OK, I wasn’t there for the flip play, or Mr. November, or the time he dove into the stands that night at the Stadium against Boston. But I’ve had my moments up close and personal with Derek Jeter. Here are my 10 all-time favorites from games that I attended….and other, shall we say, close encounters or experiences.
1. 2009 – The Catch: This one is easy. In May of 2009, my first game at the new Yankee Stadium, I caught a Jeter home run in the left field stands. Granted it was batting practice, but who’s counting. I’ve attended hundreds of major league baseball games, but this was the only time in my life I ever caught a ball. Later that night, Jeter hit a home run during the “real” game, and the Yankees rallied with three runs in the ninth inning to beat the Twins 5-4. Here’s my story.
2. 2000 – Jenna in the News: Next week my daughter Jenna will make headlines. She’s getting married. But Jenna made headlines back in 2000 at the Yankees victory parade down Broadway. She was quoted in the Daily News, talking about her favorite Yankee. “I blew him a kiss, he blew a kiss at me, I blew it right back at him,” gushed Jenna Bause, 19, a freshman at Dutchess Community College. “It’s in my heart forever.” No, she’s not marrying DJ, but Sam, her husband to be, is a Yankee fan. And that counts for a lot.
3. 1999 – World Champions: Jeter singles to key a three-run fourth inning as the Yankees sweep the Atlanta Braves to win their 25h World Series in the final game of the 20th Century.
4. 1996 – The Rookie: The Yankees then 22-year-old shortstop lines a single up the middle with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th for a wild 12-11 win against the Red Sox.
5. 2003 – Curses: Jeter’s leadoff double in the eighth sparks a three-run, game-tying rally by the Yankees against Boston ace Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the ALCS. The Yanks would go on to win the pennant in the 11th on a home run by Aaron Boone.
6. 1998 – Perfect: David Wells pitches a perfect game and DJ is perfect too, singling and catching a pop-up in his only chance in the field.
7. 2001 – Mets Killer I: The captain has two hits, including an RBI single in first, and the Yankees beat the Mets at Shea Stadium in the first meeting of Gotham’s rivals since the Subway Series.
8. 2003 – Mets Killer II: In the nightcap of a day-night, two-ballpark doubleheader, Alfonso Soriano and Jeter lead off the game with back-to-back home runs and the Yanks go on to beat the Mets 9-8.
9. 2013 – Captain to Captain: Friends of mine have met Derek Jeter, bought him a Crown Royal and Coke, gotten an autograph. My closest Yankee captain experience was meeting Don Mattingly, his predecessor, for a photo opportunity near my Hopewell Junction home last year. Guess what, we talked about Jeter. Donnie Baseball is a big Jeter fab.
10. 2013 – Mr. Consistency: Coming off a broken ankle suffered in a playoff game the previous October, Jeter plays in just 17 games in 2013. I went to two Yankee games in 2013, and the captain played in both. I’ve seen dozens and dozens of Yankee games in the past 20 years….and Derek Jeter played in every one.
The SportsLifer and Don Mattingly, a couple of former players and current managers.
Don Mattingly was on track for the Hall of Fame before back injuries took their toll and he was forced to retire prematurely at age 34 in 1995. Some argue he should have a plaque in Cooperstown.
For four seasons, from 1984 to 1987, Don Mattingly was the best player in baseball. He won a batting title in 1984, an MVP in 1985, and led the American League in hits, doubles, slugging, OPS and total bases in 1986 when he batted a career high .352. In 1987, he set or equalled major league records by hitting six grand slams in a season and homering in eight consecutive games. All this from an excellent fielding first baseman who won nine Gold Gloves.
As his back woes intensified, Mattingly’s numbers began to decline in 1988. In 1989 hit 23 homers and knocked in 113 runs — his last big offensive season.
Mattingly’s career numbers are eerily similar to those of Kirby Puckett, the late Twins outfielder, who is in the Hall of Fame. For example:
AT BATS 7003 7244
RUNS 1007 1071
HITS 2153 2304
HRs 222 207
RBI 1099 1085
Like Mattingly, Puckett was forced to retire after the 1995 season due to eye problems. He had a higher batting average than Mattingly (.318 to .307), primarily attributable to his speed (Puckett stole 134 bases, Mattingly 14). Puckett also won a batting title and six Gold Gloves.
Some more stats: Mattingly struck out 444 times; compared to 965 for Puckett, won an RBI title with 145 in 1985, and led the league in doubles three times. Puckett led the AL in hits four times, Mattingly twice.
Puckett gained lots of visibility in the playoffs, especially in 1987 and 1991 when Minnesota won the World Series. Mattingly’s Yankees finally made the playoffs in his last year.
Both were outstanding in post-season play. Mattingly hit .417 in his only appearance, while Puckett had a .309 average in four playoff series.
Mattingly is now managing the Los Angeles Dodgers, who won the NL West and advanced to the NLCS before losing to the Cardinals. Perhaps success in the dugout could eventually earn Mattingly a Hall of Fame plaque — a Joe Torre story.
Torre also won an MVP and batting title in his career — but he will get his Hall of Fame ticket punched on the four World Series he won for the Yankees starting in 1996. Ironically, that was the year after Mattingly retired.
If you like this blog, read:
Yankees without rings. Doesn’t sound right; there’s no ring to it. Yes, it’s a short list. But there are some very good ballplayers who wore the pinstripes and yet missed out on the World Series victories. The list includes a Hall of Fame pitcher, an AL MVP and batting champ, a Rookie of the Year, 20-game winners and 40-home run hittes.
Here are the best Yankees never to win a championship:
1. Don Mattingly — Spent his entire 14-year career with the Yankees, but made his only playoff appearance in the 1995 wild card round (when he hit .417). A .307 lifetime hitter with 222 home runs, Donnie Baseball, right. was a batting champ in 1984, AL MVP in 1985, and a nine-time Gold Glove winner at first base. The captain just missed out on the 1996 championship, the Yanks first in 18 years.
2. Bobby Murcer — Joined the club as a 19-year -old rookie in 1965, the year the Yankee dynasty collapsed. He was traded to the Giants for Bobby Bonds in 1975, but returned four years later after a stint with the Cubs. Some 175 of Murcer’s 252 career home runs came as a Yankee, and he was a .277 lifetime hitter. Murcer made his only World Series appearance in a 1981 loss to the Dodgers.
3. Mel Stottlemyre — Came up as a rookie in August of 1964 and fueled the Yanks run to the World Series, where he started three games against the Cardinals. That was the high point for The Needle, who stands seventh all-time in Yankee wins with 164, included three 20-win seasons. Stott had 40 career shutouts and hit an inside-the-park grand slam against Boston in 1965.
4. Dave Righetti — Pitched for the Yankees for 11 years before signing with the Giants as a free agent. He was AL Rookie of the Year in 1981 and threw a no-hitter against the Red Sox on the Fourth of July in 1983 before being moved to the bullpen. Rags racked up 224 of his 252 career saves as a Yankee, including a then MLB record 46 saves in 1986.
5. Mike Mussina — Signed away from Baltimore as a free agent, Mussina spent eight years in the Bronx and won 123 games (270 total). Moose came within one strike of pitching a perfect game against the Red Sox in 2001, and won 20 games for the first time in 2008, his final season, just missing out on the Yankees 27th championship. He did pitch in the World Series as 2001 and 2003.
6. Hal Chase — One of the Highlanders, Prince Hal, a great fielding first baseman with a corrupt side, recorded a .291 lifetime batting average and 363 stolen bases. He just missed out on a World Series after 1918, when the Reds traded him to the Giants. Chase came up to the majors in 1905, and played his first nine years in New York before being traded to the White Sox in 1913.
7. Tommy John — Pitched and lost to the Yankees in the 1977 and 1978 World Series before taking the if you can’t beat em join em approach and signing as a free agent. In two tours of duty with the Yankees TJ was 91-60, with 21 wins in 1979 and 22 in 1980. Overall John was 288-231 over a 26-year major league career that ended with the Yankees in 1979.
