Although I do think you’re all that and a bag of chips, this is not a fan letter. This is a thank you note. I’ll be heading to the stadium later (I almost said “new” but I think by now it’s just “stadium”) for my first live game of the summer, and I just wanted to post a note to say thank you to the Yankees, so I decided to send it to you in your capacity as the Captain of the team.
Although certainly the Yankees are the team that everyone loves to hate, and I certainly can’t speak to all that pent up fan anger here, I must tell you that the Yankees have colored so many memories of my life that I can’t imagine a reason to be down on the team.
My mother’s father, my grandfather, was a dedicated Yankees fan. Although he died more than 25 years ago, I can still close my eyes and hear his voice imitating Phil Rizzuto’s “Holy Cow!” calls as part of the play-by-play announcing team. I can still see him waving his hand at the tv and muttering, “those bums,” at the players — but knowing that he didn’t mean any of it. My mother’s mother, who died when my mother was barely into grade school, was also a committed fan. And although I never knew her, I have heard from my mother and my aunts that she would be stationed at the ironing board some afternoons when they got home from school, ironing and watching the Yankees. If that’s not a little bit Norman-Rockwellian, I don’t know what is.
I am notorious for my terrible memory — have almost no recollections of childhood or college until I’m prompted with details by someone else — but I can clearly remember my younger brother sitting in front of the tv, watching his Yankees, with his glove on his hand when the Yankees were in the field, and his batting helmet on his head when the Yankees were up.
And now I’ve got boys of my own: one son who’s become a Yankee fan with all that seemingly innate knowledge of Yankees’ history, and a husband who didn’t grow up in this country (didn’t even grow up as a baseball fan) and continues to learn the nuances of the game and the Yankees’ history every season. We go to games, we talk about players, we talk about statistics, we talk about rules.
So, thank you. Why? Well, of course those memories are nice but what strikes me when I think about the team is not the winning and losing percentages (they’re nice too) but rather an overall feeling of what’s right with character, tradition and history — things that are contradictory to what we experience today with a cult of celebrity. Yes, Boss Steinbrenner is no longer in charge over in the Bronx, but I hope that his simple rules about appearance and professionalism remain unchanged. Yes, steroids have sullied the game, and the Yankees are not immune. But Yankees are not punching out their girlfriends’ fathers in the family clubhouse. Yankees are not being accused of rape in a Southern college bar. Yankees managers are not throwing chairs at players.
Instead, the Yankees attend to the business of baseball. They attend to family — writing books about their children’s struggles childhood disorders, returning to their Latin American roots to make their countries better. They attend to community, standing tall with NY and the world during the days and months (and years) after 9-11. Televising the 7th inning stretch tradition of Kate Smith’s God Bless America (instead of cutting to commercial). They attend to their history, honoring their past with Monument Field and Old Timers’ Day (perhaps the only team in baseball to continue the Old Timers’ tradition).
It’s easy to be a Yankee fan. I get that, but I’m not sure why that should be a problem — win or lose, you guys are a collective class act.* Thank you for that. Better my children emulate you, or Rivera, or Posada, than The Situation, Tiger Woods, or Ben Roethlisberger.
I’ll see you later. I’ll be on the first base side, wearing a Yankees jersey.