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  • Writer's picturePaul Semendinger

Perspectives: Old Timer's Day 2023

By Paul Semendinger

September 15, 2023

*** I was away over the weekend, so I didn't see Old Timer's Day until after the fact.


I was going to run this article earlier in the week, but other Yankees news took priority.


***

I think Old Timer's Day is one of the Yankees' best traditions. This is a day when the former stars come back to the stadium for the fans to cheer and root for again. It's a special day. Old Timer's Day connects generations of fans. It allows for fans and the media to relive stories and moments (great or otherwise) from the past. It's fun. It's a celebration. It's special.


But, like so much with the Yankees of today, Old Timer's Day seemed perfunctory. It was lacking. There was an emptiness to it.


Rather than doing things first class (which used to be the way the Yankees were defined), the Yankees seemed to take the easy way out. The event was lacking in so many ways. When you cut corners, it shows, and as typical with the Yankees of today, corners were cut - and it showed. A lot of the joy and the majesty from what Old Timer's Day used to be are now gone. These traditions are gone not because they cannot be done, but because that's the way the Yankees do things now. They could bring a lot of the good feelings back, but I doubt they will.


Among the things that bothered me the most were the following:

  • Old Timer's Day used to be the day when all the great Yankees would be back, or at least most of them. This year, a host of great Yankees were missing. Graig Nettles, a former captain, wasn't there. Rickey Henderson, Goose Gossage, Reggie Jackson, Mike Mussina, Wade Boogs, and Dave Winfield - all Hall of Famers who spent significant time with the Yankees were not there. Jim Kaat, Randy Johnson, Lee Smith, and Ivan Rodriguez are all also Hall of Famers who were Yankees, if only briefly. None of them were there. MVP's Alex Rodriguez and Don Mattingly weren't there. Cy Young Award winners Sparky Lyle and Roger Clemens weren't there. Rookie of the Years Tony Kubek and Dave Righetti weren't there. Old Timer's Day was a time when the Yankees demonstrated their greatness over decades. It was amazing to see so many stars, champions, award winners, and more. This year, as in recent years past, too many, far too many, were missing.

  • It seems, from my perspective, that the Yankees play favorites with their former stars. If the organization is pleased with a player, he gets invited back. If not, they simply ignore that player. Why are so many stars and greats missing? Who makes those decisions and why? The fact that so many plays seem uninvited, or at least missing, makes the franchise seem petty. Like so much with the Yankees of today, it's a bad look. The stars, the greats need to be there. There was a time when it would be unheard of for so many former greats not to be there. What changed? Do the former stars not wish to be at Yankee Stadium? If that's true, why is that? Whatever the reasons these players are missing, this is a problem the Yankees need to rectify.

  • The Yankees always take time to remember the members of their family who passed away at Old Timer's Day. This is very appropriate. But why do some players have to wait until they die to be recognized by the Yankees at the event? There is a long list of former Yankees that are still living and are over 85-years-old, why can't they be mentioned? Why can't their photograph be shown on the giant video board? I would be nice if these players were recognized while they are living: Art Shallock (the oldest living former MLB player), Bobby Shantz (also an MVP winner, but not with the Yankees), Billy Gardner, Billy Hunter, Bud Daley, Johnny James, Rocky Colavito, Bill White (as an announcer), Pedro Ramos, Felipe Alou, Bobby Richardson (1960 World Series MVP), Frank Howard (former coach), Hal Stowe, and Billy Cowan.

  • It seems to me that the people who arrange Old Timer's Day today do not seem to know or understand the tradition of the event or even appreciate Yankees history.

  • I have read and heard many accounts of the thrills the players at the time had of sharing the locker room with the Old Timers as they all changed into their uniforms. The young players would talk baseball, share ideas and techniques, and bask in the glory of being around the greats. Generations were connected. Today, the Old Timers don't even put on the uniform, they just wear a uniform top. Worse, it's the uniform top of today with the Starr Insurance patch. It was a bad look - again, it took away from the specialness of the event. The Old Timers didn't look great with just a uniform top put on over their street clothes. In fact, it looked bad on so many. The shirts are designed, to be tucked in. They aren't pull-over tops that are to be worn with street clothes. To me all of said, "We couldn't be bothered to do much more than the minimum." Again, when you take the easy way out, it shows.

  • Along with the same theme, seeing old Yankees in jeans, some ripped, as they went onto the field, was just a terrible look.

