Girardi lucky to represent Yankees' past, present, and future
As the skipper of the team, Girardi has recorded more than 600 wins over the last six-plus seasons, and back in the 1990s he was in the dugout for 400 wins and three World Series crowns as a player. So, when Old-Timers' Day rolls around, it means a lot to him to be able to bridge past, present and future.
"I don't like to consider myself an old timer - I don't think any of us ever want to feel that - but it does mean a lot," he laughed. "To see some of the guys that I played for, played with and managed that were champions is a thrill for me."
The Yankees are the only organization that regularly reunites the legends of the past for an Old-Timers' celebration, and to the skipper, that's a testament to the history of the organization itself.
"I think it works so well here because of all the success that has taken place here and the people that still come back," he said. "I think the fans appreciate what players have done here, and I know the players appreciate the fans, and that's why it works so well."
Of course, times change and people change, but the legacy never does. And in the late-1990s, for Girardi, seeing those who had carried the torch before him only drove him to be even better on the field.
"I remember Joe DiMaggio coming back, and Yogi and Whitey were always here. Reggie (Jackson) was always here, Goose (Gossage) was always here…it was really pretty incredible the people you would see walk on the field," he said. "I used to be like a little kid in a candy store, because these were guys you looked up to and knew had created quite a tradition around here, and you wanted to try to live up to it."
Joltin' Joe has indeed left and gone away, as have Mantle, Maris, and many other legends, and guys like Tino Martinez, Paul O'Neill, David Wells and David Cone are now the big attractions. The younger Yankees, like anyone in the range of 25-to-35 years old, were weaned on those names as the biggest stars in the Yankees Universe, and that makes the day special for them, too.
"A lot of these guys have played against some of the guys who are back, whether it be a Hideki Matsui or a Johnny Damon or Paul (O'Neill), so I think they enjoy seeing them," he said. "It will be full for the Old-Timers' Game, and that's pretty amazing. You just tell the players to enjoy it."
These days, Girardi is now even getting to see guys he has managed play in the Old-Timers' Game; Matsui and Damon were two of the three first-timers this year (along with pitcher John Montefusco), and if there was one thing that made Girardi realize his own baseball mortality, it was seeing them.
"It's weird to call them old-timers, and they're plenty younger than me," he laughed. "These are guys who were important parts of the 2009 World Series run, which really wasn't that long ago, but I guess for all of us there's a time where you retire and become old-timers."
Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada are on that list of 2009 stalwarts that are now on the other side, and after this season, Derek Jeter will complete it. And come 20 years from now, even if he's not here, Girardi hopes the Yankees of 2034 realize the breadth of what they'll be in for when the Core Four and their brethren walk through these halls as alumni.
"The day teaches you a little bit about the history here, and you understand the expectations probably a little bit better. You get an idea of how it feels to be a champion here, and you never want to forget that."