Friday, October 12, 2012

Yanks-O's in Game 23

They will be playing game 23. I know that the conventional wisdom is that this is game 5, the most exciting game baseball ever imagined. It will be the legendary baseball game which will propel one team to the ALCS and send the other team home for a long winter wondering what went wrong. The Yankees have a history of winning these kind of games. Unfortunately, playing in more of these games than any baseball team in history, they also have a number of losses. Are you thinking with me, Yankee fans? In 2001, a month plus after 9/11, the Yankees played the Arizona Diamondbacks in the World Series. My son Scott, a Yankee lifer following in my footsteps and making his own, still is in pain recalling how Mariano gave up a few bleeders and turned a championship into a very long winter. In 1960, I was 10 years old when the Yanks played the Pirates in the World Series. Fast forward to game seven, the deciding game. I raced home from my 5th grade classes. I heard from someone with one of those ubiquitous transistor radios that the Yanks had taken a 7-4 lead late in the game. My heart raced. That should be enough. The Yankees had mashed the Bucs 16-3, 12-0 and 10-0 in their 3 wins. Why had this series even gone seven games? By the time I reached our black and white TV (the wardens didn’t have a color TV until I had completed my 18 year sentence), the game had flipped. A bad hop caught Toney Kubek in the throat and a Hal Smith homer had carried the Pirates to a 9-7 lead as the Yankees came to bat in the 9th inning. But like the Mudville Nine, the Yanks played small ball and due to a gymnastics move in getting back to first base on a Yogi Berra smash down the first base line, the Yanks tied the game at 9-9 and sent Ralph Terry to the mound in the hope that the game could get to extra innings. Thanks to Maz we know that never happened. To a 10 year old the defeat was crushing. 52 years haven’t made it less crushing. When I met Mickey 25 years after that famous game, Whitey took me aside and reminded me. Don’t ask him about 1960. It was good advice. And now another deciding game. How do I feel as a Yankee fan of near 55 seasons? I think they are going to win. If I didn’t think that, I wouldn’t be a Yankee fan. However, the last 10 plus years of Yankee baseball makes me realize that anything can happen. It is game 23, not game 5. Yanks 11, Orioles 11. Whoever wins today will deserve the eight to face the Tigers in the ALCS. A curious thing happened to the Yankees still their Jeter led reign of glory was derailed in 2001. There were collapses against the Angels. There were collapses against the Tigers. There were collapses against the Indians. There were collapses against the Marlins. There were collapses against the Rangers And of course, the unthinkable in baseball, the epic collapse against the Red Sox in 2004. And to me, that amazing list of futility was marked by a common denominator of futility. Hitters who had hit a record number of Home Runs all season long couldn’t hit at all in a short series. It happened time after time after time. And to date, it has happened once more. Those were not my Yankees of the 50’s and early 60”s who rose to their peak when the pressure was at the greatest. Maybe Jeter is the only player who could play with those men. Tonight’s starting lineup. Jeter SS Suzuki LF Cano 2B Tex 1B Ibanez DH Swisher RF Granderson CF Martin C Chavez 3B A-Rod is benched. No real surprise there. He is not hitting. But either is Cano, Granderson, Swisher, should I go on. Can you imagine Casey Stengel trying to explain why Berra, Joe D, Mickey and Skowron weren’t hitting? It would never happen. But today will be different. CC will be great and the yanks will hit home runs and early in the game, the Yanks will take command. It will be a rout like in the three wins against the Pirates in 1960. By the way, the Pirates and Diamondbacks have never smelled a World Series since the day they lived in the sun and beat my Yankees. And this brings us to today. I will be watching just like I have been since 1958. This will be one more memory. I pray to the Yankee gods it will be a win. (Steve Tarde wrote the Father’s Day classic Gift To My Dad and you can order it on Amazon)

No comments: