18 years ago, Marcus Thames got Yankees revenge on Randy Johnson.
Was the outcome of Marcus Thames‘ first MLB at-bat a hollow victory for the New York Yankees, as compared with the 2001 World Series’ expiration? Sure. If we could trade Thames’ smash for an Enrique Wilson bleeder through the infield or a Mariano Rivera laser to second base, we would.
But, seeing as time doesn’t bend that way, Thames’ Major League debut was a pretty solid Plan B.
18 years ago today, Thames — New York’s future hitting coach — strode to the plate at the old Yankee Stadium for the very first time, likely with low expectations and a high heart rate. He dug in, absorbing the lefty-righty “advantage” against Randy Johnson, arguably the most intimidating pitcher in the game’s history, a man who made birds reconsider flying. Then, he reared, cocked, and exploded, launching a home run into Monument Park, directly over the head of…Luis Gonzalez.
Hurts to watch a ball go over your head, doesn’t it, No. 20? Rough stuff.
Thames, at the time, was coming off a monster season at Double-A Norwich as a 24-year-old, hitting .321 with 31 homers and 97 RBI. Against all odds, though, this early-June opportunity was one of only 13 at-bats he posted the entire season, and he’d never homer as a Yankee again until he returned in 2010, already an established big leaguer after his World Series trip with the Tigers in ’06.
His next stop in the Bronx was defined by some additional power surges: a two-run shot in Game 3 of the ALDS, and a walk-off smash against Jonathan Papelbon, following A-Rod’s lead.
Thames’ Yankee career didn’t last as long as he may have suspected in 2002, but he’s rejoined the family twice and gained new life — back in 2010, and as the team’s hitting coach following the 2017 season, when quite a few staffing changes were made.
Unfortunately, Randy Johnson eventually got revenge on Thames, too, by joining the Yankees and playing subpar baseball for two years.