It wasn't until Johnny Oates' playing career was winding down that he had a full appreciation of playing in Yankee Stadium.
His 10 years in the majors only included three seasons in the American League, his rookie year with the Baltimore Orioles and his final two years with the Yankees. His only other playing experience at Yankee Stadium came as a Dodger in World Series appearances in 1977 and 1978.
But it was enough for the Texas Ranger manager to find out how differently visitors to the venerable stadium in the South Bronx are treated from the hometown players.
To put it bluntly, he hated playing at Yankee Stadium until he became a Yankee himself.
"It's a totally different atmosphere when you're playing for the pinstripes than when you're trying to play against them," Oates said before his Rangers fell into a 2-0 division series hole by losing, 3-1, to the Yankees Thursday night. "It's a tough place to come and play as a visitor. [When] I had the opportunity to come here as a [Yankee] in 1980, I found out how nice it can be when you're playing for the pinstripes. It's a very special place to play."
Count Joe Torre among the converted.
While the Yankee manager initially disliked Commissioner Bud Selig's radical plan of wild cards and divisional playoffs, Torre has grown to accept it, if not embrace it. Besides, the Yankees are two-time American League wild-card participants--in 1995, the season before Torre was hired by George Steinbrenner, and in 1997, a year after Torre won his first World Series championship in New York.
"The playoffs just seem to be so exciting," Torre said. "I wasn't one of those wild card people, but what's happened in the last couple years in regards to the wild card has been very exciting."
What hasn't been so exciting, however, has been the dragging out of the season into the last days of October.
Anyone for a 154-game regular-season schedule?
"I'd be for that," Torre said. "There are too many things that have to be done, obviously, with the players' association or whatever.
"I think since we enlarged the format for the postseason, that's probably the way to go, as opposed to trying to, you know, have a [World Series] victory parade and a Thanksgiving Day parade at the same time."
Don Mattingly is not bitter. Not even if the Yankees' recent run of success began the year after he retired at the age of 34.
"The toughest year was '96, my first year out and then the team [won the World Series]," said Mattingly, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch Thursday night amid a chorus of cheers. "It just really has gotten easier and easier. It's been a lot easier to just become more of a fan."