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5/03/2007 05:32:00 PM
Yankees' Most Embarrassing Moments
The Boss has seen his share of missteps in New York.
By John Rolfe, SI.com
OK, Yankee-haters. Time to pile on the team you love to loathe.
Speaking as a lifelong Yankees fan, I sense the usual elation out there about the fact that the proud Bronx Bombers floundered out of the gate and became the factory outlet for hamstring pulls and pricey glass-armed pitchers. The expected rumblings from Mt. Steinbrenner (via Howard Rubenstein) have been heard, the strength and conditioning coach has been sent to Siberia, and Joe Torre and Brian Cashman are applying some lemon oil to their resumes. Did I mention that the team's streak of 12 postseason appearances looks just a tad dicey at the moment?
For this pinstriped partisan, I know the Yankees have had dog-butt starts in the past and recovered to annoy their denigrators by reaching the postseason, so this is hardly the most mortifying of times. But the price tag attached to being the most storied and successful franchise in pro sports is that the team's failures and foul-ups are often as colossal as its triumphs. I accept that defeat is to be expected on a fairly regular basis, but there have been a few -- OK, much more than a few -- moments that were real lulus: showcases of rank humiliation that left me gouging my watering eyes while the armies of despisers chortled and danced in gleeful celebration.
Here are my top five most embarrassing moments of the Steinbrenner Era:
1. Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS ... The epic El-Fold-O in this series against the Red Sox featured A-Rod's infamous slap of Bronson Arroyo's glove in Game 6 and was capped in the decisive game when the Yanks had to use not a rock-ribbed embodiment of clutch guts and pinstriped pride as their starter, but the fading Kevin Brown. Bloated of contract, creaky of back and cranky of nature, the reviled right-hander had the sawdust beat out of him in less than two innings. The crowning blow: Johnny Damon's grand slam that put Boston up 6-0. The Yankees went with a whimper as the Red Sox emphatically shook off The Curse of the Babe -- in The House That Ruth Built, yet -- by the final score of 10-3.
2. Howie Spira ... George Steinbrenner's ongoing effort to run Dave "Mr. May" Winfield out of New York on a gold-plated rail reached the depths of childish desperation in 1989. The Boss paid weedy, two-bit gambler Spira $40,000 for dirt on the slugger, who had sued Steinbrenner for failing to fork over a promised $300,000 to the Winfield Foundation. Spira ended up cooling his run-down heels in the jug for 2-1/2 years after trying to extort an additional $110,000 from the Yankees. The silver lining: Steinbrenner was suspended from baseball for life (later reduced to two years), thus giving Bob Watson and Gene Michael some unfettered time to rebuild the floundering team into a contender.
3. Steinbrenner vs. the elevator ... As the Yanks were squandering a two-games-to-none lead in the '81 World Series, the pugnacious Boss claimed to have gone a heavyweight round with two Dodgers fans in the elevator of his team's hotel in L.A. after watching their defeat in Game 5. Steinbrenner emerged with a fat lip and a busted hand, claiming to have given the pair the what-for, but the fans were never seen. Nor was Dave Winfield's bat (1-for-22 in the Series) as the Yankees fell in six, prompting a public apology to New York from The Boss -- for his team's failure to win the Series.
4. Billy Martin vs. Ed Whitson ... Martin's five stints as manager -- among Steinbrenner's 18 hirings-and-firings in his first 18 seasons -- were increasingly preposterous. This wild, liquored-up knucklefest in the bar and hallway of Baltimore's Cross-Keys Inn between the fiery skipper and the wild-eyed hurler who loathed him (and was too spooked to pitch at Yankee Stadium) typified the madness of the 1985 season -- one in which Martin inexplicably ordered lefty-hitting Mike Pagliarulo to bat righty during a crucial stretch-drive game in Detroit (Pagliarulo whiffed). Brawls were nothing new to Martin, but the sight of him in the dugout with his arm in a sling was beyond pathetic.
