From the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, Thanksgiving in Yankeeland usually meant waiting around to see if George Steinbrenner was going to make a managerial change. Like a conflicted hunter standing over the neck of his Thanksgiving Turkey with an axe, the Yankees’ owner would often take all winter to make a final decision. Perhaps the Boss enjoyed serving up a little humble pie over the holiday?
More recently, however, a Yankee Thanksgiving has meant having a float in the Macy’s parade down Fifth Avenue. Although Bucky Dent rode on a parade float the November after winning the 1978 World Series MVP, the first reported instance of several players appearing under a team banner occurred after the Yankees’ return to glory in 1996. That year, Joe Torre and most of the team’s players, including Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Paul O’Neill, Wade Boggs and Tino Martinez, waved to the holiday crowd from atop the Daily News’ float. Unfortunately, that Thanksgiving also happened to be one of the coldest in recent history. How cold was it? It was so cold that O’Neill was reduced to a childlike figure, constantly asking Michael Kay, who along with John Sterling accompanied the team, if the end of the parade route was near (as relayed by Kay on his radio show).
In 1998, only Joe Torre, El Duque and David Cone made the trip to Herald Square. Perhaps the memories of the cold two years earlier kept the rest of the team away? Then, in 1999, the Yankees presence in the parade was reduced to Torre riding along with New York City major Rudolph Giuliani. Torre eventually became a semi-regular at the event, appearing even in years when the Yankees didn’t win, but the team would be represented again in 2000 and 2009 as well.
Sadly, there is no championship for which to give thanks this season. Maybe, to help fill the void, the Yankees can find it in their hearts to reach a quick settlement with both Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera (just like the George Steinbrenner did with Bernie Williams on the eve of Thanksgiving in 1998)? On a day of thanks, re-signing the team’s two legendary free agents would make for a perfect celebration.