The Yankees and Sgt. Peppers: It was 50 years ago, today…….

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

On June 4, 1967, the Yankees split a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers at Yankees Stadium leaving them at 20-24 for the season. But across the pond, there was a band that had just come out of the studio with the release of an album that would revolutionize music forever. Here are both stories.

The Yankees of 1967 were on the cusp of a downslide that would not end until George Steinbrenner took matters into his hands by signing Jim “Catfish” Hunter and Reggie Jackson to a team that would win back to back championships a decade later.

Yankees fans will recall 1967 as the year in which only fading glimpses of Mickey Mantle remained, and names like Fritz Peterson and Al Downing formed the foundation of the team’s starting staff. The Baseball Almanac box score for that game, an 11-7 loss to the Tigers, fills in the rest of the inglorious names on the team that season.

33,454 fans went through the gates at Yankee Stadium fifty years ago today, most of them with fresh memories of the Yankees latest run through the record books in the later 1950’s and early 60’s.

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Disappointment with the team had not yet set in and most believed at the time that the next run was just around the corner. Other things, however, weren’t quite so bad in 1967. You could buy a gallon of gas for $.33 and go to a movie for $1.25, where “The Graduate,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” and “Cool Hand Luke” reigned at the box office. And you could also go to what then called a record store to buy what were then called albums for about three bucks.

Red Sox outfielder, Carl Yastrzemski would win a Triple Crown in 1967, and it would be the last one for almost another five decades when Miguel Cabrera won the rare honor in 2012. Fritz Peterson would switch wives with his teammate, Mike Kekich, and Yankees reliever, Steve Hamilton would be perfecting his “folly floater” pitch.

But then, Sgt. Pepper told the band to play

But meanwhile, 1967 was also the year that Sgt. Pepper told the band to play. And play they had since the days in the early Sixties when they made Hamburg Germany their music home, The Beatles by the mid-sixties had “retired” from the road and ear-splitting concerts that were more like circus sideshows, the group longed for a return to making music.

Determined to put something unique and vital on vinyl, the Beatles entered the recording studio with their producer, George Martin who, since the days of “Please Please Me” had refined the band’s raw talent and musical genius.

What emerged from those recording sessions can be likened to the feeling we get now in knowing that we are witnessing something very rare and unusual when a ball explodes off the bat of Yankees outfielder, Aaron Judge, and you just sense that you are seeing something never seen before.

It was that way from the moment the needle hit the vinyl, and the noise in the crowd could be heard, and then John Lennon’s “hut, two, three, four” all the way to the end track and the final chord of “Day In The Life”, rock music took a giant leap forward and the music world would never be the same.

Oh, it wouldn’t last long, and in a couple of years, the Fab Four would go the same way as the Core Four of the Yankees. And songwriter Don McLean would lament the demise of rock and roll in his song, “American Pie,” and the music world would be shocked and altered by the deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, and so many more.

In fact, you could liken those deaths to the Steroids Era of baseball when players, like the musicians who took it all too far, could not be satisfied just living the dream they were handed. Instead, they chose to rob us of their music, and the game we loved so dearly, all in exchange for a hedonistic lifestyle and everyone else be damned lifestyle.

Brands intermingled: John, Paul, Jeter, and Mariano

The Yankees and the Beatles can look in opposite mirrors and see excellence and professional dedication to the endeavors in their chosen fields of artistry. By 1967, the Yankees had already won 20 of their 27 World Championships, and the Beatles had sold millions upon millions of records.

Each of them could have rested on those laurels, and they would still be unchallenged. However, the Beatles went the way of Sgt. Peppers to put an exclamation point on their career as a band, while the Yankees went the way of that (now) unimaginable run of those four World Championships in five years.

The Yankees have traveled a long and winding road since 1967. If set side by side on a page in a book, they hardly look the same. And it’s not about the names and the players.

Fifty years later, the Yankees present a team filled with youth and energy, along with a hunger to match the excellence of the Yankees legacy.

The Beatles topped everything they had done with Sgt. Peppers. Let’s see if this group of Yankees can etch their story into something that will be retold again fifty years from today. I’m betting they can.