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Grand Old Time: Former Yanks have a ball

Posada, Tino and more take part in 71st Yankees Old-Timers' Day
MLB.com @BryanHoch

NEW YORK -- Jorge Posada tore open the envelope bearing a Yankee Stadium return address, read the enclosed invitation and smiled. With some urging from Tino Martinez, the former catcher was soon digging his glove out of storage for the 71st Yankees Old-Timers' Day.

"Tino said, 'You've got to come. It's been too long,'" Posada said. "I'm here because of Tino right now. I want to be here for the fans, that's No. 1. I think people are here now because they want to see us. The biggest thing is the fans. They want to see the old guys come around."

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NEW YORK -- Jorge Posada tore open the envelope bearing a Yankee Stadium return address, read the enclosed invitation and smiled. With some urging from Tino Martinez, the former catcher was soon digging his glove out of storage for the 71st Yankees Old-Timers' Day.

"Tino said, 'You've got to come. It's been too long,'" Posada said. "I'm here because of Tino right now. I want to be here for the fans, that's No. 1. I think people are here now because they want to see us. The biggest thing is the fans. They want to see the old guys come around."

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Tweet from @Yankees: A thread of Yankees greats that came out to the Stadium today ��We had Tino, Bernie, Jorge and The Warrior! pic.twitter.com/z4q2UFl0EP

Posada, who took his last big league at-bat in 2011, strapped on the gear to make his Old-Timers' Day debut on Sunday as the annual event continues to be handed off to fan favorites who donned the pinstripes in the 1990s. Posada is the first "Core Four" member to participate in Old-Timers' Day.

"You come in early," Posada said. "You want to see Reggie Jackson, you want to see Whitey Ford, you wanted to see Yogi [Berra]. You wanted to see the guys, say hi, maybe get an autograph. It is special for players also."

Tweet from @Yankees: Look who's here for his OTD debut! pic.twitter.com/XlKCvb9zgo

Nearly half of the participants in Sunday's festivities could claim ties to that not-so-long-gone decade, including David Cone, Paul O'Neill, Joe Torre and Bernie Williams.

"We're basically the only ones who can play in the game," Martinez said with a chuckle. "It's great to see Don Larsen, Whitey Ford, Ralph Terry and Hector Lopez; that's where it all started. It's fun to be around those guys."

Martinez recalled that when he was playing, the Yankees would share their dressing area with the Old-Timers. That always made for entertaining banter.

Tweet from @Yankees: Tino drives in Bernie! Just like 2001! (sort of)��������#OldTimersDay pic.twitter.com/O32QFBjGO0

"They would give us their opinions," Martinez said. "They would still watch the Yankees games and tell us, 'Oh, you're hitting the ball good, you should probably try to use your wrists and go to left field more.' They really paid attention."

The Yankees held a brief ceremony to honor newly minted Hall of Famer Tim Raines, who was a key contributor with the club from 1996-98. Raines was presented with a pair of seats from the original Yankee Stadium, and he will be inducted into Cooperstown, N.Y., late next month.

Tweet from @Yankees: Tradition. �������� pic.twitter.com/YaOUNs4yhN

"I think about it all the time," Raines said. "I think about my speech. I think about the induction itself. I think about the past, what it took for me to get to this point. It's unbelievable. It wasn't really a dream, but the reality is that much more special."

Raines said that he recently visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum as part of an orientation program, where he was permitted into an area that is off-limits to the public.

"My goal was to see Babe Ruth's bat and put it in my hands," Raines said. "I actually got an opportunity to do that. It was a great feeling. I didn't realize how big a bat that guy had. It wasn't that heavy, but it was a huge bat. As an ex-player, being able to do that was special."

This also marks the 40th anniversary of the 1977 World Series championship, a roster represented on Sunday by Bucky Dent, Ron Guidry, Jackson, Sparky Lyle, Willie Randolph, Mickey Rivers, Roy White, plus widows Helen Hunter, Jill Martin and Diana Munson.

"It feels like 100 [years]," Jackson quipped. "The best thing about it, I think, is when you're able to come back to Yankee Stadium with the rest of the great Yankees and be a part of it. It's a good feeling."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees