06/06/2002 5:39 pm ET
Giants, Yankees rekindle rivalry
First matchup in 40 years evokes memories
By Josh Rawitch / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- To put into perspective just how long it's been since the Giants and Yankees squared off in a meaningful game, try contemplating this statistic.
When the 1962 World Series between the two teams ended, Mickey Mantle's 404 home runs led Willie Mays' 368. Both would go on to be enshrined in Cooperstown: Mantle with 536 career home runs, the "Say Hey Kid" with 660, good enough to rank third all-time. (See Top 10 home run gallery)
"When there's that much history, you can feel it," said Giants reliever Jay Witasick, one of two San Francisco players to also play for the
Yankees. "You don't have to be a baseball historian to know what's happened there. You don't have to know the whole, complete history
to know that there was a lot of games that were played there that structured the game as we know it today."
That tradition at "The House that Ruth Built" is one that has not only affected baseball players and fans around the world, but even
aspects of life as far reaching as Hollywood.
"Just like the movie 'The Pride of the Yankees,' there's a lot of that going around and I would think if you were to put on the pinstripes, you
would really feel the history of the ballclub," said Russ Ortiz, who will oppose Roger Clemens on Saturday. "You've kind of got to treat it as
another park, but you can't help think about being at Yankee Stadium."
The visit to the Bronx will be a nostalgic one for Shawon Dunston, despite the fact that the 18-year veteran has never played a big-league
game there. Dunston had a tryout at the stadium as a high school sophomore in 1980 and recalls hitting a home run over the 310-foot
sign with an aluminum bat. Eighteen years later in his only season in the American League, his Cleveland Indians had two games
rained out and he did not play in the third.
When first baseman J.T. Snow made his Major League debut as a member of the home team at Yankee Stadium, he thought every
big-league stadium would be like his first -- then he went on the road to Cleveland's Municipal Stadium, quickly getting a dose of reality.
After just seven games in a New York uniform, he was dealt to the Angels, but Snow said he has not looked back on how many World
Series rings he might now own had he not been shipped out of town.
"I was actually pretty happy about the trade because I was behind Don Mattingly, who still had a few years left, and I looked ahead and
played it out and I saw myself going back to Triple-A for a few more years," said Snow, who was informed by then-GM Gene Michael that
the team wanted to convert the future Gold Glove winner into an outfielder. "I said, 'I'm going to make it to the big leagues as a first
baseman and that's what I'm going to do.' "
While Snow actually played briefly for New York, Barry Bonds never did despite rumors that he might join the Yankees during the
offseason as a free agent. His father, Bobby, did play for the Yankees while they were temporarily playing at Shea Stadium, which means
the younger Bonds has never even set foot in Yankee Stadium. He is expected to serve as the designated hitter this weekend.
"It's going to be fun," said Bonds, but added that he has no plans to visit Monument Park before the games. "I get ready to play baseball."
Though Bonds has downplayed the matchup with Clemens on Saturday, it will certainly be a treat to see the pair of future Hall of Famers
battle head-to-head. In that game, the Giants don't expect anything to come easy.
"You always want a chance to face one of the premier guys," said Reggie Sanders, who played in last year's World Series at Yankee
Stadium. "You're up for the challenge. You've just got to scratch, battle and do what we've got to do to drive in runs."
Sanders admits that the trip will likely rekindle some fond memories of last year's World Series, as his Diamondbacks defeated the
Yankees in one of the greatest Fall Classics in baseball history. And even though Witasick's only World Series appearance last season
was a brief 1 1/3 innings in which he allowed eight earned runs, he is still looking forward to returning to the Bronx.
"It was a great experience for me to play there," said Witasick. "A lot of these guys that have never been there, I'm sure it'll be something
they'll never forget. You'll know that it's had an impact on people because when we leave to go to Toronto, we'll still be talking about
Josh Rawitch covers the Giants for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.