The Evolution of “Retro”

Joba, Nova, Hughes and Wade all throwing in Tampa already
Report: Yanks, Pirates have framework for Burnett trade in place

Hello and goodbye, childhood.

(The workweek is Saturday-Sunday, so it still counts!)

I’ve never known any other shortstop than Derek Jeter.

River Ave Blues has spent the past week talking about 80’s and bits of pieces of the 90’s because they’re history now: the players are gone, and while their numbers remain forever to tell us what they think is important, and while the plays may be play-index’d and written in scoresheets, they’re long in the past.

One of the great things about baseball is that it’s ageless: it can bring together the young and old. Baseball is frequently passed down from our parents or grandparents, who may have gifted us with stories about Ruth, Henderson, Berra, Righetti, or any number of the people who we the fans were fortunate enough to have in pinstripes. Maybe they became attached by someone old, cranky and awful, like Mel Ott. Fans of all ages deck the stands at New Yankee Stadium, from the cranky old gentlemen whining for the old park to the babies too young to really understand what’s going on yet. For each generation, what Retro Week is is something a little different. Everyone has their own childhood heroes, and ten different Yankees fans of ten different ages would write ten different weeks of Retro Week.

I was born in 1988 and missed out on Mattingly, Berra, and the hapless Yankees of the 80’s. My generation and I were lucky enough to pick up at the right time, raised with a scrawny-legged shortstop named Derek Jeter and his comrades: a Panamanian ex-starter, a chinless, scowly catcher (who was first a backup), and a beak-nosed crafty lefty. And there were plenty of other Yankees in those dynasty teams that 8-year-old me will never forget too, of course: Tino, Bernie, Cone, Paul O’Neill (my first favorite player ever), and so on.

As I end up finding my place in the real world attending my stupid job and counting my birthdays (I turn 24 in two weeks), the players that I grew up screaming for in front of my tv with my grandma have slowly faded away. Earlier this week, Mike covered David Wells’ perfect game as yore and I came to the startling realization that it happened way over ten years ago. Meanwhile, every new year comes with a new group of fans and their own childhood players. There are plenty of readers, I’m sure, who have never known another third baseman other than A-Rod, and some who can’t remember a time when the rotation didn’t feature the pure domination of CC Sabathia. That’s not bad, it’s just the way that time is. The half-important types that these Yankees kids might pick up could be Cervelli, Pena and Nunez. My favorite was Chad Curtis, and I will always love Alfonso Soriano. Sooner than maybe we’d all like (or maybe not soon enough), the youngest generation of fans will only know Derek Jeter from videos, retro baseball cards, and their parents’ brilliant stories of him, much like I know Mattingly, and my grandparents knew Ruth. When he’s honored for the Hall of Fame and Mo knows what else (tentatively everything), they’ll give him polite applause because he is history, while I’m pretty sure I will bawl hysterically thinking of the hundred different ways he enshrined himself in the hearts of everyone (but, as always) especially the kids.

Eventually, fans will grow up loving Manny Banuelos, Austin Romine, JR Murphy, and Mason Williams, or players in that age-group. I will politely reply to any children I have (and maybe some boasting kids) that there’s no one like Jeter or Pettitte or Wells anymore, and that while the cathedral that is Yankee Stadium right now is pretty amazing in almost every conceivable way, it isn’t what they had back in the 90’s. They’ll scoff, of course, and point to whatever the next greatest deed that’s been done by their hero, even if the teams are awful. And after that, well – I’m sure plenty of Yankee heroes of the future are still a blink in their parents’ eyes like Jeter was in the 60’s and Robinson Cano was in the 70’s.

Some day, kids will love them and will eventually boast to their kids that their generation was great, but man they would kill to see heroes of yore, like Derek Jeter.

(Mo is, of course, immortal, and all our children’s children will still see him pitching.)

Joba, Nova, Hughes and Wade all throwing in Tampa already
Report: Yanks, Pirates have framework for Burnett trade in place
  • tyrone sharpton

    why the hell is everythig in italics?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      because you’re black?

  • AndrewYF

    It’s so silly that WordPress can still allow unbound italics.

  • Dropped Third

    Born in 93, I was lucky to start my yankee fanhood early enough to remember bernie, scotty, oniel, and all the greats from the 90’s. However the championships won in that era were not really tangible to me as i was too young to really apperciate them. I grew up emulating derek, mo, and posada and I have never seen another SS, closer and untill last year catcher on the yankees in my lifetime. Montero was my first real prospect crush and pedro was my first most hated player.

    You know what would be awsome? A poll that asked people all their first’s as fans. It would be interesting to compare with people of different ages.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I actually think that would be cool. Great idea.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    The 80’s Yankees were anything but hapless, Hannah. Many of them were contenders who would have made the playoffs under the current WC system. Something for you to ponder before next weekend’s post.

    • Billion$Bullpen

      This please. So many of these “retro” or “throw back” posts have been written from some seriously uninformed places. No perspective mixed with difinitive statements = a pretty normal blog writer fail.

      Glad the writer use to watch games with her grandma. Thats pretty cool. Just lumping Dale Berra in with Donnie Baseball and saying happless is wrong from every angle. There were some happless teams in the early 90’s but the teams in the 80’s for the most part were flawed but not crap teams some were pretty strong.

      • Juke Early

        An op/ed piece is just that — opinion or editorial. It is from the writer’s point of view — it is not reporting i.e. column v. game story. Not everything here (or anywhere) has to spew 20 graphs of stats, enough to make a random number generator green with envy. BTW— if you are compelled to criticize a writer, mix in a comma, spell hapless & definitive correctly, and put the apostrophe in “that’s,” when you do it.

      • Hannah Ehrlich

        I confess to have never looked at a box score that was made before I was born, but the opinions that I’ve always read about the teams of the 80’s were that they were not good. That might not be right. But having no experience myself, it’s what I was told.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Your justification is really “It’s what I was told?”

          *walks away shaking head*

          • Plank

            The Yankees had the best overall record during the 1980s.

            • Plank

              They probably could have been better without such meddlesome ownership, though.

        • Kiko Jones

          They won 103 games in 1980, the ’81 pennant, and 90 games or more in ’83, ’85, and ’86. Not exactly hapless, but that seems to be the popular misconception.

          • Lazerri Scooter

            Pathetic. Wise up, Hannah.

  • Jay Drillings

    Born 1964 first Yankee idols b murcer Ron blomberg Munson

  • TheMissile

    For whatever reason, my First yankee game in the early 90s as a youngster bring back the memory of a Milwaukee Brewer I witnessed play that day….John Jaha! Now thats retro!

  • Paul VuvuZuvella

    I feel bad for anyone who missed the Paul Zuvella era in Da Bronx.

    • CW

      Or Mike Fischlin.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      We could just fool the Yankees into signing any one of those and giving us about 50 at-bats. We couldn’t be any worse. :)

  • Soriano Is A Liar

    I was born in 88 like Hannah, but I was sadly unaware of baseball for years. I got drawn in during the 2009 season, and oddly enough the first thing I really rooted hard for (other than for them to beat the Phillies) was for Ryan Howard to break the world series strikeout record. Of course, now I’m hooked, but I wish I had come to baseball earlier, I missed so many years not paying attention.

  • Steve S.

    …a scrawny-legged shortstop named Derek Jeter and his comrades: a Panaman ex-starter, a chinless, scowly catcher (who was first a backup), and a beak-nosed crafty lefty.

    Lines like this are the reason I’ve been a Hannah fan since day 1. You just don’t get this anywhere else.

    • Steve (different one)

      I agree, it’s a good sentence. One nitpick though, in 1996, Andy Pettitte was not a crafty lefty. That label applied to later era, post elbow issues Pettitte. Early Pettitte threw harder, though I guess you could use the crafty label for his pickoff move. Still, it’s a phrase usually reserved for an 88 mph fastball….

      • Mike HC

        I think he was pretty crafty from day one. Andy never really had an overpowering fastball, always more about location (other than his stint in Houston where he admitted to taking PED’s).

        • Steve (different one)

          He threw a hard cutter, in the days before everyone threw the cutter. He had a few more ticks on his fastball, enough to disqualify him from crafty, IMO.

          I think we are just arguing semantics though and how one interprets the word “crafty”. No big deal. I usually reserve the term for Jaime Moyer and the guy from Major League with the snot on the ball.

      • ryan

        and it is Panamanian not Panaman

        • Hannah Ehrlich

          fixed, thanks.

  • John

    Born in 1987, I remember my first Yankee game at the age of 6. 1993, half empty stadium, cheap tier reserve seats, and able to walk up at 12 noon to purchase them for the 1:05PM first pitch. They won that day. I believe it was against the Brewers. The team wasn’t the team they are now in any way shape or form, but it was just great to catch in a baseball day on a sunny afternoon in the bronx. World Series wasn’t much of a thought, especailly with no Wild Card and being many games back of the Division leader.

