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October 19 2000: Fireworks and the Postseason

I watched the Yankees clinch game 6 of the 2000 ALCS from the living room of a rental house in Orlando, Florida–a mere two blocks, actually, from the house where I watched Game 4 of the 1999 World Series last year (Roger Clemens’ dominant masterpiece that presaged his amazing 15 strike out win just a few days ago). I’d hoped that the Yankees would sweep in Seattle so I could take my vacation without having to worry about baseball while in Disney World, but Denny Neagle and the Mariners hitters had other plans. Instead, I packed my scorecards and other baseball game material into my carry-on bag, and prepared to watch the games on tv from Florida.

Walt Disney World, as anyone who has ever been there knows, is a very demanding vacation site. There’s so much to do, so much to see, and only so much time and energy a person has… also Disney has this way of disconnecting you from the real world. So when the Mets clinched against St. Louis on Monday night, I never even heard about it. In fact, I never even thought about it, until late Tuesday afternoon, when I saw a guy in a Mets hat. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to ask him if they had won–we were going opposite directions in a crowd.

So it wasn’t until I turned on the tv that night that I found out that the Subway Series was imminent, if the Yankees could win.

Originally we had thought we might go to the “playoff party” at the “ESPN Zone” sports bar/restaurant in Downtown Disney. But traveling in a large group, we opted to go back to the large rented house and barbecue and relax. Well, that is, the rest of them planned to relax, whereas I was getting more and more tense as game time neared.

At 7:30 pm we watched an incredible pyrotechnic display with fireworks, a flaming lake, dancing, singing, a dragon come to life, and other spectacular Disney effects. You have to respect an organization that is able to set an entire lake on fire every single night, synchronized to music, no less.

Fortunately for me and Yankee fans everywhere, David Justice was able to come through on cue with some pyrotechnics of his own. I was beside myself as we were in the horde of 10,000 people leaving the Disney show, fighting our way to the trams to take us to the parking lot. It was already about fifteen minutes into game time when we went through the turnstile.

What did I do? I called my brother’s house to ask him the score. One of his best friends answered the phone to give me the happy news that Julian was actually AT THE GAME (the lucky dog!), but also shared with me the sad news that the Mariners were leading 2-0 and that Knobby had almost gone yard, but it was caught. Argh!

Then, I raced into the house only to find the presidential debate on every channel! Aaah! Just when I was thinking I should have gone to the ESPN Zone or the All-Star Sports Cafe, I found the game on PAX. Those rental houses down in Orlando have almost a hundred channels of cable, thank goodness.

Aside: I know it was cruel, but I had to laugh really hard when Bob Costas remarked that he hoped Dan Wilson remembered he had to run the bases counterclockwise. Maybe it’s because I was so nervous–like Steinbrenner, I thought El Duque didn’t have his best stuff, and when Wilson, whose last hit in a postseason was years ago, got a hit, I was really ready to start biting my nails. Thanks, Bob, for putting things back in perspective, and restoring my jubilant mood. At that point, I KNEW El Duque and the Yankees weren’t going to fold. I didn’t know if we’d win, but I knew we were going to come back, and battle hard.

And we did. In case you have been in Disneyworld or another alternative universe since that night: we won. When Justice hit the three run homer to make it 6-4, I leaped out of my chair and jumped up and down. The Mariners didn’t lie down and die either. A-rod’s home run to lead off the eighth. And A-rod again on the bases in the ninth, stealing second (defensive indifference, actually) with Edgar Martinez–who has hit Mariano Rivera very well in the past–at the plate with a great chance to be a hero. But now, he grounded out–to Jeter, of course–to end the game and the ALCS.

And that meant the Subway Series was a reality.

Interestingly, the next day at the Magic Kingdom I counted over 64% of the baseball caps I saw were Yankees hats. About 8% Atlanta, 7% Boston Red Sox, but only one Mets cap the whole day… coincidence?

I, of course, always wear my Yankee hat when I travel, and coming back in to Boston’s Logan airport today was no exception.

I decided to take the subway home, since that’s $1.00, and a cab is more like $25-$30. As the train pulled into the station, the driver looked back to see when the doors were clear to be closed, and I think he saw my Yankees cap. Now, normally subway drivers don’t say much other than the name of the next station and “Watch the doors, the doors are closing.” They are also not known for being the most eloquent guys. But here’s what he said into the intercom once the train was underway: “Welcome ladies and gentlemen, especially those of you here for the first time, to Boston, Massachusetts, home of the Boston Red Sox. Now, I know two New York teams are in the World Series and so it must be pretty boring in that city right now. How they must have wept when they saw the breadth of their domain and saw there were no new worlds to conquer.” I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.

While walking home from the train station, a cabbie yelled at me on the street, and although I couldn’t make out a word he said, I am fairly confident it expressed a similar, if less eloquent sentiment to that of the T driver.

I expect it’ll be like that for the next week or so, here. Until the World Series is over and Red Sox fans hibernate for the winter. And remember, Sox fans hate the Mets, too, for beating them in the 1986 World Series–the “Bill Buckner” series.

But if it’s “lose-lose” for Sox fans, it’s win-win as far as I’m concerned. If the Yankees lose, well, of course I’ll be upset, but it’ll be a historic, momentous thing for New York no matter what happens. And given the history of the previous year or two’s interaction between these two teams, I expect it is going to be an exciting battle no matter who wins. Both teams have their strengths and weaknesses, and both want it “real bad.”

And me? I look over the breadth of my domain and rejoice. Another spectacular pyrotechnic show is coming my way.

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