Saturday, April 23, 2016

How Long It's Been: A Yankee Stole Home Plate

Last night, in the Yankees' 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, Jacoby Ellsbury took a big risk: Trailing 3-2, and with 2 outs and 2 strikes, he attempted to steal home plate.

The risk paid off: He succeeded.

Not counting double steals, no Yankee had stolen home plate since May 5, 2001. It was Derek Jeter, at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, in the 3rd inning of a 5-2 Yankee win over the Baltimore Orioles.

The strangest thing about this game may not have been the steal of home. It may have been that Brian Boehringer got the save. Mariano Rivera did not appear.

At any rate, May 5, 2001 was nearly 15 years ago. How long has that been?


It was still the Yankee Dynasty. Manager Joe Torre's starting lineup was:

LF Chuck Knoblauch
SS Derek Jeter
RF Paul O'Neill
CF Bernie Williams
1B Tino Martinez
DH David Justice
2B Alfonso Soriano
C Jorge Posada
3B Scott Brosius

P Andy Pettitte

The Orioles featured Cal Ripken in his last season, and Mike Bordick, who had played for the Mets against the Yankees in the previous year's World Series. The last active player from this game, aside from Jeter, was Oriole 2nd baseman Jerry Hairston, who would come to the Yankees in midseason in 2009, and help them with the World Series.

From that Yankee team, Torre, O'Neill, Williams, Martinez, Posada and Pettitte all have Plaques in Monument Park. Torre, Williams, Posada, Pettitte, Rivera, and, for all intents and purposes, Jeter and O'Neill have had their uniform numbers retired.

The San Francisco Giants had not won the World Series in 47 years (since they were still in New York), the Boston Red Sox in 83 years, the Chicago White Sox in 85 years. The Arizona Diamondbacks and the team then known as the Anaheim Angels had never yet won one. The D-backs, the Angels, the Houston Astros, the Colorado Rockies, the team then known as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and the Texas Rangers had not yet won a Pennant. The Expos were still in Montreal, and the Astros were still in the National League. All of those facts have now changed.

The Yankees, the Mets, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Cincinnati Reds, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Minnesota Twins, the San Diego Padres, the Florida/Miami Marlins and the Expos/Washington Nationals have all built new ballparks since then. That's 30 percent of MLB in just 15 years.

Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Bob Feller and Warren Spahn were still alive. Ripken, Tony Gwynn, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Frank Thomas, Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were all active players. All of them are now in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Active then, but not in the Hall today, and they know why, were Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Gary Sheffield and Roger Clemens. Also active then, but not in the Hall today, was Curt Schilling -- not only because many of us suspect him of steroids, but, even more than the Rocket, the Big Unit and Pedro the Punk, for his personality.

Alex Rodriguez was in the 2nd month of the biggest contract sports had ever seen. David Ortiz was a barely-average slugger for the Minnesota Twins, from whom nothing much was expected. Albert Pujols was a rookie. Jose Bautista was in the minor leagues. David Wright, Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Zack Greinke, Alex Gordon, Max Scherzer, Daniel Murphy, Yoenis Cespedes, Felix Hernandez, Andrew McCutchen and Buster Posey were in high school. Clayton Kershaw, Matt Harvey and Madison Bumgarner were in junior high school. Mike Trout was 9 years old, and Kris Bryant and Bryce Harper were 8.

Terry Collins, now manager of the Mets, was a coach with the Rays. Kurt Rambis of the Knicks was an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers. Alain Vigneault of the Rangers was out of hockey. Todd Bowles of the Jets was coaching defensive backs for the Cleveland Browns. Joe Girardi was playing for the Chicago Cubs. Jack Capuano of the Islanders was coaching the South Carolina-based Pee Dee Pride. Kenny Atkinson of the Nets was playing in France's basketball league. John Hynes of the Devils was an assistant coach at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. And Ben McAdoo of the Giants was an assistant at Michigan State.