5. Indians batter Bombers ... There are defeats, and then there are defeats. On Aug. 31, 2004, the Indians rang up 22 hits while waxing the Bombers 22-0 before a hooting, jeering crowd at Yankee Stadium -- the most lopsided loss in the team's 101-year history, administered while New York's lead over Boston in the A.L. East was shrinking from 10-1/2 games to 3-1/2. "It's obviously embarrassing," was the post-game mantra in a clubhouse vacated by captain Derek Jeter before the newshounds were allowed in.
OK, now it's your turn. There are plenty more moments to choose from in the team's rich compost of indignity. Which five, in your opinion, did you relish most? (If you're a Yankees fan, send me your list of the five that left the most egg on the team's face.)
A couple of counterpoints. First of all, I am sure the Yankees won the series with Cleveland, despite the 22-0 loss. Second, while blowing the 2004 ALCS to the hated Red Sox was tough. Is it really much different than being up 2-0 and losing four straight, which has happened numerous times. Sure each game was a possible clincher, but it was still one game at a time. Any team can lose or win four straight baseball games. They may have choked a little, but really they just lost three hard fought games and the got routed in game seven. Embarrassing perhaps, but not the monumental choke is is made out to be.
While the items on the list may be embarassing, they are mostly because of Steinbrenner. How about a list of all the great Yankee moment. I guess it would take too long to compile.
We all know the Yankees are overpaid, overhyped and over the hill. Basically they suck and the only reason they made the run they did in the 90's was because of Stenie's ban. When the team was allowed to build from within they won. BTW...When was the last time you guys won a championship, I am so tired of this BS we have won 26 W.S. Crap...WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY????????
How about a few counter-counterpoints? 1. Losing 22-0 to the indians was still mighty embarassing, even if you take the other 2 games of the series. 2. The 2004 ALCS was the greatest collapse in sports history, not just a good team losing 4 in a row. Remember, the Yanks blew out the Sox in game 3 19-8, setting numerous offensive post-season records. 3. Choking a little would be losing 2 or 3 games yet still pulling out the series, blowing all four clinchers was the ultimate choke job by which all others will now be measured. 4. The Yanks haven't been the same since.
The one thing I remember from the Billy Martin era is a game where he removed Reggie Jackson after he was already on the field. He had not hustled the inning before on a single to right, but then when he went to his postion, Paul Blair came out and replaced him. Blair should have started the inning, it was just Billy showing Reggie Jackson up. Reggie went into the dugout when in front of the cameras they proceeded to yell at each other.
Can we please stop talking about the 2004 season? As a fan of the game who roots for neither the Yankees or Red Sox (nor do I hate either team), I find the constant re-living of that year absolutely nauseating. There are plenty of good stories to tell to the general fan that do not include Boston and New York if you lazy writers at SI (taking your cue from ESPN no doubt) would just care to do some actual reporting.
What's with the counterpoint discussion? Enjoy the article and add to the topic at hand, if you like. Don't be a pissed off corporation (yankee) fan and feel the need to counterpoint it. I'm digging the 6 years of no championships with over a billion dollar spent. Total futility!
First of all 2004 is the most embarrassing moment in Yankee history, but one fact that is forgotten about 2004 is that the Red Sox were the ones who almost choked. The rotation the Yankees put out on the field for the series was an embarrassment in itself. Kevin Brown, Jon Lieber, and Javier Vasquez? The Sox were so scared of history repeating itself they got manhandled in the first three games. Then they realized that the Yankees had no pitching after Mussina and nobody in the bullpen beside Rivera(and who cares if he blew the saves he was still light years better than anyone else in that bullpen). The Red Sox are the ones who should have been looking to sweep in game 4 not the Yankees.
Televised images of George pouting in owners box wearing blue blazer and old yellowed mock turtle whenever Red Sox kick his butt. The man is the epitome of a blunt instrument. No finesse, no real understanding of baseball. Want a championship? Go out and buy one! And he can't even get that right!! Ha Ha Ha!
It's not quite "embarrassing" but I've always enjoyed knowing that Frank Sinatra wasn't a Yanks fan (Brooklyn Dodgers, even when they moved to LA) but they still play him over the loudspeakers all the time, claiming Old Blue Eyes as one of their own.
Also, knowing that Babe Ruth, for all he did, ended his career in a Boston Braves uniform.
