July 1 is a big day in New York sports history, for the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Starting with the latter, it is, of course, “Bobby Bonilla Day,” aka the annual day on the calendar where the Mets cut a $1.19 million check to Bobby Bo as part of a deferred salary agreement. The Mets, you may remember, released Bonilla after the 1999 season, and Bonilla’s agent offered the Mets a deal on the $5.9 million they still owed him: Bonilla would defer payment, in exchange for a $1.19 million payment every July 1 from 2011 through 2035.
The Mets agreed, reportedly because they were thinking the Bonilla interest would be covered by the ROI they expected from an investment deal with Bernie Madoff – and as such, the Bonilla deal became part of the 2008 investigation into Madoff when the alleged Ponzi scheme came to light.
A decade later, here we are, with the Wilpons on the precipice of selling, and the eventual new owner stuck with a seven-figure tab to start the seventh month of the next 15 turns of the calendar.
As for the bad? Well, it’s sort of good, but it’s the 30th anniversary of Andy Hawkins’ no-hitter that now isn’t, pitched on July 1, 1990 in Chicago. It’s no longer a no-hitter thanks to an MLB rule change made in 1991, but Jim Leyritz talked to WFAN about the game in advance of the anniversary.
And the good? WFAN’s birthday, of course! Oh, yes, and it’s now the 16th anniversary of “The Dive,” Derek Jeter’s iconic running catch against the Red Sox that left The Captain bloodied and forced him out of an eventual Yankees win.
The image of Jeter coming out of the crowd with a cut on his chin and an already-developing mouse under his right eye will never be forgotten by Yankees fans, and the play ended the inning for eventual winning pitcher Tanyon Sturtze and indirectly gave then-Yankees backup catcher John Flaherty, who was in the bullpen at the time, a chance to win the game as a pinch-hitter an inning-plus later.
“I remember having a great view from the bullpen. We were amazed that Derek covered as much ground as he did to get there, and when we saw him disappear, it went from amazement to concern he was hurt,” Flaherty told me in a YES Network interview in 2014, on the tenth anniversary of the play. “Like everyone else, seeing his face bloody and bruised raised a lot of concern, because we didn’t know how bad it was or if we’d lose him for a period of time.”
“I couldn’t believe he caught it, to be honest. I think all of us were hoping it would go foul, and from the position I was at on the mound, it looked like no one was going to get it,” Sturtze added in a later exclusive interview I conducted. “All of a sudden, I saw No. 2 streak by and snag it; he came out of nowhere, stuck up a glove, and went into the second row. It was pretty quick, and pretty amazing he got to the ball.”
Sturtze got inserted into the No. 2 slot in the batting order in the top of the 13th when designated hitter Bernie Williams went out to play the field as part of a slew of changes brought on by Jeter’s exit, but after giving up what he called “a bomb of a home run” to Manny Ramirez in that half of the inning, Flaherty saved his bacon when he came up to pinch-hit for the pitcher in the bottom half.
Miguel Cairo had just doubled home Ruben Sierra to tie the game, and “Flash” was prime for his True Yankee Moment, coming up with Cairo on second and two outs in a now 4-4 game.
“I had taken 10 or 15 swings in the cage, and when I got up to the plate, I felt loose and ready to go,” Flaherty recalled, “and I wasn’t feeling any pressure because I was thinking Cairo had just gotten the biggest hit of the game; I was either going to be a hero or we would keep playing baseball.”
It was the former, as Flaherty stroked a 3-1 pitch from Curtis Leskanic into left field to win the game.
“I remember saying after the game that it’s Jeter or Sheffield or Giambi that gets the big hit day in and day out, so for one game, to be able to get the big hit and pick them up, that felt good,” Flash recalled.
Happy July 1 across all New York Sports!