Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Yankee faithful get to honor Jorge Posada and it’s just so fitting

The Yankee faithful get to honor Jorge Posada and it’s just so fitting
by rick olivares pic by barton silverman/ny times

When the New York Yankees play their home opener at Yankee Stadium tomorrow, Hiroki Kuroda will be on the mound. The atmosphere at the Bronx will be electric after the Bronx Bombers arrested a three-game sweep by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays by sweeping the Baltimore Orioles to even their record to 3-3. And the Yankees are hoping that the homestand will boost their place in the standings.

Adding to the festivity of opening day at Yankee Stadium is the official send-off for longtime catcher Jorge Posada. After playing 17 seasons, practically his entire career, Posada hung up his spikes for good when it didn’t look like he would get more playing time. Incredibly despite playing backstop for the Yankees’ last World Series title team in 2009, Posada played less and less the last two seasons. Incredibly, it was skipper Joe Girardi who made the call to diminish Posada’s role.

I wrote back in 2010 that it was an interesting contrast considering it was Posada who rendered Girardi expendable in the late 1990s when New York was in the midst of an incredible string of four World Series title in five years. Of course, that could be mere coincidence.

But the emotional Posada never lived down the diminished role.  I watched the tearful press conference where he said goodbye to the team. On Friday (Saturday Philippine time), New York will have the opportunity to give Posada the send-off he richly deserves.

As I write this, I feel the hair on my skin stand as I recall the emotional send-off for Paul O’Niell by far my favorite New York Yankee during the team’s final home game of the 2001 season when fans began to chant Paulie’s name late in the game when the team was losing. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing as it happened as the old stadium rocked as one chanting O’Niell’s name. Even players on the Arizona Diamondbacks took note of the stirring tribute and were moved by the gesture.

There was another moment that evoked a similar response. I was a young buck when I saw the Yankees take the field on the day on August 6, 1979 (on television). They just flew back to New York hours after burying catcher and team captain Thurman Munson who died in a plane crash five days before. ABC, the network televising the match, showed images of the previous opening match of a five-game set with Baltimore where the Yankees honored their captain by standing in their defensive positions. The catcher’s box was empty. It was an incredible eight-minute ovation for Munson and I remember being in tears watching that. After the late Yankee announcer Bob Sheppard said that it was time to play ball, New York’s back-up catcher Jerry Narron entered the field. That August 6, then-Yankee manager, the late Billy Martin, asked if Bobby Murcer, one of Munson’s two best friends on the team (the other being Lou Piniella) if he wanted to sit the game out. Murcer, was one of my fave players on that team, and he had delivered the eulogy to Munson in the funeral and he wanted to play.

Murcer single-handedly brought the Yankees back from a 4-0 deficit. In the ninth inning, Murcer hit a two-run line drive to left field that sent home Bucky Dent and Willie Randolph for a wild 5-4 win (that was against the Orioles' great closer Tippy Martinez).  

Up to that point, I only knew of Howard Cosell from the fights of Muhammad Ali but he was anchor for that game between the Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles. And I’ll always remember what he was trying to say so coolly back then: “Line drive and it’s a fair play to the corner. Here comes the score and the Yankees win 5-4. On the day they buried their team captain and leader, the hero Bobby Murcer, one of the eulogists for the Yankees today.” I might have missed out some words there but that is what I remember Cosell saying.

For me as a lifelong Yankee fan, a tradition passed on to me by my beloved grandfather, more than any other sport, even more than football, baseball is my game. One of the biggest thrills in my life was going to Cooperstown and to Yankee Stadium. I got to watch in the Stadium, many of my latter day favorites from Bernie Williams, Roger Clemens, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and of course, Jorge Posada.

It’s rare to find players who stick to one club. It still galls me that Michael Jordan played for Washington. It does. I am happy that Don Mattingly played his entire career in New York. I am happy that Paul O’Niell ended his career in pinstripes and I do hope to see his #21 in Monument Park one day. I am happy that Bernie Williams never played for anyone else. I am happy that Derek Jeter is another lifelong Yankee. But on Saturday, that day belongs to Jorge Posada.

Thanks, champ!

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