5 Big Days in Yankees Baseball History
At the end of the 2013 season, with the Yankees out of playoff contention, the world watched as Mariano Rivera wore his pinstripes for the last time in front of a sellout crowd in the Bronx. Fellow Yankees Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter, who came up through the minors with Rivera, relieved him with just one out remaining in the ninth inning. “Mo” received a four-minute ovation from the crowd, acknowledging his 19-year career capped with 652 total saves and a record 42 postseason saves.
Whether you bet for or against the Yankees on your sports betting site of choice, you have to admire the many great memories the Yankees have created in New York. Rivera’s farewell will rank among some of the other all-time great Yankee moments.
Lou Gehrig Bids Farewell
On May 2, 1939, Lou Gehrig benched himself after playing 2,130 consecutive games for the Yankees. After a trip to the Mayo Clinic delivered a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which later became known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, Gehrig returned to Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939, for “Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day.” After an emotional farewell from Yankees manager Joe McCarthy, the Yankees retired Gehrig’s number “4,” the first time in baseball a player’s number was retired.
Gehrig accepted multiple trophies from his teammates and even from groundskeepers, and then he addressed the crowd with words many have never forgotten: “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” He died two years later on June 2, 1941.
Babe Ruth’s Final Appearance
In November 1946, Babe Ruth was diagnosed with throat cancer. By late 1947, his condition had significantly deteriorated. After attending a book signing for “The Babe Ruth Story,” during which Ernest Hemingway stood in line to get the Babe’s autograph, Ruth made a final appearance at Yankee Stadium on June 13, 1948.
Ruth went onto the field to make a speech, his old uniform hanging off of his ravaged body. He had to use a bat as a cane. Nat Fein took a photograph of Ruth standing at home plate, leaning on his bat and facing right field. The photograph later won a Pulitzer Prize.
Mickey Mantle Day, 1969
On September 18, 1965, the Yankees held “Mickey Mantle Day” during the slugger’s 15th season in the Bronx. Many speculated that “The Mick’s” hard-living ways were bringing his baseball career to a close, so the Yankees decided to honor the centerfielder who had won seven World Series trophies, 14 All-Star Game appearances, three American League MVP awards and the Triple Crown. However, Mantle didn’t retire until 1969.
On June 8, 1969, the Yankees retired The Mick’s No. 7 in front of a sold-out crowd at Yankee Stadium. The late commentator Mel Allen made the introduction: “Ladies and gentlemen, a magnificent Yankee, the great No. 7, Mickey Mantle.” Mantle received a 10-minute standing ovation and later called the day “the biggest thrill I ever had.”
First Game After Thurman Munson’s Death
On Aug. 2, 1979, beloved Yankee catcher Thurman Munson died after crashing his Cessna Citation near the runway at the Akron-Canton airport in Ohio. The day after, as the Yankees prepared to play the Baltimore Orioles, the Yankee starters took their defensive positions but left the catcher’s box empty. Baritone Robert Merrill sang “America the Beautiful,” and the fans burst into an eight-minute standing ovation following a moment of silence.
George Steinbrenner retired Munson’s No. 15 as soon as he learned of the crash, and he composed this inscription: “Our captain and leader has not left us, today, tomorrow, this year, next … our endeavors will reflect our love and admiration for him.”
Last Game at the Old Yankee Stadium
Andy Pettitte won the game and Mariano Rivera earned the save on Sept. 21, 2008, when the Yankees played their last game at The Cathedral. Shortstop Derek Jeter acknowledged the fans, calling them “the greatest fans in the world.”
A number of players scooped up dirt from the pitcher’s mound. Even some of the Orioles players took part of the third-base line home with them. Just as it did on the night that Mo retired, Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” rang out over the field.
Lou Gehrig image by Boston Public Library from Flickr’s Creative Commons
Tickets image by a4gpa from Flickr’s Creative Commons
About the Author: Nate Lamb loves the Red Sox, but respects the Yankees. He writes about baseball and provides analysis for popular sports betting websites.