The first time I felt true euphoria for the Yankees was on July 4, 1983. I was nine years old at the time and I clearly recall being fixated on the television as Dave "Rags" Righetti attempted to throw a no-hitter against the hated Red Sox. I remember that we were headed to a 4th of July party and I was mildly enraged (for a nine year old) that I was going to miss an entire inning as we traveled across town for the party. While my father sat outside drinking beer, I was inside watching my heroes. I remember being slightly disappointed that my dad wasn't experiencing this with me, but I didn't care that much. I mean, Dave Righetti was on the verge of throwing a no-hitter. I'll never forget that final strike to Wade Boggs and the chill that ran up my back. I ran outside to the back porch to find my dad. He was probably on his tenth beer or so at the time, but I had to tell him. Despite all of his failures as a father, he gave me the New York Yankees and I had to share this moment with him. I recall being somewhat letdown when he didn't share my enthusiasm. As he turned to talk to his friend and light up another cigarette, I ran back into the house to watch the postgame. I had to see Righetti interviewed. I had to see the line score. I needed more.
Throughout the 1980s the Yankees were generally awful. They went through manager after manager with the only bright spot being a young kid from Indiana named Don Mattingly. He played with class. He had the sweetest swing. He became my favorite player. Every year when I suited up for little league, I demanded that I get #23 because that was Mattingly's number. I learned to hit lefty to try and mimic Mattingly. When I wasn't pitching, I was playing first base, because that's where Mattingly played.
During my junior high school days, I became a pretty good baseball player. I couldn't hit worth a damn (sure didn't live up to Mattingly there), but I could pitch. I started five of ten games for my 8th grade school team. I made the All-Star team and traveled around Northern New Jersey pitching to teams from all over the place. My father rarely made the games, and when he did, he was usually drunk. But that didn't matter, he gave me the Yankees. He would tell great stories about Mickey Mantle, Elston Howard, Roger Maris and Whitey Ford.
In the mid-90s, the Yankees were back. In 1995, Don Mattingly FINALLY made the postseason. And despite going out in the first round, I believe Mattingly hit about .450. At the end of the '95 season, Mattingly's back just couldn't take the day-in day-out tear, and he called it quits. But he made the postseason.
As luck would have it, the following year the Yankees won the World Series. It was their first World Series victory in 18 years. When Charlie Hayes caught the final pop up, I was standing right next to the left field foul pole. I was actually there to see the Yankees win the World Series. My father had bought two tickets for my brother and I. For some reason, he couldn't make the game, but once again, he gave us the Yankees. I will never forget peering back at my brother when the last out was made and seeing a tear streaming down his face. That one tear turned into near sobbing. When I reflect on that night, I don't think he was crying solely because the Yankees had finally won another World Series. There was more to it. Despite our ongoing years of disappointment and turmoil surrounding our relationship with our dad, he gave us the Yankees. And this night was special. He wasn't there with us, but we were there because of him. Not just because he had the money to buy the tickets, but because he instilled in us this love for the pinstripes. He instilled in us a passion that still exists to this day and this may stand as his greatest accomplishment as a father.