Meet Mister Thumbs Down
THE METS FAN WHO GAVE YANKEES STRETCH-RUN RALLY CRY
A DOWN-TURNED THUMB and a dour expression have inspired a quirky Yankees celebration and catapulted a Queens man into semi-stardom.
The only downside is he’s a Mets fan.
Gary Dunaier, 54, a Queens native and a proud member of the Flushing Faithful, has become famous for flashing a thumbs down, a sign of his disgust that the Bronx team that took over Citi Field for a few days earlier this week.
Dunaier, a court office assistant at Manhattan Criminal Court, told the Daily News on Friday he was stunned by his sudden celebrity.
“So just spur of the moment I came up with idea of just standing up and making the thumbs down gesture,” he said. “A simple little thumbs down and all of a sudden it’s become so popular. It’s like a meme.”
The Yankees have since adopted the act, flashing thumbs down at one another on the field after they score a run or a get a base hit.
Dunaier thumbed his way into Yankee lore on Monday when the team was playing the Tampa Bay Rays at Citi Field due to Hurricane Irma pummeling the Sunshine State. The Mets seasonticket holder was seated two rows behind the Bombers’ dugout when third baseman Todd Frazier belted a three-run homer, and YES Network cameras caught a displeased Dunaier looking like a Roman emperor sending a defeated gladiator to his death.
Two days later, Frazier offered the same gesture in pointing and acknowledging the Bombers dugout — as is customary procedure with this team — after delivering an RBI single.
By Thursday, the whole team was doing it.
“I meant it as derision and they’re taking it as a positive thing,” Dunaier said. “That’s funny. It’s hilarious. What else can you say, you know?”
He couldn’t believe his silent sign of contempt landed his picture in The News. “When I first saw my picture in the New York Daily News I was surprised by the ‘Are you thumbs-down guy?’ headline,” he said. “If I didn’t reveal myself I was wondering how many days you would run that.”
His colleagues at the courthouse were surprised too. “They were telling me I’m a star and everything,” Dunaier added.
Frazier told The News he was just as shocked the thumbs down has given the Yanks such a boost. The team’s gone 5-1 since Dunaier signaled his displeasure.
“I saw it on replay. When I got in,” he said, “I started seeing guys with their thumbs down. It was pretty cool. I mean, you think something so opposite of what’s supposed to happen, actually like cliche now.”
Dunaier says he has no interest in watching the boys from the Bronx bang the ball around, no matter which park they’re playing in, but he’d welcome a show of appreciation for his inspirational gesture.
“The Yankees are making money off of this. I should make a little bit too — why not?” he said. “I’m the originator of it.”
Frazier suggested a meet-andgreet at Yankee Stadium.
“We might have to bring him in the clubhouse here and just walk around,” the 31-year-old Point Pleasant, N.J., native said.
Dunaier says he’d settle for something from the team in Queens as well. “A token of gratitude from the Mets for being loyal and showing my support.”