While I was growing up in Freeport, NY, my house was a baseball house. My father loved baseball, and, more specifically, he loved the New York Yankees. In fact, I cannot remember one single time that there was any other sport, other than boxing, being watched on my father’s TV. Never football, never hockey and especially never basketball. He didn’t watch tennis; he didn’t watch golf. None of it. He watched baseball. That’s what he loved.
When the Yankees were playing my father would invariably be sitting in the corner of the couch from the first pitch to the last out (if the Yankees were winning!). If it was a night game he’d be in his blue bathrobe, eating an orange (he ate one almost every night) and simply watching the game. He loved listening to Phil Rizzuto and Bill White making calls (if that’s what you can call what Rizzuto did!). If it was a day game he’d usually be sitting behind his easel, painting, and listening to the game on the radio. He was never outwardly emotional about a game, like me, but he certainly made his opinion known.
He disliked George Steinbrenner immensely. I think because it had more to do with the simple fact that Steinbrenner was the owner, and, being a union man, my father had an inherent mistrust of owners. I think he was entertained by Billy Martin and his antics, but his kindest words were saved for the players.
I remember talking to my father once about Alex Rodriguez and what a waste of time, money and talent he was. My father stuck up for him. Because that’s what he did. He always stuck up for the working man. Even if the “working man” in this case made millions of dollars a year and would strike out most of the time when the team needed him to get a hit.
In later years I remember how much he liked Derek Jeter, I think because he was a throw back to the Yankees of my father’s youth, he loved Bernie Williams, probably more because he was Puerto Rican like my father rather than what a great ball player he was, and I think he respected Joe Torre a lot.
So, needless to say, I had no choice but to be a Yankee fan. It’s part of my inheritance.
Then came the era of the “Bronx Zoo”
When I was still seven years old in 1976 the Yankees made it to their first World Series since 1962 and heartbreakingly got swept by the Reds in 4. I don’t remember much about it other than I really started to take notice of the team. I remember the talk being how the Yankees were just exhausted by the end of the year and were simply no match for the “Big Red Machine”, but that they were primed for the next season. You could just feel that good things were about to happen.
They made up for the disappointment of ‘76 it by winning the next two in ’77 and ’78.
In ’77 Mr. October was born when Jackson hit four home runs in the series as the Yankees went on to beat the Dodgers. In ’78 it was the improbable “Bucky Fucking Dent” hitting one over the Green Monster in Fenway and the Yankees moving on to beat the Dodgers again in the World Series. It’s when I became a die-hard fan. Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, Ron Guidry, Nettles, Piniella…were all my friends and I talked about.
Not only were the Yankees winning, they were also entertaining. And not just from how they played ball. Billy Martin screaming and kicking dirt on umpires, his feuds with Reggie Jackson, being fired and rehired countless times were all exciting things for a ten year-old.
Let the losing commence
But, little did I know at the time that all of that winning was about to end and I was going to spend almost the next twenty years of my life knowing what it’s like to suffer as a fan as the Yankees fielded one sub-par team after another. In my opinion that downward spiral all started when Thurman Munson died in a plane crash in the summer of ’79.
I remember the day it happened and how shocking it was. That night my father was getting home late from some union negotiation, and I remember running out my back door in the dark and telling him, “Thurman Munson died!” I’m sure he probably already knew being he worked for the Newspaper Guild, but he still expressed surprise and sorrow to me.
The last taste of victory for a while came in ’81 when they made it to the World Series but collapsed against the Dodgers after winning the first two games to lose the series 4-2.
The rest of the ‘80’s and early ‘90’s was lost years for the team. I think the only thing that made the game entertaining was being able to chant “1918!” every time the World Series winless Red Sox came to town. The only player that gave us hope as Yankee fans was Don Mattingly. The Yankees owe him a gigantic debt of gratitude because in my mind, he was the only reason we had as fans to keep the faith during those dark years. It was the first decade since the ‘20’s that the team failed to make it to the World Series. It was agonizing.
The turn around
But it all started to turn around in ’94 when the team hired Buck Showalter as manager and started to focus on building the team through their own farm system. The Yankees went on to have the best record in the AL in ’94 but their potential championship season was cut short by a strike. They went on in ’95 to reach the playoffs only to get eliminated by the Mariners in five.
