21, 2001: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium
All of the ingredients
were in place: A Saturday afternoon ballgame between the Yanks and Red Sox at
the Stadium. I mean, what else do you need? At first glance, not much. The Yanks
rollercoaster was ascending; after dropping two in Toronto, they'd won a 17-inning
marathon two nights earlier. Then on Friday night Andy Pettitte gave the bullpen
a much-deserved break with a complete game to take the first one from the Sox,
who'd beaten them 3 out of 4 the previous weekend.
With a capacity
crowd of 55,483 on hand, we were seated in an uncharacteristic location,
section 664 of the Upper Tier — fair territory in left field, second
row. I've been in the nosebleeds in right field before, but this was much
better. Certainly better than being a bit closer in down the line, as our
seats were facing home plate.
The game started
on a high note for the Yanks — Knoblauch singled, stole second, taking
third on an errant throw from the catcher, and then scoring on Jeter's
sacrifice fly. O'Neill then poked one over the right field wall and it
was 2-0. Mike Mussina pitched like the one in the catalog for the first
two innings, striking out the side in the first. But he came unravelled
like a cheap suit, surrendering two in the third and four in the fourth
(eeeuch) before departing.
I have to admit,
I'm partially to blame. I reminded my companion how I had derided the Red Sox
lineup the night before. Without Nomar Garciaparra and to a lesser extent John
Valentin, they have resorted to a patchwork lineup of futility infielders. Their
starting infield on Friday night had been Jose Offerman at first, Mike Lansing
at second, Lou Merloni at short, and Shea Hillenbrand at third. "Lansing, Merloni,
Hillenbrand, Lewis, Offerman? I wouldn't pay a buck for any of those guys. Fifty
cents for Offerman, maybe." Sure enough, shortly after I said that, Shea Hillenbrand
put the Sox on the board with a solo homer. Then Merloni singled, and was driven
in by Offerman. Hillenbrand ended up driving in two more runs. Merloni made the
key play of the ballgame when he speared an O'Neill liner with two outs and two
on in the seventh. Do we detect a pattern here? Me and my big mouth.
I was far from
alone in terms of stupid utterances, though. For one thing, a good portion of
the fans in our area were actually Red Sox supporters. I started the game behind
three annoying ones (husband, wife, wife's sister, maybe, all around 50, on at
least their second beer before game time, all commenting on every single pitch),
only to be informed that I was actually in the wrong seat. This was no reward,
as the Yanks fans nearby were no geniuses. I could perhaps forgive the well-dressed
Indian gentleman who called first called for Paul O'Neill to hit one right here
(Paulie ain't never gonna homer to left field in a million years, fella) and then
for Bernie to "throw it over the wall" when batting. Hmmmm... But the real prize
was the burly father behind me, with his chubby son in tow. "What does E-6 mean?"
asked the son when the scoreboard summarized one batter's day at the plate. "E-6
is an error on the catcher." The catcher? What kind of irresponsible parenting
is that? [For those of you NOT scoring at home, 6 is the scorer's shorthand for
the shortstop. The catcher is 2.]
As the game slipped
away for the Yanks, the one bright spot was the debut of El Duquecito, Adrian
Hernandez. Another Cuban defector, not a sibling of El Duque but a protege, El
Duquecito has a similar, high-leg-kick motion. Deemed not quite ready for prime
time during spring training, Hernandez had been shuttled up from Columbus to aid
the weary bullpen. He took over for the hooked Mussina (who, I later learned,
was battling the flu), pitching three very solid innings before Manny Ramirez
chased him with a solo shot to lead off the eighth. Given the difficulty the Yanks
have had with their fifth starter to date (not to mention the elbow woes of the
senior Hernandez), El Duquecito provided a tantalizing glimpse into the future.
The crowd seemed to sense this, and gave him more support than they usually can
muster for a team down by three runs.
In the end, though,
that was the extent of our consolation prize, other than a chance to practice
our "1918" retort (when a Red Sox fan starts to gloat about beating the Yankees
in a single game, the correct response is a quick reminder of the date of Boston's
last World Championship). The promised sunshine never materialized and the overcast
sky yielded rain in the ninth, so we departed before the Yanks got their last
turn. "It was not quite sunny," I observed shortly before the showers started,
"and we're not quite winning."
Red Sox 8, Yankees 3. Zero beers, one ill-advised sausage which took my
roommate two lengthy innings to procure, yet another late-arriving companion (he
forgot his ticket and had to turn back), and two early, disappointed departures.