I'm sure that getting roughed up by the Angels in the post-season was exactly what the Yankees had in mind when they brought in Randy Johnson this season.
And let's face it, The Unit's tenure has not been impressive. When he wasn't roughing up cameramen he was getting lit up by Mets relievers who were probably picking up a bat for the first time in their lives.
And that's pretty much what Johnson deserves for strong-arming the Diamondbacks into handing him over to the Skanks.
And amazingly, the Unit's misadventures are nothing compared some of the disgraceful behavior displayed by Yankees over the years. Goodness, there should be disclaimers printed on the back of ticket stubs warning that you will be exposed to some of the most embarrassing and vile actions seen surrounding a baseball team.
I could dedicate a whole book to these atrocities. But in the interest of space, I'll only air the laundry dirtied since 1970.
And gentle reader, it brings me no joy to list these deeds. But you don't get tagged "The Evil Empire" or good behavior and sportsmanship.
Mike Kekich, Fritz Peterson swap families
And Yankee fans have the nerve to ask Pedro “Who’s you daddy?”
The kids of Yankees pitchers Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson would have had a hard time with that one.
Apparently Kekich and Peterson liked to share. The players in 1972 went on a double date and joked about wife-swapping. You mean that doesn’t come up in conversation when you and your wives go out with friends? No, me neither.
By the time spring training rolled around the next year, the two pitchers not only swapped wives, they swapped everything – the house, the car, the pets, the kids.
“We didn't do anything sneaky or lecherous,” explained one of the wives. “There isn't anything smutty about this."
Apparently even the Yankees have some standards; Kekich was soon dispatched to Cleveland.
“I thought it was the ball”
It was Game Two of the 2000 Subway Series. The Skanks already stole a win in Game One when Todd Zeile’s would-be two-run homer hits the top of the wall and Timo Perez forgets to run hard.
The next night, everybody’s favorite catcher come to the plate in the first inning and breaks a bat on a foul ball, with the sharp shard harmlessly flopping between the mound and the first base line.
So what does Roger “Mr. Class” Clemens do? How about heave the bat at Piazza? Considering that Clemens had already beaned Piazza on July 8, no one believed Rocket when he later claimed the whole thing was accidental, and that he was merely being emotional. At one point he said he thought the bat was the ball. Makes sense. I confuse the two all the time. Right.
Piazza later said Clemens “seemed extremely apologetic and unsure and confused and unstable."
In other words, a typical Yankee.
It Starts With Seagulls
Future Hall-of-Famer Dave Winfield claims he was playing catch with a ballboy during fifth-inning warmups in Toronto's Exhibition Stadium in 1983 when he unleashed his famously strong throwing arm on a defenseless seagull.
Now, anyone who has brought a picnic to Jones Beach knows that seagulls are often called “rats with wings” for a reason. But that doesn’t mean Yankees get to snuff out their lives for kicks. I swear these guys show no respect for life.
And come on, they were playing the Blue Jays! You start by killing seagulls and work your way up the bird-chain and next thing you know Garth Iorg is laying there with seam marks on his noggin.
A right-thinking Canadian arrested Winfield in the Yankees locker room on a charge of cruelty to animals. Winfield posts $500 bail for his release – only about $300 American -- but was let off the hook the next day.
Taking One for the Team
Hey, Winfield was a bird-killer. But he wasn’t all that bad as far as Yankees go.
But that didn’t stop George Steinbernner from paying a gambler $40,000 for information he could use to discredit Winfield.
Let that sink in for a second. The Yankees owner was trying to did up dirt about one of his own players, arguably his best one at that! Hey George, how is that going to help your team win ballgames?
Then-commissioner Fay Vincent, wasn’t amused and slapped a "lifetime ban" on the Boss. Sadly, in Vincent’s dictionary the definition of “lifetime” is “three years.”
It wasn’t even the first time Steinbrenner was banned by baseball. A grand jury in 1974 indicted him on 14 counts, including making illegal political contributions to Richard Nixon's re-election campaign.
Steinbrenner pleaded guilty to a felony was fined $15,000. Then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn banned him for two years for illegal actions that “undermine the public's confidence in our game.”
