“Cleveland’s Jaret Wright may be the only opposing player who has generated more animosity among the Yankees than Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston.”
The Houston Chronicle, June 10, 2001
The New York Yankees acquired Jerry Hairston Jr. in a July 31 trade with the Cincinnati Reds.
Both the player and the team seem happy.
Says Hairston:. “I had a chance to play against those great Yankees teams, and playing against them wasn’t too fun. They had a great team back then, and they have a great team now. I’m very excited to be here.”
Joe Girardi’s thoughts: “I’m glad he’s here. He’s going to provide a lot of versatility for us. He’s played six positions, so I won’t hesitate to put him anywhere.”
This whole love fest leads me to wonder, “Isn’t this the same guy the Yankees used to hate?”
The answer: Yes, yes it is.
Turn back the calendar eight years, and the Yankees’ were mailing high-and-tight pitches rather than membership dues for the Hairston fan club.
In the eighth inning of a June 7, 2001 game at Yankee Stadium, Rogers Clemens twice threw inside to Hairston before blazing a fastball behind his head.
The pitcher’s antics came during a three hit, 10 strikeout game that the Yankees won 4-0. Clemens received no warning for his head hunting.
In the following days, newspapers stories detailed the Yankees’ collective animosity toward the Orioles’ young second baseman.
“The Yankees aren’t fond of Baltimore second baseman Jerry Hairston.” (Dan Graziano, The Star-Ledger, June 8, 2001)
“Cleveland’s Jaret Wright may be the only opposing player who has generated more animosity among the Yankees than Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston.” (Houston Chronicle, June 10, 2001)
“Jerry Hairston, a player reviled by many in the Yankees clubhouse ….” (Graziano)
“Jerry Hairston, whose confident air has irked the Yankees this season.” (Buster Olney, New York Times, June 8, 2001)
For Hairston’s part, he “vowed not to change his style of play, no matter how much he apparently has agitated the New York Yankees” (Associated Press, June 9, 2001).
Explanations for the Yankees’ distaste for Hairston ranged from the general to the specific.
Some writers claimed that it was Hairston’s offensive habits of repeatedly stepping out of the batter’s box and dancing on the base paths that angered the New York players.
The anger similarly was attributed to Hairston’s “hot-dog antics on the field.”
Meanwhile, Olney — then a beat writer for the Yankees — detailed examples of Hairston’s seeming lack of etiquette on the diamond.
“Paul O’Neill was attempting to steal second base when a pitch was fouled off in the second inning. Rather than alert O’Neill and allow him to pull up — seen as a professional courtesy by most players — Hairston said nothing and O’Neill slid into second.
O’Neill appeared to say something to Hairston on his way back to first. The next half-inning, Hairston slammed his bat down after popping up, and Clemens glared at Hairston as he rounded first. Clemens threw a pitch high and inside to Hairston in the fifth, but did not hit him.”
And Graziano argued that Clemens’ actions were the expression of accumulated Yankee frustration.
“They’ve been upset with him for more than a month now because of something he said during an earlier Orioles-Yankees game. And left fielder Chuck Knoblauch had some ugly words about Hairston on Tuesday night, when he felt the Baltimore second baseman was hot-dogging in the field, diving for ground balls for which he didn’t need to dive.”
Years later, the specific reasons, like the animosity, may well be forgotten by all parties — including Hairston.
“The guys have really welcomed me in. It feels great,” says Hairston. “Obviously, it’s a first-class organization.”
Matt Taylor is author of the popular Baltimore Orioles’ sports blog Roar from 34 and is a regular contributor to Baltimore Sports Then and Now.