In the barren, baseball-less season of winter (winter leagues in Mexico and the Dominican excepted), the only semblance of a game fans can get are "classic" games televised as filler on the team-owned cable channels. Most of these games are interesting in some way: sometimes, they are thrilling extra-inning affairs, or are big playoff games, or are regular-season games that had some kind of importance. The Yankee game that YES aired on Thursday was the Yankees' 1996 home opener, which took place on April 9th of that year. This game really had some personal significance for me because I didn't really start watching and really understanding baseball until '96. Also, it was almost like a blast from the past to see some of these grizzled vets looking very young (except for Paul O'Neill; he appeared to be fairly grizzled in '96). Also, I thought it would be appropriate to post about this game on this wintry, snow-filled day.
Monday, December 27, 2010
I had several observations about the game in general:
*Michael Kay (YES only used the radio audio) kept on saying that Pettitte had been throwing change-ups; it was fairly obvious that he was throwing curveballs, but I could be wrong. At least Michael Kay hasn't changed very much since 1996.
*It was (somewhat famously) snowing for the duration of this game, and the moment the Yankees took the lead (and probably even before) Kay and John Sterling (yes, they were the radio team back then) were hoping very strongly on the broadcast that the umpires would call the game.
*One part of the game elicited a chuckle from me when Kay discussed Pettitte's pick-off move and how he had "established" it in his previous start. So there was a time when Andy Pettitte's pick-off abilities were not feared....
*Johnny Damon is on the Royals, in his pre-caveman days. He's actually clean-shaven and well-kept.
*The Royals first-baseman, Bob Hamelin, just did not look like a baseball player (although he's much more of a ball-player than I'll ever be). He was rather, um, round, and looked a little ridiculous with these glasses. Hamelin actually won the Rookie of the Year for the AL in the strike-shortened '94 season with a .282/.388/.599 slash-line in 374 Plate Appearances. He never hit enough for a first-baseman, though: his career OPS+ of 109 wasn't that great for a first-baseman who was obviously defensively challenged.
*Steve Howe actually pitched for 1.2 innings in relief of Pettitte and Bob Wickman. I didn't evenknow that Howe was on the Yanks' 25-man roster at any point in '96, let alone for enough time to log more than 17 innings. He was very effective when inserted into the game; he struck out two and stranded the runners he inherited. Unfortunately, the rest of his season was not quite as successful; his 5/6 K/BB ratio probably left something to be desired, and the Yanks cut him in June of that year. '96 was the last year of Howe's tumultuous Major-League career.
*Joe Torre's line-up on that day was rather curiously constructed; actually, it was sort of predictable. Young Derek Jeter was slotted in the nine-hole, while Trusted Veteran Joe Girardi, who up to that point had a .315 career OBP, was in the #2 position in the line-up.
*Ah, good 'ole Gerald Williams. It's a miracle that the Yanks gave Williams 258 PAs in '96, most of which was spent in the corner outfield positions. His .319 OBP did not exactly light the world on fire.
It is a lot of fun to just ride on this time machine of a game. Jeter, Pettitte, and Damon looked like babies. Pettitte actually pitched very well in this game: 6.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 6 K, 2 BB. It was foreshadowing for his career. Damon was also giving peeks of his ability in the game: he reached base three times and scored two of Kansas City's three runs, although he was picked off once (by Pettitte, of course). Naturally, the Yankees took out the Royals by the score of 7-3 and were on their way to their first World Series victory since 1978.
Posted by George E. Hadjiconstantinou at 2:12 PM