Why I Like Baseball

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Archive for August, 2006

August 21, 2006: Can’t Top This

August 21, 2006 By: ctan Category: Yankee Fan Memories

I lost my hat sometime between 11pm Thursday night and 1pm Friday when the Yankees/Red Sox five-game-set began. This was my black-on-black New York Yankees hat, the one I bought on Opening Day a few years ago. Given what’s happened since then (the Sox won the World Series, for example, and the Yankees have not), I was sure it was not a lucky hat.

But I never dreamed it was an UNLUCKY hat. But I lost it right before the series began and, guess what? The Yankees swept all five games. Apparently I should have gotten rid of this hat long ago! Why couldn’t I have lost it in the hazy elation that followed the 19-8 win in Game Three in 2004 ALCS?

Anyway, the hat is gone, and so is hope from the breast of Red Sox Nation. The wailing and gnashing of the past several days has returned to pre-2004 levels here in Boston, meaning that many, many disappointed fans have been calling talk radio to bare their souls. It is the most entertaining sports radio in the country.

On Saturday, I went into the Forest CafŽ, which happens to not only have the best Mexican food in Cambridge but also to be two blocks from my house and an excellent place to watch the Sox and talk baseball. Everyone in that bar loves baseball (and if they don’t they hide it well). Cambridge is like a ghost town in mid-August, as the student population has yet to arrive and everyone else is at the Cape or out of town. So it was just me, Brian the bartender, and two or three other patrons.

I could not help but overhead the woman at the other end of the bar, to whom Brian was lending a sympathetic ear around the time the Yankees took the lead. The previous day, of course, had been the doubleheader smackdown.

“My boyfriend is a Yankees fan,” she told Brian. “And last night, I picked a fight with him.”

“About the Yankees?” Brian asked.

“No, just cuz. He wasn’t even doing anything, just sitting there minding his own business, but I was like, all over his ass, screaming and yelling. I told him, if you don’t quit liking the Yankees, I’m leaving you.”

“So, are you leaving him?”

“No, of course not. I was just pissed off.”

My own paramour of the past fifteen years unfortunately missed much of the game action in those first three glorious poundings, as he is of the same persuasion as me. He had flown to Florida for a family wedding, and was due to return near midnight on Sunday night.

I figured Sunday I would watch the game at the Forest Cafe, then hop in the car to pick him up at the airport. This plan was foiled by the fact that every game in this series has taken over four hours to play, plus there was a rain delay of almost an hour. So it was that the Red Sox were winning 4-3 when I left to retrieve him, up 5-3 by the time he got off the plane, and then the score was 5-4 by the time he got in the car.

We drove directly to Chinatown to get something to eat, and by the time we parked the car, the ninth inning was about to begin.

“If the Yankees tie the score, we should put on the MyFi and listen in the restaurant,” he said.

“Agreed.” He even had both sets of headphones and a splitter with him in his travel kit.

“If David Ortiz is Mr. Clutch for the Red Sox, then Derek Jeter is Captain Clutch for the Yankees,” said Jerry Trupiano. Jeter brought in the tying run with a bloop single off Papelbon.

We went into the restaurant with our XM Satellite radio plugged into our ears. XM carried the ESPN radio broadcast, so it was Dave Campbell who got to incredulously detail Giambi’s home run in the tenth, and the subsequent two-run shot that made it 8-5. Various people in the restaurant were staring at us–my MUSSINA jersey made us kind of conspicuous, as did the high-fives.

Mariano shut the door around the time we were getting our check (this Chinese restaurant is lightning fast: the Grand Chau Chow) and by 1:30 am we were back in the car and on the way home.

Then, today, I just knew the Yankees were going to sweep when poor Keith Foulke struck our Derek Jeter and retired all five men he faced, yet he let the insurance run score on a wild pitch on only the second or third pitch of his appearance. After both teams had scored all those runs in the previous four games, for the Yankees to win 2-1 just seemed like the ultimate coup de grace.

In the old days we would have called that a Curse. Now we know it’s that the jinx of Cecilia’s black hat has been lifted.*


*The only problem with this is that next weekend we’re flying to Anaheim and we’ll see the Yankees play there. But now I have no hat to wear…

August 19, 2006: Long Ball

August 19, 2006 By: ctan Category: Yankee Fan Memories

As often happens to me, I did not sleep well the night before a Yankees/Red Sox match-up. Because yes, it is EXACTLY like the night before Christmas and I am exactly like a sugared up ten-year-old on holiday when the Yankees come to town. But this time it was actually that I had to drive my dearest to the airport at the crack of dawn. Three and a half hours of sleep is not a lot. I thought perhaps I would take a nap in the late morning, but work interfered with that plan.

So it was that I kicked off the first day of the five-games-in-four-days Yankees at Fenway set utterly exhausted. Bad way to start a doubleheader. I suppose it was fitting though–I was about as worn out as both bullpens.

When the first game started at one in the afternoon, I was sitting at my desk trying to get some work done. Now, it’s no secret that I am co-writing a book with Anna Benson, the wife of Orioles’ pitcher Kris Benson (who won yesterday, by the way). There was a blurb about us in Sports Illustrated and the news has hit the PR entertainment newswires as well. So I may as well tell you that Anna and I are collaborating a lot by phone, since we’re in different cities.

Tired or no, I decided to multi-task, and watch the game on MLB.com’s GAMEDAY (the animated pitch-by-pitch screen with the play by play ticker), and talk to Anna at the same time. Anna and I got a lot done. We were on the phone for almost two hours and NO, I’m not going to tell you any of the juicy anecdotes she shared with me (you’ll have to buy the book for that). Since what I’m writing is a novel, you’ll never know what is wild stuff I made up and what really happened, but honestly, there is so much wild stuff going on behind the scenes in baseball (as with any entertainment industry) that I won’t have to invent much.

The upshot of it is, by the time Anna and I got off the phone, the Yankees were up on the Red Sox 5-3 and I was feeling pretty good about that. Two runs is not very many to the Red Sox, and I knew the bullpen was a question mark, but hey… are you supposed to feel bad when your team is winning? No!

Especially when some of the guys you were worried about choking were on base all the time. Johnny Damon went 0-for-4 on his first game back to Fenway, way back in the beginning of the season. Not this time. He started the game off with a triple, which probably could have been an inside-the-park-homer if third base coach Larry Bowa had not been cautious.

Speaking of which, can I say now what a great job Bowa seems to do at third base? I know folks were apprehensive that the combative, fiery Bowa wouldn’t fit in with the Torre Yankees when he came on board, but he has been great both on the field and in the clubhouse. I haven’t seen him make a bad call at third yet (though Giambi ran right through his stop sign the other day–entirely Jason’s fault), and he seems to be the life of the party among the younger players like Cano and Wang. Yeah, isn’t that interesting? It’s the young guys on the team who flock to him and joke around with him.

But back to our story. Bowa’s caution paid off fie pitches later when Jeter’s base hit brought Damon in. Damon went 3-for-6 on the day, with 4 RBI and 3 runs scored. As the vernacular around here goes, you could say Damon was “awn fiyah.”

Another guy who was on fire: Bobby Abreu. Okay, I admit it, I was a little emotional the other day when I posted that I was skeptical about him. Actually, as I said in that article, I was mostly upset that beloved Bernie Williams was going to ride the bench as a result of Abreu’s arrival. Abreu is not only the new David Justice, he’s actually better. His on-base percentage since coming to the Yankees is close to .500, and how about 4-for-5 with a walk in his first big Fenway test? Hawt.

And then there is Alex Rodriguez, the lightning rod for negativity. All I can say is anyone who expects A-rod to simply crumble in the face of booing, rabid press, or his own psyche’s twists, is in for a disappointment. 2-for-5, 2 RBI, scored a run, a very decent showing in what turned into a Yankee rout.

The final score did not come until 3 hours and 55 minutes after the first pitch, by which time I had packed my car and was headed to Pawtucket, RI to play in the final game of my on baseball season. (If you’re new to Why I Like Baseball, I play in the oldest all-female baseball league in the country, the Pawtucket Slaterettes.) My team has been crummy this year, but I’ll post a season recap later this week. Right now, I’m too busy with the Yankees in town to do it.

I arrived at Slater Park at almost 5pm for a 5:30 game, but couldn’t get out of my car because T.J. Beam was trying to finish the Sox off, and was having trouble. He did give up a run, but eventually induced Mike Lowell to fly out. In the end it was 12-4 Yankees, who outhit the Sox 17-10, and it was a good thing they had rescheduled the nightcap to take place at 8pm, since the first one took sooooo long.

