Link: Remembering the Yankees when they were bad

Mark Teixeira hires agent Casey Close
Mailbag: A-Rod, LHP, Lineup, A's, Mo

As Yankee fans in the early 21st Century, we have it good. Anyone who grew up in the 1980s barely remembers the team when they were bad, and fans who came of age during the last 17 seasons know only the good. In fact, most Yankee fans alive today know only the good. In the team’s history there are only three distinct periods of bad: the Don Mattingly years, the New York Highlander years and that time from the end of the Mick’s playing days until 1976.

That second era of bad Yankee years started in around 1965 when my dad was a teenager. After losing the 1964 World Series, the Yanks finished 6th, 10th, 9th, 5th and 5th again, and they lost Mickey Mantle, a generation-defining great. For those who came of age, then, during that late 1960s/early 1970s period, this Dan Barry piece in The Times should ring true. He came of age during one of those rare moments in Yankee history when the team bad. When he was 8, the Yanks finished in last place; when I was 7 the 1990 Yankees accomplished the same feat.

Today, we forgot those eras when another team ruled New York. In the early 20th Century, the Giants captured the town while the 1969 Mets and 1986 Mets were the feel-good stories those years. Today and for most of the past two decades, it’s always been about the Yanks. Maybe one day, they’ll be a so-called second division team, but it’s tough to say when. They just keeping winning, and those of us who remember the mid-1960s or early 1990s think of those seasons, rightly so, as blips on the long-running Yankee radar of greatness.

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Mark Teixeira hires agent Casey Close
Mailbag: A-Rod, LHP, Lineup, A's, Mo
  • Matt

    And for us young-ins, who were 12 during the 2000 championship run…life is good.

    • Knoxvillain

      Twelve? Shit, I’m only 19 right now.

  • http://twitter.com/Carlosologist_7 Carlosologist

    I’m 15, but I don’t take this era of success for granted. I looked up some of those early 90s teams – did you know that the 1990 Yankees didn’t have a single starter with an ERA below 4.10? – and I appreciate what we have today. I’m enjoying this run now, and will always have fond memories of it should the magic run out.

    • SullyLV

      @Carlosologist- I am 60 and remember growing up on Long Island watching my beloved Yankees in the early 60’s.The Yankees were in the world series from 60-64.As a young kid i thought that was the way it was suppose to be.The lean years from 65-75,and 82-94 has made me a better Yankee fan.This is really a great run by the Yankees since 95 and i know i don’t take it for granted.I love my Yankees!

      • bobby two knives

        Everything SullyLV writes is exactly true for me, except I’m 65.

        • http://bassoprofundo1.blogspot.com/ ColoYank

          Jumpin’ on this wagon. I’m 59, and my first year following the Yankees was 1966. THAT was a true crucible, and I’ve remained a fan ever since.

          Probably my favorite year (after ’98) was 1978, the year they were down 14 games in August, the year they inflicted the Boston Massacre, and the year of Bucky Dent’s home run.

  • Broll The American

    Born in ’74, my first solid baseball memories started in ’82 (missing the ’76-’81 teams). I endured the ’86 Mets capturing the city and spent my teen years with the Yanks as bottom dwellers. I attended college outside NY and didn’ get to experience the true excitement of the return to glory of the ’96 team. I think ’74 may have been the worst year to be born a Yankee fan. It was great to have all those Was as a young adult, but my baseball childhood was brutal.

  • YanksFanInBeantown

    I’m about to turn 18, and my first clear baseball memory is Paul O’Neill getting thrown out trying to stretch a triple in 2001. My second memory is of Luis Gonzalez hitting a blooper right over Jeter’s head.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/KChinmaster KenC

    I’m 17. And 2004 just killed me for a while. But overall, its true us teens didn’t witness any real extended time of downtime for the yankees yet

  • http://twitter.com/czm26 Craig

    18; first baseball memory is probably the 2001 World Series, or Cal Ripken jr’s last game, which I attended.

