Saturday, August 13, 2016

My Earliest Memories of the 1996 Yankees

The New York Yankees will honor and remember the 1996 New York Yankees World Series championship team today in the Bronx before their game with the Tampa Bay Rays and after the whole Alex Rodriguez retirement game last night and then this ceremony today I’m feeling nostalgic. I was just a child when the 1996 Yankees shocked the world and there were a lot of things I didn’t know, it was a simpler time for me, but there are quite a few things that I remember. I wanted to share those things with you today as a way to honor those warriors that brought home that World Series trophy back to the Bronx now 20 seasons ago.

Until November of 1996 I was just 10-years old so you can imagine that I didn’t get caught up too much in the whole “Clueless Joe” drama, the Derek Jeter shouldn’t be starting at shortstop questions and I didn’t know much about George Steinbrenner, why he had been suspended and how long he had been back. I didn’t know who Gene “Stick” Michaels was and I didn’t get too tore up when Buck Showalter was shown the door. I didn’t get into the stuff that now keeps my busy four-to-five hours a day, all I cared about was the game and who won. Like I said, a simpler time. I hadn’t been watching baseball long in 1996. I routinely watched growing up because my family watched but it was for a few innings at a time and then something else would grab my attention but I started watched religiously, 100+ games a season and 9 innings or more at a time, during the 1994 season when I was just 8-years old. I was completely heartbroken and confused when the World Series was cancelled but to be completely honest I didn’t know it at the time.

I can remember watching the 1995 Yankees and their trip to the playoffs and I hoped for more of the same in 1996. I can remember watching Derek Jeter make plays at shortstop and just go “wow” and I can remember seeing players like Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez and Bernie Williams and wanting to be like them. I can also remember, as I played shortstop for my entire Little League career and throughout my entire amateur career, counting the years and seeing how old I would be when Jeter turned 40-years old to see if I could be the next Yankees shortstop. I was completely engulfed by the team and the team didn’t let me down often.

I can remember staying up far later than I should have and far later than I was allowed to watching and listening to games (that glare off the TV was a dead giveaway when I was supposed to be sleeping so I quickly switched to the radio with headphones route during the weekdays) throughout that postseason and all the way to the World Series. That World Series was kind of special for me because my mom had moved down to Metro Atlanta, Georgia a few years prior so as a 10-year old kid I thought it was awesome that the state I was living in and the state my mother was living in were facing off against each other in the World Series. When the Yankees fell down 2-0 to those same Atlanta Braves I was worried sick. I wasn’t always the eternal optimist that I am now but Andy Pettitte may have put that confidence back in me during this series, especially in his Game 5 duel with John Smoltz.

I can remember telling my family that the Yankees would sweep in Atlanta and that they only wanted to lose in New York so they could finish the series at home in front of their home crowd. Little did I know how right I would be. It wasn’t an easy trip to get there and it required some clutch hitting by Jim Leyritz, Derek Jeter and others but the point was we got there. I never predicted Wade Boggs riding around on horseback after winning the World Series but I always kind of took credit for that as a running joke in our household. I can remember the Yankees became my example of greatness and of winning and I can remember Joe Torre’s Yankees being my example growing up of class and dignity. I can remember that World Series shaping my fandom for years to come. I can remember that World Series making me the man and writer that I am today in a weird, roundabout way.

The dynasty started here and my need and will to win at any and all costs started 20 seasons ago. Now as I sit here a father and still a fan I want to share that with my children. I want my son to watch his first season of baseball watching Clint Frazier, Aaron Judge and Jorge Mateo leading a key cast of characters all the way to the World Series. I want him to feel like the good luck charm that I felt like as a 10-year old boy sitting in my living room watching the Yankees win game after game. I want another dynasty. That’s what I can remember from the 1996 Yankees, it was the beginning of everything for me. What can you remember?

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)