Root­ing for Yanks for a night

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - Stan Fischler MSG Net­work Hockey An­a­lyst

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.

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