  • Midland TX

    Wow. This thread sent me back looking at the awful rosters of my youth, starting in 1983. I was shocked and saddened to learn that Oscar Azocar died in 2010 at the age of 45.

    What a rookie class in 1990: Deion Sanders, Jim Leyritz, Mike Blowers, Kevin Maas, and Oscar Azocar. RIP Oscar.

  • OldYanksFan

    My first year as a Yankee Fan was 1965, so I take NOTHING for granted. For years, my dream was the Yankees hitting the .500 mark.

  • Plank

    I remember the day the Baltimore Orioles moved camp and became the Fightin 9s at Hilltop Park. That was a few years ago now.

  • bobtaco

    Broll, I was also born in ’74, and my growing up was also defined by Yankees futility and losing.

    It just occurred to me a few days ago that the entire time I was being educated, the Yankees never won, kindergarten (1979) through graduating college (June 1996)…

    Think about that kids of today… enjoy it while it lasts…

  • Darren

    WHEN I WAS REAL LITTLE I THOUGHT YANKS PLAYED ROYALS IN ALCS AND DODGERS IN WS EVERY YEAR.

    LATER, 2ND FOREVER PLACE…..JACK CLARK. BUHNER :(, DONNIE’S HAIRCUT, FUCK YOU GEORGE CHANT, MELIDO ANDY HAWKINS NOHITTER LOSS THX LEYRITZ, MIKE STANLEY BOGGSIE ONEILL KEY ETC

    95.

    I WOULD TRADE 3 RINGS FOR ONE MORE CHANCE AT 95

    • Billion$Bullpen

      In my opinon we win that ’95 ALDS series and possibly the whole deal if Buck Showalter was smart enough to pitch around Ken Griffey Jr. I will always have bad feelings about both Buck and Griffey Jr.

      The other part about this whole the Yankees sucked in the 80s thing is way over played. The 80’s had some very very good teams, and some teams that really only lacked pitching. Some almost all around crap teams as well but for the most part they were not bad in the 80’s they just were not the best team in baseball for a sustained period of time.

      • mike

        Still Buck’s biggest blunder was to burn BlackJack against Randy Johnson in Game 3, instead of throwing Kaminecki (sic) to the wolves…..Game 4, up 6-0 with BlackJack on the mound, the series is over.

      • goterpsgo

        I remember pointlessly screaming at Showalter in my TV, telling him he needed to pull out David Cone and put in that Rivera kid… And he did it, but only after the damage was done.

      • Doug Economou

        Thank you! The Yankees DID NOT suck in the 80’s. Actually, they won more regular season games in the 80’s than any other team. Not to mention, they went to the ALCS in 1980 and the World Series in 1981.

        They were terrible from 1989-1993. That would be the early 90’s.

        Source:

        http://mcubed.net/mlb/fw1980.shtml

    • http://yankeeanalysts.com Matt Imbrogno

      I WOULD TRADE 3 RINGS FOR ONE MORE CHANCE AT 95

      Um, that’s kinda dumb.

      • http://www.twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        a) I’m sure that wasn’t a well-thought out statement, but b), I bet there are more fans out there who feel that way than you realize.

        I’m not sure about 3 rings, but 2? I’d think long and hard about that one.

        I’m not going to get into the generational battle of the fans stuff, but the ’95 team was the first real contender in a long time, and everyone knew it was probably Donnie’s last hurrah. (Point being, a certain segment of the fanbase probably feels a pretty strong connection with that team.) I’m not afraid to admit that I’d choose a ring for Mattingly and the Yanks in ’95 over a couple of the others. Maybe even 3.

        • DSFC

          Yep. This sums it up for me. That was Donnie’s only shot, and in my then 19 years it was the first time I’d really seen the Yankees in the postseason (I had the vaguest of fragments of memories of 1981). Losing that series, to the Mariners of all teams, just killed me. I cried my eyes out at the end of that one, cursed Wetteland’s name, hated Buck for leaving an obviously gassed Cone in to walk Doug fucking Strange to tie the game, saw Edgar Martinez in my nightmares…etc.

