Thursday, June 11, 2020

Rest in Peace, Claudell Washington

A sad Plague Theater this morning, as we remember Claudell Washington - launcher of the 10,000th home run in Yankee history - who died yesterday at age 65.

Claudell hit that memorable HR in 1988, an otherwise wretched season, when the Yankees finished fifth in the AL East. Here's the starting nine. 

Not a terrible team, you'd think. Three batters over .300. Three future Hall of Famers. (Write this down: Mattingly will make it.) Yet this was part of the 14-year Barf, an era of horrible Yankee trades, as evidenced by the rotation: Rick Rhoden, Tommy John, Richard Dotson, John Candalaria and Al Leiter.

Thinking about Rhoden (obtained for Doug Drabek) and Leiter (given up for an aging Jesse Barfield) always brings pain. But those lost Yankee years - the late 1980s - somehow delivered a surprising amount of joy: Joe Niekro's knuckler. Righetti's no-hitter. Winfield's duel with Mattingly for the batting crown. Henry Cotto's q-tipped eardrum. Wayne Tolleson! Lenn Sakata! Bob Shirley! Steve Trout! And that promising kid, Jay Buhner...

This is sorta weird, but if I could set the Wayback to any period in Yankee history, I'm not sure I'd pick 1927 or 1961, or Joe Torre's run. As bad as they were, the Yankees of the late eighties never failed to surprise us. Yeah, Ron Kittle didn't hit enough HRs, but the ones he did hit sure went far. And how about that Cecilio Guante! Mark my words: He was gonna be good! Even the worst Yankee teams sill had their moments, and we learned to savor them. I'd pick that era in a heartbeat over the last decade, for which we have nothing - zero world championships - to celebrate. At least back then, we could look forward to Cecilio Guante.   

So here's to Claudell Washington, who once stole home against the Redsocks, who launched a walk-off HR in the 18th inning against Detroit, who hit the meaningless 10,000th Yankee home run. Yeah, it was a wretched time to be a Yankee fan, unless you happened to know the secret to life: Always stay hopeful and remember to laugh. 

Thank you, Mr. Washington, for reminding me. 


Anonymous said...

A great guy, I remember his interview with John Sterling after the 18 inning game. (All right, I don't remember anything that was said, but I do remember him being interviewed.) He certainly made all of us Yankee fans happy that day. R.I.P. Claudell.

The Hammer of God

cabish47 said...

There's something about rooting for a bad team. Your expectations are low, so something unexpected can cause delight. To this day my son, who was 12 at the time, remembers the Memorial Day game in 1991 we watched together on TV. The vile BoSocks were ahead 5 to 0 in the middle innings, but we stayed with it. In the ninth, Mel Hall (of all people) hit a three-run walk-off to win 6 to 5. We hopped up and down like maniacs.

Anonymous said...

RIP. I can't honestly say that I remember seeing you play.

I spent the 80's in LA and my Yankee fandom, while still intense, was relegated to a daily read of a box score, a 50 word AP article, and a once yearly trip to Anaheim to watch them get crushed.

As much as we complain about the state of the game, the greed, the team's ownership etc. I am grateful for what the subsequent decades have given me as a fan.

NY Post sports section on line
Daily News sports section on line
This blog
The former great RAB
Sirius XM
Skype - to have Yankee conversations with my East Coast Friends in real time.


I have not missed a game in more than a decade unless it was by choice.

So again, RIP Claudell, I will have to take everyone's word for it.

Doug K.

JM said...

I liked him. He was good. And fast.

65 doesn't seem that old now that I'm turning 65.

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