By Jon Lane
First pitch: 6:07 p.m.
Pitching matchup: A.J. Burnett (13-9, 4.04) vs. Nick Blackburn (11-11, 4.03)
Still a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms in the evening, but
there’s plenty of blue sky and a perfectly cool and crisp late
Throwing out the first pitch:
Reggie Jackson. About an hour ago Chris Shearn conducted an exclusive
interview with “Mr. October” for a Stadium Spotlight to be posted
later. Also on tap are chats with David Robertson, Chad Gaudin and
Francisco Cervelli, and Shearn’s pregame Off the Wall Vlog.
of Cervelli, he was taking ground balls at third base during batting
practice, telling my colleague Joe Auriemma it’s to “keep my hand
active.” He’s the third catcher on the Yankees’ DS roster for a reason.
You never know.
A bit of news: Dr. Marc Philippon, who
performed the hip surgery on Alex Rodriguez, told reporters he doesn’t
expect A-Rod to need another surgery this offseason.
Other pregame chatter: Joe Girardi discussed
the DH debate, the mood of the clubhouse in light of “Molina-gate” and
A.J. Burnett’s chances tonight. Ron Gardenhire also explained why Carl
Pavano has been great for the Twins. Yes, that Carl Pavano.
Tonight’s Lineups: Molina batting ninth
Back with much, much more later
6 p.m. Reggie, looking dapper wearing a fedora hat, jacket and tie, bounced a pitch to Jorge Posada. See, he got to catch?
6:14 p.m. Burnett
needs just 14 pitches to work through the first inning, ending with a
punch out of Jason Kubel after issuing a two-out walk to Joe Mauer. A
microcosm of good and bad A.J. – he retired the first two batters on
five pitches and needed nine to get through Mauer and Kubel.
That’s two scoreless innings in the books for Burnett-Molina. With a
runner at second and two out, Molina draped his left arm around Burnett
to provide instructions. The next pitch Matt Tolbert grounded out to
second. There is something about Molina’s ability to reach Burnett,
knowing exactly what to say and how to say it. We’ll see if this keeps
6:53 p.m. Burnett catches Mauer looking with a runner
on first to end the third, a nasty breaking ball that’s his best of the
game to this point. That was a .365 hitter he sent to the bench shaking
The Burnett-Molina connection breeds great karma. 7:10 p.m. Matt
Tolbert’s single was to give the Twins a 1-0 lead … or so it seemed.
Nick Swisher caught Carlos Gomez rounding too far off second base and
he fired a strike to Derek Jeter, who tagged Gomez out right before
Delmon Young touched home plate. That’s the biggest play of the game,
but the Yankees have to get something started offensively. Nick
Blackburn has held them hitless through four innings, allowing only a
7:32 p.m. Burnett after five innings: no runs, two
hits, four walks, two hit batsman, five strikeouts – in other words
he’s been A.J. Burnett. He’s thrown 73 pitches – 25 in the fifth – but
is backed up by a deep and rested bullpen. Provided the Yankees solve
Blackburn, you’ll see Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera.
Theme of the game so far: Burnett/Molina’s and the Yankees’ ability to do damage control.
7:40 p.m. Robinson Cano ends Blackburn’s no-hitter at 4 2/3 IP with a single to center.
Brendan Harris, of all people, triples to left to put the Twins on the
board, though a better left fielder makes the play. Burnett’s thrown 96
pitches after six, and David Robertson and Damaso Marte were warming
up. I’d be very surprised if he comes out for the seventh.
Posada pinch-hitting and gets a loud ovation. Burnett’s night is done.
He gave it a ride to deep left center before Gomez caught it on the
8 p.m. Meanwhile, it’ll be Joba Time in the seventh.
8:06 p.m. Huge spot for Mark Teixeira here. He’s 0-for-6 in the Division Series.
Make that 0-for-7. Teixeira teases a grand slam and pops a 3-2 pitch to
left for the second out. What do you know? Huge spot for A-Rod here.
Mr. October Version 2009 delivers: RBI single to left scores Jeter,
ties the game at one and chases Blackburn. A-Rod is 3-for-7 with three
RBIs in the ALDS.
