The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Yogi celebrates birthday with replacement rings and awards05.13.15

Yogi Berra, Kay Berra

From Jim Hague of The Associated Press:

Yogi BerraLITTLE FALLS, N.J. (AP) — As Yogi Berra might say, when you turn 90 you should celebrate it right the first time.

The baseball Hall of Famer enjoyed his 90th birthday in grand style Tuesday, complete with a youth drum orchestra, a giant cake — and replicas of his 10 World Series rings and three AL MVP awards that were stolen last year.

Berra, who is bound to a wheelchair, cut a ribbon but did not speak. Surrounded by family members, he smiled for cameras.

“It’s obviously a wonderful day,” said Dale Berra, Yogi’s son and the former major league infielder. “It’s all about the way my dad carried himself all the time, with dignity, with respect of people. Not just opponents, but teachers, leaders. … My dad respected all people. He just happened to be a great baseball player.”

Known for Yogi-isms, such as “It ain’t over ’till it’s over” and “When you come to a fork in the road, take it,” Berra became one of the most beloved professional athletes. A 15-time All-Star, Berra was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972.

“As a player, he was one thing, but I never got the chance to see him play,” Dale Berra said. “But as a father, he taught us to have the same humbleness that he has.”

Yogi Berra, Lindsay BerraFormer New York Yankees and Mets catcher Rick Cerone was on hand along with former New York Jets running back Bruce Harper and National Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Carol Blazejowski, who played her college ball at Montclair State.

Major League Baseball, the Yankees and the Mets — teams that Berra both played for and managed — arranged for the purchase of rings and plaques for the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center on the campus of Montclair State University. The originals were stolen last October, and a police investigation is ongoing.

“To be able to get all of these rings and awards back is incredible,” said Larry Berra, the oldest of Yogi’s three sons.

The Berra family also announced a petition drive urging Berra be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“There has been no greater ambassador to baseball than my grandfather,” Lindsey Berra said. “He’s been very supportive of the idea.”

New York and New Jersey declared Tuesday as “Yogi Berra Day,” and proclamations were presented to Berra from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

“I think he deserves it,” Dale Berra said. “He’s a World War II hero and a D-Day veteran who also served in North Africa. He’s an American icon because if his integrity and ideals. This award is fitting for him. In every way, his life lessons are far more incredible than those as a player. As a father, he taught us the same humbleness he’s always had. He’s ideal for that honor.”

Associated Press photos

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Yogi Berra turns 90 years old today05.12.15

Berra Rizzuto

Happy birthday to one of the true icons in baseball. Yogi Berra turns 90 years old today. Quite a life the man’s lived. Here’s a lengthy story from Josh Peter of USA Today looking back at the life and words of the great Yankees catcher.

Yogi Berra turns 90 today, and for readers there is a gift: rarely heard “Yogi-isms,” the inimitable quotations that turned Berra, a Hall-of-Fame catcher for the New York Yankees, into an American icon.

Millions of people know the most famous ones: “It ain’t over ’til it’s over,” ”It’s deja vu all over again,” and “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” But few outside Berra’s family and friends have heard the one about the water sprinklers, or the 4-foot putt, or the essence of Yogi-isms.

The sprinklers story comes from Rose Cali, founder of the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center, near the home in Montclair, N.J., where Berra and his wife, Carmen, raised their three sons. Cali said she and her late husband, John, used to drive to Washington, D.C. with the Berras for the National Italian American Foundation’s annual gathering.

“We drive up to Yogi’s house to pick them up one year and a drought had been declared, a moratorium on sprinkling and using any excess water,” Cali told USA TODAY Sports. “It was about 7 in the morning and his whole lawn is wet. All the plants are dripping.

