Thursday, April 27, 2017

Judge and Severino Convict Red Sox

Last night, at Fenway Park, the Yankees played the Boston Red Sox without the big fat lying cheating spectre of David Ortiz looming for the 1st time since September 4, 2002 -- a 3-1 win over The Scum at the old Yankee Stadium.

Aaron Judge don't need no nice close left field Wall: In the top of the 2nd inning, he took Rick Porcello over the wall at the ballpark's furthest point, right-center field, for a 2-run home run, his 7th dinger of the season. We're still not out of April.

It was his 25th birthday: He was born on April 26, 1992 in Linden, California, in the San Joaquin Valley, 95 miles east of San Francisco and 53 miles southeast of Sacramento. He thus became the 6th Yankee to hit a home run against the Red Sox on his birthday.

The other 5? Lou Gehrig when he turned 26 on June 18, 1929; Bill Dickey when he turned 26 on June 6, 1933; Yogi Berra when he turned 22 on May 12, 1947; Roger Maris when he turned 32 on September 10, 1966; and Cecil Fielder when he turned 33 on September 21, 1996.

As Yogi would have said, "I was the youngest one to do it, but that's because all the other guys were older."

The Yankees scored again in the 6th inning. Judge drew a 2-out walk, was advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch by Porcello, and singled home by Greg Bird.

You should never assume that 3 runs are going to be enough at Fenway Park. Nevertheless, Luis Severino was brilliant: Not once in the 7 innings he pitched did he allow more than 1 baserunner. He allowed just 2 hits and 2 walks. He retired 21 of the 25 batters he faced, and 11 of his last 12. He probably could have pitched the 8th and remained effective. Nevertheless, Joe Girardi followed his binder, and Dellin Betances pitched a perfect 8th.

Aroldis Chapman was called on to preserve the 3-0 lead in the bottom of the 9th. But his usual 100-mile-per-hour-plus fastball simply wasn't there. He was erratic, and he turned it into a Yankees-Red Sox game.

Cliche alert: A leadoff walk will kill you. And he walked Andrew Benintendi. He allowed a double to Mookie Betts, advancing Benintendi to 3rd. And, just like that, the tying run was at the plate, in the form of former Yankee Chris Young. Young grounded to 3rd, and Chase Headley had only 1 play, to 1st, and Benintendi scored.

Now it was a 2-run game, with the tying runs on, the winning run at the plate, and only 1 out. And Chapman threw a wild pitch, advancing Betts to 3rd. And then he walked Hanley Ramirez to load the bases with only 1 out. Depending on where it was hit -- Fenway does have those odd dimensions -- a single could tie the game.

Chapman shook it off, and struck out Jackie Bradley Jr. and Josh Rutledge to end it. Whew. Yankees 3, Red Sox 1. WP: Severino (2-1). SV: Chapman (5). LP: Porcello (1-3).

The series continues tonight. Each team's ace is on the hill: Masahiro Tanaka for the Good Guys, Chris Sale for The Scum.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

How to Be a Red Bulls Fan In Kansas City -- 2017 Edition

Next Wednesday night, the New York Red Bulls visit Sporting Kansas City, the only major league sports team ever to play home games in the State of Kansas, although they also represent Western Missouri.

Going to Kansas City.
Kansas City, here I come.
They got some crazy little women there
and I'm a-gonna get me one.


Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller wrote that tune back in the 1950s, and it’s been recorded by a lot of people. It hit Number 1 for Wilbert Harrison in 1959. They were referring to the larger Kansas City, Missouri (a.k.a. "KCMO,") not the smaller Kansas City, Kansas (a.k.a. "KCK").

The song doesn't say anything about sports, though. Even if it had, in 1959 in America, the sport it would have mentioned wouldn't have been soccer. But SKC are one of MLS' better programs.

Before You Go. K.C. can get really hot in the summer, and really cold in the winter, with the wind blowing across the Plains. This will be early May, so it could be considerably warmer than New York and New Jersey. Check the Kansas City Star website for the weather forecast before you go. (The rival Kansas City Times stopped publishing in 1990.)

For the moment, they are predicting that temperatures on Wednesday afternoon will be in the high 60s, and will drop to the mid-50s at night. They're saying, "Showers early," which might leave things humid and damp, but shouldn't affect the game much.

Kansas City is in the Central Time Zone, 1 hour behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

Tickets. SKC averaged 19,597 fans per home game last season, a sellout. Tickets may be hard to come by. But, being that this is soccer, there is a section set aside for away supporters, and some may still be available.

Away fans sit in Section 123, in the southern corner -- or, if you prefer, the bottom right corner of the horseshoe. Tickets are $43.

Getting There. Kansas City's Crown Center is 1,194 road miles from New York's Times Square. Children's Mercy Park is 1,196 miles from Red Bull Arena. Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there.

A round-trip nonstop ticket from Newark Liberty to Mid-Continent International Airport, while changing planes in Chicago, can be just $550. When you get there, the 129 bus takes you to downtown in under an hour, so that's convenient.

Bus? Not a good idea. Greyhound runs 6 buses a day between Port Authority and Kansas City, and only 2 of them are without changes in Pennsylvania (possibly in Philadelphia, possibly in Harrisburg). The total time is about 29 hours, and costs $338 round-trip, although it can drop to $282 with advanced purchase. The Greyhound terminal is at 1101 Troost Avenue, at E. 11th Street. Number 25 bus to downtown.

Train? Amtrak will make you change trains in Chicago, from their Union Station to K.C. on the Southwest Chief – the modern version of the Santa Fe Railroad's Chicago-to-Los Angeles Super Chief, the train that, along with his Cherokee heritage, gave 1950s Yankee pitcher Allie Reynolds his nickname.

Problem is, you would need to leave New York on the Lake Shore Limited at 3:40 PM Eastern Time on Monday, getting to Union Station in Chicago at 9:45 AM Central Time on Tuesday, switching to the Southwest Chief at 3:00 PM, arriving in K.C. at 10:11 PM Tuesday night. But it's not particularly expensive by Amtrak standards: It's a round-trip fare of $352 -- possibly cheaper than the bus. Union Station is at Pershing Road and Main Street. Take the MAX bus to get downtown.
Union Station in Kansas City. This city has a fountain fetish.

If you decide to drive, it's far enough that it will help to get someone to go with you and split the duties, and to trade off driving and sleeping. You'll need to get on the New Jersey Turnpike, and take Interstate 78 West across New Jersey, and at Harrisburg get on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which at this point will be both I-70 and I-76. When the two Interstates split outside Pittsburgh, stay on I-70 west.

You'll cross the northern tip of West Virginia, and go all the way across Ohio (through Columbus), Indiana (through Indianapolis), Illinois and very nearly Missouri (through the northern suburbs of St. Louis). You'll begin the Missouri section in St. Louis, on the Stan Musial Memorial Bridge; and end it in Kansas City, on the George Brett Super Highway. (The St. Louis portion of I-70 had been the Mark McGwire Highway, but after the steroid revelations, it was renamed the Mark Twain Highway.)

Exit 2C is for downtown, but it might be cheaper for you to get a hotel on the Kansas side. Continue West on I-70. Exit 411B will be for the stadium, onto Interstate 435. The 1st exit you see will be Exit 13B, and that's the exit for the stadium.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and 15 minutes in New Jersey, 5 hours in Pennsylvania, 15 minutes in West Virginia, 3 hours and 45 minutes in Ohio, 2 hours and 30 minutes in Indiana, 2 hours and 30 minutes in Illinois, and 4 hours and 15 minutes in Missouri before you reach the exit for your hotel. If you keep going into Kansas for a hotel, add another half-hour. That's going to be nearly 20 hours. Counting rest stops, preferably 7 of them, and accounting for traffic in both New York and Kansas City, it should be about 28 hours.

Once In the City. Kansas City, founded in 1838, and named for the Kanza tribe of Native Americans who lived there, is one of the smallest cities in North American major league sports, with just 475,000 people, and one of the smallest metropolitan areas, with 2.4 million.

Kansas City is set on the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers, and on the Missouri/Kansas State Line. Kansas City, Kansas is a separate city with about 150,000 people, and is known locally as KCK, while the more familiar city is KCMO. As for KCMO, Main Street runs north-south and divides Kansas City addresses between East and West, while the north-south addresses start at 1 at the Missouri River.

The base fare for buses and light rail is $1.50, though to go to the Missouri suburbs or KCK it's doubled to $3.00. A 3-day pass is $10. The sales tax in Missouri is 4.225 percent, but it more than doubles to 8.475 within KCMO. The sales tax in Kansas is 6.5 percent.
ZIP Codes for the Missouri side of the Kansas City area start with the digits 640 and 641; and for the Kansas side, 660 and 661. The Area Codes are 816 in Missouri, 913 in Kansas.

The Missouri State Capitol is in Jefferson City, 147 miles east of downtown Kansas City, 126 miles west of downtown St. Louis, and 30 miles south of the University of Missouri campus in Columbia.
The Missouri State House,
on the Missouri River in Jefferson City

The Kansas State Capitol is in Topeka, 64 miles west of downtown KCMO, 50 miles west of Children's Mercy Park, 26 miles west of the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, 60 miles southeast of the Kansas State University campus in Manhattan (sure doesn't look like the one in New York), and 140 miles northeast of Kansas' largest city, Wichita.
The Kansas State House, in Topeka

Going In. Opening in 2011 as Livestrong Sporting Park, and known as simply Sporting Park after the fall of Lance Armstrong in 2013, since 2015 the home of Sporting Kansas City has been named Children's Mercy Park, with the naming rights bought by a nearby hospital.
It is 16 miles west of downtown KCMO, and 11 miles west of downtown KCK. The official address is 1 Sporting Way (usually written as "One Sporting Way"). It is across the State Line in Kansas City, Kansas. This makes SKC the only major league sports team that the State of Kansas has ever had -- if you count MLS as "major league," and, since it had now celebrated its 20th Anniversary, you should.

Seating 18,467, the stadium is at State Aveune & France Family Drive (named for the family that founded and still runs NASCAR). CommunityAmerica Ballpark, home for the independent baseball team the Kansas City T-Bones (and home to SKC, then the Wizards, from 2008 to 2010), the Kansas Speedway racetrack, and the Legends Shopping Mall (yet another place in the KC area with a fountain fetish) are all adjacent.

From downtown, take the Number 37X bus, transferring to the Number 101 bus on Wyandotte Street at 7th Street. If you drive in, parking is free. Yes, free! As with the Royals and especially the Chiefs, tailgating is encouraged.

The field is natural grass, and is aligned northeast-to-southwest. SKC share it with FC Kansas City, which has won the last 2 National Women's Soccer League titles. Locals call it "The Blue Hell," and, as with Red Bull Arena and Yankee Stadium, the color blue does dominate.
The view from Section 123, where away supporters sit

The U.S. national soccer team has played 4 games there: A 1-0 win over Guadeloupe on June 14, 2011; a 3-1 win over Guatemala on October 16, 2012; a 2-0 win over Jamaica on October 11, 2013; a 1-1 draw with Panama on July 13, 2015, in the Group Stage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup; and a 4-0 win over Bolivia in the Copa America on May 28, 2016.

It hosted the 2013 MLS Cup Final, in which SKC beat Real Salt Lake on penalties in frigid conditions: The game began at 22 degrees, 12 with the wind chill factor, and got colder as night fell. This hosting made it the only stadium that has ever hosted an MLS Cup Final, an MLS All-Star Game, and a USMNT game in the same calendar year.

Food. Kansas City has a reputation for great steaks and great barbecue, and CMP reflects this. Guy's BBQ is at Section 134. Kansas City Steak is at 118, featuring "Kansas City Steak Ribeye Sandwich," "Ultimate Kansas City Steak Chips" (I'm presuming that's a form of French fries), and "Kansas City Steak Beef Jerky."

Sporting Fare, with hot dogs and other sausages, is at 101 and 127. The Grill, with burgers and fries, is at 114 and 129. The Tap serves "gourmet pretzels" (you could get shot in Philadelphia for trying to sell a pretzel as "gourmet") and a chicken and waffle sandwich (I thought that abomination was limited to the Columbus Crew's stadium) at 117. Also at 117 is The Big Cheese, which serves various varieties of grilled cheese sandwiches, and also the traditional complement to grilled cheese, tomato soup.

Champion Chips sells nachos and "Street Tacos" at 119. Also at 119 is Crafty Dogs, where you can "Build Your Own Dog." Wok This Way sells rice bowls at 120. Fresh Market sells fruit, vegetables, triple-decker peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, Rice Krispies and "Giant Cupcake" at 123. Aladdin Cafe sells Middle Eastern food at 130 (bet that doesn't exactly sit well with all those Kansas and Missouri Tea Partiers). State Line Fare serves "State Fair" type food (Corn dogs, funnel fries, cotton candy, etc.) at 134. Finally, there's a Papa Johns Pizza stand at 112, but screw Papa John until he dips into his billions and pays for his employees' health care.

Team History Displays. SKC won the MLS Cup in 2000 (beating the Chicago Fire in the Final) and 2013 (beating Real Salt Lake on penalties in the Final, on home soil). They lost the Final in 2004 (to the D.C. Scum). They also won the Supporters' Shield in 2000, and the U.S. Open Cup in 2004, 2012 and 2015. The north wall has a display for these honors.
They have no retired uniform numbers, but they have "Sporting Legends," a kind of team hall of fame, including the following:

* Lamar Hunt, League and team founder, also founder of the AFL and founding owner of the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs, and the man for whom the U.S. Open Cup is now named.

* Bob Gansler, manager of their 2000 MLS Cup winners.

* Tony Meola, Number 1, goalkeeper and native of Kearny, New Jersey, who played for the Red Bulls in 1996, '97 and '98 as the MetroStars; and in 2005 and '06 under the new name. He also played at the Prudential Center for the New Jersey Ironmen in 2007 and '08.

* Peter Vermes, Number 6, defender and native of Willingboro, New Jersey, Rutgers University graduate, played for the Paterson-based New Jersey Eagles in 1988, and was an original MetroStar in 1996. He has managed SKC since 2009, and has won the MLS Cup with them as both a player and a manager (2000 and 2013, respectively).

Predrag Radosavljević , Number 11, the Serbian midfielder better known as Preki, the club's all-time leader in goals and assists. A member of their 2000 MLS Cup winners.

* Jimmy Conrad, Number 12, defender. A member of their 2004 team that won the U.S. Open Cup and reached the MLS Cup Final.

* Chris Klein, Number 17, midfielder. The Captain of their 2000 MLS Cup winners and their 2004 U.S. Open Cup winners.

There appears to be no commemoration for these players in the fan-viewable parts of the stadium.
A video tribute to Lamar Hunt

Stuff. The Sporting Style stores are located near Sections 114 and 131, and Scarf Bars at 101 and 122. Yes, "scarf bars." Does that mean that if you put one around your neck, you can absorb alcohol through your skin?

The sports staff of The Kansas City Star published the commemorative book We Love Ya! Sporting Kansas City -- 2013 MLS Champions. Defender Matt Besler, a native of nearby Overland Park, Kansas who has spent his entire pro career with SKC, has written No Other Home: Living, Leading and Learning What Matters Most, which is scheduled to be published on November 7 of this year. However, as far as I can tell, there is no commemorative video for either of the team's MLS Cup wins, or for their 20th Anniversary.

During the Game. Because of their Great Plains/Heartland image, Kansas City fans like a "family atmosphere." Yeah, let them say that with a straight face when they play the Chicago Fire, or the Colorado Rapids, or FC Dallas. But they have no special distaste for either of the New York teams. So they will not directly antagonize you. At least, they won't initiate it. But don't call them rednecks, hicks or sheep-shaggers.

