Throwback uniforms for Yankees on Friday
No franchise in sports is more proud -- and more protective -- of its history than the Yankees, so Friday's event at Fenway Park represents a departure of sorts.
There will be history, certainly, as they help the Red Sox mark the 100th anniversary of the venerable ballyard's first game -- a 7-6, 11-inning victory over the visitors from New York -- by donning replicas of their uniforms from that day.
But there also is this: That year's team, the last to be known as the Highlanders and play at Hilltop Park in Manhattan, went on to finish 50-102 and 55 games behind first-place Boston. It remains the worst season in franchise history.
"Hopefully we do a little better than they did,'' Mark Teixeira said before Thursday night's game against the Twins after being informed of the Highlanders' struggles.
Like most Yankees, Teixeira did not know much about the Highlanders and their pennant-free 10 seasons before moving to the Polo Grounds and changing their name in 1913.
"Starting with Ruth and Gehrig, I can maybe give you a little bit,'' he said, "but before then, you guys are going to have to help me out.''
Derek Jeter also confessed to knowing nothing of that era, and jokingly suggested reporters to ask 39-year-old Raul Ibañez about it.
But the players seemed to embrace the opportunity to celebrate the occasion, even if the party is being hosted by their ancient rivals, and even if it means wearing old-school duds.
"I love that stuff,'' Nick Swisher said. "Those old jerseys, man, those represent America's greatest pastime, man. Those are the bones of the game. For me, man, I'm juiced.
"Don't get me wrong, I think the pinstripes are by far the coolest uniform in the world. But to be able to wear the history, for me, that's super-cool . . . I hope they don't have the wool like they did back in the day.''
Not to worry. The replicas won't be quite that authentic. But the light gray duds, including a version of the familiar interlocking NY, will be an unprecedented historical nod.
The team has no record of having worn a "throwback'' version of a Yankees uniform and knows of only one instance of wearing anything other than its regular uniforms in an official game. They wore New York Black Yankees jerseys for a Negro League salute in Detroit in 1996.
The uniforms won't be the only thing unfamiliar about Friday's game at Fenway. What might life in the storied rivalry be like with Bobby Valentine added to the brew? "We'll see,'' Teixeira said. "Bobby's an entertainer. He likes to have fun. He likes to get out there and stir things up sometimes.''
Jeter had a respectful relationship with former Red Sox manager Terry Francona, regularly tipping his cap to him in tribute. He said it will be "weird'' not to have Francona in the opposing dugout. But he was pleased to learn that Francona decided to attend Friday's festivities after initially declining.
Does he think Francona will be cheered? "It wasn't like they were winning championships all the time before he got there, so of course,'' he said. "He deserves it and I'm sure he'll get a nice ovation.''
Beyond that, it presumably will be business as usual in the rivalry, including long, tense games.
"ESPN games get 2½ minutes between innings and then [Josh] Beckett is on the mound and he takes 45 seconds in between pitches,'' Russell Martin said. "But besides that, it's awesome.''
Wait. Didn't Martin say in September he "hates'' the Red Sox?
"I never really hated them,'' he said Thursday, smiling. "But it made for good papers.''
Several Yankees said Fenway remains a special, unique place, in part because of the Green Monster, in part because of the proximity and intensity of spectators.
"The fans are right on top of you, which can be good and bad,'' Jeter said. "Any time you have a good atmosphere as a player, it makes it fun.''
Jeter said he still finds himself aiming for the wall in leftfield, and still trying in vain not to.
The Yankees and Red Sox will be back at it at Fenway on Saturday, unlike their 1912 counterparts. The day after the original opener, the Highlanders returned to New York for a benefit game against the Giants at the Polo Grounds.
The event raised $9,425.25 to aid survivors of the Titanic, which had sunk less than a week earlier. The Giants won, 11-2.