My own game was fun, as always, but between the fact that we played on back-to-back days thanks to a quirk in our schedule, and I played every inning of both games (a rarity, given our roster size, but a lot of folks are on vacation), by about the fourth inning my legs were starting to feel tired. Actually, all of me felt tired — remember, less than four hours sleep — but it was my legs that it seemed to affect the most. I played left field, the furthest position from our dugout, and the run back and forth to my position was starting to feel very long.

The team went out to dinner afterward to celebrate the end of the season, and just our luck, the place we went, a family restaurant called Chelo’s, had a tv on with the game. The Sox/Yankees game, I mean. We were actually in the next room, but I could see it through the windows separating that dining room from the one we were in.

Damon again led off with a hit. Awn fiyah. He was caught stealing by Doug Mirabelli, but I didn’t care. Damon’s hit felt like a sign that the massive offensive barrage of the early game was going to continue. The fact that Jon Lester was on the mound also encouraged that fact. I know the rule of thumb is that the Yankees can’t hit rookies they have never seen before. But I just felt like they were going to get the runs, and that they were going to need them because of one thing. Sidney Ponson.

The Sox got a run off Ponson in the bottom of the inning, but you knew a 1-0 score was not going to stand up. The Yankees then came up to bat, and they were still batting after we’d placed our order, and they were still batting around the time our drinks started to come–which was amazing because we had one of the slowest waiters I’ve ever seen. The poor guy was overwhelmed by our need for 10 separate checks, and needed every order as he was writing them down to be repeated three times–and even then he got some of them wrong and the drinks forgotten.

Who cares though, when you’re having a good time with friends, and oh by the way, the Yankees are now up 5-1? I thought maybe it was 3-1, but Todd, our coach, who was sitting a little closer and who has better eyesight than me, said 5-1.

I paid attention to food and friends after that, and got into my car to leave at the end of the third inning. The third inning? It was almost 9:30 pm at that point, and the Sox had scored four while I wasn’t paying attention. So now it was 5-4 Yanks, but in ninety minutes they had only gone through three innings?

The drive home was long. It’s always an hour, but it felt even longer as the Sox tied the score on a Craig Wilson error (he’s the guy we have at first base now, in case you didn’t follow and the trading deadline moves–Giambi DH’s mostly now). Then went ahead. Then scored three more in the fifth.

So we were down 10-7 when I got home and wanted to go to sleep. But was I going to be able to sleep while they were playing? Of course not. Never. I sat in my office instead, listening to the Red Sox broadcast on the radio while playing a computer game.

A scoreless inning occurred. That’s right. In the sixth inning, neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox scored. Something that had not happened in that game (and only happened three times in the earlier game, too).

Then in the seventh, the Yankees turned the tables once again, trumping all previous rallies of the entire day, scoring seven runs off Craig Hansen and Mike Timlin (who was given the blown save and the loss), making the score 14-10 Yankees. In the eighth both teams were again scoreless, which just seemed soooo weird. Scott Proctor had to pitch again. And Keith Foulke pitched two scoreless for the Sox, after having been activated between games (while the game one starter, Jason Johnson, was designated for assignment).

Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth. David Ortiz hit a home run off him, a solo shot into the bullpen in right, but it really did not seem to matter. The Yankees won 14-11, in a game that set the new record for a nine-inning game at 4:45. The poor folks running the Jimmy Fund radio-thon yesterday had to keep their phones open an extra hour because the game ran so long. (On the other hand, they broke the previous record for fundraising and ended up beating their goal of $2.6 million which is a Very Good Thing. Apparently, during the first game, Jason Giambi even got on his cell phone and pledged $1,000 between at bats.)

It was not the “Boston Massacre” of 1978, in which the Yankee offensive explosion was coupled with stifling pitching. But hey, I’ll take it. By winning the first two of the five, the Yankees insure that no matter what happens in the next three games, they will leave town still in first place.

Today Josh Beckett faces Randy Johnson–heat against heat. Tomorrow Mike Mussina faces Curt Schilling–ace against ace, brains against brains. And Monday Cory Lidle faces David Wells–question mark against question mark. So who knows how it will turn out? All I can say is after a full eight hours of sleep, I’m ready for it now.

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