Why The New York Yankees Old Timer’s Day Has Become A Joke
1955 Old Timer’s Day (l-r) Frank Home Run Baker, Ray Schalk, Dazzy Vance, Ted Lyons, Gabby Hartnett and Joe DiMaggio (photo: Acme)
Sunday June 25, 2017 the New York Yankees will hold their 71st Old TImer’s Day.
There was a time when baseball’s immortals and Gods showed up at Old Timer’s Day games. Take a look at this video below and you can understand my disappointment at what passes today for Yankees Old Timer’s Day. If you have any sense of the history of baseball, this assemblage of players at Yankee Stadium taped on the field by Greg Peterson in 1982 will blow you away.
Maybe the disappointment stems from the fact that with a few exceptions there are almost no former Yankee players of the Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Lefty Gomez, Waite Hoyt; Allie Reynolds; Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra caliber still living. The pomp and ceremony of recent Yankees Old Timer’s Day is now somewhat revolting to watch.
Old-Timers Day started with a gathering unlike any other. In 1939 former Yankee teammates of Lou Gehrig gathered to honor him after he had stopped playing due to contracting the illness, (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) that would eventually take his life and now bears his name. It was at this occasion that Gehrig made his “luckiest man on the face of the earth,” speech.
Starting in the 1940s, Yankees Old Timer’s Day became an annual event where former baseball stars from other teams squared off against former Yankee greats. The players who graced the field at Yankee Stadium to play in a spirited and fun exhibition game were among the best to ever play the game. Over the years other teams held their own Old Timer’s Day. Now the Yankees are the only team in baseball that still holds an Old Timer’s Day .
At previous Old Timer’s Day fans would see opponents such as; Ty Cobb; Lefty Grove; Dizzy Dean; Al Kaline; Stan Musial; Ted Williams; Warren Spahn; Hank Greenberg; Bob Feller; Bill Terry; Pee Wee Reese; Duke Snider; Willie Mays and dozens of other “real” stars.
A collection of Hall Of Fame participants at the 1968 Old Timer’s Day at Yankee Stadium (l-r) Red Ruffing; Bill Terry; Luke Appling; Bill Dickey; Joe Medwick; Frankie Frisch; Pie Traynor; Joe DiMaggio; Bob Feller and Lefty Grove.
As the Hall-of Famer’s and greats started passing away the names showing up at Old Timer’s Day gradually became less glamorous, until they started delving into quasi-stars and then marginal players.
I am not certain when exactly it ended, but the Yankees stopped inviting players from other teams to participate in Old Timer’s Day.
Over the last 15 years, you may have noticed Old Timer’s Day has become a Yankee love-fest of a few former stars such as Paul O’Neil, Roy White, Willie Randolph, Joe Pepitone and a lot of what can best be described as one season wonders or ordinary ex-Yankee players.
There are still some great former Yankee players who show up to participate in the festivities most notably Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson, Ron Guidry, Goose Gossage and this year a rare visit by Sparky Lyle.
Many of players the Yankees invite to Old Timer’s Day are nondescript. Yankee management must feel that today’s fans prefer seeing some of these “greats” that have participated in Old Timer’s Day over the last few years:
Brian Boehringer; Scott Bradley; Homer Bush; Bubba Crosby; Chad Curtis; Brian Dorsett; Dave Eiland; John Flaherty; Bobby Meacham; Jerry Narron; Matt Nokes; Dan Pasqua; Gil Patterson; Andy Phillips; Aaron Small; Tanyon Sturtze; Marcus Thames and others of that ilk. Continue reading →
New York – May 13 – ON THE DOUBLE – Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees is force out victim at second base and Detroit Tigers’ shortstop Chico Fernandez gets off throw to first to complete double play in fourth inning at New York’s Yankee Stadium today. Behind Mantle is Tigers second baseman Jake Wood, who fielded Bill Skowron’s grounder and started the twin killing by tossing to Fernande. Tigers won 8-3 (AP Wirephoto – 1961)
This is a play you may never see again.
Mickey Mantle is nowhere near second base and certainly does not look like he is sliding. No, the Mick is definitely trying to take out Chico Fernandez and stop a double play. It was a legal play in 1961, but soon it may not be.
After the 2015 playoff injury to the Mets Ruben Tejada when the Dodgers Chase Utley steamrolled him in a violent collision, Major League Baseball decided to review the rules governing taking out a fielder during a slide. There is a strong possibility of introducing a rule in the near future to stop a runner from barreling into a fielder.
There is already a rule in the books, Rule 5.09(a)(13), which states:
A batter is out when — A preceding runner shall, in the umpire’s judgment, intentionally interfere with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play. Comment: The objective of this rule is to penalize the offensive team for deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base. Obviously this is an umpire’s judgment play.