8. Jason Giambi — Signed as a free agent a year after winning the AL MVP with Oakland, he joined the Yankees in 2002 and played for seven years, missing out on the 2009 title run. He hit 41 home runs in each of his first two years in pinstripes, and wound up belting 209 of his 429 career home runs as a Yankee. The Giambino finished his career in Colorado
9. Lindy McDaniel — Joined the Yankees in 1968 and pitched for six years before being traded to the Royals in a move that brought Lou Piniella to the Bronx. McDaniel had 141 wins and 172 saves in a 21-year career. He led the Yanks with 29 saves in 1970, and overall was 38-29 with 58 saves for the Bombers. .
10. Phil Niekro — After spending his first 20 years throwing knuckleballs for the Braves, Knucksie signed with the Yankees in 1984, and recorded back to back 16-win seasons. On the final day of the 1985 season, Niekro, right, shut out the Blue Jays for his 300th win. He then left for the Indians, before winding up back in Atlanta in 1987. Niekro was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997.
More Lords of the Ringless
Atlanta’s Tony Cloninger is the only pitcher in baseball history to hit two grand slams in the same game.
The First Time
1. Roger Connor of the Troy Trojans is the first major league player to hit a grand slam, keying an 8-7 win over the Worcester Ruby Legs on September 10, 1881.
23 for Gehrig
2. Lou Gehrig hit 23 career grand slams, the most in major league history. Alex Rodriguez hit his 22nd career slam April 23, 2011.
3. Don Mattingly set a single season record with six grand slams in 1987 — the only slams of his 14-year career. Travis Haffner tied Mattingly’s record in 2006.
Can’t Get Any Better Than This
4. Four players have hit grand slams in their first MLB at bat — Bill Duggleby (1898), Jeremy Hermida (2005), Kevin Kouzmanoff (2006), and Daniel Nava (2010). Kouzmanoff and Nava hit their grand slams off the first pitch.
Twice in One Inning
5. The Cardinals Fernando Tatis is the only player to hit two grand slams in one inning — both off Dodgers pitcher Chan Ho Park — on April 23, 1999.
A Series Slam
6. Cleveland’s Elmer Smith hit the first grand slam in World Series history, Game Five against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1920. Smith’s slam was overshadowed later in the game by Indians second baseman, who turned the only unassisted triple play ever in the Series.
The Ultimate Walk-Off Slam
7. Roberto Clemente is the only player in MLB history of hit a walk-off, inside-the-park ultimate grand slam, in 1956 for the Pirates. An ultimate grand slam is a walk-off slam for a one-run victory.
Some Pitchers Can Hit
8. Tony Cloninger of the Braves is the only pitcher to hit two grand slams in a game, in 1966 against San Francisco. Yankee hurler Mel Stottlemyre is the last pitcher to hit an inside-the-park grand slam, in 1965 against the Red Sox.
An All-Star Rarity
9. Fred Lynn is the only player ever to hit a grand slam in the All-Star game. The Angels outfielder performed the feat in the 50th anniversary game in 1983.
Three in A Game
10. Only twice have three grand slams been hit in a single game — Baltimore (2) vs. Texas (1) in 1986 and Cubs (2) vs. Houston (1) the following year.
Yankee Stadium, at left, with the new Stadium across 161st Street in the Bronx.
It’s been compared to the Colosseum, been called The House That Ruth Built.
Mel Allen, the late Yankee broadcaster, once said, “St. Patrick’s is the Yankee Stadium of cathedrals.”
It has hosted Popes and Cardinals, Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, Knute Rockne and Vince Lombardi, John Philip Sousa and U2.
I have so many memories of Yankee Stadium, all of them precious.
When I think of The House that Ruth Built, I really remember two Yankee Stadiums, each unique in its own right and each evoking a different set of memories.
My earliest recollections go back to the original Stadium, green facade, monuments on the field, Death Valley in left-center. My Dad took me to my first game there 50 years ago, and the color of the field and the Stadium contrasted with the black and white televised images I had seen. And for years afterward I thought Ruth, Gehrig and Miller Huggins were actually buried underneath the monuments in center field.
I recall Hall of Famers Mantle and Berra and Ford, and seeing Ted Williams, Mantle and Roger Maris hit home runs in the same game. As a fifth grader, I remember getting sick and missing a September game where Maris hit home run #56 on his way to 61 in 1961.