8:21 p.m. Twins 3B Matt Tolbert with a strained left oblique, day-to-day.
Here’s why Phil Coke was brought in with two out in the seventh:
Lefties hit .195 against him and Jason Kubel was 0-for-4 with two
strikeouts. Make that 0-5, 3 Ks.
8:47 p.m. A Tweet from
WFAN’s Sweeny Murti: “I think this is setting up beautifully for a
Posada walkoff Bot 10, and AJ giving him a pie!”
Brendan Harris, yes Brendan Harris, is 2-for-2 with an RBI as an injury
replacement. His hit-and-run single has runners on the corners with two
out and Hughes in trouble.
8:57 p.m. Ridiculous. The Twins grab the lead on a walk and two singles by their 7-8-9 hitters all with two out.
9:02 p.m. There’s hope Yankees fans: 15 walk-off wins and 28 in their last at-bat, including those three games in May.
9:09 p.m. Great play by Harris. He’s supposed to beat you with his glove, not his bat.
9:28 p.m. Teixeira ends an 0-for-7 slump by leading off the ninth with a single. A-Rod at the plate. Very interesting ….
9:32 p.m. A picture and decibel levels are worth thousands of words. TBS cameras had a shot of Ron Gardenhire with a look that read, “You have got to be kidding me.” That run off Rivera in the eighth looms large, but the Yankees have new life.
9:49 p.m. Runners on the corners in the 10th. This is what happens when you walk the No. 9 hitter with two out.
9:52 p.m. Alfredo Aceves dodges a bullet. Mauer leads off the 11th if it gets that far.
10:03 p.m. Nathan throwing error, Brett Gardner hesitates, then takes off, still beats the throw to third. Unbelievable. Now they’re putting Jeter on to set up the double play. Gardy’s also pulling Nathan for the left-hander, Jose Mijares.
10:09 p.m. Buzzkill.
10:19 p.m. Twins in business because Damaso Marte stinks, but it could have been worse. Left field umpire Phil Cuzzi completely blew a call that would have given Mauer a leadoff double.
10:22 p.m. Bases loaded and nobody out, but Twins would have had the lead if not for Cuzzi.
10:26 p.m. After Delmon Young lined out to first, Gomez grounded to Teixeira, who threw to home for the force, and Harris flied out to center. Awesome performance by David Robertson, though he has Cuzzi to thank.
10:30 p.m. Teixeira walk-off HR ends an epic. He’ll get his first taste of pie. Back later with so much more.
By Jon Lane
First pitch: 6:07 p.m. at Yankee Stadium; gates open 3 p.m.
Pitching matchup: A.J. Burnett (13-9, 4.04) vs. Nick Blackburn (11-11, 4.03)
Forecast: Cloudy with a slight chance of showers in the evening; showers likely with a slight chance of thunderstorms after midnight. (They could play through “showers,” but “thunderstorms” will force a delay and put everyone in one big I hate rain bad mood.)
If there’s a rainout: Game 2 moves to tomorrow night (TBD) and the teams lose the travel day. Games 3-5 will remain Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. If the series then goes the distance, the Yankees would be faced with a choice of starting Burnett on short rest, Chad Gaudin or Joba Chamberlain.
Throwing out the first pitch: “Mr. October” Reggie Jackson. Incidentally I heard a replay of Reggie’s appearance on “The Howard Stern Show.” His weekly Tuesday night show on Sirius 123 was plugged, but the rest of the details are for mature audiences only.
The big story: Joe Girardi’s decision to sit Jorge Posada and start Jose Molina.
Before Game 5 of the 1977 ALCS in Kansas City, Billy Martin made the most courageous decision of his career when he benched Jackson, George Steinbrenner’s $3 million man. It’s apples and oranges compared to Posada and Molina, but hang with me. Jackson was 1-for-15 in the series and numbers against Royals starter Paul Splittorff so poor that when asked, Catfish Hunter told Martin that Jackson “can’t hit him with a paddle.” That left Martin, who felt if the Yankees lost he would be fired anyway, to convince Steinbrenner and Gabe Paul why he had to bench Jackson.