I don’t believe that any player should intentionally hurt another player in sliding, but taking out the fielder who is trying to complete a double play should not be made illegal or penalized with the threat of suspension if the fielder gets hurt. Continue reading →
Mickey Mantle at bat as Yogi Berra waits on deck World Series Game 7 October 10, 1956 – photo: Ed Stein
The Yankee Hit Parade
Ebbets Field, N.Y. – This unusual photo of Mickey Mantle at bat and Yogi Berra (8), Yankee catcher on deck waiting for his turn with the lumber, typifies both hopes and fears of this series. Taken in the eighth inning of today’s final game, it shows Dodger catcher Roy Campanella ready to receive and plate umpire Dusty Boggess ready to call. In the background is the crowd as poised as Mickey himself. Mickey hit three homers in the series, though he only got out one hit out of four at bats in today’s game. Berra was one of today’s heroes for the bombers. He hit a pair of two-run homers and got a grand-slam homer in a previous game in the series. Yanks shut out the Dodgers 9-0, for the game and the series. 10-10-56 photo by Ed Stein
The year 1955 witnessed the end of the Brooklyn rallying cry of “wait until next year” when they finally defeated the New York Yankees in an exciting seven game World Series, highlighted by Johnny Podres’ stellar pitching for the Dodgers.
The Dodgers hoped to repeat as champions and even forced a seventh game at their home ballpark at Ebbets Field.
But it was not to be.
After having a perfect game pitched against them by Don Larsen at Yankee Stadium in game five, the Dodgers went back to Ebbets Field down three games to two to the Yankees. Continue reading →
Yogi Berra Dies At 90 – A Remembrance In Rarely Seen Photos Of The Yankee Great
Yogi Berra during the 1960 World Series – photo Marvin E. Newman
Lawrence Peter “Yog”i Berra died Tuesday, September 22, 2015 at the age of 90 in West Caldwell, New Jersey where he had been living in an assisted-living facility.
While countless obituaries will appear over the next few days recounting Berra’s storied baseball career, business acumen and quotable life, we thought it best not to dwell on Berra’s passing or try and tell all about his amazing life in just a few paragraphs. Yogi’s life story will be be well covered by his former teammates, friends, journalists and colleagues.
We will tell you that Yogi was not a great catcher when he first arrived in the majors. Yogi worked hard with former Yankee catcher Bill Dickey to make himself into a great defensive catcher. Also three American League MVP awards tell you that Yogi was extremely valuable to the Yankees. What those awards will not tell you was that Yogi was one of the best bad ball hitters ever – whether the ball was up by his eyes or literally in the dirt – Yogi could do massive damage on a pitch that most batters would not be able to do anything with.
We decided the best way to remember this Hall of Famer was with some old press photos that appeared long ago in magazines and newspapers and mostly have not been seen since.
Frank “Spec” Shea and Yogi Berra before game 1 of the 1947 World Series at Yankee Stadium. 1947 marked the first of a record 10 world championships for Berra.
Yogi Berra and Phil Rizzuto enjoy playing cards on a Yankees charter flight from New York to St. Louis, May 15, 1950 – photo Acme
Clockwise – Yogi Berra (without cap), Mickey Mantle, Vic Raschi and Allie Reynolds celebrate 3-2 World Series game 6 victory over Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field – October 6, 1952. Berra homered in the seventh inning, Mantle homered in the eighth, Raschi got the victory and Reynolds the save.
September 6, 1955 – Yogi’s Off And Running – Yogi Berra the New York Yankees formidable catcher, shows the wrist action that provides the power that makes him one of the club’s long ball hitters. Berra currently hitting .273 has pounded out 23 homers and driven in 94 runs. He has hit 18 doubles and two triples. – AP wirephoto Continue reading →
Chris Carter does what he does best: strikes out. photo: Houston Chronicle
We are not even at the end of June and yesterday I read that the Astros Chris Carter had struck out 102 times so far this season. Carter is batting .198 with 13 home runs. The Astros as a team have struck out 728 times.
Those statistics are appalling and yet no one in baseball circles talks about it. Had they been playing thirty or more years ago players like Chris Carter, Mark Reynolds and the recently retired Adam Dunn most likely would not have been on a major league roster. Hitting thirty or more home runs, and batting .220 or under and striking out around one third of your plate appearances would have insured that you would not be around the big leagues very long.
But those days are over. Apparently there is no shame in striking out consistently if you can hit a few homers. Many teams apparently covet these one dimensional players and give them big contracts if they can hit some dingers.
1935 starting infield of the Detroit Tigers (l to r) Charlie Gehringer, Billy Rogell, Hank Greenberg & Marv Owen. They combined for 173 of the team’s 453 strikeouts.
Contrast today’s strikeout numbers with baseball’s glory days and the statistics are startling. For instance, the 1935 Detroit Tigers hitters had 453 strikeouts in total.
Almost every starting player on the team had more walks than strikeouts.
Even the Tigers pitchers only struck out a combined 84 times in 549 plate appearances.
Hank Greenberg led the team with 91 strikeouts, while hitting 36 home runs and driving in an astounding 168 runs. Hall of Fame catcher Mickey Cochrane batted .319 and struck out a total of only15 times. Continue reading →
Mantle swung the bat literally as hard as anyone who ever played the game. You would see his forearms and biceps bulge as he whipped the bat through the strike zone on a slight incline. Watching Mantle swing you could literally see that every muscle in his six foot frame was converging to pulverize the baseball.
