Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Almost 20 years to the day, Slade Heathcott re-enacts Pat Kelly's HR to beat Toronto, a moment for the ages

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?


John M said...

I went to bed at 9, having too many tequilas after work and in shock that CC was shutting out the Rays into the 6th. Did I miss anything?

ceeja said...

Have to go all the way back to Roger Repoz on this one. What a blast.

Tom said...

Hell, yeah, her hair is still red. That's the beauty of the shoebox. Nobody gets old.

Roger B said...

I gave up after the double by Forsythe and watched a British mystery on Acorn with my wife, missing the drama. Well, it was our 30th Anniversary, and it is a pay channel. Before the double, I was screaming at the set and Girardi, take Wilson out! Why is Wilson still pitching! He's at 30 pitches and he's facing a right hander! So I guess in a way the JuJu gods gave me what I deserved for giving up hope and assuming the Yankees were going to lose the game. I missed one of the Shoebox moments of the year. Now I suppose I am going to have to stop watching every time the Yankees fall behind by a run in the eighth inning on the road. Because that's how jujo works, right? Curse you Joe Girardi. It is all your fault, and Stephen Drew/Brendan Ryan's too.

Ken of Brooklyn said...

When Ellsbury hit into a double play, I almost kicked my radio across the room, I never never never thought they had a chance after that,,,, they say ya' can't predict baseball, LOL!

And YES, let the kid play today and give Ellsbury a rest, god knows he needs it!

Mustang said...

It does seem like Girardi's more prone to rest a player who's hot, while running a dead horse out every day. Confirmation bias? I don't know. Probably. But infuriating.

John M said...

I think the key to this discussion is to remember that Girardi is basically a moron.

That may help in our understanding of what happens next.

ceeja said...

You've got 19 games left. There is not enough time for players to work out of slumps. At this point, you play the hot hand. Unless Ellsbury has very good numbers against Odorizzi, he sits and Heathcott plays. If Bird is sucking wind, then he sits and Ackley plays first. And of course, Drew and Ryan should be drawn and quartered at second base before the game. Play anyone but them. Why not at least try to win this game?

Buhner's Ghost said...

Mustang and I need a whole shoebox for Cairo memories...we love Turkey!

KD said...


Anyone else here think ARod was going to break Slade in two back in the dugout? I yelled be careful ARod! That guy is fragile!

Ken of Brooklyn said...

Really fun seeing ARod that excited, definitely the feel good moment of the second half of the season!

Beana27 said...

Great post Duque. It made me laugh because I called Heathcott's heroics "Shelley Duncan like" to which my husband said A-Rods celebrating was Shelley Duncan like. He could really hurt somebody! :)

I'm Bill White said...

I sure hope you got an Alvaro Espinosa memory in your Yank Spank Bank.