And here's embarrassing: THEY'RE TEARING DOWN YANKEE STADIUM!!!
Allow me to clear up a few things (I am a true Yankee fan). 1. 2004 will live forever among Red Sox fans because it is the only time in history they did not choke (and won a world series), it is their only bright spot - let them enjoy it. 2. Yankees are the greatest franchise in the history of human organised sports. Do not argue, their championships and pennants speak louder than you saying "payroll" 3. Yankees can AFFORD their payroll because they win, if you do not like it - just beat us. 4. Yogi not showing up for 14 years was disgusting 5. Has everyone forgot about the greatest and most famous athletes of the generations? Babe Ruth, Lou Gerhig, Joey D, Mickey, Mr. October, Mr. November, Mr. May??
Love us or hate us, you cannot help but talk about us. Why? Because we are everything you are not and will never be. Talk about the pine tar Kansas City (its the only thing you can talk about in 22 years!)
Overpaid? If the players do not get the money the owner just pockets it (as with most MLB teams) so knucklehead, who deserves the millions the guys who play the games or the guy who pays them? (this is the same as saying Wal-Mart employees are overpaid and that the CEO should get paid more, relate out your arguement into terms you may actually understand)
Overhyped? They have made the playoffs for a decade straight with 4 world series, yep they are overhyped. (Re-read for response to what have you done for me lately)
Royals havent won a world series in 22 years, Tampa Bay never has, Blue Jays have not won a world series since 92? Red Sox 1 championship in 86 years, Cubs are pushing the century mark, It has been a decade since the Braves have won the world series, the Dodgers have not won the world series in 15 or more years. Someone was saying something about what have you done for me lately. As you were saying my ignorant friend...
Anonymous said... We all know the Yankees are overpaid, overhyped and over the hill. Basically they suck and the only reason they made the run they did in the 90's was because of Stenie's ban. When the team was allowed to build from within they won. BTW...When was the last time you guys won a championship, I am so tired of this BS we have won 26 W.S. Crap...WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY????????
YMy most embarassing moment related to the yankees was the fact the Patriot fans chanted Yankees suck during their first Super Bowl parade...i found it pretty lame that a city was so consumed with one team that even when its football team won the super bowl they were consumed by the Yankees...you go to NYC and no one gives two hoots about the sox...they're just another team
If it wouldn't be for all those DAMN RINGS, I wouldn't give these stories the time of day. What have the Red Sox won in their last 100 years? One major ring, but...one nonetheless. Whe n you're in a higher league than all the rest, you're a target. Get used to it Yankee fans.
This isn't even a remotely serious question. The Yankees choking in the 2004 ALCS is the most embarrassing moment for ANY team in the history of US organized sports.
Go back and look at the box scores and the video: the Yanks had the Sox on the ropes on more than one occasion and couldn't finish the job. Hell, they lost twice in a row at Yankee Stadium, something that last happened in the '20s.
Yankee fans can whine all they want about their championships. (Many of them came when MLB was in the toilet and the other teams could barely keep afloat.) They still have to live with the shame of screwing the pooch on national TV FOUR TIMES IN A ROW.
The most embarrassing moments in Yankee history, are when "Yankee fans" start to cry and whine, when their team gets off to a bad start, or hits a slump.... I am a lifelong Yankee fan, but its still childish to go off so quickly, demanding the manager gets fired, or second guessing whether someone should have bunted, or swung away.
"Yankee fans" moan about George firing managers all the time, and as soon as things get tough in NY, the first thing these clods do, is demand that the manager be fired.
I am quite sure, that the Yankee players, the Red Sox players, and all of the rest of the league, get along just fine, and more or less respect each other, and each team. Its the idiot fans, who make it so darn hard to care about the game anymore.
The chant should not be "Yankees suck" or "Red Sox suck" so much as it should be Yankee and Red Sox fans, suck.....
Good grief folks, get a life, and just enjoy baseball for what it is. Its not supposed to be your sole reason for living, nor the source of your personal self esteem....
