“When you put that cap on, you’re not just wearing a cap; you’re wearing history and you’re wearing pride,” my father told me. He had purchased a Yankees cap for my birthday and now my fantasies of becoming the next hero in pinstripes were augmented. Being so naive and relatively foreign to baseball and sports at the time I had only an inkling of what my father meant, but I cherished the gift nonetheless. The insignia, the navy blue, and the perfect fit of the cap on my cranium.
I had just celebrated my pentamerous birthday. During my tee-ball games, I envisioned myself as Joe DiMaggio circling the bases, and sometimes my teammates and I would reenact Derek Jeter’s “Flip Play.” The birthday present I got that year was one of the greatest gifts I had ever received. Though it doesn’t fit me anymore, the sense of nostalgia always will.
It was perfect. While I am not one to generate sentimental feelings for inanimate objects, my Yankees caps are exceptions. I freaked out whenever a speck of dust got on my first cap, and the feeling remains the same even today for my other caps.
When they first came into existence as the New York Highlanders in 1903, they were nothing. After changing their name to the Yankees in 1913 everything began to change. Jacob Rupert purchased the team for $500,000 in 1915. Five years later, Rupert purchased Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox for $125,000.
George M. Steinbrenner deserves even more credit. Though he micromanaged just about everything, he created a universal brand and the second-most valuable sports franchise on the planet, all of which culminated from the time he purchased the team for $10 million from CBS in 1973. Now they’re worth $3.7 billion.
The rest, as they say, is history. Over the course of 115 years, the Yankees have garnered immaculate adulation from their fervent fans while simultaneously attracting perpetual abhorrence from their detractors. It’s a perfect balance, and baseball is better for it.
My last visit to Yankee Stadium was on August 11th of 2017. It was a game against the (you guessed it) Boston Red Sox. Finally, I could cross going to a Yankees-Red Sox game off of my bucket list. Naturally, I intend to go to many more. By the way, the Yankees won that game 5-4, and also won the 2017 season series 11-8, just in case you forgot!
Now, I admit that I was not a very good baseball player. I stopped playing after Little League. Oddly enough, in my three years of playing in Little League, I was on the Mets! When I first had workouts for Little League (and we even had a draft), I would have been a Yankee if I had been selected just one pick earlier.
What was fitting about my time in Little League was that the Yankees were the perennial powerhouse in my league. It became a tradition for the Yankees and Pirates to become adversaries in the championship game with the Yankees having won three consecutive times until my great friend Ben, who played catcher and led the league in OPS in 2010, led the Pirates to a redemptive title. His father, Kevin, the proprietor of NAPA in Highland Falls, was the head coach. After the Pirates defeated us in the semifinal game, he patted me on the back, and he and I discussed strategy for the title game.
Never would I have thought that the Yankees would be my rival in any setting, but I had to make an exception in Little League. Now, whenever the Little League field in my neighborhood is unoccupied, my friends and I don the caps of our favorite teams and play a full nine-inning game. Meticulously, I ensure my Yankees cap never go dirty. Any fan who claims to love a team must be well-versed in the history of their teams, in my opinion. My friends and I all are.
So, what does it mean to wear a Yankees cap? It means you’re wearing history. It means you’re wearing Derek Jeter, and Mickey Mantle, and Bill Dickey, and Craig Nettles, and Ron Guidry. It means you’re wearing Thurmon Munson and Yogi Berra, or Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. It means you’re wearing Joe McCarthy, and Miller Huggins, and Casey Stengel.
It means you’re wearing Joe Torre and Joe Girardi. Now, Aaron Boone. It also means Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Whitey Ford, Elston Howard, Chuck Knoblauch, Scott Brosius, Jorge Posada, Phil Rizzuto, Reggie Jackson, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera. Joe DiMaggio, or Willie Randolph. Or Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, or Gary Sanchez, or Gleyber Torres.
So many cherished names. So many amazing memories. A long tradition of a commitment to excellence. A refusal to concede to defeat. A team with a heart as expensive and as boundless as the city it calls home.
What does it mean to wear a Yankees cap? It means you’re a Yankee, in one way or another.