Saturday, June 2, 2007

From one Yankee fan to the others...

I tend to get a lot of grief as a Yankees fan, so I thought I would explain a little bit how I came to love the team, and how I've stuck with them through everything. Maybe it's the fact that I have writers block while I'm trying to pound out a Moot Court brief, maybe it's the A-Rod signed baseball I got from my Uncle as a get-well gift, or maybe it's the display I just saw against the Red Sox, but here goes...

I have been a Yankees fan for my whole life, since my dad told me about about Don Mattingly, who had recently been named MVP, in 1985. I was looking through a stack of baseball cards my uncle had given me, and was reading the backs, and centered in on Mattingly's numbers. My dad told me what a great player he was, and what a great team the Yankees were, and, well, I was hooked.

I started watching games, and was immediately hooked, even as a kid. When I started watching the Yankees, I immediately noticed Ron Guidry's delivery, started wondering how someone as old as Tommy John could continue pitching, and remember cringing whenever Cecilio Guante entered a game. I remember when Jose Cruz Sr. was supposed to provide the team with an extra bat off the bench, when Rafael Santana was the hope at shortstop. I remember how the team was so close in 87 and 88 to becoming a contender, and how quickly the team fell in 89 and 90. I remember seeing Billy Martin briefly manage the team, and instantly understanding why my dad was such a fan. I remember Dave Righetti coming into the 9th inning, and automatically thinking the game was over. I remember Dave Winfield sending line drives all over the field, and always thinking that, if I stayed up a little longer, the Yankees would win every game and make the playoffs.

I remember hearing about Billy Martin dying in a car crash, and as an 8 year old, feeling extremely sad for someone I never met. I remember the dark days, when Dallas Green, Stump Merrill, and Bucky Dent took over, and the team made its slow slide into oblivion. I remember seeing Donnie Baseball start the quick slide towards retirement, and seeing one of baseball's best fade away. I remember being angry at Kevin Maas that he would replace Donnie Baseball, and then being angry at Kevin Maas when he ended up being a total void on the roster. I remember the last-place season, the number one pick of Brien Taylor, and then Taylor promptly fading away in the minors. I remember Andy Hawkins losing a no-hitter, Chuck Cary trotting out to start games, Lee Gutterman leading the team in victories, Rickey Henderson being traded for nothing, and Roberto Kelly being the next big thing. I remember thinking that the Yankees would never win a World Series, and savoring my father's stories of being in the stands for the 78 Series, believing that it was as close as I would get to a Yankees championship.

Then, I remember the renaissance under Buck Showalter. I remember going to a Yankees game, seeing Don Mattingly hit a home run against the Texas Rangers during the Wild Card season, and yelling so hard that I lost my voice. I remember Jimmy Key coming through in every big game, John Wetteland and his sweat-stained cap, and Mo Rivera as the shut-down set-up man. I remember seeing Donnie Baseball make the only October of his career a memorable one, and I remember feeling profoundly disappointed when Ken Griffey Jr. crossed the plate to end the playoffs, and my sports hero's career.

I remember seeing the Yankees make a complete turnaround from that point, winning World Series and again coming to the top of the baseball mountain. I remember interviewing Derek Jeter for my local paper in high school (I grew up in the same town where ESPN is based), and knowing that he would go on to great things. I remember watching the final games with my dad, celebrating with handshakes, and going to Boston University as the guy who rooted for the team that always won.

Now, the Yankees are fallible again, and it is a disappointment. Today was no exception, and it's frustrating to see a team that cost so much money play so poorly. Will they make the playoffs this year? I have my doubts, and think this will be a tough season (and offseason) for the Yankees.

But, I have hope. I have hope because there is Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Philip Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Jose Tabata, Robinson Cano, and any other number of contributors on the major and minor league levels. I have hope because I'm a true Yankees fan, and that will never change, no matter the turmoil.

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