New York Yankees Old Timer’s Day Has Become Mediocre Ex-Yankee Day

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.

Maybe it’s unfair to compare these players to former players who could be invited to Old Timer’s Day like George Brett; Tom Seaver; Nolan Ryan; Joe Carter; Vladimir Guerrero; Frank Thomas; Dennis Eckersley; Paul Molitor; Alan Trammel; Willie Mays; Sandy Koufax; Hank Aaron; Jim Rice; Eddie Murray; Joe Carter; Johnny Bench; Ivan Rodriguez; Carl Yastrzemski; Jim Palmer; Cal Ripken Jr.; Greg Maddux; Ken Griffey Jr. and Roberto Alomar.

But couldn’t the Yankees assemble a higher caliber of Yankee old-timers?

Yankees I’d like to see invited  to future Old Timer’s games that have not been there, at least recently, include wife-swappers Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich; Graig Nettles; Don Baylor; Doc Medich; Wade Boggs; Dave Righetti; Randy Johnson; Tony Kubek; Luis Tiant; Bobby Shantz; Phil Linz; Stan Bahnsen; announcer Bill White (a great player for other teams); Lindy McDaniel; Dick Tidrow; and Cliff Johnson.

I understand that the Yankees feel they must have enough players who are capable of going out and actually playing in the Old-Timer’s game. Do they really need to have it be an all Yankee game? At least they could commemorate anniversaries in a more compelling manner.

40 years ago the Yankees beat the Dodgers in the World Series. Maybe I’m in the minority when I say I’d like to see the 1977 Yankees assemble and play Old Timer’s from the 1977 Dodgers. Wouldn’t you want to see Graig Nettles facing Don Sutton? Or Sparky Lyle pitching to Reggie Smith?

For some reason the thing that bothers me most about Old-Timer’s Day is not the many mediocre players who are there, but the acknowledgments of who has passed away since the previous year.

In the past, the late great Yankee public address announcer Bob Shepherd would slowly read off baseball’s necrology of the major league players who had died since the last Old Timer’s Day. It could bring tears to your eyes as the players on the field stood silent with their caps off and heads bowed listening to a cascade of names that fans of a certain age would certainly recognize.

During a minute of silence for the boys who passed away (l-r) #11 with back to camera Lefty Gomez; Johnny Mize; Red Rolfe; Waite Hoyt; Bob Shawkey; Red Ruffing and Joe DiMaggio August 10, 1968 (photo: AP)

The Yankees now choose to only acknowledge their own and maybe one or two great players, umpires or executives around the major leagues who were not Yankees.

So this year you might hear the names of former Yankees Bob Cerv, Bob Kuzava, Ruben Amaro, and Joe DeMaestri. Don’t count on the Yankees  acknowledging the deaths of  Jim Bunning; Ned Garver; Roy Sievers; Bill Hands; Sam Mele; Jimmy Piersall; Daryl Spencer; Ralph Branca; Chris Cannizarro;  Jose Fernandez; Doug Griffin; Jim Hickman; Turk Lown; and Choo Choo Coleman.

Instead you’ll hear the names of a few former Yankees interspersed with deceased people no one has heard of except their families and friends. People who work in the Yankee organization either in the front office; behind the scenes like the manager of concessions; wives of people no Yankee fan knows or most insultingly people peripherally associated with the Yankees like a commercial sponsor of the team!

In all probability the current generations watching the Old Timer festivities don’t know what Old Timer’s Day used to be and they are quite content to watch this tepid imitation.

All in all, every traditional aspect of baseball is changing including Old-Timer’s Day. Change isn’t always better.

We’ll conclude with Mickey Mantle’s final home run at Yankee Stadium, Old Timer’s Day 1973.


11 thoughts on “New York Yankees Old Timer’s Day Has Become Mediocre Ex-Yankee Day

  1. michael maybaum

    Realize this is an older post, but with the lackluster lineup announced today for OTD it seems fitting. Seeing guys like Reynolds, Raschi and Lopat, Collins, Mize, et all, and then the opponents. I remember going to an OTD in the late 80’s/early 90’s that had Dimaggio, Mantle, Mays(who made a shoe string catch in right), Musial, Rizzuto, etc. As for blame, start with the commisioners office who signed a deal with Equitable insurance in the early 90’s that had teams inviting only those who could play in a game. Next, player apathy. Yogi figured out how to be there when coaching/managing the Mets, Mr 3000 Jeter can’t? Too special to grace us little folks with his presence? And he’s not alone, Posada, Pettite, Swisher, Texiera, even A Rod can’t be bothered. If I’m the Yanks I wouldn’t plan on anything special next year when Jeter goes in the HOF, he won’t show anyway. Last, it’s the team. Lyle, Peterson, Nettles, Figueroa, Tidrow, where’s their invites?

  2. Mike Ippolito

    Joe DiMaggio was my fathers favorite player and he took me to my very first MLB game to Yankee Stadium for Old Timers Day In 1968! Joe D hit a ball nearly to the wall in Center field and made it to second base. In his playing days he probably would have legged it out for an inside the park homer! I was shy a few months of my 12th Birthday then but what a memory I have watching all of the Hall of Famers play!