For the ’96 season the Yankees hired Joe Torre as manager and we got to see the rise of the “Core Four” in Jeter, Pettitte, Posada and Rivera. They went on to win the World Series that year and although they didn’t make it to the Series again in ’97, they did go on to win it three more times in ’98, ’99 and 2000. The sweetest being in 2000 when the beat the New York Mets in a Subway Series. They agonizingly lost it in 2001, which was hard to take after also losing the Twin Towers to the terrorists that year on September 11th, and then went on again to lose to a bought and paid for World Series at the hands of the Marlins.
The team did the right thing and inaugurated the new Yankee stadium with a World Series win 2009, but, like in the ‘80’s, we have just gone through another decade where they have not won a World Series again.
Through all of this I had been right there with the team. Feeling the exultancy that comes with winning and the utterly crushing disappointment of defeat. Keeping the faith over the past ten plus years that sooner or later the team will rise again.
No matter what, I was rooting for and watching the team play ball
Then, in 2020, a drug addled, criminal named George Floyd went and got himself killed by the police after violently resisting arrest, and a terrorist group named Black Lives Matter, which is led by Communists, started burning down American cities in the name of “Social Justice” and “Anti Racism”. White people were expected to admit to their inherent racism and “white privilege” and were ordered to accept the fact that they were racists simply because their skin is white.
And corporations and sports leagues and teams all began to fall in line behind this narrative. Millions and millions of dollars were given to the BLM organization to help them further their crusade against white people.
But the Yankees as an organization held out. And I was proud of them. Because to me, politics should be kept out of sports, because love of a team is something than can unite people who come from many different backgrounds and political philosophies. You might be a Liberal, but you know what? If you’re a Yankee fan there is something we can agree on. It’s a common denominator that can help us to have a civil conversation. And in this day and age that is priceless.
But then the Yankees caved. They were the last ones in the MLB to do so, but they did. And on top of that you had idiots on the team, like pitcher James Paxton, self-deprecating himself for being white. “My white privilege has allowed me to be oblivious to the true magnitude of oppression the black community faces,” he wrote on Instagram. No James, it’s your stupidity, not your “white privilege” that has made you oblivious to the fact that racism exists.
Then the MLB started to really cater to the terrorist BLM by providing shirts that said “Black Lives Matter” to players and allowing teams to show support for group that was burning down peoples businesses and homes across the country in other ways such as stenciling BLM on pitchers mounds.
I finally had enough
Yankee manager Aaron Boone had a BLM shirt on before a start of the season opener in 2020 as did many of the Yankee players, and they wore BLM patches on their uniforms. That was when I had enough.
I am not a racist. All people were created in God’s image and are deserving of basic human dignity, respect, and freedom. I also respect people’s right to disagree with me and to have differing opinions. And that is why I have no use for anyone who runs around and professes support for a group like BLM, blindly or not. Because BLM does not believe in any of those things for anyone who is not part of their preferred class. And if anyone supports BLM, they are basically saying that I am a racist and a truly bad person simply because of the color of my skin. They are also saying that people who do not have white skin are absolved of any crime or evil they may commit.
So that’s when I checked out of baseball in particular and sports in general. I am not going to give my time and energy to a group of people who despise me, whether they admit it or not, for my beliefs or my skin color.
I hadn’t watched a single Yankee game since then.
About a month or so ago I started to take notice of the buzz around Aaron Judge and how was making a real run at Roger Maris’ record of 61 home runs in a season (That’s the real record BTW. The juiced-up freaks who hit over that in the late ‘90’s and early ‘00’s don’t count). My interest began to be renewed.
I think what I liked about it is that finally, after two years of complete insanity at the hands of the China Virus, inflation, crime, a potential WW 3, and a dangerous and complete moron occupying the White House, there was something pure and good happening to the team I love. Finally, finally, there was a reason I could turn a game back on.
I’m back…for now
And I am happy to see that the BLM logo’s are gone. The kneeling for the anthem is gone. The politics seem to be gone…for now.
And last night we finally got to see Judge, who seems like a decent enough guy with good parents who are rightfully proud of him, hit his 62nd home run of the year, breaking Maris’s of 61 in ’61. And it’s only right a Yankee did it.
So thank you Aaron Judge. You brought me back to the team I love and helped restore a link to my father who died several years ago.
I hope and pray that we can keep politics out of sports so I can keep supporting my teams and maybe, if only for a little while during game day, find some common ground with other people and share with each other all of the emotions that come with supporting a team.