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This Day in Yankees History: Elston Howard retires; Yanks complete 1998 World Series sweep

No. 32 retires and the ‘98 Yankees cement their status as one of the most dominant teams in MLB history.

BBO-SERIES-YANKEES-PADRES-BROSIUS HAPPY TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to the relaunched This Day in Yankees History. As the offseason has begun much sooner than anyone has ever hoped for, the Pinstripe Alley team has decided to continue the revived program in its new format. These daily posts will highlight two or three key moments in Yankees history on a given date, as well as recognize players born on the day. Hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane with us!

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This Day in Yankees History (October 21)

52 Years Ago

Longtime Yankees catcher Elston Howard announced his retirement on this day in 1968.

Howard had big shoes to fill after taking over for Yogi Berra as the Yankees’ everyday catcher in the late 1950s. He played all but two seasons of his 14-year career with the Yankees and appeared in 10 World Series before hanging up his cleats. In 1963, Howard won the American League MVP Award, becoming the first Black player in American League history to win the honor; he also won Gold Glove Awards in 1963 and 1964.

Elston Howard Receiving 1963 MVP Award

As a catcher, Howard’s knowledge of hitters in the American League, his game-calling ability and even-keeled demeanor helped the entire Yankees’ pitching staff succeed. After retiring in 1968, he returned to the Yankees and became the first Black coach for an American League team. With the Yankees, Howard coached for 11 seasons, though he never reached his goal of becoming the first Black MLB manager (Frank Robinson would, in 1975 with the Indians). During his time as a Yankees coach Howard added two more World Series rings to his four won as a player (1956, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1977, 1978).

Fun fact: Howard is credited with inventing the batting “donut,” a circular lead weight with a rubber shell used by batters in the on-deck circle.

20 Years Ago

The Yankees win Game 1 of the 2000 Subway Series, defeating the Mets, 4-3. The pregame ceremony to kick off the 2000 World Series included Don Larsen, who threw out the first pitch to Yogi Berra, and Billy Joel, who sang The Star Spangled Banner to a crowd of 55,913 in the Bronx.

Game One’s pitching matchup featured two postseason veterans, with the Yankees’ Andy Pettitte going up against the Mets’ Al Leiter. The game was scoreless through the sixth before David Justice’s two-run double put the Yankees on the board. The Mets scored three runs in the seventh and the Yankees tacked one on in the ninth to tie the game. The game remained tied until José Vizcaíno hit a bases-loaded single to drive in Tino Martinez in the bottom of the 12th.

22 Years Ago

The Yankees, with a 3-0 victory at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, sweep the Padres to win their 24th World Series championship. The team’s 125 wins (regular season and playoffs combined) are the most ever won by a championship team, surpassing the record of 116 established by the Mets in 1986. Needless to say, the 1998 Yankees were among the greatest MLB teams of all time.

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Happy 53rd birthday to John Flaherty! Flash is a familiar face to many Yankees fans through his work as a YES Network studio analyst and color commentator. The backstop played for a number of teams during his 13-year career (1992 - 2005), but spent his final three seasons in pinstripes.

Today Pinstripe Alley honors Hall-of-Fame pitcher Whitey Ford, one of the all-time Yankee greats, who passed away earlier in the month and would have turned 92 today.

We thank Baseball-Reference, SABR.org and Nationalpastime.com for providing background information for these posts.