Posada owns three World Series rings and was .285-22-81 this season, while Molina can’t hit even if attempted to put paddle on beach ball, so obviously this is different. But what’s similar is the manager’s guts. Ian O’Connor writes it’s E-2 on Girardi, but Sam Borden commends Girardi for making the requisite tough decisions.
There is something to chemistry between some pitchers and catchers. Andy Pettitte had it with Jim Leyritz – and not Girardi – in 1996, so did Greg Maddux with Eddie Perez. You can’t discount that Burnett went 5-5 with a 4.96 ERA and .270 opponent batting average in 16 starts with Posada and 5-2 with a 3.28 ERA and .221 opponent batting average in 11 starts with Molina catching, including 3-1 2.92 in his last six.
Molina showed a knack for keeping Burnett’s emotions in check and in a cohesive enough pace to not made desperate mistakes during crisis situations. And during the time of season where pitching rules all, you do whatever you believe is best to shut down the opposition, especially if Nick Blackburn suddenly morphs into Jack Morris. And it’s not like Posada won’t be available to pinch-hit or enter the game immediately after Girardi finds an opening. And it’s certainly not like the rest of the Yankees lineup can’t hit. Blackburn was 11-11, 4.03, so the odds are long that he’ll pull a Morris and good that the Yankees offense will knock him out early.
Of course, if Burnett is razor-sharp and the Yankees win, Girardi is a genius. If he’s blasted, Girardi is stupid, Burnett is a whiner, boos will be heard from Jersey and Posada would be given carte blanche to scream, “I was the problem?” Yankees fans, in a panic, will declare the series over and demand that Girardi is shown the door.
That’s the nature of sports. It’s also the nature of sports to stop debating, hang up the phone after your favorite sports talk station leaves you on hold for an hour, quit crunching numbers, and sit back and watch. It’s why the games are played. We’ll see if this issue is either buried quickly or linger like a thunderstorm of biblical proportions.
Memo to Mother Nature: Hold off on the showers until after midnight. Too much going on tonight in the Bronx.
By Jon Lane
Line up the fearless forecasters. There’s Reggie Jackson, Joe Girardi and now Dennis Eckersley. Working as an analyst for TBS, Eckersley explains how Alex Rodriguez staying out of the spotlight helped him during the regular season. It’s similar to what I said before the season ended: The best thing to happen to A-Rod is that nobody is talking about him, especially remarkable considering he’s dating A-List actress Kate Hudson.
“The spotlight hasn’t really been on A-Rod,” Eckersley said. “When you think about what he went through at the start of the year with the steroid thing. He’s been laying in the weeds because there are so many stars in New York. He probably loves it. I think that will play into these playoffs. I think he is going to show up for these playoffs because I don’t think the pressure is what it was (before).”
A good friend of mine, who also happens to be a native Bostonian and Red Sox fan, offered this succinct analysis of A-Rod’s Game 1 performance: “That’s something new for Mr. April.” Yeah it’s one game, but it’s the time when reputations are made and stories are re-written. Rodriguez has to finish the job, but he won over some new believers Wednesday night.
By Jon Lane
ton of money – $423 million to be exact – were spent on people after
the Yankees’ 13-year postseason streak ended last season. The result
was 103 wins, first place in the AL East and home field advantage
throughout the playoffs.
Now begins the quest for the real
payoff: World Championship No. 27. It’s quiet here at Yankee Stadium
right now. The Twins are taking BP and the stands are empty given the 6
p.m. start and the majority of fans about to file out of work. But
Derek Jeter and Reggie Jackson are in the house, Mother Nature spared
us precipitation (but not wind) and this place will rock moments before
CC Sabathia throws the first pitch.
Sabathia is earning $161
million of the $423 million. He delivered, winning 19 games and
emerging as a top AL Cy Young Award contender. Starting tonight,
however, it’s his job to start becoming a champion, to carry the
Yankees on his broad back en route to a championship, to halt a 4-13
postseason skid under Joe Torre from 2004-2007. Casting a large shadow
is Sabathia’s postseason track record, 2-3 with a 7.92 ERA in five
career starts, the last five runs allowed in 3 2/3 innings in Game 2 of
last year’s Division Series.
“I think maybe just trying to go
out and do too much,” Sabathia said on Tuesdsay. “Trying to go out and
throw shutouts and throw no-hitters and things like that instead of
going out and doing the same things I’ve done during the regular season
which is throwing strikes early in the count.”