Brawlin' Billy and Reggie
George’s little legal troubles led to one of the most famous quotes in Yankees history, perhaps only after Lou Gehrig’s “luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”
Reggie Jackson came to New York as one of Steinbrenner’s first much-ballyhooed free agents and humbly proclaimed himself “the straw that stirs the drink.” This didn’t go over too well with manager Billy Martin, whose career was pockmarked with boozing and brawling.
It all spilled over June 18, 1977 in Fenway Park. Jim Rice hit a checked-swing fly ball to right field. “The Straw” allowed it to drop in for a base hit, lazily picked it up and tossed it towards the pitchers' mound as Rice strolled to second.
Martin yanked Reggie from the game, and the two nearly came to blows in the dugout on national television.
Hey, I get it. I had my moment with Reggie. But at least I didn't try to slug the guy.
The next year, Reggie showed Billy up after being asked to bunt, earning Reggie a five-game suspension. A few days later, Martin got lose with this little gem about his employer and top employee: He said Jackson and Steinbrenner deserve each other. “One's a born liar, the other's been convicted.” And Billy was soon unemployed.
Billy Martin showing that Yankee dignity.
Billy Martin rounds three through five
But not unemployeed for long.
I have no problem with the Yankees hiring Billy Martin the first time, and maybe even the second time. But what in the heck was Steinbrenner thinking when he brought Martin back for a third, fourth and fifth times? Martin lasted parts of three years the first time, part of 1979, ending after Billy had a brawl with a marshmallow salesman in a bar. He managed to last all of 1983 for the third round, then was brought back for parts of 1985 and 1988.
I can only imagine the conversation leading up to Billy V.:
“I think he’s changed, guys. He’ll behave,” George might have said.
“Gee whiz, boss. We kind of thought that before.”
“But he’s a real Yankee!” Steinbrenner might have replied.
“But so were Yogi and Piniella, and you kind of showed them the door.”
“Nah, this time it will work.”
Either six pitchers had the game of their lives, or the Yankees really stink.
Shame Times Six
Getting no-hit is bad, but there’s no shame when great pitchers like Sandy Koufax and Ed Halicki are on the mound.
Getting no-hit by multiple pitchers is just plain embarrassing. Getting no-hit by six Astros pitchers? Devil Rays are known to be heard saying, “We suck, but at least that didn’t happen to us.”
In an inter-league game, the Astros were at the hole in the Bronx and starter Roy Oswalt went down with an injury after throwing 24 pitches.
Oswalt turned the ball over to Pete Munro, who was followed by Kirk Saarloos, Brad Lidge, ex-Met Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner – who held the Yankees hitless. It was a record for most pitchers to throw a combined no-no.
Dotel gets the distinction of not only helping to preserve the no-no, but also fanning four batters in a single inning. Alfonso Soriano reached on a wild pitch, but Dotel struck out Derek Jeter and Jason Giambi to end the inning.
Bat-Chucker Can't Take Care of Business
There was one time – one time! — in my entire life when I rooted for the Yankees to win.
The BaseballTruth.com Executive Board had scheduled our annual executive game for Detroit’s Comerica Park months in advance, and it just worked out that it would be the day that Bat-Chucker would be going for win No. 300.
Now, I have no love for Clemens. But I do love baseball history, and to be able to see someone reach an historic milestone is an amazing thing. I’ve seen Tom Seaver get his 300th win, and to see such history a second time would be a major thrill – even if it does involve a Yankee.
And the woeful Tigers were ripe for the picking. This was the year they would eventually come one loss shy of the 1962 Mets’ tally – without the benefit of being an expansion team.
So we were feeling pretty good when Clemens was up 7-1. But Bleeping Jeter and Bleeping Soriano decided to throw the ball all over the place. Clemens left the game with an 8-6 lead and nine outs to go. We still felt safe. After all, these are the Tigers. But noooo. Bleeping Sterling Hitchcock coughs up some runs and the Tigers tied the game.
So with our chance at history lost, we then reverted to normal Yankee-hating mode. But since the punks are intent to break our hearts over and over, they came back and won the game – in the 17th inning.
Freaking Clemens. Everyone knows that when you go for that milestone, you gut it out and get the complete game. You don’t turn your shot at history over to the bullpen, and if they pull it off, congratulate you at the post-game spread instead of on the field.
In Other Words...
Will does an excellent job writing about our annual Executive Game adventures. You can read about Clemens attempt at 300 here.
Speaking of Shame...
Oh, how I miss the New York tabloids on days like this!