The request we're sending to bloggers of all 30 teams this spring is a simple one: What are the 10 best things about being a fan of your favorite team? What features of the franchise have you excited for opening day and what keeps you coming back year after year?
Over the next few weeks, we'll give each of the 30 teams a day in the spotlight, showcasing the icons and traditions that make each big-league hamlet special. Up next is our own Rob Iracane, our resident in-house Yankees fan and co-founder of the late, great Walkoff Walk.
1. Old-Timers' Day. Other franchises have attempted to stage an exhibition game for aged, former players, but only the New York Yankees have the star power and history to do it every single year since 1947. Rounding up 50 or so Hall of Famers, All-Stars, and World Champs for one day each summer to tip their caps to a sellout crowd, glad-hand former teammates, and play a few innings under the sun in the Bronx is one of the great traditions in baseball.
A fan would need a baseball encyclopedia to keep track of all the big (and somewhat less big) names that appear at the sold-out Stadium year in and year out. Yogi Berra? Check. Whitey Ford? He's there. Reggie Jackson? Yep. The older guys don't have the energy to stand in the batter's box anymore, but the most recent game featured a great moment between two of the more recently retired stars when Tino Martinez homered off David Cone. Plus, the Yankees won't bring back Keith Olbermann to provide in-stadium color commentary again, so that's a positive.
2. The Bronx. It's the birthplace of hip-hop, a real melting pot of cultures, and the borough that hosts the Cathedral of Baseball. Sure, the ballpark might be stuck in a traditionally poverty-stricken neighborhood, but even the downtrodden immediate area has something to offer a visiting fan looking to take in some culture.
Want some jerk chicken? Try the Feeding Tree restaurant around the corner or Fauzia's street cart by the Bronx County Courthouse. Want to visit a real Little Italy? Head to Arthur Avenue, lined with delis, bakeries, restaurants and specialty grocery stores. And the Bronx Zoo and the Botanical Gardens are right there, too. Culture!
3. Rivalries with every team. It's cute that most other teams have one, maybe two rivals to count on when they want to sell more tickets or pump up the meaning of a late-season game. The Yankees? They're everyone's rival. Perhaps it's not the greatest thing in the world to be so hated and reviled, but considering the motivation to hate comes from pure, unadulterated envy, I'll take it.
In the postseason, they've faced 12 different National League teams in the World Series (and beaten all but two...darn those Marlins and Snakes!) and have tussled in a playoff series with almost every American League team.
And don't think for a second that we consider only successful teams like the Red Sox and Rays to be our rivals. No sir, just because teams like the Orioles and Royals have been consistently losing for so long doesn't mean that we Yankees fans have stopped our passionate dislike for those teams. Any true Yankees fan will look at the Royals not with a deserved pity but with fire in our loins for what happened in 1980 and this ridiculous fan protest stunt in 1999.
To claim such an iconic and literally larger-than-life athlete as the historical figurehead of your favorite franchise provides bragging rights that last a lifetime. Nobody in American sports history has been more well-known and revered than Babe Ruth. You can take your Michael Jordans and your Tiger Woodses and your Joe Montanas and stuff 'em in a sack. Ruth would crush any of those chumps in any iteration of the Nana Index. Everyone knows who Babe Ruth is and what Babe Ruth did: He hit tons of home runs in an era when nobody else did, starred in movies and cursed an entire franchise for 86 years.
5. Mariano Rivera. In more modern times, the Yankees fans can claim witness to the greatest relief pitcher in the history of the game, a man who is not only adored by hometown fans but revered by the players he shuts down with his signature pitch, the cut fastball. Rivera is the all-time leader in both regular-season and postseason saves and he has the highest career save conversion rate. Quantity and quality!
But off the field, Mariano Rivera's actions through his eponymous foundation transcend baseball. His actions, both local and abroad and done with the greatest of humility, inspire Yankees fans to be equally charitable.
6. Classy pinstripes. Our players look damn great in their home uniform. The matching white jersey and pants with slim navy pinstripes date back to 1912 and the interlocking letters "N" and "Y" were first introduced in 1909. Very little has changed since then; the Yankees have never worn player names on the backs of their jerseys, have never displayed the logo of the uniform supplier on game-worn gear and have never issued ridiculous "alternate" uniforms that are so popular now among lesser teams.
And hey, pinstripes are even slimming.
It inspires a fan to root for a franchise that has so embraced leadership, including fan favorites Don Mattingly and the late Thurman Munson, who was named captain by George Steinbrenner in 1976 despite long-retired manager Joe McCarthy's insistence that no player hold the title after Gehrig's passing in 1939.
8. Electricity of the Stadium. Ignore the fact that the Steinbrenner family made a huge mistake by tearing down the original Yankee Stadium. That's a whole mess of shaving cream that's never getting back in the can. The new ballpark, architecturally speaking, has the warmth of an airport terminal and the charm of a steel factory.
But the new joint, despite it being a grotesque hyperbole of corporate greed run amok, actually comes alive when it is filled with cheering fans. I'd wager to say that, despite the catcalls from critics that claim the crowd noise has lessened compared to the old place, this place rocks during big moments.
9. You can see them anywhere. One benefit to being the most popular American sports franchise and one of the most recognizable teams in the world is the ability to see this team play on television no matter where you are. Add up their nationally broadcast games on ESPN, Fox and TBS and the fact that the YES Network, the Yankees' cable channel, is available everywhere through DirecTV, and you just can't miss them.
And with ESPN America broadcasting games all over the globe and ex-pat bars flourishing in Europe and Asia, there are few places left in the world where you can't see the Yankees play on television.
Big League Stew encourages you to join in the fun! Please share these lists with your fellow fans on Facebook, tweet us your suggestions with the #BLS10best hashtag or just use the comment section below to tell us your favorite things about being a fan of the New York Yankees.
- Babe Ruth