In the deep recesses of my head - behind the red-haired girl I had a crush on in seventh grade, and the time I threw up on the school bus - there is a little shoe box of Yankee memories. Now and then, I pull it out and sift through it, just to remind myself of who I am. And now and then, I add a new one.
These are not the memories of Mantle and Maris, or Reggie and Thurm - that is, the memories that everybody has. This shoe box is for the guys nobody knows. Remembering Pat Kelly and Greg Golson, for example, is actually more fulfilling, more personal.
Kelly played seven seasons with the Yankees, before retiring in 1999. He was a serviceable 2B with little power. In 1995, when chasing our first post-season in more than a decade, we were in Toronto, losing to the Blue Jays, 3-0 in the ninth. Mattingly singled. Leyritz walked. Velarde hit a grounder, which was botched, scoring a run. Mike Stanley hit a sac fly. Up came Kelly, batting ninth. He hit a two-run shot, stunning the crowd, his teammates and - well - me. The Yankees won 4-3, and I ran madly through the house, screaming and terrifying the family. Two days later, we made the playoffs. Believe it or not, it was one of the great moments of my life as a Yankee fan. It went into the shoe box, first ballot.
Five years ago, there was Greg Golson. Remember him? You'd have to be psycho Yankee fan to do so. The Yankees had picked Golson - a speedy OF - off the scrap heap. We were in Tampa, fighting for the pennant, sinking fast. Golson was playing RF, a defensive replacement in the ninth. The tying run, Carl "The Perfect Storm" Crawford, was on second. Golson made a great catch and whirled and threw an impossible strike to third base, beating Crawford by a millisecond. Game over, the Yankees won.
Neither moment led to a World Championship. But someday - who knows - I'll be sitting in an airport, or a soup line, and somebody's name will pop up. The shoe box will come out, and it'll be Pat Kelly or Greg Golson... or Slade Heathcott.
Last night, Heathcott went into the box. He's there with Shelley Duncan's dramatic HR, which tied the Orioles, with Colin Curtis's single down the RF line against the Dodgers, and Homer Bush's steal of second and third. He's in there with Andy Phillips and even Miggy - yep, Miguel Cairo. Long as I live, I will never forget last night, watching the Yankees - especially A-Rod - jumping like 6-year-olds on Christmas morning - as Heathcott rounded the bases. In that moment, the entire Yankiverse was there, right in that dugout. The juju gods were with us.
Which brings me to the downer side of this. (There is always a downer side.)
I wish Joe Girardi played hunches more and went to the binder less. Because I believe that if Heathcott played CF tonight, he would go 3-4, and that Jacoby Ellsbury needs a physical and mental day off. I'm not saying this is a Wally Pip situation; Ellsbury will snap out of it. I'm just saying Ellsbury needs a day of rest; he isn't helping anybody, including himself. But we've seen enough of Joe's management style to know that he is addicted to contract-itis: If the Yankees are paying a guy a lot of money, the guy plays.
Drew/Ryan proves that every night.
Last night, Brendan Ryan botched a grounder. If it had happened to Rob Refsnyder in Scranton, it would have been cause for yet another year of seasoning. Last week, against Baltimore, Stephen Drew botched two plays, almost single-handedly creating a loss. Neither can hit. But nothing changes. We won't see Refsnyder or Jose Pirela, and I'm starting to think that's a statement of permanence - not just for this year.
So, well... let's not expect to see Heathcott again. Oh, he might spell Beltran in the field. But he probably won't come up with another game on the line. He just delivered one of the biggest memories of 2015. Now, he goes into the shoe box. Hey... I wonder where she is now? Is her hair still red?