The defending World Champions were the Yankees, the Devils, the Lakers and the Baltimore Ravens. Hasim Rahman (WBC & IBF) and John Ruiz (WBA) were the men recognized as the Heavyweight Champion of the World. The Olympic Games have since been held in America, Greece, Italy, China, Canada, Britain and Russia. The World Cup has since been held in Japan, Korea, Germany, South Africa and Brazil.

George W. Bush had been "President" for less than 4 months, and the idea that his time in the White House would be dominated by terrorism would have been considered ridiculous. Indeed, while many Americans had heard of Osama bin Laden, few had heard of his organization, al-Qaeda.

Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, and their wives, were all still alive. Barack Obama was a State Senator in Illinois. Hillary Clinton had just been elected to the U.S. Senate from New York. Donald Trump was about to open the 72-story Trump World Tower, then the tallest all-residential structure on Earth. Derek Jeter would be one of its tenants, although he has since moved out.

The Governor of New York was George Pataki. The Mayor of New York City was Rudy Giuliani, and running to replace him were a dedicated Democratic public servant, Mark Green, and a playboy Republican billionaire, Michael Bloomberg.

The Governor of New Jersey was Donald DiFrancesco, filling in the expired term of Christine Todd Whitman, whom Bush had appointed Director of the Environmental Protection Agency. (And Republicans wondered why we called Bush "stupid.") Running to replace DiFrancesco were former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler, who was so conservative he made the new "president" look like George McGovern; and Woodbridge Mayor and former State Senator Jim McGreevey, who seemed very popular with the ladies, and he seemed to reciprocate their feelings. If we only knew...

The Pope was John Paul II. The Prime Minister of Canada was Jean Chretien. The Prime Minister of Britain was Tony Blair. The British monarch was Queen Elizabeth II. (That hasn't changed.) Manchester United was about to win the Premier League, and Liverpool what remains a unique "treble": The FA Cup, the League Cup and the UEFA Cup (the tournament now known as the Europa League). Bayern Munich was about to win the UEFA Champions League.

Major novels of 2001, later turned into movies, included John le Carre's The Constant Gardener, Ian McEwan's Atonement, and Yann Martel's Life of Pi. There were, as yet, only 4 Harry Potter books, and only 3 installments of A Song of Ice and Fire. The 1st Harry Potter film would not debut until November, and no one had yet tried to turn ASOIAF into a TV series or a film.

Major films of the spring of 2001 included Blow, about a 1970s cocaine trafficker; the film version of Bridget Jones’ Diary, the live-action version of Josie and the Pussycats, the 1st Shrek film, the 1st Spy Kids film, A Knight’s Tale (in which Heath Ledger plays someone decidedly less creepy than the Joker), the Ben Affleck telling of Pearl Harbor, and the Nicole Kidman-starring not-quite-remake of Moulin Rouge.

Those films were your choices in the spring of 2001? What’s the Worst That Could Happen? Oh yeah, there was also a very bad buddy picture with that title. Why was it bad? Because the "buddies" were Danny DeVito and Martin Lawrence.

Television shows that were about to air their final first-run episodes were Nash BridgesDiagnosis: MurderWalker: Texas Ranger (starring the incredibly overrated Chuck Norris), 3rd Rock From the SunStar Trek: VoyagerMoesha, and, after 33 years, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Debuting were The Fairly OddParentsBracefaceSix Feet Under, and Fear Factor. Not sure if there’s a pattern there. The WB and UPN were separate networks, not yet having morphed into The CW and MyNetworkTV.

Nathan Fillion was best known as Joey Buchanan on One Life to Live. He had not yet appeared in Firefly, let alone Castle. Stana Katic had been in exactly one role, as Annie in the film Acid Freaks.

