Tagged: Thurman Munson

Showdown Series: Game 1 diary

By Jon Lane
A sunny day so far here at Yankee Stadium. There was rain in this morning’s forecast, but it looks like it’ll hold up.

A couple of historical quick hits and what to watch for:

Thirty years ago tonight, Bobby Murcer drove in all five runs of the Yankees’ 5-4 win over the Orioles hours after delivering the eulogy at Thurman Munson’s funeral. Murcer’s two-run single off Tippy Martinez in the bottom of the ninth won the game.

Two years ago tomorrow, Joba Chamberlain, tonight’s starter, made his Major League debut at Toronto when he closed out a 9-2 Yankees win by allowing a hit, walking two and striking out two in two scoreless innings. Chamberlain began the campaign at Single-A Tampa before promotions to Double-A Trenton (6/11) and Triple-A Scranton (7/24).

The Yankees will pay tribute to Muhammad Ali before the game and hold a moment of silence for George Murray, who passed away on Tuesday after losing his battle with ALS.

Back with more later with news and notes. Here are tonight’s lineups.

5:57 p.m.
News and notes from both clubhouses:

? Anthony Claggett is still here. Joe Girardi is comfortable with having an extra arm at his disposal at least for the start of this series, but he implied that Ramiro Pena will soon be back with the big club.

? Brett Gardner, out since July 25 with a fractured left thumb, will get his cast off the beginning of next week and have another X-Ray.

“It’s tough to sit back and watch, but at the same time at least I’m not out for longer,” Gardner said. “I don’t know yet how long I’m going to be out for, but the main thing is I didn’t have to have surgery. This thing is going to heal on its own and I should be back in a couple of weeks.”

? David Ortiz and incoming Major League Players Association director Michael Weiner will meet the media on Saturday to discuss last week’s report that Ortiz failed a test in 2003 for performance-enhancing drugs, reports The Boston Globe. Ortiz has one hit in his last 14 at-bats, but Red Sox manager Terry Francona hasn’t noticed any distraction or difference in Big Papi’s demeanor.

“I see him handling things very well,” Francona said. “Because he DHs, he’s not a guy I’ll follow around during a game anyway.”

? BoSox outfielder Rocco Baldelli was placed on the disabled list after fouling a ball off his foot and ankle during batting practice Wednesday night in St. Petersburg. With Baldelli on the DL and Jason Bay out with strained right hamstring/quad muscle, outfielder Josh Reddick was recalled from Triple-A. And in a surprise twist, Kevin Youkilis volunteered to play left field. Youkilis appeared in two games in right last season and 18 career games in left – all in 2006.

“The more I thought about it, it’s a way of getting a lot of good bats in the lineup, and he’s willing to do it, which amazes me,” Francona said. “I told him we’ll do it.”

Francona didn’t completely rule it out, but there is a chance Bay could miss the whole four-game series.

6:50 p.m.
A sign draped from the concourse above the Mohegan Sun sports bar read: “Papi, need a little juice?” Security quickly confiscated it.

6:51 p.m.
Muhammad Ali, who presented Yankee Stadiumwith the “Six Star Diamond Award,” is introduced to the crowd to a nice ovation. While be escorted around the field in a golf cart, Ali is waving and pointing to fans. Derek Jeter went to greet Ali and the whole team joined them for a group photo.

7:11 p.m.
First pitch 7:08, a strike to Jacoby Ellsbury. Two pitches later he grounds out to second base. We’re off an running.

7:17 p.m.
Before the game I thought David Ortiz would be received no worse than usual. Scratch that. The boos are loud and there are faint “steroids” chants. Nice work by Chamberlain to retire Papi on a fly out to right with two on and two out. You figure it’s going to be one of these games in which the tone is set not by dominance, but by escaping crisis situations and delivering in the pinch.

7:45 p.m
Through two innings Chamberlain has showed grit. A double and walk put the first two Red Sox batters on base, but Chamberlain bounced back with three straight outs, the last two on strikeouts that had the Stadium rocking.

8:13 p.m.
Chamberlain has been flirting with disaster all night. Dustin Pedroia opened the third with a solo homer that gave Boston a 1-0 lead. After walking the next two batters, Chamberlain got Ortiz to ground into a double play and J.D. Drew to fly out to center. However, he’s thrown 64 pitches through three innings and the Yankees wasted a golden opportunity in the second when Jorge Posada was thrown out at home plate. His mistake was not sliding on what was a high throw by Pedroia, but why send him when you could have had bases loaded, one out and Smoltz on the ropes?

So far, we’re seeing sample sizes of why the Yankees are 0-8 against the Red Sox.

8:16 p.m
Johnny Damon goes yard to right to tie the game 1-1. It was a carbon copy of Pedroia’s blast that’s been exclusive to this new yard all season. Mark Teixiera just doubled. Business is picking up.

8:27 p.m.
Casey Kotchman homers to – where else? – right field. 3-1, Boston.

8:45 p.m.
The Melk Man
delivers. Three-run bomb to right (this was legit). 5-3 Yankees, the
first time they’ve led the Red Sox in this park.

9:08 p.m.
Jorge Posada’s three-run home bounced off the wall that houses Monument Park. Smoltz lit up for eight runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings and the Red Sox sampled what the Yankees had to endure with Billy Traber last season.

The Yankees have completed an eight-run bottom of the fourth that took 34 minutes. They sent 12 men to the plate and lead 9-3. If they blow this they will go 0-19 against the Red Sox.

9:26 p.m.
This sums up Chamberlain’s evening: He walks the bases loaded and allows a run-scoring single before ending the fifth with strikeouts of Kotchman and Nick Green (starting shortstop Jed Lowrie left the game with an irritated left forearm). That’s it for Joba (5 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 7 BB, 5 K, 2 HR, 108 pitches/62 strikes), who wasn’t the pitcher he’s been in the second half.

9:33 p.m.
Billy Traber stinks.

9:50 p.m.
It’s Phil Coke vs. David Ortiz with two on and two out in the sixth inning. Alas, it’s 11-4, Yankees.

9:53 p.m.
Ortiz pops out to short. Big Papi is 0-for-4 and one for his last 18.

10:01 p.m.
This release from the Yankees. Your new fifth starter?

The New York Yankees tonight announced they have acquired right-handed pitcher Chad Gaudin from the San Diego Padres in exchange for a player to be named later.

Gaudin (pronounced Go-DAN), 26, was 4-10 with a 5.13 ERA (105.1IP, 60ER), 105 strikeouts and 56 walks in 20 games (19 starts) with the San Diego Padres this season.  He held his opponents to three earned runs or less in 12 of his 19 starts, including five straight from July 8-31, and earned National League “co-Player of the Week” honors (with Florida’s Hanley Ramirez) for the period ending 6/28, after going 2-0 with a 1.20 ERA and striking out 20 batters in 15.0 innings pitched.

He owns a 32-35 career record with two saves and a 4.58 ERA in 205 games (69 starts) over parts of seven seasons with Tampa Bay (2003-04), Toronto (2005), Oakland (2006-08), Chicago-NL (2008) and San Diego (2009).  In 69 career starts, Gaudin is 20-28 with a 4.85 ERA, striking out 306 batters in 378.2 innings pitched with a .276 opponent’s batting average.  He is 12-7 with a 4.00 ERA in 136 relief appearances, striking out 125 batters in 175.2 innings pitched with a .260 opponent’s average.

In addition, Gaudin made three scoreless relief appearances for the Athletics in the 2006 American League Championship Series against Detroit (3.1IP, 2H, 3BB, 1K).

Born in New Orleans, La., he was originally selected by Tampa Bay in the 34th round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft.

10:14 p.m.
A nugget on Gaudin: He one-hit the Yankees for seven innings in a 7-0 win on June 30, 2007 pitching for the A’s.

10:22 p.m.
Mark Teixeira goes yard off poor Billy Traber. It’s 12-4, Yankees, yet they’ve employed four pitchers tonight compared to Boston’s two. I’m just sayin’.

10:33 p.m.
It’s a 12-4 game and there’s still drama. Dustin Pedroia didn’t take too kindly to being hit in the shoulder by Mark Melancon. Jorge Posada had to calm him down en route to first base.

Munson rundown and final thoughts

By Jon Lane
A big thank you to everyone who read and shared their thoughts on YESNetwork.com’s tribute to Thurman Munson, 30 years after his untimely death. Here’s the rundown:

While you’re at it, my colleague Joe Auriemma conducted an excellent interview with Joe Girardi during which the Yankees manager reflected on how Munson was an influence on his career. The YES Network also ran a special feature where the Munson family reflects on the day that they learned of their beloved father’s death and how their lives changed on its pregame show before yesterday’s Yankees-White Sox game.

During the game the Chicago White Sox radio broadcast team recalled Munson as an all-out player who would beat your brains out for a win. Notre Dame head football coach Charlie Weis a catcher growing up, was a guest during the third inning and described how he admired his toughness. If you were a runner heading home and Munson was blocking the plate, he’d ensure you’d make contact with his shin guard before applying the tag. A long-time Yankees fan who I interviewed for my feature summed it up best: There was tough and then there was “Thurman tough.”

It’s ironic that August 2, 1979, the Yankees were in Chicago playing the White Sox in the same park where Munson played his final game. Whether he’s a Hall of Famer or not – my heart says yes but conventional wisdom and analysis suggests no – is immaterial. Munson is on the same level as Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Yogi, Martin and Jackson: Yankee icons who made an impact on the field and in the hearts of fans. To this day we’re still talking about them as well as plenty of others.

For me, it’s back to covering the modern gang. The Yankees are off today before playing the Blue Jays in Toronto beginning tomorrow. Then Thursday marks the opener of a four-game showdown against the Red Sox.

Cory Lidle: Another Yankee gone way too soon

lidle_250_080209.jpgBy Jon Lane

Thurman Munson’s death resonates amongst Yankees players, alumni and fans just as strong as it did that tragic afternoon 30 years ago on August 2, 1979. I was only six when Munson perished, yet in years since, and especially researching and writing my tribute to No. 15, I felt like I too lost someone I knew. I found myself asking the same questions: Why did he have to fly that airplane? Why did a stupid tree stump — graphically explained in Marty Appel’s book — block his means of escape? Why did he have to die so young? Why?

Cory Lidle wasn’t Thurman Munson. He wasn’t a Yankee staple, nor was he a borderline Hall of Famer. But Lidle was a Yankee who had his moments during his brief tenure in the Bronx once he and Bobby Abreu arrived in a 2006 trade-deadline deal with the Phillies. And he was someone who I got to know, one player I associated with even when the tape recorder was turned off. Unlike Munson, Lidle was eager to speak with the media, yet like Munson he was an everyman, one who made the absolute best of his limited talent.

So friendly was Lidle, I’ll never forget the day of his Yankees debut. It was at Yankee Stadium and I was in the clubhouse before the game. The golden rule in covering baseball is never — EVER — utter one word to that day’s starting pitcher. These guys’ rituals varied, from David Wells blasting heavy metal over the clubhouse sound system, to Orlando Hernandez dancing to whatever was playing over his iPod, to Randy Johnson staring into his locker, Pantera playing softly on his radio, and trying to burn a hole through the wall.

The rule was simple: Don’t go within 25 feet of that game’s starter, or risk complete embarrassment and humiliation for doing something so stupid. Yet here was Lidle walking towards his locker. I was in the middle of his path and in near panic looked to get out of his way – quickly. He looked towards me, lifted his head, smiled and asked, “How you doing?”

Lidle pitched six innings to defeat the Blue Jays, 6-1, and afterwards the noted sweet tooth — then Phillies reliever Arthur Rhodes ripped Lidle in the press, explaining that he ate ice cream during games, in response to Lidle’s description of a nonchalant clubhouse — found his locker littered with ice-cream sandwiches. After the media dispersed I asked about the beginning of the next phase of a well-traveled. He proceeded to pull me aside and say, “Let me tell you about my debut at the Astrodome in May of 1997 ….” The bulk of the media reported delicious irony. Lidle remembered the details of the first three batters he faced as a New York Met.

Cory Lidle and passenger Tyler Stanger were killed on October 11, 2006 when a plane registered in his name crashed into a building on New York’s Upper East Side, mere days after Lidle – he had cleaned out his locker after the Yankees were eliminated in the ALDS and took some heat in light of comments suggesting the team was unprepared – told me and several writers off the record about a planned cross country flight to California. After taking off, the first leg was to be an aerial tour of Manhattan.

I found out while home one day and fielding a phone call from my mother-in-law. She told me to turn on the TV because a Yankee was in a plane crash. It took about a minute to put it together before I told myself, “Oh no. Not Cory. Don’t tell me it was Cory.”

lidle2_250_080209.jpgI ended up asking similar questions I would about Munson. Three days ago he told us he was taking that trip. Why did he have to fly? Why?

Lidle wasn’t Munson, but he was a Yankee, a husband and a father in the prime of his life. My old colleague and mentor Phil Pepe was haunted by the eerie similarities between the two tragedies. In a column penned one week after Lidle’s death, Pepe retold the popular story of the late-night meal during which Munson extended him an invite to take a trip in his beloved jet.

I chatted with Lidle before he left the clubhouse for what was likely the final time as Yankee. He was a pending free agent and unlikely to return, so I told him it was great to know him, wished him luck and hoped that we’d reconnect down the road. His response was something that three days later hit me – and hit me hard:

“It’s all good, man. I have my wife and my family, so everything is great. I have my whole life ahead of me.”

Once I saw the image of a burning building on the news with the confirmation that Lidle was on that airplane, I was shattered. Yankees fans honor Munson to this day, deservedly so. I honor Munson, a person I never met, in my own way, and I thank God for the brief time Lidle was in my life.

No. 15 for the Hall

By Jon Lane

“No. 15 for the Halls of Cooperstown” was one of Bobby Murcer’s words during the eulogy he delivered at Thurman Munson’s funeral on August 6, 1979. Munson’s resume was on par with the great catchers of his era, Carlton Fisk and Johnny Bench, yet Fisk and Bench are enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame and Munson is not.

Murcer, one of Munson’s closest friends on the team, found that disappointing.

“If Thurman hadn’t have been killed, he’d be in the Hall of Fame,” Murcer said in a 2007 interview. “Thurman should be in the Hall of Fame for the simple reason that he was a captain of a championship ballclub.”  

A look at Munson’s credentials during an 11-season career cut tragically short.

? AL Rookie of the Year in 1970 (.302, seven home runs and 57 RBIs).

? AL MVP in 1976 (.302-17-105), making him the only Yankee to win both the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards.  

? Seven-time All-Star and winner of three straight Gold Gloves (1973-75)

? The first Yankee since Joe DiMaggio to hit .300 or more and drive in at least 100 runs three consecutive years in a row.

1975: .318 BA, 102 RBI
1976: .302 BA, 105 RBI
1977: .308 BA, 100 RBI

A Web site called VoteThurmanIn.com encourages people to write the National Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee member to urge them to vote Munson into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

It’s easy to follow your heart and believe that Munson belongs in Cooperstown and if he had played a few more years – injuries and all – he may have done enough to merit serious consideration. But with a heavy heart, Marty Appel, who wrote the great book MUNSON: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain, can’t in good faith endorse enshrinement on a short body of work and pure speculation over how Munson may have ended his career.

“My heart wants to say yes, but I’m a Hall of Fame purist too and I don’t think you can put a guy in that requires an asterisk and an explanation of what his numbers might have been,” Appel said. “[Baseball historian/ statistician] Bill James said a lot of guys get injured on way to Cooperstown and it never happens. Thurman was the most severe imaginable.”

Do you think Munson is a Hall of Famer? Why or why not?

Munson, Arroyo, rumors and more

munson_250.jpgBy Jon Lane
marks the 30th anniversary of the tragic death of Thurman Munson, one
of the most gritty and popular players to ever wear a Yankees uniform.
We’re taking this week on YESNetwork.com to honor the captain with a
diary Yankees senior advisor Ray Negron kept during those five days in
August when the team mourned the loss of their teammate and friend.
Negron was the Yankees’ batboy in the 1970s and for the first time
shares his thoughts in the first of a five-part series.

spending this week compiling and producing a series of tributes to No.
15, including one of my own using interviews from Munson’s teammates
and associates, which will run on Sunday, August 2, while at the same
time keeping tabs on a Yankees team that’s 10-1 since the All-Star
break and 23-6 in its last 29 games. Not only do the Yankees have a
chance to bury the Rays, with a little help they can put some distance
between them and the Red Sox before their showdown at Yankee Stadium
next week. The Red Sox trail the Yankees by 2 1/2 games in the AL East
and have already made two deals before Friday’s non-waiver trade

You wonder if, as well as the Yankees are playing,
whether they’ll make a move be it minor or a blockbuster, maybe not fix
what’s not broken, or perhaps do something in response to what the Red
Sox end up doing. In this time of trade talk, believe everything you
see and half of what you read, but the latest rumors in Beantown is the
cultivation of a mega-deal that would import both Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez from Cleveland.

yesterday, word circulated that the Yankees were interested in
acquiring veteran right-hander Bronson Arroyo from the Reds provided
that the Reds pay the bulk of the $17 million he’s owed by the end of
2010. A baseball source told the New York Daily News there’s
nothing to that. You figure that the Yankees would not invest any
serious dollars into what would amount to their fifth starter, since
Sergio Mitre has fit the job description through two starts. But if the
Reds were willing to eat Arroyo’s salary – I seriously doubt it –
Arroyo would be a nice addition, a battle-tested vet who’s pitched in
big games (see ALCS, 2004).

Furthermore, if Arroyo would become a Yankee, Alex Rodriguez would have to learn his first name. It’s not Brandon.

name being floated is Ian Snell, though Snell is a big if. The
27-year-old right-hander is 2-8 with a 5.36 ERA for the Pirates, who
appear willing to give him away if a team would take on his guaranteed
$4.25-million salary for next season. The Daily News added that
any sort of deal for Snell is possible given that the Yankees and
Pirates have worked out trades for Xavier Nady, Damaso Marte and Eric
Hinske. If that happens, you’d think it’d cost the Yankees
next-to-nothing in prospects, only $4.25 million to bet on the
change-of-scenery theory.

Steven Goldman encouraged the Yankees to deal for Snell last week, citing the best is yet to come from the right-hander.

Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain

munsonbook_275.jpgBy Jon Lane
I just finished reading a great new book by Marty Appel, the Yankees’ PR director in the mid-1970s. Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain, hits bookstores today and is available for purchase on-line. As fate had it, Appel completed an autobiography on the Yankees’ first captain since Lou Gehrig in 1979.

On August 2 it’ll be 30 years since Thurman Munson died in a plane crash, a tragedy that to this day is remembered by Yankees players, executives and fans. I was six years old and the memory of that afternoon – the televised image of that burning airplane and my mother staring at the screen in disbelief – still resonates.

When I received my copy of the book, I showed it to my parents and casually mentioned that this August will be 30 years gone by. My mom immediately let out a short breath and a stunned look of disbelief. She was never a hardcore baseball fan, but Munson was her favorite. He was the right player for those who don’t know the game, but admire when anyone puts their heart and soul into their chosen endeavor and performs both beyond their potential and physical limitations. That, folks, is part of being a role model.

There were a lot of things fans loved about Munson, many of which are highlighted in the book based on Appel’s unique and intimate experiences inside the clubhouse. Munson was never friendly with the print media, choosing to cherish his privacy and offended each time his words were taken out of context. He wasn’t a publicity hound – a sharp contrast to many who walk around with an attitude that screams, “Look at me, I’m cool” whether others like it or not. In fact, Appel recalled a few times when Munson either refused posing with sponsors or meeting VIP guests.

The best was Old Timer’s Day, 1976. Appel was determined to take a picture of a great lineage of Yankees catching: Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard and Munson. All parties were rounded up; Munson was in the players’ lounge, in his underwear, watching The Three Stooges. Appel pleaded his case before Munson begrudgingly agreed, got up in a huff and walked to his locker. When it was time to take the picture, Munson was still in front of the tube in his Fruit of the Looms.

Somehow, the photo was taken. Three years later Appel was in Munson’s home for the funeral. In an office was the picture, enlarged and framed. He neither accepted recognition nor payback, but Munson loved his teammates and his fans, and went out of his way to do anything for them. Countless and classic examples are portrayed in the book.

From a baseball perspective, this quote from Munson sums up why he was the favorite of so many:

“Look, I like hitting fourth and I like the good batting average. But, what I do every day behind the plate is a lot more important because it touches so many more people and so many aspects of the game. Thurman Munson, 8/25/75.”

Jorge Posada, who grew up a fan of George Brett and Don Mattingly, found a picture of Munson on the wall of Fenway Park’s weight room with the inscription. He took it and hung it in his locker at the old Yankee Stadium.

Job well done by Marty, a big help to YESNetwork.com last year during our coverage of Bobby Murcer’s book signing in New York. Incidentally, Sunday will be the one-year anniversary of Murcer’s passing. Something tells me the two best friends are sitting beside each other, drenched in sweat and wearing the pinstripes, watching Larry, Curly and Moe put on a live performance.

Negron's latest hit

onelasttime_375.jpgBy Jon Lane
Yankees senior advisor Ray Negron has his third book coming out March 17. One Last Time: Good-Bye to Yankee Stadium bids a fond farewell to the venerable Yankee Stadium after 85 years of epic history and tradition. As the new Stadium opens across the street, Ray the bat boy and George Steinbrenner summon some of the greatest players who have worn the pinstripes to this hallowed field for one last game. Think of it as “Field of Dreams” meets the Bronx.

In terms of connecting baseball, children and their parents, few if anyone do it better than Negron. His first two books, The Boy of Steel and The Greatest Story Never Told are both listed in Amazon’s Top Ten list of children’s books. The story of Negron’s life is well-known. At age 16 he was caught by Steinbrenner spray painting a Yankees logo on a Yankee Stadium wall and taken to a police station within the building. While Negron awaited his fate, Steinbrenner decided he would not press charges. Negron was to work off the damages as a batboy, cleaning shoes and doing clubhouse chores. He since lived through the Bronx Zoo years of 1977 and ’78 and remains a close confidant of The Boss through today.

Come August, Negron’s next book will reflect on the 30th Anniversary of the tragic passing of Thurman Munson.

One Last Time: Good-Bye to Yankee Stadium is available for pre-order on Amazon.com. All proceeds will be donated to Yankees Universe and its affilated charitable organizations.

For posterity’s sake, here was the Yankees’ lineup the night of September 21, 2008, the last game to ever be played at the old Yankee Stadium:

Johnny Damon CF
Derek Jeter SS
Bobby Abreu RF
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Jason Giambi 1B
Xavier Nady LF
Robinson Cano 2B
Hideki Matsui DH
Jose Molina C

Here’s the projected 2009 lineup, assuming everyone is healthy:

Johnny Damon CF
Derek Jeter SS
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Hideki Matsui DH
Jorge Posada C
Robinson Cano 2B
Xavier Nady RF
Melky Cabrera/Brett Gardner CF