          2004, horrific as it was, wasn’t as crushing as 1995 for me. The guys who are too young to have seen the ’80s really don’t understand how much we all wanted to see Donnie finally win one. He was every bit as beloved as Mo, only in a tragic way as we all had to watch him deteriorate physically into a shell of the player he had once been. The Stadium was never, ever louder than it was for his game 2 homer. At the time, it was the greatest Yankee moment I’d ever witnessed.

          • http://www.twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            Betcha can’t watch it just once.

            http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play......id=2685722

          • Darren

            Yes, exactly. i was there and his homerun was astounding. The stadium was SHAKING, it was almost scary. the emotion was intense.

            It’s funny, but while I loved the Leyritz Wohlers game, 96 didn’t mean that much to me, emotionally, without Donnie.

            2004 was like a stubbed toe compared to heartwrenching loss of 95.

      • http://www.twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        Also, what’s with the peanut-mom lady impression? You can do better than that!

  • Kosmo

    I vaguely remember the 1958 WS win vs. the Braves but my first real taste of Yankee heartbreak was the 1960 WS loss on Mazeroski´s HR. 1965 through 1975 was a bumpy ride but 1969 and 1974 seasons the Yanks fielded pretty decent teams. Seriously watching Stottlemyre pitch thru those lean years was a highlight for me.

  • forensic

    It’s tough to say when they’ll be a second division team again? I though that was a given with the ‘austerity’ budget of a measly $189 million. Clearly, no team can ever win with that restrictive a payroll…

    /stillannoyedbythepayrollbitching

    • kenthadley

      If Arod is everything we expect him to be in a few years, we’ll be a 159 million dollar payroll team, with a 30 million dollar anchor.

  • Jimmy

    My Dad grew up watching those great 40’s & 50’s teams and could even remember seeing Bill Dickey play. I grew up hearing all of those stories of the great dynasties, Tommy Henrich, Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford, etc. I appreciate that the Yankees have been kind enough to give me my own mini-dynasty from the 70’s (I was 9 when Reggie hit those 3 HR’s), a decent but never-good-enough run in the 80’s and some time at the bottom in the 90’s to make it all legitimate. That this current dynasty run is worthy of the old great Yankees dynasties makes being a modern-day Yankees fan that much more satisfying.

  • ahinds

    i got really into baseball because of a video game, im not from america , we play cricket. first yankees memories are roger clemens getting roid rage @piazza in 2000, me thinking that ball piazza hit off mo in game 6 of the world series was gone. the my next memories are the amazing but sad 2001 ws. and first game @ the stadium, arod, then a roided up ranger hit 3 home runs.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    I’m 62 and watched the teams of the late 50’s and have been a fan from then on. Its been a trip. The teams and the players are legendary. The up and down years of the teams in those days are fading except for the impact players. Whitey, Mickey, Yogi, there are many more. The old stadium, the rebuilt stadium and now the new stadium. As I said, “its been a trip.” Just enjoy the ride, root for the guys in the pinstripes but remember there will be the years where it will be tough to watch unless the Yanks can keep the pitching in top order. With Cashman and Hal I believe the Yankees will always be in the hunt. There is the money factor and organizational structure in place.

  • Peter North

    I was a little kid in the 80’s but most of my memories are not of the Yanks sucking, but mainly of Don Mattingly and guys like Dave Winfield, Ron Guidry, and Steve Sax. I really enjoyed watching them play so I guess I have some sort of selective memory about the 80’s that blocks out the bigger picture. I like it better that way!

    But I think it’s cool that the Yanks won the WS the year I was born (’77), graduated from college (’00) and got married (’09).

    • http://www.twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      I hear you, re the 80s Yanks. The Yanks were actually pretty awesome in a lot of ways in the 80s, it was really the very end of the decade, and then the very early 90s, when they sucked.

