The Yankees and my family

They’re not just my favorite team

My wife and I are going to New York tomorrow for a family reunion. It’s my maternal grandfather’s side.

There will be hamburgers and hot dogs, and since the weather isn’t supposed to be beastly hot like it was last year, perhaps there will be softball.

But given that one of the highlights of last year’s reunion was finding out Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge had hit home runs in their first big league at-bats, there will be plenty of Yankees talk.

I’m not entirely kidding when I say I’m not sure many of my friends in Massachusetts had ever spent much time around Yankees fans, if they had even met any before.

Sure, they had heard of such a thing, but it had always been more of a theoretical construct, or maybe something they had seen on TV.

So, confused, they would ask … “Why? How?”

“Well …” I would say, before explaining how I grew up in New York, where most of the people are Yankees fans, and more importantly, my family members are all Yankees fans.

Usually, that was enough, triggering an understanding that they became Red Sox fans for the same reason.

Yet saying “My family is all Yankees fans” doesn’t really explain it.

It doesn’t explain how my cousin — the third of three generations who all have the same first name, none of whom use it — has been nicknamed Mickey, after Mickey Mantle, since he was literally days old because his parents didn’t want the nurses in the hospital to call him by his given name.

Another cousin first told me about Reggie Jackson. My first trip to Yankee Stadium as a 7-year-old was on a bus trip with a bunch of family members. My brother had to stay home. The Yankees won. Reggie homered.

Yet another cousin left me flabbergasted as a kid when he showed up at a family function with a Giants hat. That didn’t seem like something that was done. He had been on vacation to San Francisco.

I also have a Giants hat, having been to San Francisco myself, but even though I like the Dodgers perfectly fine, and love Los Angeles, I couldn’t bring myself to buy any Dodgers gear. It felt like I would be insulting the memory of my grandfather, who grew up with the Yankees-Brooklyn Dodgers rivalry.

Ahhh… yes, my grandfather, who never learned how to pronounce Jim Leyritz’s last name. (It always came out “Ley-re-witz.”)

From the time I was a little kid until he went into the hospital for the last time — he died the day before Thanksgiving 2013 — visits to my grandparents’ house meant chocolate milk, my grandmother’s spaghetti if we went the right day and talking Yankees.

His obituary noted that he was “an avid Yankees fan and enjoyed all sports and his garden,” and there were multiple Yankee-themed items in and around his casket at his funeral.

No, we’re not Yankees fans. That understates it. It’s part of our heritage.

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