I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee

From the moment the Yankees signed me in 1963, I knew playing for the greatest sports franchise in American history would be a daunting challenge. But last weekend’s Old Timer’s Day, with a proper tribute to Willie Randolph and Mel Stottlemyre, made me think back to my first Old Timer’s Day at Yankee Stadium. It was 1966, I was a rookie pitcher, and already in awe of playing alongside greats like Mickey Mantle, Elston Howard, Whitey Ford, and Roger Maris (just to name a few). But if there was ever a day of epiphany for me, it was that first Old Timer’s Day that summer. The Yankees celebrated the 25th anniversary of their 1941 World Series win over the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the 25th anniversary of Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.
This was an incredibly amazing game, not just for the fans that packed the stadium, but for rookies like Bobby Murcer, Roy White, Dooley Womack and me. What the Yankee organization did that day was a two-inning game between the 1941 Yankees and the 1941 Dodgers. Joe McCarthy came back to manage the Yankee team, and Leo Durocher as the Dodgers skipper. So here I am, a 24-year-old kid, watching Red Rolfe and Lefty Gomez– who played alongside Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Red Ruffing, Earle Combs and Bill Dickey – play. It was the first time I actually saw Joe DiMaggio live in the batter’s box at Yankee Stadium. In case you’re wondering, DiMaggio hit a double off Whit Wyatt, scoring Phil Rizzuto from third. As DiMaggio famously said: “I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee.”

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