“He’s walking out of the house with Carmen, and John was outside and he said, ‘Yogi, you’re not supposed to be sprinkling. We’re in a moratorium. You can’t sprinkle your lawn now.’ And Yogi turns around, looks at the lawn and says, ‘John, I don’t. It comes on automatically.’ ”

The golf story comes from from Floyd Hall, a businessman who paid for the construction of Yogi Berra Stadium, built next to the Yogi Berra Museum and near the infamous fork in the road Berra told visitors to take when they were headed to his home. (Sure enough, going left or right at that fork leads to Highland Avenue and Berra’s old home.)

“We were playing golf one day and I was below the hole with about a 4-foot putt, and it was breaking to the right,” Hall told USA TODAY Sports. “Yogi was standing up above the hole looking down at it and he said, ‘No, that doesn’t break right. It breaks left.’ So I putted the ball and it went right and I said, ‘See, Yogi, it went right.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, but I’m left-handed.’ ”

Fran Kirmser, co-producer of “Bronx Bombers,” a 2014 Broadway play largely about Berra’s life, once quizzed Berra about where the Yogi-isms come from.

“And without skipping a beat,” she says, “and with that wink and a smile of his, he said, ‘I’m just saying what I saw.’ ”

What does Yogi Berra see? It’s harder to know these days. Family members and friends say Berra not only is turning 90, but also is feeling it.


Last week, in the assisted living facility in West Caldwell, N.J. where he’s been for more than a year, Berra was watching baseball on TV — which is how he spends much of his days in room where family members say a replica of his Hall-of-Fame plaque, a New York Yankees pennant and photos of his grandchildren and wife hang on the walls.

During the baseball TV broadcast, a video clip showed former Yankees slugger Dave Winfield talking to Berra during ceremonies when Winfield was being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001.

“Hey, look, you’re on television,” Larry Berra recalled saying to his father, who replied, “Yeah, there’s the old man, right there.”

In 2010, after suffering a bad fall on the front steps of his home, Berra missed the Yankees Old-Timers’ Day. He missed it again last year, three months after his wife of 65 years died of complications from a stroke. Earlier this year Berra was hospitalized for pneumonia-like symptoms, and there’s no guarantee he’ll make it to this year’s Old-Timers’ Day, on June 20.

But today, in his wheelchair and with help from family members, he is expected to make the 20-minute drive to 8 Yogi Berra Drive in Little Falls, N.J. — the address of the museum that opened in 1988 and became Berra’s second home — for a private birthday celebration. Although family members say Berra is not in good enough health for interviews, they say he has been looking forward to the planned outing.

“All he’s been talking about is getting out and going to the museum,” said Lindsay Berra, the oldest of Yogi Berra’s 11 grandchildren. “He likes talking to people at the museum, especially with kids. He likes showing them his stuff and telling them his stories.”

His stories start on The Hill.


Lawrence Peter Berra, who acquired his nickname when a friend noted Berra’s resemblance to a Hindu yogi, grew up in The Hill, St. Louis’ famed Italian-American neighborhood. His closest friend was Joe Garagiola, the former major league catcher and baseball broadcaster, who grew up directly across the street from Berra.

“Yogi’s got so many good qualities, he ought to have a Good Housekeeping Seal on his butt,” Garagiola told USA TODAY Sports. “He was our leader. He was our best hitter. He was our best everything.

“Yogi could’ve been anything he wanted to be. He could’ve been a good football player.”

Yes, a football player, Garagiola insisted, and he recalled the day Berra transformed their block.

“We make the turn home from school, we look at the street and there were stripes,” Garagiola said. “Green stripes, on the street, 10 yards apart.

“Yogi had taken his father’s best paintbrush and measured off 10 yards and made it a football field. That’s the type of dedication this guy had.”

How did Berra’s father feel when he saw it?

“Well, his father didn’t feel anything,” Garagiola said. “It was Yogi who felt it.”

Pietro Berra, who immigrated from Italy in 1909 and did not appreciate his best paintbrush being used to create a football field, valued work over sports. Each of Yogi Berra’s four older brothers gave up baseball after Pietro Berra ordered them to get jobs. Yogi Berra appeared headed for the same fate when he dropped out of school after the eighth grade and went to work.

