Happy Aaron Boone Day!

What were you doing, and where were you doing it, 10 years ago today, October 16, 2003?

It was the night of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. Pedro Martinez vs. Roger Clemens. In his first game at Yankee Stadium since he tried to kill Don Zimmer, Pedro gets the hell booed out of him – and that’s a lot of hell. But the Sox take a 4-0 lead over the Yankees in the 4th, before Joe Torre lifts Clemens and brings in Mike Mussina. Making the first relief appearance of his career, Mussina stops the bleeding.

Jason Giambi hits 2 home runs to make it 4-2 in the 7th, but David Ortiz – not for the first time, and certainly not for the last (cough-steroids-cough) – hurts the Yankees by blasting a home run off David Wells. It’s 5-2 Yankees, and although I’m not much of a lip-reader, Wells appears to be yelling, “Fuuuuuuuuck!”

Pedro gets the first out in the bottom of the 8th, but then… Derek Jeter doubles. Then Bernie Williams singles, scoring Jeter to make it 5-3. Pedro is over the 100-pitch mark. From pitches 1 through 99, he throws like Sandy Koufax; from pitch 100 onward, he throws like Sandy Duncan. Red Sox manager Grady Little goes to the mound to remove Pedro…

No! He leaves him in! We got the headhunting son of a bitch!

Hideki Matsui hits a ground-rule double down the right-field line, moving Bernie to third. Well, now, for sure, Little has to pull Pedro. No, he stays in the dugout. He’s sticking with Pedro come hell, high water, mystique or aura.

Jorge Posada, the man that Pedro the Punk threatened with a fastball to the head in Game 3, hits a looper into short center, scoring the tying runs.

Just 5 outs from the Pennant, and the greatest victory the Red Sox would have since, oh, 1918, they have choked again.

Mariano Rivera pitches the 9th, 10th and 11th for the Yankees. He pitches the top of the 11th pretty much on courage alone. The Yankees need to win it in the bottom of the 11th, because the bullpen situation doesn’t look good.

Tim Wakefield, the knuckleballer who won Games 1 and 4 of this series, is on the mound. Leading off the inning is Aaron Boone, the Yankee 3rd baseman.

You know where I was at this moment? I was going from place to place watching the game, and I decided to get on the Subway and head up to The Stadium. Win or lose, I felt I had to be there. But the Subway was crawling, seeming to take forever. I forgot that it was after midnight. Frustrated, I got off at the 50th Street station of the A train.

Next thing I know, I’m standing in front of 220 West 48th Street, the Longacre Theatre. Do you know who built (in 1912) and owned this theater? Harry Frazee. The very man who broke up the Red Sox and sold off so many of their players to the Yankees, including Babe Ruth. What a place to be standing in as the Yankees and Red Sox battled for the Pennant.

In 1935, Clifford Odets’ play Waiting for Lefty debuted at the Longacre. Sox fans were still waiting for Alan Embree, the lefty that Little refused to bring in for Pedro.

It was 12:16 AM, actually October 17, 2003, but since the game started on the 16th, it goes down in history as October 16.
I had my headphones on, and on WCBS 880, I heard Charley Steiner say this:

“There’s a fly ball, deep to left! It’s on its way! There it goes! And the Yankees are going to the World Series! Aaron Boone has hit a home run! The Yankees go to the World Series for the 39th time in their remarkable history! Aaron Boone down the left field line, they are waiting for him at home plate, and now he dives into the scrum! The Yankees win it, 6-5!”

Together, Steiner and John Sterling yell Sterling’s tagline: “Ballgame over! American League Championship Series over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Yankees win!” Steiner: “I’ve always wanted to say that!”

 

The Longacre is at the northern end of Times Square. It sounded like a million car horns went off at once. People poured out of the restaurants and bars in the Square. People were slapping each other on the back, giving high five after high five.
 

By the time I finally got home at around 2 in the morning, my hair was soaked with sweat, my eyes were aching from being up too late, my voice was shot from screaming, my hands throbbed from shaking and high-fiving, my legs and feet throbbed from all the walking.

I’ve never felt better in my life.

Boone joined Tommy Henrich (1949 World Series vs. Brooklyn Dodgers), Mickey Mantle (1964 WS vs. St. Louis Cardinals), Chris Chambliss (1976 ALCS vs. Kansas City Royals), Jim Leyritz (1995 AL Division Series vs. Seattle Mariners) and Bernie Williams (Game 1 of ALCS in both 1996 and 1999) as Yankees who have hit walkoff home runs in postseason play.  And he joined Enos Slaughter (1946 Cardinals), Lou Boudreau (1948 Cleveland Indians), Bob Gibson (1967 Cardinals), Joe Morgan (1975 Cincinnati Reds), and, collectively, the 1978 Yankees (especially Bucky Dent) and the 1986 Mets as Red Sox postseason tormentors.

Jeter said, “We’ve got some ghosts in this Stadium.”

Fortunately, they made the trip across the street.

Clemens, Wells, and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre walk out to the Babe Ruth Monument, and offer the Big Fella some champagne. Clemens slaps the plaque on the tablet, and says, “He’s smiling! He’s smiling! He’s smiling, Mel!”

Grady Little was not smiling. He was fired as Sox manager within days.

The next day’s Daily News headline read, “THE CURSE LIVES.” For the Sox… once again, it was “Wait Till Next Year.”

No, no. Really. They meant it this time.

Has it really been 10 years? Wow. Only 1 player is still with the Yankees: Derek Jeter.  Still with the Red Sox: Only David Ortiz.

Boone got hurt in the off-season, leading the Yankees to trade for Alex Rodriguez. Injuries and a heart ailment ended his career after the 2009 regular season, after which he was an analyst on Fox’ postseason broadcasts as the Yankees won their first Pennant since his walkoff. He now works for ESPN.

A descendant of early American hero Daniel Boone, he is the grandson of 1950s major leaguer Ray Boone, the son of 1970s Phillies catcher Bob Boone, the brother of 1990s-2000s big-leaguer Bret Boone, the husband of Playboy’s Miss October 1998 Laura Cover), and the father of 2 children, neither of whom is anywhere near old enough to make the Boones MLB’s first 4-generation family. The David Bells — Gus, Buddy and David — didn’t beat them to being the first 3-generation, but 4-generation is still up in the air.

A lot can change in ten years.  We now have a black President, Twitter, YouTube, the Kardashians on TV, Snooki, NCIS, Castle, and Kevin Youkilis has become a Red Sock and a Yankee.

And we have seen the Red Sox win 2 World Series, breaking the Curse of the Bambino — and we have seen them exposed as dirty rotten cheaters, and continue to lie about it, meaning we can no longer chant, “NINE-teen-EIGHT-teen! (Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap),” but we can still write 1918*.

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Last Yankees to Wear the Numbers

Before they were retired, of course — or before the players for whom they were retired wore them.

I’m also including numbers that will be retired, or should be.

1 Bobby Murcer, CF, 1974. Retired for Billy Martin, 2B, 1950-57; MGR, on and off 1975-88.

2 Mike Gallego, SS, 1994. Will be retired for Derek Jeter, SS, 1995-present.

3 Cliff Mapes, OF, 1948. Retired for Babe Ruth, RF, 1920-34.

4 Lou Gehrig, 1B, 1939. Retired for him. Only Yankee ever to wear it.

5 Nick Etten, 1B, 1945. Wore it while Joe DiMaggio was serving in World War II. Retired for DiMaggio, CF 1936-51.

6 Clete Boyer, 3B, 1961-66 (previously wore 34); coach, 1988, 1992-94. Last player to wear it, Steve Sax, 2B, 1989-91. Will be retired for Joe Torre, MGR, 1996-2007.

7 Cliff Mapes, OF, 1949-51. Yes, the same guy who was the last to wear 3 before it was retired for the Babe. Retired for Mickey Mantle, CF, 1951-68.

8 Aaron Robinson, C, 1945-47. Retired for Bill Dickey, C, 1928-46; MGR, 1946; coach, 1949-60 (wore 33 then); and for Yogi Berra, C, 1946-63 (started out wearing 35); MGR, 1964 and 1984-85; coach, 1975-83.

9 Graig Nettles, 3B, 1973-83. Retired for Roger Maris, RF, 1960-66.

10 Rick Cerone, C, 1980-84 (and would later return and wear other numbers). Retired for Phil Rizzuto, SS, 1941-56; broadcaster, 1957-96.

15 Tom Tresh, LF, 1961-69. Retired for Thurman Munson, C, 1969-79.  Tommy Henrich, RF 1937-50 and a fantastic player, wore both 7 and 15, but neither was retired for him.

16 Ernie Nevel, P, 1950-51. Only wore it for 3 games before being sent down, wore 26 upon his return. Retired for Whitey Ford, P, 1950-67. (Wore 19 when he first came up, missed ’51 & ’52 seasons due to Korean War service, got 16 when he returned and never looked back.)

20 Mike Aldrete, OF, 1996.  Should be retired for Jorge Posada, C, 1995-2011 (wore a few numbers before 20).

21 LaTroy Hawkins, P, 2008.  Got booed for wearing it.  Switched to Roger Clemens’ 22, and was not booed for it.  Last player other than its eventual honoree to wear this number full-time was Scott Sanderson, pitcher, 1991-92. Will be retired for Paul O’Neill, RF, 1993-2001.

23 Don Zimmer, coach, 1983.  Last player to wear it, Barry Foote, C, 1981-82.  Retired for Don Mattingly, 1B, 1982-95; coach, 2004-07. (Wore 46 his first season.)

32 Ralph Houk, C, 1947-54.  (Wore 34 when he managed, 1961-63 and 1966-73.) Retired for Elston Howard, C, 1955-67; coach, 1969-80.

37 Bucky Harris, MGR, 1947-48.  Only 2 players ever wore it, both in 1946: Herb Karpel and Gus Niarhos.  Karpel pitched 2 games, on April 19 and 20, the extent of his major league career, and wasn’t even the greatest ’46 Yankee who went to Richmond Hill High School in Queens in the late 1930s — he was a teammate there of Rizzuto.  Niarhos, a backup catcher from Birmingham, Alabama, was also a rookie in ’46, but had a much longer career, sticking with the Yankees until 1950, winning a World Series ring in 1949, and last played in 1955 with the Philadelphia Phillies.  Retired for Casey Stengel, MGR, 1949-60.

42 Mike Brown, coach, 1994.  Last player to wear it, John Habyan, P, 1991-93.  Also worn by Jerry Coleman, 2B, 1949-57; broadcaster, 1963-70.  Retired for Mariano Rivera, P, 1995-2013.

44 Mike Ferraro, coach, 1991.  Mainly worn by coaches before Mr. October arrived.  Last player to wear it, Terry Whitfield, LF, 1975-76.  He also wore 51 long before Bernie, and went on to play 4 decent seasons with the San Francisco Giants, where he had to switch from 44 to 45 because of Willie McCovey.  Retired for Reggie Jackson, RF, 1977-81.

46 Terry Mulholland, P, 1994.  A very good pitcher, normally wore 45 in his career, but Danny Tartabull was then wearing that on the Yankees.  Will be retired for Andy Pettitte, P, 1995-2013.

49 Kerry Dineen, CF, 1975.  Wore it for 7 games, got sent down, returned the next season wearing 47, played 4 games, got traded to the Phillies, played 5 games with them, and that was it.  Retired for Ron Guidry, P, 1975-88.

51 Chuck Cary, P, 1989-91.  Will be retired for Bernie Williams, CF, 1991-2006.

You’ll notice I haven’t included Number 24.  Whether it is retired for Robinson Cano, already the greatest 2nd baseman in team history, largely depends on how this contract situation works out.  If he leaves, I don’t think it will be retired — not for Robbie, not for Tino Martinez, not for anyone else.

As for Number 13, for Alex Rodriugez, I don’t know.  But Roger Clemens’ 22 is still in circulation.

Then again, so are Lefty Gomez’s 11 and Allie Reynolds’ 22, and they have Monument Park plaques.  (Red Ruffing has a plaque, but his 15 is retired for Munson.) So are Waite Hoyt’s 11, Herb Pennock’s 16, Catfish Hunter’s 29, Dave Winfield’s 31 and Goose Gossage’s 54, and they’re in the Hall of Fame.  So are Lou Piniella’s 14, Willie Randolph’s 30, David Cone’s 36 and Hideki Matsui’s 55.  And none of those guys disgraced themselves the way A-Rod and Clemens did.