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One of the Yes Network's most aired shows are their Yankee Classics.  Generally, during the regular season on off days and mornings before a game when there was none the day before, you can catch the Yankees Classics.  Then they fill up a lot of the schedule with them during the off-season.  As a Yankee fan, I think it's a great idea, although the ranking of some games as "Classics" can sometimes be questions.

Well, this is an attempt to log as many of the Yankee Classics that have been shown including some commentary and rankings on whether they really are classics or...not so much.

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Regular Season vs. Baltimore Orioles
Farewell to the Captain
Monday, August 6, 1979
Final Score: 5-4
Yankee Classic Rating (1 low to 10 high): 9
Some call it the "Bobby Murcer Game," others call it "The Munson Funeral Game," but YES titles it "Farewell to the Captain."  No matter what the name, the story is the same.  This is the game the Yankees played the night of the Thurman Munson funeral, four days after his tragic death.

The back story was commissioner Bowie Kuhn's reluctance to reschedule the game that August Monday afternoon.  The Yankees had a game scheduled that night against the first place Baltimore Orioles.  George Steinbrenner wanted the whole Yankee team to attend the funeral and asked the game be postponed so that would be possible.  Kuhn refused and threatened the game would be a forfeit should the Yankees not be able to return in time for the game.  The Yankees were by that point in the season a distant 15 games out with a 59-50 record.  Steinbrenner made the decision to charter the whole Yankee team to Canton, Ohio for the funeral that morning and return them for the game that night, regardless of whether they could make it back in time or not.  The funeral was more important than an August game in a lost season.

The Yankees did make it back in time for the game which turned into one of the more memorable games in Yankee history and by far the most memorable game of that 1979 season.  The reason some call it the "Bobby Murcer Game" is because Murcer, one of Thurman's closest friends, drove in all five Yankee runs on the same day he delivered the main eulogy, an emotional speech that brought Murcer and many others in the crowd to tears.

Manager Billy Martin did not want to play Murcer on that night.  He thought the day was just too much.  Murcer disagreed.  He recalls, "Billy came to me and he said, 'I'm not going to play you tonight, you're just too tired.' And I told Billy, 'I just don't feel like I should take the night off. I feel like I should be playing.'"  He was probably right as he seemed to channel the never-quit spirit and clutch-hitting heroics of Thurman that night.

With a 4-0 deficit in the bottom of the seventh and two-out, Orioles starter Dennis Martinez, dominant to that point, ran into a little trouble.  Bucky Dent drew a two-out walk and Willie Randolph followed with a double down the left field line.  Bobby Murcer then smashed a line drive into the right field stands to cut the Oriole lead to 4-3.

That only set the stage for the dramatic finale.  In the ninth, still trailing 4-3, the same two players set the stage.  Dent once again walked, this time off reliever Tippy Martinez.  Randolph attempted to bunt Dent to second, but Martinez fielded the ball and threw it into right field, setting up runners on second and third.  Normally Martin might have pinch hit for lefty Murcer against a tough lefty like Martinez, but elected to let him hit that night.  Maybe he sensed the air of dramatics...maybe not.  Regardless, Murcer made Billy's decision look genius as he smashed a line drive down the left field line, plating Dent and Randolph with the game winning runs.

What makes this game rate so high is that it truly is a memorable game from a time which we see few Yankee Classics.  Plus, the presentation is bolstered by YES' added production.  Before and after selected innings, we get to see commentary from YES announcers Bobby Murcer and Ken Singleton, recollecting their memories of the game.  Murcer is the obvious choice, but it's unique to get Singleton's side of things as he played for the opposition and you're now privy to what the feeling was like from the other side of the field.  For the record, Singleton also featured prominently in the game, smashing a two-run homer to right center to expand the Oriole lead to 4-0 in the sixth.

Also unique is that the broadcast team is the neutral ABC crew featuring Howard Cosell, Keith Jackson and Don Drysdale.  Normally on Yankee Classics, you either get the standard YES crews, a few from the MSG days (which usually include Jim Kaat of YES notoriety anyway) or the unbearably bad FOX team of Tim McCarver and Joe Buck (when the John Sterling and Michael Kay's broadcasts are not dubbed in their place.)

Love him or hate him, Cosell is a legendary announcer who, despite his verbosity and fondness for the thesaurus, is an entertaining listen.  Particularly in this day in age when few seasoned pros remain.  Cosell is a professional announcer all the way and does as good a job as anyone could have constantly reminding everyone of the pall hanging over the Yankees and the stadium that night and exactly what this game meant to them after the dramatic conclusion.  Regardless of what you think of him, Cosell was a compelling listen and younger viewers should take note since there's no one like him anymore and probably never will be.

Oh, and be sure that if YES is running this game to tune in for the beginning.  Instead of getting right into the game, you get the full ABC pregame.  It's only about 10 minutes or so, but you get an interview Cosell did with Munson shortly before the tragedy.  You also get an interview with Jim Palmer recalling his fondness of Munson as a person and competitor.  It's great stuff that reminds you how sports on TV used to be more about the story and the players than the self-serving tripe served up today (Hello ESPN...are you paying attention?)

But, the main attraction here is the game and the nostalgia.  It's fine watching the recent classics with the familiar Yankees, but it's great to get a taste of the old days once in a while.  The basic graphics, the limited cameras and conservative use of the instant replay.  Basically, it's blink and you miss it. Maybe a little annoying now that we're used to 6 replays of a routine ground out, but a little refreshing as well when you realize just how unnecessary all those replays might be.

There's also the great Yankees of the past.  Reggie Jackson, who makes an uncharacteristically terrific DEFENSIVE play in the 6th to double-up Eddie Murray off first.  There's Ron Guidry, not electric, but strong, making only a few mistakes and going all the way to pick up the win.  Of course there's Randolph, Nettles, Dent, Chambliss for the Yankees and Singleton, Murray and Doug DeCinces on the other side.

Really, when you put all the factors together, this is one of the truly indisposable, must-watch Yankee Classics.
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