It's Fan Feature Friday, and this week, I'd like to introduce you to Colleen (Burke) Maguire.
Colleen is a lifelong Yankee fan, who grew up in the 60's and 70's just down the road from where Yogi Berra resided in Montclair, NJ.
When did you first become a Yankees fan? How old were you? What year was it? How did it come about?
I don’t remember when I wasn’t a New York Yankees fan. I was the middle of 7 children and my childhood is sort of a blur of Catholic school plaid, bunk beds, waiting to use the one bathroom in our house, and playing games outside in the street with the neighborhood kids. I grew up in the south end of Bloomfield in the 60’s and 70’s. My dad loved the Yankees. His favorite players were Mickey Mantle, then Bobby Murcer, then Don Mattingly.
I remember him taking his five daughters to Watsessing Park, with one mitt, a bat, and a couple of baseballs, and hitting fly balls for us to chase down. I LOVED IT! He worked nights a lot, and I remember watching day games with him on black and white television. Dad took me to Yankee Stadium twice that I can recall. I don’t remember exactly what years those games were, but I remember Graig Nettles and Roy White were on the team and they were my favorite players at the time.
No one moment made me a Yankee fan. It was in my blood, and was a way to spend time with my dad. When I moved away as an adult, whenever I called home, dad and I talked about the Yankees. He passed in 1995, just before the great dynasty of the Derek Jeter era.
Who is your favorite player of all-time?
That’s a tough one, but I’d have to say Lou Gehrig. He played for 17 seasons, 2,130 consecutive games, and was forced by illness to retire at age 36. With the numbers he had, and the consistency and good health that made him “The Iron Horse”, if he hadn’t tragically gotten sick, he would probably have played at least as long as, if not longer than, say, Babe Ruth (who retired at 40). He would have had record breaking numbers that would still be standing today. He was Captain of the New York Yankees. He was beloved, humble, and handsome. To me, he was the greatest Yankee player and role model of all time, until Derek Jeter came along, maybe.
Who is your favorite most underrated player?
I have a shortlist of three: Graig Nettles, Roy White, and Bernie Williams. I’ll go with Roy White because he was one of my all-time favorites from when I was a kid into my early twenties, culminating in those two great World Series teams in 1977, and he played his entire 15-year career with the Yankees. He was just always there, quietly playing consistently good baseball in the shadows of great players, like Thurman Munson, Ron Guidry, and Reggie Jackson. He was Ringo to their John, Paul, and George. He wasn’t involved in any of the craziness or controversy of the Bronx Zoo. And, lastly, my dad’s name was also Roy.
What is your most memorable moment as a fan?
That’s easy. I watch most of the games on TV. I left New Jersey in 1991 and lived out of state for many years. We finally landed back on the east coast in Northern Virginia in 2003 and bought a house down the shore a couple of years later. We started going to Yankee Stadium a few times every summer. During Derek Jeter’s run up to 3000 hits, we timed it right and ended up at that fateful game on July 9, 2011. It was the most exciting, electric, wonderful moment for me as a Yankees fan. I have the entire at-bat on video. I recently heard Michael Kay say that calling that 3000th hit was his favorite moment as a broadcaster. It was just magical to be there.
We were also at Jeter’s last two games at the stadium, and that was pretty special, too. A perfect ending to a perfect career. But the 3000th hit, for me, was more exciting. My husband passed away on April 15th this year. He wasn’t a Yankee fan when I met him, but I fixed that. We loved going to ballgames as a family wherever we lived, and then later, we had season tickets for Yankees Spring Training for ten years. He indulged my passion, took me to the All-Star Game at the Stadium in 2008 for my 50th birthday, left a work conference to watch Game 6 of the 2009 World Series with me and our son, took me to those great Jeter milestone games, and was a great Yankees fan to the end. He watched a Yankee game with our son in the hospital the night before he slipped away from us. And now I’m crying…
What would you like to see in the 2023 season?
Presuming the Yankees sign Aaron Judge, and name him Captain, I’d like to see young players like Oswaldo Cabrera, Oswald Peraza, and Anthony Volpe given every day starting positions, and for the lineup to be consistent. Remaining injury-free is key. We need to get our bullpen healthy again, get into an everyday rhythm and gel as a winning team that can go the distance, fulfilling the promise of the early part of the 2022 season.
If you could sit down with any former Yankees player, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you talk about?
I have to say Yogi Berra. Yogi was a great Yankee catcher, MVP, and winner of ten World Series championships. He was an iconic figure spanning seven decades of New York baseball. Can you imagine what he saw and heard in those years? The funny thing is, Yogi was around “the neighborhood” when I was a kid and young adult. He lived in Montclair, which was my high school’s football rival, and attended games when his son's played. It wasn’t unusual to see him at restaurants, and he even came to my company to give free racquets to new members when he opened his racquetball club in the late 1970’s. I didn’t appreciate at the time that he was a national treasure. I would just sit and let him talk about whatever he wanted. The wisdom in his Yogi-isms is deeper than the ancient philosophers! He was modest and a great man.
"A lot of guys go, ‘Hey, Yog, say a Yogi-ism.’ I tell ’em, ‘I don’t know any.’ They want me to make one up. I don’t make ’em up. I don’t even know when I say it. They’re the truth. And it is the truth. I don’t know." - Yogi Berra
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