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Archive for the ‘Baseball Fans and Fandom’

Fannish karma: everyone and no one deserves a win (ALCS Game 1)

October 14, 2012 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom, Great Games

Fans are as much a part of the game of baseball as stats are. Without the fannies (no pun intended) in the seats, the RBIs, ERA, and wins would mean nothing. Part of being a fan is having an emotional connection to the game and your team, and emotional reactions which don’t always reflect logic.

One of those is a sort of concept of fannish karma, in other words, did a team “deserve” to win? In particular, did their fans deserve it? (more…)

An evening with a bunch of knuckleballers

September 22, 2012 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom, Baseball History

So I mentioned in my recap of the SABR convention this summer that I saw an advance screening there of the film KNUCKLEBALL! And that I loved it.

Well, I am happy to report the film easily stands up to a second viewing. Tuesday night I had a chance to attend a terrific event at the Regal Cinemas over by Fenway: a screening of the film followed by a live Q&A with Tim Wakefield, Charlie Hough, Phil Niekro, and Wilbur Wood, as well as filmmakers Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern. (And then a VIP reception after that, but more on that later.)

First, let me gush about the film a little, because totally awesome as it was to have the players there, and to shake Phil Niekro’s hand and tell him I played women’s hardball and thank him for the Silver Bullets, the film itself is so superlative that it was still the best thing of the night. (more…)

Exploring the new Marlins Park! April 1 2012 with the Yankees

April 01, 2012 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom, Baseball Musings, Great Ballparks, Spring Training, Yankee Fan Memories

The Miami Marlins know how to throw a party. As any good party-thrower knows, one of the keys is to invite lively guests. The Marlins picked a good one with the New York Yankees, who brought legions of fans to the dress-rehearsal exhibition game at Marlins Park on April 1, 2012.

Some were expatriate New Yorkers who have been in Florida for years. Some were spring training pilgrims from all over.

But the Marlins had no shortage of supporters there today, and for all the complaints there have been about the team bilking the city, the mistreatment of the local residents over parking issues, and so on, there were throngs of people in brand-new Marlins colors ready to fly their Fish flags. Many of them were hispanic families, with three (or four) generations in attendance together. If this team wins, it appears there will be plenty of folks on that bandwagon already.

A UFO LANDED IN MIAMI!
The park does look a bit like a spaceship just set down in the midst of a residential neighborhood. But the first impression of the place came not from the visual, but from the sound. From a few blocks away it sounded like the biggest, loudest block party on Earth was going on, and we soon discovered why. (more…)

Flashback: I was there for Game 19 in the Oakland A’s 20-game streak

November 02, 2011 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom

(And here we have the consummation of my 2002 affair with the A’s, in which I skipped out of a business trip to go to the Coliseum… Originally posted on September 3, 2002.)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I’m married to my childhood sweetheart (the Yankees), and live with an annoying roommate (the Red Sox), so sometimes I yearn for something new and exciting. Last summer I had a sweet dalliance with the Seattle Mariners. This year, on Opening Day, I decided to flirt with the A’s.

It’s been quite an interesting long distance relationship. There were thrills in April–the hot start, Carlos Pena equaling former-A Jason Giambi’s home run total, the resurgence of David Justice, and Eric Chavez’ fascinating habit of making every hit an extra base hit. But then the A’s turned cold on me, went into a slide–what, don’t you love me anymore? Next thing you knew, Carlos Pena was gone, the other Giambi as well, and I wondered if my A’s would ever be the same.

Interleague play brought the fun and passion back. Did they lose a single game to the NL Central? Noooo….. And how about them Giants? Hah! Watching Barry Zito facing Barry Bonds I knew I’d made the right choice.

It’s been a torrid affair since then, and finally consummated.

That’s right, consummated. (more…)

Flashback: April 16 2002 : Summer Love Affair (Oakland A’s)

November 01, 2011 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom, Baseball Musings

(Continuing my re-posts of old blog entries about the Oakland A’s. Now we’re getting into the Moneyball year. This post originally appeared on April 26, 2000)

I don’t mean to shock anyone, but I’ve always believed in "open relationships." Sure, of course I believe in true love and having a special partnership with that special someone, but I also think experiencing the fullness of life means leaving the door open to other things as well, so long as everyone involved agrees it’s okay. I know a lot of people disagree with me on this. Especially when it comes to baseball.

I have my first love–my deep, abiding, long-term love–and that is the Yankees. If I had to choose between the Yankees and another team, there would be no question who I would choose. I fell in love with the Yankees before I ever even looked at another team. When I was a fan in the seventies, I could name you the whole Yankees starting lineup, but I could probably only name you four or five players in the rest of the league. I’m more mature now, and have expanded my tastes a bit.

Last year, I had a summer fling with the Seattle Mariners. I had picked them during the offseason, when A-rod had jilted them for the Rangers’ money (more…)

Flashback: Oakland vs. Yankees September 14, 2000

October 30, 2011 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom, Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

(I figure since MONEYBALL is still in the theaters, I would finally get around to re-posting some of my old posts about the A’s of those days. This was originally published at Why I Like Baseball on August 14, 2001, on the events of the game August 12, 2001. Just to be sure, I checked with Retrosheet.)

