I’m getting to the age (I’m 27, going on 28) where I find myself reminiscing about the 90-00’s Yankees quite often. Those teams represented my childhood, which seems further and further in the distance with each passing day. There is probably somebody in their fifties laughing at that statement, but the reality is that those were the good ‘ol years for me. I decided to get mushy and reminisce about my memories from those years. I excluded specific baseball plays like Jeter’s flip or Boone’s home run because those will always live in highlights. These are more specific things that I’ll always remember.
1 – Mattingly’s mustache
Mattingly’s prowess came just before my time. I don’t remember many specifics before the ’96 season, so I don’t fully appreciate how good Donnie Baseball was. I can look at his baseball reference page, but I don’t have the same appreciation for him that people a few years older than me do. But one thing I’ll always remember is Mattingy’s stache. It was majestic, manly, and rugged. It brought the 80’s musk to the 90’s Yankees.
2 – The Jeffrey Maier game
This was quite possibly the night the 90’s Yankees dynasty was born. It propelled the Yankees over the Orioles and into the World Series, a place they had not been in fifteen years. Some people say mystique and aura, others say a 12 year old kid. Tomato, tomato. Was it a home run? Would replay today overturn it? All I’ll say is Tony Tarasco should have jumped.
3 – O’Neill falling over the pile
The ’96 celebration was just one of many, but definitely my favorite. O’Neill kicked it off in style by tumbling over the pile, complete with a fist pump.
4 – Wade Boggs’ joy ride
Another memory from the ’96 celebration, this one will always stick out in my mind because it was ridiculous. I’ve never seen another player hop on a cop horse and gallivant around the stadium like Boggs did. The fact it also made Red Sox fans sick makes it one of the more memorable things from the 1996 dream season.
5 – Wetteland’s hat
My third and final memory from 1996; John Wetteland’s hat took on a life of its own. Do you remember those little league hats you wore as a kid 24×7 that became so dirty, they attracted bugs? That was Wetteland’s hat. Perhaps it was so filthy because most of his saves were of the sweat-inducing, heart attack variety.
6 – El Duque’s leg kick
First things first, if you have not seen the 30-for-30 chronicling El Duque and his brother’s escape from Cuba, I definitely recommend checking it out. The bravery and sacrifice El Duque made to better his life was incredible. It makes it easier to understand why something like a playoff game never rattled him.
The thing I’ll always remember about El Duque was his leg kick. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. Satchel Paige had his helicopter arm movement, Louis Tiant had his turn-around windup, and El Duque had his massive leg kick. How he never kneed himself in the chin, I’ll never know.
7 – Knoblauch’s yips
This is one of those that you can laugh at because, one, its fifteen years in the past, and two, it didn’t cost the Yankees in any serious way. During the 2000 season Knoby lost his ability to throw to first base. I remember being so intrigued by this. How could a professional baseball player lose the ability to throw? I didn’t believe it was a real problem. Even the word “yips” sounds fake. But Knoblauch’s yips were real, and they were spectacular. (I had a tough time finding any video of Knoblauch’s throws. Apparently he commissioned them all to be removed from the internet.)
8 – Clemens vs Piazza
Obviously the peak of the Yankees/Mets rivalry was 2000. Not only did they meet in the World Series, but Roger Clemens became public enemy number one in Queens when he beaned Mike Piazza in the head during the summer of 2000. After that the narrative was “Will the Mets retaliate when Clemens bats at Shea?” Oh, and of course there’s the whole World Series game 2 ordeal. I know Clemens has said he thought it was the ball coming back to him, but I think he was so out-of-his-mind fired up that he thought Piazza somehow did it on purpose. Its the only explanation.
9 – The Paul O’Neill chant
As you’ve probably noticed, a few of these memories have crept into the early 2000’s. During game 5 of the ’01 World Series, which marked the end of the glory days, the Yankee Stadium crowd started changing PAUL O-NE-ILL loud and clear. By then it was common knowledge that O’Neill was retiring after the season, and with the Yankees not playing another home game, the Stadium crowd gave Paulie a proper send off. I dare you to watch this and not tear up.