Bronx, N.Y., Oct. 27, 2002 — I got to thinking a little bit ago when it made the headlines that Boston was interested in interviewing Yankee exec Gene Michael for their opening at General Manager. As one who always falls in love with the Yankee players and ex-players, wishing them well wherever they go, I was on the one hand delighted that others were acknowledging him for the job he’s done as a talent evaluator these last 15 years or so. But I do have to confess: Although I read some conflicting reports about whether or not Gene would have been interested in accepting such a challenge, I was delighted that George and the Yankee brass just said, “No!” Continue reading
Bronx, N.Y., Oct. 5, 2002 — I know what you are going to say. That we played horrible. That we squandered a huge lead. That we have used three vaunted starters in this series, and two others to help in relief, and none of them has particularly impressed. That their pen has outpitched our pen. That they have caught the ball well, and we have not. That they have moved runners, batted aggressively and made the most of their opportunities and that we haven’t.
To which I can only sadly and resignedly nod my head. Guilty on all counts. There is no question. I am disappointed in our play, as you are. But there you go, overstating things. What’s that you say? This was a must game? Gee, I don’t know. Last I looked there’s another one being played Saturday. That is the game that wears the “must” title as far as I can see. You say you can’t lose a game where you have a big lead early like that, because time will run out on you. To which I reply, This is baseball. Time stands still, as it does in no other sport. If everybody hits, no matter how far behind you are, you’re still alive. And if there is a tomorrow, you have an equal chance with anyone else who is playing tomorrow.
And what a tomorrow! Joe has his own agenda, and he has set up his postseason rotation as he saw fit. But if you have been watching this season, you know our best starter toes the mound Saturday. With a 19-7 record and a 3.75 era, Boomer’s lead in wins was deserved. He has pitched lights out for much of the season. And he carries into Saturday’s game that not-to-be-denied 8-1 postseason record, with the 2.74 era. Admittedly, I’m not really a numbers guy. But if you have watched David Wells pitch this year you have to be confident that we will play a Game Five in the Bronx come Sunday evening.
What we need to do is to adopt a positive frame of mind, because we have seen the Yankees overcome insurmountable odds before, and recently too. We went to Atlanta down 2-0 in the World Series in 1996, only to win four straight games and get ourselves a parade through Downtown Manhattan. And just last year, we traveled to Oakland with a much more difficult task than the one that awaits us now. Down two games to none we arrived in enemy territory with the need to win both and another game back home, and we did. On October 17, 1998, we fell behind to Kevin Brown and the Padres 5-0, and roared back to win. On October 26, 1999, we trailed Tom Glavine and the Braves 5-1. We came back. And with an offense statistically far more challenged and ineffective than the one that has lost two of the first three games in this series, we managed to mount two ninth-inning two-run rallies with our backs to the wall one year ago in the World Series.
So all we need to do is to approach Game Four in a positive frame of mind, knowing we have done what few teams have the luxury to do. We are using our best starter just when we need him most. So let’s take flight. Let’s take a trip. To Vienna. The year is 1762, and it is October 5 (340 years ago to the day). The opera “Orfeo Ed Euridice,” by Christophe Gluck, is produced this day for the first time. With the characters more familiar to us spelled Orpheus and Eurydice as has been handed down by the western tradition, the story brings just the messages Yankee fans need to hear.
Orpheus was the son of the god Zeus and the muse Calliope, and what Yankee fan who has been along for the 1994 through 2002 ride doesn’t feel a bit of the godhead upon them? Yankee fans have learned time and time again, once again just this last Tuesday, that if we make a joyful, and faithful noise, and that if we ourselves believe what we are singing (chanting, yelling, bellowing, shouting, intoning), that good things will more often than not happen. Orpheus’s skill was to play a lyre, as he learned it from the divinity that sired him. And he learned to play it so well that it not only pleased his fellow man, but the animals of the forest and the gods themselves as well. Lyre playing has fallen a bit on hard times of late, but who can doubt that the cheers and songs of the Yankee Stadium faithful have not been greeted with approval from most quarters as well, over and over, again and again?
But as in life, so in mythology (some would argue the reverse), into each life…Ah! Setbacks do confront us. Orpheus fell in love with and married Euridyce, and her beauty was such that it sparked envy and jealousy in others. Think, for instance, of a man from the West who fumed with resentment to the sound of a joyful song flowing from the loudspeaker of the Baseball Cathedral (“…New York, New York…”), and that which Orpheus loved was taken away (Eurycice, and the World Series ring). Orpheus’ love succumbed to a posion sting on her lovely foot. But when Orpheus braved all the hazards of Hades to win his trophy back, no matter how many men (or women or monkeys) from the West stood in his way, his songs (and cheers) so moved the gods one and all that he was rewarded with his beloved, as long as he did not look back. And our brave hero almost succeeded in bringing his prize across the River Styx and back to the world of living man, but he couldn’t resist looking back at the last moment, just in time to get a last look at a love lost forever.
And that’s where we are, fellow Yankee fans. Not only is it not time to look back, it is not helpful. Our thoughts should not be harking back, but ahead; not on what could have been, but what will be today. So do not bother to give me pitching stats for our starters, or for those in the pen. Do not waste your time telling me that we failed to make some plays that we should have, or that we could have moved runners and scored more often. The sorrows and losses of yesterday are of no concern, unless you choose to gaze at them, focus on them, speak of them and, in the process, lose your last chance at Eurydice’s fair hand. Look back if you must; my gaze is on what comes after Boomer brings us one more day with the Beloved, and a return engagement in the Bronx.
And viewing things through Orpheus’s believe-you-can-overcome-at-all-costs eyes, while not succumbing to that temptation to look back as he did, also bestows upon us his other overwhelming benefit, doing it with music. So, begging both your and the master musician’s kind indulgence, I offer up two unworthy tunes, just as I posted three tunes 357 days ago, as we were about to face Oakland in Game Three.
To the tune of Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park”
- Saturday in the (ball)park
You’d think it was the Fourth of July
Saturday in the (ball)park
You’d think it was the Fourth of July
Boomer’s pitching, Angels are missing
Time for Yankee baseball
Ri-ver-a is on call
Can we help them win it all?
Can we dig it (yes, we can)
And we’ve been waiting such a long time
Since last night…
To the tune of Mel Torme’s “Sunday in New York” (they play this one at Yankee Stadium on Sundays all the time)
- New York on Sunday,
Yank players taking a lap
Round the bases on Sunday,
Life’s a ball,
the Angels fall
Game 4′s a wrap
See you Sunday.
Bronx, N.Y., October 1, 2002 — Of course, you can’t use a line like that without crediting the originator, the one and only Yogi Berra. And Yogi joined us for the festivities in the Bronx tonight, as he threw out the game’s first pitch at 8:11 pm. And our former catcher and All Star wasn’t the only repeat among the pregame honorees. The festivities had begun with perhaps the seventh or eighth visit from the Brien McMahon Marching Band of Norwalk, Conn., in the last several years, as they began their act at 7:40. At 7:50 the Harlem Boys Choir, in their dark slacks and maroon blazers, assembled behind home plate. Continue reading