I may be a Yankees fan, but I can appreciate the intensity and devotion of fans of other teams. That’s why I’m so fascinated by Red Sox fans, even though they make my life hell from time to time, and why I can’t understand Giants fans, who I’ll tell you all about in a future entry. Last month, however, I got my first look at Oakland A’s fans in their natural habitat, the largely maligned Network Associates Coliseum.

Having heard many a radio broadcast and watched many a postseason telecast from the coliseum, you’d think that the place was some kind of a pit. Well, it’s not. In many ways, the Coliseum is to Yankee Stadium what the Bay Area is to the New York Area–there are some striking similarities, and yet some sharp distinctions. Two of the most cosmopolitan and colorful cities in the world, both famed for their diversity, culture, their place in American history, with lots of Old World blood mixed with an always future-minded fashion sense. There are moments when I’m there when I, as an urban-born New Yorker, feel right at home. But there are times when a familiar situation suddenly seems odd. California is undeniably different.

(more…)

Brent Mayne in the news again!

May 26, 2011 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom, Baseball Musings, Great Ballparks

I hear that Phillies infielder Wilson Valdez just became the first position player to win (as pitcher) a major league game since Brent Mayne did it back in 2000. This means Brent Mayne’s name is suddenly in the news again. Mayne was the backup catcher for the Colorado Rockies when he performed the feat.

I actually watched the crazy extra-innings Braves-Rockies game in which Mayne got the win on television from the Jersey Shore one night while on vacation. I wrote about it the following year, when I tried to get Mayne’s autograph one night in Seattle at Safeco Field, when he was playing with the Royals and I was there for a game. I never did get Mayne’s autograph, but I did get a batting practice ball that night, and the autographs of Mike Cameron and Brett Boone, back when they were both stars for the M’s.

So here’s the flashback post from August 16, 2001, in which I recount my trip to the ballpark and Mayne’s pitching performance along the way: (more…)

DVD Review: The 2009 World Series Film

December 28, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom, Yankee Fan Memories

Title: 2009 New York Yankees: The Official World Series Film
Produced by: Major League Baseball

The first thing I noticed about this DVD is that it’s really good to be the winner. The clips you see that cycle through in the menu while you wait for your boyfriend to finish folding his laundry so you can watch the DVD together? They are all of the Yankees. The only Phillies player you see is the hapless schmuck chasing Damon from second to third. Even Damaso Marte gets a full slo-mo clip, which is better than you can say for Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard, or Chase Utley. This is probably a reflection of the fact that MLB Productions knows darn well that these DVDs are bought by the fans of the winners, and they cater to them. These are the fruits of victory, after all, and I plan to enjoy them all winter.

Yes, in many ways this is less a “World Series film” than it is a Yankees celebration, and given the title of the “film,” and watching the actual DVD, it’s no surprise that it’s very Yankee-heavy. Not only is there a much longer and more extensive recap of the Yankees’ regular season than the Phillies’, but the Yankees’ ALDS and ALCS exploits are sketched in somewhat more fully than the Phils’. In fact, the names of the Phillies’ opponents aren’t even given and the highlights shown from the NLDS and NLCS are more of a montage, not even giving the scores of the games.

I didn’t mind this as an entertainment experience, but part of me feels like if you gloss over too much, the DVDs really can’t serve as much of a historical record. (more…)

And now, Baseball Gift GETTING…

December 25, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom

The group of folks I have Christmas Eve dinner with aren’t the types to say grace, so I said it to myself while I was filling wontons by hand. My personal “grace” went something like this:

Dear God, Creator, Universe, thank you for this winter holiday that brings all friends and family together every year to enjoy the bounty of each other’s company and good food and drink. Thank you for this season of celebration.

And thank you for bringing the World Championship to the New York Yankees, and for this winter season of celebration throughout which we can enjoy the reign of joy of our team. Thank you for the blessings of Hideki Matsui’s bat and for exorcising Alex Rodriguez’s demons and for making our new stadium into a home.

Amen.

So this year my friends pooled their money and got me the gigantic DVD collection of all 65 World Series films!

(I also got this year’s DVD of the 2009 championship, and the 8 DVD set of all the actual games, which will be a lot of fun to watch since I was present at most of the games but haven’t seen the broadcasts of them.)

But back to the complete collection of World Series films. I am thinking I’ll review each year separately, or at least the top 20? But rather than just working my way through chronologically, I thought it might be fun to look first at the years you all nominate as your favorites first.

So please reply to this post with what year(s) you think I should see first and why! (You don’t have to leave a real name and email address if you don’t want to, it just has to look plausible to the software.)

Reviews will come soon!

