Our next Pinch Hitter, Mark Braff, lives in New Jersey and has been a Yankees fan since 1965. He wrote that he’s been rooting for the pinstripes, “from Horace Clarke and Dooley Womack to Robbie Cano and Mariano Rivera.” Mark said he feels kind of like “a child of the Great Depression who later in life never forgot the value of a dollar.”
Today, Mark cheers for a team of all-stars, but it hasn’t always been that way. Mark’s early Yankee years weren’t so successful, and for his guest post, Mark wrote that the lean years made him appreciate the fact that — even today — every team has at least one all-star on its roster.
I know the All-Star Game is quite a ways off (July 12 at Chase Field in Arizona, to be exact), but it feels good to think about the mid-summer classic as I nurse snow-shoveling aches and pains incurred during this brutal winter in the Northeast. There is hope that summer will arrive — eventually.
And as surely as summer will arrive, so too will complaints from fans that so-and-so, a deserving All-Star, was left off the team while roster spots are taken by players on the Pittsburghs of the world because every team is required to be represented.
I’ll take the opposite view.
I believe strongly that every team should have at least one player on the All-Star roster. This viewpoint might seem strange coming from a Yankee fan of 45 years — after all, my team sends a plethora of players to the mid-summer classic every year — but it is precisely because I have been a Yankee fan for so long that I can empathize with the 8-year-old Pirates fan whose team is pretty much irrelevant to the baseball world two weeks into the season.
I became a Yankee fan in 1965, aka, The Dark Days. Today’s younger Yankee fans consider the rare non-playoff year, like 2008, to be a “bad” season. But I have to tell you folks, you don’t know the meaning of bad Yankee seasons.
Try this on for size:
1965 — 77-85 (6tth in a 10-team league)
1966 — 70-89 (10th, dead last)
1967 — 72-90 (9th of 10)
1968 — 83-79 (5th of 10, my first-ever .500+ season! Why was there no parade down lower Broadway?)
1969 — 80-81 (5h in a six-team division, made even worse by the fact that the Mets –- are you kidding me? — won the World Series).
Growing up, a Yankee season highlight for me would be the split of a Sunday doubleheader with the mighty Baltimore Orioles. Suffice it to say, my Yankee goals were modest.
These were my ages 8-13 years, a time when a single year was an eternity as opposed to how they fly by when you are older.
And, so, when the All-Star game would come around in mid-summer, I would enjoy one of my few thrills of the season when Mel Stottlemyre or, a bit later, Bobby Murcer, would enter the game. Play-by-play man Curt Gowdy would tell an entire nation watching on NBC what a fine pitcher Stottlemyre was. I still recall the feeling of pride that I had for “my guys” because now the entire country was getting to hear how good they were. Remember, there was only one national game of the week in those days, and the Yankees were rarely if ever on it. They were, frankly, irrelevant.
Today, of course, there are many more nationally televised games, but really, how many times are teams like the Pirates shown? That 8-year-old fan in Pittsburgh, who is just learning to love baseball and whose team has little chance to succeed, needs something to feel good about.
So, yes, let’s send Andrew McCutchen or Pedro Alvarez to the All-Star game even if someone on another team might be more deserving in any given season. Somewhere in Pittsburgh, a kid will feel a sense of pride and have a memory to cherish. Is that asking too much?
Associated Press photo of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez with Carlos Guillen