I walked into my classroom with a pinstriped white shirt, and a brand new Yankees tie I got shipped to me a few weeks before, with navy blue pants, and black shoes. I knew I’d get criticism for it, mainly from a group of students who preferred the now-two time championship Boston Red Sox, my favorite team’s most storied rivals, and a team that espoused some of the greatest Dominican baseball players of all time. Ortiz, Ramirez, and Martinez. These same students were born in 1996, the very first championship I got to celebrate. It bothered me a little to see so many adamant native New Yorkers choose the Red Sox, knowing that at the least they could have at least chosen the Mets, who most Yankees fans don’t really mind, but would never trade for their favorite team. Then again, this anti-NY sentiment comes with the territory: all empires must come to an end, at least to give way for a rebirth.
I first became a Yankees fan around 14 years ago, when my cousin Richard introduced me to some Yankee baseball card he got signed. I believe Don Mattingly came to the now-defunct Milliken Boys Club and signed his card. I heard all these names: Velarde, Williams, and Mattingly, and while the New York Knicks dominated sports, I also found myself attaching myself to the Yankees during baseball season. 1995, Mattingly’s last season, and many people around my neighborhood said, “Man, it’d be messed up if we won a championship without him.”
1996, 1998, 1999, 2000. My principal in high school got tired of giving us days off to let us celebrate downtown at the parade. For my generation of Yankee fans, we almost felt entitled to one because we were so priviledged to have that many consecutive championships with al those charismatic players like Jeter, O’Neill, Cone, Wells, Pettite, and Rivera, and jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring moments like Boone’s homerun, Doc Gooden’s no-hitter, the Davids’ perfect games, Scott Brosius’ MVP performance in the World Series, and cool Joe Torre, personally and professionally. That core of Yankees from ’96-’00 gift-wrapped all of the great history that this colossal franchise developed for those of us who hadn’t seen a Yankee championship since 1978 or hadn’t been born in time to see that history.
Now, looking back at the 2001 World Series, how the stadium erupted during games 4 and 5, with the 9/11 atmosphere surrounding the stadium, I realized right then and there it was time to rebuild. Despite all the evidence, like the World Series loss to the Florida Marlins in ’03, the American League Championship Series loss to the Red Sox in ’04 (in game 3, the score was 19-8; last time the Red Sox made it to the World Series before then, 1918, more eeriness), and the three first-round exits in the playoffs from ’05 – ’07, the Yankees management chose to buy up instead of invest. Some purchases made sense at the time, like Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Jason Giambi, and Carl Pavano. But whether it was curious injuries, playoff calamity, lack of strong pitching, or maybe Yankee Stadium telling the team that it couldn’t give anymore, the Yankees could never replicate those previous fortunes.
This must be what the death of an empire must feel like. Today, I walk around with disheveled Yankees fans, multi-color NY caps floating around, long jerseys with numbers like 2, 3, 13, 20, and 55 , and even longer faces, knowing what we’ve become accustomed to is no longer ours: October baseball. Yankee fans have officially become humbled, witnessing the collapse of the greatest baseball stadium of all time while the team collapses as well.
Here’s one Yankee fan who hopes that maybe the new Yankee Stadium can bring some new magic in …
jose, wondering how it’s gonna be next year …