Powered By Old Timers' Magic, Yankees Break Anaheim Spell

Eilyn SeguraCorrespondent IAugust 2, 2008


            On a rainy Saturday afternoon, 72 ex- Yankee players, gathered one last time in the 'House that Ruth Built', to play their traditional Old Timers’ game, and to say their last goodbyes to this historic stadium. This was the Old Timers’ day with the greatest number of players in the history of the event, including 18 first- time Old Timers. This tradition began in 1939 by the Yankees franchise,  and was at one point carried out most MLB teams in the country. The first Old Timers’ day was held on the same day that Lou Gehrig made his famous speech, “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth…” one of the most memorable moments at the stadium and in sports history. This was at a junction in time in which he knew he was dying, but the Yankees fans did not.  This Old Timers’ day on August 2nd2008, also marks the 29th anniversary of the tragic plane accident of Yankee Captain, Thurman Munson. So, the Yankees magic was alive in the stadium, to say the least. Today, only the Yankees continue this glorious tradition to thank and commemorate their men in pinstripes.

            The Old Timers’ line up ranged from 2008 Hall of Fame inductee, Rich ‘Goose’ Gossage to Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Yogi Berra, Mr. October-Reggie Jackson,  Willie Randolph, Bucky Dent, Wade Boggs,  Dave Winfield and Whitey Ford, among dozens of other greats. Willie Randolph received a particularly warm welcome back to his pinstripes, after the words ‘Once a Yankee, always a Yankee’ were uttered, possibly in light of his poor treatment across town in Shea Stadium.  As the players took the field, the sun came out...seems the sun is always shining on Yankee Stadium. This was truly a historic celebration. In the words of the announcer, Michael Kay; “With no offense to any other franchise, nobody else can put on an Old Timer’s day like the New York Yankees.”  With their dozens of All Stars, Hall of Famers and championship players, nobody’s history is as rich.

One of two particularly touching moments occurred when the widows of Catfish Hunter, Phil Rizzuto, Elston Howard, Billy Martin, and Thurman Munson, walked onto the field in representation of their husbands. Notably absent was Diana Kay Murcer, widow of Bobby Murcer.  And ‘Holy Cow!’ Phil Rizzuto’s widow, Cora Rizzuto delivered the first pitch to Yankees Shortstop, Derek Jeter. The other touching moment, occurred when the Yankees who have passed since last Old Timers day, were announced, and a moment of silence was held for them as footage of these great ball players flashed across the screen.  On a lighter note,Mike Torrez and Bucky Dent recreated their memorable meeting in Fenway Park in 1978, when Dent hit a three-run homer that would give the Yankees the pennant. Today, this at-bat ended in a ground ball handled by Shortstop, Tony Fernandez, amidst plenty of chuckles. After two short innings of play, it was time for the current Yankees to take the field.

            The Yankees, who were facing the Angels of Anaheim, had one of their better outings, scoring eight runs on eleven hits making the final score, 8-2. Their starter, Mike Mussina,  held the  Angels to two runs on two hits walking two and striking out five, retiring his last 16 batters in seven innings pitched.  The only two Angel runs came when Garret Anderson singled and Yankee killer Howie Kendrick (who bats over .500 against the Yankees), hit a ground-rule double, which was followed by a Jeff Mathis fielder’s choice that Wilson Betemit threw wide of Jason Giambi. This was  the sole error of the game. Betemit made up for it later, connecting on a two-run homer to tie the game. Bobby Abreu added his 15thhomer, a solo shot, after Derek Jeter hit into a run-scoring double play. Jose Molina had a 3-hit day and hit his first home-run of the season, a solo shot, putting a 221 at-bat streak without a home-run, to rest. A-rod also had a solo shot, to left center-field, his 24thof the season, in the bottom of the sixth inning. Jered Weaver pitched five innings, giving up six runs on 8 hits, walking one and striking out five. Reliever, Justin Speier, gave up two more runs in the seventh. 

             Today, was a bittersweet day for the Yankee franchise. It was historic, because they had the most Old Timers present at the stadium, but it would happen in the last Old Timers’ Day that would be held there. It was a time to remember those players who are no longer with us, and commemorate those who are, and their great accomplishments. It was a day to remember Thurman Munson, the Yankee Captain. It was a day to feel the magic of the stadium fire up with the spirit of the Yankees past and present. It was a day on which the 'Babe' would have looked upon with a smile. For the fans, in a way, it marks the end of one chapter, and the beginning of the next. With champions from 16, of the 26 championships present, it marks the end of an era.  The future looks bright for the Yankees in the next few years. The men in pinstripes would go on to win the game, putting an end to the Angel two-game winning streak knowing, however, that they have a small, but not impossible, hill to climb to first place. Yankees fans, and players alike, were inspired by the history which each Old Timer embodied. Hopefully, the players can take this inspiration to split the series, in which they are behind 2-1. As the game finished, amid fan celebrations in the street, it started to rain, proving once more, that the sun always does shine on the Yankees.