The 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.
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.)