Everything in Yankees land the past few weeks has been young players with bright futures and 1996 memories — and I’m loving every minute of it.
After being back in town for the 1996 World Series championship celebration earlier this month, the Core Four of Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and Jorge Posada caught up about what they remember about that magical ’96 season.
In the sit-down, the guys discuss how their mentality entering 1996 was to just make the team. Pretty funny to think back, but Jeter was a wide-eyed rookie who many thought was not ready to handle shortstop at the major league level. Pettitte and Mariano were in their second seasons, but Mo struggled in 1995 — in the article, Jeter recalls crying with Mo in a Bennigan’s after both were sent down.
Posada, the rawest of the bunch in ’96, was brought up and sent down like a yo-yo, as Mariano put it. While he was in the dugout for the great postseason run, he was not on the active roster.
My favorite part from the discussion was that Mariano originally mistook Joe Torre for Latino:
During spring training in ’96? Shoot, I was just trying to make the team. That was all I cared about. And I was really excited to get to Tampa to start camp because I thought we had hired a new manager with the last name Torres. So I’m thinking, ‘This is great! This man speaks Spanish!’
Hahaha, yeah, Joe Torres.
The thought of Mariano being so excited to meet his new Spanish-speaking manager, only to find out the only Spanish words Joe Torre knew were “No habla,” is hilarious.
Despite the fact that Torre could not speak Spanish, all of the Core Four found it very easy to communicate with their new manager because Torre had experienced all the highs and lows in baseball throughout his lengthy career. Jeter (who still refers to Joe as Mr. Torre) and Jorge both described him as a father figure, and said that he created a family atmosphere for the team.
Jorge also thanked Bernie Williams, who is unjustly left out of the Core Four, for performing in the early-90’s.
We all worked hard during the off-season because we didn’t want to get traded. Honestly, thank God for Bernie Williams. If Bernie Williams doesn’t do well, I don’t think any of us would have been here. I was in trade talks in ’94 and ’95. But Bernie came up through the Yankees system and did well. Then Mo and Andy did well in ’95. Derek took over the shortstop job on Opening Day ’96. So instead of trading for a catcher, they decided to trust me with the spot.
Another thing that stood out to me was how they all pushed each other to elevate their games.
All we wanted to do was win. And the beauty was, whenever spring training came, we were ready to play. None of us would ever show up out of shape. You might see other guys huffing and puking. But we were always ready.
When we came up with the Yankees, it was clear that you couldn’t be satisfied with just being on the team. There was a lot of pressure during the off-season to get better. And fortunately, with these guys, we all pushed each other. We also had amazing vets to learn from. We got to see how Mattingly and Boggs went about their business. When you watched professionals like them work, you realized that this was a job.
If this new crop of young Yankees can bond and push each other like the Core Four did, then the organization might have something special.
One final thing of note, this conversation happened during the game on August 13 when Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge became the first teammates in baseball history to hit back-to-back home runs in their first career at bats. The Core Four reacts: