When Old Timers Aren't Really Old Timers

I treated myself today, or at least I thought I was doing that. But it turns out, history is catching up with me. Or maybe I should say I'm catching up with history.

It was Old Timer's Day at Yankee Stadium, and it was nothing like the throwback games I watched as a kid. There was no Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dickie, Whitey Ford, Elston Howard, Tony Kubek, Tony Lazari, Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin, Phil Rizzuto, or Casey Stengel. Or countless others.

But there were plenty of players that I knew, players that I watched in the 1970s as the Bombers reached three World Series in a row, players I watched in the learn years of the 1980s, and players from the resurgent years in the 1990s.

And, woe is me, even players from the early 2000s. I think that's the first thing that did me in.

Athletes are considered old before their actual "oldness" sets in, so I suppose there's that saving grace today. Yet I couldn't help it. I felt old.

When I was a kid, there was magic in the air every Old Timer's Day, which started in 1947. No professional sports team celebrates its past like the Yankees. The legends that the Yankees introduced and paraded onto the diamond in the 70s were all players I remember my father talking about. The stories he told were fascinating and the accomplishments of the players mindboggling.

I watched in awe as these players trotted around the field, as the pitchers lobbed the ball to the plate, and the batters lacked the thunder they once had. I watched as the crowd erupted for Mickey Mantle and all the chances the pitchers gave him to drive one last ball over the outfield wall.

The second thing was the appearance of Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, who's been out of the game just six seasons. The greeting he received was closest to the one Mantle received as he stroked several long line drives down the right-field foul line all those years ago.

Rivera threw hard when he pitched, he swung hard when he hit, and he ran the bases on a gapper that turned into an in-the-park home run.

Maybe I shouldn't feel so bad today, after all, because even the youngest guy on the field was an old timer. That's just the way sports work.


Image: From the Arizona Daily Star - Mickey Mantle, left, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Joe DiMaggio, and Casey Stengel