  3. Vincent Gagliardi

    I’ve attended Old Timer’s Day regularly for years until it became a mediocre event. Haven’t been to one in years.

  4. Peter

    I’m hoping someone here can answer this question. I was a Yankees fan as a kid in the late ’70s, and my dad managed to take me to one game in the ’77 season, and one game in the ’78 season. Anyways, before one of those games, there was an Old-Timers Game, and one of the players hit a homerun. My whole life I had believed that it was Joe DiMaggio who hit that homerun, and trotted around the bases. But a few years ago, I reminisced with my Dad about that game, and he didn’t believe Joe DiMaggio hit any homerun, and wasn’t even sure Joe was there. Does anyone know if Joe DiMaggio was still attending Old-Timers games in the late 70s? Was he physically able to go up to bat and hit a homerun at that age? I have always treasured the memory that I actually got to see Joe DiMaggio hit a homerun, and would like to know if it really happened, or my 12 year-old brain somehow got the players mixed up…

    1. Peter

      I just did a little further searching and found that, indeed, Joe DiMaggio was present at the 1978 Old-Timer’s Day, which was memorable because it was the day that Billy Martin was reinstated as manager of the Yankees after being fired five days before.

      “Five days after his tearful resignation, Martin was back in the fold. Always a fan favorite, Martin’s ovation was so loud that Joe DiMaggio felt upstaged. The Yankees legend was so insulted that he later threatened not to return to Old-Timers’ Day.”

      I still don’t know if that was the Old-Timers game I went to (since I may have seen the one in 1977) but it does make clear that Joe DiMaggio was still attending them in 1978. The news article above mentions that Joe DiMaggio felt upstaged. I wonder if that was because he had just hit a homerun, perhaps?

  5. Steven Zollo

    Wow! How great to hear from Fritz Peterson! Who would know him now? great pitcher on Last place teams. But I remember going to a 1971 old timers day! Actually seeing Joe DiMaggio at bat! But I loved when it was Yankees versus “opposing stars “. In their ORIGINAL CORRECT uniforms! Not these cheap generics of today. Actually seeing Satchel Paige in his Kansas City Monarchs uniform! I will never forget it. Funny, I took photographs with what was then called an “instamatic” Kodak camera! The players are just specks in the pictures, I had to write on the back to identify them. And old Yankee stadium, they would hang up the banners on the facade. I have beautiful pictures of that. By the way, I own an original stadium seat, not the plastic 1976 version, the 1923 version! I know I’m writing this after the fact, but I couldn’t resist!

  6. Fritz Peterson

    Thank you for your kind comments. While I would have loved to be there (and still hope to be invited someday), I understand that the team still needs guys who can play. At 75, I can hardly throw a ball anymore. Playing with the New York Yankees was the single greatest honor of my baseball life, and as my Facebook Friends know, I believe they are the best franchise in the history of sports. If I’m included in a future Old Timer’s Day, I would love to be there. But if that is not in the cards, please be assured that my pride in being part of Yankee history will never be diminished. Thank you again. I’m incredibly grateful whenever I hear kind words like the ones expressed yesterday.

    1. B.P. Post author

      Mr. Peterson

      It is an honor that you wrote in.

      I apologize for being flippant with the “wife swap’ introduction but it was meant to point out for those who do not know, that, that is the reason the Yankees have never invited you for Old-Timer’s Day. Out of the hundreds of pitchers that have put on a Yankee uniform over 114 seasons only 10 pitched more innings and only 15 have won more games for the Yankees than you, Fritz Peterson. And only 10 starters with 50 or more wins had a better ERA.

      Having grown up with those losing Yankees teams in the 60s and 70s, it was always a pleasure to watch you, Mel, and Stan pitch. Those were the games I knew the weak hitting Yankees at least had a chance to win. Had you played 10 years later with a good Yankees team behind you, I believe you would have had multiple 20 win seasons.

      As far as inviting you in the future, I can’t imagine the ever conservative-no facial hair-Yankees will, but on the other hand I never thought Jim Bouton would be invited and I was proven wrong.

      So I hope I’m wrong again and someone in the Yankee brass believes its time to forgive your supposed transgressions, because you deserve to be there and be honored for what you did on the field, not off.

      warm regards

    2. Sylvester Matera

      Fritz Peterson was an underrated pitcher and will always be a great Yankee. Pleasure watching you growing up!!

  7. Skip Carpentier

    I have been going to Old Timers Day at Yankee Stadium since 1959 and have missed very few. I saw Ty Cobb at my first and Herbert Hover throw out the first pitch. I’ve seen Joe D, Mickey Mantle hit a home run in 1973. It’s True, there are not many left like those guys and we keep losing them yearly. I was surprised to see players like Fritz Peterson not EVER invited. The Yankees need to fine tune this event. They need the Riveria’s and Jeter’s to attend. In the old days DiMaggio never failed to attend. Mantle attended until the end of his life. This event is losing it’s luster. Also, as you wrote, I got to see some great ball players from other teams whan the Yankee greats would face them in a game. It used to be a reunion of Yankee greats and other great former players around the league. The Yankees have forgotten the old fans too. They no longer have a special program and not even a special pull out section in the program. If they don’t think it’s importany and historic what do they expect from the fan base. When I was younger it was THE event of the day and the stadium was rocking!


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