I recall going to many Sunday doubleheaders with my father and brother and friends and cousins, sitting in the upper deck and seeing some terrible Yankee teams in the late 60s and early 70s. I saw a Friday twi-night doubleheader against the Tigers in 1968, when the second game wound up in a 19-inning tie. We stayed ’till the end.
And of course there were some New York football Giants games in the 60s, featuring Y.A. Tittle, Frank Gifford, Sam Huff and others.
The original Yankee Stadium closed its doors in 1973, and the Yankees moved to Flushing where they called Shea Stadium home for two years. Those were not good memories.
In 1976, a remodeled Stadium opened, sans facade and center-field monuments and with a smaller Death Valley, but with a great big scoreboard above the bleachers and a new Yankee team under Billy Martin. My first game there in 1976, my father, my younger sister, my cousin and I saw Chris Chambliss hit a home run to right-center, a precursor to his dramatic shot that beat the Kansas City Royals and gave the Yankees the American League pennant that October.
Derek Jeter and the 1996 Yankees
After back-to-back World Championships in 1977 and 1978, the Yankees slipped into another dry period in the 1980s and early 1990s, with Don Mattingly one of the few bright spots. That is until 1996, when a kid named Derek Jeter arrived on the scene and helped the Bombers won their first World Series in 18 years.
And that paternal baseball bond spread into the next generation, as my son and I saw some classic Yankee games during those dynasty years, perhaps none more memorable than David Wells’ perfect game in 1998, when I came oh-so-close to catching a Bernie Williams home run.
My nephew and brother-in-law were there with us that day, my nephew’s second major league game. I told him afterwards he could go to a thousand games, 10,000 games, but he’d never see another perfect game.
Overjoyed, I saw the Yankees win a World Series game against the Padres in 1998, and with my brother saw the Yanks eliminate the Braves in four straight in 1999 (“Ball game over, World Series over, Millennium over!.”).
I recall how the Yankees gave the people of New York a lift when the needed it most, with a dramatic post-season run in 2001 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
I sat with my son and two duaghters in the upper deck on a drizzly Friday night in 2003 when Roger Clemens won his 300th game, and was there four months later when Aaron Boone drilled the home run that beat the Red Sox for the American League pennant.
So many loved ones, so many great players, so many memories, but time moves on. And next year, Yankee Stadium moves across the street to a new home.
I’m looking forward to my first game in the new Yankee Stadium, yet with the sad realization that things will never be quite the same. Somehow, they never are.
Separated at birth?
Can’t be. Arnold Palmer is 78, Don Mattingly turns 47 this week.
But tell me there’s not a family sort of resemblance there, especially when Donnie Baseball isn’t wearing the mustache.
He’s the poor man’s Don Mattingly, the next Mickey Mantle, the Oklahoma kid redux.
Although Bobby Murcer never lived up to those lofty expectations, the five-time All-Star outfielder had a steady career with the Yankes, Giants and Cubs.
A classy guy, he’s always been a true-blue Yankee. That’s why the news about Bobby’s latest cancer health scare is so distressing.
Very much like Mattingly, Murcer came close but never got that World Series ring. He was traded to the Giants for Bobby Bonds after the 1974 season, missing out on the 1977 and 1978 championship Yankee teams. In June of 1979 he returned to the Yankees in a deal with the Cubs for pitcher Paul Semall, and finished his career in the Bronx in 1983.
Murcer’s best year was probably 1971, when he finished second in the league with a .331 average, 25 homers and 94 RBIs.
I remember seeing Bobby’s first major-league home run in September of 1965 against the Senators on television. He was just 19 at the time, playing shortstop for a Yankee team at the crest of a 12-year decline, and belted a two-run homer in the seventh to break a deadlock and give the Yankees a 3-1 win in Washington.
Later I saw some Murcer home runs, including one against the Red Sox in a Fourth of July doubleheader and an upper deck blast against the Orioles in 1971. He was a clutch hitter, always fun to watch.
And Murcer was always a good listen as a Yankee broadcaster.
We’re praying for you Bobby, and looking forward to that hearing that Oklahoma twang and your Yankee insights in the YES Network booth this year. It’s not the same without you.