Baseball Gift Giving: Your Suggestions

December 03, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom

So, I find myself with three baseball-loving people to buy gifts for in particular this year, my father, my brother, and my nephew (my brother’s 4-year-old son). Since the Yankees have just won the World Series, there’s NO END of World Series tchotchke I can buy them. Or at least, for my dad and brother, whereas my nephew declared this summer that he is a Red Sox fan. Yes, the young one has decided he must strike his own baseball-fan identity. My brother is a saint for treating his son with absolute tolerance and openness over this declaration, although that didn’t mean he didn’t lay on the pro-yankee stance pretty thick when we went to the Stadium in August. (Actually, it was my father who laid it on the thickest… and by the end of the day my nephew had actually decided to buy a yankees hat for himself, although that didn’t mean he gave up on the Red Sox either…)

Anyway, I know the likelihood of all members of the family giving each other the World Series DVD and such are high. I want to avoid duplicating.

So, what are your suggestions for gifts for each age group, dear readers? baseball-related, but not necessarily Yankees or World Series related. What are you getting for your loved ones? (Hoping of course that they don’t read this blog so they won’t see…)

Comment below please! (A name and email are required to comment, but they don’t have to be real.)

(P.S. There are also plenty of baseball-loving women in my family. But I tend to find other common enthusiasms with them to share, whereas baseball is the big one for the guys.)

September 27, 2009: Long Distance Runaround

September 27, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom, Baseball Musings, Yankee Fan Memories

It’s always tricky trying to follow one’s team while traveling. In recent years I have found myself tempted to miss airplanes while watching in airport bars, watching broadcasts while ON planes (thank you, JetBlue), watching just the ESPN TICKER on planes when the local broadcast wasn’t on, carrying a portable XM radio with me, cartuning (trying to pull in any station with the broadcast on a car radio), streaming audio and/or video from MLB.com, watching pitch by pitch on MLB.com or one of the other sites, etc. etc.

It’s been difficult for me to follow the Yankees the past few days since I am in Charlotte, North Carolina running a small convention here. And Friday night we could not get the Internet working, so I thought my only choice was to stare at my iPhone watching the pitch by pitch from MLB.com’s mobile site (which is quite snazzy). This was difficult because I was continually having to talk to people, do things, help people, et cetera.

But instead I found a whole new way to follow a long distance ballgame. As it turned out, I did stare at my iPhone, because corwin went off to watch the game at the Forest Cafe, our neighborhood baseball-loving watering hole, and he texted me the game play by play. Yes, this is the story of two people who love the Yankees, and are in love with each other.

It went like this:
(more…)

April 25, 2009: Slug fest

April 25, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom, Baseball Musings, Yankee Fan Memories

We were really looking forward to a tight pitching duel at Fenway today, as AJ Burnett and Josh Beckett faced off.

As I write this, Jonathan Papelbon just walked Derek Jeter in the top of the ninth, in which Boston has a 16-11 lead.

There have been 28 hits in the game so far, and Papelbon is the 12th pitcher to appear. the lead has changed hands four (?) times, I think?

And this is on top of last night’s extra innings contest, which also used 12 pitchers, and featured 27 hits, even though the end score was only 5-4. Between the two games there have been seven home runs hit… I think? I keep losing track, that’s how many there have been.

And even though Pap is probably about to shut the door… the way things have gone this series so far… I better not count the totals until all is final and in the books! He just walked another one! (more…)

April 15, 2009: Moving the Fences In

April 16, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom, Baseball Musings

So today was the day that MLB honored Jackie Robinson, an annual event on April 15th that has been growing bigger every year since the retirement of Robinson’s #42 throughout all of baseball (except for those players who were still wearing it, like Mariano Rivera). Today every player in the majors (and even the umpires) wore #42, “making every scorecard useless,” joked Dave Niehaus on the Mariners radio broadcast.

I heard the M’s game while driving from Boston to New York to be here in time for the inauguration of the new Yankee Stadium. While deciding which game to listen to on our XM radio, corwin opted for the chance to hear Niehaus have one of his trademark near-aneurysms.

It felt fitting to me that on a broadcast where Jackie Robinson was mentioned frequently, I would learn of baseball’s first Asian-American manager. Don Wakamatsu is, right now, in his first season as manager to the Mariners. Is it hard to believe that it’s taken this long to have an Asian-American manager?
(more…)

April 7, 2009: No Bailout Needed

April 07, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom

Today’s post in our week of special piece Welcoming Back Baseball is a guest post by my good friend Patrick Hughes, who is a devoted Giants fan living in San Francisco. Today the Giants are having their own Opening Day and Patrick has been texting me updates from the ballpark. But here’s a piece he wrote about what he had to go through to obtain that seat he’s sitting in as I post this:

No Bailout for Baseball Needed
by Patrick Hughes

You’d think by now that I would be used to the swindling tactics of Major League Baseball, but purchasing Opening Day tickets today took the cake.

I just paid nearly $68.00 for a Viewer Box seat, Section 112, Row 35, Seat 13. Un-f***ing-believable.