SKC hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. The club's mascot is Blue, a 7-foot gray dog in a blue uniform. (Maybe he should've been named Gray.)
The main supporters group of Sporting Kansas City cheers in the Members' Stand on the North side of Children's Mercy Park, known as The Cauldron. The name is derived from the large metal pots used for boiling potions, due to the theam's former name of the Kansas City Wizards.

That name was never popular, and after an attempt to rename them the Bees, since the bee is the State Insect of both Missouri and Kansas, the European-sounding name "Sporting Kansas City" was chosen in 2011.

Current groups in the north stands along with The Cauldron include La Barra KC, the Brookside Elite, the Mass Street Mob, the King City Yardbirds, the Trenches, the Omaha Boys, the Northland Noise, the Ladies of SKC, and the K.C. Futbol Misfits.

The South Stand SC cheers from the south end of Children's Mercy Park, and is the umbrella group for The Wedge and Ad Astra SKC, while the Kansas City Chapter of the American Outlaws, the USMNT and USWNT fan club, is also present in the stands.
Their songs include the variation on Little Peggy March's "I Will Follow Him" ("We love ya, and where you go we'll follow"), a variation on Chelsea FC's "Carefree" ("We are the famous SKC"), and some songs that still include the old nickname of "Wiz" for Wizards. One, to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," goes:

Sporting, Sporting Kansas City
Sporting, Sporting Kansas City
Sporting, Sporting Kansas City
as the Wiz go marching on on on!
A sign taunting Seattle Sounders fans
about the 2008 loss of the NBA's SuperSonics.

After the Game. Since the stadium is not in any neighborhood, let alone a bad one, you should be safe after a game, day or night. As I said, leave the home fans alone, and they'll probably leave you alone.

This being the suburbs, there are loads of chain restaurants near the stadium. In a shopping center to the west, between the stadium and the minor-league ballpark, there's an Applebee's, a Chili's, a Sonic, a Hooters, a LongHorn Steakhouse, and an outlet of the legendary Kansas City barbecue restaurant Arthur Bryant's. Across Village Parkway from that shopping center, there's a McDonald's, a Panera, a Chipotle, and some lesser-known (possibly regional) chains. To the east, across France Family Drive, there's a Lone Star Steakhouse and a Famous Dave's.

Chappell's Restaurant & Sports Museum, not really a museum but with a huge memorabilia collection, has been called the best sports bar in the Kansas City area. 323 Armour Rd., at Erie St, 11 miles northeast of the sports complex, and 5 miles north of downtown. 

If you want to be around other New Yorkers, Johnny's Tavern, 1310 Grand Blvd., downtown, across from the Sprint Center (the new arena), is known as a Giants fan's bar. Be advised that it is also known as a Sporting KC bar -- and a USMNT bar, and a University of Kansas bar. Drivers Sports Cafe is also cited as a Giants fan bar. 8220 Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park, Kansas, 12 miles south of downtown KCMO, and 18 miles southeast of Children's Mercy Park. Reachable by public transit, but not easily.

If your visit to Kansas City is during the European soccer season, which is now approaching its climax, you can watch your favorite club at the following locations, which are in KCMO unless otherwise stated:

* Arsenal: The aforementioned Johnny's Tavern.

* Chelsea: The Belfry, 1532 Grand Blvd. Bus 85.

* Liverpool: The Dubliner, 170 E. 14th Street. Like Johnny's, across from the Sprint Center.

* Everton: District Pour House, 7122 Wornall Road. MAX bus to Wornall & Gregory.

* Manchester United: Quinton's Waldo Bar, 7438 Warnall Road, 3 blocks from District Pour House.

* Tottenham Hotspur: The Flying Saucer, 101 E. 13th Street. Around the corner from the Spring Center.

* Bayern Munich: Kansas City Bier Company, 310 W. 79th Street. MAX bus to Broadway & 74th, then walk 7 blocks south.

If your team isn't listed here, your best bet may be No Other Pub, 1370 Grand Blvd., also across from the Sprint Center.

Sidelights. Kansas City's sports history is a bit uneven. When the Royals and Chiefs have been good, they've been exceptional. But they've also had long stretches of mediocrity. Still, there are some local sites worth checking out.

The Harry S Truman Sports Complex, including Kauffman Stadium (known as Royals Stadium from 1973 until the 1993 death of founder-owner-pharmaceutical titan Ewing M. Kauffman) and Arrowhead Stadium, home of the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs and site of a 2001 U.S. soccer team win over Costa Rica, is 8 miles southeast of downtown Kansas City, at the intersection of Interstates 70 and 435, still in the city but on the suburban edge of it.
Top: Arrowhead Stadium. Bottom: Kauffman Stadium.

The official address of Arrowhead Stadium is 1 Arrowhead Way, and that of Kauffman Stadium is 1 Royal Way. Public transportation is not much of an option. In fact, aside from Arlington, Texas, this is one of the least friendly stadiums in MLB and the NFL for those without a car. The Number 28 bus will drop you off at 35th Street South and Blue Ridge Cutoff, and then it’s a one-mile walk down the Cutoff, over I-70, to the ballpark. The Number 47 bus will drop you off a little closer, on the Cutoff at 40th Terrace, about half a mile away.

Arrowhead has hosted the Big 12 Conference football championship game 5 times, most recently in 2008. The "Border Showdown" between the universities of Kansas and Missouri, the oldest college football rivalry west of the Mississippi River, was played at Arrowhead from 2006 to 2011, when Missouri left the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference. They are not scheduled to play each other in football this year or next year, and as far as I know, there are no plans to revive the rivalry in 2019 or later. But such rivalries never stay dormant for long, and if the Big 12 continues to fall apart (they're now at 10 teams, as they've lost Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC, Nebraska to the Big 10 and Colorado to the Pac-10/12, but have also gained West Virginia from the Big East and Texas Christian from the Western Athletic Conference), it wouldn't be outrageous to see Kansas in the SEC in the foreseeable future.

As Chiefs founder-owner Lamar Hunt was one of the main movers and shakers of American soccer -- the American equivalent of England's FA Cup is officially named the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup -- he helped to found MLS, and the Kansas City Wizards began play at Arrowhead in 1996. They won the MLS Cup in 2000. But the Hunt family sold that team in 2007, and, under the name Sporting Kansas City, it now plays across the State Line in Kansas City, Kansas. Still using the Wizards name in 2010, they played a preseason friendly against Manchester United at Arrowhead, and won 2-1.
Arrowhead Stadium, set up for soccer

* Site of Municipal Stadium. This single-decked, 17,000-seat ballpark was built as Muehlebach Field in 1923, by George Muehlebach, who also owned the beer and the hotel that bore his name, and the American Association's Kansas City Blues. It hosted the Blues' Pennants in 1929, 1938, 1952 and 1953 – the last 3 as a farm club of the Yankees. (They'd previously won Pennants in 1888, 1890, 1898 and 1901, for a total of 8 Pennants -- or 5 more than the A's and Royals combined in nearly 60 years thus far.) Future Yankee legends Phil Rizzuto (Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year in 1940) and Mickey Mantle (1951) played for this club at this ballpark.

The Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues also played at Muehlebach, renamed Ruppert Stadium for the Yankees' owner in 1937 and Blues Stadium in 1943. They won 13 Pennants there from 1923 to 1955, including 3 straight, 1923-25, and 4 straight, 1939-42.

Hall-of-Famers Satchel Paige, Willard Brown and Hilton Smith were their biggest stars, although it should be noted that, while he played with them in the 1945 season, Jackie Robinson was, at the time, not considered as much of a baseball prospect some of the other players who were thought of as potential "first black players," like Paige, Monte Irvin and Larry Doby; it was his balance of competitiveness and temperament, as much as his talent, that got Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey interested in him. And in a travesty, Monarchs legend Buck O’Neil has never been elected to the Hall of Fame. The Monarchs had to leave after the 1955 season, because of the arrival of the A's.

