Mickey Rivers says speed is key to Yankees' lineup

Old-Timers' Day staple knows a thing or two about the quickness
07/25/2014 10:27 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Mickey Rivers signs an autograph for a young fan at Old-Timers' Day.(AP)
The New York Yankees have had a legacy of great base-stealers over the years, with Johnny Damon, Brett Gardner and now Jacoby Ellsbury the main culprits of the last decade or so.

However, as you look throughout the franchise's history, the list of leaders ranges from legendary thieves like Rickey Henderson to one-year wonders like Tony Womack all the way to Derek Jeter, who you may not know is the franchise's all-time leader in stolen bases.

Only one within that legacy, however, has a synonym for speed in his nickname: John Milton "Mickey" Rivers, aka "Mick the Quick," who once upon a time (1975 to be exact) swiped a league-leading 70 bags for the Angels and recorded 93 thefts in three-plus seasons with the Yankees from 1976-79.

These days, Rivers does a lot of work for children - including this summer, his roving advocacy for summer meal programs - but he is also still a Yankee; the former outfielder spends a lot of time working at Yankee Stadium as a special ambassador, so he knows first-hand exactly what the Yankees need to do to make a run to the postseason.

"I'm around the Stadium a lot, doing things in the luxury boxes and stuff like that and helping as much as I can," Rivers said, "and I see this team can improve a lot. They've got a lot of great players, they just need to get going."

That starts at the top of the lineup, where Ellsbury and Gardner have been great table-setters - but as his nickname suggests, Rivers believes that no matter what they've done in terms of power and defense, the most important element the current speedsters bring to the top of today's lineup is below the belt.

"You want speed at the top of the lineup, and you don't want to try to take their game away," Rivers said of the duo. "You want that little spotlight."

Some may feel that the Yankees' lineup flux has miscast Ellsbury as a No. 3 hitter for much of the season, but in Rivers' eyes, role and location matters not if either he or Gardner stay true to themselves.

"Speed is his game, and as long as you go out there and play your game, you can win," he said. "But you have to go out there and demand that 'I'm going to do this' no matter what."

Rivers got to watch them up close from the field on June 22, as he is also now a staple at Old-Timers' Day every year. That's his one chance to still shine, and while you won't see the now-65-year-old trying to take second in the alumni outing too often, he did show a flash of his former self this year with a great catch that robbed Tino Martinez of an extra-base hit.

He's still got the same swagger as always, but if you catch him just right, the very quotable Rivers will also beam about how it's one of the proudest days on his calendar.

"You can't beat it. This is one of the best organizations in the world and they do wonderful things; the brass does a lot of good things, the players do a lot of good things, and these guys do great for us. It's always a thrill to be back."

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