Saturday, August 13, 2016

Not Playing But Still Winning


Mariano Duncan
1996 New York Yankees

Today in the Bronx the Yankees are celebrating the 20th Anniversary of their 1996 World Championship.  Their playoff appearances, including World Series victories, would blossom into something close to ritualistic for close to the decade that followed.  However, in 1996, the World Series they won when they roared back from a 2-0 Series deficit to defeat the Atlanta Braves in six games, Joe Torre's team was making the franchise's first Fall Classic appearance in a decade and a half.  What would in relatively short order take on the appearance of being ordinary was certainly anything but in October 1996. 

There are any number of memories that are emblazoned in my mind's eye from that season.  That October's big moments belonged in equal measures to Jeffrey Maier and to Jim Leyritz.  The Torre Family did it all:  Joe managed, Frank convalesced, and Sister Marguerite prayed.  And for the first time in almost two decades, a Yankees' season culminated in a parade up the Canyon of Heroes. 

But what makes me smile the most at the memory of the fall of 1996 is Rob.  He was ten years old and had just started to acquire a taste for baseball.  Towards the end of that summer, on Fan Appreciation Day, he made his first trip to the Stadium.  On a sun-soaked Saturday afternoon, the Yankees defeated the Red Sox in extra innings.  A skinny, baby-faced rookie shortstop named Jeter drove in the the winning run.  

Rob and I lived and died with the Yankees that post-season.  It was his first year in scouting and the weekend of Games Three, Four, and Five of the ALCS in Baltimore, his troop had a camping trip to Picatinny Arsenal.  While we had no television on which to watch the games, one of his fellow Scouts had a radio, and quite a few of us, dads and sons, sat together at our campsite and listened to the games. 

A hell of a lot has happened in the twenty years since Charlie Hayes squeezed the final out of Game Six into his glove.  A lot of it has been good.  Quite a bit of it has been decidedly less so.  Neither the passage of time nor how I feel on a particular day when I get out of bed shall ever dampen or diminish my memory of that baseball season.  That team.  That experience that I had the chance to share with my son.  

Thanks again, Joe, for what you and your team accomplished.  The World Series Rings are yours alone but the memories?  They are available for all of us to savor.  

-AK  


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