Muehlebach Field, as it was then known was also the home to Kansas City's 1st pro football team, the team known as the Blues in 1924 and the Cowboys in 1925 and '26.

In 1954, the Philadelphia Athletics were sold to trucking company owner Arnold Johnson, and he moved the club to Kansas City, where his pal Del Webb, co-owner of the Yankees, had his construction company put an upper deck on what was renamed Kansas City Municipal Stadium, raising the capacity to 35,020. Thanks to the Webb-Johnson friendship, a lot of trades went back and forth (including Billy Martin out there in 1957 and Roger Maris to New York in the 1959-60 off-season), and it was joked that Kansas City was still a Yankee farm club.

When Johnson died during spring training in 1960, insurance magnate Charles O. Finley bought the club, and he put a stop to that. Finley also debuted some of his promotional shenanigans at Municipal, including Harvey the Rabbit, a Bugs Bunny lookalike that mechanically popped out of home plate to deliver fresh baseballs to the plate umpire. And Finley convinced Brian Epstein to let the Beatles play there, on September 17, 1964, their only concert in Kansas City.

But Finley wanted a new ballpark, and Kansas City wouldn’t give it to him. It's not that they didn't support big-league ball, it's that they couldn't stand him. After flirting with Atlanta, Louisville, Dallas and Denver, he moved the team out of Kansas City in 1967, leading Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri to say, "Oakland, California just became the luckiest city since Hiroshima."

Despite being from the St. Louis side of the State, Symington lobbied Major League Baseball for a replacement team in K.C., and MLB granted an expansion franchise to Ewing Kauffman, to start play in 1969. Symington was invited to throw out the first ball at the first Royals home game. For the new team, with Kauffman rather than Finley as owner, the city built a new park. The Royals moved out after the 1972 season. Neither the Royals nor the A's ever came close to October while playing there.

The Chiefs began playing at Municipal Stadium in 1963, with a bleacher section from the left field pole to center field increasing the seating capacity to 47,000. Playing there, they won AFL Championships in 1966 and 1969 (in addition to their 1962 title as the Dallas Texans), won Super Bowl IV, and played their last game there on Christmas Day 1971, a double-overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins that is still the longest game in NFL history.

The U.S. soccer team played Bermuda at Municipal Stadium on November 2, 1968, and won. The attendance was 2,265. That gives you an idea of how far U.S. soccer has come.

When the merger happened, the NFL required its teams to have stadiums seating at least 50,000 people. Combined with one of Major League Baseball's requirements for a new K.C. team being a new ballpark, this doomed Municipal Stadium. It was torn down in 1976, and a housing development is going up on the site.

22nd Street and Brooklyn Avenue, near the 18th and Vine district that was the home of Kansas City jazz, making it a favorite of the Monarchs players. The original outpost of the legendary Arthur Bryant's barbecue restaurant is 4 blocks away at 1727 Brooklyn Avenue. Number 123 bus.

* Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and American Jazz Museum. Founded by Buck O’Neil and some friends, this museum "tells the other side of the story." As Buck himself said, the pre-1947 all-white major leagues called themselves "Organized Baseball," but, "We were organized." The museum's lobby features statues of several Negro League legends, including Paige, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard and Oscar Charleston – having played for the Monarchs was by no means a requirement for that.

The Negro Leagues were a sometimes dignified, sometimes willingly silly, and very successful response to the color bar. But the raiding of their rosters, with no regard to contracts and thus no money changing hands, by the white majors from 1947 onward, was the beginning of the end. But Buck O’Neil had the right perspective, as he said in Ken Burns' Baseball miniseries: "Happy. Happy... Of course, it meant the death of our baseball, but who cared?" The owners of the Negro League teams cared. Other than that...

1616 E. 18th Street. The same building is home to the American Jazz Museum, which includes a working jazz club, the Blue Room. Number 108 bus. The Museum is 5 blocks west of Arthur Bryant's, and a short walk from the site of Municipal Stadium, and neither of these facts is a coincidence.

* Municipal Auditorium. Built in 1935 in the Art Deco style then common to public buildings (especially in New York), it replaced the Convention Hall that was across the street, which hosted the 1900 Democratic Convention which nominated William Jennings Bryan for President (and at which a 16-year-old Harry S Truman served as a page) and the 1928 Republican Convention that nominated Herbert Hoover.

The replacement arena has a Presidential connection as well, as the 2nd and last debate of 1984 was held at the Music Hall within. This was the one that President Ronald Reagan began by brushing away fears that, at 73 years old, he was too old for the job, by citing former Vice President Walter Mondale's "youth and inexperience" (ignoring that Mondale was very experienced at age 56, while Reagan never even ran for office until he was 55), and ended it by giving a rambling closing statement that restored the fears of some. (He won in a landslide, but he was, clearly, already dealing with Alzheimer's disease.)

The arena seats 7,316 people, but for special events can be expanded to 10,721. The NCAA hosted what would later be called the Final Four here in 1940 (Indiana beat Kansas in the Final), 1941 (Wisconsin over Washington State), 1942 (Stanford over Dartmouth), 1953 (Indiana over Kansas again), 1955 (the University of San Francisco, with Bill Russell, over LaSalle with Tom Gola), 1957 (North Carolina over Kansas with Wilt Chamberlain in triple overtime), 1961 (the University of Cincinnati over Ohio State with Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek) and 1964 (UCLA winning its 1st title under John Wooden, with Walt Hazzard and Gail Goodrich, over Duke).

The NBA's Kansas City Kings played their 1972-73 and 1973-74 home games here after moving from Cincinnati – having to change their name because Kansas City already had a team called the Royals. An accident at the Kemper Arena forced the Kings to move back to the Auditorium for a few games in the 1979-80 season. The basketball team at the University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) played their home games here from its opening until they opened an on-campus arena in 2010. Elvis Presley sang there as a new national star on May 24, 1956, and as an entertainment legend on November 15, 1971 and June 29, 1974.

* Kemper Arena. Built in 1974, it immediately began hosting 2 major league sports teams – neither of which lasted very long. The NBA's Kansas City Kings played here until 1985, when they moved to Sacramento. The NHL's Kansas City Scouts were the ne plus ultra – or should that be ne minus ultra? – of expansion teams, lasting only 2 seasons before moving in 1976 to become the Colorado Rockies – and then again in 1982 to become the New Jersey Devils. A few minor league hockey teams have played here since, but its only current tenant is the American Royal show.

In the Kings' final season in Kansas City, they hosted the Knicks in a game that resulted in one of the most frustrating injuries in NBA history, Knick star Bernard King jumping for a rebound and tearing up his knee. I'll never forget watching on TV and hearing him yell, "Oh, damn! Oh, damn!" and then crumpling to the floor, repeatedly slapping it with his hand. Bernard did play again, and well, but a great career turned into a what-might-have-been. But that wasn't the worst injury here, and I don't mean the 1979 roof damage, either: This was where professional wrestler Owen Hart was killed on May 23, 1999.

Kemper was also the last building seating under 20,000 people to host a Final Four, hosting the 50th Anniversary edition in 1988, in which the University of Kansas, led by Danny Manning, upset heavily favored Oklahoma. In fact, KU made the 40-mile trip from Lawrence many times, creating an atmosphere that got the place nicknamed Allen Fieldhouse East, a name they have now transplanted to the Sprint Center. They went 80-24 at Kemper, including the 1988 title game.

The 1976 Republican Convention was held there, nominating Gerald Ford. Elvis sang there on April 21, 1976 and, in one of his last concerts, June 18, 1977. 1800 Genesee Street, at American Royal Drive, a block from the Missouri-Kansas State Line. Number 12 bus.

In addition to the preceding, Elvis sang in Western Missouri at the Shrine Mosque in Springfield on May 17, 1956; and the Hammons Student Center at Southwest State University (now Missouri State) in Springfield on June 17, 1977.

