They’re Playing Our Song

Things are suddenly looking a bit more sunny for the Yankees. In this week’s Hit List, I had this to say:

A dismal week for the Yankees ends on a high note with the return of Alex Rodriguez (4-for-11 with two doubles and two homers after a 17-game absence) and strong performances from Darrell Rasner and Ian Kennedy. The former puts together his third straight quality start, lowering his ERA to 1.89, while the latter finally gets his ERA down to Boeing territory (7.27) with just his second quality start out of seven. More help is on the way for the Yanks, who begin Joba Chamberlain’s conversion to the rotation; while the move will be second-guessed by some wags, the Yanks simply need him there; their rotation is 10th in SNLVAR and last in innings pitched per start, while the bullpen is seventh in WXRL.

The Yankees kept the good times rolling after that was published on Friday, rolling up 13 runs against the hapless Mariners, and the line kept moving on Saturday, when I took my in-laws to Yankee Stadium for the first time and watched the Yankees continue to treat the Mariners like a punching bag as they won 12-6, their fourth victory in a row. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and in the high 60s, and for a Saturday it wasn’t so crowded as to be claustrophobic, thanks to the opponent and the holiday weekend. A great day for baseball.

Nonetheless, the day wasn’t without its disappointments even from the get-go. Upon arriving at the park at 11:45 AM, we were shut out of a chance to see Monument Park; according to the math of the security thug’s claim, the line had closed ten minutes after the stadium opened, ha ha ha. Despite having bought tickets via an Internet pre-sale for ticket-package holders back in February, the best I had done for four seats while still having enough money left over to make the mortgage payment was in Section 36 in far left field, over 400 feet from home plate and just a few seats from the edge of the stadium — further than a man with eyesight as bad as mine (not to mention the occasional touch of vertigo) should sit if he wants to pay attention.

Still, my in-laws, who hail from Milwaukee and are well-versed with the quaint amenities of Miller Park, were in awe of the old ballpark. We practically circled the stadium twice, once at field level — I got them as close to the monuments as I could, and they saw the dying embers of batting practice as well — and then once at the upper level, where they got a great view of the new park under construction.

Our final location did afford us a pretty good view of the long fly balls the Yankees walloped all afternoon, including Jason Giambi’s three-run homer to left-center field, part of a four-run second inning at the expense of Mariner starter Carlos Silva. Giambi had three hits on the day, two to the left side, and he looks locked in; his low batting average (he started the day at .217) disguises the fact that he’s hitting .386/.509/.773 over his last 14 games. Bobby Abreu cracked a homer and drove in four runs, Robinson Cano went 4-for-4 (he’s hitting .375/.412/.578 since May 4), and every batter in the lineup except Derek Jeter got a hit.

From our perch, which overlooked both bullpens, we also got to see and hear Joba Chamberlain warm up, which required me to give my in-laws a patient explanation both of the pitcher’s phenomenal ascent and the controversy surrounding his usage. Mike Mussina had quickly squandered the 4-0 lead, giving up a three-run homer to slumping Jose Vidro in the third and then a solo shot to Adrian Beltre two batters later, but the Yanks rallied for a run in the bottom of the inning and the Moose slogged through five innings before departing with a 5-4 lead. Chamberlain, scheduled to pitch as the Yankees continue the process of stretching him out for the rotation, began warming up in the fifth, creating a resounding pop every time he hit the catcher’s mitt with his fastball. He came in and struck out two hitters in the sixth, then pitched into and out of trouble in the seventh. In all, he threw 40 pitches, five short of his target for the day, but he looked pretty good.

While there was plenty to cheer about, the day’s biggest downer came from a trio of 40-something jackasses sitting in front of us and virtually ignoring the five-year-old son of one of the men. The little boy, wearing a yellow tee-ball t-shirt, was seated on the end of the row, right next to the railing and isolated from the attention of his father and the rest of the group. That was probably just as well, given that the topics of their conversation — spoken loudly enough that anyone within 15 feet was well-apprised of their thoughts on anything, and sprinkled with more than enough “shits” and “fucks” than anyone, let alone a five-year-old needed to hear — included choosing strip clubs, going to strip clubs, being at strip clubs, the efficacy of the old “hair of the dog” hangover treatment, pounding beer, pounding more beer, getting a drivers licence reinstated after a DUI, tattoos (one guy had a giant scorpion wrapped from his lower back over his shoulder and to his chest), spoiled kids, the ineptitude of the Devil Rays (this said by the one of the group who was visiting from Tampa, clearly not paying much attention these days), and this country’s propensity for military action. “Name me one fucking year since 1960 that this country hasn’t been at war,” challenged the history professor from Tampa, who apparently had promised to serve as the designated driver, having curbed his drinking maybe an inning before last call. Yeesh.

Not even those assclowns could ruin our day, not with the weather, the company and the results all working in our favor. The in-laws enjoyed the various rituals of Yankee Stadium, including the groundskeepers’ “Y-M-C-A” motions after the sixth, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the seventh, and “New York, New York” after the final out. That moment was curiously delayed when the home plate ump, apparently trying to make a quick getaway, called Beltre out on strikes at just strike two, triggering the Sinatra song. Confusion reigned on the field, as puzzled Yankees began congratulating each other before order was restored. With the crowd seeemingly all standing in the aisles or on the concourses in anticipation of the game’s official end, Beltre lasted five more Mariano Rivera pitches before grounding out to Cano. Finally, they were playing our song.

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