October 5, 2012 – I’ve been fortunate enough to have been in about a dozen Champagne-soaked clubhouse celebrations in my 10 seasons with the New York Yankees.
They never get old, and if I’m lucky enough to experience a few more or several more clinchers in the future, I’m sure I will feel the same way.
What I’ve learned to this point is that every champagne bath is unique. Every time a team clinches their division or wins a postseason series, there is something special that separates that celebration from all the others.
Most recently, I covered the Yankees post-game clubhouse party moments after they defeated the Boston Red Sox on October 3 and clinched the AL East.
There are several Yankees players and coaches who were on the team’s 2009 World Series championship team, and even a few who were in the Bronx for the four Fall Classic triumphs in the late-’90s and 2000.
From my experience, it seems as if most of the division championship or ALDS-winning celebrations have been subdued in comparison to nights when the team took home the American League crown (2003 and 2009) and, of course, when they’ve won the World Series (2009).
But, Wednesday night’s celebration was different. While it still didn’t compare to what I witnessed in 2003 or 2009, the team celebrated with more enthusiasm (and a greater number of champagne bottles) and for a longer period of time (nearly an hour), than when they’ve won the AL East in previous season.
There was never a second when it appeared that the Yankees were satisfied with a division title, but for all intent and purposes, this one might have been a little sweater than those in the past decade.
For starters, the 2012 Yankees had to overcome significant injuries a tremendous group of players including Mariano Rivera, Michael Pineda, Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner, Andy Pettitte, Mark Teixeira and Joba Chamberlain. Chamberlain, A-Rod, Pettitte, Gardner and Teixeira made it back before the end of the season, but All-Star pitchers Rivera and Pineda were lost for the entire season.
Additionally, the Yankees mid-season 10-game lead nearly evaporated, but thanks to an 18-7 run since September 5, the Yankees held on to take the division by two games and to force the Baltimore Orioles into a wild-game matchup against the Texas Rangers.
“We worked so hard to get to this position, and everybody grinded for 162 games,” Chamberlain said. “It came down to the last game, and it took everybody in the clubhouse to get there. We understand that it’s the first step in what will hopefully be a great ride, but it’s something that we need to celebrate. It’s important to understand what it took to get here.”
“We were pushed like we’ve never been pushed since I’ve been on this team,” Rodriguez added. “That enhanced the experience of winning the East.”
Another part of the night that was both exciting and rare took place in the seventh inning when Baltimore’s game against Tampa ended. The Orioles lost the game, and while the Yankees still had a few innings left against the Boston Red Sox, they had officially clinched the division when Baltimore’s game became final.
When the final score of the O’s game flashed on the scoreboard, the Yankee Stadium crowd gave the team a standing ovation
Rodriguez, who was in the batter’s box when the crowd erupted, didn’t know what was going on.
“I knew it wasn’t for me,” Rodriguez joked after the game. “Those cheers were way too loud.”
“I didn’t really know what was going on,” Chamberlain added. “I didn’t see anyone hit a home run, so put two and two together and figured it was probably the end of the Baltimore game. Our fans have been awesome, and it was nice hear them celebrate before we did.”
Hopefully, the next month brings several more special moments.
–Alfred Santasiere III
October 1, 2012 – The October Issue of Yankees Magazine, which is the last regular season edition of the team’s flagship publication in 2012, truly covers all the bases — and then some.
The cover photo of Andy Pettitte, which senior photography editor/staff photographer Ariele Goldman Hecht took in June, will make this issue stand out on the newsstand. The photo was shot from a 6-foot ladder in the home bullpen at Yankee Stadium, and it shows the iconic pitcher from an angle that he’s rarely (if ever) been photographed.
The photo was originally scheduled to run in the July Issue, but a few days before we began printing that edition, Pettitte sustained the leg injury that shelved him until late September.