Tonight marks a
new beginning not only for Sabathia, but for Alex Rodriguez (you know
his recent postseason past). Keep it here to see what develops.
P.A. announcer Paul Olden is introducing the Twins’ non-starters. Carl
Pavano was greeted to loud boos – and this place is about half full.
Mere minutes from first pitch. CC Sabathia got a nice applause. Also
with the team and in uniform, injured players Chien-Ming Wang and
6:11 p.m. Not a good beginning as Denard
Span laces a leadoff double to left-center. The Twins may be tired, but
that adrenaline can do wonders, especially with the way this team has
played for the past month.
6:18 p.m. Sabathia throws 22
pitches, but keeps the Twins off the board by retiring their No. 3 and
4 hitters and stranding Span at third. Biggest pitch of the inning: a
1-2 punchout of Joe Mauer, a .365 hitter, after Span advanced to third
on a passed ball.
6:31 p.m. Alex Rodriguez’s first at-bat
came with a runner on second and two out. He filed out to right and is
eight for his last 57 postseason at-bats (.140) since 2004.
2-0 Twins on Michael Cuddyer’s two-out RBI single, which preceded an
Orlando Cabrera single and Mauer double, with Mauer scoring on Jose
Posada’s second passed ball. Sabathia has allowed six hits, his pitch
count is at 64 and he’s been was up in the zone. It’s still early but
worry is already setting in, as are the voices of CC’s postseason past.
Brian Duensing, meanwhile, has been razor sharp, holding the Yankees hitless since Derek Jeter’s leadoff single.
Leave it to the captain to set the ship back on course. Jeter’s two-run
blast to left ties the game at two. The homer was Jeter’s 18th in the
postseason (10th in the DS), tying Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle for
third on the Yankees’ all-time list. If I were in the old Stadium, I’d
feel the building shake.
7:22 p.m. A-Rod’s second at-bat: Swinging strikeout. Now on an 8-for-58 (.138) skid.
7:30 p.m. Some nuggets from Tyler Kepner, the outstanding beat writer for the New York Times:
Posada is the first catcher in 10 years with two passed balls in a
division series game. (Varitek in 1999); A-Rod has stranded 40
consecutive runners in the postseason.
7:32 p.m. From the
Nobody Talks About It Because He’s Not A-Rod Department: Hideki Matsui
has six hits in his last 29 postseason at-bats (.207) since 2006.
Swishalicious! Nick Swisher’s two-out double scores a hustling Robinson
Cano from first to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead. That’s Swish’s second
postseason RBI and third double in this his 11th game.
Breakthrough! A-Rod delivers with an RBI single that scores Jeter and
knocks Duensing out of the game. 8-for-58 slide over. Forty consecutive
stranded runners in the past. Feel the power of Kate Hudson!
8:11 p.m. That
Matsui stat is also in the past. Godzilla crushes one to Monument Park
off Francisco Liriano to make it 6-2 Yankees. It’s a shame about
Liriano. He was one of baseball’s rising young stars before Tommy John
8:16 p.m. Duensing’s line: 4 2/3 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR, 1 WP, 79 pitches/59 strikes.
Since Sabathia allowed two runs on four hits in the third, he’s retired
10 out of his next 11 batters. He’s at 95 pitches and will probably go
another inning. This is what aces do. Even when not at their best, they
find a way to get the job done.
8:47 p.m. Sabathia
departs to a thunderous ovation after retiring Denard Span on a fly
ball to right and throwing 113 pitches in 6 2/3 innings. Phil Huuughes finishes the frame with a strikeout of the pesky Orlando Cabrera following a 10-pitch at-bat.
9:06 p.m. A-Rod tonight: Two hits, 2 RBIs. To quote my colleague
Chris Shearn, “He stinks.” For one night, seriously, A-Rod has the
majority of haterizers off his back.
9:21 p.m. Enter Joba Chamberlain to a rousing ovation with runners on the corners, two out in the top of the eighth and a 7-2 lead. He needed two pitches to retire Delmon Young and end the inning. I’m not going there.
