Bronx, NY – Sunday was the second straight day the New York Yankees saluted their glorious past and its heroes. On that day, they celebrated their 68th annual Old Timers’ Day.
Such a ceremonious event in many previous years and locations was a yearly recognition of the history of many teams, but is now only celebrated annually in Yankee Stadium. The choice of invitees and the planning for the day of memories is undertaken each year by the Sr. Vice President of Marketing of the Yankees, Debbie Tymon, and her staff. As always, the memorable ceremony was flawlessly executed.
To be inclusive of each age group of the Yankee fan base, former Yankees from each decade from the 1940’s-2010’s was represented on the field.
Dr. Bobby Brown is the eldest in years, 89, and was the first to play in the Bronx, 1946. He spoke of his happiness of being a Yankee, “I was very fortunate to be a Yankee. We had great guys.” Interestingly, two of his Yankee teammates, Jerry Coleman and Charlie Silvera, were friends of his since their youth in San Francisco.
He recalled that Coleman, “my best friend since 16”, and Silvera were on a youth team with him that the Yankees sponsored and that six players on the team eventually played in the majors.
He also happily remembered that he played on four Yankees World Series championship clubs, 1947, 1949-51, and would have been in two more, 1952 and 1953, but was serving in the U.S. armed forces in Korea during those two seasons. Brown’s batting average during the four successful World Series years was a remarkable .439.
Brown’s talents far exceeded baseball alone. He received a medical degree from Tulane University and worked as a cardiologist for 30 years after his retirement from baseball in 1954. He mentioned, “A lot of players corresponded with me until they no longer could to ask me questions regarding their health.”
Brown watches baseball regularly, “ I have a special program in which I can choose from 1,000 games. I root for the Yankees and every American League Club.” It should be noted that after his retirement as a physician Brown was the President of the American League for a decade, 1984-1994.
The only two living members of the 1947 World Series champions, Brown and Yogi Berra, were at Yankee Stadium on Sunday.
When asked how he feels when he receives an invitation to an Old Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium, he replied, “relieved that I’m still alive to receive it.” He also joked,”They send it four months before the event; they must assume we’ll still be alive when the day comes.”
In addition to the extremely good humored and articulate Brown, several Baseball Hall of Fame members were at the ceremony, Berra, Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson, Rickey Henderson, Goose Gossage and Joe Torre, who will be officially inducted in Cooperstown next month.
Two heroes of recent years, Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon, were welcomed very warmly to their first Old Timers’ Day.
After the approximately 50 guests were introduced to the cheers of the sold-out crowd of 47,493, those desiring to take the field for a four inning exhibition did so. Not every player’s skills eroded over time as Jesse Barfield thrilled the crowd by hitting one into the seats.
Regardless of one’s age, being able to cheer for your favorite player as a child is an unforgettable thrill.