O is for Old-Timers’ Day

This was the first time I had been in the new Yankee Stadium, opened in 2009 to replace “the house that Ruth built.

willie randolphThe day before Father’s Day, my father-in-law and I took a bus, along with a bunch of other folks, from Oneonta in upstate New York to the Bronx in New York City, NY to see the New York Yankees play a night game versus the Detroit Tigers.

So why did we leave a little after 10 a.m. for a 7 p.m. game? It was Old-Timers’ Day. Former Yankees come back and get recognized; think of it as a family reunion. There is a certain relational connection, too; six widows of former Yankees were noted as well.

Before that ceremony, fans got a chance to visit Monument Park, beyond the center-field fences, where former Yankee greats, such as Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Joe DiMaggio, are honored with plaques.

It had been long announced that Willie Randolph (pictured left), long-time second baseman and then coach, was going to be honored, with his #30 being retired. His picture appeared on the cover of the special commemorative program. Willie spoke about growing up in Brooklyn, rooting for the Yanks.

A large number of returning Yankees are announced individually. The always entertaining and hugely popular Yogi Berra, who had turned 90 back in May, and who’d subsequently die in September, was not present but was mentioned. Some of the former players, coaches, and staff who had died in the past 12 months were mentioned, including former Oneonta Tigers pitching coach Bill Monbouquette.

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Then a surprise. Mel Stottlemyre (pictured right), a fine pitcher for the Yankees when I was growing up, before becoming the long-time pitching coach, was also celebrated. His family obviously knew, but he was clearly gobsmacked. He had multiple myeloma in 2000, was in remission for several years, but the cancer reappeared in 2011 and he apparently was still battling it. Before Willie was #30, Mel was #30, and so his plaque in Monument Park will also bear that number.

Some of the younger retirees played a couple of innings of an intrasquad game. A few of the players, such as Paul O’Neill, and even 60-year-old Randolph, looked as though they could still play at Major League level.

As for the real game, the Yankees routed the Detroit Tigers, 14-3. Some young Yankee pitcher was put in the game late, gave up the three runs in the 7th, but shut out the team in the last two innings.

This was the first time I had been in the new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009 to replace “the house that Ruth built (1923-2008). I don’t think I’d been to the old stadium since 1977, so this was a rare treat.

Our bus didn’t get home until about 3:30 a.m., and it was 4 a.m. by the time I got to bed. (I got up at 7 a.m., and we went to Albany to go to church, but that’s another tale.)

abc 17 (1)
ABC Wednesday – Round 17

My Favorite Years QUESTION

Note that we DIDN’T pick 2004, the year Lydia was born.

Possibly around the time I was writing about nostalgia, the Wife and I were talking about the favorite years in our lives.

I picked 1969, the year I turned 16, and my parents let me have a huge party. I had a girlfriend, I got elected president of the student government, which made me an irritant to the new principal, and I was figuring out who I was politically, especially compared to the transitional 1968. Music was great that year, too.

Then there was 1978, the year I worked at the Schenectady Arts Council, got a girlfriend, and finally stopped my nomadic existence.

1984 was the year after Mitch Cohn was fired from FantaCo and Raoul Vezina died. This made Tom Skulan more dependent on me to deal with the day-to-day stuff, while he worked on publications and the “big picture” stuff. Yes, affairs of the heart played here too.

Carol and I both picked 1998, the year before we got married, for different reasons. Her reasons are her own (she can start her own blog – unlikely). For me, it was going to Detroit (visit friend, Motown museum, Ford museums, Tigers game), Cleveland (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), Washington, DC (visit friend, take JEOPARDY! test), and Boston (appear on JEOPARDY!) Interesting that neither of us picked 1999, the year we actually GOT married because that first year in that half a house she owned was tricky; buying OUR house in 2000 was definitely a vast improvement.

And we both picked 2003, which was the year Lydia was finally conceived. Carol and I went to Poland Spring, Maine after that. Note that we DIDN’T pick 2004, the year Lydia was born; that took some getting used to.

So what are some of your favorite years, and why?
My Favorite Year with Peter O’Toole – Final scenes

The Imperfect Game QUESTIONS

Is this the worst blown call ever? Probably not.

It surprises me that I am feeling rather uncertain about the whole Major League Baseball perfect game* issue this week. If you missed it, and it was so weird that it made ABC News’ primary broadcast: a Detroit Tigers pitcher named Armando Galarraga got the first 26 batters out, without giving up a walk or a hit batsman. No one got on via an error or a third strike passed ball. One more out, and he would achieve something only 20 other pitchers had achieved: a perfect game, though, oddly, two of them were in May 2010. The umpire, Jim Joyce, called the runner safe, though almost everyone else thought, and ultimately the instant replay shows the runner to be out.

So there’s a whole debate about whether the ruling should be reversed by the baseball commissioner and award Galarraga a perfect game. And I just don’t know. I’ve read what the local sports guy and Keith Olbermann, formerly of ESPN, and Jaquandor, who thinks we should just turn off the lights on baseball, have to say. Yet I still have ambivalence.

The fact that both the player and the umpire, who have engendered a lot of genuine good will, even by the Tigers fans towards the repentant ump, is a real feel-good story. For you don’t have to follow baseball to want people to receive what they worked for, for things to be “fair”, and for obvious wrongs to be righted. It’s difficult to achieve that in our politics, so we crave it all the more in our sports.

1. Should the umpire’s ruling be overturned? Dodgers’ radio announcer Ken Levine says YES.
2. Baseball has introduced instant reply to determine whether a home run shot is fair or foul. Should there be more instant replay, which would slow down a sport than already takes longer per 9 innings than it used to? If they do, I don’t think it can be on balls and strikes. Perhaps each team gets one challenge per game. It could be for fair/foul ball hit down the lines, or a play at a base.
3. Why the heck did we almost have three perfect games in less than 30 days? Two of these guys, including Dallas Braden of the Oakland A’s and Galarraga, I had never heard of. Only Roy Halladay is an experienced front-line pitcher. Is it just luck? Is pitching and defense getting THAT much better?
4. Is this the worst blown call ever? Don Denkinger, an umpire who infamous blew a call, also at first base, in the 1985 World Series.
5. On a different matter, is there any doubt that Ken Griffey, Jr., who retired this week with 630 home runs, fifth on the list behind only Bonds, Aaron, Ruth and Mays, and without hint of scandal, such as steroid use, will be picked for the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility?
John Wooden, the UCLA men’s basketball coach, who guided the Bruins to an unprecedented 10 national championships in 27 years during the 1960s and ’70s, has died. He was 99.

But he may best be remembered for teaching his player how to tie their shoes, every year, initially confounding his players, but eventually they got it.

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