Greetings & Salutations TJR readers. Welcome to my first article and introduction into the sports writing world here on TJR Sports. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Pete and I'm a huge New York Yankee and baseball fan originally from the Bronx, New York now living in Miami, Florida for the past 6 years. My love for the game started when I was 6 years old and hasn't stopped since. Growing up in New York, Baseball is year round as it is covered in print, television and sports radio all year long unlike most cities from the start of spring training to the World Series and hot stove in the off season. Basically, there's no escaping it.
My earliest memory of the game that made me the fan that I am now started in 1984. I went to my first Yankee game with a bunch of people from my old neighborhood and sat with the rest of the bleacher creatures. If you're not familiar with the bleacher creatures, they're the ones who do the roll call at the start of every Yankee home game and then harass the opposing teams right fielder. Gotta love them or hate them. Ever since then I was hooked.
I grew up in a time where it wasn't very popular to be a Yankee fan as the Mets were on the start of their playoff run, but baseball fans in New York City tend to be territorial. Most Yankee fans from New York that I know tend to reside in The Bronx and Manhattan. Most Met fans that I know tend to be from Brooklyn or Queens. The Yankees were drawing flies to Yankee Stadium back in those days due to bad free agent signings by "The Boss" back at that time and the Mets were thriving over in Queens. Most Yankee fans were excited when he was banned from baseball by Commissioner Fay Vincent back in 1990 only to be reinstated back in 1993.
Back in 1993, The team started to see a turnaround. During George Steinbrenners time away from the team, GM Gene "Stick" Michael was making most of the baseball decisions for the team and it was some of the moves he made that Steinbrenner probably wouldn't have that turned the Yankees into the dynasty that they are now. Back in off season of 1992, there was rumors that the team wanted to trade one of my all time favorite players on the team at the time, Bernie Williams. However, Gene Michael saw potential in him and convinced ownership to keep him. Seeing Bernie Williams potential and the logjam of center fielders, Gene Michael decided to trade one All Star, Roberto Kelly to Cincinnati for another, Paul O'Neill. O'Neill became a batting champion in the strike seasoned year of '94. Roberto Kelly became an All Star for Cincinnati in '93 but became quickly irrelevant in the game soon after.
Another big move the Yankees made that turned them around was the trade for David Cone from Toronto before the trade deadline back in '95 that propelled them into the playoffs for the first time since 1981. And also lets not forget the kids on the farm who were just beginning to start their illustrious careers. The kids I'm talking about were affectionately known by Yankee fans and the media as the core four (Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte & the greatest closer in the history of the game, Mariano Rivera) were instrumental to the team's current success since 1995. For anyone that wants to argue that the Yankees bought all their championships, just take away those four and tell me if you think this team would have any of it's four championship from the '96, '98, '99 and 2000 teams?
The 1995 season was a special one for me because I saw my all time favorite ballplayer and Yankee of all time, Don Mattingly (Donnie Baseball) get into the playoffs for the first and last time. Talk about bad timing. When the Yankees made their last Series appearance in 1981, he was called up from the minors the following season. For his last and final season, he went out with a bang in the division series that year hitting .411 with 6 RBI's against Seattle. I still root for him as a manager as long as he doesn't wind up in the Bronx for a world series. Yes, I'm a Mattingly guy.
The 1996 season is one for obvious reasons that I will never forget as the team won their first World Championship in 18 years and the first Yankee championship I had seen in my lifetime. It was a crazy beginning to that year because the Yankees let go a manager who had just taken them to the playoffs in Buck Showalter for a guy who had a career lifetime losing managerial record in Joe Torre. I remember to this the day the headline in the back page of the New York Daily News sports section that read "Clueless Joe" next to a picture of him. Little did they know one of the greatest runs by a manager under the George Steinbrenner watch would be underway. One of the highlights from that season was in May of '96 when Doc Gooden pitched a no hitter against a good Seattle team at the time that had Griffey & A-Rod at the time. Once they made the playoffs that year, I was confident they would get past Texas in the ALDS and Baltimore in the ALCS. When they got to the World Series, it was a different story for me. I was nervous as all hell because they had to face the defending World Champs Atlanta Braves and the three headed monster of Maddux, Glavine & Smoltz. I was at Game 1 of the World Series, sitting in the bleachers (where else?) when the Braves pounded Andy Pettitte behind two home runs from Andruw Jones. The Braves won Game 2 and now I was sweating more than Patrick Ewing on the free throw line. I'll never forget what was reported in the papers after that game when Joe Torre told George Steinbrenner "Don't worry boss, we'll win the next three games in Atlanta and win it all at home". I'm saying to myself, "How in the hell could you say that?" Of course, it was also reported that "The Boss" looked at him crazy. I would have too. But Torre must have saw something in this team the rest of the world and the Atlanta Braves did not see and how resilient this team could be. No deficit would deter them going forward because they got timely hitting going forward and got excellent pitching performances from David Cone, Andy Pettitte and Jimmy Key and also the bullpen with an emerging superstar in Mariano Rivera setting up John Wetteland. The two games in this series that will stand out to me was Game 4 when the Yankees came back from a 6-0 deficit to win 8-6. If you're a Yankee fan who could forget that Jim Leyritz home run off of Mark Wohlers. Then there was Game 5 where Pettitte and Smoltz pitched an absolute classic that will stand out as one of the best pitchers duel you will ever see in a World Series. They both combined no earned runs in 16.1 combined innings. The only run in that game came on an error caused by Marquis Grissom. Game 6 was no cakewalk because the great Greg Maddux was on the mound. Maddux was so dominant in the series up until this game where the only 3 runs he gave up were in the 3rd inning of this game, which was the only runs the Yankees needed to clinch to series. My lasting image of this series was seeing future hall of famer and chicken man, Wade Boggs riding of with one of the New York City police horses. A memorable year for me. One that I will never forget.
Since I've moved to Miami six years ago, I always manage to go back to see a Yankees game with two of my closest friends Dom & Jae as we try to make it a yearly ritual. I've been to the old & new Yankee Stadium enough times that I'm trying to venture out to other stadiums across the country. The best stadium I've been to was back in 2010 at Camden Yards in Baltimore hands down and I think its a benchmark for all the newer stadiums you see today.
I know I've rambled enough about my team but I wanted to share my favorite memories of my favorite team and how I experienced them. Going forward, I want to make these articles more interactive with you the reader. By no means am I an expert at the game of baseball and I'll never claim to be one, but what I do plan to give you is context that is thought provoking and unbiased. I also want it to be interactive and would like feedback whether it be positive or negative. Thanks for reading and follow me on Twitter @BronxCobra51.