NY Yankees Old-Timers Day 2022: Should the game return?

NEW YORK — Bernie Williams received the loudest standing ovation from Yankees fans on Alumni Day, as the event last held in 2019 made its post-pandemic return to the Bronx on Saturday.

But Williams’ introduction, replete with chants of “Ber-nie, Ber-nie”, ended the festivities – rather than the traditional Old-Timers game.

“COVID kind of took its toll on this whole storyline,” Williams said as the Yankee legends met the media at Monument Park. “Maybe around this time next year we’ll be in a better position to have a game.”

The question arose on sports radio and social media this week: what’s the point of having an alumni day without a match?

A large percentage of former Pinstripes said they would like to see the game return. They were also grateful for the meeting held before Game 3 of the Yankees-Royals weekend series.

“I really missed alumni day,” former Yankees captain Willie Randolph said. great for all the guys to be recognized.

This was done with highlights on the Yankee Stadium video board and intros from the team‘s radio (John Sterling) and television (Michael Kay) play-by-play announcers.

July 30, 2022;  Bronx, NY -- Yankees alumni pose for a photo during the Alumni Day ceremony before a game between the New York Yankees and the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner - USA TODAY Sports

The alumni game “doesn’t matter to me, but I think the most important thing for me is being able to see the guys,” said Charlie Hayes, popup catcher who clinched the World Series title 1996 in New York.

“There are a lot of guys here who were my heroes,” Hayes added. “And to get to come here – I look for it, I mark it on the calendar every year. Some of these guys I haven’t seen since 2019, so it’s always been a special moment for me.

It was very special for Hayes’ 1996 teammate Graeme Lloyd, who lives in his native Australia and hadn’t ventured to America since last Old-Timers’ Day.

“I’m enjoying every moment,” Lloyd said.

A quick review

July 30, 2022;  Bronx, NY -- Former Yankees pitcher Ron Guidry throws out a ceremonial first pitch during the Alumni Day ceremony before a game between the New York Yankees and the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner - USA TODAY Sports

When the game was last played, Mariano Rivera made his debut and not only closed the game on the mound (as expected), but also hit a home run inside the park (unscripted). Rivera was originally scheduled to appear on Saturday, but plans have changed.

“I think the fans like to see the game,” Williams said. “They like to see old people making fun of themselves and not taking themselves too seriously.”

Some of the “old guys” have more in the tank than it looks. Ron Guidry, 71, threw the ceremonial first pitch (and feigned shoulder pain after his delivery bounced home) and often took the hill for the traditional game between the Bombers and Clippers.

“It gets a little harder every year,” the Louisiana southpaw admitted. “You’re going to have to start bringing in the younger guys to make it a game.

“But we hope it will come back,” Guidry said. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Step by step

July 30, 2022;  Bronx, NY -- Jill Martin, widow of Billy Martin, takes a photo of Joan Ford near the Monument Park plaque of her late husband, Whitey Ford.  Saturday marked the New York Yankees alumni's first day since the death of Whitey Ford in October 2020.

Even without the exhibition contest, Guidry and catcher-turned-host John Flaherty noted that Alumni Day’s return was an important “first step” in getting back to normal.

“It’s a little different from what we’re used to,” said Flaherty, a graduate of St. Joseph Regional in Montvale. “The biggest part of it for us is getting together with everyone. The second best part is getting back out there and realizing your body isn’t working like it used to – things are a lot slower.

The latter must wait at least another year. Williams hopes the next iteration of the game will arrive sooner rather than later.

“As I get older, I know I’m going to have a little window before I can’t do it anymore,” said the 53-year-old former centre-back. “So I will always be happy to have the opportunity to do that for as long as I can.”

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