The allure of Yankee pinstripes
Growing up a fan of baseball I had never really followed the Yankees because I was loyal to the other team playing in New York, The Mets which was the team my mother followed and loved which was not her first love. Her first team she followed and derived great joy in watching were the Brooklyn Dodgers. She would go to Ebbits Field with her dad as a young girl and she loved the ball park, the team, the players and the band that performed and she never forgot those memories as she shared them with me years later when we watched the Mets during their magical season of 1969.
I have always been a fan of the New York Mets since childhood when I watched the games with my mom. Even though I was a Mets fan I remember the New York Yankees from years ago and the first Yankee manager I remember was Ralph Houk who managed the Yankees when I was a baby from 1961-1963 and when I was a kid from 1966-1973.
The one thing I always remembered about the Yankees was their storied past and their legendary player history. They had many championship teams that made any fan proud. If I could go back in time I would love to have a chance to see ball players such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Roger Marris, Micky Mantle and Yogi Berra among others as they represented the heart and soul of their Yankee teams and they made baseball truly special to watch and experience.
I remember watching the movie The Pride of the Yankees as a kid which was the story of Lou Gehrig and his glory days with the New York Yankees and his amazing career as a very talented and beloved ball player whose career and life were cut short due to illness. His story really touched me as I rank the movie my all time favorite. The Yankees had so many world championship teams under 2 famous managers, Miller Huggins and Joe McCarthy during Lou's playing days. There were no 2 hitters in a lineup as powerful and fun to watch as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The nicknames bestowed on the Yankee's known to just about everybody are "The Bronx Bombers" and "Murderers Row".
I would have loved to have seen Casey Stengel as the manager of the Yankees and the Mets for that matter as he seemed to be a very animated individual who also was beloved and had a special way with words and actions. He has the honor of managing both the New York Yankees and the New York Mets as he was the New York Mets first manager from 1962-1965. Casey Stengel at times spoke in a way that needed translation and the term often used for his way of speaking was Stengelese.
One of the most influential men in Yankee history that I remember who has recently passed was George Steinbrenner who maintained the great Yankee tradition by cultivating a philosophy of putting the best team on the field as often as he could. He was an owner with a heart and he always made the financial commitment to attract the best ball players and field many great teams. The Yankees did have some lean years but George tried to make each year as exciting as he could and it showed with his dedication and devotion in fielding the best players in the game through the farm system and in the open players market. George made Yankee baseball very exciting and he also had some favorite tricks up his sleeve and one manager he had a real love-hate relationship with was the legendary Billy Martin who was a great field manager and a fan favorite of George.
Some of the earlier Yankee ball players I remember as a kid were Bobby Murcer, Thurman Munson, Sparky Lyle, Ron Guidry, Roy White, Gene Michael, Chris Chambliss, Graig Nettles, Horace Clark, Ron Bloomberg and Lou Pinella. I remember some star players the Yankees acquired also such as Jim Catfish Hunter, Goose Gossage and Reggie Jackson. I remember when Reggie came to play for the Yankees how exciting the news was of his debut and the moment that certainly is frozen in time is the 3 home runs he hit in the 1977 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game 6. He was the world series MVP and was certainly exciting to watch that year.
The Yankees have had some very memorable teams and seasons and they are the most successful sports franchise of all time and have such a history that intrigues so many and when you hear the voice of Bob Sheppard who recently passed you can't help but feel the chills as he broadcasted names of some of the most famous ball players for over 55 years and he had such a distinctive voice and was the essence of Yankee baseball. The other voice of Yankee baseball that I will always remember is that of Phil Rizzutto who was a legend as a Yankee broadcaster. He was also an infielder for The New York Yankees but my memories of him was in the broadcast booth.
I have always liked Joe Torre and was certainly very happy for him to see the run of success he had as the Yankees manager from 1996 through 2007 where the Yankees managed to reach post season every year and won 4 world series. The Yankees did prove that they were human when they lost a 3-0 series lead against the Boston Red Sox in 2004 when they lost the remaining 4 games, which was a first in major league baseball as no other team had lost a series with a 3-0 lead before. The players I have been a fan of for the Yankee teams of 1996 through today as some have retired are Paul O'Neil, Derek Jeter, Andy Petitte, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada.
I will always appreciate the memorable interview of Billy Crystal recounting his boyhood memories of being at Yankee Stadium with his dad and seeing such Yankee greats as Micky Mantle and Roger Marris as they were both in a homerun chase of Babe Ruth for the single season homerun record of 60. The movie he directed based on the chase was "61" and it was a great tribute to both Micky Mantle and Roger Marris and to his love of Yankee baseball.
A record that so far has stood the test of time and seems to be one of those records that will take an exceptional player to even get close to is that of Joe DiMaggio's consecutive game hitting streak of 56 games. To see the grace and relative ease Joltin Joe had as he hit the ball is truly amazing and it distinguishes him as legendary in his baseball playing career. The song that I always enjoy listening to is Simon and Garfunkel's Mrs Robinson which pays tribute to the great hitting of Joe DiMaggio and his legend.
The Yankee pinstripes and the beauty of Yankee stadium, both old and new and the players of yesterday and today who wore the Yankee uniform and brought championship titles to New York and left memorable moments and legendary history makes the whole Yankee tradition very special. George Steinbrenner is Yankee tradition and is greatly appreciated for all his efforts in putting together some of the best teams in baseball.
This is dedicated to the memory of George Steinbrenner, Bob Sheppard and Ralph Houk who did so much for the New York Yankees, the City of New York and their fans.
Edward D. Iannielli III