As a Yankees fan, I cannot help but label today’s game as one of the most special of the season. Yes, we are facing a division rival in a critical series that will keep us in the playoff hunt, but it goes beyond that.
Old Timer’s Day officially started in 1947, and each year allows us the opportunity to see our heroes of seasons long since passed while reinvigorating the pride associated with the greatest franchise in sports.
As noted in their announcement here, this year’s invitees include the likes of Bernie Williams, Joe Torre, Johnny Damon, Paul O’Neill and Hideki Matsui. They’ll be joined by long-time “regulars” like Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson, and Bucky Dent, as well as the wives of Jerry Coleman, Thurman Munson, Bobby Murcer, Elston Howard and Billy Martin. The list of greats goes on and on.
This day symbolizes more than just a great history of a baseball franchise. It’s a tribute to an organization that realizes you cannot succeed in the future without recognizing the traditions and players that brought you championships in the past. Certainly no other team has more proof of what it takes to win than the Yankees, and no other team embraces its former players more.
Old Timer’s Days in the past have provided moments forever engraved in the team’s great history. The 1973 game saw Mickey Mantle hit one final home run; off his buddy Whitey Ford. In 1975 it was announced that Billy Martin was hired as manager (for the first time) prior to the game. That one occurred at Shea Stadium. 1985 was the last year that Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto played in the game because he was hit in the nose with a ball (he would appear in a suit-with Joe DiMaggio- at subsequent Old Timer’s Days).
In 2011, Tino Martinez hit a two-run home run off David Cone. Only time will tell if today’s short battle between two teams of legends will produce a forever memory, but it will be special regardless.
For me, the highlight will be when Old Timer “patriarchs” Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford are introduced. They represent the ties to teams of more than 50 years gone by. They were the heroes of my father’s era, yet their status, work ethic, and proud representation of the team carry on to the likes of Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettite. Fifty years from now my kids will get the same feeling from those “Core Four” when they are introduced at the 2064 Old Timer’s Day. It’s that type of “aura” that makes the Yankees so very unique.
Today is much more than just one of 162 regular season contests; it’s the day we Yankees fans get to show the world all the meaning there is behind being a fan of the Bronx Bombers.