By Will Weiss
Lasting Yankee Stadium Memories (Part One of Two): The Games
It is safe to say that most, if not all, of us who enter professions in sports media do so because at the very core, we’re fans. For those of us who grew up Yankee fans, covering the team and seeing games from the Yankee Stadium Press Area was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
In Part I of my portion of the Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory series here at Bronx Banter, I’d like to focus on the games that I was a part of during my five years at YES, both as an on-site reporter and an editor.
There are some honorable mention games, like July 7, 2003, when Pedro and Moose dueled and Curtis Pride won the game in the ninth. There was a September day-night doubleheader in which Mike Mussina pitched the first game in front of what seemed like 17 people. But after being asked to make a list of my favorite Yankee Stadium games in my tenure at YES, the games described below were the most memorable.
April 5, 2002: Yankees 4, Devil Rays 0
It was the Yankees’ 2002 home opener, complete with all the usual pageantry, pomp and circumstance. There was an air of anticipation and a sense of purpose among the fans, given the way the team had lost the World Series to the Diamondbacks a few short months before. But this was a different Yankee team. Jason Giambi had been signed in the offseason, as had Robin Ventura and David Wells. Gone was Paul O’Neill; Shane Spencer and John Vander Wal were platooning in right field, while Rondell White was patrolling left.
I was having my own issues. I didn’t have a seat or a phone line in the press box, but somehow finagled my way into the YES booth and sat right behind Michael Kay and Jim Kaat. Suzyn Waldman sat to my immediate left, fidgeting with everything from the phone to her makeup bag. Ten minutes of observing her nerves on display went a long way towards calming my own.
I’ll never forget the view, the relief of having a seat, and the feeling of being able to walk on the field at Yankee Stadium before the game. From that point on, YESNetwork.com writers sat in the booth.
As for the game, it was about 50 degrees and windy. The Yankees made two errors and left 11 men on base. The star was Andy Pettitte, who threw six shutout innings to pave the way for the first of 52 home wins that season.
May 17: 2002: Yankees 13, Twins 12 (14 innings)
After six weeks of struggling in front of the Stadium crowd, this was the game in which Jason Giambi "earned his pinstripes."
The Yankees and Twins combined for 25 runs, 40 hits, 3 errors, 10 walks, 27 strikeouts, and the Yankees hit 6 home runs. Bernie Williams’ shot into the upper deck in left off Eddie Guardado tied the game at 9-9 and sent the game into extras. Both teams had chances but no one converted until the 14th, when the Twins posted three against Sterling Hitchcock.
In the middle of the 14th, as the Twins summoned Mike Trombley to the mound, Jim Kaat looked at the Yankees’ upcoming lineup – Shane Spencer, Alfonso Soriano, and Derek Jeter — and said to broadcast partner Ken Singleton, "Trombley’s on the mound. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the first three guys get on base and Bernie end it with a grand slam." Spencer singled, Soriano flied out, Jeter singled and Bernie walked. The grand slam came one spot in the order behind Bernie. It was a classic finish, with his towering fly ball landing in the right-center field bleachers, and the rain pouring down as Giambi’s teammates mauled him at home plate.
This game would not have made my list had Kaat not predicted the ending. Before I headed down to the clubhouse, I asked him if he was clairvoyant. He just smiled at me and said, "I knew they’d get to Trombley – I was just one batter off."