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Yankees honor Randolph, surprise Stottlemyre with Monument Park plaques on Old-Timers' Day

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NEW YORK — Willie Randolph was overjoyed. Mel Stottlemyre was simply stunned.

The former New York Yankees stars, who both wore No. 30 in pinstripes, were honored Saturday with plaques in Monument Park — one expected and the other a well-kept secret.

Leading off festivities on the 69th annual Old-Timers' Day at Yankee Stadium was Randolph, presented with his plaque near home plate in a ceremony the team announced months ago.

With his family seated behind him and the number 30 painted near both baselines, the former co-captain and All-Star second baseman spoke to the crowd for 12 minutes. He closed by telling fans they've made him feel like "Yankee royalty."

Then, after all the ex-Yankees were introduced to cheers, Stottlemyre's family was called onto the field and the former pitcher and longtime coach — battling bone marrow cancer for 15 years now — was surprised with a plaque of his own.

Walking with a cane, he was escorted from the dugout by old pupil Andy Pettitte on a drizzly evening in the Bronx.

"This is without a doubt the biggest surprise I have ever had. Today in this stadium, there is no one happier to be on this field than myself," the 73-year-old Stottlemyre said from the podium after traveling across the country from his home outside Seattle. "If I never get to come to another Old-Timers' game, I will take these memories that I have today and I will start another baseball club, up there coaching, whenever they need me."

The regular roster of fan favorites also was on hand, including Hall of Famers Whitey Ford, Rickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson, Wade Boggs, Goose Gossage and Joe Torre.

Yogi Berra, who turned 90 last month, was unable to make it this time.

Randolph and Stottlemyre are far from giant figures by Yankees standards, but both enjoyed immediate success in New York on pennant-winning teams and returned as loyal coaches for many years after their playing days were done.

Now, their contributions will be commemorated for future generations behind the center-field fence at Yankee Stadium.

"The emotions are just running wild right now," Randolph said before the crowd chanted his name. "I just want to soak it in one more time — bear with me."

PHOTO: Willie Randolph speaks during opening ceremonies for the Old-Timers' Day baseball game Saturday, June 20, 2015, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Willie Randolph speaks during opening ceremonies for the Old-Timers' Day baseball game Saturday, June 20, 2015, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Randolph grew up a Mets fan in Brooklyn and managed his boyhood team from 2005-08, leading New York to Game 7 of the 2006 NL Championship Series.

But first, he learned how to win as a youngster in the Bronx Zoo with the late 1970s Yankees and passed on those lessons while coaching under Torre in the 1990s and 2000s.

"The coolest thing about this day is that I get to share this with all my guys," Randolph said, addressing former teammates as they hung their arms over the dugout railing. "We've got the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s, and I was along for that whole ride.

"I'm still living a dream. I'm in uniform, 60 years old, playing baseball with my boys. I don't want to wake up."

Randolph never put up huge numbers, but he was steady and reliable on some wild Yankees teams. What he did was anything it took to win: He worked a walk and stole a base. Turned that timely double play. Led by example.

"This is surreal for me," Randolph said after the ceremonies ended. "It was almost too emotional, really. I had some really good stuff. But when I got up there ... you just draw a blank."

Randolph played for the Yankees from 1976-88 and batted .275 with 1,027 runs. He stole 251 bases, third on the franchise list, and appeared in more games at second base (1,688) than any other player in team history.

"Fundamentally, as great a player as I've ever played with," Gossage said. "Hopefully, it opens the door for some other guys."

Stottlemyre pitched for the Yankees from 1964-74 and won a World Series game in his rookie season. He made five All-Star teams and went 164-139 with a 2.97 ERA. His 40 shutouts are tied for second in club history.

He even had five hits in one game and an inside-the-park grand slam in another.

Stottlemyre gained additional acclaim as pitching coach for the crosstown Mets when they won the 1986 World Series. He served in the same capacity under Torre from 1996-2005, helping the Yankees to four championships.

"In 2000, after having a stem-cell transplant, I was going to retire from baseball. But because of you people and the support I got here at the ballpark I decided to come back, and it was the greatest thing I ever did," Stottlemyre told the crowd.

Later, as the old-timers took the field for a brief game before the Yankees hosted the Detroit Tigers, Stottlemyre said he couldn't believe his family was able to keep the secret from him.

"It's really something special," he said. "I'm actually feeling pretty well, pretty good."

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PHOTO: Joe Torre gestures to fans during opening ceremonies for the Old-Timers' Day baseball game Saturday, June 20, 2015, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
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