• This Day In Yankees History

    Posted by on August 1st, 2011 · Comments (4)

    August, 1st, 1973.  The Yankees are in a virtual tie for 1st place in the A.L. East with the Baltimore Orioles.  This could be it!  The year the Yankees make it back to the World Series.  Visions of a pennant are swirling around my 17 year old head.  Is G.M. Lee McPhail’s  much vaunted “Five Year Plan” finally paying off?  Does manager Ralph Houk have the right pieces in play?  Yes! Yes! Oh, please Mama, say “yes!”  It all made perfect sense.  After all, this was the teams last season at the real Yankee stadium and each Bomber proudly wore a 5o year commemorative patch on his home jersey’s right sleeve.  Why not close the Grey Lady down the same way the opened her back in  1923?  That would make for a most harmonic closure, wouldn’t it?

    Then came today’s game

    Wednesday, August 1, 1973 1:35PM, @ Fenway Park

    For those who want to cut to the chase, skip to the 9th inning, with  Thurman Munson on 3rd,  Gene Michael at bat and the score 2-2.

    A squeeze play gone bad.  A horrendous home plate collision.  A bench clearing brawl.  A double ejection (Munson and Fisk).  And finally a two out game winning hit in the bottom of the 9th off Sparky Lyle by the immortal Mario Guerrero.

    And that was it.  From that point on the Yankees would post the worst record in the A.L. East and finish the season in 4th place at 80-82.  Ralph Houk would retire, almost in tears, almost immediately after the team’s last game, after almost 11 years,  frustrated by season after season of “almost” but not enough.    Gone, too, was McPhail, the architect of the club’s supposed resurgence to the level of contender, his “Five Year Plan” a stunning failure.   And gone, long gone, was the erudite and polished (and, some would say, snobbish) Michael Burke, who as team president had made mediocrity a staple under the eight year aegis of CBS.  All three gone.  Yankee Stadium gone.  And what was left?  This Steinbrenner guy?  WTF could he do?    He didn’t have the experience of a Houk, the skills of a McPhail or the brains of a Burke.   All he had was money—and not a whole lot of it, to tell the truth—and arrogance.

    Well, it seems like only yesterday to me.  As I say, I was only 17 on 8/1/73.  But in many ways today is my 38th birth-day as a real fan.   It was the turning point in the season,  in the season when I came to consciousness, you might say.  It’s when I brushed away all the front office BS images from the Yearbooks, programs, and WPIX placebos circulating about  to see the real portrait “warts and all”  actually playing on the field—and learned to accept it and own it.

    And I suppose it all started on this day in Yankees history.

    Comments on This Day In Yankees History

    1. August 1st, 2011 | 2:37 pm

      Great post Jim.

      Funny, one week later, I went to my first ever Yankees game on 8/8/73. They showed some fight on that day.

      Looking at the stats, what really killed them was going 2-11 from 8/20 thru 9/4. That’s just a brutal two weeks.

      That put them from 3 games out to 11 games out in a blink of an eye.

    2. Raf
      August 1st, 2011 | 2:42 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      Great post Jim.

      Yes, I really enjoyed it.

      To make y’all feel old, this was before my time, I was born in 1974 :D

      Steinbrenner may have had money, but he also had the good sense to let the baseball people run the show. He had quite a few good guys working under him, starting with Gabe Paul.

    3. Raf
      August 1st, 2011 | 2:43 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      Looking at the stats, what really killed them was going 2-11 from 8/20 thru 9/4. That’s just a brutal two weeks.

      Yeah, that’s Mets collapse territory…

    4. August 1st, 2011 | 6:00 pm

      Jim, I know exactly what you mean. That year was really a landmark year for Yankee fans of a certain age. We were the folks who had experienced the team as a mediocre .500 club without having had the benefit of seeing the club in the glory years. It was the last year of the original stadium. It was the last year of Houk, MacPhail and Burke (who left at the beginning of the season). It was the year of the wife swap ((Peterson and Kekich). The two Alous (Matty and Felipe). The last year of the legend Horace Clarke starting at second. Yhe last weekend of the regular season featured Murcer in center, White in left, Clarke at 2nd, Mike Hegan at 1st and the last game at the old stadium was started by Fritz Peterson. All 5 of those players were signed and developed by the Yankees prior to MacPhail arriving. It gives you an idea of what an absolute failure he was as a GM.

      In those days, the typical Yankee roster moves/trades and involved picking up players approaching the end of their careers, waiver wire pick-ups and signing released players. The best trade the Yankees made under MacPhail was Cater for Lyle. The winter before the 73 season, was shocked that the Yanks had aquired Nettles. Nettles a very good player in the prime of his career. How could this be! Then the Yanks picked up Sam McDowell and Pat Dobson during the season, I couldn’t believe it. I thought we were set. I thought the team would actually win and then of course came August and September.

      That was some year.

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