When I got traded in December of ’96 to the Angels, I was working out at the Yankees complex in Tampa when it all went down.
I remember walking into Mr. Steinbrenner’s office and thanking him for everything, but the one thing that really sticks out in my mind is that he wasn’t angry, he wasn’t like, "Get out of here; you’ve been traded now."
The first thing he said to me was, "You’re always welcome here for what you’ve done for this organization. I don’t let too many guys that play for other teams come in and use this complex to work out, but you’re welcome here any time."
After I hit the home run in ’96 and we turned that whole thing around, just him making that comment was big. Because there was first that fear of not being part of the Yankees after what had just happened, and then him giving me that comfort thing of "you will always be a Yankee, no matter what."
Once I got traded, I thought, "I’m not going to be welcome anymore."
The way he made me feel, calling me in the office and saying, "You can work out here, and our home is your home, and you will always be a part of the Yankees organization for what you’ve done for us."
And really, that’s the man he was. I compare him a lot to my father, a hard-driving man who expected you to give your best every day.
Leyritz, a Yankee from 1990-96 and 1999-2000, hit a three-run, eighth-inning home run in Game 4 of the ’96 World Series that generally is credited with being the turning point in a comeback series victory against the Braves that ignited a stretch of four Yankees titles in five seasons.
— As told to Bob Hille