    Many fans that picked up the Yankees after 1997 really have no idea what it’s like to have “bad teams” or to struggle. I feel the only thing I really miss about the old days, being able to get tickets to games. And alot of them, too. But I remember seeing players like Bernie and Stanley and O’Neil (my first favorite yankee). And of course, being across the street in the original stadium, to this day I enjoyed those games more than the ones at the new place.

    But the times they’re always changing, and the upcoming season is among us. Time to play some ball.

  • Mike HC

    Loved the last line.

    I was born in 1985. So I missed the 80’s but was old enough to have seen/remember Mattingly, the strike season, Griffey, Edgar Martinez and Jay Buhner killing us in the Kingdome, and of course, the dynasty was in my prime watching years. From ages 11-15, basically prime sports watching age for a kid, it was pure dominance for the Yanks. Definitely created a fan for life outta me.

  • Gonzo

    Bobby Meachum will always be my SS!

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Stick Michael FTW!

  • Steve S.

    Looks like AJ will be a ‘Retro’ Yankee fairly soon.

    (tries to shed crocodile tear, just can’t do it)

    • Mike HC

      Pirates and the Yanks love trading with each other. And the Pirates seem to always get great value out of us. I’m sure AJ will be pretty valuable for them.

      • Steve (different one)

        The Pirates get value because they are so bad that they can use guys who would not be good enough for the Yankees’ 25 man roster. I mean, it’s great that they got use out of guys like Karstens and Ohlendorf, but those guys were not going to survive in Yankee Stadium. Also, Tabata is supposedly several years older than his listed age (i think it was Law who said this in a chat) which is unfortunate for them.

        I’m not disagreeing with you, just thinking out loud.

        • Mike HC

          Yea, no problem, I with you completely. The Yanks 25th man is a solid contributor for the Pirates. I was going to write more in my comment about that, but just got lazy and stopped after the third sentence, ha.

        • Mike HC

          Also, I just add 2-3 years onto almost all latin american players ages. You will be far more right about their ages doing that than just taking their official ages at face value.

          • Plank

            That’s preposterous.

            • Mike HC

              What is preposterous is the amount of cheating that goes on dealing with age and identity. We hear about guys who aren’t who they say they are, or are 2-3 years older than they originally claimed all the time, and we barely bat an eye as fans. No backlash for the player, nothing. It is standard procedure to fudge your age to maximum how much money you can earn. I don’t blame them.

              • Plank

                You add 2-3 years for “almost all latin american player”? What criteria do you use? Why do some not get your 2-3 year bump? Do you think there are no 16 year olds signed?

                If you want to say it’s a widespread practice, that’s fine, but to issue a blanket 2-3 year age bump for all players from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela is absurd.

                • Mike HC

                  I use the “almost all latin american players” standard and the burden of proof is on the player to prove he is more likely than not the age he claims. I will use a balancing test, which was explained in my 2003 Alfonso Soriano analysis, which looks at the players hairline, development curve, country of origin or any other factor that may be relevant.

    • fin

      Yea, sounds like they can make the trade with the Pirates whenever, and are just holding out to see if they can get a better deal for AJ. I thought they would make it to spring training with Burnett and wait to see how things worked out with injuries on thier team as well as others, and maybe get a desperate team to overpay. Not to mention to see how Hughes looks.

  • dark1p

    Wow, you kids are young. You missed the most remarkable years ever, led by Horace Clarke, Gene Michael, Joe Pepitone….and the Folly Floater! Man, Scooter went nuts every time Steve Hamilton uncorked one of those. Believe it or not, the late 60s-early 70s were kind of fun. There were one or two flashes of greatness from the Mick (I remember staying up late with the radio on while my parents were already asleep…must’ve been a West Coast game…when Mantle hit one out in the ninth for the game winner, the undisputed class of Roy White, the acquisition of Danny Cater–a Yankee who hit .300! I had no idea this was possible–and the very early days of Munson. Plus, pre-Steinbrenner, you could say that CBS was a lousy owner, but Yankees president Mike Burke had class, wore nifty suits, and even had long hair. In other words, he wasn’t a lout like George. It was a quiet era of eating a little humble pie after decades of dominance, but it wasn’t all that bad, in retrospect. Seats were cheap and plentiful. You could buy field box seats as a walk-in, and afford them, to boot. And there wasn’t crap blaring at you from the speaker system all the time, or moronic scoreboard ‘entertainment’. You shoulda been there. The late 70s and especially the late 90s teams were like gifts from the heavens after all that. (George being a lout who made some spectacularly bad personnel decisions, but got enough right to win enough times.) What’s really funny is, most fans look at their teams’ rare period of greatness as an island in a disappointing history. But me, I look at that little island of ineptitude in a sea of great teams fondly. Guess it’s all in your perspective.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I’m too young for that area, but I have to completely agree. I feel the same way about the early 90’s teams. Both these eras are what keep fans grounded when the current teams don’t make the WS every year. Incredibly well said. You should write the weekend column.

