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October 7 2007: Playoff Party

When the Yankees win at Yankee Stadium in October, it’s the best party in the world.I know it is only the first round of playoffs, and I know they still face elimination tomorrow, but the smiles, cheers, and good times rolled tonight.

We left Boston right around noon, and to keep from getting slowed down, we got take out at our favorite deli in Connecticut, Rein’s New York Deli. Rein’s is a hotbed of Yankee-Red Sox talk, being smack in between the two teams’ territories. Often on my way to or from the Stadium, I’ll sit at the counter and read the sports pages and talk baseball with the people around me. Today, though, it was quite crowded, and we got our sandwiches and ate them in the car while listening to the football Patriots until the Red Sox and Angels came on the radio. The trees are starting to come into their color in New England, and many trees seemed to glow red, orange, or yellow under the gray overcast. Around New Haven, the sun came out, and the weather forecast for the Bronx was for a warm night.

It was about 4:30 when we pulled into Lot 8, right next to the Stadium, two full hours before the first pitch, only to find ourselves going all the way to the roof to find open spots. It being a Sunday, and tomorrow being a holiday, even with the early start time for the game many people made a day of it, beginning their tailgating early. Guys were playing catch on the roof of Lot 8, many grills were going, car stereos were pumping, and a few camera crews were going around getting footage of psyched up fans.

We had a little walk around the neighborhood because our car needed oil, so we walked past many of the other parking lots toward the Bronx Terminal Market, and found them mostly full, too. By 5pm we had oil, and many fancy-looking BMWs and SUVs full of geared up fans were circling forlornly, growing more and more desperate for places to park. I suppose that as playoff games are more expensive than regular season games, it tends to be a more moneyed, suburban crowd, making the competition for what little parking is left now that they’ve torn some of the old lots down even more fierce.

Anyway, it was a party atmosphere for those who had gotten parking.

Once inside the Stadium, we saw the Red Sox had extended their 2-0 lead to 4-0 in the 8th inning… and soon it was 8-0, then 9-0. The poor Angels mustered one, lone consolation run after that, and were swept out of the playoffs. “Gee,” I said to corwin. “That means if we win this game, we’ll be the first team to have been down in their playoff series and NOT get swept.”

All around the Stadium there were people who seemed to be experiencing their first playoff game. The two women who sat next to us seemed to be rookies, as they made several rookie mistakes. First of all, I saw them in the women’s room just before we took our seats, and they were taking turns using the facilities so one of them could hold their freshly bought hot pretzels. Next time I think they’ll remember to use the restroom first before buying food. Second, they were sitting in the wrong section. Our seats are in section six, and their tickets were actually for section four. The season ticket holder who sits next to me covets the seats in section four, so I didn’t say anything. Third, after finishing their pretzels, one of them went to the concession stand to buy beer, but did not bring her ID with her and was refused service. Besides the fact that at least twenty beer guys would be coming by the seats throughout the game.

There also seemed to be a plethora of kids at the Stadium tonight, and no, I’m not talking about Joba Chamberlain and the other rookies on the roster. There were more kids than one usually sees for night games and playoff games, but my surmise is that the early start (6:30 first pitch) and the Columbus Day holiday meant more kids could attend. Also, the ALDS is the one “affordable” level of the postseason. The tickets cost about twice what they do in the regular season, whereas in the ALCS they are 4 times the price, and in the World Series they are 8 times the price. If you’re going to bring a family of four to a playoff game, the ALDS is the way to go.

Of course, there were the actual rookies. Phil Hughes saved the Yankees’ bacon. Poor Roger did not have it. He was struggling with his control from the very first pitch. His nemesis, Trot Nixon, hit a home run off him, and he was not able to finish guys off with 2 strikes.

I almost felt like Alex Rodriguez was a rookie again, because I think the fans at the Stadium tonight embraced him anew. He has had such an incredible season and given the fans so much pleasure and excitement, they weren’t ready to start booing him again just because he hadn’t yet gotten a hit in October. During pregame introductions he got a bigger ovation that Derek Jeter did. I think people realize that you can’t blame Alex for not hitting when Jeter, Posada, and Matsui combined had only one hit among them (Jeter’s) thus far in the playoffs.

When A-rod did manage a base knock in his first at bat, just barely scratching a hit, the crowd exploded. Sadly Jorge Posada then hit into a double play, but at least A-rod got the monkey off his back.

So did Hideki Matsui, who never made an out in the game. He beat out an infield hit in the third, then got the rally started in the fifth with another single. He was walked intentionally in the sixth after Doug Mientkiewicz’s sacrifice bunt, and then walked in the eighth.

Posada also finally got a hit, during the rally in the sixth that was partly clutch hitting and partly Trot Nixon muffing a ball in the right field.

Jeter, on the other hand, is clearly still bothered by his sore knee. He made a bad throw on a play in the first, and went hitless again, hitting into two double plays. He did have one good swing, but unfortunately Grady Sizemore made a great play on it in center. He did have a beautiful bunt in the first that just went foul, but we must hope that is not an emblem for the Yankees postseason… close, but no cigar.

In the 6th, the flashbulbs emanating from the left field bleachers clued us in to the fact that Joba Chamberlain must have been warming up. A few minutes later, the scoreboard confirmed it. Flashbulbs are love. Joba, A-rod, and Mariano definitely got the most bulb-love tonight. Joba had many huge cheers from the crowd, even in his second inning of work where he was less effective and raised everyone’s eyebrows about whether Torre should have gone to … um… Kyle Farnsworth? Jose Veras?

I’m in the car trying to get out of the parking garage as I write this, so my apologies if it has rambled somewhat. People are so happy that they won the game that they are honking their horns in pure exuberance. We’re now listening to sports radio and having a lovely time… I’ll sign off now, and post this when I get somewhere with Internet access.

Go Yankees.

(Did you enjoy reading this blog entry? Please consider buying me a hot dog.)

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