While George Steinbrenner's casket was being placed in a mausoleum during a private service Saturday in Trinity, Fla., the New York Yankees held their 64th Old-Timers Day, a ritual celebration of pinstripes, titles and the tradition handed from Ruth and Gehrig, to DiMaggio to Berra and Mantle, and now to Jeter and Rivera.
Many great Yankees were on the field wearing the famous pinstripes again, now with special memorial patches in honour of Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard, the public announcer for nearly six decades.
On a day of reflection and with flags at half-staff, the emotional high was the introduction of Mary Sheppard, the widow of the team's public announcer from 1951-07.
Private ceremony for late owner
The family of George Steinbrenner placed a casket inside a mausoleum at a cemetery near Tampa on Saturday, four days after the death of the New York Yankees owner.
The two sons and two daughters of the 80-year-old owner were joined by his wife, Joan, at Trinity Memorial Garden Cemetery.
The cemetery is about a half-hour drive from the home of the late owner.
Yankees co-chairmen Hal and Hank Steinbrenner and daughters Jessica Steinbrenner and Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal arrived on a steamy, humid day with temperatures in 30s C. About 40 people were there, including Yankees employees. Flags within sight were at half staff.
A hearse and five SUVs pulled up to a mausoleum, where the two sons were standing in front. A casket was taken from the hearse and brought inside the mausoleum. Hank escorted his mother into the tomb.
The family spent less than 10 minutes inside. Joan Steinbrenner then shook hands with cemetery officials as mourners began leaving the grounds. The family left in a caravan of cars a little after 4 p.m
George Steinbrenner died of a heart attack Tuesday in Tampa. He had turned over day-to-day control of the team to sons Hal and Hank in 2007.
Sheppard died last Sunday, two days before Steinbrenner, the team's owner since January 1973.
Steinbrenner, as he had in life, dominated proceedings.
"He came in the clubhouse one day," Ron Guidry recalled. "Thefinger was at me, and 'You're 0-2 in your last two starts."'
A Cy Young Award winner and two-time World Series champion, Gator was taken aback.
"I'm 0-2. I got a 1 ERA. It's not my fault," he remembered responding. "He would come in there and he would get you. Or he would drop a line in the paper about the way you're pitching. I would read it, or if he said it to me face to face, the worst thing is it would get my dander up, so the next time I went out I had that on my mind."
Steinbrenner's bluster not only caught the attention of players, it captivated sports fans around the world. The battles between
George and Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson and Thurman Munson in the late 1970s couldn't be equalled — not did anyone particularly want them to be.
"That era there was the best soap opera in the country," Guidry said, "because everybody that I would speak to on the street, they couldn't wait to pick up a paper every morning and see what happened to the Yankees last night. Because things were done during the game or after the game or at two o'clock in the morning. One day you leave the park, you say good night to your manager. And the next, another guy comes in and gives you the ball. You look at him, he goes, 'I'm the new manager.' It happened about 17 times when I was here."
Graig Nettles defined the era when he famously said: "When I was a little boy, I wanted to be a baseball player and join the circus. With the Yankees I have accomplished both."
"It just came to me," Nettles remembered.
Jackson was shaken when he learned of Steinbrenner's death, too emotional to discuss it at the all-star game. He wasn't even sure he wanted to attend Old-Timers Day.
"I need to be here. I talked to some people that I respect in the leadership of the club. They thought I should be here, and so, I'm here," he said.
Having been the object of Steinbrenner's praise and ridicule, Jackson developed a complicated and perceptive relationship with the man who brought him to New York as a free agent before the 1977 season, then let him go after five seasons.
"Certainly his drive and his presence and character, personality, has permeated the organization and permeated the city, certainly I think the game of baseball as well," Jackson said.
What once was hurt and anger morphed into warmth and appreciation for a man Jackson admitted "fathered me at times, was a friend at times" and was close to "being an older brother."
Goose Gossage tried to lend some perspective, to contrast the beloved father figure of Steinbrenner's later years with the tempest who shook up New York, baseball and all of sports during the 1970s and '80s.
"The last decade or decade and a half, I just don't think he was as tough as he was when we were there, crazy or whatever you want to call it. He was crazy," Gossage said Saturday. "He was off the charts.
"The craziest thing about George was the more you won, the crazier he got. Most people are like satisfied, and he got crazier."
Yogi Berra was missing from Old-Timers Day after falling the previous night near his home in Montclair, N.J.
Yankees spokesman Jason Zillo says that the 85-year-old Hall of Famer has some bruises after the accident Friday but was OK.
Berra's family said in a statement released Saturday by the Yankees that the former catcher is recovering at home and is "extremely disappointed he is unable to participate" in the ceremonies and "see so many of his friends."