Bronx, N.Y., June 20, 2002 — I could almost see our hitters fall under the spell of Coors Field. Moose could have told them after the Tuesday game (and may have tried to). And Andy may have been briefly fooled himself into believing that this was a good (or even acceptable) place to play America’s pastime on Wednesday, until the unending seven-run fourth snapped him back to reality.
The pitchers knew we weren’t in Kansas (playing the Royals at Kauffman or Dorothy’s team in the Emerald City) right away, but up and down the lineup, the stats literally screamed, “crack,” “there it goes,” “line drive, it’s a base hit,” “it is high, it is far…”; of course the position players were seduced.
Ulysses (the name used in Roman mythology for the Greek hero Odysseus of “Odyssey” fame) led his crew to survival and freedom from the pleasure-giving drugs of the Lotus-Eaters, and rescued them from the cannibalism of the Cyclops. And it was as if each Yankee batter decided that, all evidence to the contrary, he would be the one hero who could hear the Sirens’ sweet song and not succumb.
- You thought the leaden winter
Would bring you down forever,
But you rode upon a steamer
To the violence of the sun.
And who could blame the Yanks for being so easily deceived? Held to five hits and one run of “leaden winter” by the Os’ Travis Driskill (who?) 15 days ago (until the last two men to face him tacked on a bloop and blast to make the final score respectable), we got by both the Giants and D’backs two games to one almost entirely on pitching (scoring only nine runs against the Giants; the 17 against the D’backs sound impressive but 10 of them came on two swings by Spencer and one by Johnson.) And totalling six runs over the weekend (once again, “leaden winter”) in Queens had put the offense into a mighty bad mood. Getting out of town in itself was a treat, like escaping the wiles and enchantments of Circe or Calypso, but to come to shore in the land of Rocky Mountain baseball!!!
- And the colors of the sea
Blind your eyes with trembling mermaids,
And you touch the distant beaches
With tales of brave Ulysses
How his naked ears were tortured
By the sirens sweetly singing,
For the sparkling waves are calling you
To kiss their white laced lips.
So when the Yankees overcame the relentlessly charging Rockies Tuesday largely through the counterspells of el brujo, all was forgotten. Ten runs, 17 hits. And hey, it was a victory. Wasn’t it? Wednesday was another day, and another offensive miracle. Only one more hit, but 20 runs! The biggest tip-off — that we overcame the seven-run fourth-inning assault on Andy — became even greater reason for celebration. The offense had nine lives in this town, and was convinced, I’m sure, that they could overcome anything.
Ulysses protected his men’s ears (but sadly not his own) from the call of the Sirens, whose beautiful songs and yearning calls had attracted many a sailor to founder their ships on the rocks off their island and to die. But no matter how many head shakes and words of wisdom emanated from Joe and his staff, you could sense that the hitters just couldn’t pay any heed. Alfonso, 9 for 16; Derek, 8 for 16; Jason 3 for 12 with 8 rbi’s; Bernie and Robin 7 for 15, with Robin homering in each of three games! Maybe they didn’t hear the Siren song, but
- And you see a girl’s brown body
Dancing through the turquoise,
And her footprints make you follow
Where the sky loves the sea.
And when your fingers find her,
She drowns you in her body,
Carving deep blue ripples
In the tissues of your mind.
“Good Vibrations” were rippling up and down this lineup this morning (on Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson’s 60th birthday), and each Yankee hitter, I’m sure, was ready to explode anew, as they took the field in search of a sweep. Fifty-two years ago today Jolting Joe notched his 2000th hit, and each guy penciled in surely felt he’d be closer to that mark himself once the game was over; most were right. It is fitting that no historical Yankee pitching achievement took place on June 20, and Joe (and all the anxious-to-leave-town pitchers) had to be worrying after Roger had a shaky first inning. But then Roger settled in and it seemed certain that he would give the pitching staff the start they needed, the start that would save us on this, the day when el brujo’s darting divers would not be available to deaden and redirect line drive swings into the ground, turning them into harmless ground outs.
- The tiny purple fishes
Run laughing through your fingers,
And you want to take her with you
To the hard land of the winter.
And then, it was like that weekend in the Four-Star Hotel had come to an end, and the bill was due. A shot off Roger’s forearm left a visible welt, an injury that swelled as if the Harpies themselves had inflicted it. Joe did his best to get us through Scylla and Charybdis with the back of the bullpen. And even though Randy and Mike failed (Mike’s most frustrating episode was falling behind 3-1, and then walking Zeile before Hollandsworth’s grand slam, in my opinion), and failed miserably, the offense came through one more time. Rondell got a big two-out base hit and then Ronny Coomer and Jorge climbed off the planks and brought us to even. But as it turned out it was only a tease. 20-10 and 10-5 sound like Bugs Bunny scores, and we were building a similar lead behind the Rocket early today, but not because we are arrogant and have swagger and come into a town and own it (though all of those may be true). No, it was because in this town it’s the kind of lead you need.
All three days it seemed we were sending Roy Hobbes up to the plate anytime we needed him. There was no lead we couldn’t surpass, no big inning that we couldn’t outdo. We felt like a team of warlocks and werewolves. Unfortunately, as we suddenly realized today as Pierre’s ball caromed off Roger’s forearm, all of this was taking place in Silver Bullet City. I hope the guys can get over it, standing around the bat rack in San Diego.
- How their naked ears were tortured
By the sirens sweetly singing.