Though I've lived in this area all my life, I believe I am at heart a New Yorker. I became a Yankee fan at age 6 for two simple reasons -- they were on the "Saturday Game of the Week" every week, and they were always in the World Series. When you're six, it's easy to latch onto a winner, especially if you're frequently exposed to them.
Like many young boys, my "idol" was "The Mick-" Mickey Mantle. Mick came up to the team the year after I was born, and had his peak years as I was growing up. The 1961 home run battle between Mantle and fellow Yankee Roger Maris was, naturally, a highlight of my baseball-following youth. I even talked my mom into taking me to a Doris Day movie entitled "Safe At Home" because "the M & M boys" had small roles in the film - playing themselves, of course.
The Yankees bottomed out after the '64 season, dropping all the way to last place the following year. I know many of you may think the Yankees are always contenders, but that isn't so. "We" were totally out of the post-season from 1965 until 1976, but I still followed "my boys," though by the end of that period, I was pretty much the same age as my heroes.
Ah, yes -- '65-'75, the period I fondly refer to as "the Horace Clarke years," in honor of the Yanks' second baseman through most of those years. Among the other "immortals" from those years were Jake Gibbs, Jerry Kenney, Tom Tresh and Jim "Ball Four" Bouton. The latter two were actually good players at the beginning of their careers, as was pitcher Mel Stottlemyre, who recently ended a stint as the current Yankees' pitching coach.
Two excellent players did star for the Bombers in those "Depression" years -- outfielders Bobby Murcer and Roy White. As a Yankee fan, I always felt sorry for those two because they weren't able to experience several years of World Series glory like the Yankee stars who came before them. Actually, White was still playing when the Yankee resurgence occurred in the late 70s, but he was past his peak.
The Yankees were owned by CBS during those years, and when the network sold the team to a group of rich guys - led by some Cleveland shipbuilder named Steinbrenner - in 1973, they started back to a new era of glory. This lasted 5-6 years -- the "Thurman Munson - Graig Nettles-Reggie Jackson-Billy Martin" (off and on and off and on ) years. These years were followed by a long (for the Yankees) period of no World Series appearances, and Don "Donnie Baseball" Mattingly was the star who missed out this time.
Derek Jeter and Joe Torre came to town in 1996 and began another 4-5 year stretch of "good times."
The last few years haven't been real good for Yank fans. This season started with optimism, as many writers picked the Yankees to win it all. Despite "A-Rod" having an excellent April, the team appears to be going nowhere. Virtually all of their starting pitchers have already spent varying amounts of time on the disabled list this year, and they were forced to call up their prize pitching prospect, 20-year-old Phil Hughes, much earlier than they had planned to. In his second start, Hughes threw a no-hitter - for 6 innings -- before he suffered a hamstring injury, which is expected to sideline him for at least 4-6 weeks.
And that pretty much sums up the Yankees' 2007 season to this point. Since the Yankees and their fans are so well - liked by everyone else, there's probably a lot of snickering going on among fans of the Red Sox, among other teams. Cub fans would probably say "welcome to the club," but our long-suffering is virtually nothing compared to that of the Cubbie fans.
So -- CB, Mac, Strucker, Bork, Langlitz we're pretty much forced to "cry in our own beer."
Note: this column was written B.C. (Before Clemens)