From the beat to the booth, Michael Kay still in awe of the Old-Timers' Day mystique
Michael Kay is one of that latter group, and has been for 28 years; he took over the Yankees beat for the New York Post in 1987, and he soon moved into the broadcast booth where he has spent the last 23 years as both the radio and television voice of the team. As such, he has gotten to know many of the names, past and present, as well as anyone.
And on Old-Timers' Day, he loves seeing them come back...but he also realizes just how much of an "old-timer" he's getting to be, too.
"It's really neat to get to see guys you haven't seen in a while, but it makes you feel old and definitely gives you a sense of your own mortality," Kay laughed. "I just said to Johnny Damon that 'you're really an old-timer?' and he laughed; he's relatively young compared to the other guys, but it tells you the speed of life."
From DiMaggio to Damon, Mantle to Matsui, Kay has called hundreds of household names from behind the podium - but the ones he loves seeing most, at least these days, are the ladies who come every year to keep the legacies of their legendary husbands in the forefront.
"I love seeing everyone, but I really love seeing the Yankees' widows," he said. "I love talking to Mrs. Hunter and Mrs. Martin and Mrs. Munson and Mrs. Murcer; it's just so great to see them, and I think it's great for them to still be a part of the Yankee family too."
These days, he also gets to sit alongside a handful of guys he has covered over the years in the YES broadcast booth. John Flaherty, David Cone and Paul O'Neill (and Al Leiter, who was not here this year) join Kay and Ken Singleton in the booth during the year, a spot that others like Joe Girardi and even Tino Martinez have occupied and, as fun as it is to hang with them, Kay says, one of the best parts of Old-Timers' Day is getting some dirt on them to make future broadcasts even more fun.
"It's cool because it gives me to have the opportunity to have a lot of stuff on them as we go through the year," he laughed. "I can look at them and say 'Oh, remember that?' and pick a moment of something I saw on the field that I can bring up."
He will always remember, for instance, Cone surrendering a home run to Martinez in 2011 - although he laughs when he says that "knowing Coney, he's cool with that so he probably grooved it" - and this year, got more ammo on his partner when he surrendered a long ball to Jesse Barfield.
But no matter how long his career lasts, Kay thinks that his greatest memory, one from his very first Old-Timers' Day, is something that will never be topped.
"The first time that I emceed Old-Timers' Day, I don't remember the year, but I remember standing out there alone - this is before John Sterling and I did it together - and introducing Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle," he said. "For a kid that grew up minutes from Yankee Stadium, that was unbelievable."
Moments like that, no matter where you fall in the scope of the Yankees Universe, are exactly what Old-Timers' Day is all about, and it is all part of a legacy that Kay knows is the best in sports.
"The Yankees brand is really important, and I think part of that brand is the 27 championships and the list of all the great players that have put on the uniform," he said. "Old-Timers' Day is a celebration of that, and I don't know why more teams don't do it; I guess maybe it's because they don't have as many stars as the Yankees, but I know that this is something the Yankees take a lot of pride in, and I'm just glad to be able to be here to emcee it."