‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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Ruth and Gehrig, Mantle and Maris, Mattingly and Winfield… the New York Yankees have boasted many renowned power-hitting tandems in their storied history. The latest entries into their lineage of long ball crushing teammates are present day sluggers, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira.
Both Teixeira and Granderson are currently on pace to finish near 50 home runs when the 2011 regular season is said and done. No two teammates in the history of baseball have together reached the mark of 50 in a single season besides Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. How fitting would it be that during the 50th anniversary season of the ‘M&M Boys’ chasing Babe Ruth’s record of 60 home runs that two men in pinstripes come closest to emulating their feats?
Let me take you back to 1961 in my time machine that is the written canvas I’m presenting before you. It was a simpler era in American history as the nation had not yet witnessed the assassinations of JFK and MLK. The Vietnam War hadn’t reached its boil and the fear and paranoia of the Cuban Missile Crisis was a year away.
A song and dance craze known as ‘The Twist’ made famous by Chubby Checker had gripped our nation from coast-to-coast. Boys and girls rode their Schwinn bicycles throughout New York City listening to ballgames on their transistor radios. My mother Diane told me how she used to trade baseball cards with her friends and would ruin the value of the cards of Mantle and Maris that today would be worth quite a bit of money by inserting them into the spokes of her bike. It was mind-boggling for me to hear this as a ten-year old boy raised in the peak of card collecting in the mid-1990’s.
Flash forward back to present day where we live in a very different post-9/11 America. We’re little more than a month past the death of Osama bin Laden, a moment that brought healing to many New Yorkers affected by the toll of 9/11 and triggered celebrations across the country but the threat of terrorism is a constant battle. America is still mired in financial decay and the recent tornado disasters to hit the Southeast and Midwest have muted the good feelings of a nation.
Baseball has the ability to connect our country like no other sport can and is intertwined with the history of the United States itself. Since the 1860’s and through good times and bad, baseball has placed itself prominently within the psyche of Americans. Fans raised upon the traditions of the game like myself are craving a moment that can restore baseball’s image. “Give us something we can celebrate, something historic and something genuine!” These are the words we pray to the ‘Baseball Gods.’
The damage inflicted by the ‘Steroid Era’ appears to be part of the past. Purists of the game look back at the McGwire-Sosa pursuit of Maris’ record of 61 and Barry Bonds later engulfing the single-season home run mark to 73 as false conquests. Embarrassments caused on Capitol Hill by prominent ballplayers and the findings of the Mitchell Report feel like distant memories. Baseball’s soul, just like America is in recovery. Both our ‘National Pastime’ and country itself always has the ability to bounce back.
Two outstanding players free from accusations of cheating in Teixeira (stats) and Granderson (stats) have the chance to do something remarkable in the game’s history that teammates have only achieved once before. They are both seen as solid citizens who portray the sport in positive light and are playing in ‘The Capital of Baseball’ on the most-watched team across the nation.
What could possibly be better than these two men chasing after the exploits of Maris and Mantle in the very same pinstriped uniforms? At their current rate, Granderson would end up with 51 while Teixeira would complete the regular season at 49.
50 years to this very day on June 13th, 1961, Roger Maris settled into the batter’s box at Cleveland Municipal Stadium to face Jim Perry with 20 home runs to his name. Tonight on June 13th, 2011, Granderson and Teixeira will step up to the plate at Yankee Stadium against Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco at 20 and 19 home runs respectively. Who’s to say that they can’t continue their torrid pace and be the first teammates each to eclipse 50 home runs since 1961?
A chase like this would be great for fans to follow closely throughout the season and I hope that it would get the proper media attention it deserves. In a time when we could all use a distraction, baseball fans could come together and enjoy a bit of real history.
Can Teixeira and Granderson keep pace and become the second Yankee duo to each hit 50 home runs? Feel free to share your own predictions, let me hear your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.