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Yanks fans flock to 'Rally Monday'10/04/2004 4:56 PM ET
By Bryan Hoch / Special to MLB.com
NEW YORK -- On a sunny autumn afternoon that would have been perfect for baseball, more than 1,000 fans gathered in New York's Bryant Park Monday for a celebration of the Yankees' entry into the postseason.
Some of the attendees for baseball's "Rally Monday" celebration, which is being held in all eight playoff cities, stole a few minutes from their offices and arrived in shirts and ties. Others showed up donning ballcaps and jerseys, but everyone had one thing in common: great anticipation for the October heroics that could be just around the corner.
For at least one afternoon, the passion and excitement normally reserved for 161st Street and River Avenue in the Bronx teemed over into midtown Manhattan. Former Yankees Joe Girardi, Jim Leyritz and Graig Nettles showed up to meet and greet fans, as did Yankees broadcast personalities John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman.
Serving as the event's emcees, Sterling and Waldman presided over a free giveaway raffle that had lucky Yankees fans winning great items like game-used balls and bases from the upcoming AL Division Series, as well as tickets to the Tuesday and Wednesday home games against Minnesota.
With an arrangement like that, it couldn't possibly be long before "Let's Go Yankees" chants and familiar stadium music filled the park's lush grounds, challenging to drown out passing fire engines and bouncing off of adjacent skyscrapers.
"There is no place like New York," Girardi told the crowd. "The support the Yankees players get from Yankees fans is second to none, because they never let up and let them relax. Never change the way you root for the Yankees. Expect them to win every year."
Girardi didn't need to point that last fact out, because around New York, the general sense is that the Yankees are almost entitled to their run of postseason success.
"If you don't win in New York, it's not a successful season," Nettles explained.
This afternoon, optimism reigned supreme in midtown -- even Yankee Stadium's familiar pan-banging fan Freddy Schuman, better known to die-hards as "Freddy Sez," found his way to Bryant Park to lead cheers with his lucky clover frying pan.
"Every time the Yankees have ever had any kind of rally, I've been there," Schuman said. "When you've got somebody on your side cheering you on, they hear you there. There's electricity."
To loud ovations -- except when the word "Boston" was mentioned -- each of the ex-Yankees stepped to a podium underneath an arrangement of white and blue balloons and recounted their personal remembrances of glory days gone by.
Nettles still can envision the flight of Bucky Dent's 1978 home run like it was yesterday. Girardi, the retired catcher who now broadcasts for the team's YES Network, teemed with enthusiasm recalling the development of current Bombers backstop Jorge Posada. And of course, Leyritz had no problem recalling a certain hanging slider he clubbed off of Atlanta's Mark Wohlers in the 1996 World Series.
But all three ex-Yankees had one thing in common -- well, two things, if you're counting World Series rings. They all believed that the Yankees were right where they belonged, preparing for the drama of yet another Division Series in the Bronx.
"When you talk about October, you have to talk about the Yankees," Leyritz said. "What they've done since 1996 is incredible. It's almost like they have to be there."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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