Remembering Yankee Stadium: 90's
(For your reading pleasure adapted from
REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM: AN ORAL AND
NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOUSE THAT RUTH BUILT, on sale everywhere,
buy it now)
Back when he assumed principal
ownership of the New York Yankees on January 3, 1973, Steinbrenner
had said, "We plan absentee ownership as far as running the Yankees
is concerned. I won't be active in the day-to-day operations of the
club at all. I've got enough headaches with my shipping company."
As things turned out, however, he was
anything but hands off. That is, until July 30, 1990, when he was
forced to surrender control of the Yankees. He was banned from
baseball for life by Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent for alleged
payments he made to a gambler in New York City seeking to gain
damaging info on outfielder Dave Winfield.
When the news of the banning reached
the fans that day in Yankee Stadium, they chanted: "No more
George." They had had enough of "the Boss" for a while.
Denied access to his spacious office
at Yankee Stadium where a favorite pillow proclaimed: "Give me a
bastard with talent," Steinbrenner in exile was "the Big Guy in the
Sky," the man who wasn't there but who really was watching things
play out through the 1990 season.
His presence or absence seemed to
make little difference to the 1990 team whose season was largely a
disaster. There were some high points like the time during an August
2nd game when rookie first baseman Kevin Maas hammered his 10th home
run in just 77 at bats, the fastest any player reached that mark.
The Stadium's short right-field porch seemed tailor-made for the
southpaw swinger, and Maas finished 1990 with 21 home runs in only
254 at-bats. But he was the exception for that squad rather than the
rule - -the team finished dead last in batting average, a pathetic
The 1990 Yankees had but one starting
pitcher who won more than seven games, nine-game winner Tim Leary.
But he also lost 19 before Stump Merrill showed some pity and took
him out of the rotation. When the season mercifully came to a close,
the Yanks wound up 21 games behind Boston in the AL East, the first
time during Steinbrenner's time that his team finished in last
place. One had to go back to 1913 to find a Yankee team with a lower
winning percentage. Only the Yankees of 1908 and 1912 lost more
games. Ironically, the Stadium box office registers just kept on
ringing. The Bombers drew a healthy 2,006,436 to the big park in
A survivor, "Stump" Merrill lasted
through 1991 as field boss of the Yankees. Among the dubious and
memorable moments of the season was the 479 foot homer Seattle's Jay
Buhner hammered over the left-field bullpen, the shelling of
Oakland outfielder Jose Canseco by Yankee fans who pelted him with
assorted objects like an inflatable doll$E2 a cabbage head, and a
transistor radio among other objects, and the honoring of Joe
DiMaggio on the 50th anniversary of his 56 game hitting streak.
RICH MARAZZI: During the pre game
introductions players were brought out to the first and third base
lines, and I, as one of the four umpires working the Old Timers'
game, was called out to the home plate area. I remained there
through the introductions. When the national anthem ended, I walked
over to DiMaggio.
"Joe, thanks for the memories," I
Whenever DiMaggio saw me with a press
tag around my neck, he was tentative. But whenever he saw me in my
umpire's uniform, he would put his hand out to me, like we were old
buddies. And that's what he did this day.
I met my childhood heroes - Ned
Garver, Mickey Mantle, Mike Garcia -- the former top pitcher. I
always wanted to meet Mike. I found him in a locker stall, giving
himself dialysis treatment. He was half the size he was when he
pitched. I had a nice interview with him.
I umpired second base most of the time but did get to umpire the
plate three times. I made sure my son would warm me up during the
week so my arm would not turn on me when I had to throw the ball
back to the pitcher.
The 1991 Yankees finished with a
71-91 record, 20 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays, in fifth place.
The team results were less pathetic than the '90 season, but still
underwhelming. Attendance at the Stadium dropped to 1,863,733,
placing the Yankees 11th out of 14 American League teams. Average
attendance per game was just 23,009.9
By 1992, Stump Merrill was gone,
replaced by 36-year-old Buck Showalter. He had progressed from "Eye
in the Sky" to third base coach to hitting coach to manager. The
losing ways continued for the fourth season in a row. Ten games
below .500, the Yanks finished 20 games behind first place Toronto
in the AL East, but there was some incremental progress - for the
first time since 1987, they finished (tied) in fourth place. . .
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