Time for Yankees to cut Judge cord

As the baseball winter meetings are running full bore in San Diego, rumors are flying about the game’s most sought after free agent Yankee Aaron Judge. All else most clubs do, especially the Yankees, rests on Judge’s decision.

On the Yankees YES network last night, GM Brian Cashman – who earlier in the day signed a four-year contract to stay with the Yankees, would not confirm that New York had offered Judge an eight-year $300M deal. Adding to the intrigue, Judge was seen at last night’s Tampa Bay-New Orleans game, the guest of Tom Brady.

If that wasn’t enough, TIME, the once well circulated now mostly niche magazine, named Judge it’s “Athlete of the Year.” In the story, Judge is quoted as saying he was not happy that Cashman went public with the Yankees contract offer of seven years, $213M, before the season started. Now in every interview, Cashman is tripping over himself to say nice things about Judge.

I say enough. Jon Heyman is reporting that the San Francisco Giants, Judge’s favorite team when he was growing up, has a $360M offer on the table. The length of the contract is not known.

If I am the Yankees, I say good riddance. See you on Opening Day, when the Giants come to Yankee Stadium to start the season. The Yankees would be better off taking the money they are offering Judge to sign a high profile free agent pitcher, Xander Bogaerts, the free agent shortstop and outfielder Brandon Nimmo. They could also package their infield prospects in another deal.

Let Judge be the Giants problem. Other than this year’s great season, Judge has been injury prone. Yes, he has posted some impressive numbers prior to this year, but those numbers always seem to get short-circuited with injuries. When this new contract begins, Judge will be 31. He may have a couple of great years left, but he will never live up to the $360M contract.

The Yankees have not won the big prize with Judge. They would have a better chance of winning their first World Series since 2009, if they plow the resources earmarked for Judge to other areas, as described above. Their current offer to Judge is fair and they should now wish him good luck and move on. Let Judge become this decade’s Robinson Cano.

Yankees have no agreement with GM Cashman

New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner has admitted General Manager Brian Cashman is continuing in his position without a new contract. In an interview on YES with Meredith Marokivits aired on Monday night, Steinbrenner was effusive in his praise of the longtime GM and what he has meant to the organization but that the two have not reached a deal on a new contract. Cashman’s contract expired after the season.

What this tells me is the holdup could be money, years, power or all of the above. I just find it astounding that the two sides had not settled the situation, before the end of the season.

As for free agent Aaron Judge, Steinbrenner says every effort will be made to sign him. He admitted to having conversations with Judge since the Yankees were ousted in the ALCS in four straight games by their nemesis, the Houston Astros. He also added that if Judge wants to be the captain of the Yankees, he would be open to that but that the final decision belongs to Judge.

Manager Aaron Boone’s job is safe. Steinbrenner stated Boone has the respect of the players and they want to win for him and those are big factors why Boone, who has two years remaining on his contract, is not going anywhere.

Steinbrenner also took issue with comments the Yankees are a “stagnant” organization. He said they are constantly evolving and keeping up with the game’s latest trends, while balancing analytics with “pro scouting.“

60 years ago Piersall was attacked as mayhem broke out at Yankee Stadium

60 years ago, Sept. 10, 1961, Cleveland Indians outfielder Jimmy Piersall was attacked, while playing center field at Yankee Stadium, during the first game of a doubleheader. It was part of an afternoon, when all hell broke loose at the “Big Ballpark in the Bronx.”

The Yankees were in the midst of a 13-game winning streak that broke open the tight American League pennant race between New York and the Detroit Tigers. In one week, the Tigers had gone from 1 1/2 games behind the first place Yankees to 10 1/2 out, helped by losing a three-game series to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Still, the Yankees were drawing big crowds, as fans were captivated with the battle by teammates Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris to break Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record.

On a hot, steamy Sunday afternoon, Sept. 10, more than 57,000 fans turned out for the doubleheader between the Yankees and the Indians. Cleveland, to say the least, was not in the best frame of mind, sitting 26 1/2 games behind the Yankees and having lost 16 straight at Yankee Stadium, before the twin bill started.

In the first game, the Yankees used a six-run, second inning to jump out to a 6-2 lead. Cleveland rallied to tie the game in the fourth inning, helped by Vic Power’s three-run homer off of Jim Coates, who relieved Whitey Ford.

