Rooting for Yanks for a night
All my life I wondered what it would be like to be a Yankees fan for a day. Or night.
Mind you, as a Brooklynite, I waited a good 84 years for this miraculous event to actually take place in The Bronx.
Rooting for the Bombers once was heresy in my Williamsburg home but that was long, long ago.
I remembered what my dear mother told me, “Time is a healer,” so
I figured that last Wednesday was a good time to change my cultural habits and for the first time in my life cheer for Joe Girardi’s gang.
After all who — but a Mets fan — would want to go down in history as a lifelong Yankees-hater? Not me; I’ve got better things to do with my time; such as worry about the Rangers, Islanders and Devils.
My visit to East 161st Street and River Avenue came about when my attorney pal and Yankees season ticket-holder, Martin E. Valk invited me to come with him to boo Boston.
It was, as the Godfather once said, an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Anything Boston — especially the Red Sox and Bruins — inspire a blend of scorn, disdain and, of course, hearty Bronx Cheers from my throat.
And once I had climbed out of the subway at River Avenue I knew that I had arrived in a veritable baseball wonderland.
More than an hour before game time, the Outside-The-Stadium scene was both precious and priceless. For a brief moment I actually thought a World Series game was on the menu.
Streets were cordoned off, cops were everywhere, an ambulance parked under the elevated line above and hordes streamed into McDonalds as if Mister Mack himself was doling out free burgers.
Up above, the el was thundering over the tracks while a hawker below was selling David Ortiz T-shirts as if the Sox icon was going out of style. (Which by the way he is.)
Meanwhile, the sky was darkening, rain threatened and Marty Valk, my trusty guide, emerged from the mob suitably attired in Yankees garb from twinkle toes to eyebrows.
Taking me by the hand, Marty steered me to the ticket-taker and into this rather amazing horsehide palace, gleaming as if it was just shipped in from Times Square.
Within a half-hour I could tick off a couple of things I like about Steinbrenner, Inc. For starters. the ticket-takers and ushers are friendly; and the men’s rooms are clean.
As for the minus — and it is a noisy one — the folks who orchestrate the organist, the announcements and the ridiculously too-frequent canned “cheers,” have the impression that everyone in the ball park is stone deaf.
And if they weren’t deaf when they walked in, they just might be when they walked out.
If anything surprised me it was the large bloc of Red Sox rooters in the crowd. They mostly made themselves known when Big Papi and Mookie Betts came to the plate.
For me the game was terrific; just what good baseball is all about. Swell pitching, vacuum-cleaner fielding and tension right down to the grand-slam walk-off home run with two out in the bottom of the ninth. Can’t beat that.
The pitchers’ battle couldn’t have been better. Yankees starter Bryan Mitchell held Boston to a mere two hits and no runs over seven innings.
Then, something happened that drove me nuts. Yankees manager Joe Girardi must have suffered a brain cramp.
Instead of allowing 25-year-old Mitchell to complete his total domination of the Sox, he pulls Bryan out of the game, replacing him with Adam Warren. That move was right out of the script for “Dumb and Dumber.” Warren looking like a sandlot flub, giving up three runs over a third of an inning before he got the hook. Boston’s manager John Farrell was even more qualified for the Stupid Move of the Night prize. His starter Clay Buchholz allowed New York one measly hit — an infield miscarriage of justice — over six scoreless innings. What could be better?
But, no, Farrell must have felt that, at age 32, Clay was collapsing. (Which, by the way, he certainly was not.) And Buchholz was told to take the rest of the night off which — I’m sure — he reluctantly did. I’ll say this for Farrell; he briefly redeemed himself by bringing Brad Ziegler for the seventh inning. Ziegler is MY kind of pitcher. I love side-armers, especially this guy.
So Ziegler smites the Bombers in the seventh — one, two, three on twelve pitches — which meant I couldn’t wait for him to sidearm some more in the eighth. Egad, what a cad! Farrell, instead of rewarding my favorite sidearmer with another inning of beautiful hurling, he brings in Koji Uehara, who barely escaped the eighth inning. So Boston goes into the last of the ninth — as the late, great Dodgers-Yankees broadcaster Red Barber would say — “in the catbird seat.”
Minus The Great Ziegler, the Sox didn’t have a chance. First the foolish Farrell brings in Craig Kimbrel, who graciously filled the bases with Bombers and then walked one in, to boot.
Farrell suddenly remembered that this was a blunder with capital B as in Boston and then made his final mistake. In came Joe Kelly — no Ziegler in The Maven’s book — and into the Yankees bullpen went Mark Teixeira’s home run.
I loved it; and then turned to my baseball consultant, lawyer Valk, and wondered why in the world these good pitchers — Mitchell, Buchholz and my man Ziegler — weren’t allowed to keep pitching.
“That’s the way it goes in baseball today,” Valk explained, while my head kept spinning. “The managers believe that starters shouldn’t stay in for more than 110 pitches.”
With that, I thanked Marty for a most wonderful evening and headed for the subway. As luck would have it, the fellow sitting across the aisle from me on the train was wearing a Red Sox cap, so I couldn’t resist the temptation.
“Do you know why your team lost?” I asked. He shook his head.
“Because your manager didn’t let Ziegler finish the game.”
“Y’know, you’re right,” the man concluded, making my evening a complete joy.
P.S. That’s how you become a Baseball Maven in one never-to-be-forgotten night!
Columnist Stan Fischler (right) and friend Martin E. Valk attend a recent New York Yankees baseball game.