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      F I E L D  T R I P S

JULY 20, 2003

JULY 19, 2003: Cleveland Indians at New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium
First Times, Old Times, Good Times

One of the reasons we fans watch so much baseball is the chance to see something we've never seen before — a triple play, an odd scoring decision, an unlikely home run. Saturday's ballgame at Yankee Stadium featured a previously uncharted event for me, and probably for the other 54,980 people in attendance as well: a three-run single, courtesy of Jason Giambi.

Entering the fifth inning, the Yanks trailed the Cleveland Indians 4-2. They had loaded the bases with no outs against Cleveland starter C.C. Sabathia, but futilityman Enrique Wilson grounded into a 5-2-3 double-play, leaving runners on second and third. After falling behind 0-2, Alfonso Soriano then worked a walk to reload the bases, and Derek Jeter followed with a sharp RBI single to trim the Indians' lead. Giambi, who's been on a tear lately (something like 19 homers and 46 RBI in his last 50 games), worked the count to 3-2. With two outs and two strikes, and with Sabathia's pace having slowed to a crawl, the runners took off before the pitch — and not just a little bit. John Flaherty, on third base, crept halfway home, Soriano was well on his way to third, and Jeter, in a full sprint, had reached second by the time Sabathia delivered the ball. Giambi fouled off two pitches as the runners repeated this intimidating dance, but the Indians did nothing to counter it. Finally on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Giambi stroked a sharp single up the middle. By the time centerfielder Milton Bradley's throw reached home, Jeter had already slid across the plate, clearing the bases and giving the Yanks a 6-4 lead. Incredible.

The Yanks had jumped out to an immediate lead in the ballgame, with Alfonso Soriano lining a homer to leftfield on Sabathia's fourth pitch of the day. The blow was Soriano's ninth leadoff homer of the year, tying the single-season Yankee record held by Rickey Henderson. Raul Mondesi lashed a solo shot in the second inning, to left as well.

David Wells started off dominating the Indians, striking out four of the first seven hitters, including the side in the second. But the Indians came back in the third. With two on, two out, and a 2-2 count to Jody Gerut, Wells left a curveball in the middle of the plate, and Gerut launched a three-run homer to right while the crowd groaned. Five pitches later, Bradley followed with a solo blast to right, giving the Indians a 4-2 lead.

But Wells gutted this one out. Though most of the eight hits against him were hard, he helped himself with a couple of pickoffs, Enrique Wilson made a pair of sparkling plays, including the start of a 5-4-3 DP, and Raul Mondesi, battling the sun, shagged every fly ball that came his way (six in Wells' seven innings). And as has become his trademark, Wells walked nobody — he's now allowed only six in 134 innings.

That's like two outings worth of walks for newly acquired Armando Benitez , who came on in the eighth and immediately made things interesting. Benitez walked the Indians' #9 hitter Jhonny Peralta in a 10-pitch at-bat. Todd Zeile bailed him out by turning a nifty 3-6-3 DP, but the pitcher couldn't deal with all this help. He gave up a single to Casey Blake and then a four-pitch walk to Gerut, at which point Joe Torre had seen enough. Mariano Rivera came on to retire Bradley on his first pitch — another fly ball to Mondesi. Bolstered by another run in the bottom of the eighth, Mo worked a perfect ninth, striking out two and nailing down the win.

Prior to the game, the Yanks held their annual Old-Timers' Day. With player introductions that lasted nearly as long as the game itself, the two squads of former Yankees (both wearing pinstripes) nevertheless squeezed in a 3 1/2 inning game, with Gene Michael's Bombers topping Clete Boyer's Pinstripes 4-1. On hand were five Yankee Hall of Famers: Phil Rizzuto, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Dave Winfield, and, of course, Reggie Jackson. On paper, the Bombers had the better squad, with a Don Mattingly-Jackson-Winfield heart of the order (compared to Cliff Johnson-Mike Pagliarulo-Mike Hegan? You gotta be kidding...). Mattingly drew the biggest cheers of the day, but Jackson provided the best moment, with an inside-the-park homer that drew more resemblance from a Little League hit than from any of Jackson's 563 big-league blasts. Reggie's shot sailed over the head of centerfielder Duke Sims, who butchered things once he reached the ball. Jackson, stopping at third, reaccelerated and sailed home. The crowd ate all of this up, chanting "Reg-gie! Reg-gie!" as they gave him a standing ovation.

The Bombers scored had scored three runs in the prior inning, on a somewhat contrived matchup. Mike Torrez, who had already pitched for the Bombers, came on for the Pinstripes to face Bucky Dent with the bases loaded as the Jumbotron showed Dent's famous 1978 blast. Dent poked a scorcher down the third-base line to score two runs, and then Michael, the Stick himself, drove in one more.

Rules were something of an afterthought in this game, with each team shuttling pitchers in and out every third of an inning and taking multiple turns (I know, because I was probably the only idiot in the ballpark trying to keep score). Besides the Torrez-Dent contrivance, the most intriguing matchup was Jim Bouton retiring Reggie in the first with two men on base, though the Bulldog slipped on his way to the bag. Also of note was former Yankee reliever Ryne Duren making a cameo appearance. The coke-bottle-lensed pitcher came in to throw his trademark warmup toss to the backstop, much to the delight of the crowd, before yielding the mound to Stan Bahnsen.

The game featured several Torre-era Yanks, including Luis Sojo (who drove in the Stripes' only run), Wade Boggs, and Jim Leyritz (who's looking for a return to the majors. Also playing were three of Torre's coaches: Lee Mazzilli, Mel Stottlemyre, and Willie Randolph, who made several shining plays at second base. The guy can still pick it.

Final Score: Yanks 7, Indians 4. Four and a half hours of baseball, one Reggie Jackson "homer," one Bulldog sighting, and one three-run single. BOX SCORE