    • neo

      Yup, that time was a lot of fun. My first game was as a 7 year old on June 20, 1969, the day Apollo landed on the moon. They stopped the game for a moment of silence for the astronauts safe return and the Stick (Gene Michael) had the winning RBI in the bottom of the 11th. I remember Scooter, Frank Messer and Bill White rotating every three innings with two on TV and one on the radio. And I remember reading lots of Yankee baseball history as a kid because lets face it, they stunk at that point. The other big memory I have was the scandal of Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson for swapping wives and families. I was 11 and found that both incomprehensible and fascinating at the same time.

      • Urban

        Ha! All these years later, I still find the Kekich/Peterson wife swap both incomprehesible and fascinating.

  • Monterowasdinero

    Gonna be 24 with a stupid job? You can work for me. Baseball catch at lunch time and 20 minutes of protected RAB time daily.


  • JohnnyBGoode

    Born in 1991, went to my first game in 1997. Almost went to Cone’s perfect game, but my dad bought me 3Xtreme for my PS1 in lieu of tickets. I predicted the perfect game, too.
    Grew up idolizing Tino Martinez. His grand slam in the 98 WS solidified me as a fan.

  • Brandon W

    I love this post. I was born the same year as you, 1988, and became a baseball fan when I was 8 (the night of my parent’s wedding was the night of the 1996 championship; I was sold on baseball right then and there).

    As players have come and gone, I still remember those early years of being a Yankee fan and, even now, make comments based on my idealized childhood vision of those players. Despite Mark Teixeira’s awesome glove, I’ll still say Tino would have gotten to a ball that Tex misses. Another player punching a water cooler still won’t be as emotional as Paul O’Neill. Looking back at the stats of those players is great; how I felt about those players as a child, regardless of stats, is what makes baseball even greater.

  • Esteban

    1995 was pretty much my first memory of the Yankees and it was more because I remember my older brother crying after the Yankees lost in the ALDS and thinking, “wow this must be important.” It’s gonna be weird to think of a Yankees team without Jeter, and I think even more so, Rivera. I’m fortunate to have grown up watching some of the Yankees best years and accustomed to them winning, just like my dad, who was born in 1943 and had the Yankees win 9 World Series by the time he was 15.

  • yanksrbest

    None of the heroes that we have seen in Pinstripes compare to Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio or Mantle. In particular Mantle because not one of the home grown Yankees from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s or 2000’s have shown his power, speed, switch hitting ability and arm. A true 5 tool talent that probably could have been even greater if not for his fear of dying from cancer like his father and the fact that for all the grace that Dimaggio supposedly had he wasn’t gracious enough to get out of Mantle’s way on an eventful day where he screwed up his knee. No not one of the heroes from the 90’s compares, not even Jeter. I love them all but know that those 4 in particular are even greater.

  • Nathan

    I consider myself lucky to be able to say that I’ve watched guys like Jeter and Mo in person. Regardless of whether or not they are as great as guys like Ruth, DiMaggio or those guys, they are Yankee greats in my book and they’ll be remembered in the same conversation as the others.

  • Sweet Lou

    I’m loving this trip down memory lane.

    The 1983 Yankees seemed they were assembled by a drunk fantasy owner. They had 6 players where their best position was DH – Baylor, Kemp, Pinella, Murcer, Gamble, and Roy Smalley. In spite of all this they had a real shot at winning the AL East until Andre Robertson got into a bad car accident in August. Billy Martin had started playing him everyday because he was so slick at SS. Between that and the Pine Tar Game it made for a crazy season.

  • toad

    My first was the Mantle-Berra-Ford team. Bill Skowron. Clete Boyer. Gil McDougald. Not yet Maris. Bob Turley. I’ve seen lots of shortstops – Rizzuto out and Kubek in. Then Elston Howard, Bobby Richardson, etc.

    The 3-4-5 of Mantle-Berra-Skowron was something. (No, I haven’t checked their WAR or anything else.)