Monahan thanks Yankees once more

By Bryan Hoch / | 01/21/12 11:41 PM EST

NEW YORK -- Longtime Yankees head athletic trainer Gene Monahan embraced the sunset of his career with a warm farewell on Saturday, offering thanks to the franchise he has called "his extended family" since 1962.
Monahan, 66, retired at the conclusion of the Bombers' season after serving the franchise for the last 49 years, including 39 in his position as trainer. He will be succeeded by Steve Donohue for the 2012 campaign.
After the 2009 season, Monahan was diagnosed with throat cancer, and was forced to miss his first Spring Training in decades. He announced his retirement last May.

Gene Monahan was the head athletic trainer for the New York Yankees for 39 years. (AP)

"I will miss this game so much, it is unbelievable," Monahan said. "I was a young kid who grew up in Pittsburgh. My dad used to drive his little '41 Ford and we'd see the lights of the stadium at Forbes Field.
"I knew in my heart, someday, no matter where I grew up or where I'd be, I wanted to be somewhere involved with this game that I loved and cherish so much. And somehow, it worked out."
The New York chapter of the BBWAA honored Monahan with the William J. Slocum-Jack Lang award for long and meritorious service.
Other Yankees receiving awards were David Robertson, who was issued the Joan Payson award for community service, in acknowledgement of his work helping the city of Tuscaloosa, Ala., recover from tornado damage; and Mariano Rivera, who was given the Joe DiMaggio 'Toast of the Town' award to honor his record-setting 602nd career save last season.
Rivera delivered a stirring speech, in which he thanked Monahan for his friendship and trust during his lengthy career in the Bronx, calling it a privilege to be able to talk about Monahan in front of an audience.
"When I talk about Gene, you're talking about a tremendous human being that not only cares about his players, but everyone that's around him," Rivera said. "That's the way he always has been. I'm proud, and I've been blessed, because when God put me in the New York Yankees, there was Geno."
Monahan was also lauded by 2007 Daytona 500 champion Kevin Harvick, representing Monahan's other great lifelong passion of auto racing. Monahan plans to enjoy his retirement in North Carolina, where he has set up with a new dog, home and pickup truck.
"We have a lot of changes in our lives. I just went through a big bunch of changes," Monahan said. "Sometimes they're good; sometimes they're not so good. What you have to do sometimes is fight through it and make it right."
In his remarks, Monahan recalled a 1961 Sport magazine article that contained a quote from Orioles Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson, which a high-school aged Monahan clipped and carried in his wallet through his entire decade in Minor League clubhouses.
He recalled that it read, "To be able to do what you do the best and love the most, that is the real definition of true happiness." Monahan noted that he found that to be true throughout his career in the Yankees clubhouse.
Saying that he wept as he flew into New York on Friday, Monahan joked that he felt George M. Steinbrenner, the late Yankees principal owner, glaring at him to get off the stage quickly. But Monahan thanked Steinbrenner and his family, for whom he had warm wishes.
"It took us three or four years, but we finally figured each other out," Monahan said of Steinbrenner. "He decided he loved me, and I knew I loved him. I know I love his family, and I'll always be there for you people, no matter what."