But he kept playing baseball, and in 1942 the New York Yankees offered him a $500 signing bonus and a contract worth $90 a month. With the support of his brothers and a promise to send home part of his baseball salary, Pietro Berra let Yogi pursue a career in a sport for which he showed unique understanding.

As Yogi Berra later said, “Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.”


Yogi Berra loved Superman comics in 1946 when he was with the Newark (N.J.) Bears, then the Yankees’ Class AAA affiliate. His roommate was Bobby Brown, a third baseman who was reading Boyd’s Pathology — a 1,400-page textbook — while working toward his medical degree.

One day, Brown recalled, the two men finished reading at about the same time. Brown closed his medical textbook and Berra tossed aside his comic book before saying, “You can’t beat these Superman comics. How’d yours come out, Bobby?”

Berra’s own story took a detour during World War II. He served for the Navy and was on a small rocket boat off Omaha Beach on D-Day. After the war, he reported to Newark in the middle of the 1946 season, and his Superman comic books, squat 5-7 build and cartoonish aura invited skepticism.

Brown recalled the manager of the Newark Bears being so unimpressed, he ordered Berra to shag balls and said there wouldn’t be enough time for Berra to take batting practice at the road game. Berra was told to report early to the team’s home park later in the week for a workout. Brown said he arrived late that afternoon and asked the manager about Berra’s workout.

“How did he do?” Brown recalled asking.

‘Well,” Brown said the manager responded as if in disbelief, “he hit some over the light towers.”

Added Brown: “Yogi played that night and every night after that.”

When the Yankees called him up late in the season season, he was ridiculed for his looks — described as an ape by one sportswriter, deemed unfit for Yankee pinstripes by others and even insulted by an umpire who reportedly told Berra he was the ugliest player he’d ever seen. Berra shrugged off the insults in signature fashion.

“So I’m ugly,” he said. “I never saw anyone hit with his face.”

And, boy, could Yogi Berra hit.


In 19 big-league seasons, Berra pounded out 2,150 hits, including 358 home runs — numbers that helped earn him induction into the Hall of Fame.

And that made former Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton think about another Yogi-ism. Berra was known as a bad-ball hitter, and former Yankees manager Bucky Harris once called for more discipline as Berra headed to the plate.

“Think when you get up there,” the manager reportedly told Berra. “Make the pitcher come in with the ball. Think. Think.”

With those instructions, Berra entered the batter’s box, took three called strikes, returned to the bench and grumbled, “How can anybody think and hit at the same time?”

In retrospect, Bouton said, it is clear Berra didn’t want the pitchers overthinking on the mound the same way Berra was overthinking at the plate the day he struck out looking.

Pitcher Don Larsen, who with Berra behind the plate threw a perfect game in the 1956 World Series, said he never shook off Berra’s pitch selection.

“He knew all the batters,” Larsen told USA TODAY Sports, “so you went with what he wanted to do.”

Trusted by the likes of Larsen, Berra handled pitching staffs that helped the Yankees win five straight World Series titles between 1949 and 1953 and five more World Series titles before 1963, Berra’s last season with the Yankees. He played in 15 All-Star Games, won 10 World Series championship games and won three American League Most Valuable Player awards.

A formula designed by baseball statistics expert Bill James ranks Berra as the greatest catcher of all time. And there’s no formula needed to show how Berra, the once-ridiculed catcher who played alongside Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, ranks among the most beloved Yankees of all.

He shared private dinners with DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe. He shared public meals with Elston Howard, the Yankees’ first African American player who unseated Berra as the team’s starting catcher — with Berra’s help. And when Berra’s wife and sons visited St. Louis during the summer, teammates piled into Berra’s house even when he asked them to pick up shovels and help him finish the backyard pool.

He drove Corvairs, Ford Escorts and Ford Pintos even when he had more than enough money to buy a sporty T-Bird and Mercury Cougar like the ones he bought his wife, said Berra’s youngest son, Dale.

“From garbageman all the way up to the President of the United States, you got treated the same way,” Dale Berra said. “Nobody is better than anybody else.He couldn’t understand at all why people would get so hyped to see him.”

ALDS Twins Yankees BaseballYOGI BERRA DAY

Berra – who managed the New York Mets to the National League pennant in 1973 – returned to the Yankees as manager in 1984, and the club went 87-75 that season and failed to make the playoffs. When the Yankees started the 1985 season 6-10, and team owner George Steinbrenner abruptly fired Berra.

Fourteen years later, Berra still refused to step foot in Yankee Stadium. But he begrudgingly agreed to meet with Steinbrenner at the newly opened Yogi Berra Museum. That evening he paced as he waited on the Yankees owner, who clad in a turtleneck and sport coat finally arrived. Cali, the museum founder, recalled what transpired next.

“George, you know you’re late,” Berra said.

“Yeah,” Steinbrenner said, “Fourteen years late.”

“Come on,” Berra said, “I’m going to take you on a tour of the museum.”

The men slipped off together, and Steinbrenner apologized to Berra and one of most memorable days in Yankees history was in the works: Yogi Berra Day on July 18, 1999.

A crowd of 41,930 roared for Berra, who caught the ceremonial first pitch from Larsen, into whose arms Berra leaped after the perfect game in the 1956 World Series.

“To see the reception that Yogi got, I mean, it was remarkable,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who was the team’s starting catcher that day, told USA TODAY Sports in a telephone interview. “Just how loud it was and how it seemed to go on forever.

“As he went out to catch the first pitch, I was there and asked him to bless my glove that day. Obviously, it worked.”

Pitcher David Cone pitched a perfect game — only the third in club history — and Girardi’s suggestions that Berra’s mojo was at work brought to mind how former Yankees manager Casey Stengel once appraised Berra.

“He’d fall in a sewer and come up with a gold watch,” Stengel said.

On the ferry ride home from Yankee Stadium to New Jersey, Cali said, she and Berra stood together on the captain’s deck.

“Wow, kind of a surreal day?” she said.

“Who would have ever thought?” Berra said, and the two perfect games — the one he caught in 1956 and the one he’d just witnessed — called to mind another Yogi-ism: “If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”


In the days leading up to Berra’s 90th birthday, friends and family members have described him as humble, kind, devoted, smart — that’s right, smart — and they have shared other, less-famous Yogi-isms.

Garagiola said he and Berra decided at spring training one year to meet for Mass at 5:30 a.m. Knowing how important punctuality is to Berra, Garagiola showed up at 5:10 a.m., only to discover Berra waiting. “Yogi says, ‘What took you so long?’ ” Garagiola recalled. “I said, “What took me so long? I’m early. I’m 20 minutes early. You said 5:30 a.m. We agreed on it. Here I am and you say, ‘What took him so long?’ Then he said, ‘That’s the earliest you’ve ever been late.’ ”

The Berra name attracted national attention in 1977 when it first appeared on the Pittsburgh Pirates’ lineup card. Dale Berra, the youngest son of Yogi Berra, had been called up to the big leagues at the age of 20 — a year younger than his father was when he was called up by the Yankees.

Said Dale Berra: “One of the writers asked me, ‘How are you and you dad alike? And I said, ‘All of our similarities are different.’ I didn’t even know I said it until the writers said, ‘Do you realize you said all your similarities are different?’ ”

Dale Berra, an infielder who was five inches taller and five pounds lighter than his father was as a major leaguer, retired after 11 years with the following stats: 603 hits, 49 home runs and one Yogi-ism.

So the Berra family continued to rely on its patriarch, who delivered again in January. The NFL had announced it was looking into allegations that the New England Patriots intentionally deflated footballs before its AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Lindsay Berra tweeted her grandfather’s reaction to what became known as Deflategate.

“If you’re going to cheat, it’s better if you don’t get caught.”