When Mantle connected cleanly with the ball, the sound was unique. There was a sharp crack that resonated through the entire ballpark and that ferocious swing would drive countless baseballs deep into the gaps or frequently farther, with balls settling in the outfield stands or bleachers for a home run. There was no home run, like a Mickey Mantle home run.
Mickey Mantle steals 2nd base and slides hard 1950s. photo: Marvin Newman
In his prime there were few fielders like Mickey Mantle, who could come out of seemingly nowhere to snag a drive hit in the gap, that when first hit, was thought to be uncatchable. Mantle’s arm could throw bullets, so runners had to think twice about taking an extra base or tagging up when the ball was hit to Mickey.
Mantle played hard breaking up double plays and stealing bases when necessary, even though he was playing on notoriously bad legs which would hamper his entire career. Continue reading →
White Sox outfielder Minnie Minoso scores on a short pop fly hit by Nellie Fox. Kansas City Athletics catcher Haywood Sullivan tries to apply the tag, The White Sox won this first game of a doubleheader 5-3. (Sept 20, 1961) photo: UPI
Months after the Chicago White Sox acquired Orestes “Minnie” Minoso in a three team trade from the Cleveland Indians in 1951, White Sox manager Paul Richards said, “Technically the deal helped everyone.
Minnie Minoso and Eddie Robinson examine Ted Williams bat
Actually we got the best of it. I wouldn’t trade Minoso for anyone in the league.”
Minoso was a star in Cuba before coming over to the United States and he never forgot his Cuban roots.
Minoso was signed by Indians owner Bill Veeck after being alerted to his ability by Abe Saperstein, the Harlem Globetrotters impresario, who was always on the lookout for black baseball talent. Minoso had been with the Indians since 1949 but had only gotten into nine games in two years. By 1950 Veeck was out as Indians owner, forced to sell the team to fund his divorce. The new owners considered Minoso expendable. That decision possibly cost the Indians several pennants throughout the 1950’s.
In his rookie season in 1951 Minoso batted .326 and led the league in stolen bases with 31 and triples with 14. In his career Minoso batted over .300 in eight seasons and had one unusual statistic – he led the league in being hit by pitches ten times. Minoso ran the bases with abandon and fielded as gracefully as any player in baseball.
When he retired in 1964 Minnie Minoso’s career average was .298 and he had hit 186 home runs while driving in 1023 runs.
Bill Skowron, Minnie Minoso Nellie Fox and Mickey Mantle July 24 1957 photo: AP
Minoso died Sunday, March 1, 2015 at a gas station in Chicago after suffering a tear in his pulmonary artery, at the age of either 90 or 92. There had always been some doubt to the Cuban star’s actual age.
Alvin Dark Slides In Safely As Yogi Berra Drops The Ball And The Yankees Fall Apart
Giants shortstop Alvin Dark is safe at home plate as Yankees catcher Yogi Berra can’t handle the ball
NEW YORK: ERROR FOR BERRA – Giant Alvin Dark is safe at the plate as Yogi Berra drops the ball trying to tag him. Bobby Brown threw to Berra from third on Monte Irvin’s grounder in the Giants big five-run sixth inning. The National League champs made it their second victory over the Yankees in the third game of the 1951 World Series at the Polo Grounds, Oct 6, with a 6-2 score. Credit (ACME) 10-6-51
The New York Giants had every reason to believe that this was the year they would win the World Series. They had defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers just days before in a best of three tie-breaker playoff series. On October 3, Giants fans witnessed the “Miracle of Coogan’s Bluff” – Bobby Thomson’s dramatic 9th inning home run off of Ralph Branca that propelled them into the Series against the Yankees.
The World Series would be a match-up between cross-river rivals and their respective rookie stars Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle and it would end up being the finale for Joe DiMaggio’s career.
On October 6, 1951 with 52,305 fans packed into the Polo Grounds, the largest crowd ever to see a World Series game in a National League ballpark, the Giants fans were cautiously optimistic.
The series was tied at one game apiece and the Giants were holding a slim 1-0 lead in the fifth inning, when depending on how you look at it, the Giants erupted or the Yankees fell apart. Continue reading →
Unlike Mariano Rivera’s Farewell, No Fanfare And Only 5,723 Fans At Yankee Stadium – September 25, 1968
Mickey Mantle looks on as his longtime teammate Whitey Ford announces his retirement May 30, 1967.
With all the celebrations surrounding Mariano Rivera’s retirement and last game at Yankee Stadium, it got me thinking about Mickey Mantle’s last game at Yankee Stadium.
It was a sunny day on Wednesday, September 25, 1968 and not being able to attend school yet because I was too young, my father who worked a night shift took me to Yankee Stadium to see a meaningless 2:00 pm game between the Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees. It was the last home game of the season for the 5th place Yankees. I vividly remember the game, but it originally wouldn’t be because it was Mickey Mantle’s last game at Yankee Stadium. Continue reading →