On December 9, Steiner Sports (the Official Collectible Company of the New York Yankees) and Delta Air Lines (the Official Airline of the Yankees) put together an exclusive event at Cipriani Club 55 in New York City that featured prominent members of the Yankees' 1978 World Series team and the Core Four.
I was both lucky and honored to be in attendance for such a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Gossage, Randolph, Jackson, Piniella, Dent and Torrez were the only members of the team to participate in the Q&A, and the mood was light-hearted and fun throughout.
A majority of the session was devoted to recalling old stories of Thurman Munson and former managers like Bob Lemon and Billy Martin. Jackson spent about 10 minutes retelling his take on his historic three-home-run night in the 1977 World Series.
One of the best stories came when Torrez, the Boston Red Sox pitcher that allowed the famous Dent home run a year after pitching for the Bombers himself, jokingly accused Dent of using a corked bat during the at-bat.
There were plenty of serious notes as well. Randolph, who hasn't managed since 2008 with the New York Mets, claimed that he would love the chance to manage again.
His exact words?
Willie Randolph said he would love to manage again: "I'm a free agent!" #Yankees— Kenny DeJohn (@kennydejohn) December 10, 2013
After a few seconds of jovial laughter from the '78 team and the audience, the questions kept on coming.
When asked about the Hall of Fame case for each member of the Core Four, Piniella answered with confidence that all four belong in Cooperstown. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are locks, while Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada have outside shots—according to popular opinion.
Does the entire Core Four belong in Cooperstown?
A short break followed the '78 team's Q&A before the Core Four took the stage. The applause for the legends lasted for nearly a minute, and it took Rivera ushering the crowd to take a seat to get the proceedings moving along.
Their Q&A was similar to the '78 team's. It began with plenty of joking and reminiscing, but eventually made its way to some important issues.
For one, Jeter's eventual retirement came up. It was, of course, prompted by a wise-crack from Rivera:
"When are you retiring, anyway? Why are you here?"
Jeter was firm in saying that he wasn't sure about when he'll retire, but did make it a point to say that his ankle is fine and he is on track for a healthy 2014 season.
Jeter on how many more years he'll play: "I can't predict the future." More: "I'm on track for 2014. I'm fine." #Yankees— Kenny DeJohn (@kennydejohn) December 10, 2013
Derek Jeter on his ankle/foot: "It's good. It's fine. Everything's perfect." #Yankees— Kenny DeJohn (@kennydejohn) December 10, 2013
This will, of course, be Jeter's first professional season in baseball (since his first minor league season in 1992) that he hasn't played with either Rivera, Pettitte or Posada. He admitted that it would be difficult for him. But he also admitted that he knows he'll always have his former teammates for support.
This prompted questions regarding potential comebacks for Pettitte and Rivera.
Rivera, who has been asked this question on countless occasions, simply responded with "no."
Pettitte gave a bit more elaborate of an answer: "There's no doubt about it. I'm done."
Posada, who has been out of the spotlight since his retirement following the 2011 season, also admitted he has no inclinations to make a return. He said he "regrets nothing" from his career and that he considers Rivera, Jeter and Posada his closest friends to this day: "I've never been mad at them, and it's always been fun."
One of the final pertinent remarks came, fittingly, from the greatest closer of all time. When asked what he thought of his Core Four counterparts from the beginning, Rivera answered simply.
"We always knew that we were something special." Mariano Rivera on the Core Four #Yankees— Kenny DeJohn (@kennydejohn) December 10, 2013
In an event that may not happen again for a long time, there was much to digest from such a legendary cast. The '78 World Series members were thrilled to tell all of their stories, and the hour-long Q&A easily could have turned into a four-hour long discussion had it not been given a time limit. The same goes for the Core Four's Q&A.
There was no shortage of talent, accolades or stories during the evening, and the Yankee aura filled the air as a result.
Jeter, the only active player in attendance, will look to carry on the Yankee tradition in 2014—something that he's never had a problem doing in the past. Next year's Bombers will have an interesting feel without the presence of Pettitte and Rivera, but Jeter seems up to the challenge.
He's focused and prepared for 2014, and even without his former teammates, he seems poised to lead the new-look Yankees.