Baseball: Carl Yastrzemski Celebrated, the Mets, Yankees & More Local Players

New York Mets' Pete Alonso, left, watches his two-run home run in Los Angeles on Saturday, June 4, 2022
New York Mets’ Pete Alonso, left, watches his two-run home run in Los Angeles on Saturday, June 4
AP Photo/Alex Gallardo

This past April, a new historic marker was unveiled in Bridgehampton to celebrate the career of Carl Yastrzemski, the son of a local potato farmer.

The marker reads, “Carl Yastrzemski. One of the greatest baseball players of all time. A 1957 graduate of Bridgehampton High School. Baseball Hall of Fame inductee 1989. Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame 2022.”

It was unveiled adjacent to the new baseball field that opened this spring in back of the newly renovated Bridgehampton school. Yastrzemski, who now lives in Maine, did not attend the unveiling, but sent a letter to the hundred or so attendees, expressing his appreciation.

Yastrzemski played his entire 23-year career with the Boston Red Sox and was the star left fielder for the team when they played in the World Series in 1967. That year, he also won the American League Triple Crown, a remarkable achievement. He led the league in most home runs, most runs batted in, and overall batting average all at the same time. The feat was not duplicated until 2012, nearly half a century later, when the Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera did it.

The unveiling of the historic marker preceded the first official high school baseball game played by Bridgehampton High School in 43 years. Although Yastrzemski starred on a team back in his high school days, the school for a long time afterwards was unable to field a team. Now, this year, they have. And this spring, playing alongside Yaz’s marker, they beat Shelter Island High School 6–0.

Interestingly, this year, one of Yaz’s grandsons has become the star center fielder for the San Francisco Giants. Born and bred in Andover, Mass., Mike Yastrzemski is currently batting around 300 and leads his team with the highest on-base percentage.

The Mets & Yankees

At the present time, both the New York Yankees and the New York Mets lead their respective leagues with win-loss records that are stunning. The Yankees have a record of 44 wins and 16 losses. The Mets are 40 and 22. It seems possible that the end result might be a Subway Series in October.

The Yankees success is explainable because they have a huge, powerful lineup headed by Aaron Judge that hits lots and lots of home runs. It has been purchased at great expense. The Yankees spend more money on players than any other team in baseball.

The Mets, on the other hand, are a surprise. For years they have been among the worst teams in baseball. Forty-two years ago, the Wilpon family bought the team and it was thought that with their wealth they could make good things happen. However, in 2009, the family lost most of its fortune by investing it with stockbroker con man Bernie Madoff. Although funds were low, they liked owning the team and kept at it with mostly miserable results for the remainder of their time, only selling the team to Wall Street billionaire Steven Cohen in 2020.

Cohen, in these two short years, has done a sensational job. I think the tone of his ownership was set early on when he learned that the Wilpons had years earlier signed up Bobby Bonilla, a baseball player, for tens of millions of dollars, who then underperformed. As a result, the Wilpons insisted that Bonilla’s contract be renegotiated. Incredibly, in the new negotiation, the Wilpons agreed to pay Bonilla $1,193,248.20 every July 1 until 2035. This deal was inherited by Mr. Cohen.

Cohen sent out a tweet shortly thereafter:

“Let’s take a vote. How about we have a Bobby Bonilla Day every year? Hand him an oversized check and drive him for a lap around the stadium. Could be fun.”

It hasn’t happened. But the fans loved this. And every July 1 is Bobby Bonilla Day.

Cohen’s savvy new general manager, meanwhile, assembled a terrific team. He hired Buck Showalter as manager. Showalter, very experienced, is old school. With many of his players injured, he brought up Nick Plummer, a rookie from the minor league Syracuse team, two weeks ago, who, in his first major league at bat, won the game with a stunning home run. The next day he won the game with another home run. But after that, surprisingly, Showalter took him out of the lineup. The regulars were back.

In another surprise, Showalter brought up a pitcher from Syracuse named Tom Szapucki who in his first start let up five runs in the first inning, and then, still allowed to pitch in the second, let up another four runs while getting just one more out. Showalter was just hoping he’d work out. He didn’t. And now, at 9 to 0, the game was out of reach. Szapucki, then replaced, now sports an earned run average of 60.75.

On the other hand, Showalter has so inspired this team that they came from seven runs down in the bottom of the ninth to win a game 8 to 7. Three days later, they did it again. I watched both of these games on TV, and then watched a third game where they did it still again. This third time, however, was in fact the second time but on tape. I had forgotten I’d done that.

The Mets are fabulous. Lindor, McNeil, Nimmo, Alonso, they win crazy again and again.

Last week, however, they faced San Francisco and got beat with a Yastrzemski home run.

On another occasion, they got beat by a former teammate, pitcher Steven Matz, a local East Ender from Stony Brook, who now plays for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Marcus Stroman, R.I.P. Billy DePetris

Still another East Ender, Patchogue’s Marcus Stroman, also a former Met, is now pitching for the Chicago Cubs. And doing very well.

Last month, Billy DePetris of Bridgehampton passed away at 85. He owned a restaurant in town for many years (it was where Pierre’s is today) that he called Billy’s Triple Crown Bar. DePetris went to school with Carl Yastrzemski back in the day. Billy’s pitching earned him a major league tryout but, injured, he had to withdraw.

Beloved in this town, his bar was filled with over a hundred pieces of memorabilia from Carl’s long career. Bats, balls, banners, mitts, awards, photos, even Yaz’s invitation to try out for the Red Sox. One of the oddest bars ever. Billy lived a long and happy life, gathering up his memorabilia and restoring his bar somewhere in the backwoods of Florida for his retirement.

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