By Jon Lane
This was first published during Father’s Day weekend two years ago. Two months later my son was born and it’s since had a deeper meaning. Happy Father’s Day to all who have been blessed to enjoy it.
“I’ve tried all the major religions … and most of the minor ones … and the only church that truly feeds the soul —
day in and day out — is the Church of Baseball.”
— Annie Savoy, “Bull Durham”
You frequently read and hear about the impact of our national pastime and how it makes a difference in people’s lives. Some
look at NFL Sundays as their religious day. Once a week they vent a week’s worth of professional frustration by screaming and
yelling at a television set or blending in with 70,000 people doing the same thing. Others prefer the daily laid-back routine
of baseball, which I think has a stronger awareness of its history.
Such history is passed on by generations, from father to child.
Whether it’s the tangible ballpark atmosphere, or how a game is suddenly and dramatically altered with one swing, many credit
baseball for welding a relationship created at childbirth, and tethered by each game of catch and every family outing
consuming nine innings lasting between two and four hours: That of Dad and his kid.
Baseball fed the soul of Susan Sarandon’s character in “Bull Durham,” and it’s fostered the unique bond of many fathers with
their daughters and sons, including my own.
My dad’s mission statement was to teach me to do what’s right and if I wanted something, I had to earn it. But that didn’t
mean I wasn’t allowed to be a kid, and part of being a kid were those games of catch and the times when I’d rejoice after
each Yankees victory, or complain after every defeat.
Believe it or not, as much as the Yankees win now, there were once plenty of defeats. Growing up in the late 1980s and early
’90s, the Yankees’ record declined each season until bottoming out at 67-95 in 1990. Yet my dad and I persevered through all
the taunts, and were rewarded when, together, we watched a handful of historic events as the team made its way back on top:
Jim Abbott’s no-hitter (1993), Dwight Gooden’s no-no (1996) and David Wells’ perfect game (1998).
Many consider it taboo to mention the words “no-hitter” or “perfect game” while potential history is unfolding, but
television announcers say it so fans can stay tuned and spread the word so more can watch. My father was helping my cousin
tend a garden on May 17, 1998, when I informed them what Wells was doing. Dad dropped everything and came in. My cousin, a
Mets fan, stayed loyal to his tomatoes.
It actually wasn’t until I had reached my adolescent years when he finally took me to the holiest of baseball holies —
Yankee Stadium. We’d attend about once a year, and it was always for Old Timer’s Day, a chance to continue my baseball
education, and prove how much smarter I was each passing season.
|There have been many father-son combinations in in Major League history, some even at the same positions. Here’s a list of several prominent duos.|
|1B||Cecil Fielder||Prince Fielder|
|2B||Sandy Alomar||Roberto Alomar|
|SS||Dick Schofield||Dick Schofield|
|3B||Buddy Bell||David Bell|
|LF||Bobby Bonds||Barry Bonds|
|CF||Ken Griffey, Sr.||Ken Griffey, Jr.|
|RF||Felipe Alou||Moises Alou|
|C||Randy Hundley||Todd Hundley|
|P||Mel Stottlemyre||Todd Stottlemyre|
|P||Floyd Bannister||Brian Bannister|
|P||Clyde Wright||Jaret Wright|
|Mgr||George Sisler||Dick Sisler|
|Umpire||Harry Wendelstedt||Hunter Wendelstedt|
|Umpire||Ed Runge||Paul Runge|
Once I became a regular at the Stadium, a pregame tradition was born: “The Walk,” which took us past the line of souvenir
shops and sports bars that hugged River Ave., Babe Ruth Plaza and the central meeting place known as “The Bat Pole.” During
that time, both my legs and baseball acumen received rigorous workouts.
My dad admitted playing the occasional game of hooky as a kid, forgoing a boring day of math and Spanish — especially
Spanish — to watch his favorite, Mickey Mantle, hit home runs, some launched hard enough to land in the old Polo Grounds on
the other side of the Harlem River. One of our more memorable walks was on Aug. 12, 1995, the day before Mantle died. My
father, knowing Mantle was taking his final cuts, shared his favorite stories, most known by any casual fan, but extra
poignant hearing it from someone who saw him in person.