  • The fact that they didn't play a game is another affront to tradition. I heard from some talking heads that we should only remember the players from their great days. I don't buy it. At all. Fans used to love seeing the former players out there again. I know I did. It's a lot more fun watching the Old Timers play than seeing them walk out (as most did) and immediately sit in a chair. There are enough fit former Yankees to play a few innings. I don't expect the older players to play, but the older guys never did play. Part of the fun of the event is the game - and like so much, that has also been taken away from the fans.

  • In year's past, the Yankees would also welcome back former players (and stars) from other teams. If they need players, they could also do that.

  • With the introductions, the players used to line up on the baselines. The last few years, they don't even do that. Again, most just walk out of the dugout and sit down. I'm sorry, that's just not exciting. This isn't the Former Yankees Banquet. It's Old Timer's Day.

The Yankees continually find ways to take away the joys fans used to have and to show disrespect to the traditions of the past. I can't think of a change they have made, from the new stadium, to the patches on the uniform, to the way they do Old Timer's Day, to the giveaways at the stadium, to the noises polluted over the stadium speakers, to the product on the field, that has been an improvement. Every change the Yankees make comes at the expense of the greater tradition. Year after year, the Yankees deliver a lesser product. This was highlighted again with Old Timers Day.


Many many many fans are disappointed with the Yankees because of the sum total of all of this. The sense one gets from all relating to the Yankees these last many years is that they always find a way to do less and expect more from the fans. They're turning off a lot of fans. The Yankees can't see it because they're oblivious to the concerns of the fans. This is the organization today. They go through the motions, sometimes, but they deliver less and less.


I loved seeing the former players who were at Old Timer's Day. But the event, as a whole, was a sorry replica of what could and what should have been.

7 comments

7 Comments


Andy Singer
Andy Singer
Sep 15, 2023

You're right on the money with this take, Paul. Like you, I didn't even watch it live.


I thought the on-field interview portion this year was an anti-climactic peanut for the crowd without the game and without greater participation. I used to love the weeks leading up to the Old Timer's Game when Bobby Murcer would pick a current Yankee to be his batting coach to help him hit a homer in the game.


I remember the classy ceremonies they used to hold before the game, and what was done for the anniversary of the 1998 team paled in comparison. It's a shame, and yet another example of the classless, corporate manner in which the team is run.

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sfs1944
Sep 15, 2023

Paul Old timers day was and always should be about past great Yankee ballplayers . Yankee fans used to look forward to seeing these greats take the field one more time. Not this year and who knows if ever again. It seems Hal only cares about the bottom line not about the great Yankee tradition. The mantra World Series or Bust are now just words. Soon if money can be made I expect Hal to let the Yankee players grow their hair long and then cut it and sell it. Yankee uniform will look like nascar driver uniforms with patches everywhere. Look at the stadium ads all over the place. As long as Hal owns the Yanks it won’t …


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yankeesblog
Sep 15, 2023

Yes I have to agree - more crapification by the Hal/Cashman regime. I only attended one Old Timer's Day - in 1970 or `1971 (can't remember which year). They honored Casey Stengel and in the OT game I got to see Joe DiMaggio hit a frozen rope down the LF line for a double and Billy Martin hit an inside the park HR into Death Valley. The other great OT Day memory I have is one I watched on TV when Mickey Mantle homered (after several tries) off Whitey Ford. I think that was 1973.

I can't actually watch OT Day ceremonies any more since I'm out of market and don't actually get YES. MLB.tv could do us a solid…


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Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
Sep 15, 2023
Replying to

I remember seeing DiMaggio play at OTD. I was a little kid, but even then I could appreciate who I was seeing. Same thing with Mantle -- I only wish I'd been able to get into baseball two years earlier, and I could have seen him play for real.


The Mets had an OTD last year for the first time in a long time, and I loved watching it on TV. So of course they didn't bother this year.


I don't begrudge the Old Timers sitting instead of standing on the foul line. I'm on the dark side of 60 now, and I'd want a chair. :-)

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etbkarate
Sep 15, 2023

I'm with you, Paul. I can't put my finger on it, but something has changed. I once read. "Tradition does not mean to look after the ash, but to keep the flame alive ". I sense a change in more than one way with the team. Pretty sad.

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Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
Sep 15, 2023
Replying to


And Shana Tova to all. May the new year bring you sweetness and joy.

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