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NEW YORK, UNITED STATES: Members of the New York Yankees celebrate on the pitchers mound after beating the Atlanta Braves to win the World Series at Yankee Stadium in New York 26 October. The Yankees won the game 3-2 to claim the series four games to two. AFP PHOTO/Henny Ray ABRAMS (Photo credit should read HENNY RAY ABRAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

What 1996 means to me

There was just something different about that team.

Whether you were a long suffering Yankee fan who endured the 80’s and early 90’s, or you were a young fan just falling in love with the game like I was, this team holds a special place in your heart.

We saw snow on Opening Day. We witnessed a 22-year-old Derek Jeter burst onto the scene. We realized 24-year-old Andy Pettitte had the heart of a warrior. We were in awe of 26-year-old Mariano Rivera. 27-year-old Bernie Williams was just entering his prime. Joe Torre was still the guy who had appeared in the most MLB games without reaching a World Series.

It’s funny watching highlights of that season now. I wish I could go back and tell them what they were about to embark on.

This was the definition of “team.” There was no superstar. The big hit came from a different guy every night. From Mariano Duncan to Andy Fox, Brian Boehringer to Graeme Lloyd, they did their job and accepted their roles. I mean, this was a team that had Tim Raines, Darryl Strawberry, Wade Boggs, Cecil Fielder on the bench some nights.

I was seven when they won in ’96. I had been to my first game in 1994 and a few after, but this was my first real memory of watching baseball. I was hooked. I distinctively remember taping west coast games on VHS so I could watch them the next day. One of them happened to be that brawl with the Mariners involving Paul O’Neill. My parents bought me an O’Neill shirt at my first game, but this cemented it. He was my guy. He’s still my favorite player of all-time.

There was no social media. The players were larger than life to me. Yankee Stadium was Yankee Stadium. The game was just different back then, and I wish we could go back to it. They don’t make players like O’Neill anymore. Or Boggs. It doesn’t feel like it’s been 20 years since ’96, but it happened a generation ago.

They were so fun to watch, so engaging. From Dwight Gooden overcoming his demons to reach baseball immortality to Torre’s brother getting a new heart, they felt like family. I’ll never forget I wrote a letter to Derek Jeter after the season. I wrote it on bright yellow paper from a legal pad. I’m still waiting for a response. Maybe I’ll write one this year and see what happens.

I hope they bring the entire team together during the reunion this summer. I want everyone there. I’ll pitch in for Graeme Lloyd’s airfare from Australia if need be.

I owe a lot to this team. They’re responsible for making me fall in love with baseball.

 

 

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