First-time champs relish breakthrough
A-Rod, Swisher, free-agent duo among those to win first ring
NEW YORK -- It was during this World Series that Nick Swisher was led to the interview room to discuss his performance thus far, and the Yankees outfielder made no bones about the fact that he felt completely out of place.
Andy Pettitte made his last comment to a room of reporters, and Swisher applauded briefly before looking around, wondering why no one else was clapping. Then Swisher pulled out a cell phone camera and began recording images of the room, saying that he wanted to remember this moment forever.
Someone snidely remarked from the corner of the stage that Swisher should act like he had been there before. He was quieted with this retort from the first-time World Series champion: "Man, I haven't been here before!"
While the Yankees' World Series championship may be old hat for the "Core Four" of Derek Jeter, Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera, being on top of the world is a strange new sensation for the majority of the Yankees' roster.
Three of New York's biggest acquisitions of the offseason -- CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and Swisher -- are all first-time World Series champions. So is Series MVP Hideki Matsui and postseason force Alex Rodriguez, who waited 16 big league seasons and cashed the game's biggest paychecks without having this opportunity.
"I couldn't be more proud," Rodriguez said. "I thanked A.J. and CC and Tex and all the guys, Swish, for coming over. It is truly a team effort. It is very difficult to do and I'm just very proud to be part of a world championship team.
"I am so happy and so blessed and so excited. We worked so hard and so long, 25 guys, a great coaching staff and a great organization. We've waited a long time. New York has been hungry for a championship. We gave it to them and we feel good."
Including Melky Cabrera, who was replaced by Ramiro Pena before Game 5 due to injury, the majority of the 26 players who appeared on the Yankees' Fall Classic roster had never had the opportunity to experience a winning clubhouse on the season's final day.
Aside from the four who won titles on the Yankees' last championship clubs, only four others had: Johnny Damon (2004 Red Sox), Eric Hinske (2007 Red Sox), Damaso Marte (2005 White Sox) and Jose Molina (2002 Angels). That made the celebration even more fresh and exhilarating.
"I'm fired up for them," Pettitte said. "I'm fired up for the new guys who have come in here. To be able to come in here for their first season, they're going to be able to lean back on this for the rest of the time that they're here, that they helped us win a championship."
Alfredo Aceves and Pena went wild spraying the champagne, at one point hoisting a Mexico flag and dancing through the clubhouse. Rookie Phil Coke devilishly eyed Sabathia and spritzed his neck with the bottle, threatening to hit the $161 million ace with a blast between the eyes.
And Teixeira donned heavy, thick ski goggles, trying to keep the blinding alcohol burn away after having a bit too much spray in the first three celebrations.
"This is the top," Teixeira said. "Winning a championship for the New York Yankees, I just feel so blessed. It's such a blessing to be a part of this group. I told Derek, Jorge, Mo and Andy that I feel so lucky to be a part of their fifth championship and my first.
"It was this whole team. Just our faith and hard work, we have a great group of guys here. I'm not going to take any credit for this. This is such a team effort and what a great feeling."
Joba Chamberlain talked about how he used to watch the World Series on television with his father, Harlan, and wonder what it might be like to be in a celebration. Now he knows, and so does his dad, who drove his motorized scooter across the infield to be near his son at the trophy presentation.
"You watch this on TV all the time, but now that you're here, this is so much more fun," Chamberlain said. "To be able to celebrate with these guys, it's so special. All year, we just understood what we had to do."
Swisher was acquired from the White Sox in November and had a wild season, being told he would be the Opening Day first baseman before the Yankees inked Teixeira to a $180 million deal. Swisher then sulked briefly when Xavier Nady beat him out for the Opening Day right fielder's position, but it all worked out in the end.
"We have a great group of guys," Swisher said. "We all stuck together from Spring Training on, and to be able to enjoy this on the field right now with all this, it's amazing. New York is amazing. I could not be more honored to have come over here and be part of this team."
Jerry Hairston had waited his entire career without having a chance to play in a postseason game, and when the veteran was dealt to New York on July 31 from the Reds, he had to know he was heading from the cellar to the penthouse.
"Great city, unbelievable fans, great team," Hairston said. "It took 25 guys, from Brett Gardner to Eric Hinske to Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. We're such a great group of guys. We're a family. We're so happy right now."
Gardner said that the sensation of running in from center field when Robinson Cano fielded the final out and threw on to first base was an exhilarating rush like no other.
"It's something that I will never be able to explain, being on the field behind all those guys with Mo on the mound," Gardner said. "We had 50,000 people pulling for us, chanting, '27.' It doesn't get any better than that."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.