New York Yankees: 5 Most Memorable Independence Day Moments
Throughout history, baseball has watched several memorable moments unfold on Independence Day.
This day has seen 25-inning pitching duels like the one between Rube Waddell and Cy Young in 1905.
And it has also seen great men reach milestone strikeout records like Nolan Ryan’s 3,000th K in 1980.
The New York Yankees have also had a rich tradition of brilliant performances on America's birthday.
Thus, as we celebrate July 4th, I will highlight five of the greatest Yankees moments that occurred on this revered day.
Bill Dickey’s Fist Heard ‘Round the World
Catcher Bill Dickey is considered one of the greatest all-around catchers in major league history.
A 19-year veteran—all with the Yankees—Dickey was known for his reliable bat, strong throwing arm and ability to handle hurlers with uncanny smoothness.
Yet, Dickey was also known for his fierce competitiveness, which at times got the best of this Hall of Famer.
Take July 4, 1932 for example.
In the second game of a double header in Washington, Senators outfielder Carl Reynolds smashed into Dickey on a close play at the plate.
Taking offense, Dickey socked Reynolds in his face, KO’ing his foe with a lone jaw-shattering punch.
Dickey’s justification for punching Reynolds was priceless.
"It was hot, and the games had been close, and I had been banged around for days," Dickey said, per ESPN’s Jeff Merron. "When Reynolds came at me high, I just had to hit somebody."
Of course the league did not find Dickey’s antics humorous, and it suspended him 30 days and tacked on a $1,000 fine.
Lou Gehrig Says Good-Bye
A little known fact, Dickey’s roommate was Yankees Hall of Fame first baseman Lou Gehrig, according to Thomas Rogers of the New York Times.
Gehrig was a hometown hero who captured baseball fans with his spectacular play.
A career .340 hitter, the Yankees Captain was a seven-time All-Star, two-time AL MVP and also won the AL Triple Crown during a career that spanned 17 years.
But most importantly, Gehrig was a six-time World Series champion.
Yet, in a sad an ironic twist of fate, the same man nicknamed “Iron Horse,” for his ironclad reliability for the Yankees fell ill to a strange and rare disease.
And on July 4, 1939, before a jam-packed crowd of 61,808 fans at Yankees Stadium, Gehrig delivered the most memorable farewell speech in baseball history.
A portion of this speech is as follows, per Baseball Almanac:
When you have a father and mother work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body, it's a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed, that's the finest I know. I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. And I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for.
Gehrig would pass away less than two years later, on June 2, 1941 in Bronx County, New York—his No. 4 retired for eternity.
Dave Righetti Is Brilliant
A little more than 40 years after Gehrig’s passing, Yankees pitcher Dave Righetti brought Yankees fans to their feet once again.
Yet the reason was less to say farewell to an icon and more to celebrate the unfurling of a milestone.
On July 4, 1983 Righetti fired a no-hitter at Yankees Stadium, against the Boston Red Sox.
The last Yankees hurler to throw a no-hitter prior to Righetti was Don Larsen, who threw a perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series.
Righetti would go on to compile 82 wins and 252 saves in 718 games during his 16-year career.
But Righetti will always be best remembered for his brilliance on the 4th of July.
Phil Niekro Joins Exclusive Club
A year later, ageless wonder Phil Niekro became the ninth pitcher in big league history to register 3,000 strikeouts in a career.
Niekro achieved this feat during a 5-0 Yankees win over the Texas Rangers.
With his 3,000th K, Niekro joined Walter Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton, Gaylord Perry, Tom Seaver Don Sutton, Fergie Jenkins and Bob Gibson in this exclusive club, per Baseball Almanac.
Niekro would later be joined by Bert Blyleven, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling and John Smoltz.
This is some pretty good company.
In his 24-year career, Niekro was 318-274 with a 3.35 ERA. He struck out 3,342 hitters in 5404 innings pitched.
Niekro was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1997.
George Steinbrenner's Unhappy Birthday
The last thing U.S. Air Force veteran and Yanks owner George Steinbrenner expected to witness on his 76th birthday was one of the most lopsided losses in his team’s history.
According to ESPN, this slaughter was the largest Yankees loss since a 22-0 annihilation at Yankee Stadium on August 31, 2004.
Fortunately, the Bombers were able to quickly forget about Cleveland’s bombing run. The team went on to win 97 games, en route to winning the AL East.
Sadly, Steinbrenner and Co. were unkindly ushered from the AL Division Series in five games by the Detroit Tigers.
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