In the early days of Pac Bell, the only way a working stiff like myself could ensure tickets to the best games involved schlepping down to the ballpark on some random Saturday in February at the crack of 10:00am. For weeks, I’d pore over the schedule ahead of time and pick out the ten most interesting match-ups. You know, games versus the hated Dodgers, Mets, Cubs, Cardinals, the occasional interesting interleague game and a game or two during the final divisional series’ in September (just in case things got interesting). All in all, I’d shell out for about 10 games, including Opening Day. Kinda fun, now that I think of it. Going back and forth with me mates on what games would be of interest, driving like madmen through SOMA, while imagining nightmarish waiting line scenarios. Old fashioned fan stuff. Except for the first couple of seasons at the new park, I always managed to get the tickets I wanted.

For Opening Day, I didn’t care where I sat, just as long as I got in. A random sampling from my ticket collection shows I paid $19.00 in 2002, $22.00 in 2003, $23.00 in 2004 and $33.00 in 2007.

I’m not naive, I understand how it works. Sports in America is a racket and owners fleece the fans for all they can. We will put up with $10.00 beers and the $7.50 Sheboygan sausage. Hell, I don’t mind these extra charges just because Magowan borrowed $170 million, instead of getting the city to build the stadium and kept the Giants in San Francisco. Still, baseball is not as bad as football. In football, the rationalization is that since there are only 16 regular season games you are going to pay more. No explanation needed. It’s what punters will pay despite the billions made with television contracts. I wouldn’t be surprised that an individual ticket for a Dallas Cowboys home game at the New Texas Stadium to exceed $200 next season. But that’s not supposed to happen in baseball. At 162 games a season, it is supposed to be affordable.

Back to today. Keep in mind that I rent. I’m sure you Season Ticket holders have your particular complaints about seat licenses, parking and whatnot. I am ranting about one man trying to buy one ticket. For 2009, the Giants have completely changed the system. First of all, you can’t just buy Opening Day tickets at the ticket counter. Now you have to register online and wait until a lottery is held for what they refer to as a “Ticket Purchase Opportunity!” I imagine this is more about harvesting viable email addresses than preventing rioting in China Basin, but that’s me. Turns out I’m one of the lucky ones! I received a note earlier this week informing me that I can buy up to four tickets today! March 5th! Starting at 10:00am! I’m up. Card ready, fingers twitching. 10:00am strikes and I am furiously typing away like a harried parent attempting Hannah Montana tickets, fearing for the sanity of an adolescent daughter.

The first thing I notice on the ticket screen is that there are now three classifications of tickets: Regular, Feature and Premium.

OK. I get it. Very clever. Feature games are against top media market teams and every Dodger game is a Premium.

The difference between Regular and Premium is about $20.00. Then I see the notice in BIG LETTERS that I now have approximately a minute and a half to make my selection, the time counting down in ominous red blinking numbers.

Think fast, I say. Be steady.

My eyes settle on Regular Lower Box–$35.00. Not bad. These seats went for $28.00 last year, but I don’t follow the line ‘Premium’–Opening Day is actually $52.00.

Bang. Too late. I click the link. Time is wasting.

It opens up another window showing me the actual view from the seats. Section 112. I have a moment to think. Not bad. Behind home plate, just a tad to the first base side, right under the press box. Great sight lines to watch last year’s Cy Young winner, Lincecum as the opening day starter. Added bonus is that Section 112 is for the handicapped, so there will be extra legroom. As a veteran ball park rat, I tell you, sitting with a group of Special Needs kids is actually pretty awesome. They don’t get plastered and actually spend most of the game concerning themselves with their bright orange foam finger and then leave by the seventh inning. The only wrinkle is when they wheel in some poor fellow flat out in a iron lung. The endless stream of questions can be distracting and I really fear the outcome of an errant foul ball. Anyway, I’m feeling optimistic, clicking through ads, trying to get to the credit card data entry window.

However, this Doomsday Clock is tormenting me, counting down my One and Only chance at Opening Day salvation.

There. I click it. Finally. And as an extra bonus? A $9.25 ‘Convenience’ fee added to the bill. How about that? Convenience Fee. Great. What’s next? A ball polishing tax? A bat waxing surcharge? My enthusiasm is starting to waver. Thing is, I associate this fee in my youth with Van Halen tickets via Ticketron. You paid extra because you spoke to an operator and had them mailed to your home. Not now. In the unregulated seller’s market of 2009, this is how it goes. You want on the boat? Now it’s going to cost you extra. But add the anxiety of the ominous and slyly unexplained time factor of doom, I am starting to feel abused, though no time for reflection.

The final ignominy comes at the end, just between the final invoice and a confirmation number. A fresh screen informs me about the greening initiatives of Major League Baseball and now I have the option of downloading my ticket to a PDA and just flashing my phone at the game to gain entry–for an additional charge of just $2.00. Given that I am not much of a gadget man these days, I opt the for printing my ticket at home option. As I slide the cursor over to the Complete This Transaction button, the ticket charge jumps to $6.00! What’s this? For my own ink and paper? Are they that concerned about The Impending Economic Apocalypse? No time to think.

20 seconds left and BAM! I have my 2009 SF Giants Opening Day ticket!

$52.00 for the seat and a whopping $15.25 in charges. A quick calculation. This means Standing Room Only tickets on any random home game are now $30.00. God Bless America. Please note: Tickets are non-refundable and remember that no coolers are allowed and removing your hat during the Star Spangled Banner is now mandatory.

(Tune in all this week for more special Welcome Back Baseball articles and pieces!)

On “Diamond Girls:” Female Baseball Fandom

December 09, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom, Women In Baseball

(Originally posted February 16, 2000, reposted to new blog on December 9, 2008)

So, I never really thought about the difference between female baseball fans and male baseball fans, until the whole Derek Jeter thing.

Let me explain. Growing up as a kid, I was a tomboy, and was always doing this that the “guys” did: I ran cross country track, and played the sousaphone (tuba), and I was the one girl in my fifth grade class who traded baseball cards. (Because I only cared about the Yankees, I didn’t mind letting the guys bid on my other hot players who were non-Yankees… the going rate for a “trade” back then was a penny a card, or a card of equal “value” for a card… which meant someone like Reggie Jackson wouldn’t go for less than 75 cents, and could get bid up to about $3. In milk money, that was a significant amount! I was also my class’ treasurer… and I made a killing shedding the Dodgers, Reds, and Mets I didn’t want…)

Anyway, the thing is, I didn’t really think of baseball fandom as a masculine thing, particularly. And I still don’t, especially not with all the women I always see when I go to games. And they’re not there as tag alongs to their boyfriends or husbands.

Then again, in New York, maybe they are just there to see Derek Jeter.

I was slightly shocked when I went to a game at Yankee stadium in 1999 to find that, as the players were introduced, the decibel and pitch level of the screams for Jeter were considerably higher than for other players. Being the baseball exile I was for so many years, and not being in New York, I had missed the whole Jeter-as-Heartthrob phenomenon. I thought to myself, hmm, yeah, he’s kind of cute, single, and plays shortstop, chicks dig that. But I didn’t really see the attraction myself. Maybe, I thought, it’s because I’m, ahem, seven years older than he is–I mean, s**t, he’s the same age as my little brother.

During the post-season this year, though, I’m not sure what it was, but all of a sudden I “got” Jeter fever. This was especially weird since I haven’t had that Beatle-mania kind of feeling for any athlete, movie star, or pop singer since I was, oh, a teenager. But, as Mel Stottlemeyer is fond of saying, Jeter is “special.” The more I watched him play, the more fascinated I became. Who is this guy? I wondered.

Then came the offseason, and as I was surfing the Internet, I came across many great Jeter articles and interviews I’d missed while in baseball exile. Turns out, he’s also the nicest, best-mannered guy in the sport. Jeez. I read features from Sports Illustrated, ESPN The Magazine, GQ (!), Time Out New York, People (!!)… Perhaps even more intriguing was that rarely did I read these interviews on their original magazine’s sites. More often than not they were lovingly scanned, or perhaps painstakingly re-ryped, word for word, by dedicated fans of Mr. Jeter. I found hundreds of Jeter fan sites. And not surprisingly, most of these sites are run by young women, in their teens and twenties.

I was deeply involved with teen heartthrob fandom myself when I was young (I ran a fan club for Puerto Rican boy band Menudo, and yes, I met Ricky Martin many times back when he was thirteen–you’ll have to wait for my autobiography to hear more…). So I know the turf. I was capitvated by features on the sites–the modern day equivalent of home-made fan club newsletters–like “101 Reasons I Love Derek Jeter” and the still-ongoing speculations about Jeter’s relationship with Mariah Carey (despite the fact they broke up years ago).

Even more captivating was all the actual baseball talk that got tossed in with the discussions of Jeter’s eating habits, social life, and eye color. Okay, granted, there were many, many messages posted on the boards with subject lines like “OMIGOD DJ IS SOOOOOO HOT!!!!!!!!” but maybe that’s why it was so surprising to me to find women arguing about Chuck Knoblauch’s throwing problems, for example.

Then again, think about the character of Annie in “Bull Durham.” She wasn’t just a dugout groupie–she knew her baseball.

No, I really shouldn’t have been surprised at all, I guess. I salute baseball women, the “diamond girls,” whether what thrills their blood is Jeter’s smile, or his lightning throw to first. Or both. And I’m proud to be one of them.

Born Again in Baseball: Part Three: The Comeback

December 03, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom, Baseball Musings, Yankee Fan Memories

(Originally posted February 13, 2000, reposted to new site December 3, 2008)

WILBB 2000 Offseason LogoIn 1999, corwin and I had been together eight years. Eight years! And now that we’re both in our thirties, we’ve gotten on to a kind of second-childhood kick. (We also took a vacation to Disney World this year.)

I decided that, with our limited funds, we ought to take a vacation to New Jersey, and it was high time he experienced two of the things that were really formative to me as a kid. One, the Jersey Shore (Seaside Heights, specifically) and two, Yankee Stadium.

I went to two games, one with corwin and one without. On Sunday afternoon, I’d gone with my brother and his girlfriend. The Yanks had beat the Mariners that day, but the victory was bittersweet for us, because my parents were supposed to be along with us, also. But my father ended up hospitalized and in the Intensive Care Unit a few days before. (He’s fine now, thanks!) So he was laid up and my mom decided to stay there with him. Ricky Ledee hit an inside the park home run, and Ken Griffey Jr. was held powerless to do anything, really… (gloat, gloat)

But then came the next night. We went with two friends, my best friend from high school, Bonnie, who was on that birthday trip to the stadium all those years ago, and her then-fiance (they’re married now), Aaron. It so happens that Aaron is a huge sports fan and knows the inside scoop on all the players, even the opposing team. It’s Yanks versus Oakland A’s on a beautiful summer evening in New York.

We arrived early, with the traditional fried chicken in our bags, met our friends and found our seats (lower deck, third base side). corwin made an audible gasp as we came through the dark, dank, concrete corridor that leads to the seats and out into the intense green and blue open space that is Yankee Stadium. I said “you think this is cool, let’s go up to the upper deck just to see the view from there!” We did, and then a cop chased us away since that section was empty.

It was the best kind of game, the come from behind victory. We got to see a little bit of everything that game. Controversial umpire calls. Home runs. Double plays. Rookies blossoming. Old hands making their comebacks. History in the making.

On the drive back to my parents house, corwin said, “That was really fun.”

“Yes, dear, it was.”

“No, I mean really, that was incredibly fun.”

“Yeah, I know, that’s why three million people are going to do it this year.”

“No, Really…”

You get the idea. He was hooked.

I had no idea just how hooked, though, until the next day, when we were due to drive back to Boston in the evening. We had some errands to do in North Jersey, sort of near the George Washington Bridge.

As we were getting on the road, around 6pm or so, corwin looked across the Hudson River toward the stadium and said, “You know, we could go to the game.”

But being as the errands we had done included buying a couple hundred dollars worth of furniture and stuff, it didn’t seem wise to leave the car parked in the Bronx.

Then, the road we were on became blocked by a horrendous accident. It took over an hour before the cops began to re-route traffic, and we sat in the car, and sat, and sat…

“You know, we could listen the game on the radio,” said corwin.

We turned to the pre-game show. And then we were happy as clams. In fact, we started to get worried when the traffic broke up. Because we were probably going to drive out of range before the game would end…

So picture this. Halfway through Connecticut hours later, we’re north of New Haven, and the signal starts to go. corwin’s driving.

“I’m going to pull over,” he says.

We pull off the highway into an abandoned factory parking lot. The game goes to the ninth inning.

“I’m getting hungry,” I say.

The game is tied up. Going to extra innings!

We suffer. We get back on the road. We search for a Hartford station. We pull off again. John Sterling’s voice is being eclipsed by static. Suddenly we find a Hartford radio station carrying the game. Off we go again!

At 11:30 pm we pull into the parking lot of the Olympia Diner. The Olympia used to be open 24 hours, but now they are only open until midnight. So it is a good thing that in the bottom of the thirteenth inning (13 innings!), the Yanks were unable to make the hits they needed, and they went down in defeat. And at 11:45 pm, after sitting in the car all the way through the final out, we finally get out and went into the diner.

“I can’t believe they lost,” says corwin, while staring at the menu.

“Yeah, and I want a Sabrett Hot Dog,” I grumble. They’re just not the same if you eat them anywhere else but Yankee Stadium.

The next day I came home from teaching tae kwon do (which I do three night a week) to find corwin in the kitchen, where he was supposed to be making dinner. He had his head in a cabinet, but no food was being prepared. “Look what I did!” he announced.

He had been downloading the RealPlayer G2 to his laptop and then hooking it up to our home stereo system so we could listen to the game live while in the kitchen.

I forgave him not having dinner ready.

And you know what else? Those two friends who came to the game with us? They had the nerve to get married during Game One of the World Series. (Aaron says if he ever gets married again, he promises he’ll check first…) From their wedding, we went on our Disney vacation, and one evening went to the Disney All-Star Sports Cafe to watch Game Three. It was almost like being at a game–they have a live DJ there who plays all the little fight songs and things. Earlier in the day, we had been in a restaurant at Epcot Center where they had crayons on the tble, and I drew the Yankee Top Hat logo on the placemat. I was still carrying that placemat and kept my scorecard on the back of it, with a pen I bought at Disney Wide World of Sports, a ball point pen with a baseball on the end. I don’t know if it was lucky or what, but they won the game. (That was the Chad Curtis home run game.)

And yeah, I can’t wait to go back for another game. And neither can he. And I’ve been jonesing for more baseball ever since, reading the news on the Internet every day. Checking the trades. Reading the STATS INC book over Christmas. corwin’s now reading “The Physics of Baseball.” Yeah, we’re hooked. We’ll probably even see some non-Yankees Red Sox games this year!

Born Again in Baseball: Rookie

November 02, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom, Baseball Musings, Yankee Fan Memories

(Originally posted February 13, 2000, reposted to new site November 1, 2008)

So, how did a young fan of Reggie Jackson, the Year of the Comeback, Bucky Dent, Ron Guidry, and Thurman Munson, a woman who still counts among one of the best days of her life witnessing Dave Righetti’s Fourth of July No-Hitter live at Yankee Stadium, lose her faith in the late ’80s, forget the sport of baseball entirely, and then find it again in 1999?

Let’s turn the clock back to the 1970s first. There I am, a young tomboy growing up in suburban New Jersey. I have to credit my Dad with getting me hooked on baseball, though I never got hooked on any of the other sports he liked to watch on tv (golf, tennis, football…). Perhaps this is because although we watched a lot of ABC’s Wide World of Sports (remember back when that was pretty much all there was?), the only sport we went to witness live and in the flesh was baseball, and the place we went was Yankee Stadium.

As a kid, I was very concerned with history and fame. How did famous people get remembered? I had this notion that I wanted to be famous someday, or at least remembered for something. I remember going to Yankee Stadium when I was about 9 or 10 years old and thinking, wow, history gets made here every day. Pretty mind-blowing for a ten year old.

There’s also no doubt about it that a lot of the bonding that went on between me and my Dad happened while we were sharing a scorecard at the ballpark, or stuffed into the same armchair at home watching the games. (We were skinny back then.) He’d tickle me during the commercials. At the ballpark, we’d take turns keeping score. I still keep my scorecard the way I learned back then–it’s a little less fancy than the mini-diamonds they have now. But, let’s not skip ahead.

When I was eleven years old, I was at 4-H camp when Thurman Munson died in a plane crash. My parents were really worried I’d be devastated, and were fretting over how to tell me when I got back to the real world. But as it turned out, I had already found out. One kid at camp had twisted his ankle or something and gone to the emergency room, and while at the hospital had seen the news report. With a whole staff of counselors on hand they announced the sad news in the dining hall that night. When I got home, I made a little shrine on my closet door, with a poster of Munson, and fifteen pictures of him I cut out from the newspaper in the weeks following his death. Fifteen because that was his uniform number.

For either my 13th or my 14th birthday party I made my parents take not only me to the park, but all my friends, as well. Our family tradition was to pick up a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken on the way, because at Yankee Stadium you can bring in your own food (as long as you don’t bring cans or bottles). Two carloads of teenage girls, plus my parents and brother–how could we not have a good time? You know, I don’t even remember who they played or if they won. I suppose in my childhood memories, they always won, even though I know they didn’t.

I remember sitting behind home plate once. My father and my grandfather and I had gone to the ballpark, just the three of us, and bought our tickets at the gate. Those seats must have been held in reserve for press or players’ friends, and were released before the game when they went unused. That was the night I learned what grand slam was. Bobby Murcer came in to pinch hit with the bases loaded, and hit one out. I remember everyone around us jumping up and down and screaming. I was too short to actually see Murcer cross the plate what with all the adults around me standing up. But I guess you never forget your first grand slam.

And of course there was that incredible Fourth of July, thanks to Dave Righetti. It was already an incredibly exciting day for me and my brother (his name’s Julian, by the way), because Chuck Mangione, who we thought was the coolest for some reason, played the national anthem, and then paratroopers came flying down into the stadium on parachutes with smoke shooting out of their shoes. Cool. Then comes young, good-looking, Dave Righetti to the mound. The opponents were the Red Sox, who we had been indoctrinated to loathe by other fans (“Boston sux! Boston sux!”) so tension was high. Righetti was pitching perfectly, and after the first couple of innings the words “perfect game” were on everybody’s lips.

OK, then at some point someone got walked. I can’t remember who, but I’m sure if I wanted to I could find a scorecard of the game somewhere on the web or in a stats book. So then “no-hitter” became the watchword.

It was the most exciting game I’ve ever seen, and all because almost nothing happened!

The tension and suspense was almost too much to stand. By the eighth inning, the two strike claps were becoming one-strike claps. (They tell me two-strike clap–the audience making rhythmic claps on two strikes hoping for a strikeout, which started with Ron Guidry in Yankee Stadium– has spread to some other ballparks as well.) The audience was going crazy and yet also subdued, holding our breath, not wanting to blow it for the young pitcher.

And he didn’t blow it. He did it! And so me and my family were witnesses to history in Yankee Stadium. After the game we waited outside the clubhouse with the media, tv cameras, etc… and a lot of screaming fans. We waved to Dave Righetti as he departed the park. We were a little disappointed that you couldn’t see us in the newscast that night, but so what? As if that wasn’t great enough, from there we went to the East River to see the awesome fireworks, and then to Chinatown for a dinner that, as Arlo Guthrie says, couldn’t be beat.

With memories and formative experiences like that, how could I leave the Yankees and baseball fandom behind?

Find out more in tomorrow’s entry.

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…)

August 31, 2008: When The World Is Running Down

August 31, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom, Yankee Fan Memories

Well, I have probably just seen my last game at Yankee Stadium, at least the stadium as I knew it. My very earliest trips to the stadium were before the mid-70s renovation. I even remember a doubleheader at Shea on a day it poured rain so hard that the decks looked like waterfalls. But the vast majority of my baseball memories are of the renovated stadium. It was a favorite destination for birthday parties and family outings. Longtime readers of this blog will remember that we were there when Dave Righetti pitched his no-hitter, which to this day is still spoken about as a famous day in Tan family history.