Mark Harmon, who once starred as a baseball player in a movie titled Stealing Home, was best known as Dr. Jack McNeil on Chicago Hope; David McCallum as Agent Illya Kuryakin on The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Michael Weatherly as Logan "Eyes Only" Cale on Dark Angel (with his then-girlfriend, Jessica Alba); Sasha Alexander as Gretchen Witter on Dawson's Creek; Sean Murray as Zane Grey Hart on Harts of the West; Lauren Holly as Deputy Sheriff Maxine Stewart on Picket Fences; Rocky Carroll as Joey Emerson on Roc; Pauley Perrette was still a blonde and mostly making commercials, but had recently begun to appear as Alice Cramer on Special Unit 2; Cote de Pablo had yet to appear on English-language television at all; and Emily Wickersham was in high school. Most Americans had never heard of NCIS, much less expected to ever watch a TV show based on it.

Ed O'Neill was still though of as Al Bundy on Married... with Children. Sofia Vergara was modeling, and had not yet acted -- no joke. Ty Burrell and Eric Stonestreet had recently appeared on The West Wing (though not in the same episode). Burrell was filming Black Hawk Down. (The same guy playing Phil Dunphy and an Army Ranger? Wow, he must be a great actor!) Julie Bowen was playing Carol Vessey on Ed. Jesse Tyler Ferguson had just had his 1st film role, as Thomas Jefferson's possible son, Tom Hemings, in Sally Hemings: An American Scandal. Sarah Hyland was 10, Ariel Winter was 3, Rico Rodriguez and Nolan Gould were 2, and Aubrey Anderson-Emmons wasn't born yet.

Khloe Kardashian, Rob Kardashian, Lady Gaga, Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington were in high school. Kevin Jonas, Joe Jonas, Rihanna and Emma Stone were in junior high. Louis Tomlinson was 9; Jack Gleeson, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Nick Jonas, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj and Zayn Malik were 8; Ariana Grande, Liam Payne, Niall Horan, Harry Styles and Justin Bieber were 7; Kendall Jenner, Sophie Turner and Abigail Breslin were 5; Maisie Williams was 4; Kylie Jenner was 3.

The Number 1 song in America was "All For You" by Janet Jackson. It succeeded "Angel," which Shaggy (not the Scooby-Doo character, this guy smoked even more marijuana) had ripped off the Merrilee Rush song "Angel of the Morning." It would be succeeded by the Moulin Rouge-inspired remake of Patti LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade," sung by Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mýa and Pink. George Harrison and Michael Jackson were still alive. Bob Dylan was about to turn 60.

The Sony PS2 was the leading home video game system.Wikipedia had just begun operation. The iPod would debut in October. We had the Internet, but there was no Skype, no MySpace, no Facebook, no YouTube, no Twitter, no Tumblr, no iPhone, no Pinterest, no Instagram, no iPad, no Vine. DVDs hadn't yet replaced VHS videotapes as the home entertainment of choice. And a "smart phone" would have been one that fit in your pocket.

In the spring of 2001, the Russian space station Mir fell from orbit. A U.S. spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet collided, forcing the American plane to make an emergency landing; it was detained for 10 days. The Netherlands became the 1st nation to legalize gay marriage.

Temba Tsheri, age 16, became the youngest person to climb Mount Everest, which is half in China and half in Nepal. Just 1 week later, the Crown Prince of Nepal killed his father (the King), his mother (the Queen) and several other members of the royal family, before shooting himself. Although brain-dead, he was King for 3 days. His uncle became King Gyanendra, but has since been deposed and the monarchy abolished.

The holder of the Nobel Peace Prize was President Kim Dae-jung of Korea. Timothy McVeigh was executed for blowing up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, making him still the only recipient of the death penalty from the federal government since 1963. And the World Trade Center still stood.

Perry Como, and Anthony Quinn, and Arlene Francis died. So did Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. Jackson Brundage, and David Mazouz, and Sasha Obama were born.

May 5, 2001. A Yankee stole home plate. Now, nearly 15 years later, it has happened again.

The Yankees won the Pennant that year. I would gladly take that again this year.

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