May 1995: The Birth of the Long Yankees Dynasty

September 7, 2009   ·     ·   Jump to comments
Article Source: Bleacher Report - New York Yankees

In the second half of May 1995, while an awful lot of people (including myself) weren’t paying any attention because the strike had just ended, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera put on the Yankee uniform for the first time.

They had come through the minors with differing levels of hype: Jeter was seen as the future Yankee shortstop from the day he was drafted in 1992, Pettitte had shown significant promise in moving through the minors pretty quickly, but apparently without too many people noticing. And Rivera had struggled at Columbus in 1994 before starting 1995 well enough to earn the call-up.

Read on for excerpts from stories about the debuts of three cornerstones of the long Yankees dynasty, 1995 to present, and a postscript about Jorge Posada’s debut on September 4, 1995.

On May 23, 1995, about a month after the late start to the MLB season, Mariano Rivera made his big league debut in Anaheim. The New York Daily News was on the scene and focused on maybe the best performance of Chuck Finley’s career:

“A veteran like Chuck Finley could probably teach a youngster like Mariano Rivera a few things about persistence.

In Finley’s 10-0, two-hit, 15-strikeout domination of the Yankees at Anaheim Stadium last night, the Angels lefthander owned the evening. He was on an untouchable roll, working on a perfect game for five innings and striking out at least one Yank in each of the first six.

Rivera, the 25-year-old righthander who made his major-league debut last night, experienced a full allotment of ups and downs in a rugged 3 1/3 innings.

There were flashes of brilliance from Rivera, but a broken-bat single and three-run homer put the Angels on course for their blowout.

Showalter hoped Rivera learned something from the rude welcome to the majors. “One of the things Mariano can learn from tonight is that there’s not much margin for error up here,” Showalter said. “He missed a few times in some bad spots and he’s going to have to have better command of his off-speed stuff. He started out well and hopefully he’ll learn from it. Every pitcher goes through growing pains.”

On May 27, 1995, exactly four days after Mariano Rivera’s debut, Andy Pettitte made his first big league start. (It’s funny to see that on May 16th, 1995 the Yankees optioned Pettitte to Class AAA Columbus and to fill his roster spot, they recalled  Rivera: these two were intertwined from the start in New York.)

The two biggest pitching mainstays for the Yankees of the past 15 years were both victims of shutouts in their first outings, as the New York Times of May 28 reported:

“The Yankee virus is spreading. Another starter is wrapped in gauze, another opposing pitcher pushed the Yankees’ mute button and another member of their farm system was no antidote.

Another day, another bag of cold bats. The journeyman pitcher Steve Ontiveros was only a lousy ground-ball single away from a no-hitter today, and the Oakland Athletics notched a 3-0 victory in front of 23,473.

Today, the Yankees hoped borrowing from Class AAA Columbus was the route to take. The left-handed Pettitte was called up to make his first major league start, but he learned major league infielders can have the same scattershot arms as minor leaguers. He yielded two cheap hits to begin the second inning, but buckled down and finally induced the A’s Mike Bordick into a two-out ground ball.

The ball hopped straight to Randy Velarde, who threw for the first row, bringing first baseman Don Mattingly’s feet off the bag.

Mattingly snared the ball with a nice leap, but Bordick beat the throw, and Sierra scored from third courtesy of Velarde’s error. Rickey Henderson followed with a bloop single to center field, and Terry Steinbach scored to increase the A’s lead to 2-0.

So the average age of the Yankees keeps dwindling. They start another rookie pitcher, Mariano Rivera, on Sunday, and there are no indications he can stop the flooding any better than Pettitte could.”

On May 30, 1995, the Daily News said this about Derek Jeter’s Yankee debut, in Seattle:

“It was 11 years ago when a first-round draft pick last made it up to the Yankees. His name was Rex Hudler and he had been toiling in the minors for seven seasons. No one expected him to be great.

The same cannot be said of Derek Jeter, who yesterday became the first Yankee first-rounder since Hudler to join the big club. Jeter’s climb through the minors has been meteoric since the Yankees made him the sixth overall pick in the June 1992 draft. With a .308 average and 77 stolen bases in just over three seasons, Jeter is expected to be a star.

Beset by injuries to Tony Fernandez and Pat Kelly, and in need of an offensive boost, the Yankees made room for Jeter by designating Kevin Elster and his .117 average for assignment.

Jeter, who at 20 becomes the youngest Yankee since 19-year old Jose Rijo came up in 1984, was immediately inserted into the lineup at shortstop against the Mariners. He took an 0-for-5 collar last night, including a strikeout with a man on third and two outs in the 11th inning. He handled the only ball hit directly to him flawlessly.

“I’m a little nervous,” Jeter said before the game. “But more excited than anything. I tried not to think too much about the injuries and things that were going on up here. You can go crazy trying to figure those things out. I was hoping.”

“I’m anxious to see the way he handles himself in the clubhouse up here,” said Buck Showalter. “That was one of the things that impressed me about Derek when I got to follow him the end of last year. He is very mature for his age.”

Jeter had been projected as the Yankees shortstop of ‘95, but after he injured his shoulder diving for a ball in the Arizona Fall League, the Yankees signed Tony Fernandez to a two-year deal. The injury turned out to be minor.

“I knew the Yankees weren’t just going to give me the shortstop job,” Jeter said. “I know it’s something that you have to earn.”

“I don’t want to get into what Derek has to do to stay up,” said Showalter. “We want him to relax and do what he’s capable of doing. We hope Derek makes us a better club.”

Finally, Posada’s debut on September 4 (he came in for Jim Leyritz to catch the bottom of the 9th) was relegated by the Daily News to a game notes tidbit:

“Three players, Yankees C Jorge Posada and Mariners Ps Jim Mecir and Scott Davison, made major-league debuts. Randy Johnson was first to greet both pitchers when they returned to dugout after their first innings.”

Here are my own notes on these players: by some odd coincidence, all four of the debuts were against the three West Coast A.L. teams, including Posada’s and Jeter’s against the Mariners. And none of them was in the slightest bit illustrious.

Of course the Yanks and M’s would team up for a most memorable ALDS in October, with Pettitte starting game two and Rivera relieving in games two (pitching the 12th through 15th innings for the win in the marathon contest won on a Jim Leyritz homer), three, and five. Posada scoring a run to tie game two in the 12th as a pinch-runner, and Jeter not playing at all. It was the start of a cross-continental rivalry that lasted about six years and spanned three playoff series.

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