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Snow in Bronx evokes memories of '96 opener

Cancelled home opener reminiscent of start to magical season
MLB.com @MikeLupica

NEW YORK -- So much is already happening in baseball, and not even a full week of the regular season has passed.

Giancarlo Stanton hit a pair of home runs for the Yankees in Toronto, exploding onto the scene for New York before the club's bullpen exploded in a different way over the remainder of the weekend -- all the way through Justin Smoak's grand slam against David Robertson in the series finale. Joe Kelly lost a game for the Red Sox in the eighth inning of Boston's opener and then pitched the ninth inning on Sunday vs. the Rays, barely locking down the save.

NEW YORK -- So much is already happening in baseball, and not even a full week of the regular season has passed.

Giancarlo Stanton hit a pair of home runs for the Yankees in Toronto, exploding onto the scene for New York before the club's bullpen exploded in a different way over the remainder of the weekend -- all the way through Justin Smoak's grand slam against David Robertson in the series finale. Joe Kelly lost a game for the Red Sox in the eighth inning of Boston's opener and then pitched the ninth inning on Sunday vs. the Rays, barely locking down the save.

Joe Panik hit homers off the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen to propel the Giants to a couple of 1-0 wins. Shohei Ohtani made his Major League debut first as a hitter and then as a pitcher; and when he pitched, man, did he throw gas. Bryce Harper went deep after a fan yelled he was overrated. Matt Davidson went deep three times for the White Sox on Opening Day. The Tigers had a walk-off win against the Pirates and celebrated on the field at Comerica Park until replay overruled what would have been the winning run. Their new manager, Ron Gardenhire, got tossed after arguing the call. So, basically, the Tigers ended up both winning and losing on the same Opening Day.

Gabe Kapler, the Phillies' new manager, got so dizzy making pitching changes that he finally made one too many as none of his pitchers were warming up. The Marlins, who are in rebuild mode, beat the Cubs twice.

That was just in the first four days and nights of the season.

And when the Yankees were supposed to bring another baseball season back to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, it snowed in New York on the second day of April. We had seen everything else since last Thursday. Now we got a snow day in the Big Apple.

Yanks' home opener postponed to Tuesday

And because the rock-solid foundation of baseball is in its memories, Yankees fans immediately remembered another home opener; this one at the old Yankee Stadium when the club played through snow flurries all afternoon long and finally got a game off the Royals. The date was April 9, 1996. It was Joe Torre's first home game as the Yanks' manager. It was the April when Derek Jeter broke in his pinstripes, having already started his first game at shortstop in Cleveland. He batted ninth against Kansas City that day. Joe Girardi was the team's catcher. Andy Pettitte was the starting pitcher, and gave the Yankees six-plus innings.

Video: KC@NYY: Pettitte gets the win in snowy home opener

Those of us at the park that day had no idea what was beginning for Torre's Yankees, that this was the beginning of what -- at least for now and maybe forever -- was the last Yanks dynasty. We had no idea, in the pure fun of that snow day, that it was the beginning of four Yankees World Series championships in five years (and what ultimately came so close to being five in six seasons until the club experienced a reversal of fortune in the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 of the Fall Classic against the D-backs, in the shadow of September 11, 2001).

That season was the onset of Torre taking his place atop the list of greatest Yankees managers. It was the beginning of Jeter and the official introduction of the Core Four, even if Mariano Rivera wasn't the closer that year (it was John Wetteland). All of it began on that snow day 22 years ago.

Yankee Stadium was covered in snow on April 2

Michael Kay, television voice of the Yankees, was in the radio booth that day with John Sterling. I asked him Monday morning, when we all found out the first pitch of New York's home season wouldn't be until Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m. ET, what he remembered about the home opener in '96. The Yanks were on the verge of returning to dominance, even if we didn't know it at the time.

"I remember that it wasn't that unpleasant," Kay said. "It had a real innocent feel to it and I don't recall it being that bitterly cold in the booth. The best way I could put it was that Pettitte looked like he was in the middle of a snow globe that some kid shook. My forever image is Andy peering from under the brim of his cap trying to look through the snow to get the sign. I thought it was cool."

It was the start of everything, for Torre and Jeter, Pettitte and Jorge Posada, Paul O'Neill and Rivera. It was a great season, one that later included the story of Torre's brother, Frank, getting a heart transplant while the team was making its postseason run; as Torre, after such a long baseball life, both as a player and manager, was finally going to reach the World Series. He was the Brooklyn kid who would finally make it from the upper deck at the old Yankee Stadium -- where he had watched Don Larsen's perfect game against the Dodgers in the 1956 Fall Classic -- to win it all.

"It certainly was the start of a great season," Kay said. And it was.

It's funny looking back, because even though the Yankees made it back to the postseason the year before under Buck Showalter -- losing a memorable and dramatic five-game series to the Mariners -- the expectations weren't as sky-high that April as they are for the 2018 Yanks despite all the early injuries they have suffered all over the field.

Go back and look at some of the pictures from April 9, 1996. My friend Michael Kay is right. It did look like a snow globe that day. And maybe that is fitting. We gave the globe another shake Monday, and memories suddenly started swirling around for Yankees fans. Some snow days, clearly, are more fun than others.

Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com.

New York Yankees