Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Sunset Beckons....

1996.  A lifetime ago.  Not an entire lifetime of course but certainly a year in which the world was a markedly different place than it is now.  The terms "September 11", "Ground Zero" and "Let's Roll" did not yet occupy a tragically important place in the American lexicon. 

On the baseball diamond it was a magical year.  In the Bronx at least.  Led by their brand-new manager, a Brooklynite named Torre, the New York Yankees did something they had not done since 1981.  They won the American League pennant.  Even better, they did something that they had not done since 1978.  They won the World Series.  My son Rob was a little boy.  He turned ten that April.  Derek Jeter was a rookie.

In an era when baseball teams still had "Fan Appreciation Day", Rob made his very-first trip to Yankee Stadium on Saturday, September 21st.  It was the middle game of a three-game weekend set with the Boston Red Sox.  It was a game that would otherwise be lost to the dustbin of history for me but for the fact that it was Rob's first-ever game.  In a real pitcher's duel, the Yankees defeated the Red Sox 12-11 in ten innings.  The eight pitchers Torre used did a slightly better job of scattering fourteen Boston hits than the seven hurlers who toed the rubber for the Sox did that afternoon and who surrendered a whopping twenty-two hits.  

Boston Red Sox 11, New York Yankees 12
Game played on Saturday, September 21, 1996 at Yankee Stadium
ab
  r
  h
rbi
Bragg cf,rf,cf
5
1
2
0
Frye 2b
5
1
1
2
Vaughn 1b
3
0
0
0
6
1
1
3
4
2
2
0
  Tinsley cf
1
0
1
0
  Cordero ph
0
0
0
0
  Nixon pr,rf
0
0
0
0
5
0
2
2
Manto 3b
2
0
0
0
  O'Leary ph,lf
1
1
0
0
5
3
3
3
3
2
2
1
  Rodriguez 3b
0
0
0
0
  Jefferson ph
1
0
0
0
  Pozo 3b
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
  Gunderson p
0
0
0
0
  Mahomes p
0
0
0
0
  Eshelman p
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
  Slocumb p
0
0
0
0
  Hudson p
0
0
0
0
Totals
41
11
14
11
ab
  r
  h
rbi
Raines lf
6
3
3
2
Boggs 3b
5
3
1
0
5
2
4
2
  Rivera pr,rf
0
0
0
0
6
1
1
3
5
1
1
2
4
0
3
0
Jeter ss
6
0
3
3
6
0
2
0
Sojo 2b
3
0
0
0
  Duncan ph,2b
2
1
2
0
  Fox pr,2b
0
1
0
0
  Strawberry ph
0
0
0
0
  Kelly pr,2b
0
0
0
0
Key p
0
0
0
0
  Bones p
0
0
0
0
  Pavlas p
0
0
0
0
  Nelson p
0
0
0
0
  Polley p
0
0
0
0
  Weathers p
0
0
0
0
  Lloyd p
0
0
0
0
  Wetteland p
0
0
0
0
Totals
48
12
20
12
Boston
0
0
0

1
5
2

3
0
0

0
11
14
1
New York
0
0
1

0
3
3

3
1
0

1
12
20
0

IP
H
R
ER
BB
SO
Maddux  
4.0
7
3
2
1
1
  Gunderson  
0.0
0
1
1
1
0
  Mahomes  
1.2
4
3
3
1
2
  Eshelman  
0.2
2
3
3
4
1
  Brandenburg  
0.2
2
0
0
0
0
  Slocumb  
2.0
3
1
1
3
2
  Hudson  L (3-5)
0.2
2
1
1
2
0
Totals
9.2
20
12
11
12
6
IP
H
R
ER
BB
SO
Key  
4.2
8
6
6
2
2
  Bones  
0.1
2
2
2
0
1
  Pavlas  
1.1
1
1
1
1
0
  Nelson  
0.0
2
2
2
1
0
  Polley  
0.2
0
0
0
0
0
  Weathers  
0.2
1
0
0
0
2
  Lloyd  
0.1
0
0
0
0
0
  Wetteland  W (2-3)
2.0
0
0
0
2
1
Totals
10.0
14
11
11
6
6

  E–Vaughn (15).  DP–Boston 1, New York 2.  2B–Boston Haselman 2 (12,off Key,off Nelson); Canseco (22,off Key); Bragg (23,off Bones); Greenwell (18,off Pavlas); Pemberton (6,off Nelson), New York Jeter (24,off Mahomes); B Williams (25,off Brandenburg).  3B–Boston Garciaparra (3,off Key).  HR–Boston Haselman (6,6th inning off Bones 0 on, 0 out).  SH–Garciaparra (1,off Pavlas); R Rivera (1,off Hudson).  HBP–Vaughn 2 (14,by Key,by Polley); Pemberton (1,by Bones).  IBB–Vaughn (19,by Pavlas); Cordero (4,by Wetteland); Strawberry (5,by Slocumb).  SB–Garciaparra (4,2nd base off Bones/Girardi); Frye (16,3rd base off Wetteland/Girardi); Nixon (1,2nd base off Wetteland/Girardi); Raines (10,2nd base off Slocumb/Haselman).  HBP–Key (2,Vaughn); Bones (10,Pemberton); Polley (3,Vaughn).  IBB–Slocumb (4,Strawberry); Pavlas (2,Vaughn); Wetteland (4,Cordero).  U-HP–Jim Evans, 1B–Larry McCoy, 2B–Dale Ford, 3B–Chuck Meriwether.  T–4:45.  A–54,599.
Game played on Saturday, September 21, 1996 at Yankee Stadium
Baseball Almanac Box Score |


The game took close to five hours to complete - due in no small part to the fact that the two teams' pitchers combined to issue twenty walks.   They needed something to break up the monotony of all those base hits I suppose. 

Had I carried a cell phone in 1996 I am quite confident that Margaret would have called at least once to make sure that we were still alive and well.  I did not.  Therefore she did not.  The game finally ended in the bottom of the tenth inning when with two outs the Yankees plated the winning run courtesy of a single off of the bat of their seven-hole hitter.  A slightly built young fellow with hair on his head and an earnest look on his face who had played shortstop well enough all season to be featured prominently in the conversation for American League Rookie of the Year.  Jeter stroked the hit and as the winning run crossed home plate he rounded first base with his fist raised triumphantly.   After Jeter made his announcement, I found myself ferreting around in the basement.  The day after Rob's maiden voyage to the Stadium I had made him something to commemorate our day.  Given my abject lack of artistic ability, it is not much to see.  Yet seeing that it has survived all these years brought a smile to my face.




In the two decades or so that have passed between that season and this one, I have smiled watching Jeter and his fist pump too many times to count.  Back in the day, before college and then full-fledged adulthood (his, not mine) interceded Rob and I used to watch a lot of those moments in each other's company.  Time passes.  Children are no longer children.  For the past few years we have rooted for the Yankees from two different time zones.  Geography has done little to blunt the passion.   

This past Wednesday, as he awaited the arrival of his teammates in Tampa, Florida to start Spring Training, Derek Jeter announced that this upcoming season shall be his last.  Whenever the Yankees' 2014 season ends - and for those keeping score at home their final regular season series is at Fenway Park - so shall his extraordinary career.  He no longer has the full head of hair he had way back when he was a rookie in '96.  These things happen.  I have a hell of a lot more gray and white hair on my head than I did in 1996 so far be it for me to sound critical of his situation. 

2014.  It is the year in which my once-young son shall take a bride.  It is the year in which the manager of the 1996 World Series Champion New York Yankees....and the 1998 World Series Champion New York Yankees....and the 1999 World Series Champion New York Yankees....and the 2000 World Series Champion New York Yankees, a Brooklynite named Joe Torre, shall be enshrined in the Baseball Hall-of-Fame.  And it is the year in which Derek Jeter shall bid the New York Yankees farewell.  The final member of the Core Four.  The last remaining member of Joe Torre's Dynasty.  

     
The hero of Fan Appreciation Day 1996 - and the hero to a lot of appreciative fans on too many days to count in the years since then.   

For him, now, the sunset beckons. 

-AK      

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