Yanks' Old-Timers' Day makes grand return

July 30th, 2022

NEW YORK -- No ice was required to ease creaky joints after the long-awaited return of Old-Timers’ Day to Yankee Stadium, though the participants may have appreciated some for a post-ceremony beverage. Thanks to the video highlights accompanying each entrance to the playing field, these Yankees are forever young.

, ,  and  were among Saturday’s headliners for the 12th Old-Timers’ Day at the current Yankee Stadium, and the first since 2019. The traditional three-inning exhibition did not take place, which the club said was because several invitees were physically unable to play.

“For some people, it’s great -- myself included,” Williams said with a laugh. “I’m about to go in for a [knee] procedure, so it would have been hard for me. It would not have been the best version of myself. But I’m looking forward to maybe next year. If I have better physical conditioning, I’m looking forward to making a fool out of myself.”

The Yankees have said that they hope to restore the exhibition game in 2023.

“For me, growing up as a fan of the game, collecting baseball cards of guys that played in the 1970s and ‘80s, this is kind of my childhood,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone. “Getting to see the guys that you don’t see all the time, and expanding it to guys that I played against or with -- to be able to pop out there and see the guys in their element and hear the old stories, it’s a lot of fun.”

The modified program had alumni mingle with current Yankees and coaches in Monument Park before their introductions to the crowd, performed by Michael Kay and John Sterling from behind home plate.

Yankees assistant hitting coach Hensley Meulens and former outfielder Shane Spencer moved across the outfield grass in their first Old-Timers’ Day appearances, while YES Network announcers David Cone and John Flaherty traded their microphones for pinstriped jerseys.

Spencer, whose eight September homers in 1998 (including three grand slams) made him a fan favorite and helped propel that club toward a franchise-record 114 wins, was among the alumni who said that he has been impressed by the 2022 team’s performance -- particularly Aaron Judge’s MVP-caliber season.

“This is the closest team that I’ve seen [to the 1998 club],” Spencer said. “I’m not talking about record-wise, but the camaraderie. They’re playing a little bit different than they have in the past. I know they’re hitting a lot of home runs, but there are times when a guy needs to move a runner over, they hit the ball the other way. That’s what has been missing for a long time.”

Also in attendance were the widows of four legendary Yankees -- Diana Munson, widow of Thurman Munson; Joan Ford, widow of Whitey Ford; Kay Murcer, widow of Bobby Murcer; and Jill Martin, widow of Billy Martin.

Other returning alumni included: Jesse Barfield, Ron Blomberg, Homer Bush, Rick Cerone, Chris Chambliss, Bucky Dent, Brian Doyle, Charlie Hayes, Graeme Lloyd, Gene Monahan, Jeff Nelson, Mickey Rivers, Luis Sojo and Roy White.

In a nod to the 45th anniversary of the Yankees’ 1977 World Series championship, Guidry tossed a ceremonial first pitch to Munson’s son, Michael.

“This is a beautiful stadium, state-of-the-art, but I don’t have memories here. Mine were across the street,” Guidry said. “I’m going, like, ‘It would have been nice to pitch in here.’ With the way that the stadium is made, it’s a little bit different, but you hear all of the cheering going on. It’s always a pleasure to come back.”