Mickey Mantle 1951

Mickey Mantle in 1951. (Public domain)

You may have read the recent Post Bulletin editorial that stated a survey found that 40% of American adults say politics caused them undue stress. Not a surprise to me.

However, right now, there is another disturbing emotion sweeping across our state. It’s the dislike of the New York Yankees.

Our beloved Minnesota Twins, also at times known as the Twinkies, drew the Evil Empire in the first round of the major league baseball playoffs.

The Yankees identify as the Bronx Bombers, the Damn Yankees, and Murderers Row. Steeped in baseball lore and history, the Yankees will be a rough matchup for our good guys.

At the submission of this column, the series had not started. Minnesota fans do not care for the Yankees. There are many reasons, but I will sum it up by saying that in the last decade the Yanks have beat us like a rented mule (no mule was hurt in this statement).

I thought I would see what makes a couple of true-blue Yankee fans tick. Greg Glasenapp, also known as “Snapper” to those that know him, is well known in the local sports scene. Snapper is a big-time Yankees fan.

The Mantle of authority

At a recent quarterback club meeting he wore a Yankees shirt. Most of the table of eight gave Snapper some serious razzing. He casually told me that it comes with the territory of being a Yankees fan.

Snapper told me his dad, Walt, was a huge Yankees fan. His dad loved the game and he followed the pinstripes during the dynasty years of Casey Stengel, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.

All the professional baseball teams were east of the Mississippi in those days. The only way you could follow your heroes or your team was listening to games on radio and reading the box scores in the newspaper.

When Greg started to play baseball as a kid, he wanted to always wear number 7. This magical number belonged to the great Yankee centerfielder Mickey Mantle.

Greg was around the game quite a bit as a kid. His dad worked for the Rochester Park Department and also took meticulous care of Mayo Field. Greg got to learn the finer points of the game under the tutelage of longtime Mayo High School baseball coach Dale Massey. Even as Greg became a baseball coach, he would wear number 7.

Student becomes teacher

Those who love the game of baseball stay connected to it. Greg helped coach the Rochester A’s for 16 years, helped coach the Rochester Royals for 11 years and has been an assistant coach at Century for a few years. Greg said there is nothing better than working with kids and teaching them the game of baseball.

Roger Fink grew up in a small town of Port Jervis, N.Y. Port Jervis is located at the junction of three states -- New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Roger told me Port Jervis was only 70 miles from New York City, and he got to attend games at Yankee Stadium, also known as “The House That Ruth Built.”

Roger said he can’t remember not loving baseball. His dad was a big Yankees fan. Roger played baseball in the summers and fondly remembers listening to Yankees games on the radio while sitting on his front porch with his dad. Although they received only a few television channels, station WIPX, Channel 11, would televise Yankees games.

Roger idolized Mickey Mantle and was able to see him play at Yankee Stadium. He remembers Mantle as appearing bigger than life. Your hero can do no wrong. Roger collected baseball cards always hoping to pull Yankees out of a newly purchased pack of baseball cards.

Becoming a youth coach was also a rewarding time for Roger. He coached his son and this is a wonderful memory.

The game drew us in

Baby boomer Yankee fans connected to the team because of its players like Mantle, Maris and Ford. Their success and classy pinstripe uniforms drew many into following the baseball team that was considered a dynasty. Most of all, we all wanted to be Mickey Mantle and play centerfield.

There is a deep-rooted connection to the number 7 and all that the number stands for. Non-Yankee fans can’t quite grasp its importance. When young baseball players donned that jersey with that number on their back, it gave them more confidence. I know, as a kid and young man I was a Yankee fan, and loved to wear the number 7.

The game drew us in. The crack of the wood bat. Playing for hours on warm summer days. Attending games with family or friends. The smell of the infield grass and your heroes stepping out onto the field.

Whether you lived in Minnesota or New York, you became devoted to a number or a team. Yankees fans are just like us -- they love their team, just like Twins fans.

Be kind to Yankee fans and I hope you have enjoyed the series. May the best team win.

Loren Else lives in Rochester and also writes the Post Bulletin’s Day in History column. Send comments and column ideas to Loren at news@postbulletin.com.

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