Q&A with Mickey Rivers — in the October Issue of Yankees Magazine

October 1, 2017 — For one of the final two monthly Q&A pieces with key members of the 1977 Yankees championship team, I interviewed Mickey Rivers at The Plaza hotel.

Most of my interview with the former centerfielder took place over lunch at the Todd English Food Hall at The Plaza — where the best of so many foods are served.

While we were feasting on a variety of dishes, Rivers spoke about the confidence he had in the ’77 Yankees.

“I knew we were going to win,” he said. “I told Mr. Steinbrenner that on the plane ride back to New York following the 1976 World Series. I promised him that we were not only going to go back to the World Series in ’77, but that we were going to win it. We had the team. Then, we added Reggie [Jackson]. He could hit the ball out of the park in any at-bat, and we didn’t have a threat like him before that season. That was the one thing we were missing, but we already had so many great players. Everyone we played was scared to face Sparky Lyle, so if we were winning late in games, we knew it was all over.”

Rivers also spoke about the climate around the team in spring training that year, and he specifically discussed how Jackson’s presence affected the locker room.

“Well, we had a group of guys that always stuck together,” Rivers said. “No one was going to get in between the group of guys we had on that team. If you weren’t in that clique, it didn’t matter how good you were. When Reggie got there, he didn’t bond with the guys. He was a superstar, so I guess he felt like he didn’t have to do that. We all got on each other, but that made everyone better. We would rip each other because we loved each other. But we also had each other’s backs. Reggie couldn’t do that with the guys. We couldn’t get on him if he had a bad at-bat. People took offense to how separate he was from the rest of us, especially when we all got together. I think Reggie tried to fit in after that.”

After batting .326 in the regular season, Rivers came up big in the American League Championship Series against the Kansas City Royals, particularly when his team’s back was up against the wall. With the Yankees trailing the Kansas City Royals 2-games-to-1 in the best-of-five series, Rivers’ leadoff double began a four-hit performance in a huge 6–4 win. In the winner-take-all Game 5, Rivers singled in the tying run in the top of the ninth and later came around to score an insurance run in the Yankees’ 5–3 victory.

“We knew we could come back in that situation,” Rivers said about the ninth inning of Game 5. “I just felt like it was our time to shine. Before I walked out of the dugout, I said, ‘I’ll get you guys a hit. I’ll get you a run.’”

Following our lunch, Rivers and I got a tour of The Plaza, which include a stop in the iconic Oak Room (see photo below). While we were in the nearly vacant bar room, I asked Rivers about his memories of being there in the ’70s.

“We would come down here and enjoy ourselves,” he said. “We would have dinner here and then go out after that. It was expensive, but they always took care of us, because we were Yankees. There’s a lot of history in the Oak Room, and there are definitely some ghosts in there.”

To read the entire interview with Rivers, grab a copy of the October Issue of Yankees Magazine, on sale tomorrow, October 2.

— Alfred Santasiere III