It does no one any good to wallow in nostalgia. One could get stuck in the past and not find their way back, after all. As we all know, Joltin' Joe has left and gone away. And so has the 154-game schedule filled with nothing but day games. And Sunday doubleheaders. And baggy wool uniforms. And fielders leaving their gloves on the field. And pitchers batting for themselves in both leagues. And the Brooklyn Dodgers. And the New York Giants. And the Mayor's Trophy Game. But though the modern game is thrilling enough, every once in a while it's ok to drift back in time, as tradition and history are woven into baseball more than any other sport. And there's no more perfect time to do it than Old-Timers' Day at Yankee Stadium (and by Old-Timers' Day, I'm not referring to the recent New York sightings of Jason Giambi and Hideki Matsui).
For one day we can watch Moose Skowron and Joe Pepitone. Al Downing and Roy White. Ron Blomberg and Ron Guidry. Mickey Rivers and Pat Kelly. Jeff Nelson and Brian Doyle. Tino Martinez (going yard!) and Mel Stottlemyre. Goose Gossage and Reggie Jackson. Living legends Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra. And wasn't it perfect that Oscar Gamble and Jose Cardenal were introduced back-to-back? They did have the two best Afros in baseball history, after all, with Gamble's, of course, being No. 1. The returns of Lou Piniella, Bernie Williams and especially Joe Torre were touching. Though Torre's appearance underlined how un-circus-like the Bombers are nowadays. When the just-fired Billy Martin was introduced at the 1978 Old-Timers' Day, it was also announced that he would be back to manage the New York Yankees in 1980. Can you imagine the Bombers doing the same thing with Torre on Sunday, stating he would return in 2013? The atmosphere in the Bronx has changed just a little since those crazy Bronx Zoo days. And the Yankees didn't forget longtime trainer Gene Monahan, who stole the show with the elaborate ceremony in his honor. It even seemed like the New York Mets snuck in and staged a secret Old-Timers' Day of their own, with former players Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, David Cone, Lee Mazzilli and Cardenal, along with ex-player/managers Torre and Berra (Yogi had nine at-bats with the Mets in 1965), in attendance.
Another glorious celebration of baseball's past in New York. Ok, now let's get back to 2011, and the top stories of the week in the world of New York sports.
Getting Ready for the Mets: The 2011 Yankees lead the American League in both walks and home runs, which was legendary manager Earl Weaver's recipe for a successful offense. Bunting? Small ball? No way. A couple of walks and a blast + good pitching = a win. That was the Earl Weaver way. On Friday against the Rockies, the best the Yanks could do in the pitching department was a struggling A.J. Burnett (who did strike out four batters in one inning), which resulted in a 4-2 loss, but on Saturday and Sunday, CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera starred on the mound, while Mark Teixeira, Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher belted long balls, and that led to a pair of victories. And as a warm-up to this weekend's Subway Series, the Brewers came into town and it was more solid pitching (Freddy Garcia, Burnett and Sabathia, and in CC's case "dominating" is a better word than "solid"), more home runs (Swisher, Posada and Teixeira again, including the 300th of his career, along with Russell Martin) and more bases on balls (14 in the three-game series) for the Yanks as they swept the NL Central's first-place team. The Bombers are now in first place themselves, two-and-a-half games ahead of the Boston Red Sox, and they have a new reliever in the returning Sergio Mitre, a starting pitcher coming off the DL in Bartolo Colon, Derek Jeter most likely coming back on Monday, with Phil Hughes on deck to bolster their pitching. It's good to be the Yankees these days.
Getting Ready for the Yankees: While the Mets have the walk thing down in Earl Weaver's brand of baseball (leading the National League), they're coming up way short in the home run part of the equation. But that didn't matter much down in Texas. After a blowout loss on Friday, the Met offense piled up 31 hits and 22 runs in the next two games, without so much as one home run. But with two victories, who cares? They'll use their speed and line drive you to death. At least that was the case in their offensive bonanza in Arlington. But in the first game in Detroit, it was a home run bonanza. Well, a grand slam bonanza to be more specific, with Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran belting the Mets' first two slams since 2009. And they banged out 18 more hits in the game, with Jose Reyes notching consecutive four-hit games. The offense kept on going on Wednesday, when they piled up 16 more runs, without a homer in sight. They scored a whopping -- and team record -- 52 runs in four games. As Frank Barone used to say, "Holy crap!" In the series finale, they faced Justin Verlander, who in his previous five starts pitched two complete games, lasted eight innings in the other three and only allowed a total of four runs. So something had to give -- the Tigers' ace or the Mets' new offensive juggernaut. And it was the Mets who budged, but the Amazin's took four out of six from two first-place AL teams, and are a game above .500. Terry Collins must be a miracle worker.
Hockey Hot Stove: In a touching gesture, the New York Rangers had Derek Boogaard's brother Aaron announce their first-round selection in last Friday night's NHL draft in Minnesota, and with the 15th overall pick, the team chose left wing J.T. Miller. Miller's been compared to Brandon Dubinsky and Mike Richards, with an all-around game of offense, defense, grit and edge. But before it was the Blueshirts' turn, the New Jersey Devils, at No. 4, gladly selected defenseman Adam Larsson, described in January by the late E.J. McGuire, the head of NHL Central Scouting, as a "Swedish Scott Stevens." The New York Islanders were up next, and grabbed center Ryan Strome, who's an offensive dynamo and totaled 106 points in juniors last season. And now, it's on to the free-agent frenzy (Brad Richards, anyone?), which has just begun, and Chris Drury will now be one of those free agents, as his Ranger career officially came to an end on Wednesday when he was bought out. And he didn't leave in a trail of bad feelings and bitterness, but went out with class, which is, of course, no surprise. For complete draft information and everything else you need to know about the local hockey teams, go to Blueshirt Banter, In Lou We Trust and Lighthouse Hockey. Oh, and there was more hockey news this past week, as former Devils Doug Gilmour and Joe Nieuwendyk (along with Mark Howe and Ed Belfour) will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Another New Name & Another Lockout: There are rumors that the New Meadowlands will be renamed MetLife Stadium, with $17 million a year being the magic number. Can we get rid of those PSLs now? I know, not a chance in the world. And just as there's hope that the 2011 NFL season will be saved, the NBA has begun a lockout of their own. When is it the fans turn to lock out the owners and players?