Friday, more or less, was for George. Quotes about the late Yankees owner flashed on the scoreboard as fans filed into the ballpark, Sinatra’s “My Way” opened a somber ceremony, then more remembrances of the Boss played between innings, replacing the usual assortment of games and silliness.
Then Saturday, more or less, was for Bob. Video from 2000’s Bob Sheppard Day played while the old timers took batting practice, while another tribute was shown during the day’s ceremonies. Sheppard’s widow, Mary, was the last one called onto the field, after Reggie, Goose, and even Whitey. And during the seventh inning stretch, Sheppard’s rendition of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” a Mother’s Day tradition, replaced “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
When Nick Swisher (a Buckeye, surely to the delight of Big Stein) won Friday night’s game with a walk-off single, the cheers were just a bit louder, a bit more sustained than they may have otherwise been. “Win it for George” and “Win it for Bob” served as unspoken rallying cries, and immediately after Curtis Granderson scored the game-winning run, the logos honoring both men appeared on the giant center-field scoreboard.
But once Saturday’s game started, the formal tributes had mostly passed. (The Yankees will continue to wear patches honoring both men all season; if you’d like to pay tribute yourself, there was no shortage of bootleg Steinbrenner T-shirts for sale outside the stadium this weekend.) By the time A.J. Burnett left the mound in the third inning, having already allowed four runs, the feeling that one was attending a wake had given way to the feeling that one was attending a ballgame. Burnett was showered with boos as he walked back to the dugout — and that was before fans knew that he’d sustained his injury by losing a fight with a clubhouse door. Tampa Bay would go on to win, 10–5.
Andy Pettitte left today’s game with a groin injury, but the offense provided plenty of support in a 9–5 win that extended their lead over Tampa Bay to three games. In the days and weeks ahead, the three-way divisional race — and the state of the rotation, and A-Rod’s pursuit of 600 home runs — will draw our attention away from mourning and back to baseball. But the concept of “winning one for George” won’t go away completely, especially as summer turns to fall.