      Obviously it would have been nice to have had a couple of playoff runs in the 80s, but there’s also not much wrong with getting to watch a lineup with guys like Henderson, Randolph, Mattingly, Winfield, Pags and the rest, and having Guidry and TJ and Righetti around didn’t hurt either. Some good times in the 80s, it wasn’t all bad. (Team construction-wise, yes, it was bad, and it only got worse as the 90s approached. But there were still some awesome players on the team to root for.)

      • DSFC

        They were massively frustrating, because they had a championship lineup and kept blowing it when it came to assembling a pitching staff.

  • jsbrendog

    89-90 was my firsr season, when i was 5. boy howdy were they godawful. I remember in the early 90s my fav player was espinoza and my family and i had a weird obsession with andy stankiewicz hahaha.

    fun fact. they lost every home game i went to for the first 3 or 4 yrs I was a fan and the first time i saw them win was at fenway after my dad randomly decided to go to a sox game cause we were in the area. just so happened to be the yankees. ah the good ol days. i’ll never forget 95 and then 96. it was the most amazing, stressful, exciting, insane 2 yrs of baseball in my life and I dont think ill ever be able to recapture it, sadly, since the team (hopefully) won’t go through such a horrid dearth of talent like the teams preceeding those.

    Honestly, I’ve drifted apart from the team as i’ve gotten older, cared a bit less, become disenfranchised by the “guarantee” of making the playoffs. It just doesn’t have the same feel. Don’t get me wrong, im not complaining because winning is grand, but sometimes, maybe, just maybe, i wish for a few years where they don’t make the playoffs, and it becomes a struggle, and things get exciting for me again.

  • SRB

    Born in 1958, I “had” to live through two of those down times- I remember my first live game (in Cleveland) in 1969- Christmas (1968) present from my father because I wanted to see the Mick play live before he retired- Spring training came and he retired so, instead, I got to see Joe Pepitone get thrown out of both games of a Sunday doubleheader (remember them?)- Oh well- Now to the good times!

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Born in ’59 with my first game in ’66. I remember those names form the sucky late 60’s team so well. As a kid, I thought (as the writer pointed out) that because he was a Yankee, Jake Gibbs must have been a great catcher. Same with Horrace Clarke, Gene Michael and so many others.

      Went to the Mayor’s Trophy game in ’69 at Shea with my father, my uncle and cousins (who for some reason unkown to me, became Mets fans. Still remember seeing a picture of my cousin Mike holding a MLB bat with the help of Cleon Jones. How could they!!).

      It sucked going through those dry spells, but really makes me appreciate how well run the organization is today.

  • Ken

    Grew up with the Yankees in the 1970s and truly loved their AL Championships form 1976-78. Even attended World Series Game 3 in 1976 and got to briefly see Joe DiMaggio. The 80’s were frustrating, especially the 1980 playoff loss to the Royals and the 1981 World Series loss to the Dodgers followed by the postseason absence until 1995. This makes my memories of the 1996, 1998-2000, and 2009 Yanks even more special.

  • JohnC

    Started Watching the Yanks in 1968, Mantle’s final season and they were bad, really bad. Had to endure the likes of JOhnny Ellis, Jerry Kenney, Horace Clark and Gene Michael in the lineup almost every day. Only guys I looked forward to seeing were Murcer, White, Stottlemyre, and Munson when he came up. Steve Hamilton was entertaining with his Folly Floater and Immitation Hummer. Also liked Lindy McDaniel. So I’ve endured some really bad teams over the years

  • joeMan

    I am truely blessed being born in late 1988. My first yankee memories are of the 95 playoffs and then the dynasty of the late 90s… Obviously 98 is still the most memorable. I was spoiled.

  • CTRob

    Born in 80. Didn’t watch the yanks a lot early, my older sister was a big Mets fan. My news and stats came from the paper, as those boys would be on our only tv. I remember arguing with my Boston fan friends over who was better Donnie or Wade.

