I’ve been watching baseball for a long time and I came to a sad conclusion about a year ago that I revealed to my dad: all of the baseball players of my childhood are nearly gone. Ken Griffey Jr. retiring is probably when this hit me the most, but recently I looked back at the New York Yankees from 1998, probably my favorite team all time and looked to see who is left. The results reminded me how things have changed.
The only three left from the Yankees teams of my childhood. Looking back at the 1998 roster, I see a lot of names that used to make me smile when I watched them take the field. I think of Chuck Knoblauch playing second until the yips led to an end to his time as an infielder as he found himself playing left field. The most memorable thing about him to me though wasn’t the yips or steroids, but watching him bat. Knoblauch had one of the strangest batting stances of any player I can remember. Sadly I couldn’t find any video or photos of his batting moving in the air, but it is something I will always remember. I guess it didn’t make much difference how weird his stance was, because he was doing what was important, hitting.
Bernie Williams probably was at the time and may always be my favorite New York Yankee of all time. Bernie always looked so cool and collected holding the bat. I remember reading about the Yankees considering trying to trade away Bernie for Albert Belle. I don’t think anything in sports would have made me more upset. Today I wish the Yankees had given him a better send off than they did. They gave him a spring training invitation but didn’t guarantee him a roster spot. Heck of a way to thank someone who helped you win three world series in a row huh, but mores discussion about that will have to be in another entry.
I remember reading about Orlando Hernandez (you probably know him as El Duque) in a book at a mall bookstore in Livingston, New Jersey. What most people remember about El Duque is the leg kick (see 3:44). Probably the most interesting thing about El Duque is his age, as different sources have him listed as having been born in 1969 and 1966 respectively. My dad used to joke that El Duque was probably eligible for social security.
Although he was never a player I really liked, I would be remiss to not mention Shane Spencer. 1998 was the year that Shane broke out, I mean the guy hit 10 homers in 27 games. It’s a real shame he couldn’t hit a curveball.
As much as I am sad to see the generation of baseball players I watched and admired growing up ride off into the sunset, for a lot of them it is time. The next generation of ball players will mean something special to another eight year old as he watches Robinson Cano help start a double play or Ryan Howard smack the ball out of the park.