Associated Press photos

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Pinch hitting: Neil Van Dyke01.21.15


Yogi Berra, Derek Jeter

Today’s Pinch Hitter was born in New York City. Although Neil Van Dyke was the second baseman and captain of his high school baseball team  — wearing No. 20 in honor of Horace Clarke — he was cut during tryouts for his college freshman team. Neil wrote that he likes to blame the end of his baseball career on having to hit against classmate Jim Beattie during tryouts (as you might know, Beattie went on to have a nine-year career in the big leagues).

Neil now lives in Red Sox country in Vermont. He works in public safety, and for his post, Neil looked at the Yankees roster to find one thing that’s clearly missing.

Bernie WilliamsIn 1961, I was 7 years old growing up in New York City and just starting to follow Major League Baseball. I didn’t really understand or appreciate the frenzy that accompanied the reporting of the American League home run race that year, nor did I truly suffer the agonizing disappointment of Game 7 of the World Series.

The Yankees were the only game in town, so I latched onto them as a fan, but it wasn’t until 1962 that I attended any games at the Stadium including my first (and only) World Series contest. I was hooked.

My career as a Yankee fan started with the end of the Mantle/Berra/Ford era.

With Derek Jeter’s retirement this year it occurred to me that 2015 will be the first Yankees team in the 50-plus years that I have cheered for them that they will not have what I would consider to be an “iconic” Yankee on their roster. In fact, with the “before my time” succession of Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio leading up to Berra and Mantle, one could say it has been closer to 95 years since the Yankees were without an icon!

I won’t come up with a scientific definition of what the qualifications for such a player entails, but they would certainly have played most or all of their career for the Yanks, never been a star for another team, likely have come up through the farm system (if not, then joined the organization early in their career), were a cornerstone of the team, and will be forever and unquestionably linked with the Yankees.

These iconic players don’t have to be superstars – a player like Roy White being just one example. At the end of the day, I think Yankees fans know an iconic Yankee when they see one.

Bobby Murcer, yes.

Ricky Henderson, no.

Through the years, Mantle and company transitioned to Stottlemyre, Murcer, White, Munson, Randolph, Guidry, Mattingly, Williams, and you know the rest. Every season would have at least one of these Yankee touchstones on the squad.

Until 2015.

Nobody on the current roster has this pedigree, and it just feels a bit strange and slightly unsettling. Who knows, maybe 10 years from now with the perspective of hindsight, this will all seem irrelevant as all-time Yankees greats Brett Gardner and Dellin Betances turn out to be mainstays who go on to long, successful Yankees careers. Or maybe not. Maybe it will be remembered as the beginning of a different type of Yankees team, one on which players come and go with far greater frequency.

If that’s the case, I for one will miss my Yankees icons – win or lose.

Associated Press photo

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Yankees pregame: Old-Timers’ Day06.23.13

Paul O' NeillThe Old-Timers were brought out for the intros, nearly 50 of them. El Duque is among the first-time Old-Timers here. Orlando Hernandez is living in Miami, playing a lot of golf and spending time with his family, and he has a baseball academy for kids.

“It’s a big day for me,” he said.

His best Yankees memory?

“For me, everything is a good memory,” Hernandez said. “When you play for the Yankees, everything is good.”

As usual, there was a long sustained ovation, appropriately, for Bernie Williams. Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra came out last, driven in a cart from a gate in the center-field fence, waving along the way. Berra is 88 and Ford is 84.

After the Old-Timers’ game, Ivan Nova will take the ball in the real game, back from Triple-A to make the spot start. Joe Girardi indicated it has yet to be decided if Nova is staying.

“Obviously when you have a taste of this life, you don’t want to be in the minor leagues,” Girardi said. “This is the place where every player dreams about being. So you have to figure out a way to put yourself in a situation where they can’t consider sending me down. The trick is not getting here. The trick is staying here.”

Thomas Neal was sent down to make room for Nova.

Photo by The Associated Press.


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Yankees pregame: Old-Timers’ Day07.01.12

Brian Heyman here for Chad again today. The Yankees from glory days and not-so-glory days are here, too, for Old-Timers’ Day.

There were loud ovations during the ceremony, especially for the usual fan favorites as they trotted out onto the broiling field, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez and Joe Torre. There were the usual loud cheers for the two Hall of Famers who rode in together in the back seat of a cart from center field to behind home plate, 87-year-old Yogi Berra and 83-year-old Whitey Ford. They stayed in the cart and waved. The Old-Timers’ Game is in progress.

“The interesting thing is you get a chance to see a lot of your teammates that you played with and had success,” Joe Girardi said. “And then you always get a chance to see the guys who came before us and had a ton of success. I absolutely love it. … I always like seeing guys that I played with and busting their chops about being Old-Timers. That’s enjoyable to me.”

Girardi reflected about his success here.

“I’ve always thought about my World Series rings as for my kids,” Girardi said. “I made a joke with my wife one day (after) we won the World Series in 1996 and ’98 and we were playing in the playoffs in 1999. I said, ‘That will determine if we have another child or not.’ Sure enough we did. But I’ve got to tell you, I don’t plan on having a fourth one. As a manager, it doesn’t count. But I think the final game in 1996, the first time you have a chance to realize that dream is probably my fondest memory.”

Torre talked about Jeter’s shot at reaching 4,000 hits, seeing it as a long shot. The Captain is at 3,185.

“When people start talking about 4,000, it’s probably out of reach,” Torre said. “But I never question anything this kid has set his mind to, so we’ll see. He has a long way to go. This game is not easy to play on an everyday basis … I don’t think he’s going to hang around for a personal record unless he’s able to contribute to his team doing well.”

A-Rod is not in the lineup today, but it’s just a day off.

“We’re going to go to three days on turf (at Tampa Bay), and then we’re going to have a day off and we have a split doubleheader (in Boston) on Saturday,” Girardi said. “So I’m doing what I can to keep him fresh and trying to be cognizant of the other guys as well.”

Girardi hopes that CC Sabathia will play catch this week with the Yankees on the road.


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Monday night notes and links06.27.11

I have very few absolute rules in life, but one of them is this: If the AP has a cool picture of Yogi Berra and Don Larsen together in the Yankees dugout on Old Timers’ Day, I should find a place for it on the blog.

So, as we’re wrapping up the Yankees final off day until the all-star break, we’ll start with a picture of the catcher and pitcher together again.

Naturally, the return of Joe Torre grabbed the headlines today. Some of Torre’s history might be tainted, but in the end, I think John Harper’s column today was right on the money: Whatever your take on Torre’s book, it’s silly to ignore his place in the franchise’s history. I think it’s possible to be disappointed in the book, but still celebrate the legacy. That seems to be what the Yankees did in inviting Torre to yesterday’s event.

Anyway, here are  few more notes and links for the day. The Yankees get back on the field tomorrow against the Brewers.

• Back in Scranton, my old darts playing partner Marty Myers caught up with the one-armed military veteran who made a highlight catch at Yankee Stadium on Friday night. Michael Kacer is from the Scranton area, lost his left arm in a rocket attack in Afghanastan and made a now famous leaning catch with his cap. Great story.

Here’s a really nice read about Eduardo Nunez’s role on the Yankees and his part in Sunday’s win. It’s written by one of the finest writers and reporters I know.

• Dante Bichette Jr. is getting the full Yankees experience down in Tampa. He seems to be enjoying working alongside Derek Jeter.

• Over at Baseball Prospectus, Jay Jaffe looked at the Yankees struggles against pitchers they’ve never seen. It’s not as much of a problem this year as it was last year.

River Ave. Blues looked ahead to the 40-man spots that could open when injured Yankees come off the disabled list. I tend to agree with their list. I’d put Buddy Carlyle, Kanekoa Texeira and Brian Gordon at the top of the list of guys who could be removed to open a spot, though Gordon could certainly pitch his way into sticking around as a long man.

• This one’s a few days old, but with Derek Jeter taking some swings today, it seems to apply: The Hardball Times looked at other players — like Jeter — who have experienced an extended wait while on the verge of a major milestone.

• In the final NL voting update before the all-star rosters are announced, Rickie Weeks has moved ahead of Brandon Phillips in the race for second base.

• I failed to mention it until now, but the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center reopened last week after being closed for nearly a year for extensive renovations.

Associated Press photos

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Sunday notes: Rodriguez still a “pretty good player”03.06.11

A lot of balls got some help from the wind this afternoon. Alex Rodriguez’s home run in the fifth inning did not. Off to a strong start this spring, Rodriguez’s first home run was legitimate, continuing his strong start this spring.

“It doesn’t matter,” Rodriguez said. “It feels good to be getting my work in.”

Rodriguez is hitting .462 with four doubles and today’s home run. Only Jorge Vazquez, who homered in his first two games, has better spring numbers for the Yankees.

“I did take notice, I thought (Rodriguez) was pretty locked in from day one,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s a talented player. His offseason workouts, he works out extremely hard, and that’s the only thing I can really say. He’s a pretty good player.”

Rodriguez said this is the result of a winter spent training instead of rehabbing. He’s a little bit lighter, said he feels a little more flexible, and Hitting coach Kevin Long met with him more than once this offseason.

“(Spring training is) just a continuation of what we started in November,” Rodriguez said.

• Rodriguez has talked about being more relaxed than in the past. Today’s home run came maybe an inning after Cameron Diaz took a seat behind home plate, and when Rodriguez nearly hustled out of the clubhouse without talking to reporters, one writer joked with him, “What, do you have a date?” Upset him? Not this time. Rodriguez just laughed. “Behave yourself,” he said.

• Russell Martin had his first two hits this afternoon. He also stole a base, suggesting his knee is feeling pretty good. The Yankees will have him catch tomorrow’s home game, giving him back-to-back starts behind the plate.

• And how is Martin behind the plate? “He’s got a good idea back there,” Phil Hughes said. “He’s a good receiver, catches the ball well, frames pitches well and gets some (calls) you might not get with a guy that doesn’t stick as well as he does.”

• Derek Jeter had two more hits today and has his spring batting average up to .357. It’s still too early to know much of anything, but he’s looked a little better at the plate day by day.

• Five Yankees, aside from Martin and Jeter, had two hits today: Eduardo Nunez, Robinson Cano, Andruw Jones, Jordan Parraz and Justin Maxwell. Mark Teixeira and Eric Chavez had a hit apiece, continuing their strong springs. Greg Golson homered.

• Steve Garrison continues to be stretched out in big league camp. He went three innings today, a pretty clear indication that the Yankees are looking at him as a starter instead of a reliever (he’ll open in the minor leagues). On a day like this, giving up one run on three hits was awfully good.

• Converted outfielder Brian Anderson had a tough day on the mound. He faced seven batters, and five of them had a hit.

• Dan Brewer had a stolen base and a double, and Colin Curtis made two nice catches and threw a runner out at the plate, but both left the game with injuries. Right field was apparently not the place to be today.

• I never saw him, but apparently Roger Clemens was here to see his son Koby, who plays for the Astros.

• As you can tell from the picture above, Yogi Berra made the trip to Kissimmee.

Associated Press photos of Berra with Cano; Rodriguez after the home run; Jeter looking back at Jones

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 131 Comments →

Thursday notes: Girardi staying involved behind the plate02.17.11

Yesterday, just as the bullpens and catching drills were breaking up, Joe Girardi and Tony Pena stayed behind with Jesus Montero, slightly tweaking the way he squats. They seemed to be working on Montero’s base, getting his feet just slightly farther apart.

When someone told Girardi it was time for Montero’s group to taking batting practice, Girardi responded instantly.

“I know he can hit,” Girardi said.

A little defensive work was, for the moment, a priority.