And now there are only ten games left at the place, and I will probably not be back again this season. I’ve put my tickets for the final game on sale and it seems likely they will be bought.

Am I nostalgic? Yes. But I managed not to cry, although the National Anthem almost did me in (as usual) and I only staved off tears by singing louder than usual.

It seems to me the Sunday crowd sings more than on other days of the week. Not only was the National Anthem audible, but there was definitely high participation on Take Me Out to the Ballgame also.

The game itself was not that memorable. The Yankees lost to the Blue Jays 6-2, after Pettitte walked the leadoff batter and then Nady lost a ball in the sun in the first inning. It was pretty much downhill from there, except for two solo home runs off Halladay, one from A-Rod, who heard some real cheers for the first time basically all week, and Jason Giambi, who has been, as they say on Lon- Gisland, “awn fiyah.” I saw three games at the Stadium this week; Giambi hit a homer in each one. (He must be getting the memos that say I’m there.)

The weather was beautiful, though, warm and dry, with a blue sky barely marred by just one or two clouds throughout the afternoon. The Yankees’ playoff hopes fade day by day, and you can feel the lethargy in the crowds as they wonder whether they should get excited or not. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle: the team doesn’t seem to have the horses to make it, so people won’t clap, and you can’t will a team to do more than it’s capable of, can you?

Anyway, the thing is… even with the team losing, the playoffs dwindling on the horizon, and the destruction of the Stadium imminent, it was still a pretty nice day at the ballpark. Am I a sap? Yeah. But we got to see the major league debut of Alfredo Aceves, who pitched two scoreless innings and struck out three. His throwing motion looks a lot like Mariano’s, but he differs from Mo in one major way, which is that he throws a change-up.

I now present a collection of observations and snippets of overheard conversation from the past week of baseball here in the Bronx:

Prior to the Wednesday game against the Red Sox, these words were delivered wistfully: “It must be nice to have a new Stadium.”

Prior to Sunday’s sold out tilt, to a scalper: “You got any cheap tickets?” The reply: “Yeah. At Shea Stadium.”

The Red Sox fans sitting next to us the other night, as A-Rod came to bat. The girlfriend said something we couldn’t hear, which prompted the boyfriend to respond: “With Madonna?!?! But she’s old!”

Did Carl Pavano always have a lazy eye, or did that happen after he got hit in the head with a ball?

Talk about feeling like it was the 1970s again; there was old school sky writing above the Stadium today. It read: I N T R E P I D M U S E U M . C O M

We watched yesterday’s game from a bar on the boardwalk (Spicy in Seaside Heights), where there was a live singer with a guitar (I’m so sorry I didn’t get his name—he was quite good). He kept pausing between songs to ask us what the score was. He tried to egg on the White Sox (who are playing the Red Sox) by playing “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” The scoreboard department today opted for AC/DC “Highway to Hell” when the Yankees failed to rally.

While watching the game from the bar, which is a pleasant experience thanks to the weather and booze and nice music, even when the Yankees lose as a result of a Cano error (but I’m not bitter)… we learned that the song “When I Come Around” mashes up perfectly with “No Woman, No Cry.” While we’re at it, have you noticed that “Sweet Home Alabama” mashes up with “Werewolves of London?”

I admit my sadness over the ending of the Yankees’ season is tempered somewhat by a feeling that certain things are inevitable. First off, Cashman has pulled a rabbit out of his hat year after year after year to replace injured players and find the last pieces of the puzzle so many times. From David Justice to Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small, he keeps plugging the holes. This year, though, there was really no way to replace the loss of Chien Ming Wang and Jorge Posada. Pudge Rodriguez doesn’t have enough left in the tank to fill the need (he’s like 10 for 55 since putting on pinstripes), and using Sidney Ponson and Darrell Rasner in place of Hughes and Kennedy hasn’t lifted them above mediocre. So, Cashman’s luck was bound to run out some time.

The inevitability, though, stems partly from the overall feeling that an era is coming to an end. The Stadium is coming down. We’ve already lost Eddie Layton, and Bob Sheppard seems sure to go next; I’m not sure he has been well enough to work even a single game this year? Even Derek Jeter is having an off year and whispers about his age are starting to crop up.

So it’s hard to separate my feelings about the season from all the other things that seem to be winding down. Or maybe it’s just that I literally do not remember what it is like not to make he playoffs, so I don’t know how to feel.

I actually have not given up. But it is feeling a lot like it’s the bottom of the eighth and we’re down by a lot of runs, making the comeback unlikely. But not impossible. And how amazing it would be if they did.

June 1, 2008: For the Birds

June 01, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom, Great Ballparks, Yankee Fan Memories

I have now initiated my friend Brian (let’s call him Brian…) to the fun and wonder of Major League fandom. I took a trip to Baltimore to take him to his first major league game, a tilt of Orioles versus Yankees.

The reason I went all the way to Baltimore for this is that the company he works for gets tickets at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Nice tickets. Behind home plate nice. So when he asked if I’d come down and see a game with him and explain what all the fuss was about, of course I said yes.
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