(For your reading pleasure adapted from REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOUSE THAT RUTH BUILT, on sale everywhere, buy it now)
“I believe we have some ghosts
in this stadium that have helped us out."
- - - DEREK JETER
The greatest baseball team of the 20th century began the 21st century and their 77th season at Yankee Stadium with a tip of the cap to tradition and to history.
BOB SHEPPARD: The Yankees called me to give me the news that they were going to hold a “Bob Sheppard Day.” And frankly I was speechless. That rare honor, started in 1932, had been reserved for Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra and a select few others, not for the public address announcer.
The day arrived: May 7, 2000. The Stadium was packed. My family, including my wife Mary, was there. I delivered the lineups from out of doors for the first time since September 30, 1973.
That I should have a plaque out in Monument Park in centerfield . . . It was an incredible, memorable moment in my life.
My saddest moments have been the eulogies that I had to write for those who died and had been Yankees in their time.
They’ll say: “We lost Thurman Munson. Write something about it before the anthem is played.” And I'll sit down and write something briefly and I hope touchingly. And deliver it sincerely.
I go to Yankee Stadium two hours before game time and check the lineups. At one o'clock or seven o’clock, I get a signal from the sound man and he says: “Mr. Sheppard, the lineups.” And that starts it.
I know every name and uniform number and work diligently to pronounce each name correctly. My favorite name to pronounce? Mickey Mantle. For many reasons. It is a great name for a baseball player and for a speech professor to say. “Mickey Mantle” -- it has alliteration. It has the good quality of “M” and “N” and “T” and “L” It runs very nicely.
BROOKS ROBINSON: Doing Baltimore’s games on television from ‘78 to ‘93, I made a lot of trips to Yankee Stadium and got to know Bob Sheppard. “Bro oks Rob in son” is how he said my name.
PAUL DOHERTY: Bob would pronounce it, "Brooks RobINson." However, if Frank Robinson was also in the lineup with Brooks (which he usually was from 1966 to71) Sheppard may have pronounced it, "BROOKS RobINson" to differentiate it from "Frank RobINson." That's the sort of careful attention Bob paid so the fans could differentiate between the players who shared the same last names.
ROLLIE FINGERS: He pronounced my name "RAW-lee Fin-gers." It was a great to hear your name on the loudspeaker there – that’s for sure.
BOB SHEPPARD: For years and years, nobody knew my face and I could walk around the stadium with 50,000 people and never be recognized. But after a few television shows and movies, such as Billy Crystal’s ‘61*,’ wherein my voice was heard, I became better known.
On July 8, 2000 , the Yankees and Mets met in an unusual day and night doubleheader. Game one was at Shea Stadium, and the second game was scheduled for Yankee Stadium.
In the second inning, Rogers Clemens beaned Mets’ catcher Mike Piazza in the head, sending him to the ground with a concussion and onto the disabled list. That turned up the heat in an already heated New York-New York baseball rivalry.
Clemens-Piazza was topic “A” for fans of both teams as the Yankees and Mets met for the first time ever in the World Series. It was the first Subway Series in New York City since 1956. Billy Joel sang the national anthem before Game One on October 21st at Shea Stadium, and Don Larsen threw out the first pitch. The Yankees won in 12 innings, 4-3. The next day, Robert Merrill sang the national anthem, and Phil Rizzuto and Whitey Ford threw out the first pitches.
Roger Clemens started Game two. With what happened earlier in the season between him and Piazza, the media buildup made the mood at Yankee Stadium electric with anticipation as to what would happen when they faced each other.
Clemens versus Piazza. Two quick inside strikes on the Mets’ catcher. The next pitch was also inside – backing Piazza off the plate. The noise level rose throughout the Stadium.
Clemens threw again and Piazza fouled off the ball, shattering his bat. The ball skipped into the Yankee dugout. Piazza, unaware of where the ball had gone, began to run down the first base line. Clemens picked up a piece of the shattered bat and threw it, it seemed, at Piazza. The wood almost made contact with an angered Piazza, who headed slowly toward Clemens.
Broken bat, foul ball off to the right side. And the barrel of the bat, came out to Clemens and he picked it up and threw it back at Piazza! I don't know what Clemens had in mind!!
RUSS COHEN: Met fans screamed that Clemens threw at Piazza. Yankee fans screamed that he didn’t. People were pretty charged up. There was a moment when I looked at my wife and thought I hope nothing happens here. Tempers were going in the bleachers. But nothing did happen.
The Yankee and Met benches cleared. There was some cursing, some milling about, some posturing. No fighting. Later, Piazza said he approached Clemens. “I kept asking him, ‘What’s your problem; what is your problem?' I didn’t get a response. I didn’t know what to think.”
Clemens later said he was "fielding" the broken bat, that he had mistaken for the baseball.
The umpires ruled that there was no intent on the part of Clemens to hit Piazza and the game continued. Piazza grounded out.
Clemens and the Yankees ruled that night. “The Rocket” wound up hurling eight scoreless innings. The Mets did rally for five runs in the ninth inning against the Yankee bullpen, but came up just short. The home team were 6-5 winners and moved on to win the Series in five. The Yankees joined the 1972-1974 Oakland Athletics as the first team to be World Series victors three straight years.
The burly Clemens would be one of the big Yankee stories throughout 2001. He was salaried at $10,300,000.00, the third highest on a Yankee payroll for the season of $109,791,893. On August 15th he became the first hurler in 32 years to post a 16-1 record. Then on September 5th the “Rocket” won his fifth straight, setting a Yankee record and becoming baseball's first 19-1 pitcher in 89 years.
New Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, who had enjoyed his time in the spotlight, was honored at the Stadium on August 18, 2001; however, his number was not retired.
In one of those ironies of baseball, Mike Mussina took the mound on September 2nd against David Cone who had pitched a perfect game for the Yankees and now toiled for their hated rivals, the Red Sox. Through eight innings, the “Moose” was doing what Cone had done two years before -- pitch a perfect game. No hits, no walks. Just a lot of tension.
Top of the ninth, Mussina and the Yanks clung to a 1-0 lead. Troy O'Leary, hitting for Shea Hillenbrand, smacked a liner that Clay Bellinger, playing first base, dove for. The toss to Mussina. One out.
Later Mussina said, "I thought maybe this time it was going to happen considering that I thought that ball was through for sure."
Mussina then fanned Merloni. Carl Everett pinch hit for Joe Oliver. He was all that stood in the way of the perfect game. The moody vet fouled off the first serve. He swung and missed the second pitch. The third pitch was a ball. Everett lifted the fourth pitch, a high fastball, to left-center. Running at full speed Chuck Knoblauch and Bernie Williams did their best to try and catch it. But the ball dropped in – base hit.
Trot Nixon grounded out to end the game. And Mussina, with the one-hitter and the win, pumped his fist less than forcefully. His teammates ran out onto the field celebrating what he had done.
“I've never been part of a no-hitter before as an opponent,” Everett said. “It was very satisfying to get the hit. It was very satisfying to hit the high fastball.”
“It was just a phenomenal game,” said Mussina. “I was disappointed, I'm still disappointed. But the perfect game just wasn't meant to be.”
Harvey Frommer is his 33rd consecutive year of writing sports books. The author of 40 of them including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM, an oral/narrative history (Abrams, Stewart, Tabori and Chang) was published September 1, 2008 as well as a reprint version of his "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball.". Frommer sports books are available direct from the author - discounted and autographed. FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in excess of one million and appears on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.
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