October 29, 1996
JIM LEHRER: Our essayist, Roger Rosenblatt, is a native New Yorker who has been a Yankee fan all of his natural life, is that right, Roger?
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Yes, if you call it a natural life. It's been--it's been one pleasure after another, except for the last 18 years, but this year's been a joy, Jim.
JIM LEHRER: First, Roger, explain to non-baseball fans why the New York Yankees appear to be different than other baseball teams.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: You mean, apart from the fact that they won the Series?
JIM LEHRER: Yes.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: The--a lot of it has to do--
JIM LEHRER: I mean, before they won the Series.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Yes. I understand.
JIM LEHRER: Right.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: A lot of it has to do with their being in the same city as two other great teams, the Giants and the Dodgers, but New Yorkers being natural fanatics can only root for one team at a time. So while loving the Dodgers was wholehearted and loving the Giants certainly wholehearted--
JIM LEHRER: You're talking about the old Brooklyn Dodgers and the old New York Yankees.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: I am.
JIM LEHRER: And the New York Giants, and the National League.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: The National Leagues, teams of the 40's and the 50's, the Giants located in Upper Manhattan, the Dodgers, of course, in Brooklyn. It came to pass also that you had to, therefore, hate the Yankees. You hated the Yankees because they were associated with riches. You hated the Yankees because they were associated with Manhattan for some reason, even though their stadium is located in the Bronx, but most of all, you hated the Yankees because they won.
JIM LEHRER: And they also had through the history--here again a little history lesson--many of the great names in baseball--Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Roger Marris, and of course, Joe DiMaggio, who was in that parade today--those are some of the greatest names in the history of baseball, and they were all Yankees.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Yeah. And one of the interesting things about this year is while you watched the gods at play in the 1950's and 1960's, people really outside the reach of the fans, one of the appeals of this year's championship team--not just appeals to Yankee fans--but even Mets fans--if they'll admit it--is that this is just a nice bunch of guys who clawed and worked very hard, were not the greatest hitting team in the world, certainly not the greatest pitching team in the world, although the relievers were, but just a team that worked very hard to get where they were, and they're likeable.
JIM LEHRER: No superstars in this thing?
ROGER ROSENBLATT: No, except, well, one reliever, Rivera is probably a superstar in what he does.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. But, you know, the mystique of the, of the Yankees, there were--if you were a baseball fan, you had to take a position on the Yankees.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Yes, definitely.
JIM LEHRER: I mean, it wasn't--you didn't have to take a position on the Pittsburgh Pirates or the Boston Red Sox or any--but the Yankees, wherever you were, for whatever team you were for, you had to either hate the Yankees or love the Yankees, is that not correct?
ROGER ROSENBLATT: It is correct, and I was never quite sure why. I mean, you--why there was a class association, always has been with the Yankees. Maybe the pinstripes had something to do with it. But it developed, and that class association met you were working class if you were for your team, be it the Cubs or the Dodgers or the Giants or any other team, but you were an aristocrat if you were for the Yankees.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: I mean, I've been among the aristocrats in the stadium. I can assure you they don't look very aristocratic. But that was always the association, and, uh, it's never left the team. I'm not sure why.
JIM LEHRER: Roger, the other night I was watching the Series, and they're there in their pinstripes, and I noticed that unlike every other Major League team today, they don't have the names of the players on the back. You know, that's a new thing. I mean, that's probably what, 20 years now, but the Yankees still don't do that.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Well, maybe it's--it's the retention of a tradition, and the idea which would be very nice, particularly in this age of individual money and individual prowess to think of the team as a team, because it certainly played as a team.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. But did you notice that as well?
ROGER ROSENBLATT: I did not, but I'm glad to know it now.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. Yeah. Is the--as somebody who has always liked the Yankees, have you ever been defensive about them? I mean, do you feel--
ROGER ROSENBLATT: No, no.
JIM LEHRER: Why not?
ROGER ROSENBLATT: No. It's funny that you are naturally defensive about the Yankees in some ways because they were never expected to lose up to a certain point. All other teams somehow are not only expected to lose but are charming because they lose. Certainly the Cubs have been charming because they lose, the Dodgers used to be, although the Dodgers won pennants, but the, um, the Yankees were not supposed to lose. So you'd always get your--you'd get your back up, and you'd get kind of angry. It was all sort of--it was all sort of grim and distant. As I say, up until this year--this year was a different kind of team, different kind of feeling in New York.
JIM LEHRER: Are you proud to be a Yankee fan?
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Oh, yes.
JIM LEHRER: And you always will be?
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Yes, sir.
JIM LEHRER: Thank you, Roger.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: I thank you, Jim.