One of my prized possessions back in the early 1990s was a baseball card of Bernie Williams. It was his rookie baseball card (I still have it). It was inside that pack of Topps Baseball Cards that I bought in Shoppesville, Greenhills. It was difficult following the Yankees in the 1980's because they would play well but never get to the playoffs. That changed in the 90s when players like Williams came up from the farm system and free agents like Wade Boggs and Paul O'Niell arrived. I'd say that Gene Michaels and Buck Showalter put them on the right path too (as the Boss was unable to meddle since he was banned from baseball). And Williams played CF, that's primo real estate in Yankee Stadium. It is the hallowed ground where named like DiMaggio and Mantle once patrolled with aplomb. It was tough seeing Bernie not come back for 2007. I guess that's the cruel part of sports, that when one's skills erode, they're either retireable or tradeable.
Old-Timer's Day for me, was something I looked forward to year after year. Aside from the stadium itself and Monument Park, it was a connection to the Yankees' rich and glorious past. I never saw Ron Guidry play in his prime (except on television). Ditto with Lou Piniella so Old-Timer's Day was that opportunity. Of course, the bat speed isn't there. As are the motors they call arms for guys like David Cone and even Dave Righetti but it's one game that whoever gets a hit or an out, everyone cheers. It's a day when today's generation learn about the past.
And what a past! Here are the players and former members of the organization who took part in the 65th Old-Timer's Day on June 26, 2011 at Yankee Stadium (coincidentally Derek Jeter's 37th birthday). The list includes the widows of late players Arlene Howard (widow of Elston Howard), Helen Hunter (widow of Jim "Catfish" Hunter), Jill Martin (widow of Billy Martin), Diana Munson (widow of Thurman Munson) and Kay Murcer (widow of Bobby Murcer).
Yankees for Old-timer's Day: Luis Arroyo, Jesse Barfield, Clay Bellinger, the eternal and ageless Yogi Berra, Ron Blomberg, Brian Boehringer, Dr. Bobby Brown, Homer Bush, Jose Cardenal, Rick Cerone, Jerry Coleman, David Cone, Al Downing, Brian Doyle, Cecil Fielder, Whitey Ford, George Frazier, Oscar Gamble, Joe Girardi, Dwight Gooden, Rich "Goose" Gossage, Ron Guidry, Charlie Hayes, Arlene Howrad, Helen Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Pat Kelly, Don Larsen, Graeme Lloyd, Hector Lopez, Kevin Maas, Jill Martin, Lee Mazzilli, Ramiro Mendoza, Gene "Stick" Michale, Diana Munson, Kay Murcer, Jeff Nelson, Graig Nettles, Joe Pepitone, Lou Piniella, Mickey Rivers, Charlie Silvera, Bill "Moose" Skowron, Aaron Small, Mike Stanley, Mel Stottlemyre, Darryl Strawberry, Joe Torre, David Wells, Roy White, and Bernie Williams. Get the popcorn, the nachos, and hotdogs. Wash them down with sodas or a beer. It's a blast from the past on a beautiful day.
The photos are by Al Bello/Getty Images.
How about that? Yogi Berra (8), Whitey Ford (16) and Regge Jackson (44) standing for Star Spangled Banner at Old-Timer's Day.
The Straw Man -- Darryl Strawberry
"Dr. K" Dwight Gooden
Tino Martinez or Tino Bambino as he was called during his seven years in the Bronx
Cecil Fielder who was an integral addition to the 1996 World Series champion team of New York
David Wells and David Cone. Two guys who tossed no-hitters for New York.