Now, Andy Pettitte is back, and this cover is finally ready to see the light of day. The accompanying story, which contributing writer Bob Klapisch (of Bergen County’s The Record), penned, chronicles Pettitte’s comeback within a comeback. If you’re a fan of the southpaw or of the Yankees, I strongly urge you to read this well-written story about Pettitte’s desire to return to the team and his determination to re-enter the starting rotation and to contribute down the stretch.
The October Issue also includes a feature on another Yankee who just came back from an injury. Contributing writer Mark Feinsand (of the New York Daily News) conducted an exclusive interview with Alex Rodriguez in Baltimore a few days after the third baseman returned to the diamond, and the story speaks volumes about A-Rod’s importance to the team as well as Feinsand’s value to the magazine.
As I wrote about in a previous blog entry, my feature story in the October Issue is about B’s Ballpark Museum in Colorado, which I visited in August. The downtown Denver museum is a must-see for any baseball traditionalist, as it includes rare treasures from many of the classic ballparks of the 20th Century. I took as much pleasure in writing the story as I did in visiting the museum, and I’m hopeful that the Yankees Magazine readership will enjoy learning about this great collection of ballpark memorabilia, which is tucked away in the Rocky Mountains.
Lastly, this edition includes “Five Minutes with…” interviews with Pro Football Hall of Famers Joe Namath and Franco Harris. I spoke to Harris at Yankee Stadium during the summer, and in one of the best interviews of my life, I sat down with Broadway Joe on a balcony at the New York Athletic Club on Sept. 11.
Regardless of how the postseason schedule shakes out for the Yankees, the October Issue of Yankees Magazine will be on-sale at the end of this week. As always, you can subscribe to Yankees Magazine — print or online versions — through (800) GO-YANKS or www.yankees.com/publications.
–Alfred Santasiere III
October 1, 2012 – Earlier this season, I sat down with former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris during a charity event benefiting the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor at Yankee Stadium for a “5 Minutes with…” interview that will be published in the October Issue of Yankees Magazine.
The Q&A piece with Harris is one of three interviews with Super Bowl MVP’s that will appear in Yankees Magazine over the last two issues.
Harris, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990, is best known for catching the game-winning touchdown in the 1972 AFC divisional playoff contest against the Oakland Raiders. On that play, which was later dubbed the “Immaculate Reception,” Harris scooped a deflected pass and sprinted more than 40 yards down the sideline in the closing seconds of the game.
Forty years later, Harris can still recall how the that epic play unfolded, and how the Steelers ultimately pulled out a 13-7 win at a snowy Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.
“We were facing a fourth down, and I told myself that it was a great season,” Harris said. “I assumed it was going to be the last play of the year.
“We had several receivers in the game, and the play called for me to stay in the backfield to help block,” he continued. “I wasn’t supposed to be part of the play. When [Steelers quarterback] Terry Bradshaw began scrambling, I decided to sneak out of the backfield so that I could be an outlet for him in case none of the receivers could get open. The next thing I knew the ball was in my hands, and I was racing toward the end zone.”
While on the subject of the Immaculate Reception, I asked Harris where the play ranks among the best moments in sports history.
“I think it’s the greatest play of all time because it meant so much to so many people,” Harris said. “Before the 1972 season, Pittsburgh fans felt as if the Steelers always found a way to lose. But in that game, we found a way to win. Every fan base has its favorite moments, and for the Steelers, there is no bigger moment than the Immaculate Reception. It’s something that Steelers fans have identified with for the last 40 years. That play proved that you should never give up.”
At the end of the interview, I asked Harris if he had gotten a chance to know former Yankees star Reggie Jackson, who is a life-long Steelers fan.
“Who’s Reggie Jackson?” Harris responded.
“Um, are you serious?” I asked.
After a few awkward seconds, the stone-faced Harris smiled.
“I’m just kidding,” he said. “He’s been to a bunch of our games over the years, and he’s a good friend. But when you print this article, you should end it with me saying, ‘Who’s Reggie Jackson?’ That will drive him crazy!”
–Alfred Santasiere III