Last night, I went out to dinner with three of my buddies. I’ve known two of them for a long time. If I had to guess, I would say that I’ve been friends with one of them for 34 years now and the other one for 32 years. The third fellow and I have been friends for at least 11 years – maybe a little longer. And, we’re all pretty close in age. During dinner, the topic of days gone by came up, and we started to reminisce about when we were back in Little League – bringing up names of old coaches and teammates, etc.
On the way home, I still found myself thinking about that part of the evening when it dawned on me: We were going pretty far back with that Little League conversation – somewhere around circa 1972. We’re talking about the days of Adam-12, Watergate, and Deliverance territory here.
For me, two things immediately came to mind: (A) That was a long time ago, and (B) I’m really old.
Then, I started to think about the 1972 Yankees. It was the last year where the team was owned by CBS. That season, the Yankees went 79-76 and finished in 4th place – 6 ½ games back of the first place Tigers. New York averaged 12,550 fans per home game back in 1972. (As you can tell from this photo from the last game at the Stadium in 1972, the Yanks were not exactly packing them in those days.) The best hitters on that Yankees team were Bobby Murcer, Roy White, Thurman Munson and Ron Blomberg. And, the best pitchers on the team were Steve Kline, Sparky Lyle, Lindy McDaniel and Fred Beene.
It’s amazing, while we were talking about those Little League memories, it didn’t seem like it was nearly three-eights of a century ago – but, it was. And, when you look back at the 1972 Yankees Yearbook (below) it seems like it was a thousand years ago. Further, looking at Yankeeland, circa 1972, and Yankeeland, today, it seems like they’re a million years apart – at least, after last night, now it does.
Being curious, I asked Lee Sinins of the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia “How many of the 1972 Yankees are still alive today?” Without knowing, I figured that most of the 36 players on that squad were still around. If Bobby Murcer, Felipe Alou, Gene Michael, Horace Clarke, Mel Stottlemyre, Ron Blomberg, Roy White, and Sparky Lyle were still around – which I knew to be true – most of that team was probably still around (according to my logic).
Then, Lee confirmed for me: “Everyone is alive except Thurman Munson, Johnny Callison and Celerino Sanchez.”
Wow. That’s pretty good – just about 92% of the 1972 Yankees are still with us. Maybe YES should do a reunion show on them (while so many are still here)? Since they were the last Yankees team “Before Steinbrenner” there is some uniqueness to them. People might be interested in seeing them assembled once again – and hear their stories be brought up to date. At the least, it sounds like something that four old guys sitting in a sports bar in Edison, New Jersey, on a Thursday night in late February might want to talk about it – along with other tales from the “old days.”