During the day, Girardi bounces around a little bit. He spends time watching pitchers in the bullpen, but he’s also been involved in a few of Pena’s infamous — and occasionally brutal — catching drills. Today, Girardi specifically did some work with Russell Martin.

“Tony told me he was going to do some things with him today that I wanted to see,” Girardi said. “It’s just the importance of that relationship, getting to know him better, understanding what he’s all about and what makes him tick. Just trying to get a better grasp on the player.

“You think about the responsibility the catcher has, he’s responsible for a lot of guys. He’s responsible for 12 pitchers and himself, and you kind of want him to be an extension of what we’re trying to do here. That relationship is important.”

• Speaking of Martin, although he’s not quite 100 percent right now, the Yankees are expecting no restrictions when the season starts. “He hasn’t shown me anything physically right now that won’t allow us to play him every day,” Girardi said.

• As of right now, no plan is in place for when Mariano Rivera will finally get in a game. “I don’t have an exact date,” Girardi said. “Larry (Rothschild) is going to sit down and give us an exact date of when he’ll throw. He usually gets in a game sometime around the 15th, maybe a little before.”

• Speaking of Rivera: “He picked a good day to come,” Girardi said. “Today is our first off-day from running.”

• In theory, having Rafael Soriano could ease Rivera’s workload, but Girardi said he’s planning to treat his closer the same as ever. Three days in a row is not out of the question with Rivera, not like it is with most other relievers. “I’ll continue to treat Mo the same,” Girardi said.

• With room for only one long reliever, the Yankees might try to stretch out some of their one-inning relievers this spring. “That’s something you might see guys do a little in spring training, where we ask them to get more than three outs and we stretch them out a little bit,” Girardi said. “You’d like to have a couple guys who can give you multiple innings, so that’s something we’ll have to look at and see how they respond to it.”

• According to Girardi, Phil Hughes’ increased workload might have contributed to his shaky second half. “I don’t realty have a whole lot of concern about that,” Girardi said. “I think part was maybe the increased innings, but I saw what he did the last few starts, which were pretty good. The start against Boston, the start against Minnesota, those were pretty good starts. He seemed to bounce back. That’s one of the reasons we do put limitations on them, because you worry about fatigue.”

• Once a highly touted pitching prospect in the Yankees system, right-hander Christian Garcia was released last season after a series of injuries derailed his promising career. The Yankees are aware that Garcia, 25, has been working out and plans to throw for scouts, but I was told today that the Yankees have no plans of bringing Garcia back to the organization.

• For those of you interested in such things, Brandon Laird’s locker has been moved to the middle of the clubhouse, filling the spot that was supposed to go to Reegie Corona. He was assigned a wall locker near the door. This “news” has no impact on anything, just thought I’d share.

• Yogi Berra will be in camp at some point next week.

Associated Press photos: Girardi with Martin, Rivera stretching, Curtis Granderson and Greg Golson at the minor league complex

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 507 Comments →

Watch the World Series with Yogi10.26.10

Got this announcement from the Yogi Berra Museum.

The Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center will be hosting its “Watch the World Series With Yogi” event on Thursday, Oct. 28 for Game 2 of the Series, with visitors getting to rub elbows with the man who has won more World Series rings (10) than anyone in baseball history.

The event,including a ballpark dinner,will take place in the intimate Museum theater, with only 65 guests. Tickets are $250, with proceeds to benefit the Museum’s education programs. Call (973) 655-2378.

Yogi answers questions throughout the evening

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 520 Comments →

Today in The Journal News02.20.10

Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes pitched side-by-side in the bullpen on Friday, unofficially beginning the competition for the final spot in the rotation. The Yankees say the real competition won’t begin until the exhibition schedule starts, but it’s like Chamberlain said, “what you do today is going to prepare you for the rest of the year.”

Andy Pettitte did not pitch on Friday, but the veteran left-hander said his body feels good and he’s ready to get started. The notebook also has items on the bullpen, two other pitchers taking this slowly, Jose Molina signing with Toronto and the arrival of Yogi Berra.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 130 Comments →

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