In Your Dreams, Jaffe

For a short time this morning, I was a New York Yankee. Those of you reading this, worried that some minor transaction slipped past you in the agate type on the Sunday sports page can rest easy–I slept through the whole affair. Baseball slipped into my slumber, and suddenly there I was in the Yankee clubhouse, with a locker next to Alfonso Soriano.

I have no idea how I found myself in that position. Perhaps Enrique Wilson simultaneously sprained his tailbone and his second chin while riding the pine, requiring the organization to find another futility infielder, and what with Luis Sojo now managing their AA Norwich team and Fred “Chicken” Stanley pushing sixty, I was next on the organizational depth chart. Whatever. I glanced nervously at my watch as I strode into the locker room, carrying a shoulder bag and trying to look nonchalant. It was 3:20, which seemed an OK arrival time for a night game. “What time is infield practice around here, anyway?” I wondered aloud.

I found my locker, right next to Soriano. Multiple uniforms, caps, and spikes, neatly arranged, awaited my arrival. If me being a Yankee wasn’t farfetched enough, the well-organized locker should have been the tip-off that I was dreaming. My biggest concern as I arrived at the locker was remembering the combination to a small safe for valuables. Sori reminded me that the combination would match my uniform number, in this case 32 (apologies to Elston Howard for infringing upon his retired jersey. Hey man, I was asleep at the time…). I dialed the combo and the safe opened, much to my relief. Lord knows how I expected to actually secure anything in there when everybody knew everybody else’s one-number “combo,” but… insert Ruben Rivera punchline here.

I looked around the locker room. My Yankee teammates were for some reason dressing in road greys, rather than pinstripes, so I followed suit. This didn’t seem nearly so strange as seeing the player dressing on the other side of Soriano’s locker: Keith Hernandez. The former Met first baseman with the cheesy mustache was dressing in uniform number 23–the number belonging to the former Yankee first baseman with the cheesy mustache, Don Mattingly. I didn’t have much problem with Hernandez taking Mattingly’s number (being in the business of retired-number stealing myself), but I was puzzled why Keith was hanging on with the Yanks.

A large cardboard box was sitting in front of my locker. I opened the top and peeked in. It was a trophy of sorts, a large chalice that was apparently intended for Yogi Berra. I understood instantly–it was because Berra had entertained the fans during a recent rain delay by talking to them over the scoreboard Jumbotron (what, you DON’T remember?), and the Yankee organization once again wanted to show their gratitude to Yogi. As I explained this to Hernandez, he sneered and took issue with it. I told him, “Keith, you should be so lucky. If you were a nicer guy, maybe Cleveland wouldn’t have let you go.” Keith frowned at me, a Yankee official came by to pick up the trophy as we watched a clip of Berra on the clubhouse TV, and that was the end of the dream.

Even in my dreams, I apparently have a good grasp of baseball arcana. Hernandez finished his career with the Indians in 1990, though it was bad knees, and not a bad attitude, that did him in. I have to admit that I never did like him as a player, and I don’t like him much as an announcer either–he’s got a condescending air about him, and that mustache always seems to be hiding something. Not that I’m lying awake at nights thinking about my dislike of him–apparently, I’m dragging it down to my subconscious, where a rookie like me can sass back to Keith Hernandez.

This wasn’t the first time baseball invaded my dreams, though it happens surprisingly infrequently. One of the most memorable ones involved me conversing with Mariners manager Lou Piniella as we took a shvitz together. The discussion was going along fine until I reminded Lou that his being doubled off of second base during Game 3 of the 1981 World Series was the turning point in that series–a good one for the Dodgers, for whom I was rooting. That dream took place in the winter of 1995-96, hot on the heels of the great 1995 ALDS in which the M’s beat the Yanks–back when I was still rooting against the pinstripes. In the dream, Lou grimaced as I reminded him, then unleashed a torrent of obscenties so beyond my comprehension that I could only read his lips, as I’d done back in that Series game. Wow.

Another great baseball-related dream, this one from ’97 (I wrote it down at the time, just like I’m doing now) involved me and actor Steve Buscemi. He and I were teammates on a Mexican League ballclub, and we were pounding the ol’ Budweiser and consoling ourselves following a tough loss. Poor Steve had been the losing pitcher, and he winced every time he took a swig of beer, rubbing his sore shoulder (imagine, Steve Buscemi wearing a pained look). Buscemi confided that his sore arm had him thinking of hanging it up. I was feeling pretty proud of myself despite the loss, because I’d gotten a base hit with the handle of a garden rake.

Clearly, it was clutch hitting like that which brought me to the Yanks’ attention. It took a long time, but I finally got called to The Show. Now it all makes sense…


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