Everyone knows about the Yankees place in the history of the game and so it’s fitting in a lot of ways that they’re the only team left that does a full-blown Old Timer’s Day every year. I thought Mark did a great job this morning talking about the magic of Old Timer’s Day, and I think his suggestions on how to rejuvenate it were spot on – the idea of returning legends from other teams would absolutely make it even more amazing than it is now.
He’s right, too, about the lackluster turnout. I know it may not seem like a big attraction to the younger fans, but I’d offer that it’s worth it to come and see the Old Timers at least once. If only for the stories you’ll hear from folks who remember how it used to be.
I remember going to Old Timer’s Day in 2004 and, in particular, watching Bobby Murcer play. What stands out most for me though, isn’t what he did on the field. It was earlier that day, when I had a long conversation with Murcer about Thurman Munson, specifically about how the Yankees had kept Munson’s locker unchanged (and, literally, untouched) at the old Stadium.
Murcer was close to Munson and got emotional when he talked about the locker, and he mentioned a story that I then confirmed with a clubhouse attendant.
Normally, no one went near Munson’s locker – not the maids when they vacuumed, not the clubbies when they were doing laundry, not the players when they were looking for somewhere to drop some fan mail or a box of bats. Everyone just stayed away from the shrine.
But sometime in the middle of the 2003 season, a bouquet of flowers appeared one day on the bench in the middle of Munson’s locker. No one knew where the flowers came from. The equipment managers asked around, but no one had any idea. For days, and then weeks, the flowers lay there even as the smell became overwhelming. No one wanted to go in and take them out. It just wasn’t done.
Finally, as the odor became noxious, the flowers were removed by an attendant who literally tip-toed into the locker and grabbed the rotting stems. “It was strange because they just were there one day, and no one admitted to putting them there,” one attendant told me for a story in the Daily News. “And we all knew we should throw them out, but it was like, ‘What do you do? Just go pick them up?’ No one wanted to do it.”
I loved that story and so did Murcer, and I’ll always think of it when I think about Old Timer’s Day. I’d imagine that’s how most fans are, too: The best part about Old Timer’s Day is the memories.