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Imaging a Season in Which the Yankees Never Lose
By Marty Appel
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2010 Marty Appel
All rights reserved.
April 1, 2008
Yankees 3, Blue Jays 2
Yankee Stadium Hosts a Winner on Its Final Opening Day
There were 83 previous home openers in the history of the edifice known as Yankee Stadium, but with the brand new stadium set to open across the street in 2009, the 84th home opener would be its last.
More than 55,000 fans packed the ballpark to watch the Yankees host the Toronto Blue Jays, who were starting former Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay.
Taiwanese pitcher Chien-Ming Wang got the start and tossed seven solid innings as the Yankees rallied against Halladay to post a 3–2 victory.
Halladay brought a 10–4 lifetime record against the Yankees into the contest, but after getting two stress-free outs to start the game, a Bobby Abreu single and an Alex Rodriguez double produced a 1–0 lead in the first inning.
Halladay and the Jays had a 2–1 lead when Melky Cabrera led off the sixth inning with a game-tying home run.
"It was a patented Yankee Stadium home run," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons.
The Yankees took the lead for good on a Hideki Matsui RBI groundout in the seventh.
Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera delivered two scoreless innings of relief to lock up the Yankees' 11th straight home-opening win.
At a Glance
WP: Wang (1–0)
S: Rivera (1)
HR: Cabrera (1)
Key stats: Wang 7 IP, 6 H; Rodriguez 2-for-3, RBI
April 2, 1996
Yankees 7, Indians 1
Jeter's Debut Includes Homer, First Yanks Win for New Manager Torre
A new era in Yankees history was ushered in at "The Jake" in Cleveland. Derek Jeter was making his initial Opening Day start at shortstop as a 21 year old for the Yankees, while veteran baseball man Joe Torre made his Yankee managerial debut.
It was a complete success as Jeter homered and made an outstanding over- the-shoulder catch to help the Yankees topple the Indians 7–1, giving Torre his first win as Yankees manager.
Jeter batted ninth and was 1-for-4 while Bernie Williams clubbed a three-run homer to break the game open.
"I didn't know what to expect from Derek," Torre said. "The only thing I require and hopefully come to expect is that he play solid defense."
In the fifth inning, Jeter took a 2–0 pitch from Indians pitcher Dennis Martinez and launched it into the left-field seats for his first major league home run and a 2–0 lead.
In the seventh, the Yankees still led by two when Roberto Alomar reached second with a two-out double. Omar Vizquel then lifted a pop-up into short center field. Center fielder Bernie Williams was too deep, but Jeter used his range to make a terrific over-the-shoulder grab and end the threat.
April 3, 2005
Yankees 9, Red Sox 2
Johnson's Debut with Yankees a Success
This Sunday night home game marked the Yankee debut of pitcher Randy Johnson.
The Yankees were still feeling the effects of their crushing loss to Boston in the 2004 American League Championship Series, and Johnson was acquired during the winter to help ease the pain.
Before an announced crowd of 54,818, the 6-foot-10 lefty went six innings, giving up a run on five hits while striking out six and walking two in the 9–2 win.
Former Yankee David Wells started for Boston but his ex-teammates treated him rudely, scoring four runs on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings.
Hideki Matsui paced the offense with three hits and a two-run homer, while taking a home run away from Boston's Kevin Millar in the second inning with a leaping grab over the left-field wall.
"I went into the game the way I always do," Matsui said through an interpreter. "You naturally feel a little excited going into this game. That may have had a part in the way I played."
Johnson threw 95 pitches in his six innings of work and downplayed the significance of this win, which was the first meeting of the teams since the infamous 2004 playoff series. "I didn't build this up," Johnson said. "I just had a job to do."
April 4, 2003
Yankees 12, Devil Rays 2
Wells Shows No Signs of Wear as He Nears 40
The Yankees pounded out 18 hits and smoked five home runs en route to a 12–2 thrashing of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
David Wells gave up a run in eight innings to win his first start of the year. The burly lefty made waves during spring training with the release of a book he wrote that upset some of his teammates.
