I had dinner last night at Dominick’s on Arthur Avenue, a Bronx Italian-food institution where there is no menu, they only take cash, and there’s an hour wait for a table for dinner on Saturday night.
While you wait, they send you upstairs to a bar-equipped waiting room where the television is, of course, showing the Yankees if they are playing.
Last night as we climbed the steps up to the waiting room, Doug Mientkiewicz was on the ground being examined by Gene Monahan, the Yankees’ team trainer, and the lead had slipped away. In the time it had taken us to walk from the car to the restaurant, the score had gone from 6-5 Yanks to 7-6 Sox.
“What the hell happened?” I asked a guy sitting at the bar, but he was A) Clearly not from New York as he seemed taken aback to have a stranger talk to him. (Get used to it, buddy.) and B) Not a Yankee fan, as he hadn’t the foggiest idea.
So I asked the bartender instead. “Got his bell rung,” he answered. The game was on Fox TV, so I knew we’d see the reply of what happened many times over, so I stood at the TV, rapt. Soon there was a small crowd standing there with me. All the waiters from downstairs, and some of the cooks, had drifted up one at a time to see what had happened.
They were wondering, I’m sure, not only what happened to Dougie Mientkiewicz, but what happened to their season? For that matter, what happened to Derek Jeter?
“He hit the home run, you know,” one of them told me.
“There’s the captain. There he is,” said another as a shot of Jeter appeared on the screen.
“Yeah, but, it was him threw that ball away. Cost them the game right there,” the bartender said.
As if on cue, a replay of the double-play ball to short ran on the screen. Jeter stepped on second, whipped his body around… the throw was low. Mike Lowell was a freight train.
“Terrible, just terrible.”
“Who was pitching?”
“Him, I like him. Good kid.”
“He’s the one hit that guy last night!”
“Just protecting our boys. I like him. Good kid.”
“There’s the captain.”
And so it, went, a running commentary more musical and relevant than the blather Tim McCarver puts on. Jeter made another error, letting in another run. A ball dropped in front of Melky–a sac fly.
“Where’s Bernie? Bernie plays shallow. Bernie makes that play.”
The intercom from downstairs buzzed. “Table 33, table 33. Is Proctor still pitching?”
The bartender answered no. Bruney was in by then. “Who else we got out there?”
“You’re not bringing him in with them losing. That’s crazy.”:
“I think there’s still Luis Vizcaino,” I put in.
“Myers,” one of them answered.
And indeed, Myers was coming into the game. He even brought the inning to a close.
“That’s it. They’re not catching up.”
“Too much. What they gonna do?”
The game was, indeed, over. Vizcaino did come in, to a chorus of negative comments from the staff, and let up another run. It was 10-6 and the Yankees were down to their last out when our table number was called. We trooped dutifully down to our seats and had a wonderful meal. I had the best veal piccatta I’ve had in years–possibly ever–and stuffed artichokes to die for.
As we were leaving the restaurant, I said good night to our waiter. “Don’t worry,” he told me. “Tomorrow, the Yankees are gonna win.”
That put a smile on my face. This losing business is new to us. We’ve had a winning team–a division winning team, in fact–for over a decade. The pleasure that comes in riding the horse in front, or even a horse in the pack and not trailing 13 lengths behind, is not there for us this year.
But the pleasure of following a team and of sharing that experience with others is still there.
“We’ll get ’em tomorrow,” I said, and stepped out into a warm Bronx night.
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