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Girardi gives thanks for family, food, football

High school quarterback loves the gridiron traditions of the holiday

NEW YORK -- Given Joe Girardi's current occupation, the Yankees manager might not be pleased if he heard that one of his players was lacing up to play Thanksgiving football, knowing the domino effect that one sharp cut or hard tackle could have for the future.

Yet Girardi knows that temptation all too well, and he was guilty of giving in on more than one occasion early in his career with the Cubs. For Girardi, the Thanksgiving holiday represents a time for his family to enjoy food and football, and it is not necessarily in that order.

"I used to love to play in the Turkey Bowl," Girardi said. "That was one of my favorite things to do. I knew that I shouldn't be doing it; I was a player at the time, when Kim and I were first married. I played in it every year. I absolutely loved it. I never got hurt, so I was OK."

Certainly, Girardi was fortunate -- one needs only to recall Aaron Boone's ill-fated 2003 game of pickup basketball to know how quickly an offseason can be altered. But the gridiron has always held a certain allure for Girardi, who stopped playing regularly after his senior year of high school.

"Football was my first love," Girardi said. "I was recruited by some small schools to play football. I was an option quarterback, but 5-foot-10 and 165-pound quarterbacks as a senior in high school don't go very far."

Pursuing baseball proved to be the right call for Girardi, given his 15-year career behind the plate and now a successful run in the dugout. A new three-year contract extension to continue as Yankees manager is certainly one of the things Girardi and his family will give thanks for this holiday season.

"When I think about Thanksgiving, I think about family and sitting around all together enjoying a wonderful meal," Girardi said. "For me, when I go back to being a kid, I think about my grandparents coming over and my grandma's three-inch pumpkin pie. She'd bring cinnamon rolls over for us in the morning, and we'd have a wonderful meal.

"We'd sit down and eat, and then we'd watch football in the afternoon. We'd go out and play some football in our front yard. There were four boys, so we'd go out and play football, which was very enjoyable. For me, it really had to do a lot with football and food, which are some of my favorite things."

Girardi said that when his own Thanksgiving dinner hits the table, his attention will probably focus immediately on the dark meat turkey legs. He'll also think about his late father, Jerry, who used to bring one of the feast's highlights each year.

"My father used to make something called a pretzel salad," Girardi said. "We used to laugh at it because it had nothing to do with salad. The pretzels were on the bottom, filled with butter to keep it together.

"There was strawberry Jell-O with fresh strawberries and cream cheese, and whipped cream mixed together on top. It was unbelievable. There was nothing salad about it. The fact that I was eating a salad that tasted so good, I loved it."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.
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