"Despite all that happened during spring training, to go out there and pitch, get it under your belt and move on, it makes everything fade away," Wells said.
Wells, a month shy of his 40th birthday, got off to a slow start, but found his rhythm as the game wore on.
"He was a little rusty at the start but I think his stuff got better after the first inning," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
Bernie Williams had four hits, including a home run, and three RBIs. Yankees right fielder Raul Mondesi also had four hits and scored twice.
The Yankees broke the game open with four runs in the sixth inning and five more in the ninth, thanks to homers from Jorge Posada, Alfonso Soriano, and Jason Giambi. Robin Ventura added a solo shot in the fourth.
The Yankees were without shortstop Derek Jeter, who was sidelined with a dislocated left shoulder. Erick Almonte replaced Jeter in the lineup and went 1-for-4.
April 5, 1993
Yankees 9, Indians 1
Key Starts Big Apple Tenure on Right Foot
After missing out on free-agent pitcher Greg Maddux during the offseason, the Yankees signed pitcher Jimmy Key, who had won 116 games in nine seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The lefty made his Yankee debut against the Indians in Cleveland and didn't disappoint. In front of 73,290 fans (the second-largest Opening Day crowd in American League history), Key gave up one run on three hits over eight innings to lead the Yankees over the Tribe 9–1.
Home runs by the Yankees' Danny Tartabull, Matt Nokes and Pat Kelly made things a little easier for their new teammate.
Pitching in 36-degree weather, Key was economical, throwing 71 pitches in eight innings and retiring the final 11 hitters he faced.
Yankees third baseman Wade Boggs, who had seen the crafty Key from the other side, said: "You just bang your head against the wall when he pitches. He frustrates you. He doesn't just throw, he pitches. He's one of the best."
Key was in trouble only once. In the third inning, the Indians had tied the game at one and were looking for more with a runner on first, but Key induced the speedy Kenny Lofton to hit into aninning-ending double play.
April 6, 1974
Yankees 6, Indians 1
Shea Provides Home Away from Home
During the 1972 season, it was decided that the Yankees would play their home games at Shea Stadium for the 1974 and 1975 campaigns while the original Yankee Stadium underwent a drastic and much-needed renovation.
So when the Yankees took the field at Shea before a crowd of 20,744, it was the first home game the Yankees had played outside of Yankee Stadium since it opened in 1923.
Mel Stottlemyre was the first Yankee pitcher to grace the mound at Shea. He didn't skip a beat as he went the distance on a seven-hitter in a 6–1 win over Cleveland.
Bill Sudakis was the first home-team designated hitter to ever appear in a game at Shea, while Yankees center fielder Bobby Murcer played his first game at a place that was destined to be his Yankee downfall.
With his left-handed swing, Murcer was able to take advantage of the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium. But at Shea, the distances were not that generous, and it eventually affected his power numbers. (The Yankees ended up trading Murcer to the San Francisco Giants following the 1974 season for Bobby Bonds.)
Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry was the starter and loser for the Indians, but not without some controversy.
Home plate umpire Marty Springstead issued a warning to Perry in the bottom of the sixth inning for allegedly throwing a spitball.
The right-hander had always been suspected of doctoring the ball, but he was never really called on it until this game.
The Yankees took a 2–0 lead in the fourth inning when Graig Nettles hit a two-run homer off Perry. At that point, the fans began chanting "We're number one!" in reference to the Mets, the "landlord" of the building.
The Yankees made it 3–0 in the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly by Gene Michael.
Stottlemyre was cruising, retiring seven in a row at one point, as he kept the Indians off the board until the ninth inning, when they scored their lone run on a ground out.
The Yankees added three more runs in the seventh inning. Murcer and Elliott Maddox had run-scoring singles, and Michael added a bases-loaded walk.
Before the game, workers at Shea had to scramble to replace the "Mets" sign atop the scoreboard with one that read "Yankees."
When the score of the Mets' 5–4 loss in Philadelphia was posted on the Shea scoreboard, Yankee fans cheered lustily.
Mike Hegan, who would go on to become a longtime Indians broadcaster, started at first base for the Yankees and went 1-for-3 with a double.
During their stay at Shea, the Yankees used the New York Jets' locker room as their home clubhouse.
Senator Ted Kennedy's son, Teddy, a 12 year old who had his leg amputated because of cancer, threw out the first ball.
Horace Clarke, of the less-than-stellar "Horace Clarke Era" of the Yankees, and wife-swapping Yankee Fritz Peterson were booed during pregame introductions.
April 7, 1977
Yankees 3, Brewers 0
Hunter, Reg-gie Show Hall of Fame Stuff
It was vintage Catfish Hunter as the Hall of Famer tossed seven shutout innings to lead the Yankees to a 3–0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.
Hunter gave up three hits, struck out five, and did not walk a batter.
In the fifth inning, Brewers second baseman Don Money singled, but Hunter retired the final nine batters he faced before turning it over to Sparky Lyle. Lyle pitched the final two innings for the save.
"It's nice to go in the clubhouse knowing you have some runs," Hunter said after he departed with the lead.
In the second inning, Yankees designated hitter Jimmy Wynn hit a home run that cleared the 430-foot mark in left-center field and was measured at an estimated 450 feet.
Reggie Jackson made his Yankees debut and was 2-for-4 with two runs scored. An announced crowd of more than 43,000 chanted, "Reg-gie, Reg-gie, Reg-gie" when the slugger came to bat in the eighth inning.
Jackson admitted that he had never heard anything like that in his 10 years in the big leagues. The previous year, he had been traded from Oakland to Baltimore, where he played out his contract before filing for free agency.
At a Glance
WP: Hunter (1–0)
S: Lyle (1)
HR: Wynn (1)
Key stats: Hunter 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R; Wynn 2-for-3, RBI
P Sparky Lyle
In March of 1972, the Yankees acquired left-handed closer Sparky Lyle from the Red Sox in exchange for 1B Danny Cater and a player to be named later (infielder Mario Guerrero). It turned into one of the best trades in Yankees history.
Lyle became one of the best closers during the decade of the 1970s. In 1972, the southpaw led the AL with 35 saves, which was a league record at the time. He also became the first left-hander to record 100 saves.
When Lyle was brought into a game via a sponsored car, Yankee organist, the late Toby Wright, would play "Pomp and Circumstance" (a famous military march).
In 1977, Lyle became the first American League reliever to win the Cy Young Award. April 8, 2003
Yankees 7, Twins 3
Matsui Begins Career with a Grand Slam and a Curtain Call
There was great anticipation for the Yankee Stadium debut of left-handed-hitting outfielder Hideki Matsui from Japan.
The Yankees signed the Japanese star to take advantage of the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium and to promote the Yankee brand throughout Japan.
On this date, both intentions were fulfilled to the max.
Matsui clubbed a grand slam to right-center field to power the Yankees to a 7–3 win over the Minnesota Twins.
The game was tied at two in the bottom of the fifth inning. The crowd anticipated something special after the Twins intentionally walked Bernie Williams to load the bases.
Yankees third baseman Robin Ventura, who had hit his share of grand slams, told teammate Roger Clemens on the bench that "this is the perfect time for him [Matsui] to come up there."
The Japanese icon made Ventura and the fans look good when he drove a 3–2 changeup from Twins pitcher Joe Mays into the right-field bleachers for his first Yankee home run.
"He stayed on it," Mays said.
As Matsui rounded the bases, the scoreboard flashed "Home Run" in English and Japanese.
The appreciative hometown crowd, which was looking to stay warm in a 35-degree chill, urged the Japanese star out of the dugout for his first American curtain call.
Speaking through an interpreter, Matsui said, "When I hit the ball, I kind of figured it was going to be a homer."
Matsui contributed in the field as well. In the fourth inning, Twins center fielder Torii Hunter lined a ball to left. Matsui was able to save a run by keeping the ball from rolling to the wall after it took a funny bounce.
