and then, instead of walking out to where the other players were seated on the field (instead of the usual lining up on the foul lines), walked back down the steps. I'm concerned that Whitey may be starting to drift into dementia.

The last player introduced was Mel Stottlemyre. Pitching for the Yankees from 1964 to 1974, pitching coach for the Mets in their 1980s "glory" days, and pitching coach for the 1996-2003 Yankee Dynasty, he has beaten multiple myeloma once before. But it's come back, and from what I've heard, he might not be long for this world.

The Yankees, in my opinion, made a terrible mistake not giving Bobby Murcer his Plaque in 2007, while his cancer diagnosis was known but he was still capable of participating in a ceremony -- as happened with Roger Maris in 1984. (He knew he was sick, but the general public did not yet know, and he looked fine during the ceremony.)

This time, while the Randolph Plaque was announced, there was an additional surprise. Like Willie, Mel wore Number 30. And a Number 30 was marked on each foul line, presumably for Willie. It turned out to also be for Mel, and, with his family on hand, including fellow major league pitchers and pitching coaches Mel Jr. and Todd, a Plaque was unveiled for him.

"This is, without a doubt, the biggest surprise I've ever had," Mel said. "Today, in this Stadium, there is no one that's happier to be here on this field than myself."

*

After emotion like that, the regular game could only be anticlimactice, right? Wrong. The Yankees have this nasty habit of disappointing their fans and their legends on Old-Timers Days and Monument Park days. This time, thankfully, they went the other way.

The Yankees' linescore for the 1st 5 innings was "1 2 5 2 3." That's not a linescore, that's the ZIP Code for Elizaville, New York, outside Albany. It was 13-0 Yankees at that point.

The runs included 2 home runs by Carlos Beltran (his 6th and 7th of the season), another by Alex Rodriguez (his 14th), another by Didi Gregorius (his 4th), another by Chris Young (his 8th), a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch for Beltran, and a bases-loaded wild pitch.

It was certainly enough for Nathan Eovaldi (6 innings) and Bryan Mitchell (3) to keep the Tigers at bay. Final score: Yankees 14, Tigers 3. WP: Eovaldi (6-3). LP: Alfredo Simon (7-4). Amazingly, despite coming in with a 13-run lead, Mitchell got a save (his 1st), because of the way the save rule is written: Credit a pitcher with a save if he is the finishing (check) but not winning (check) pitching in a game won by his team (check), and he meets 1 of the following 3 criteria:

1. He comes in with a lead of no more than 3 runs, and pitches for at least 1 inning
2. He comes in with the tying run either on base, at bat, or on deck
3. He "pitches effectively" for at least 3 innings.

I guess whoever wrote the save rule decided that anything can happen over the course of 3 innings -- hell, you could say that about 1 inning -- and so "pitches effectively" means "he doesn't blow the lead." Even if it's 13 runs.

This is not a suggestion that the Yankees call Esmil Rogers back up, or reacquire Boone Logan, to test this theory.

*

Whenever the Yankees score a lot of runs, many fans, myself included, end up thinking, "Maybe they should save some of these runs for tomorrow, or for a few days from now." Especially when we have to go up to that little green pinball machine in Boston.

For for yesterday's game, we needed a lot more than a few of Saturday's runs. Masahiro Tanaka did not have his good stuff, and allowed 6 runs in the 1st 2 innings. Victor Martinez hit 2 home runs, and J.D. Martinez (no relation) hit 3 homers.

The Yankees never caught up. Stephen Drew hit 2 homers (his 10th & 11th) and McCann 1 (his 10th), but it wasn't close to being enough.

(I guess finding and fixing that hitch in his swing worked: He's gone from the .140s up to .188 over the last month, and he now has 24 RBIs, over half of them since looking at his swing on video.)

Tigers 12, Yankees 4. WP: Anibal Sanchez (6-7). No save. LP: Tanaka (4-3).

No comments: