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June 19 2000: It Worked! Yanks Wallop Red Sox 22-1

season2000Well, last night my team was down, and all kinds of drama, humiliation and heartbreak loomed potentially on the horizon. We were out of first place, suffered an unbelievable loss 17-4 in which our ace got shelled for 9 runs in the top of the first inning and came out of the game after only 2/3 of that inning, only to end up on his way to Alabama to see the surgery specialist who does Tommy John surgery, probably ending his season, potentially ending his career.
And of course we were coming into Boston, to our arch rivals in baseball history. I live in Boston. I’ve had my tickets for this game since January. But there was no way I could know what a situation my Yankees would be in today.

corwin and I both got into our full Yankee fan regalia for the occasion, to support the team, to show we weren’t afraid and neither were our guys.first-fenway

As we walked to the ballpark and rode the T, people (always men, I notice) would yell “Yankees suck!” behind our backs. When corwin went to the concession stand before the game, the vendor gave him a really hard time about being a Yankee fan, as well. “I was offended!” corwin said with indignation as he handed me my hot dog. He wouldn’t tell me what the guy said, but it takes a lot to offend corwin…

I entered the ballpark not long after the gates opened, garnering a tiny beach ball from a man in a giant dog suit on my way in. (A giveaway…) It was my first time in Fenway Park to see a major league game, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect.

As I came up the runway marked with our section number (31), the main thing I noticed was the sky. At 5:30 in the afternoon the sky was blue, the air was balmy and beautiful–perfect, really. Most of what I could see coming out in to the grandstand was the sky, the Prudential building rising up, reflecting the sunset, directly in front of me. Then I noticed the park itself, so low compared to Yankee Stadium, the green of the grass seeming to flow right into the wall and bleachers, as if the park were just some natural depression in the Fens, low to the ground, irregular. When mostly empty, as it was at that hour, it looked almost as small as Legends Field in Tampa. Of course, Fenway seats 3 times as many people as Legends Field, but only half as many as the old pre-70s Yankee Stadium fit. When you take off that top 40% of a stadium, what you have is a park, and that’s what Fenway is, a park, green and antiquated and lovely. Even the cheers of the crowd seemed intimate, easy to hear, unified by the close surroundings.

I made my way down to the third base wall, where Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada were standing, waiting to take fielding practice. A kid nearby was yelling “Mister Jeter!” again and again, until his voice cracked as Derek turned to go into the field: “Mister JEE-ter!” And Derek yelled back “What!?” It was all Yankee fans along there at that time.

I got talking to some fellows from upstate New York, from two towns over from Clay Bellinger’s hometown of Oneonta. Bellinger was just stepping in to the cage then, and we cheered for him. Jimmy Leyritz put a whole bunch of balls over the Green Monster onto Landsdowne Street. Then Derek’s group went into the cage, him, Knoblauch, Paul O’Neill–I got distracted and didn’t see who their fourth was. Derek put a few over the Monster as well.

When he was done hitting and didn’t foul any balls off toward us, I went to find my seat. It turned out it was only a few rows back from where I was standing, and I was amazed. I don’t think you can even get seats that good in Yankee Stadium without being a season ticket holder. I was reminded of Spring Training for that reason–that’s the only other time I’ve sat so close to the field.

I should have stayed at the wall, though. Shortly after I sat down, Jeter came and autographed for just about all the fans along the wall. Sigh. You know, I thought I was past the Jeter thing, but just thinking about standing there I felt a little faint. I got back up and stood by the wall again, but he’d passed by there already. Just being that 10 yards from him though, gee, I guess the Jeter thing isn’t over for me yet. I say again, photos and tv just do not do him justice.

While I was standing there, the ten year old boys next to me were hollering for various players to come sign. Felix Jose was coming in from the outfield just then, but they didn’t know his name, guessing “Mr. Hernandez?” I told the kid next to me “That’s Felix Jose.”

“Mr. Jose! Mr. Jose!” he yelled. And lo, Felix came over and signed for them all. “You owe me a favor, kid,” I told him.

As you can probably tell, I was having a great time, even before the first pitch. But it gets better. In fact, it gets so good that at a certain point we couldn’t even score the game properly anymore.

In the beginning, it looked like a close game. Brian Rose was pitching well, getting a lot of strikes called on the corners. but the first two hits off him were a long double and long triple into the centerfield “corner”–both of which would have been home runs in Yankee Stadium. I mean, Spencer hit one 420 feet right into that notch. I turned to corwin and said “It’s only a matter of time before they figure out how to get the extra five feet…”

Indeed, it didn’t take too, too long, and in the end, after Rose came out, the Sox offered up their sacrificial bullpen lambs to be slaughtered. First Bryce Florie, who only just came off the DL, pitched two pretty good innings, but they wouldn’t leave him in much longer since he’s just getting back. Then Rob Stanifer, who just got the call up from Pawtucket today. Welcome back to the big city, kid–in Stanifer’s 2/3 of a frame, every member of the Yankee lineup crossed the plate. Of course, there were three errors in the infield, one on Nomar, one on Veras at third, and one on Offerman at first to blow a double play. The result was nine runs, but only one of them earned.

Tim Wakefield, the knuckleballer, then came in, and got one out with one pitch. That was his one good pitch. Because in the ninth, the Yanks hit him for seven more runs, all earned. By then they had mostly substitutes playing, again making it seem like Spring training (as did the lopsided score). Bellinger hit for Knobby (who, by the way, didn’t throw a ball away all night, though he did toss veeery self-consciously to get the outs at first…), then went in to play first base in the 8th while Wilson Delgado came in to second. Felix Jose pinch ran for O’Neill in the eighth, and then played for him in the ninth. In the ninth they sent Bellinger to centerfield, Jorge Posada to first base, and put in Turner at catcher. Might as well get those guys some playing time…

Lost in the offensive explosion was the fact that Ramiro Mendoza quietly kept the Sox shut down for his second straight game. After all, it was just last week he made what was essentially a start coming in after Roger Clemens was taken out after the first inning and put on the DL, against Pedro Martinez, no less. And won the game, 2-1. Just this time, it was 22-1. (Only 14 of those 22 runs were earned, but that’s not much consolation to the losers…)

The Sox are saving their good bullpen guys, Hipolita Pichardo, Derek Lowe, Rich Garces, for the next games. Cormier and Beck are no slouches either.

Meanwhile, I hope my Yankees are sleeping well tonight. Tomorrow they face Pedro Martinez, who they have discovered is not completely unhittable after all. They’ll see what they can do. Let’s just hope Pettitte can keep them shut down, and that the Yanks didn’t use up all their runs today.

Tomorrow’s game I’ll be watching on tv from my living room. And Wednesday I go back for another taste of Fenway. This time I won’t give up on Derek Jeter’s autograph. Because I know the Yankees won’t give up on anything.

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