09/21/08 11:40 PM ET
Yanks alumni consumed by nostalgia
Former players overwhelmed with pregame recognition
By Samantha Newman / MLB.com
"I knew they knew what I am all about," Randolph said. "I feel their love and I love them. To be back here is always special. To walk through those gates, I am going to miss the old place, man. But it's time to move on."For certain legendary names, the honor of taking the field was bestowed upon family members. As Mickey Mantle's name was called over the public address system, his son, David, jogged the center-field position his father took for most of his 18 seasons with the Yankees. And David wore the same sort of flannel uniform his father did, saying that he now understood why his dad had always complained of the itch. Before he arrived at the stadium, not even Mantle knew what the night's ceremonies entailed. A bus came to pick him up at the hotel, and from there, the day rolled along. But as he got to catch up with some of his father's former teammates, he had time to take in the special day. "It was a great pleasure and a real honor," Mantle said. "It was the pride and tradition, playing 18 years for the Yankees was just what Dad always dreamed of. It's too bad that he's not here to represent instead." The names of those who stood on the grass at Yankee Stadium prior to Sunday's contest was a staggering remembrance of years of history, and the experience was overwhelming for many. "They all had heart and they all had soul," Dave Winfield said. "I'm just happy to play for a great organization. Your little contribution adds up to great contributions. When I saw Babe Ruth's daughter, you could have hit me over the head with a feather. That's awesome. Then to see Whitey [Ford] and Yogi [Berra] and think about over 80 years. Think about that." One of the more poignant moments took place when Bobby Murcer's name was announced and his wife and children walked to center field in his memory. His daughter Tory's eyes filled with tears as the cheers filled the stadium and the fans and players alike remembered Murcer. "That was a moment right there," Wells said. "I just lost it. I knew I would at some point." As the ceremony continued, fans waited with anticipation for the announcer to call one name -- Bernie Williams. Williams had not returned to Yankee Stadium since 2006, and prior to the celebration, he said he felt the nerves he used to feel before a playoff game. And when his name was announced as the final player to be honored on Sunday night, chants of "Bernie! Bernie!" accompanied him on his way to the field. The night was a remembrance of a historic ballpark, but for the players who returned to honor it, it also marked a chance to reunite and reminisce about the times they'll keep with them from baseball's Cathedral. "It's great to have all those guys back," former first baseman and team captain Tino Martinez said. "It's teammates you won titles with. Fans really showed their appreciation. "I just kept looking around. I was standing at first base, just looking at the fans, just thinking about what a great night it is, all the great moments that I was able to experience here."
Samantha Newman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.