Thursday, March 27, 2008

Pretty Cool Memories

The Journal News put their 2008 baseball preview online, and a big theme involves the demise of both Shea and Yankee Stadiums. A few of the articles that jumped out at me:

- The Stadium timeline.
- An oral history.
- Peter Abraham's top 10 games played there.

I will admit that I think Pete missed quite a few but I won't quarrel with him. The article though that grabbed me the most was this one, gathering the thoughts of players with local ties. Brian Heyman caught up with Ralph Branca, Ken Singleton, John Flaherty, and Mahopac's own Dave Fleming, who graduated with a future broadcaster/blogger in 1987.
"Growing up, I always thought I was a hitter, like most pitchers do," Fleming said. "Bobby Murcer was my idol growing up, so I always pictured myself hitting at Yankee Stadium and playing first base."

The former Mahopac High standout ended up pitching there during his major-league run from 1991-95, going 3-0. He got to wear a Yankees uniform late in his career in an unsuccessful bid in 1998 to make the team during spring training after rotator-cuff trouble had thrown him off course.

Fleming will always remember his first time working on the mound in the Bronx, starting for Seattle just before the All-Star break in 1992, when he was on his way to a career-high 17 wins.

"I remember a lot of people being there from Mahopac," said Fleming, now a 38-year-old fifth-grade teacher who works and lives in Connecticut. "There were two banners hanging up with my name on it, which you usually didn't see for an opposing player at Yankee Stadium. I think I got one out in the ninth and I gave up a hit and they took me out.

"I got to walk off the mound with a 5-2 or a 4-2 lead. So that was kind of neat to just hear some people clapping. Some people had walked down to the dugout, screaming out my name. It was a lot of pressure because I didn't want to let everybody down, but it was also a lot of fun."
Dave's memory is pretty good - he left with a 5-2 lead with one out in the bottom of the ninth after Robert Kelly singled. I was there that night, and it was the first time that I ever gave an opposing player any kind of ovation. By the way, I also flew out of my seat when Danny Tartabull hit a bomb to dead center off of Flem ( A Yankees fan to the end, I suppose). Still, I was pretty proud to see a classmate who I shared the same favorite player with, and talked with him about that, on the mound at the most hallowed place in sports.

I saw a lot of my old school friends that night, and despite our love of the Yankees, we knew that they were probably going nowhere that season, so letting a local guy beat our team wasn't the worst thing that could ever happen.

The box score for the game is here. It makes me ill to look at it (from a Yankees perspective).

I hit against him in our town leagues, and he owned me most of the time, but I recall getting a hit against him...once.

Good memories there.

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