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This was the most frightening Yankees moment I can remember… (Paul Semendinger)

This was the most frightening Yankees moment I can remember…

by Paul Semendinger

October 31, 2021


I did not know where I wanted to go with this question, even after I wrote it and sent it off to the writers. Since I received so many responses, enough to fill the whole day of SSTN articles and more, I also thought that I might be able to sit this out, but I determined that that would not be fair. I knew I had to think of something…

As I thought through Yankees history, I considered many occurrences and events.

I believe I was frightened when I heard that Goose Gossage and Cliff Johnson fought in the locker room. In my young mind, as a little kid, I somehow thought that the players had to be friends or at least nice to each other. I, of course, knew about Thurman Munson and Reggie Jackson and all of that, but that was when I first started following baseball. I didn’t really pay any attention to those stories I was nine-years-old. And no one got hurt. It just seemed liked adults arguing over things I didn’t understand. But the Johnson/Gossage fight resulted in the Goose getting hurt. That was real. I think the idea of two big men fighting in the locker room or shower scared me as an 11-year-old. Because I didn’t understand it, that was frightening to hear about.

I don’t recall being frightened by Thurman Munson’s tragic death on August 2, 1979. That event impacted me, to the core, then and forever, but I don’t recall being frightened by it. Likewise, I think I was more sad than scared when I heard that Andre Robertson had crashed his car and might be badly injured.

There have always been players who I rooted especially hard for who I wanted to be great, always, and forever, and I have always hated hearing their names in trade rumors. I guess I’ve always been scared that the Yankees would trade away my favorite players. When Graig Nettles was traded to San Diego, I wasn’t frightened, though, I was just sad. Very sad. I knew that day that the Yankees were taking away some of the last parts of my childhood.

Thinking back to those years, the Los Angeles Dodgers, as a team, frightened me. They just seemed too good, I didn’t know how the Yankees could ever defeat them. The Kansas City Royals too. All those players seemed like super enemies with great skills and tremendous powers. From the Dodgers, Davey Lopes, Steve Garvey, Dusty Baker, Reggie Smith, Ron Cey… my goodness, they were so good. They were frightening. And Hal McRae, Willie Wilson, Amos Otis, U.L. Washington, Frank White, and George Brett… they also seemed too good to be true. How could any team beat them? When the Royals triumphed over the Yankees in 1980 and the Dodgers in 1981, in a way, it seemed inevitable. Those were super teams. Yeah, those teams did frighten me.

In 1995, I felt the same way about the Seattle Mariners. They were just too, too, too good. They scared me.

Jumping way ahead to the 2000s, I do recall being frightened when Derek Jeter was injured on Opening Day. Jeter was the Yankees’ great young star. I wondered if he would be able to recover quickly to continue his Hall of Fame career. (He did!)

As a dad of three athletic sons, I was frightened in a sense by the PEDs and such of that era. I didn’t want my children to think that using performance enhancing drugs would help them be better, or that that was the way successful people operated. As one name after the next fell, I was frightened that a new norm was being established. We had many discussions about cheating, drugs, and such. We stopped collecting the baseball cards of the cheaters. We talked a lot about how it’s better to lose without cheating than to win by cheating. I hoped against hope that Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams and Mariano Rivera wouldn’t ever be among the cheaters, and they weren’t. Jason Giambi, A-Rod, and Andy Pettitte (among others) let us down in that time period.

Big Papi and Manny Ramirez always frightened me. It seemed they always had big hits against the Yankees. I thought those two would hit homers every time up – and it seemed like they did.

When Pedro Martinez threw Don Zimmer to the ground, that was frightening.

When Kevin Youkilis became a Yankee… that was also scary. He was one of the players on the Sox I disliked the most. I didn’t want to have to root for him. (I didn’t have to for long.)

Currently, I do wonder how much more we all have to wait for a Yankees World Series team, but that’s not frightening. I’m just growing impatient. 2022 could be the year. Who knows? The talent should be there. I’m more eager and anxious and impatient than frightened that we’ll have another World Series-less October next year.

Happy Halloween.

(Oh, if you have any extra m&m’s, please send them my way. I love m&m’s!)


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