26 Jun 2011
Sometime about 25-30 years ago I remember attending an Old Timer’s Day at Yankee Stadium. I remember the introductions and I remember not knowing anything about the guys they were introducing. Sure, when Mantle and DiMaggio were announced last (they were together) I knew what was going on, but most of it meant nothing to me because I didn’t recognize the players.
Today was different. A guy a few weeks younger than I am, Aaron Small, became an “old timer”. I knew almost all of the names and in my mind I could picture them all. I could see Oscar Gamble and his huge ‘fro parking one in right. Guidry using that effortless delivery to get another K. Bernie running like a horse around the bases. Strawberry’s amazing swing. Hayes squeezing a popup. Jackson uppercutting another ball. Barfield nailing another guy trying to advance. Mick the quick rounding third. Cone, Boomer, Lloyd, Nelson, Kelly…these were the guys I saw with my own eyes.
Old Timer’s Day represents the best things about baseball. Who was better- DiMaggio or Pujols, Jeter or Ripken, Mantle or Mays? Pick a side and make your argument, you may be right, you may be wrong, but no one can say for sure. Future generations will envy us because we actually saw Pujols, Jeter and Rivera play just like we envy those who actually saw Robinson, Williams and Mantle.
As James Earl Jones said in “Field of Dreams”
The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.
Somewhere out there is a 10-year old who will burst onto the scene in the 2020’s to challenge all the records. I can’t wait to see him and compare him to Pujols, Ripken, Schmidt….