Number 5: Billy Vs. Reggie Number 4: The 80's. Number 3: Passing up on Dice-K but taking Igawa. Number 2: Having you're owner BANNED from the league. Number 1: Having George Costanza work for you're team
I think you Yankee fans are living through one of the most embarrassing moments in team history right now as we speak. Cashman's complete failure to pay attention to anything to do with pitching during the off-season has put you in a hole so deep, that I'm not sure even the Rocket can get you out of. I don't think A-Rod will continue on his current pace, and when he finally fizzles out, what's left? The names are not living up to their salaries this year, nor in the past few years. Without pitching, you're dead in the water.
As or 2004, only one thing made the difference: Emotion. The Sox had it, and the Yanks didn't. Once the Yankees are allowed to express emotion, they might have a chance again. Until then, they will remain high paid robots that continue to fall. Trust me on this, George, let Damon grow his hair again, and you might find success. Let your team be themselves, and you might give them the chance to be the players you paid for. It was their magic on other teams that made you take notice of them in the first place, right? Until you allow for their individualism, you will continue to please Red Sox fans like myself. You have the equivalent of the AL All star team every year, but still fall on your faces. Why do you think that is, anyway?
One more thing: Someone else already brought it up, but I'll say it again...Farm Team! Take a trip down to the AAA and you might be surprised at what you see. There's no balance in going out and buying the highest priced team every year. Take a peak at your up and comers, and see what can happen when you actually let them develop. Give them a little hope in actually making the team, and you may see a difference.
Ok, that's all the help I'm gonna give. As of today, we still have a 5 1/2 game lead to protect.
Actually the Red Sox have two rings and so do the White Sox and Cubs in the last 100 years. Rin on other teams all you want, just make sure you have your facts straight. Otherwise it makes you either look stupid or look like a bandwagon jumper. Neither bodes well for the image of a Yankee fan.
I think I have to agree with an earlier poster though, tearing down Yankee Stadium will be by far their most embarrassing moment. It is one of three iconic shrines left within the game and one of the places a true baseball fan puts on his or her to do list along with attending a game at Fenway and Wrigley. Once the park is gone, there is no reason for a non-New York baseball fan to attend a game in New York.
In general, most Yankee fans of today are an embarassing moment. They are way too spoiled. Spoiled in a way that you have not lived as a Yankee fan when you had to root for such Free Agent busts such as Steve Kemp, Steve Trout, Britt Burns, Roy Smalley, Ed Whitson, Andy Hawkins, Butch Wynegar, Doyle Alexander....The Signing of Brien Taylor..Supposedly one of the best pitching prospects in history...Signs his contract and then gets in a fight and destroys his shoulder so bad that he never pitches an inning in the Majors...How about Relief Pitcher Dave LaRoche throwing Lob Balls into Brewer Basher Gorman Thomas because the game is so out of hand...You can just go on and on with these moments.....
Come on Yankee fans...get off your high-horse. Yes...your organization has set the standard for winning. But we aren't talking about the roaring 20s, 30s, late 90s, etc etc etc. We are talking about today's Yankees and what they have done lately which is...nothing!?
2001-biggest payroll in baseball loses to the Diamondbacks in WS 2002-biggest payroll in baseball loses to Angels 2003-biggest payroll in baseball loses to Marlins in WS 2004-biggest payroll in baseball loses to RED SOX in memorable series 2005-biggest payroll in baseball loses to Angels 2006-biggest payroll in baseball loses to Tigers
I work for an airline and decided to catch a Yankees game in August of '04. It happened to be the night the Indians pounded them 22-0. I arrived late to the park, as I figured it would be the ninth inning or so. When I got off the train, fans were flocking out, and I was sure it was over until someone said it was still in the 6th inning. I bought a ticket for $5 and was shocked to find true what I'd heard. What was funny was hearing the Yankee fans cheer for the Indians as they pounded Esteban Loaiza in the 9th for the coup de grace.
For the person who said Don Zimmer getting ASSAULTED by Pedro, you are a terrible person and awful for saying that. That was one of biggest dirty moves I've ever seen and Pedro should have been charged with assault and arrested for attacking an 80 year old man. Yeah, real classy. Just like Pedro and the SoX. A bunch of IDIOTS.