Matsui's father, Masao, was in the stands and nearly came to tears when the fans started chanting "Mat-sue-ee, Mat-sue-ee."
Matsui became the first Yankee to hit a grand slam in his first game at Yankee Stadium. "When I hit it, it didn't feel like I actually hit it on my own," the first-year Bomber said.
Matsui couldn't help but get caught up in the mystique of Yankee Stadium.
"It felt like there were other energies, other powers, that helped me," Matsui said.
In a rare moment from a player, Matsui admitted he was thinking home run in that spot.
"I go up there thinking just do something for the team," Matsui said, "but if you ask me, I think somewhat I was thinking about it."
Yankee starter and winner Andy Pettitte had seen his share of remarkable events at Yankee Stadium. Add this one to the list.
"It's mind-boggling the things that happen here at the Stadium," Pettitte said.
April 9, 1981
Yankees 10, Rangers 3
Murcer Comes Through in the Clutch with Slam
Dave Winfield was upstaged in his Yankees debut by an old favorite.
Bobby Murcer's pinch-hit grand slam off Texas pitcher Steve Comer led the Yankees to a 10–3 win over the Rangers.
Winfield, who signed a 10-year, $23 million contract that made him among the highest paid players in the game during the offseason, hit third in the order and was 2-for-3 in his first game, but it was the fan favorite who stole the show.
The Yankees had a 5–3 lead with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the seventh inning. Manager Gene Michael, making his managerial debut, elected to use the left-handed hitting Murcer against the righty Comer.
"He [Murcer] comes off the bench well, he's a disciplined hitter, and he's a contact hitter," Michael said in explaining why he chose Murcer over Oscar Gamble or Jim Spencer. "There were two low pitches that he could've swung at and hit into a double play but he held off."
When Murcer stepped out of the dugout to hit, the crowd of 55,123 was on its feet, offering a standing ovation.
"It got me going," Murcer said.
Murcer worked the count full and then drove a fastball from Comer over the right-field fence to boost the Yankees' lead to 9–3.
Murcer nearly did not make the team out of spring training. The popular Yankee struggled in camp and his status was in severe jeopardy. As fate would have it, Reggie Jackson landed on the disabled list with a torn tendon in his calf, so Murcer stuck, and it paid off handsomely in this game.
Bucky Dent's three-run homer off former Met Jon Matlack gave the Yankees a 3–1 lead in the second inning. The irony of the blow was that Don Zimmer, who had been managing the Red Sox the day of Dent's famous three-run homer at Fenway Park, was occupying the visitors' dugout as the manager of the Rangers.
Tommy John went eight innings, allowing two earned runs (three in all) on seven hits. Lefty Tom Underwood pitched a scoreless ninth inning.
Winfield, who began the rally in the seventh that set up Murcer's heroics with a line-drive single, had wowed the hometown fans with a hard slide into Texas shortstop Mario Mendoza to break up a potential double play.
After the game, he was asked if he was relieved to have his first game as a Yankee behind him.
The 6-foot-6 Winfield, who played left field, said, "Nothing is behind me, it's all in front of me."
In a prophetic moment on what was yet to come, Winfield added, "There will be good and bad. More good than bad." Finally, he said, "There will be plenty of big games."
The game was played under overcast skies and damp conditions, but that didn't bother the new Yankee manager. "I enjoyed it," Michael said. "You can't anticipate anything like that, but getting that kind of lead certainly made it easier."
Did You Know?
Only 22 players in Major League history have hit a walk-off grand slam with their team trailing by three runs, and two were Yankees.
In 1925, Babe Ruth hit a 10th-inning, walk-off grand slam to beat the White Sox. In 2002, Jason Giambi equaled the feat against the Twins in the 14th inning.
April 10, 1976Yankees 9, Brewers 7
Timeout Call Negates Home Run, Gives Yanks New Life vs. Brewers
In one of the most bizarre games in their history, the Yankees outlasted the Brewers 9–7, but not before an umpire's timeout call saved the day.
Excerpted from 162-0 by Marty Appel. Copyright © 2010 Marty Appel. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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