Old Timer’s Day for us was when dad and son were joined by mother and either younger brother, random family member or good
friend. We’d do “The Walk” and enter the Stadium in time to watch Yankees legends prove they can still whack a baseball
during batting practice. That would segue into the highlight of the day, something more meaningful that seeing Reggie Jackson
go yard or Ron Guidry’s slider still take the twists and turns of a Wet ‘N Wild Attraction.
Our favorite part of Old Timer’s Day was listening to Frank Messer (and these days Michael Kay) introduce the greats of the
distant and recent past. Neither of us are marketing geniuses, so we titled it “The Guess Who Game.” As the emcee began to
read off a player’s career highlights, the first one to guess the correct player prior to his introduction would earn a
point. For example, “On Sept. 1, 1963, he became only the ninth player to homer from each side of the plate in a single game
… ladies and gentlemen please welcome back, Tooommmmm Tresh!”
Guys like Tresh and obscure names (to me) like Stan Bahnsen, were introduced first, which would give my dad an early lead.
But then details like “slick, pesky outfielder who played those games at Shea Stadium” would click and I would say “Elliott
Maddox,” Once Mickey Rivers walked on the field, I’d start my comeback, as more stars from the teams of the 1970s and ’80s
By the time the ceremonies concluded with Reggie, Don Mattingly, Phil Rizzuto, Whitey Ford — and many years ago, Mantle and
Joe DiMaggio — we’d be about even. There were never any bets to be cashed in, for it was never over money or a hot lunch,
but about enjoying a common experience.
A few years after one of our early excursions, I arranged for tickets to a Yankees-Mets game at Shea Stadium. Dad and I
walked to the gate when I unveiled a Father’s Day surprise: “Dad, the seats are on me.” They were box seats. It could have
been the Bob Uecker special, but it didn’t matter. My dad’s reaction said it all: “Thanks, kid.”
No, Dad, thank you.
Happy Father’s Day.
By Jon Lane
The new Yankee Stadium will never sound like the venerable original building. In fact, Yankees games period will never sound the same again.
The New York Times‘ Jack Curry is reporting that Bob Sheppard has decided to retire as the Yankees’ public address announcer, a position he held proudly and executed with dignity since 1951
A bronchial infection forced Sheppard to miss all of last season, including Yankee Stadium’s final game on September 21, and was to keep him home for the new Stadium’s Opener on April 16.
Former Yankees and New York Jets broadcaster Paul Olden will work the Yankees’ exhibition games against the Cubs Friday and Saturday.
“I think Bob just wants to take it easy and no longer have the pressure of, ‘Can he? Will he? Or won’t he?'” Paul Doherty, a friend of Sheppard, told Curry in an e-mail message. “And, at 98, who can blame him?”
I’ll be back later with some memories of Sheppard, often imitated but never duplicated, and a look back at his first game on April 17, 1951.
Where do I begin talking about Bob Sheppard? Well, Peter Abraham reports the Yankees said news of Sheppard’s retirement is news to them and not official, but it’s a safe bet that barring one of the Yankees’ dramatic and theatrical surprise appearances in the mold of Billy Martin and Roger Clemens, you won’t be hearing Sheppard’s voice in the new park. Thus, time to share a few anecdotes on who is forever a Yankees legend.
I could start with April 17, 1951, when he entered the limelight as the voice of Yankee Stadium, but I’ll wait. Instead, I start at Sheppard’s days as a speech professor at St. John’s University. My father-in-law worked at Suffolk County Federal Bank in Babylon, N.Y. The bank offered speech courses to better serve its customers. On the side, Sheppard taught those courses with my father-in-law as one of his students. Well before Sheppard became a Yankees institution, he was a man of class who once said that being a Professor of Speech is far more important than his work as an announcer.
That lineup on 4/17/51, Opening Day against the Red Sox, included future Hall of Famers Phil Rizzuto, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra. The Yankees defeated who years later would become their bitter rivals, 5-0, on the only day when DiMaggio and Mantle shared an Opening Day outfield.