In the fifth inning Coates hit Power with a pitch. Needless to say, Power was none to happy being hit. The former, talented Yankees farmhand, foolishly scuttled by then Yankees GM George Weiss in the early 1950s because he was “too flashy,” continued to jaw with Coates, after the relief pitcher made several pick off moves to first base. In the broadcast booth, Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto remarked, “I’m glad I’m up here, if anything breaks out on the field. I was in too many of those bench clearing brawls, when I was a player.”

In the last of the seventh, after Mantle drew a two-out, bases empty walk, two fans ran onto the field and attacked Piersall, a Waterbury, CT native. Piersall, who was having a great season hitting .324 and among the league leaders in hits, hauled off and belted the attackers. He said he had made up his mind a few weeks before, when a fan accosted him on the field in Cleveland, if it ever happened again, he was not going to hold back.

Teammates Walt Bond and Woody Held were among those who came to Piersall’s aid. Mantle also broke from first base to assist Piersall, but stopped, telling The Sporting News: “He didn’t need me out there. He was taking good care of those guys.”

Security nabbed the two perpetrators and tossed them in the clink. Order was restored but moments later Piersall brought the crowd to it feet, robbing Johnny Blanchard of a home run by making a spectacular running catch near the Yankees bullpen in right center. The crowd gave him a standing ovation as he came off the field. On radio, the “Voice of the Yankees,” Mel Allen, who had done a superb job describing the on field mayhem, summed up Piersall’s catch: “Jimmy Piersall, who was assaulted by two fans moments ago, just committed highway robbery on the field. And it was legal.”

As for the game, the Yankees won it, 7-6, scoring a run in the eighth on an RBI-pinch-hit single by Bob Cerv.

However, the afternoon’s antics were just revving up. In the second contest, featuring Mantle’s 53rd home run of the season, the Yanks took a 4-2 lead to the last of the sixth inning. With two men on, Clete Boyer hit a ball that appeared to be a home run. At least that was what second base umpire Charlie Berry seemed to indicate. So Boyer went into his home run trot, only to be shocked when he was tagged out at third base on a relay throw. Apparently Berry was indicating the flight of the baseball, which bounced off the 402-foot mark in left-center and caromed into center field. It didn’t help matters that third base umpire Frank Umont also misinterpreted Berry’s hand gestures and signaled home run too.

With Boyer called out at third, the Stadium crowd erupted, throwing debris of all kinds, from hot dog wrappers to soda and beer cups onto the field. Yankees manager Ralph Houk played the game under protest. Meanwhile, a loud, thunderous, persistent wave of boos cascaded over the Stadium for nearly 17 minutes, the likes, according to The Sporting News, the historic venue had never witnessed.

The game went on, however. The Yankees won, 9-3, for their 12th straight victory. Cleveland dropped its 18th straight at the Stadium and Houk removed his protest. The Sporting New devoted an entire page to the disruption and American League president Joe Cronin let it be known he was not in favor of Piersall or any player fighting back, when attacked.

The nation may have been riveted on the Mantle-Maris home run battle, but 60 years ago to the day, there were other battles that stole the attention, when all hell broke loose at Yankee Stadium.

Yankees went Hollywood sixty years ago

The New York Yankees went Hollywood sixty years ago this week. In the midst of the historic home run race between teammates Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, as the two chased Babe Ruth’s then single-season home run mark of 60, the Bronx Bombers were in Los Angeles to play the expansion Los Angeles Angels.

While the Bombers squared off at LA’s Wrigley Field – the home of the Angels and the TV series “Home Run Derby” – August 22 to 24, Mantle, Maris and Yogi Berra went to Revue Studio to tape a small part in the movie “Touch of Mink.” The flick starred Cary Grant and Doris Day. It included a scene, where Grant grants Day one of her wishes, sitting in the Yankees dugout at Yankee Stadium. It results in Day getting into an argument with the umpire and leading to the ejection of the Yankee trio. You can watch the scene below. The movie was released in 1962.

By the way, the Yankees lost two of three to the Angels.

When Red Sox fans took over Yankee Stadium

Much is being made of Amed Rosario’s walk-off home run at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 28, which gave the New York Mets a victory over the Yankees. In this strange Covid-riddled season, visiting clubs are being designated as the home team for some games, because of scheduling situations. But what about when the archrival Boston Red Sox invaded Yankee Stadium to play the Yankees and Red Sox fans outnumbered Yankees fans by the thousands? It happened in one of the greatest seasons in Red Sox history.

Impossible Dream

It was 1967 and the Red Sox were in a historic four-way American League Pennant race with the Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox. Boston came to Yankee Stadium for a four-game series Aug. 28–30. Meanwhile, the Yankees, three seasons removed from their last dynasty, were languishing near the cellar, 15 1/2 games out of first, in their so-called “Horace Clarke” era. The club finished last the season before, right behind the now-improved Red Sox. Attendance had dropped dramatically at a rundown stadium and the Mets, playing in shiny, new Shea Stadium, had taken over New York City’s baseball rooting interest. If the Yanks drew 10,000 to a game, it was considered a good night.

With new, blue seats, an exterior and interior stadium paint job and ushers, wearing spiffy new outfits, the Yankees were hoping for a rebound in fan interest, but those who were mostly in attendance for the next three days were more interested in the Red Sox.

Monday night battle

The series opened on Monday night, Aug. 28 and 27,206 fans were in Yankee Stadium, most of them rooting for the Red Sox. (Many Sox fans came from Connecticut and thousands of Red Sox fans lived in New York City.)

Elston Howard, one of the backbones of the Yankees Dynasty, was now catching for Boston. Earlier in the month the Red Sox had acquired Howard from the Bombers for another catcher, Bob Tillman. During batting practice, Red Sox manager Dick Williams made a point in front of reporters of thanking his counterpart, Ralph Houk, for sending Howard his way. Howard did not disappoint his skipper, knocking in a run and throwing out Mickey Mantle, attempting to steal second base, in the Red Sox 3–0 win. Mantle ended up injuring his foot and was sidelined for the remainder of the series.

Coincidentally, Howard had broken up Red Sox rookie, lefty Billy Rohr’s no-hit bid in the ninth inning, earlier in the season in the Yankees’ home opener with former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and her son, John, seated near the Red Sox dugout. And it was Howard, who greeted Mantle at home plate in a May 14 game against Baltimore, after Mick belted his 500th career home run. Howard was the next batter.

Dave Morehead notched the victory, pitching 5 1/3 innings, but Sparky Lyle hurled 3 1/3 innings with nothing to show for it, statistically. What would have been a save was not considered an official statistic in 1967. Lyle, by the way, would be traded to the Yankees and win the Cy Young Award in 1977, helping the Bronx Bombers win their first World Series in 15 seasons.

Sox fans jam Stadium

The second night of the series featured a twi-night doubleheader and it was a doozy. On the day Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer were paired in the final round of the rain-delayed Westchester Classic in nearby Harrison, NY, 40,314 jammed Yankee Stadium, most of the fans cheering on the Red Sox. (Covering the game for the New York Daily News, Larry Fox referred to the attendance as “the Beantown oriented crowd.”)

In the first game, the Red Sox nipped the Yankees, 2–1, as Jim Lonborg – who would go on to win the Cy Young Award – outdueled Mel Stottlemyre, winning his 18th game. Both pitchers hurled complete games in a tidy 2:10. Who knew the second game would produce the longest game in the history of this renowned ballpark?

It wasn’t until 1:57 the following morning, long after the 27-year-old Nicklaus won the golf tournament, that the aforementioned Clarke delivered a run-scoring single in the 20th inning to give the Yankees a 4–3 victory. The two clubs had to be back at the ballpark for the series finale, 12 hours later.

Series finale

Not content with 20 innings, the Red Sox and Yankees played extras again in the day game. Carl Yastrzemski, who had been rested because he was in a slump, was inserted late in the game and snapped a 1–1 tie with a home run off of Yankees starter Al Downing in the 11th inning. (Downing became famous as the Dodgers pitcher who served up the home run to Hank Aaron that broke Babe Ruth’s career home run mark.) On the wings of Yastrzemski’s 35th home run – which ended an 0-for-18 skein – the Red Sox had a 2–1 win, before 22,766, most of them Boston fans. The Red Sox left town in first place by a game-and-a-half.

As the New York Times reported: “…the Yankees and Red Sox completed 40 innings of hard-fought baseball replete with outstanding defensive plays, in just under 24 hours.”

The Red Sox would go on to win their first pennant in 21 years, with the race going down to the season’s final day. But in an “Impossible Dream” year, for three days the impossible occurred at Yankee Stadium, when Boston fans stormed the big ballpark, making the Red Sox players feel right at home.