Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Keeping History Alive at Old-Timers’ Day

Keeping History Alive at Old-Timers Day

I’ve never had the fortune of making it to Cooperstown, but I’ve been lucky enough to attend one of the next best collections of baseball history: Old-Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium.

For the 68th time this past Sunday, players in between the championship seasons of 1947 and 2009 gathered in celebration, including Hall of Famers Yogi Berra and Rickey Henderson and those with very brief or recent Yankee careers in Andy Phillips and Johnny Damon.

The roots of this event can be traced back to July 4, 1939 — Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day — when the Iron Horse’s old teammates returned to honor him after his retirement and diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. However, the first official event was held Sep. 28, 1947, the last game of the season and brainchild of then-general manager and co-owner Larry MacPhail.

It has since become one of the best traditions in baseball, and the longest running of its kind.

From the ’60s to the ’90s other teams held their own as well; the Red Sox held seven between ’82 and ’93; the Mets last held theirs in ’94, while for the Tigers the last was ’99. Finally, last year the Dodgers joined the Yankees and started theirs again with an Old-Timers’ Day to honor their 1963 World Series victory over New York, and with its continuance this year, the event seems here to stay.

Attending the spectacle as a fan carries with it many surreal qualities. Players whom you never saw on the field and the memorable moments you wish you were alive to see suddenly seem real again. And although I never saw all those spectacular moments, seeing the players who caused them in uniform and in action brings with it qualities that can’t be transmitted through a highlight.

More than any other sport, baseball lauds its history and grips it tightly, sometimes to a fault. Its wide breadth of stats has enabled constant comparisons among players from different eras and innumerable amounts of records. But more than this, as America’s pastime, baseball’s narrative is uniquely woven into that of the country’s, especially in the first half of the 20th century when it created cultural icons in ways different from today’s celebrity athletes.

Old-Timers’ Day is not one of those examples of baseball refusing to let go of its history; rather, it stands as one of the reasons baseball is great. It unites generations, allowing fans to reminiscence about where they were during Reggie Jackson’s three-homer game in the ’77 World Series or David Wells’ perfect game in ’98. It allows families to pass down stories, the way my dad mentions to me what he remembers from the players he watched.

It’s also a chance to learn about players I may not have known about previously. Take for example, Dr. Bobby Brown, who played third base for the Yankees from 1946 to 1954 and, at 89 years old, was the oldest player at Old-Timers’ Day. His career numbers are nothing spectacular — he only played in 548 regular-season games — but he won four World Series, has the sixth highest batting average in World Series history at .439, served in WWII and the Korean War, practiced cardiology for over 25 years in Texas and served as president of the American League for a full decade.

Routinely missing spring training because of medical school and continuing his studies during his career, he represents a player that is unlikely to be seen again, but one that deserves to be celebrated.

With its history, baseball is in such a great position because it has a lot to offer and stands somewhat alone from other sports in that regard. While some argue that baseball is still bogged down by old, conservative ways — true in some aspects — Old-Timers’ Day represents holding on to the past in the right way, a celebration of those who made it great.

Other teams still have different ways of honoring the past during their seasons, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the other historic franchises bringing back their players for one last game to relive their great memories.

Robert DePaolo is a rising junior in the College. Sideline Summer appears every other Friday at

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