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      F I E L D  T R I P S

July 3, 2001

June 4 , 2001: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium
The Birth of the Rally Beer™

Desperate times call for desperate measures. And so it was that on this night at Yankee Stadium, with the Pinstripes under the spell of Pedro Martinez, I became an inventor. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start from the beginning.

In the Beginning, the Red Sox had a fella named Babe Ruth. Biiiiig lefty pitcher, and a good one—they won three World Series with him in the rotation, along the way figuring out that the guy had a potent bat too. So potent that they decided to play him in the outfield when he wasn't pitching. Soon Ruth invented a new dance, called the Home Run, and the kids went crazy for it. So crazy that the Red Sox owner, Harry Frazee, decided he preferred financing Broadway musicals to financing a winning ballclub. But when Frazee's musicals didn't pan out, he needed cash and sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. The Red Sox then decided to get out of the business of winning the World Series, and haven't won one since 1918. The Yankees, eager to fill the void—several other teams, including the Chicago Cubs, had decided to get out of the biz too—shrewdly cornered the World Series market, and have won 26 titles in 82 years.

Seeing the success that the Yankees have had by winning World Series, the Red Sox have tried to get back into the game, accumulating a trio of top-level stars—Nomar Garciaparra, Manny Ramirez, and most importantly Pedro Martinez—towards that end. This has been met with much optimism in certain locations around New England, resulting in foolhardy sportswriters and rabid fans across the country predicting a return to glory.

Okay, so I left out quite a bit, and I hedged here and there. Indulge me for a moment, then go and read Roger Angell, Thomas Boswell, or Red Smith if you need a recap on this special rivalry.

On this particular evening, the Sox were in town for a one-night stand to make up a rainout. Pedro Martinez was slated to face the Yankees for the third time in 12 days. In his previous outing, he'd broken through a jinx which had kept his team winless in five starts against the Yanks. Mike Mussina, who'd opposed Martinez in the first two duels and acquitted himself admirably in a split decision, was in line to take the ball again for New York. But manager Joe Torre pushed Mussina's turn in the rotation back a day in favor of Ramiro Mendoza. Torre cited the draining nature of the Moose's previous two starts, but much was made of the move in certain circles.

The Stadium crowd was electric on this night—any time the Red Sox come to the Bronx, there's a charge in the air, especially with the Sox two games up in the AL East standings. Even moreso with Pedro on the hill. The buzz seemed to work for the Yanks, as they struck first, on a solo home run by Bernie Williams in the second inning.

But the Sox put up a pair in the fourth on Troy O'Leary's two-run homer and doubled it in the fifth with another by Carl Everett. They clobbered the fragile Mendoza in the process, and he departed to a mixed reaction from the crowd. When the Yanks went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the fifth on eight pitches, the buzz was gone, a sense of doom palpable.

It was at this point, with the Yanks' hopes at their nadir, that Mother Necessity reared her head. So I acted predictably: I made a beeline for the beer line. I had resolved, after a weekend which saw more than its share of wee hours, to take it easy tonight, but what the hell. Never mind the hangover, never mind paying $5.75 for a cup of watery Miller Genuine; when the going gets tough, the tough get going!

In a flash, I returned to my seat, beer in hand. The Red Sox went quietly in the sixth. Chuck Knoblauch, leading off the home half, gave me hope as I took a slug of Milwaukee's finest—and sure enough he beat out an infield single. I chalked it up to mere coincidence as Derek Jeter grounded to short—a potential double-play, but Jeter beat the throw to first. Paul O'Neill struck out looking, and the inning, once so rich with promise, seemed dead in its tracks. But Bernie Willaims walked on five pitches, including a wild one which allowed Jeter to take second. I took a good draw from my cup and shouted some encouragement to Tino Martinez, next up.

Martinez lashed a drive to right-center as the crowd erupted. The runners scored and Tino, chugging with his elbows locked, in that peculiar frozen-at-five-years-old manner, made it all the way to third base. Taking a huge swig, I turned to Nick, my companion for the game. Pointing to the cup, I nodded. "Rally beer, see?"

That drew a laugh which soon turned into a groan as Henry Rodriguez struck out for the third time, ending the inning. Still, I figured I was onto something—Pedro Martinez doesn't give up two runs in the same week, let alone the same inning, very often.

I finished my beer by the time the Sox reached their third batter in the sixth, so I again leaped out of my seat in search of reinforcements. Scott Brosius, one of the few Yanks with any history of success against Pedro, was due to lead off the seventh, but the Yanks were still down, and I needed another Rally Beer™.

I returned to find a serendipitous pitching change. Red Sox Manager Jimy Williams had decided that Pedro, though he'd thrown only 90 pitches (Nick had kept track, so we knew almost exactly where he stood), was done for the night. Rolando Arrojo came on in relief, protecting a 4-3 lead. Brosius greeted him with a single to left and was sacrificed over to second. David Justice came out to pinch-hit for Alfonso Soriano, but Arrojo wanted nothing to do with him, and he walked on four pitches. Knoblauch grounded to third, moving the runners over in the process. I gulped my beer as Nick shouted out our familiar, comforting mantra: "Jeter is next!" Derek promtply laced a single to right and the Stadium shook as both runners scored. The Rally Beer had struck again!

But all was not rosy yet. The Yanks had added another run, but nearly coughed up the lead in the eighth, summoning Mariano Rivera with runners on first and second and no outs. Rivera coolly struck out Dante Bichette, and emerged from the inning with the lead intact. But he faltered in the ninth. Manny Ramirez, his nemesis, launched a two-run shot to right-center, quieting the Stadium but shocking almost no one. Ramirez had beaten Rivera with a two-run single in the tenth a few weeks back, and right now owned him as he did every other pitcher in the American League. He'd entered the game hitting .380, with 18 HR and 60 RBI—and this was the first week of June!

The bottom of the ninth, with score tied at six—the concession stands had long closed, the Rally Beer™ had stopped flowing. But the announcement of Rod Beck coming in to pitch for the Sox nurtured the Rally Beer™ Within; we still had more than a little hope. Justice again drew a walk—getting a nice ovation prior to doing so for a spectacular sliding catch he'd made at the right-field foul wall. Knoblauch sacrificed him to second, and Jeter was intentionally walked, bringing up the most dangerous .133 hitter in the game, Luis Sojo.

Sojo had entered the game in the eighth, on a double-switch which allowed Justice to take over for O'Neill in right. Justice had already responded with the defensive play of the game; was it too much to hope for Loo-ie, a futility infielder trapped in a third-base coach's body, to pay dividends as well?

For that answer, I'll present you only with Exhibit A: the 2001 World Series against the New York Mets. Sojo's game-winning hit in the decisive Game 5 of the Subway Series may not be enough to merit a plaque in Monument Park, but no Yankees fan will ever cringe to see him at bat with the game on the line.

Beck got behind 2-0, but he worked back to a full count on a couple of ugly swings. Then Sojo, apparently as confident as a shot-calling Babe Ruth, blooped one to short right field. Friends hugged, strangers high-fived, and David Justice, leading the way for every Yankee fan, strolled home happily ever after.

Final score: Yankees 7, Red Sox 6. Two Rally Beers™, two bags of David's sunflower seeds scattered all over the front row of Box 640, and a couple of very happy campers. BOX SCORE