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The best ex-Yankees to see a game with

In honor of Alex Rodriguez’s COVID-19 donation, other ideas for a viewing partner

NFL: Super Bowl LIV-San Francisco 49ers vs Kansas City Chiefs Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

One of the things that makes baseball so great is the live experience — for my money, the best of the Big Four sports to see live. The pace of the game combined with a nice day outside, a good friend and a couple of cold beverages make for a pretty good evening out. Alex Rodriguez seems to agree with me, as he’s auctioning off a chance to attend an MLB game with him as part of a relief package to fight COVID-19 related food shortages.

A-Rod’s a well-established baseball geek, and one of the best options to watch a game with at any time, just ask Henry Kissinger. To be the perfect baseball viewing partner, you need to be a geek about the game of course, but you also need a certain amount of personality. Derek Jeter, for example, surely knows the game of baseball better than almost anyone on the planet, but he’s not exactly the most fun personality, and wouldn’t be my first choice for a plus one.

So outside of A-Rod, who would be?

The list starts with the most recently retired Yankee, CC Sabathia. Anyone who’s a regular listener of the R2C2 podcast knows how entertaining CC can be in personal conversation, and he has an understated appreciation for the history of the game. Sabathia’s well aware of his own place in baseball’s pantheon, and the social impact he has as a well-known black player. CC took great care at the end of this career to pay tribute to the Black Aces and other players of color around the league, adding a historical appreciation to any in-game conversation that you might not get anywhere else.

Next up is probably the consensus pick, former Yankee pitcher and now broadcaster David Cone. Yankee fans have sung the praises of Coney for a while, but perhaps nobody balances knowledge of the game with the personality needed to sit beside someone for upwards of three hours. Anyone who’s seen Cone’s work on the YES knows how seamlessly he can blend cutting-edge analysis with satisfying narratives, and I’m sure most of us would jump at the chance to talk about that day’s starter with David.

On top of that, his extracurricular exploits are near-mythic, making him an ideal choice if you’re the kind of person to enjoy a night out after the final out is recorded.

The last guy that I think would make for a perfect game buddy is a little off the board, and it’s another former Yankee — and currently the oldest former Yankee — Eddie Robinson. If you’re a subscriber to Effectively Wild, you might remember the 99-year old Robinson appearing on an episode back in November.

One of the things that makes baseball so special is the sport’s through lines of history — and the Yankees, more than any other team, exemplify that. Robinson is far from the best known player to ever don the pinstripes, but he beat Jackie Robinson for the International League MVP, shared a dugout with Mickey Mantle in his Triple Crown season, and after retiring, became a player-development whiz who was one of the first to institute the now-standard 100 pitch limit for starters.

Babe Ruth, Mantle, and players like that are part of the very fabric of baseball history, but it’s the perspective of guys like Robinson — the other players in the room — that’s often more interesting. After already hearing him on one podcast, I’d jump at the chance to watch a game and pick his brain further.

Who would you most want to attend a ball game with?