Remembering the ’96 Yankees

Author’s note: I started writing this during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. There was no basketball and MLB’s spring training was put on hold, so I was feeling nostalgic about sports.

I’ve been thinking a lot about some of my favorite baseball seasons. Number one, without a doubt, is 1996, the first year I was alive to see The New York Yankees win the World Series.

The ‘96 season started as a bit of a drag for me since it was the first season without Don Mattingly, who retired at the end of the previous season. But the bright side was that although the former Yankees captain had retired, the future captain, Derek Jeter, was entering his rookie season. Even before he took the field for the first game of 1996, you knew he was going to be special.

Tino Martinez, who was traded to the Yankees over the winter (then signed a 5-year, $20 million contract), replaced Mattingly. I was stoked about the acquisition as he was always a problem for the New York when he played for Seattle.

So dope.

There were a lot of highlights from that season. Here are a few that stand out for me:

I remember Doc’s no-hitter and remember being so psyched when, the following year, I bought a pack of Upper Deck cards and pulled a Doc Gooden card that showed him celebrating on his teammate’s shoulders.

I remember watching the ‘96 postseason religiously. I only missed a couple of day games due to familial commitments that can hamper a 13-year-old’s television schedule.

I remember buying a t-shirt with the interlocking NY that I planned on wearing during every game in the postseason. I’m not as superstitious as I was as a kid, but I SWEAR TO GOD this is true: There were two occasions I wasn’t able to wear the shirt: One was a social occasion that required more formal dress; the other was when the shirt was being washed and dried during the game. I know this sounds crazy, but they lost both times I didn’t wear the shirt! On the other hand, I also remember wearing the shirt for the first two games of the World Series, which the Yankees lost. Thus, I figured the t-shirt was now cursed and didn’t wear it again. Of course, they won the next four games, so IDK, man!

I remember the “Jeffrey Maier” homerun that Jeter hit against Baltimore and staunchly defending it against anyone who said it should have been an out (even though I knew he reached over the wall). As a more mature adult, I’ve come to accept that yes, Maier did reach over the wall, and it should have been an out. Either way, the Yankees were 10-3 against the Orioles that year, so they obviously were going to win anyway.

Sorry, Tony. Nobody beats the Wiz.

I remember Joe Girardi’s triple in Game 6 of the World Series that gave the Yankees a one-run lead (In the history of baseball, how many triples have catchers hit in the postseason?) I think Girardi had three triples in ’96.

I remember shaking and then spraying a can of Coke when Charlie Hayes caught the foul ball to seal the World Series win (I was wise enough as a 13-year-old to put a towel on the floor to mitigate some of the spilled soda. I didn’t want to get grounded for celebrating a World Series victory). I remember going to CVS (or was it Revco?) early the next morning to pick up a copy of the NY Post, New York Times, and the NY Daily News that had special commemorative editions of the Yankees victory. I kept them until my mother moved out of my childhood home, and I have no idea what happened to them.

It’s amazing that years later, I can still rattle off the entire roster and coaching staff for that particular season. I had the yearbook that was released before the season and read it so much that the pages started to come apart.

Something I actually didn’t remember and was surprised to see when I looked it up was Mariano Duncan’s batting average: .340. What??? Seriously, look at his Baseball-Reference page. Another interesting stat: Despite a .340 average, he only had a .352 OBP, which equates to only nine walks for the entire season.

And finally, although I remember being excited about the ticker-tape parade after their World Series victory, it was kind of a let down;  parades aren’t the same on TV, especially when it’s just people waving.