These Yankees could join elite teams in franchise history

I grew up in the north Bronx only about a 10-minute car ride from Yankee Stadium. My parents — Gloria and Len — still live in the same apartment on 235th St. and Riverdale Ave. They’ve been there since 1957. My mother has become a die-hard Yankees fan, even though she never gave a care about it when my brother and I were kids. My father, who took me to my first game ever at the original stadium in 1960, has watched the team since Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio played together there in the late ’30s. My parents are both 82.

Recently, my father said that this year’s Yankees team might be the best he’s ever seen. I told him to hold his Iron Horses. In my lifetime there have been three Yankees teams that are among the best in baseball history: 1961, 1978 and 1998.

The ’61 team had Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle combine to hit 115 homers. Those Yanks dominated the American League and wiped out the Reds easily in a five-game World Series. In addition, that title was part of a wave that saw the Yanks win 10 World Series and 15 pennants from 1947-64, a period unmatched in Major League history.

The ’78 team with Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, Catfish Hunter and Ron Guidry, may be the guttiest. The Yanks had won the pennant in ’76 and the World Series in ’77. On July 19, 1978, the Yanks trailed the Red Sox by 14 games in the AL East. They staged the historic comeback, beating the Sox at Fenway in the Bucky Dent one-game playoff for the division title and went on to defeat the Dodgers in the World Series for the second consecutive fall in six games.

The ’98 team won an unparalleled 125-games — 114 during the regular season and another 11 in the postseason, including a sweep of the Padres in the World Series. With a core of Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, the title was among four from 1996-2000, including three in a row.

So dad, the current Yankees have a chance to be great, but they still have a long way to go. They have been on fire since the All-Star break, and who could have predicted that the core would still be contributing at this late date? After all, Jeter came off a down ’08 season and some people were beginning to wonder if the wear and tear of all those regular season and postseason games had taken their toll. Rivera and Posada were returning from right shoulder surgery, and Pettitte always has to contend with a balky left elbow.

Yet, all four have been dominant again. Add great years from their free agent pickups — CC Sabathia ($160 million) and Mark Teixeira ($180 million) and the Yanks have been flying in their first year at the new Yankee Stadium.

All they have to do is win the team’s 27th World Series and they will be recognized among the best in franchise history. No small feat, considering the standards set by Yankees teams that came before them.

1 Comment

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