Why I Like Baseball

an online journal of baseball enthusiasm

Archive for the ‘Great Games’

An Angelic Weekend at the Big Ballpark in the Bronx

June 09, 2015 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings, Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

Thank you, Yankees, for another lovely weekend at the ballpark. Now that I’m not actively covering the Yankees or MLB as a member of the media, I get to be “just a fan.” This means I get to do fun stuff like enjoy the perks of being a season ticket holder at Yankee Stadium for over 10 years.

Today was Photo Day, at which a couple thousand season ticket holders got to line up on the warning track (so as not to tread on the sacred grass) and wait for the Yankees to come say hello. The event was slated to start at 10:15 and end at 11:15 sharp. We arrived to get in line outside the stadium at around 9:45 in the morning and were amused that at that hour we could see many of the Yankees driving down 164th street and into the player parking lot. Michael Pineda, Didi Gregorious, and Alex Rodriguez were among those who waved from their vehicles. Looked to me like Didi still has Arizona plates on his car. (more…)

Jeter Walks Off Into the Sunset

September 26, 2014 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball History, Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

The scene is a conference room, shades drawn, coffee cups scattered across the table as the scriptwriters gather for a brainstorming session.

“Okay, how about this?” one of them says. “The kid, totally green rookie, gets a shot because a veteran player goes down, and then he hits a home run in his first game.”

“Yeah, okay,” another one says, “But then he also needs to hit a home run in the playoffs that year!”

“Too cliched,” a third one opines, “unless there’s a controversy about the homer. A fan reaches over, pulls it in, but…”

“But that just makes it all the more magical!” The first writer leaps to her feet, waving her pencil perilously close to the one next to her. (more…)

SABR 44 Ends With a Flourish: A Fantastic Time at the Ballpark

August 03, 2014 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings, Great Ballparks, Great Games, SABR

Today was the last day of the SABR convention in Houston. I think this might have been the best one I’ve been to since Boston in 2002, which was my first and therefore special. Every convention has had some outstanding things about it–Jim Bouton’s keynote in Seattle comes to mind–but this one was on a high par in every aspect. I didn’t see a single research presentation that I felt was a dud, and all the panels were top notch, especially since all the panelists were top notch.

But it was all wonderfully topped off today by the Houston Astros themselves. First they invited us into the ballpark for two last amazing panels, one with three former Astros–Alan Ashby, Larry Dierker, and Art Howe–and one with three members of the front office–Sig Medgal, David Stearns, and GM Jeff Luhnow. Those guys really hit it out of the park, figuratively speaking.

But then the actual young Astros hit it out of the park, literally speaking. We saw one of the most entertaining games of baseball imaginable. If you were going to take a person who didn’t know baseball to a game to show them how exciting and nifty it is, this one would have been a good candidate. Here, I made a list of awesome things that we saw in this game: (more…)

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…)

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.


Baseball wins again

October 28, 2011 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games

Tonight was the most exciting night in baseball since… well, since the amazing September 28th of this season, when both wild cards were decided within minutes of each other, culminating an improbable, mind-boggling month. Tonight, though, was all about two teams, and two teams only.

The last two standing are the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Cardinals were one of those two last-day squeak-in wild card teams who made it into the postseason as much as a result of the Atlanta Braves’ collapse as their own mojo. The Rangers, of course, have a lot of prove after getting smothered by the Giants in the World Series last year.

I have no real rooting interest in this series; I mostly just wanted to see dramatic baseball. Thus far, this postseason has had plenty of that, but tonight’s performance was over the top. (more…)

ALDS Game 1: September 30 AND October 1 2011… Recap

October 02, 2011 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

Well, that was the longest game I’ve ever been to. Yes, even longer than the record-breaking All-Star Game at the old Yankee Stadium (II). This one started yesterday, and didn’t finish until today.

Yesterday started usually enough. corwin and I packed up rain ponchos and scorecards and headed for the stadium at 5pm from Riverdale (the hoity toity part of the northern Bronx where a good friend and fellow fan has a welcoming fold-out couch). It takes about a half hour to travel down the Grand Concourse from here to the environs of the Stadium. On weekdays, the parking spaces around the courthouse become legal to all comers at 6pm. If you get there by 5:30, you too can sit in your car in one of those spaces until 6pm and then leave. There are even a few local characters who act like “parking attendants” directing people to park in the spaces. I presume once in a while some tourist gives them some money, but they seem to do it just for the fun of it.

On a normal day, we’d lock the doors and walk to the Stadium one hour before the first pitch. However, because this is the postseason, first pitch wouldn’t be until 8:37 pm. That meant we had plenty of time for dinner at El Molino Rojo (The Red Mill), a Dominican joint just two blocks from the Stadium. Look into that dining room on any night before game-time and all you will see is a sea of pinstripes and NY logos. And cops. A lot of the local cops eat there.

After stuffing ourselves well for very little money, we moseyed the rest of the way to the Stadium. Compared to many postseason visits to the Stadium, this was a warm night. We took a lap around the lower deck concourses, just soaking in the atmosphere. corwin remarked at one point on our walk, “Isn’t it remarkable that this never gets boring?”

It never does. (more…)

ALCS 2010 Game One Recap

October 16, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

I’m trying to come up with a reasonable lede for tonight’s game recap. It was such a dramatic, feel-good team win that it’s hard to know what’s over the top. On the one hand, it might play out that this come-from-behind statement in the ALCS opener turns out to be just another leg of the steamroller’s journey. On the other hand, chipping away and never giving up is the everyday business of these Yankees.

In the tremendous (yes, I’ll use the word tremendous) eighth inning rally, the Yankees employed the strategy an old coach of mine called “hit it hard somewhere.” The Yankees call it “keeping the line moving.” Tremendous? Yes. According to the Stats Inc. tweet-feed, there have only been four other games in postseason history where a team overcame a 4-run or larger deficit in the 8th or later. Yes, what we saw tonight was rare.

ALDS Game Three: Wind Swept Evening

October 10, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

What a lovely night in the Bronx. Beautiful weather, a festive atmosphere, and a fine ballgame that swept the taste of a lackluster September right out of our mouths.

I arrived at the Stadium earlier than planned, as the traffic driving from Boston was not nearly as bad as we’d feared. Plenty of leaf peepers were out on the roads, but the backups were few and minimal. At 6pm we pulled into our favorite parking lot (#8) and got a space on the bottom level. With two and a half hours to kill before first pitch, we decided to walk around the neighborhood and see what there was to be seen before committing ourselves to the stadium.

Stan’s was already in full swing along River Avenue, with loud music pumping and large screen TVs showing the Rays/Rangers tied at one apiece (more…)

ALDS Games One and Two Wrap-Up: NYY vs Twins

October 07, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games

For the first time in a long time we didn’t have to drive to New York for the start of the postseason. Because the Yankees slipped out of the AL East division lead and “settled” for the Wild Card, they opened on the road. This was lucky since both corwin and I couldn’t get away from work this week, and would have had to sell our ALDS tickets. Instead, the game(s) in New York will happen this weekend when we can go!

I don’t for a moment believe that the Yankees actually WANTED to slip to the Wild Card, though many fans in Minnesota do. I’ve seen many blogs and tweets from folks in the Twin cities saying that because the Yankees always dominate the Twins in the postseason, they actually plotted to lose the division so they would get the Minnesota matchup.

I don’t believe the conspiracy theories, but I do think maybe Joe Girardi thought to himself that it wouldn’t be SO bad to face the Twins if it meant he could get everyone to October healthy and decently rested, instead of drained from the AL East chase. If anything, the Rangers have made it look like the Rays are the tired ones, holding them to a single solo homer over the past two nights, winning 5-1 and 6-0.

The Yankees, meanwhile, are sitting pretty, having won both games at the brand new Target Field.

Ringing In The New Season at the Stadium

April 13, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

I’ve been at every home opener since 2000 except 2009, which got rained out and so I drove back to Boston in tears instead of staying in the city another day to go to the make-up game.

Today made up for it.

My two favorite Opening Days of the past decade were in 2001, seeing the actual raising of the Championship Banner and the “ceremonial golf cart ride” to Monument Park, and in 2003, when after the game was delayed one day by snow, Matsui finally took the field in pinstripes for the first time and hit a grand slam.

Today might top both of those. (more…)

Not Ready For Prime Time

April 05, 2010 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

The 2010 baseball season kicked off on Sunday night with a gala ESPN debut. Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Neil Diamond, and Pedro Martinez were on hand to lend star power to the evening, which featured the Yankees and Red Sox facing off at Fenway Park on a pleasantly warm April evening.

Unfortunately, the game turned into something more like a dress rehearsal, as both teams had their star turns, but also their lapses, duds, and missed cues. (more…)

2009 Champions

November 05, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

The Yankees’ road to their 27th World Championship was a little like what I went through today to finally witness their crowning, requiring all the resources of technology and media at my disposal in order to follow the game.

When the first pitch was thrown, I was somewhere above 30,000 feet, probably over the Washington DC area. I was hoping it would be a typical postseason game, with lots of slow pitching, visits to the mound, hitters taking pitches and working the counts, because then maybe by the time I could get a signal there would still be plenty of game left.

We landed early! I flipped my phone out of airplane mode the moment the wheels touched down and as we taxied I saw on the MLB “At Bat” app that there had been no score, and it was only the second inning!! Unbelievable. Matsui was at the plate facing Pedro with a man on and no one out. I quickly swapped to Safari to open MLB.com’s Live pitch-by-pitch for mobile devices. Matsui looked like he was putting up a battle. On pitch-by-pitch it looks a lot like FOX Trax, where the pitches appear as little circles in a box that represents the strike zone. Green circles are balls, red circles are strikes and fouls.

Blue circles are balls hit into play. Every 15 seconds the browser refreshes and one or two new circles appears. The screen went blank as it refreshed, then BLAM, the blue circle appeared right in the middle of the strike zone. 89 mph fastball… I had to scroll down just a little to see the results: “Hideki Matsui homered. Derek Jeter scored.” corwin and I began fist pumping. Then it was time to actually deplane. (more…)

2009 World Series: Game 4 Recap

November 02, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

If it weren’t for Chase Utley’s ownage of CC Sabathia, the Yankees might have been going for a sweep of the Phils tonight. As it is, they now hold a 3-1 lead in the series, and in all eight previous World Series in which the Bombers took a 3-1 series lead, they won the whole shebang.

The game got started off hot for the Yankees as Jeter singled and Damon doubled, and it looked like all the dire predictions made based on about how bad Blanton’s career numbers were against the Yankees were going to come true. Teixeira grounded out for an RBI for first blood, bringing A-Rod the the plate.

A-Rod took a fastball right in the back, incensing the Yankees bench. It was A-Rod’s third plunking in two days, and he said to the umpire “I think that was pretty obvious.” (Teixeira has now been hit twice, too… more on that later.) The umpires then warned both benches against retaliation, although Sabathia was told he could pitch inside and that the umpires “could tell” if he had intent to hit a batter. I’m not sure I believe that, but in any case, the plunking became a non-issue. Jorge Posada then hit a deep sac fly to bring in a second run, but Blanton had sent his message and settled down.

Blanton would retire the next ten men in a row while hardly seeming to break a sweat. (more…)

2009 World Series: Game 3 Recap

November 01, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

Well, sometimes predictions in baseball pan out. Citizens Bank Park was advertised as a homer haven, and six balls left the yard tonight, three from each team. Sometimes they don’t, as who could have predicted that Andy Pettitte would have the same number of RBIs in the World Series as Ryan Howard?

For a while it looked like Pettitte might not even last long enough to get an at bat. Through two innings he had thrown 52 pitches and struggled with his control.

ALCS Game 6: The 2009 Pennant is Won!

October 26, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

There was a party atmosphere in the Bronx prior to ALCS Game 6, as fans psyched themselves up to hopefully see their Yankees punch a ticket to the World Series for the first time in six years. “Tonight’s the night!” “Please let Pettitte have his stuff. Just let him have his stuff.” “The real fans are here tonight! The real Yankee people are here tonight!”

We arrived early to the game, two full days early, actually, given that Saturday night was a washout. We were a few blocks from the Stadium and just starting to look for a place to park when the announcement came over XM that the game had been called. We took a friend out to dinner instead, while torrential rains and lightning dominated the skies, and then this morning dawned clear and dry. There was a beautiful sunset just before we headed into El Molino Rojo, a Dominican Restaurant a few blocks from the Stadium, and by the time we came out, night had fallen and the crowds were thick on the streets heading for the game. There was no wind to speak of on a perfect autumn night.

“The real Yankee people” were chanting and cheering before the game even began. I’d never heard umpire introductions so lustily booed.

I was tickled to see Chuck Mangione play the National Anthem. After all, the last time I saw him play the anthem before a Yankees game, Dave Righetti went and pitched a no-hitter. (more…)

ALCS Game 4: Yankees 10, Angels 1

October 21, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

He has homered in three straight postseason games.

He has now tied the record for consecutive postseason games with an RBI at eight. Sharing that record currently with Ryan Howard and Lou Gehrig.

He has 11 RBIs thus far this postseason and a combined ALDS/ALCS average of .407.

He is having the time of his life.

He is Alex Rodriguez, who has finally learned the Jeter knack of being a world beater, just going up there and relishing the chance to do something big.

Jeter is human. So are all the Yankees. Jeter himself got picked off first after a nice Jeterian hit into right to lead off the game. Oops. Jorge Posada forgot how many outs there were and ran off the field, leaving home plate unprotected with a man on third. Nick Swisher got picked off second, according to replays, although the umpire blew the call. The umpires are human, too. Tim McClelland, the veteran ump who called George Brett out for too much pine tar several decades ago, blew two calls at third base tonight, one for the Yankees (ruling only Posada out when both he and Cano had been tagged out) and one against them (Swisher for leaving the bag too early on a sac fly when he actually left right on time).

But right now Alex feels like Superman and the whole team is enjoying the ride on his cape.

One of the Yankees who was scuffling this October, Melky Cabrera, had a big game, going 3-for-3 with a walk, a run scored, and four RBIs. He got himself going with a bunt base hit in the third, then had a two-RBI single in the third, walked and scored on Damon’s homer in the 8th, and capped off the night with a two-RBI double in the ninth.

It’s nice to see Johnny break out with homers on back to back days, as well. Earlier in the postseason he didn’t seem to have his good swing going, but he stayed in the game by taking some balls the other way into left. Now he seems to be heating up. Now if only Teixeira will follow suit. He had only one hit tonight, after striking out twice against Kazmir, but in the first inning, the second to last pitch of the at bat he pulled deep into the left field seats, just foul.

Right now the only two players I am still worrying about are Swisher, who still doesn’t seem to be seeing the ball that well, despite working a walk in the third, and Posada, who still seems a little preoccupied, although he had a nice night at the plate, including a double and two walks, and a stolen base. Yes, you read that right, a stolen base… which makes me wonder if he missed a sign (or if Matsui did). Matsui was the only Yankee in tonight’s lineup who did not join the party, never reaching base in any fashion and ending up with the hat trick. He saw the ball well off John Lackey in Game 1, though, so hopefully he will again Thursday night.

I have tickets for the games this weekend should it come to that, but honestly I hope they just wrap things up in Anaheim on Thursday. The last trip to the World Series, in 2003, feels like a long time ago. Time to write some new history books, isn’t it, guys?

P.S. My full recap of tonight’s game will appear in the morning in the Baseball Early Bird newsletter. But it was an easy one to recap. Sabathia had it (8 IP, 1 solo homer, 5 Ks), and Kazmir didn’t (4+, 4 BB, 4 ER) and neither did anyone else in the La-La-Land bullpen, really, as the Yankees got at least one hit off each pitcher, and only Darren Oliver earned no runs. A-Rod and Damon hit homers, Melky had 4 RBIs, Jeter tallied two more hits, and what started out a tight game became a lopsided beating.

ALCS Game 2 Recap: Lucky Thirteen

October 18, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

Well, I jinxed myself when in my recap of Game 1 of the ALCS I mentioned that a low-scoring pitchers’ duel is so easy to summarize. So of course Game 2 had to be a crazy extra-innings classic full of missed opportunities and twists of fate.

It began with A. J. Burnett and lefty Joe Saunders. Burnett’s fastball was moving, and Saunders’ power sinker was getting ground balls. They each gave up two runs. Saunders blinked first, when Nick Swisher worked a two-out walk. It’s a good sign for the Yankees when Swisher walks, and perhaps it means he is getting back on track for the postseason. He came around to score immediately when Robinson Cano hit a triple that split Abreu and Hunter perfectly. The next inning Derek Jeter hit another postseason homer, another into the right field porch. Burnett’s armor cracked in the fifth. With the weather radar showing imminent pouring rain on the way, the Yankees wanted to get through the fifth with the lead, but Maicer Izturis led off with a double, then scored on a one-out single by Erick Aybar. Aybar himself came around as a result of Burnett’s struggles, first stealing a bag, then moving up on a walk, and scoring on a wild pitch.

The game would stay 2-2 for a long time. (more…)

ALDS Game 3: Yankees @ Twins Sweep

October 11, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

It’s over in Minnesota. The grounds crew is digging up home plate at the Metrodome to carry it over to Target Field, which will be the Twins’ new home come spring. But tonight it was Yankee cleats that crossed it most often.

In the end the only real surprise in the Yankees/Twins division series was that there were so few surprises. The biggest of them all was that the Twins, who are normally known for being such sound, fundamental baseball players, committed some baserunning gaffes. Tonight’s pivotal play involved Nick Punto.

Punto has been a revelation this series. He batted .444 and was a bulldog at taking pitches and working walks. But in this pitchers’ duel, in which Andy Pettitte and Carl Pavano traded zeroes for five full innings, every little thing could be big. In the sixth the Twins scored first, as they did in all three games in the series. This time it was the Twins who benefited from a blatantly bad umpiring call, when Orlando Cabrera stared at strike three right down Broadway, shown both on the WTBS Pitchtrax and MLB.com’s Gameday. But instead of watching the pitch, home plate umpire Mark Wegner was watching Denard Span run to second base. Jorge Posada held the pitch as long as he could without edging into outright protest, then lobbed it back to Pettitte, disgusted. A strikeout would have ended the inning. Instead Cabrera walked on the next pitch, and then Joe Mauer brought Span in on a single, before Michael Cuddyer struck out to end the inning.

But as in the previous two games in the series, as soon as the Twins scored, the Yankees answered. This time two Yankees in particular answered, as Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada both hit solo shots off Pavano in the seventh to make it 2-1 New York. In the end, Pavano pitched well, giving up only five hits (including the two homers), walking none and striking out nine in 7 innings. Pettitte went 6.1, striking out seven, giving up three hits and walking one. Pavano threw 95 pitches, 64 for strikes, while Pettitte threw 81 pitches, 58 for strikes.

Going into the eighth down a run, Punto led off the inning with a double in the left-center gap. If the Twins played small ball, their chance of tying the score with a runner in scoring position and no one out was very good. But Punto got greedy. When Denard Span hit a bounced up the middle, Punto rounded third as if he might score, despite his base coach emphatically trying to give him the stop sign. Derek Jeter snared the ball behind second and threw to Posada, and Punto frantically scrambled back to third. But Posada threw a strike to A-Rod who put the tag on the diving Punto to snuff the threat. WTBS captured the hair-pulling reactions in the Twins dugout.

It was the Twins’ last real threat, while New York tacked on two more insurance runs in the top of the ninth as Ron Mahay, Jon Rausch, and Sergio Mijares each walked a batter, and closer Joe Nathan was forced to come in and clean up the mess. He let up two singles, and two runs, before striking out Nick Swisher and Melky Cabrera.

After Mariano Rivera recorded a four out save to nail down the victory, the Yankees headed to their clubhouse for another round of champagne showers, while the Twins filtered out of their dugout one by one. The last man there was Nathan, but instead of heading to the clubhouse, he went to the mound and scooped up a handful of dirt to take home.

ALDS Game 2: Twins at Yankees

October 10, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

There were so many twists and turns in this game that the only reasonable way for me to recap it is to tell it chronologically.

Let us begin with the weather, which was balmy and humid for October. With possible rain showers forecast, the fans had jackets but most were carrying them. The intense wind of game one had gone, and if anything the wind was blowing in just a bit, the big American flag beyond left field hanging limp much of the night.

The warmth added to the party atmosphere at the ballpark, where the beer was flowing freely if the people in our section of the upper deck were any indication. No one was feeling tense, except maybe the Twins.

The first seven pitches of the game were all strikes (or hit into play) before A.J. Burnett threw his first ball. He looked sharp and aggressive (except to Joe Mauer, but I get the feeling the Yankees corporate policy on Mauer is to never give him anything good to hit, so walking him sometimes is inevitable) but so did Nick Blackburn when he took the hill for Minnesota, retiring the Yankees quickly in the first. Jeter’s average was no longer a majestic 1.000. (more…)

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