As I’ve said before, cover the consumer electronics industry and see the world.
But I didn’t know that if you covered this industry, you could also go back in time.
That’s what happened to me when my wife Marion and I went to an event sponsored by Fujifilm last Saturday to a location that has broadcast more hours of TV to me than any other in my lifetime — Yankee Stadium.
Even non-sports fans know by now that the “House that Ruth Built” is being closed this year. It is being replaced by a bigger version of Yankee Stadium that can support more and bigger luxury boxes, so men making millions or tens of millions can play a game that both children and adults would probably play for free.
Yes, this lifelong baseball and Yankee fan has lost a lot of enthusiasm for
the game over the years. The strike of 1994 that cancelled the World Series, the steroid era, pitch counts, the DH, the antics of the owners, the players union, empty suits like Bud Selig … and just plain greed has taken its toll.
The destruction of Yankee Stadium is the latest, and for me probably worst, calamity.
If this was another city or another country, this landmark would be preserved, or refurbished, again, or both. And I certainly don’t agree with using government funds that would be better used for schools and health care.
Still … when I received our Fujifilm invitation to attend the final Old Timers Day at Yankee Stadium, Marion and I jumped at the chance and thought it was the perfect day to make our final visit, even better than if we had attended this year’s All-Star Game.
Over the years on Old Timers Day, my boyhood hero, Mickey Mantle, along with another pretty fair centerfielder from Oklahoma, Bobby Murcer (read his autobiography “Yankee for Life” whether you are a baseball fan or not), and legendary Hall of Fame shortstop and broadcaster Phil Rizzuto would return to the applause of the crowd.
They are gone now, but a lot of their teammates and my favorites were going to be there, so last Saturday really was a sentimental journey.
Marion and I got there in the morning with the rest of Fujifilm’s guests, hours before the official festivities, to go onto the field. We walked from the old right-field bullpen to the warning track from right to center field. The plan was to take pictures with the many former Yankees in attendance. It was overcast and the sky began to get threatening, as you can see by some of the pictures here, but no one cared.
We were out there for a few minutes, which was fine because many of us had to pinch ourselves and say, “Yes, we are standing in the outfield of Yankee Stadium,” and acclimate ourselves.
Soon the first few Old Timers walked to right field in full uniform. The players ranged from those who played on teams from the late 1940s right through to the 2000s. Seventy-two former Yankees attended, and about half made their way to the outfield. The players seemed as delighted to be there as the fans.
Now I know what Joe Garagiola (another former Yankee broadcaster) once said about going to Cooperstown on Hall of Fame Induction weekend: “It’s like watching baseball cards come to life.”
You talk about a “Field of Dreams” — this was it on baseball’s greatest stage. And the memories came flooding back.
Marion and I didn’t worry about autographs. We spoke to the players and took pictures.
Here’s the lineup of the players we met and what they are famous for in no particular order:
* Mike Torrez (winning pitcher of the final game of the 1977 World Series … and the guy who gave up Dent’s famous division-winning home run at Fenway Park as a Red Sox pitcher the following year);
* Jim Abbott (a one-armed pitcher who threw a no-hitter for the Yankees at the stadium in the early 1990s);
* Wade Boggs (Hall of Famer, a .328 lifetime hitter who spent most of his years with the Boston Red Sox, was a member of the 1998 World Champion Yankees)’
* Ron Blomberg (a fine hitter, he became the first designated hitter in Major League Baseball);
* Bob Turley (winner of the Cy Young Award and most valuable player award for the 1958 World Series;
* Joe Pepitone (slick-fielding first baseman and slugger of the early 1960s who is the first ballplayer to use a blow-dryer in a clubhouse);
* Pat Kelly, Graeme Lloyd, Ramiro Mendoza and Aaron Small (four guys who look far too young to be Old Timers. The first three Kelly [second base], Lloyd and Mendoza [relief pitchers] were valuable members of the late-1990s championship teams. Small came up big for the Yankees in 2005 going 10-0 after almost a decade as a minor-league pitcher.);
* Tom Tresh (outfielder and shortstop during the 1960s who was the 1962 American League Rookie of the Year and a member of the World Championship team that year.);
* Bobby Richardson (MVP of the 1960 World Series and starting second baseman for the great Yankee teams of the early 1960s.);
* Hector Lopez, Johnny Blanchard and Luis Arroyo (more members of those great 1960s Yankee teams. Lopez was a fine outfielder and hitter off the bench. Blanchard was one of three Yankee catchers in 1961 who hit more than 20 home runs the year Roger Maris hit 61. The other two catchers were Elston Howard and Yogi Berra. And Arroyo, left-handed closer of the early 1960s, saved or finished a ton of Whitey Ford’s victories back then.);
* Steve Balboni (“Bye Bye” was the nickname for this powerful first baseman due to his tape-measure home runs);
* Mike Stanley (fine starting catcher from the early 1990s who just missed the championship run of the late 1990s);
* Tim Raines (“The Rock” stole bases and came to the Yankees in the late 1990s to help off the bench to win a couple of World Championships);
* Tino Martinez (the guy who had to replace Yankee legend Don Mattingly at first base who created his own legend with great fielding and power hitting on the World Championship teams of the late 1990s);
* Moose Skowron (before cheers of “LOU!” for Lou Piniella in the 1970s or “MOOSE!” for current Yankee pitcher Mike Mussina, there was Skowron, the original “MOOSE!” He was a fan-favorite and a no-nonsense starting first baseman and power hitter for some of the great Yankee teams in the late 1950s and early 1960s);
* Dr. Bobby Brown (used his 1940s/50s World Series checks to pay for medical school and later became president of the American League);
* Jerry Coleman (a teammate of Dr. Brown, and Hall of Fame Yankee and San Diego Padre broadcaster and decorated World War II and Korean War fighter pilot);
* Yogi Berra (a Hall of Fame catcher who was on more World Championship Yankee teams than anyone alive, and someone who has become an icon in American culture);
You may tear down Yankee Stadium, but I’ll always have the memories of these players and their times. For the opportunity to meet these men and create a few new memories, our thanks go to Fujifilm.