THE BRONX — As the bronze plaques in Monument Park glistened with a sunkissed glow, New York Yankee legends donned the historic pinstripes once again as a franchise tradition lives on, Old-Timers’ Day. Players from various Yankee teams through the decades basked in each moment as they were taken back to the time their lives were a part of the storied franchise.
What’s unique about such an occasion is when the Old-Timers walk around Monument Park with a skip to their stride. They can speak so eloquently of their past experiences in pinstripes and what time has provided them after they walked away from the diamond. But the tune of positive and prideful appraisal rung loud as they spoke of the riveting Yankees team that is assembled today.
The praises rang left and right from Yankees players that are separated by generations. The Yankees haven’t returned to the World Series since winning their 27th championship in 2009. However, former Yankees first baseman and four-time World Series champion Constantino “Tino” Martínez said he continues to watch the Yankees play and sees a remarkable resemblance to a team he once played on.
“In ’98, we won 114 games and won the World Series,” Martínez said as he reflected on the record-breaking year. “So it seems like they’re that type of a team, where they play hard every day they believe they can win. But again, there’s two more months to go they got to finish it. They have to win the World Series in order to have a great season.”
Martínez pointed out the apparent issues the Yankees faced the past few seasons – especially in 2021 – from lack of consistency to poor defense and inexcusable base-running skills. Still, he believes their resilience and the maneuvering parts on and off the field have helped create the blueprint for success.
Other facets of the blueprint are recognized by those who have relished in the glory of winning a championship. “I see unity. I see team chemistry,” Venezuelan and former Yankees infielder Luis Sojo said on the current Yankees team. “Aaron Boone and the coaching staff is doing a great, great job, and you know, Aaron Judge’s season. So that’s something that can motivate the other players, you know. I think they’re going to be hard to beat. Gold bless, we can see the Yankees celebrate this year. I’m positive.”
Sojo joked about not being able to have what it takes physically to take the field but said he could be there mentally. As a member of the ’90s dynasty team, Sojo said he now prefers playing golf.
“You feel like a kid,” Sojo said, returning to the first Old Timers Day since 2019. “I mean, I played in this city so many years, but when you come to this, it’s like something different. You know, all the memories come to your mind and just getting joy.”
Puerto Rico native and a career Yankee Bernie Williams reflected on his time in pinstripes, remembering the Old Timers Days he would attend as a player at the Old Yankee Stadium, meeting Yankee legends like Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle and so many more.
As Williams reflected, he couldn’t help but praise a fellow outfielder, Aaron Judge, who is on pace to shatter the American League home run record, currently standing with 42 home runs (200 home runs in 670 career games) after Saturday’s matchup against the Kansas City Royals.
“The talent is there,” Williams said on Judge and the news circulating around No. 99’s future in pinstripes. “There’s moments that he has now, playing the game, are moments that are going to come and go, and he will never have an opportunity to relive those things again, so he should have as much fun as he can play the game right now. Let the business of the game take care of itself.”
The five-time All-Star also said he believes that if Judge accepts a long-term deal with the Yankees, he might be given the prestigious title of New York Yankees captain. “There’s no doubt about it in my mind,” Williams said.
The 53-year-old musician outfielder played alongside two Yankee captains, Don Mattingly and Derek Jeter, in his 16-year career in the Bronx. So it’s safe to say Williams is familiar with the character attributes and skillset it takes to be given the captain title.
When asked what it would be like to be wedged between Judge and Stanton as a centerfielder, the former outfielder smiled and paid homage to the men he shared the outfield with from 1991 to 2006, including “The Warrior” Paul O’Neil, Hideki Matsui, and even Shane Spencer.
“It would have been incredibly great to have the opportunity to play with those two guys. But I think I have to be a little biased. I cannot change my guys that I had in my corner,” Williams said, with a flashy smile that beamed from ear to ear.
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