I first met Sheppard in the Yankees dugout before Game 1 of the 1997 Division Series. I knew who he was (who didn’t?) but it was the first time I was able to place a face to Yankee Stadium’s booming, dignified and impeccable “Voice of God.” He greeted me as “young fella” and although he wasn’t as open to the media at that time — he politely declined an interview request about the playoff experience at Yankee Stadium — we spent about 10-15 minutes talking about the Yankees and their history. It was the first day he met me, yet were were talking like old chaps at the watering hole after a day’s work.
In subsequent years I ran into Sheppard either in the Stadium cafeteria – he’d be making a cup of Joe before heading up to his office — or more likely waiting for the elevator. On days I wasn’t on a tight deadline, I’d head for the clubhouse with less than two outs in the ninth inning and the game in hand to avoid the mass exodus from reporters and fans alike. Sheppard would be there too, except he’d be ready to bolt straight for the parking lot, into his car and on the highway back to Baldwin, N.Y. (the south shore of Long Island). Every hello was the same: with a warm, wide smile, quick thoughts on the game and pleasantries until next time.
Earlier I wrote Sheppard was one often imitated but never duplicated, which is one of fame’s highest honors. Still, a couple tried. One was Reggie Jackson, who after a game was making small talk with reporters until breaking into his best routine.
Another was Derek Jeter. The captain’s was not as good as Reggie’s but holds Sheppard in high enough regard that he had his ntroduction recorded on tape before his at-bats. For all of last season, every time Jeter walked to the batter’s box, you’d hear Sheppard’s voice ring, “Now batting for the Yankees, Number 2, De-rek Je-ter.”
It’ll be interesting to hear some of the Yankees’ takes on Sheppard’s retirement. Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez and others all had their name called by Sheppard, like so many of the game’s greats, as well as those just passing through. Alas, with all due respect to Paul Olden or whomever is chosen to sit in Sheppard’s chair, Posada said it best in an interview last March.
“Yankee Stadium is Bob Sheppard.”
There will never be another.
By Joe Auriemma
Austin Jackson, the Yankees’ top prospect, showed on Tuesday night why he has been bestowed that honor. He can really be a five-tool player. Jackson has shown his speed, prowess in the field and a little pop in his bat. Troy Benjamin and Josh Isaac, both YES employees and very good friends of mine, remarked to me this morning over breakfast that his swing reminds them a little bit like Mike Cameron’s. Other than the strikeouts, Cameron has had himself a very nice career, so that’s a pretty nice compliment.
This guy could really be something special with this team. In fact, in Tuesday night’s game, Jackson hit a long shot over the foul pole for a grand slam and then was greeted in the dugout by another Jackson, Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson. Good company to be in when you are just trying to make it up to the big leagues.
However, it was announced by manager Joe Girardi after the game that Jackson, along with Eduardo Nunez and Juan Miranda will be reassigned to Minor League camp. I’m sure that at some point we will see this dynamic player again, maybe sometime this season and maybe even for good one of these days, but for now it was certainly a grand way to make an impression on his way back to the Minors.
We’re back at George M. Steinbrenner Field prepping for tonight’s game with the Red Sox. If possible, there is a big-game feel around the park, even though it’s only Spring Training. YES’ cameras are setting up for tonight’s broadcast and there are already people scalping tickets, as the game is sold out.
The big news of the day is that Derek Jeter has rejoined the team after Team USA fell to Korea in the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic.
Here’s tonight’s Yankees lineup:
Johnny Damon LF
Derek Jeter SS
Mark Teixeira 1B
Hideki Matsui DH
Jorge Posada C
Robinson Cano 2B
Xavier Nady RF
Cody Ransom 3B
Brett Gardner CF
Pitching: A.J. Burnett, Mariano Rivera, Damaso Marte, Edwar Ramirez and Dave Robertson.
Many of the writers in the clubhouse are speculating that this will be the Opening Day lineup, which means Gardner will win the CF job. This obviously remains to be seen, but that’s what people are guessing right now.
Shortly before 2:30, Derek Jeter arrived to the Yankees clubhouse for the first time since leaving for the World Baseball Classic. He greeted A.J. Burnett before heading inside to get changed. Shortly after, nearly every writer in the world converged on Jeter at his locker. The Yankees captain said he feels good physically despite missing much of camp and is excited about getting into the daily routine again.
