Port Chester, NY, December 25, 2014 — With apologies to Charles Dickens, end-of-the-year musings can be melancholy ones for long-time fans of the New York Yankees. Though they are enthusiasts for the most successful team in spectator sports history — the happiest of outcomes — most now remember that fiery player and manager Billy Martin passed away on Christmas Day in 1989. This was 15 years before one-time pinstriper Johnny Oates (2004) died on Christmas Eve. And one year ago, slick-fielding first baseman Mike Hegan, who debuted in the Bronx, joined Martin by succumbing on Christmas Day, 2013.
And it doesn’t get better in the days that follow. Less than a year removed from his retirement, 33-year Yankee organist Eddie Layton died on December 26, 2004, exactly 10 years after hard-throwing righthander Allie Reynolds (1994) was lost. Just 364 days ago, we lost outfielder Paul Blair (2013), who didn’t start in New York, but was a big contributor to two World Series winning squads in the Bronx. A decade earlier, we respectfully recall, Blair hit a home run in a 1-0 Series win for Baltimore.
A kid’s game, baseball has a way of evoking some deep feelings from lovers of the sport, and end-of-the-year thoughts can keep fans of this franchise grounded, even if the two straight years out of the playoffs weren’t already enough. Consider championships won and players lost during this year’s final week, crowned by a look all the way back to righthander James Robert Shawkey (1980) — Bob won the first game in Yankee Stadium in 1923 — who passed on New Year’s Eve.
Just be ready to come back primed and ready for more success on January 1.