Why I Like Baseball

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Archive for September, 2008

September 21, 2008: The Curtain Comes Down

September 22, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom, Baseball Musings, Great Ballparks, Yankee Fan Memories

Here’s a trivia question you’ll be able to stump your friends with in 2013. Who hit the last home run in Yankee Stadium?

Answer: Jose Molina.

Jeter tried to do it, but his line drive was caught just short of the wall. Johnny Damon tried to do it, blasting a three-run shot to put the Yankees ahead in the third inning. But after the Orioles had tied it up again in the top fourth, it was Molina who came up with the two-run blast that put the Yankees ahead for good.

If the Orioles’ defense had been a little bit better, then Mariano Rivera would have gotten a save. Instead, it was a comfortable 7-3 lead when the strains of Enter Sandman blared for the last time, but the appearance was no less pressure than in any playoff game. National media watching. Fans in full voice.

Oh, and did I mention, the Yankees elimination number stood at one when the game began? (more…)

September 21, 2008: This Time Last Year

September 21, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings, Interviews

Following last week’s post about September 22, 2007, in which I had arrived at the press box at 9am, following a 14 inning night game the night before, and then didn’t leave until nearly 9pm because of rain delays and another extra inning affair, what follows is the account of what I did during the delay, which was chat with Bob Rosen from the Elias Sports Bureau.

I’ve had some of my most memorable times at ballparks during rain delays. In Columbus, OH one time I spent the evening listening to the stories of Joe Santry, the historian for the Columbus Clippers, then a Yankees farm club for most of my life. Today that day dawn foggy and gray, but the sun was trying to break through the mist all morning. Batting practice had been cancelled because of last night’s extra-innings marathon, so when the writers met with Joe Torre in the dugout all was quiet in the ballpark. The sun looked as though it would burn off the mist fairly soon, and just before noon everyone trooped inside as usual to have lunch and get ready for the game.

Going up in the elevator from the clubhouse to the press box, though, some fans on their way to the luxury suites looked particularly wet.

“Is it raining?” I asked one particularly bedraggled looking young woman.

“Yes, and it sucks,” she replied.

Indeed, I got upstairs to find the tarp on the field and steady water pouring down. I had set up my computer and such in the third tier of the press box–the top row in seats means the bottom rung in terms of writer seniority–and sat down to make some notes.

A gentleman with no computer had sat in the chair next to mine and was busily filling in a crossword puzzle, but when he looked up from that I introduced myself.

Turns out he was Bob Rosen, a life-long Dodgers fan who after the team left in 1957 swore he would never pay to attend another baseball game. He loved the game itself, though, and by 1962 had gotten a job with the Elias Sports Bureau, which has had him attending major league games for free (in fact, for pay) every since.

We proceeded to regale each other for the next hour of rain delay with tales and stories of our lives as baseball fans who are also baseball professionals.

There is no cheering in the press box, that’s true. But no one signs up for a job covering or working in baseball who does not love it. It wouldn’t be worth it otherwise.

Among the topics we covered: the wild card, expansion, difficulty keeping up with all the teams, will A-rod stay or will he go, stadiums around the country, fans around the country, our first ballgames when we were young, and so on.

Bob went to his first game when he was already 12 years old. His father “wasn’t a baseball fan. he was a Brooklyn fan. He was a fan of Dixie Walker and Duke Newcombe. He didn’t know anything about other teams.” Bob was bitten hard by the bug, though, and soon was not just a Dodger fan but a baseball fan, playing dice-based baseball games and keeping stats. “That was what I liked, stats.” How perfect, then, that he found a home with the Elias Sports Bureau.

“I was working my way up the corporate ladder and hating it,” he explained. “But my wife, who was truly wonderful and still is the most perfect wife to me, told me if you don’t give this a try, you’ll always wonder.” So he took the job with Elias 45 years ago and never looked back. The boy who loved baseball stats made it his livelihood.

“Did you ever join SABR?” I asked.

“Nah. That seemed like overkill. You?”

“Yeah, I joined because I thought it would be a good chance to meet people who love baseball as I do.”

“And did you?”

“Yes. Yes, definitely.”

“The people I meet in this business are incredible,” he said. “Bob Sheppard and I are like this,”–here he held up his crossed fingers–”and I’ve made so many good friends.”

Well, Bob, it was lovely to meet you, which means, I couldn’t agree more.

And best wishes to the other Bob, Sheppard, who as of tonight it appeared would not be well enough to do the announcing at tomorrow’s curtain call for the Stadium.

September 9 2008: Moment by Moment

September 09, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings

Last season, on September 22, 2007, I had press credentials at Yankee Stadium, doing some photography for one project and some interviewing and writing for another, so I arrived at nine in the morning, and ended up keeping the following log as I went along that day. I just found it and decided it could make a nice post unto itself.

9 am
Foggy over the Hudson and East River, sun trying to burn through.
There are already fans parking their cars and lined up one deep at the barriers toward the press gate. Autograph seekers.

The calliope begins to play shortly before 9:30.
Loose-wheeled ‘trains’ of carts laden with Cracker Jacks, pulled by small tractors, rattle through the concourses.

9:45 am
A lone player, unrecognized, runs along the warning track.
Tony Pena exchanges greetings in Spanish with the door guard at the press gate.

By 10:15 the sun is starting to come through, making the grass seem to glow. A trio of women works as a team to hand-clean every seat in the lower stadium bowl, their equipment and supplies pushed in a shopping cart.

Everywhere there is polishing and washing going on, including on the field where a groundskeeper spends 45 minutes tamping down dirt around the batters box and making it perfect.

Others work the infield and mound

Every plaque in Monument Park gleams like new.

At ten am sharp Bobby Murcer takes his seat in the YES booth, begins reading the newspaper while techs are still doing techy things around him.

Down in the press dining room they are serving brunch, scrambled eggs, a salad bar, coffee.

The Toronto writers begin to trickle in before New York’s. The jays bus arrives at 10:30, but the Yankees will be slower to come in after the late night last night. [It had been an epic, extra innings game.]

From the press box, one can hear but not quite see, the gap in right where the trains go by.

What will the press box in the new stadium be like? Will it be glassed in like the one in Tampa, with windows that open? Or will the try to recreate what it’s like here? This is possibly the last true open-air press box in the majors.

These are the best seats in the house… and yet the foul lines down the line are still obscured. Sitting in the upper deck above this might be slightly better if farther from the action.

Two players are working out with a coach, two Yankees. The coach is hitting grounders to a guy at third base while a first baseman stands by just to take his throws. The first baseman really looks like Giambi but from here it’s hard to be sure — I haven’t brought my binoculars.

No idea who the kid is, but he might be wearing a U of Texas hat, some kind of faded orange hat.

The replay of the previous night’s game is on the monitor above my head right now, at 10:40am Jorge Posada is clearly safe on replay at first, sparking the rally.

The guy who worked the batters box is now working on the slope of the mound

On Cano’s broken bat hit, Halladay’s face is one of shell shock, stricken, whereas when Giambi strokes a ball into left to tie the game, he looks purely glum and holding it in for all he’s worth.

GAME NOTES

3:07 pm — men on the corners, no one out, Jorge at the plate, first outbreak of “Let’s Go Yankees” of the day.

From the press box everything seems louder; I think bc the shape of the stadium angles the fans and captures the sound.

At the same time it is quieter — we are not listening to the broadcasts and everyone in here is concentrating on the game or on writing something so there is not the kind of boisterous chatter one gets in the stands.

It is a very pure baseball watching experience.

Giambi lashed the bat in frustration after swinging at strike 3 with a man on 3rd and no outs.

As Cano came to plate in 2nd, 2 on, one out, one in, the sun came out.

5:24 pm folks in the LF bleachers start the wave while the Blue Jays are batting and Jose Veras has put two men on with no outs. Section 39 of the RF bleachers proudly and steadfastly refuses to participate. (I approve.)

After the wave goes around 5 times, Veras strikes out Matt Stairs.

5:31 After throwing a wild pitch that moved men to second and third, Veras strikes out Alex Rios (with no help from the crowd this time).

6:05 pm One of the writers in the front row–can’t quite see who–slams his computer shut and then bangs it forcibly against the desk in a fit of emotion. It’s doubtful it’s caused by the 3-2 count that Bobby Abreu has just received, though perhaps he’s put off by the organist playing a riff from Beethoven to outline the tension.

6:07 Abreu walks.

6:08 A-rod gets yet another two-out hit to put the Yankees ahead. Today, he’s the epitome of not doing too much.

6:16 Posada sets up low and away. Farnsworth’s pitch is up and in. Farnsworth goes to a 3-0 count on Reed Johnson and gets booed.

6:17 Farnsworth walks Johnson on the next pitch. Gets booed. Joe Torre goes to the mound. Gets booed for leaving Farnsworth in.

6:24 After giving up the tying and go-ahead runs, Farnsworth is booed. Torre emerges from the dugout and is cheered. Farnsworth gets one more round boo before disappearing.

6:37 Jorge Posada manages an infield hit. No, I don’t make this stuff up. Mr. Tantrum’s computer seems to be working fine, by the way. No, I can’t see what brand it is from here. Probaby something cheap, though.

6:43 As the Jays’ seventh pitcher goes to a full count on Wilson Betemit, I notice the guy in the seat in front of me surfing eBay. A game with thirteen pitching changes in it already, on top of a 90 minute rain delay, will do that.

6:53 Mariano Rivera throws his first pitch of the day to a burst of flashbulbs. Every succeeding pitch draws another flurry.

8:22 pm The stadium is empty, all the players but Matsui are gone. The lights are low at the stadium and the writers have returned from their quote-gathering expedition to Joe’s office and the clubhouse.

8:23 Family of a Yankee or employee make their way onto the field. Two small children and one older one with three adults, gleefully tossing white baseballs back and forth and catching them in undersized gloves.

A single bulb on the Armitron scoreboard is flaky. In the expanse of black, it flickers like a lone candle, sometimes barely visible, other times wavering into brightness.

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