Editor’s note: Sorry for the paparazzi-style photograph. Jeter was so excited to get into the clubhouse that there wasn’t time to get a “real” camera out.
Jeter tells reporters he was obviously disappointed that Team USA got knocked out, but was happy he got an opportunity to get to know the players he played against for years. When asked what Americans can learn from the Japanese style of play, he joked that he would like to learn how to run down to first before actually hitting the ball.
Joe Auriemma just spoke with Ray Negron about doing a feature with him this Friday. For those who don’t know, Negron is the author of a new book, One Last Time: Good-Bye to Yankee Stadium and asked us to interview Richard Gere about the book as well. Gere will be voicing the audio version of the book. Check back here Friday for the interview.
Reggie Jackson sends his best wishes to Whitey Ford, who will be celebrating his 80th birthday this year. Look for the video on the Yes Network later this season.
After taking his hacks during BP, Jeter continues to get reacquainted with those in the Yankees organization, including YES’ Paul O’Neill.
Its clear that this season’s squad is much more relaxed than the ’08 team at the same time last spring. Seems like Swisher is the ring leader, joking with each player as they swing. He gives each player “two minutes” for hooking… Hooking their ball foul, that is.
Girardi met with the media in the Yankees dugout. The manager plans on having the CF job ironed out by Sunday or Monday. He thinks both Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner had really good springs and that he is happy with both.
Regarding talking to Nick Swisher about Xavier Nady being his right fielder, Girardi said he was pleased to see that Swisher was still the same fun-loving guy after the news broke. The manager compared Swisher’s limited playing time to when he played for the Yankees and shared at-bats with Jorge Posada. According to Girardi, sometimes you have to give up a little to get to your ultimate goal of a World Series championship.
As the fans ready themselves for the start of tonight’s game, many enjoy a little carnival-style pitch-speed game. This little Yankee packs a 40 mph heater. He’s a lefty, too. Perhaps we’re looking at a future major leaguer.
We’re moments away from first pitch. Tune in to YES, as Michael Kay and Paul O’Neill bring you all the action. Then keep it tuned to YES after the game for the Spring Training special, featuring the highly-anticipated Alex Rodriguez interview.
National Anthem, followed by a military flyover. We’re told it was quite emotional. We couldn’t see it from the press box, though.
Tonight’s attendance: 11,113. The largest crowd to ever see a game at Steinbrenner Field.
By Jon Lane
Word from the beat, in this case Pete Caldera’s blog, is that Alex Rodriguez called his home run in the dugout. According to Yankees PR head Jason Zillo, A-Rod told him during batting practice that he’d go yard during his second at-bat.
Reggie Jackson met the media after the Yankees’ 6-1 win and shared an interesting story. A “stern” Hank Steinbrenner told Mr. October to send a message to Rodriguez: “You tell him to hit the damn ball, and hit it when it matters.”
Jackson, who had dinner with A-Rod Tuesday night, said he was “disappointed” and at times angry after learning of A-Rod’s PED usage while with the Rangers.
“I get angry sometimes,” Jackson told reporters. “I’ve been reprimanded by the commissioner and the president of our team. I’ve pleaded with them to understand that I’m personally affected; I’m personally involved. I’m hurt; I’m bewildered. I don’t know that we ever get past it.”
Jackson also related this personal message to Rodriguez, whose 553 career home runs are 10 behind Jackson’s for 11th place on the all-time list.
“My dad said you can control the story as long as you have a chance to hit. Edit your own story with the bat. As long as he does that, he has a chance to change things around him.”
I remember after working a game during I think the 2005 season when Gary Sheffield, in the throes of a slump, delivered a big hit to spark the Yankees to a win. A cordial Jackson chatted with us and told us what he told Sheffield: “As long as you have the bat in your hand, you can change the story.”
Jackson has made it one of his priorities to look after Rodriguez. Now more than ever, A-Rod needs to listen to everything Jackson tells him — and listen very carefully. Jackson’s tenure in the Bronx had absolutely nothing to do with PEDs, but he lived through the good, bad and the very ugly times of the Bronx Zoo. He won two World Championships, came through virtually every time when everything was on the line and weathered every storm that came his way, self-inflicted or not. When Reggie talks, you listen. Bottom line.