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      F I E L D  T R I P S

OCTOBER 20, 2003

October 16 , 2003: American League Championship Series Game Seven
Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium

Rhapsody in Pink
A Special Report by Andra Laine Hardt

Wednesday night, 11:30 pm. Jay received a phone call from his friend Ben, who had a extra ticket to Game 7 of the ALCS Series between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. In my usual fashion, at that time in the evening I was propped in a relaxing manner on the couch, in front of the TV. Butterflies began to swirl in my stomach. I started getting really excited for Jay. I mean, what an opportunity. He had previously in the week turned down the opportunity to go to Games 6 & 7 for various reasons, but who knew earlier in the week that a Game 7 between these two was ever going to happen. Now it WAS happening and someone we knew had an extra ticket!

However, there was a conflict. Jay's cousin would be here for only one night and he had committed to hosting him for dinner. I sat there and listened to Jay struggle for a way to say yes, but he knew he couldn't do it. Even though his answer would be no, he told Ben he would call him back in 10 minutes.

I began to think, "This is my game, this is my opportunity. Jay can't go, but I can. It's not my cousin who's in town. I have no plans. I have worked hard for this. I have watched every single game in these playoffs on both sides of the table, two games a day for weeks now, thanks to TiVo. I know these teams, I know this game, and I am going, I have to go."

I told Jay, "When you call Ben back, just let him know that I am available if he can't find anyone to go." I had met Ben on several occasions, even spent the weekend with him up at Jay's 10-year college reunion, but I figured he probably had other friends in the lineup to ask before little ol' me. So, I say to Jay, "Just let him know I am available."

Jay got back on the phone with Ben, sadly declined the invitation and hung up. I was devastated. Why didn't he say anything? This is my game. I earned this. My heart stopped for a second. Jay felt he might be putting Ben in an awkward position. No, no, no, no, no. I know Ben, Ben and I hang, this is not awkward. It is not awkward to just put it out there. It was midnight at this point; he wouldn't want to spend the whole night looking for someone to go. This was my game. I could feel it in my bones.

I am not, I don't think, a stubborn or demanding woman, but Jay could see the disappointment in my face. Somehow, my opportunity lay in his hands and he had just passed it up. He called Ben back. "Andra would like you to know, if you can't find anyone to go to the game, she would LOVE to go." Next thing I knew Jay was handing me the phone. Ben said, "Andra, I didn't know you wanted to go, this is going to be great, I'm glad you can come."

I was in. The blood rushed back through my body. I knew it; I just knew it the first moment Ben had called. This was my game. I have been in the shadows of more passionate and educated baseball fans my whole life. My father, my two brothers, now my boyfriend and his friends. Heck even my mother can talk the talk. It was time for me to step out of the shadows and show these fans that I got game too.

I spent the next hour and a half wide-awake running in circles. Game 7, Game 7, Game 7. Game 7? Is this real? Am I really going? Any Game 7 would be outta sight, but this Game 7 was out of this world. The most intense matchup ever. The Game of the Century, as they were calling it. I spent the next 19 hours in a state that could be best described as nervous, anxious panic. Through the night I kept waking up thinking I had missed a boat. Literally, I dreamed I was running out to the docks chasing a boat. Then there was the dream of Ben handing me my ticket which I kept dropping, over and over again. And the one where I kept reaching up to take my pink Yankees visor off the hook was driving me crazy; I kept reaching and reaching and couldn't get it off the hook. Sleepless night, but excitement roped my body out of bed the next morning.

Work the next day was a blur. I actually have nothing to say about it, I remember nothing. I know I called my mother somewhere in mid-afternoon with severe nervous jitters. But beyond that I remember nothing. My focus was only and solely on finding Ben, getting my ticket and getting into the game. Only until then would I know it was really happening. Happening to me that is; I was pretty sure the game would go on without me.

Our plan was to meet at the large bat outside of Yankee Stadium before 8 pm. I left like a bullet at 7 pm out of work. Beelined for the subway, and smushed myself onto the 4 train. The energy on the train could keep anyone awake for 48 hours straight. You had to feel kinda bad for the sole guy on the train wearing a Red Sox cap and all the verbal abuse he was taking. But not really. I am sure he knew it was coming. This is New York for crying out loud — and cry out loud we do.

I peeled myself out of the tightest sardine subway ride ever, and hit the streets around the Stadium to find the big bat and meet my crew. Everyone and their mother seemed to be meeting at the bat, so I was getting a little tense about finding Ben. Then I saw Katy, who would also be joining us. Katy is a fantastic person, the lead singer of a punk rock band, with a great eclectic look to show for it. She was adorned in an enormous gold metallic puffy coat, leopard-print pants, and stiletto boots, carrying her mitt and binoculars. With her bright red hair and handmade feather earrings with NYY beads on them, she glowed like the sun. Immediately thereafter, Ben shows up carrying a 4' by 5' sign that read, "BEAN DOWN" on one side, and "ZIMMER UP" on the other. For whatever reason, this sign got me so excited. Not only did it appear now that I was actually going to go to this game. I was with someone with a sign. And not just any sign, a good sign, a clever sign. This is cool, this is so cool. George, Ben's brother showed up and our motley crew was complete. Let's get inside!

With the first pitch in about 5 minutes, and what looked like 10,000 anxious cattle still trying to get into the stadium, we prodded our way with fervor through the crowd. Taking the fast track around the outside, it was not until my hips crossed that turnstile did I believe it was real. Oh my, now we're in, lets' do it. No other way to say it, we hauled our tushes up the ramp, 2 minutes to first pitch, and entered the Stadium in a section that was at least ten away from our own. Simultaneous to our entry, the Yankees took the field. 56,000 people stood and yelped their battle cry. The intensity of their wind almost blew me out of the Stadium. I grabbed the pole to maintain my vertical balance. Ben's sign went up, I started jumping and didn't really stop jumping for the next 5 hours.

The entire 1st inning was pretty much a yelling fest. It was just so L-O-U-D. It was awesome. Having recently watched all these playoff games at home, I would get really frustrated with the fans. Why aren't they standing? Why aren't they cheering? I vowed to myself that I was going to stand and cheer my adrenaline into every soul of those Yankees till they won this game. God help me if I wasn't going to give it my all. I got spirit, yes I do. With my pink Yankees visor and matching pink trench coat, I think I shocked every person sitting around me with my not-so-delicate voice on the game. The F-you Pedro!'s, and the You suck, Red Sox! began to mysteriously fly off my tongue. Heck this is Yankee Stadium where F-you is no more offensive then saying, "Boo-Hoo on you." I figured I've lived in New York long enough to use Yankee profanity with the best of them. I became the trash-talking girl in Section 16 wearing the pink getup. People around me started referring to me as Pink.

In the middle of the 5th Inning, Ben decided we needed to go on a run with our sign. You know, get a rally started. Katy and I were all for it. We exited our section and manuevered along the upper deck catwalk. Katy and I looked like the side girls at a boxing match with Ben holding up the round card. We were hootin' and hollerin'. Me on my mission to keep every single person there standing and cheering. It truly is amazing how people respond when someone walks by and tells then to get up, get up, and get busy. People really begin to cheer if you ask them to, it really does work.

We came upon the sections behind home plate — the shadowed sections, the graveyard, where cheering at this moment didn't really exist. These people looked at us like, "What, are we supposed to be cheerin'?" We were walking into what seemed to be a funeral gathering. We couldn't get this section of the ballpark to move, cheer, shout, or smile. It was bizarre. Defeated, we all headed out to the concourse. As we stood in the concessions line, there it was: Giambi's first homer. Ding, ding, ding! Aw hell, we're out in the concourse. "Run!" I shouted.

We dashed back onto the catwalk, and joined the "We just got a homerun" dance party taking place inside. In a slow conga shake up, we partied all the way back to Section 16. I mean, our rally had to have something to do with it, right?

Somewhere between the 6th and 8th innings, I randomly ran into my friend Nando. The boyfriend of my D.C. friend, Nando lives in New Jersey and I rarely get to see him. The last time I saw him was ten months ago on a plane from Chicago to New York, where he coincidentally turned up in line for the airplane's restroom. "Funny to see you here," I had thought to myself. So when I ran into Nando, who is the spitting image of Jorga Posada, I just knew something was big in the cards for Jorgie that night. I just knew it. 56,000 people, and here's Nando in Section 16. It is a crime how truly brilliant the world is.

At the bottom of the 7th, we went on our second run with the rally sign. This time we went out towards the leftfield foul pole and worked our way back towards home plate. You get a lot more rally action from the people sitting out in the Stadium boondocks. You'd think Ben was Bruce Springsteen or something based on the way we got these fans going. Katy got a call to "take your shirt off" and a goose in the rear to boot. I led the pack doing my shake-to-shake Yankees cheer-twirl and received several high fives along the way. Of course, we felt this rally inspired the happenings to come in the bottom of the 8th.

Now I won't sit here and spew off some baseball statistics, or this happened when this person, or that person was on this base, then the ball flew out there and all that stuff. I always and only carry with me an emotional memory of the game. And I am telling you, when my boy Jorgie hit that double to tie the game, the planets and the stars aligned. Now, I care a whole heck of a lot about several things that happen in this world. But at that moment nothing else seemed to exist. I had the adrenaline of 56,000 fans — minus however many Sox fans were there — pumping through my brains. I couldn't jump high enough, I couldn't scream loud enough, I had reached my outer limit.

The 9th Inning flashed by and extra Innings it was going to be. Oh my, the stress of this game was taking at least two years of my life. I thought of Jay, who was now at home alone watching this game on TV. His cousin and brother had come and gone at the top of the 8th Inning. Now he was to sit, pace and tear his hair out alone for the rest of the game. I called him before the 10th and told him I needed to "feel his power," randomly rehashing a phrase from an older NFL campaign. It suddenly occurred to me, my boyfriend, quite possibly the greatest and most knowledgeable baseball fan in the world, wasn't there with me. And I thought, if I am going to cheer the Yankees through the end of this, I needed his "power" with me. He was indeed at home ripping his hair out, and rotating through various rally caps, shirts, and traditions. He has said in retrospect it was probably good for him to go at it alone. A private moment with indeed his first love, baseball.

Now, I don't really need to tell you what happened next. But I'll tell you the way I saw it happen. Ben, once again, suggested another rally run in the middle of the 11th. We had such great success out the leftfield foul line that we thought we'd head that way again. This time, we went to the very last section, the very end of the boondocks, where the fans cheer the loudest 'cause they are so damn happy just to be there. We sensed the first pitch to be coming soon, so we literally ran as fast as we could through the outer concourse. Looking back and seeing Katy run with that red hair and stiletto boots was a sight for my sore eyes. We entered the Stadium at the last section with a ferocious roar. The crowd responded, and we were groovin'. You really couldn't hear anything. Next thing I know, facing the outfield, I see a ball flying out to the side of my right shoulder. My first ignorant thought was, "What the heck is that ball doing all the way out here!?"

Then my next brilliant thought was, "Oh my god, that's a f-ing homerun!" I was pummeled on the catwalk by what seemed to be at least 80 people, I have no idea, it was probably 3. Huggin', kissin', dancin' on the catwalk with complete strangers, but all strangers that helped the Yankees align the stars and the planets. It's so silly to think, I mean none of us swing the bat, or catch the ball. But the intimacy of Yankee Stadium totally allows you to believe you may have had something to do with it. At least in some small way. I'd like to think so.

So I paid my dues, and I got to go to my game. Thee Game. As far as I see it, I really never have to go to another one. What's the point? I just saw the greatest one ever.

As Jay always likes to end it: 4 beers, one hot dog, a handful of Cracker Jacks, 3 rally "runs," and a lifelong memory to tell my grandchildren about.

Final Score: Yankees 6, Red Sox 5. BOX SCORE



Andra Laine Hardt
— a.k.a. Pink