I have a thing with numbers and not in a sabermetric way, though I wish I did. I don't sit around looking at spreadsheets, trying to figure out people's wRC+ or ERA+, I like round numbers and I really love palindromes. Just the other day, I hit 2,662 Twitter followers and took a screenshot of my profile. And as for round numbers, I'm one of those people who likes order and balance so when I see that people have posted something at 8:13 or 10:31, it drives me a little batty. I always try to post at a time ending in 0 (or a 5), it's just the way I am.
Anyway, the number I was most interested in yesterday was 15. And while that may be Thurman Munson's retired number, my 15 was something completely different. You see, yesterday was my 15th Old Timers' Day in a row.
I started attending Old Timers' Day regularly in the late 1990s when I first got my Sunday ticket package. We were lucky enough to have Old Timers' Day included in the package even though at that time, they were usually held on Saturdays. When we moved to the new Stadium in 2009, OTD was not included in the package and I had to go on stubhub to get tickets, which I did because I wasn't ending my streak at 10. No way, no how.
Soon, Old Timers' Day was back as part of my package because the Yankees started scheduling them on Sunday. Maybe they were throwing the Sunday package people a bone since they never added Opening Day back for us? But I digress, this isn't going to be a post about how much the Yankees ticket office stinks - maybe that one will happen another day - this is going to be about my love affair with Old Timers' Day.
Some people don't appreciate Old Timers' Day or they feel like one every few years is enough and that they couldn't do it every year. Not me! I am the complete opposite. Old Timers' Day is my favorite day during the regular season and I would not miss it even if I were sick or maimed. I love seeing the old players. I even love seeing guys that you forgot even played for the Yankees. You hear people say things such as, "What kind of an Old Timers' day would have Andy Phillips?" My answer, "Not every Yankee team won a championship and not every player was an All Star, so deal with it."
When the ceremony begins, John Sterling and Michael Kay introduce the players one by one. Usually, I have a race with my brother to see who can guess the player they're announcing first. This time, the four guys who sit in the row in front of us and who we have gotten to know this season, joined in with us. It was a lot of fun and they couldn't believe how many players we knew.
The Yankees announced ahead of time who would be appearing at the ceremony so I knew Orlando Hernandez was going to be there, but even knowing that fact didn't quell my excitement about seeing him. In fact, as soon as they started his introduction, I stood up, began clapping and hooting and hollering to my heart's content. I'm not sure what it is about El Duque that turned me into a squealing fangirl yesterday but it happened and I was proud to be 'that girl' in Section 413 of the upper deck.
The introductions began with Brian Dorsett, who was remembered by no one in my section and ended with Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra, who returned after not appearing in 2012 due to illness. It was the second Old Timers' Day without Moose Skowron who passed away in April 2012 and we also missed 'Bullet' Bob Turley who passed away earlier this year. I do realize that death is a fact of life but I made sure to really look at, and appreciate being able to see guys like Berra, Ford, 86-year-old Luis Arroyo, Dr. Bobby Brown, Don Larsen and Jerry Coleman because we're slowly losing our links to that era of baseball (1940-1960's). That's the era when my father began to watch baseball and he's the reason I love baseball as much as I do.
After the introduction ceremony, the players went out onto the field. It was the Clippers against the Bombers.
The first battery of the Old Timers' game was made up of Ron Guidry and John Flaherty, another first timer. Flaherty actually caught all five innings. Yes, the Old Timers' game lasted a whole five innings which is unheard of.
Some of the guys made pretty impressive plays too. It's amazing to see someone like Bucky Dent, whose heyday was when I was a little girl, still able to start a double play. Guys like Pat Kelly and Paul O'Neill both drove to the ball pretty far. Poor Kelly was robbed of hits in two of his at bats, once by Todd Greene who actually used his catcher's mitt to make a pretty amazing catch deep in left field and once by Steve Balboni, who actually overran a ball hit by Flaherty a little earlier in the game but was able to track down Kelly's for the out.
Greene chest bumped a Rays player, who was still on the field warming up during the Old Timers' game, after he made his catch. I was a little annoyed at those Rays players for not leaving the field for nearly the entire game. I thought it was pretty rude and I was really hoping one of the younger old timers like Bernie Williams, who chose to bat righty all day, would nail them with a fly ball.
Is that mean of me? Probably.
Nelson was throwing the ball pretty hard, as was David Wells. El Duque throw one of his eephus pitches and Balboni hit a rocket down the left field line. It was as if the ball stopped in midair for Balboni to hit, and if he were in his prime, he probably would have hit the ball to Connecticut.
The first time Paul O'Neill came up, Wells jokingly threw behind him and O'Neill jokingly slammed his bat to the ground in disgust. Though O'Neill would get the last laugh because Wells offered him a cookie and O'Neill just missed a home run to right field by a few yards. O'Neill did manage to hit one out during batting practice.
Rickey Henderson made a couple of snatch catches in left much to everyone's delight and it was like the 1980's all over again!
The Bombers ended up winning the game 2-1 and a good time was had by all, though I felt a little bad for the guys because it was pretty hot out and like I said earlier in the post, they don't usually play five innings. It's not like they're all in game shape these days. Although, David Wells actually looks to be in better shape now than he was as a player. And a couple of the guys who played on the 1977 and 1978 championship teams also looked pretty good. The same cannot be said for Bernie Williams who has let himself go a bit since leaving the Yankees. But good for him, I've let myself go as well because eating the bad stuff is too much fun.
I enjoyed my 15th Old Timers' Day as much as I enjoyed the first one way back in 1999. But, I'll admit, it is slightly depressing to see a lot of the guys who were on that 1999 squad now participating in the Old Timers' festivities. But again, that's life. We all get older and before we know it, I will be an old lady in the stands cheering on old man Derek Jeter during Old Timers' Day in 2048 when we're both 74-years-old and I'm celebrating my 50th year of attending Old Timers' day.
Here's a really out of focus, looks like it was taken from the roof of the stadium, shot of El Duque pitching: