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Saturday, September 21, 2013

THEY'RE GOING TO NEED TO EXPAND MONUMENT PARK


We had gone 13 consecutive seasons without a playoff berth.  It was a dark blotch on our storied franchise’s history.

Then our version of the four horsemen rode in, and the darkness was gone.

From 1982 until 1994 the New York Yankees were 1064 – 990, a .518 winning percentage.  During that time frame they won 90 or more games just three times.


After Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera arrived in 1995, the tables turned.

Over the course of the next 13 years, the team would go 1252 – 832 for a .601 winning percentage (Including the 114 wins in 1998).  They won less than 90 just twice, and that was only because the 1995 season was shortened due to a strike.

The Yankees made the playoffs every one of those 13 years and won the World Series  in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000, making them the last team to win consecutive world championships and just the second team in the last 40 years to win three straight (the 1972 – 1974 Oakland A’s).

In the years since 2007 the team has won another title (2009) and maintained a .591 winning percentage (479 – 331) while missing the postseason just once.

With the announcement of Pettitte’s retirement comes the official end to one of the truly great eras of Yankees baseball.

With Rivera having already announced his retirement, only our captain Jeter remains as a tie to the Bombers’ most recent championship reign, and his years are numbered.

They should begin work on freeing up room in Monument Park for the latest additions to our pantheon of greats.

The names Jeter, Posada, Pettitte and Rivera belong next to those of Mantle, Munson, Ruth, Gehrig, Ford and the rest that eternally have their numbers displayed beyond the outfield wall.

As a lifelong New York Yankees fan who remembers versions of our club with rosters littered by names like Horace Clarke, Celerino Sanchez and Jim Mason, I feel fortunate to have been able to witness the entire careers of our “core four”.

In Pettitte I watched my generation’s version of Whitey Ford.   While Andy’s nightlife never came close to what Whitey and his pals provided for the tabloids, the big Texan’s demeanor and class were second to none.  With a big game on the line, there was no other starting pitcher I wanted on the mound than Andy Pettitte.

When the camera zoomed in on the southpaw as he stared down at his catcher, you could see what a fierce competitor lied within.  His cap would be pulled down to where only the steely resolve that emanated from his soul could be witnessed in his eyes.

You knew we were in good hands.


In a way it’s only fitting that Pettitte retire with Rivera.  Their careers are forever intertwined by the fact that they are the most prolific starter/reliever combination in the history of baseball.

Think about that, and realize we’ve been witnesses to moments that people will write about a hundred years from now.

Over the last 17 seasons we have had:
  • The greatest reliever in the history of baseball (Rivera)
  • The greatest shortstop in the history of the Yankees (Jeter)
  • One of the four best catchers in team history (Posada)
  • The winningest pitcher in baseball’s postseason history (Pettitte)
Normally, a team is lucky to have one or two players with similar accomplishments over the course of 20 years.  We’ve had four.

Decades from now when a new legend in the making is sitting in the dugout and assuring his teammates that they are about to wake the ghosts, he won’t be referring to Ruth, Gehrig or DiMaggio. 

Instead, he’ll be alluding to the greats that now wrap up their careers before us. 

Rather than lament a season which is quickly becoming forgettable, we should all take a moment to comprehend and appreciate that we’ve been privy to one of the truly great teams in the history of baseball.

Sunday will be Andy Pettitte’s final start in the Bronx, and sometime toward the end of next week will be Mariano Rivera’s last regular season save. 

When the final out is recorded in each of those games, a door to a great era of baseball will close.

We have been so lucky.


    
--Steve Skinner, BYB Guest Writer
Twitter: @oswegos1

 




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