  • Brian

    I’m 23 and my first baseball memory was staying up to watch the Yankees win it all in 96. My mom let me stay up late because well it was the world series! She said I couldn’t go to school the next day bc I needed a haircut. The only Yankees failure I’ve witness was failing. In the post season. I must be terrible to be a mets fan.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joe Pawlikowski

      IIRC, Game 6 was on a Friday night.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joe Pawlikowski

        Saturday. My bad.

  • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

    I was born in ’70 and was lucky enough to be indoctrinated as a fan in the late 70’s and got to attend several playoff and WS games in those years (yes I was a spoiled kid). I then suffered through the 80’s and 90’s but had become a if enough fan to carry the through unit the Dynasty provided salvation.

    On the ’95/Donnie Baseball thing… He was my favorite player by far on those Donnie/Winfield/Rickey/Randolph teams and it broke my heart when we got ousted. There was a LOT of magic in ’96 (who can forget Boggs on that horse??) but I have to admit I would trade any two of the four rings from ’96-’00 (except ’98) for ’95 so that Donnie Baseball would have one.

    Oh and that year that Donnie and Winfield were having their own MVP race I admit I rooted so hard for Mattingly that I even rooted against Winfield. There I said it!

  • goterpsgo

    I wonder how much my 1991 team yearbook is worth today…

  • TomH

    The NY Times piece was very touching, told as it was from the point of view of a young child of that nightmarish era.

    In my case, the situation was different. I was already 24 by midsummer of 1965. Until then the only truly bad Yankee news I could recall, apart from occasional WS losses, were the the doubleheader loss to Cleveland in 1954 that sealed the Yankees’ doom that season (103 wins and second place) and the 1959 pennant loss.

    These seemed strange screwups in the universe. But 1965! It was like those 19th century novels in which the fear of bankruptcy, and the loss of middle class status, colors life. For an adult, then (at least in my case), the dominant emotions were anger turning into outrage that someone in charge could have allowed this to happen.

    After all, it was not that no one knew Mantle was getting old and that the injuries might finish him, or that Ford was getting old, or that old Yogi Berra was gone, or that the pipeline from the minors seemed to have run dry of superstar replacements.

    Most Yankee fans of the time whom I knew (We Happy FEW) shared the anger and outrage. The team had, for so many decades, had the reputation of business acumen of the highest level, that the collapse seemed a scandal.

    In fact, there had even been a warning (although I admit my memory may be flawed here). I seem to recall that Bill Veeck had anticipated the collapse in an article I recall reading in some place other than my home (probably a doctor’s or dentist’s office, probably Reader’s Digest). He had noticed signs of trouble in the Yankee system, although now I only remember his puzzlement at the decline in World Series domination (losses in 60, 63, and 64).

    Of course, if you asked Yankee fans generally–if I can gauge from my narrow experience–in October 1964 what the future held, there would have been little if any sense of impending trouble. “Dogs are people too,” someone said. So are baseball fans, and like people they are prone to self-deception and rationalization. Yankee fans talked up Stottlemyre and Pepitone, as I recall, as signs that the system was in order. If the sensibility of advanced contemporary fans were somehow taken back to the autumn of 1964, they would number crunch their way into self-deception. Self-deception, like “life” in Jurassic Park, self deception will always find a way.

    Looking back on The Fall, I’m like many others who see the problem as the blind eye turned by George Weiss (otherwise a genius) towards black ballplayers. I have no memory of ever reading an article from those years (ca 1952, when I began following the Yankees, to 1965) that remarked on Weiss’s failures and what it may have portended. It’s not unusual for declining empires and institutions to miss a cause right in front of them, and that also from the never-resting impulse to self-deception.

    • Darren

      This was a great post. thanks for taking the time and for having the insight. Even if it’s not the dominance cause, I think it’s only right to ascribe those failures to racism.