* Sprint Center. This arena opened in 2007, with the idea of bringing the NBA or NHL back to Kansas City. (The arena builders appear not to care which one they get, but with K.C. being a "small market," they'll be lucky to get one, and will not get both.) It almost got the Pittsburgh Penguins, before a deal to build the Consol Energy Center was finalized. It was also being considered for the New York Islanders, before they cut a deal to move to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

For basketball, it seats 18,555; for hockey, 17,752. For the moment, no teams, major-league or minor-league, play here regularly, although has hosted college basketball: KU games, the Big 12 Tournament, NCAA Tournament games. 1407 Grand Boulevard, at W. 14th Street. Number 57 or MAX bus from downtown.

On May 12, 2014, The New York Times printed a story that shows NBA fandom by ZIP Code, according to Facebook likes. You would think that, being between Chicago and Oklahoma City, with no team in St. Louis, the Kansas City area would be divided between Bulls and Thunder fans. Instead, the distance is so great (508 miles from Sprint Center to United Center, 349 miles to whatever OKC's arena is called now), that they divide up their fandom among the "cool" teams: The Bulls, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat.

(As yet, there is no hockey version. The closest NHL team is the St. Louis Blues, 247 miles away, but the KC-St. Louis rivalry may get in the way of K.C. people supporting the Blues.)

It's unlikely that, even with a new arena, Kansas City will get a new team anytime soon. The metro area would rank 24th in population in the NBA, and 23rd in the NHL. Face it: With his desire to take teams out of Canada and cold-weather cities and put them in Sun Belt cities, if Commissioner Gary Bettman wanted Kansas City to have a team, it would have one by now.

* Colleges. Downtown Kansas City is 126 miles from the University of Missouri in Columbia, 44 miles from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, and 124 miles from Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.

And yet, despite KU (never written as "UK" even though that would be correct) being 3 times as close as UM, the State Line is the absolute delineator: If you live in Kansas City, Missouri, you are much more likely to be surrounded by Missouri Tiger fans than you are Kansas Jayhawk fans. Kansas having won the 1988 National Championship at Kemper Arena and a few KU-UM games being played at Arrowhead have done nothing to change that.

* Museums. Kansas City has 2 prominent art museums. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is K.C.'s "Metropolitan Museum of Art," 3 miles north of downtown, at 4525 Oak Street, in Southmoreland Park. And their "Museum of Modern Art" is the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 2 blocks away, at 4420 Warwick Boulevard at 45th Street. Both can be reached by the Number 57 bus.

Kansas City is still, in a way, Harry Truman's town. The 33rd President, serving from April 12, 1945 to January 20, 1953, was born in nearby Lamar, and grew up in nearby Independence. He opened his Presidential Library and Museum in 1957, and frequently hosted events there until a household accident in 1964 pretty much ended his public life.

Upon his death in 1972, he was buried in the Library's courtyard; his wife Bess, born Elizabeth Wallace, followed him in 1982, at age 97, to date the oldest former First Lady; and their only child, Margaret Truman Daniel, was laid to rest there in 2008. Currently, the Library is run by his only grandchild, Clifton Truman Daniel.

500 West U.S. Highway 24, Independence. Number 24X bus to Osage & White Oak Streets, and then 4 blocks north on Osage and 3 blocks west on Route 24. The Truman Home – actually the Wallace House, as Bess' family always owned it – is nearby at 219 N. Delaware Street. Same bus.

Just west of the Crown Center is the Liberty Memorial, including the National World War I Museum, honoring the 1914-18 conflict that was then frequently called "The Great War" (accurate) and "The War to End All Wars" (not accurate, as it turned out). 100 West 26th Street.
There aren't a whole lot of tall buildings: One Kansas City Place, at 1200 Main Street, is the tallest in the State, at 624 feet, but only 2 other buildings are over 500 feet. The Kansas City Power & Light Building, at 1330 Baltimore Street, and the twin-towered 909 Walnut were built in the early 1930s and are the city's tallest classic buildings.

There haven't been many TV shows set in Kansas City. By far the most notable was Malcolm & Eddie, the 1996-2000 UPN sitcom that starred Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Eddie Griffin (a KCMO native). But the show was taped in Los Angeles and did no location shots, so if you're a fan of that show, there's nothing in Kansas City to show you.

*

Kansas City is a great American city, almost literally in the center of this great country. And its citizens, and the people who come from hundreds of miles around to see the Royals and Chiefs, love their sports. They have come to love soccer as well, and pack the little horseshoe in Kansas City, Kansas. It's well worth saving up to check it out.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Yankees vs. Red Sox: The Defining Moments, Part V: 2002-2017

The image above really should include North and Central Jersey.  But it gets the Bristol Line (as I call it, cutting through the Connecticut hometown of ESPN, and also Yale's base of New Haven) pretty much right.

It also gives an interesting indication: While, road-wise, the eastern tip of Long Island, Montauk Point, is closer to Midtown Manhattan and Yankee Stadium, in terms of as-the-crow-flies distance, which includes radio and TV signals, it's actually closer to Boston's Downtown Crossing and Fenway Park. As a result, there are more Sox fans there than Yankee Fans. To be fair, there are ferries from Montauk to the Rhode Island locations of Newport and Block Island.

October 11, 2003, Fenway Park. Game 3 of the ALCS, and another Roger vs. Pedro matchup. Pedro hits Karim Garcia in the head, on purpose. Not the first time he's hit a Yankee on purpose, nor will it be the last, but it is easily the most notorious.

There is yelling back and forth. Jorge Posada, himself a former Pedro victim, yells in Spanish so that Pedro has no problem understanding. Pedro points at his head, then at Jorge. Message: "I'm going to hit you in the head." Making such a threat is a crime.

Later in the game, Clemens pitches to Manny Ramirez, and the pitch is head-high... but over the plate, and clearly not intended to hit Manny. (As we've seen, if Roger Clemens wanted to hit a batter, that batter got hit.) Manny points at Clemens and walks toward him, still holding the bat. The benches clear again, and Yankee coach Don Zimmer -- manager of the Sox in 1978, but also a former player who nearly died from a beaning in Triple-A ball in 1953 -- runs toward Pedro.

Pedro Martinez, age 32, grabs Don Zimmer, age 72, by the head, and throws him to the ground. Attempted murder, if the jurisdiction is New York City. In Boston, Zimmer ends up forced to apologize, with Pedro getting a $50,000 fine -- pocket change, with what the Sox are paying him.

Refresh my memory: Did we have to apologize to Japan for putting Pearl Harbor in the way of our Pacific Coast?
When things finally settle down, Clemens finishes his strikeout of Manny. Yankees 4, Red Sox 3. The next day, Game 4 is rained out, giving everyone a 24-hour cooling-off period, which was really for the best.

English soccer fans like to refer to their rivals as "The Scum," and their rivals' fans as "Scummers." As far as I'm concerned, this was the day the Red Sox stopped being mere arch-rivals, and truly became The Scum. They can take their "Evil Empire" talk and shove it up their own evil asses.

October 16, 2003, Yankee Stadium. It comes down to a Game 7. David Ortiz hits 2 home runs (cough-steroids-cough), and the Sox lead 5-2 in the bottom of the 8th. By this point, Ortiz, a.k.a. "Big Papi," has been hitting the Yanks like crazy all year. His success against the Yankees will eventually beg the question, "How many times does a guy have to get big hits off you before you plunk him?"

Ah, but there's a double standard at work: A Sox pitcher can hit a Yankee batter, and get away with it every... single... time; a Yankee pitcher can hit a Sox batter, and he gets thrown out of the game, fined and suspended. Anyway, the Sox need 5 more outs.

Derek Jeter doubles. Bernie Williams singles, Jeter scores. 5-3.

Sox manager Grady Little comes out, and he has to know that Pedro has thrown too many pitches, and that the next 2 batters are Hideki Matsui, a lefty; and Posada, a switch-hitter but much better from the left side than from the right; so the right thing to do is to bring in a lefthanded pitcher, probably Alan Embree (who usually pitched well against the Yankees), to pitch Matsui lefty-on-lefty and turn Posada to his weaker right side. The decision seems obvious to everyone: Sox fans, Yankee Fans, the Fox broadcast team, neutral TV viewers.

Obvious to everyone, that is, except for the man whose decision it was: Little. He leaves Pedro in. Matsui hits a ground-rule double, moving Bernie to 3rd base.

2nd & 3rd, only 1 out, and the dangerous (especially from the left side) Posada coming up. Now Little has got to take Pedro out, and bring in Embree.

But he stays in the dugout. Pedro remains on the mound, and Jorge dumps a looper into short center, scoring Bernie and Hideki. 5-5. Yet another legendary Sox choke, and The Stadium shakes with fans cheering and jumping. (And, considering Game 3, I find it very fitting that Posada got the hit that ended Pedro's night.)

Bottom of the 11th, and Tim Wakefield, who had beaten the Yanks in Games 1 and 4 of the series, and had pitched a scoreless 10th, opens the inning by throwing a 69 miles-per-hour knuckleball to Aaron Boone. Boom. Yankees 6, Red Sox 5. Boone takes his place alongside Bucky Dent and Bill Buckner.
Was this the greatest game of all time? Or, at least, the greatest Yanks-Sox game? It might have been, if the Yankees had won the ensuing World Series. But they lost. I don't want to talk about it. Jeff Fucking Weaver.

November 28, 2003, Fenway Park. Having failed to trade Nomar to the Texas Rangers for Alex Rodriguez, the Red Sox instead pull off a "reverse Tom Seaver": They trade 4 nobodies to the Arizona Diamondbacks for one of the top pitchers in the game, Curt Schilling, who had previously driven the Yankees nuts in the 2001 World Series.

As a Philadelphia Phillie, Schilling had been described by general manager Lee Thomas as follows: "One day out of five, he's a horse; the other four, he's a horse's ass." Schilling lives up to that reputation at his introductory press conference in Boston, by saying, "I guess I hate the Yankees now."

February 16, 2004, Yankee Stadium. With the Sox having failed to trade for A-Rod, making a very public mess of the negotiations with the Texas Rangers, the Yankees succeed, sending Alfonso Soriano to Texas for the biggest name (if not the best player) in baseball. With Jeter still at shortstop, A-Rod moves over to 3rd base.

July 1, 2004, Yankee Stadium. As wild a regular-season game as you'll ever see. The Yankees end up using everyone on their roster. The Sox use everyone on theirs, except for 2. One is backup catcher Doug Mirabelli. The other is Nomar, apparently injured but not on the Disabled List -- and the fact that Nomar is not sent into what is very much a key game, calendar be damned, is telling.

Once, Nomar, Jeter and A-Rod were the subjects of a debate as to who was the best shortstop in baseball. Now, Jeter is making a diving play that saves the game, A-Rod is playing 3rd base and moving to shortstop after Jeter got hurt on that play, and Nomar is sitting on the bench, leading to his being traded by the Sox within a few days.

Manny homers in the top of the 13th, but Miguel Cairo and John Flaherty double in the bottom of the 13th to win it. Yankees 6, Red Sox 5. A stunning game whose re-airing on the YES Network the next morning gets relabeled from "Yankees Recap" to "Yankees Classic." (It also allowed "Flash" Flaherty to turn his one big hit in the major leagues into a broadcasting career on YES. Then again, one big hit is more than Fran Healy, a backup catcher for the Yankees who broadcast for both New York teams, ever got.)

July 24, 2004, Fenway Park. Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo -- white people should never wear cornrows, except for Bo Derek -- purposely hits A-Rod in the back. A-Rod curses Captain Cornrows out. Sox catcher and Captain Jason Varitek leaves on his mask, like the coward that he is, and pushes his catcher's mitt into A-Rod's pretty face, instigating a full-scale brawl.
Refresh my memory: Which of these teams is evil? After the 1976 brawl, Bill Lee said, "The Yankees looked like a bunch of hookers swinging their purses." Well, at least they didn't hide behind protective masks.

Bill Mueller takes Mariano Rivera deep in the bottom of the 9th. Red Sox 9, Yankees 8. Mueller has often been suspected of steroid use, but has thus far been protected from such revelations.

September 19, 2004, Yankee Stadium. Yankees 11, Red Sox 1. The Yankees, the one team that seems to give Pedro trouble, beat him yet again, pounding him. In a postgame press conference, he says, "I just tip my cap, and call the Yankees my daddy."

"Who's Your Daddy?" chants will dog Pedro for the rest of his career. One fan -- was it Vinny Milano, a.k.a. Bald Vinny the River Avenue T-shirt vendor? -- made up a T-shirt showing Darth Vader wearing a Yankee jersey, and saying, as if to Luke Skywalker, "Pedro, I am your father!"
The chant even returned when Pedro pitched for the Mets in an Interleague game in 2006, and for the Philadelphia Phillies in Games 2 and 6 of the 2009 World Series at the new Yankee Stadium.

October 20, 2004, Yankee Stadium. After a Game 4 comeback led by proven steroid user David Ortiz, and a Game 5 win also led by proven steroid user Ortiz, and a Game 6 win that featured A-Rod's slap play on admitted steroid user Arroyo in relief of suspected steroid user Schilling (who had said before the series, "I'm not sure I can think of any scenario more enjoyable than making 55,000 Yankee Fans shut up"), Game 7 is a disaster from the outset, as proven steroid user Ortiz homers again. Red Sox 10, Yankees 3.
What a difference 4 days can make.

The Red Sox become the 1st Major League Baseball team to come back from a 3-games-to-0 postseason deficit, and win the Pennant, clinching at Yankee Stadium, a house of pain for them for so long. They go on to beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, killing the Curse of the Bambino after 86 years.

Or so they thought. Now we know the truth.

April 5, 2005, Yankee Stadium. After he hit the home run that won Game 4 of the 2001 World Series, Jeter said he'd never hit a walkoff homer before, not even in Little League. He does it again in this game, off Keith Foulke. Yankees 4, Red Sox 3. The Yankees could have used one of these homers on October 17 or 18, 2004.

April 8, 2005, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California: The film Fever Pitch premieres, starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore. It tells the story about a man in love with a woman and a baseball team, and what happens when the 2 loves come into conflict.

It was based on the 1992 memoir of the same title by Nick Hornby, then an English teacher in London, and a fan of North London soccer team Arsenal. He told of following the team from the fall of 1968 until just before publication, including the 1971 "Double" season (meaning that they won the Football League Division One and the Football Association Cup in the same season) and the next League title, which wasn't until 1989 -- 18 years.

It had previously been made into a film in the United Kingdom, premiering in 1997, starring Colin Firth and Ruth Gemmell. This version, with Hornby writing the screenplay, followed a fictionalized version of Hornby during the epic 1988-89 season, with flashbacks to his youth in 1968 and 1972.

The United States version was adapted by Providence, Rhode Island-based filmmakers Peter & Bobby Farrelly, fans of New England's sports teams, including the Red Sox. They cast Fallon, then a former star of NBC's Saturday Night Live, and not yet the host of a late-night talk show, now hosting The Tonight Show. Ironically, in real life, Fallon is a Yankee Fan, so this film proves that he really can act.

This version of the film follows the Red Sox in their own epic season, of 2004. Unlike the makers of the U.K. version, the Farrelly Brothers did not know how the season was going to turn out. So, having already got permission from the MLB officers to film at Fenway and use game footage, they asked one more favor, and got the right to set up cameras at Busch Memorial Stadium when the Sox finished the job on October 27, 2004, and put Jimmy and Drew on the field, in character, celebrating.

Most Yankee Fans hate the film, for obvious reasons: It glorifies the Sox, and shows the Yankees losing and the alleged curse ending. Most Sox fans hate it, too, because, as Jimmy said of his group's trip to Spring Training, captured on ESPN and seen by Drew's character and her parents, "We looked like morons!"

Me? I think it's a good movie. But, for me, the ending makes it a horror movie.

April 14, 2005, Fenway Park. Yankee right fielder Gary Sheffield's cap is knocked off by a Red Sox fan while trying to pick up a fair ball in right field. In response, Sheffield pushes the fan. The conflict is quickly stopped by security guards. The fan is ejected from the game for interfering with play, and is eventually stripped of his season tickets. Red Sox 8, Yankees 5. Still, the Sox fans once again prove that they, not the Yankees or their fans, are the evil ones.
January 3, 2006, Yankee Stadium. Center fielder Johnny Damon, one of the heroes of the Sox' revival, the man who named them "The Idiots," signs as a free agent with the Yankees. Gone are the long hair and the beard. Yankee Fans welcome him. Sox fans call him a traitor.
August 18, 19, 20 & 21, 2006, Fenway Park. The Yankees complete a 5-game sweep at the little green pinball machine off Kenmore Square. The scores are 12-4, 14-11, 13-5, 8-5 and 2-1. The Yankees won a tight pitching duel, a pair of slugfests, and 2 blowouts. They have moved from 1 1/2 games ahead of the Sox to 6 1/2 games ahead, effectively killing the Division race with 6 weeks to go.

I was in Boston on the 20th, for the 4th game, although my chances of getting into Fenway were slim and none, and I had to watch from elsewhere in Scum Town. Then again, I'd rather have watched from outside Fenway and won than watched from inside and lost. You should have heard Sox fans, not to mention the WEEI radio hosts, talk: They were in a daze, acting as though what happened in October 2004 had never happened. (And, based on what we now know, it really didn't.)

April 22, 2007, Fenway Park. Manny, J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell and Varitek hit 4 consecutive home runs off Yankee pitcher Chase Wright, powering a comeback from a 3-run deficit and completing a 3-game sweep of the Yankees at Fenway Park for the first time since 1990. Red Sox 7, Yankees 6.

While the Yankees do get the Wild Card in this season, they never recover enough from this beating to take the Division title. The Sox win the World Series again, although this can also been deemed illegitimate. Of the players who hit the 4 straight homers, Manny is later proven a steroid user, and the other 3 have also been suspected.

Joe Torre is lowballed on a new contract offer, and leaves the Yankees. Former catcher Joe Girardi is named manager. Meanwhile, the Sox go on to win the World Series again.

February 29, 2008, Legends Field, Tampa, Florida. At the spring-training complex soon to be renamed for his father, Yankee senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner responds to the popularity of the Sox in The New York Times newspaper's Play magazine:

'Red Sox Nation?' What a bunch of bullshit that is. That was a creation of the Red Sox and ESPN, which is filled with Red Sox fans. Go anywhere in America, and you won't see Red Sox hats and jackets, you'll see Yankee hats and jackets. This is a Yankee country. We're going to put the Yankees back on top and restore the universe to order.

Not "restore order to the universe." "Restore the universe to order." It will take 2 more seasons.

July 15, 2008, Yankee Stadium. The House That Ruth Built hosts the All-Star Game in its last season. Jeter and A-Rod are elected starters, and get huge ovations. Ortiz, Manny, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia are also elected starters, and get the hell booed out of them. (Ortiz was injured and could not play.)

Sox reliever Jonathan Papelbon, having closed out the previous year's World Series against the Colorado Rockies, tells the media that he should close out the game, not Mariano Rivera of the Yankees. In Rivera's ballpark.

Despite having his own manager, Terry Francona, managing the AL team (the managers of the previous season's Pennant winners are always the opposing managers), Papelbon is inserted in the game in the 8th inning, and blows a 2-2 tie to give the National League the lead. And the Yankee Fans let him hear it.

But the AL ties it in the bottom of the 8th. Rivera is called on to get the last out in the top of the 9th, and gets the biggest ovation of his career so far. He gets the last out, and pitches the 10th as well, getting into trouble, but getting out of it. The AL wins the game in the 15th, and the only one who doesn't feel like celebrating is Papelbon.

August 28, 2008, Yankee Stadium. The teams meet at the old Bronx ballyard for the last time. Jason Giambi hits a bases-loaded single off Papelbon in the bottom of the 9th to win it for the Yankees, 3-2.

On September 21, the Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 7-3 in the final scheduled game at the old Yankee Stadium, thus keeping them mathematically alive in the Playoff race. The next day, the Sox clinch the Division, and the Yankees don't get the Wild Card, either.

September 28, 2008, Fenway Park. The teams close the regular season with a rain-forced doubleheader against each other. The Yankees win the 1st game, 6-2. The Red Sox win the 2nd game, 4-3, on a walkoff single by Jonathan Van Every off Jose Veras. The Sox get as far as Game 7 of the ALCS, before losing to the Tampa Bay Rays.

May 4, 2009, Yankee Stadium II, Bronx. The teams meet at the new Yankee Stadium for the 1st time. Boston wins, 6-4.

July 30, 2009, Fenway Park. Exactly 10 years to the day after the 13-3 demolition I saw at Fenway, it is revealed that both David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez failed steroid tests in the 2003 season. With Papi and Manny the 2 biggest reasons the Sox won the 2004 and 2007 World Series, those titles are now revealed to be completely illegitimate. The Curse of the Bambino still lives. 1918 * Forever.

August 7, 2009, Yankee Stadium II. A-Rod ends a 0-0 standstill after 15 innings with a 2-run home run off Junichi Tazawa, who is making his major league debut. Two days later, Damon and Mark Teixeira hit back-to-back homers to give the Yanks a come-from-behind 3-2 win and a sweep.

September 27, 2009, Yankee Stadium II. Yankees 4, Red Sox 2. The Yankees complete a 3-game sweep of the Red Sox with a 4-2 victory, clinching their 1st AL East title since 2006. The Yankees came back to tie the season series against the Red Sox 9-9, after starting with an 0-8 record against them, and go on to win their 27th World Championship -- slaying their own dragons (real, imagined, or steroid-induced), and in Hank's words, restoring the universe to order.

May 17, 2010, Yankee Stadium II. Marcus Thames breaks a bottom of the 9th slugfest deadlock with a walkoff homer off Papelbon. Yankees 11, Red Sox 9.

September 28, 2011, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland. As late as September 1, a date on which they completed a 2-out-of-3 series win over the Yankees, the Sox were in 1st place in the AL East. But they went into a tailspin, the Yankees took advantage, and, on this date, the Sox lose to the Baltimore Orioles, 4-3, while the Yankees lose to the Rays. As a result, with the Yankees having already clinched the AL East, the Sox blow the Wild Card to the Rays.

Manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein will soon be fired. Once again, it is the Yankees who are regarded as champions, and the Red Sox who are regarded as chokers. As God intended it.

April 20, 2012, Fenway Park. The Sox celebrate the ballpark's 100th Anniversary -- the 1st Major League Baseball stadium to reach a Centennial -- by playing on the exact anniversary, and playing the exact same opponent. But they don't get the same result, as the Yankees hit 5 home runs: 2 by Eric Chavez, and 1 each by Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, and 1 by Alex Rodriguez. Yankees 6, Red Sox 2.

Every time A-Rod comes to the plate, the Sox fans chant, "Steroids!" -- while cheering known steroid cheat David Ortiz.

April 21, 2012, Fenway Park. The Yankees come from 9-0 down to beat the Sox 15-9, including 7 runs in the 7th inning and 7 more in the 8th. Swisher homers again, and Teixeira hits home runs from each side of the plate. The next day, the series finale was rained out, and postponed until July, but the Yankees ended up winning it then anyway.

July 7, 2012, Fenway Park. The Sox lead 5-3. Boone Logan comes in to relieve Phil Hughes with 1 out in the 6th, man on 2nd. Flyout, back-to-back walks, strikeout. End of that threat. But Girardi should have realized that, having already walked 2 batters, Logan shouldn't be kept in the game.

He leaves Logan in to start the 7th, and he allows a double. Girardi brings in Cory Wade, who turns that leadoff double (totally Logan's fault) into 4 runs (all of them partly Logan's fault). The Sox lead 9-4 instead of 5-4. The Yanks manage to make it 9-5, meaning if Logan doesn't allow that double, it's no worse than 5-5.

And this is against The Scum. Granted, the Sox were awful in 2012, but you still want to beat them, and the Yanks were still in a Division title race. This was Game 21 in Logan's Litany of Losing.

However, having Bobby Valentine as manager turns out to be a disaster for the Sox, as they go 69-93, their worst season since 1965. The Yankees win the Division, but the postseason turns out to be a disaster.

May 31, 2013, Yankee Stadium II. The teams play each other for the 1st time since the bombing at the Boston Marathon on April 15. "Boston Strong" signs are everywhere, and, for once, the fans of the 2 legendary rivals are united. (Despite the banner of solidarity at Fenway, there were no games between them in 2001 after September 11.) Behind the pitching of CC Sabathia and an RBI double by Vernon Wells, the Yankees win, 4-1.

August 5, 2013, Commissioner's Office, Rockefeller Center, New York. Alex Rodriguez is suspended for the rest of the 2013 season, and all of the 2014 season, for steroid use.

David Ortiz is permitted to continue playing.

September 6, 2013, Yankee Stadium II. The Yankees host the Sox, and lead 8-3. Andy Pettitte has pitched 6 strong innings. But Girardi brings the struggling Phil Hughes in to pitch the 7th. He gets 1 out, but allows 3 singles and a walk, making it 8-4. Girardi brings Logan in to face Ortiz with the bases loaded and 1 out. Cringe time... Logan strikes Ortiz out! All right, now get him out of there!

No, Girardi leaves him in to face Mike Napoli with the bases loaded and 1 out. Logan feeds the gopher, and Napoli hits a game-tying grand slam. Girardi still leaves him in, to face Daniel Nava.  Nava singles, and, finally, Girardi takes him out, and Preston Claiborne gets Stephen Drew out to end the inning. Claiborne and Joba Chamberlain finish the disaster in the 8th, and the Sox win, 12-8.

By this point, even Girardi had learned that Logan could not be trusted with pitching in the major leagues. Only once more did he put Logan in a game, and that was on September 24, in a game that an exhausted Hiroki Kuroda had already let get away. It was in a 7-0 loss to the Rays, and Logan faced 1 batter, Sam Fuld, and struck him out. But the September 6, 2013 game was the 34th game that Logan blew, or helped to blow, in his 4 seasons in Pinstripes. Exit permanently, stage lefty.

The Yankees went 85-77, a decent season by most teams' standards, but missing the Playoffs, finishing tied for 3rd in the AL East, 12 games behind the Division-winning Red Sox, and 7 games behind the 2nd Wild Card team, the Rays.

The Sox went on to win another World Series, beating the St. Louis Cardinals in 6 games. David Ortiz, who shouldn't even be allowed to play professional baseball after being outed as a steroid cheat and a liar, and still lying about it, was named Series MVP.

September 4, 2014, Yankee Stadium II. Chase Headley hits a home run off Koji Uehara in the bottom of the 9th, giving the Yankees a 5-4 win.

September 28, 2014, Fenway Park. At the same ballpark where Mickey Mantle played his last game, 46 years earlier to the day, Derek Jeter plays his last game. The Red Sox present him with gifts.
Jim Rice, Mookie Betts, David Ortiz, Derek Jeter and Carl Yastrzemski

In the top of the 3rd inning, he singles home Ichiro Suzuki against Clay Buchholz, part of a 4-run inning. Brian McCann -- a slow catcher, so this Girardi move makes no sense -- is sent in to pinch-run for him, and the New England fans give him a standing ovation. The Yankees go on to win, 9-5.

September 28, 2016, Yankee Stadium II. Teixeira hits a walkoff grand slam, the 409th and last home run of his career, off Joe Kelly to give the Yankees a 5-3 win over the Red Sox.

As of April 25, 2017, the Yankees have hit 225 walkoff home runs in their history, counting the postseason. 29 of these, including the postseason walkoffs by Bernie Williams in 1999 and Aaron Boone in 2003, have been against the Red Sox.

September 29, 2016, Yankee Stadium II. For the final time, David Ortiz, the biggest Yankee Killer ever, plays against the Yankees. CC Sabathia strikes him out in the 2nd inning, then walks him in the 4th. As with Jeter in his farewell, he is removed for a pinch-runner, in his case Brock Holt. The Yankee Fans give him a standing ovation. Thanks in part to an RBI double by Jacoby Ellsbury, one of the heroes of the Sox' 2013 title who then signed with the Yankees, the Yankees win 9-5.

April 25, 2017, Fenway Park. A new series begins between the teams, for the 1st time since 2002 without Ortiz.

BEAT THE SCUM!

UPDATE: Rained out! Rescheduled as part of a separate-admissions doubleheader on July 16.

We try again tomorrow night.

Yankees vs. Red Sox: The Defining Moments, Part IV: 1983-2002

July 4, 1983, Yankee Stadium. Both teams have changed tremendously in 5 years. The rivalry has fallen a bit. Despite the opponent and the 4th of July holiday, only 41,077 fans come out to The Stadium. Why? Well, it is the 4th of July, and it's really hot, so it's a beach day, not a baseball day. And neither team is really in the race.

This game would be totally forgotten by anyone who wasn't there... if it wasn't for Dave Righetti pitching a no-hitter. He even managed to strike out the tough-to-fan Wade Boggs for the final out. Yankees 4, Red Sox 0.
October 5, 1986, Fenway Park. The Yankees beat the Red Sox, 7-0, and complete a 4-game sweep. However, this not-quite Boston Massacre -- this was the only real blowout of the series -- is meaningless, as the Sox had already clinched the American League Eastern Division title a weak earlier.

This was because the Sox had great starting pitching: Roger Clemens, Bruce Hurst, Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd, and even the final, somewhat hard-luck season of Tom Seaver. In contrast, the Yanks' rotation was weak: While Dennis Rasmussen went 18-6, no other Yankee pitcher, starter or reliever, won in double figures. Ron Guidry had an uncharacteristic 9-12 after winning 22 the year before, and Doug Drabek, Bob Tewksbury and 41-year-old knuckleballer Joe Niekro (whose brother Phil had pitched for the Yanks the preceding 2 years) won just 34 between them.

Also, Boggs, who did have the excuse of a sore hamstring, sat this series out, and wins the AL batting title over Don Mattingly, who slumped badly in the last 2 weeks.

October 25, 1986, Shea Stadium, New York. "The Buckner Game" was played in New York City, and it did make the Sox look like morons. But it had nothing to do with the Yankees, and it makes the Mets look heroic, and I don't think either Yankee Fans or Sox fans want to hear about that. So let's just move on.

September 28, 1987, Yankee Stadium. Mike Easler -- not traded from Boston to New York for Don Baylor in the 1985-86 off-season, although it did sort of work out that way -- treats Calvin Schiraldi even more harshly than the Mets did in the previous year's World Series. He hits a pinch-hit home run to win the game, 9-7.

May 27, 1991, Yankee Stadium. The Sox are the defending AL East Champions, while the Yankees had finished last the year before, something they'd only previously done in 1908, 1912 and 1966. Only 32,369 come out for this Memorial Day matinee between the old rivals, and the Yanks trail 5-3 in the bottom of the 9th.

But Mel Hall -- who would later leave the Yankees in ignominious fashion -- takes Jeff "the Terminator" Reardon deep. Yankees 6, Red Sox 5. (Maybe Sox fans can blame the 1st base umpire, Larry Barnett, the same ump who they, in their delusions, think screwed them in Game 3 of the '75 World Series.)

A lot of Yankee Fans point to this game as the beginning of the rise from the abyss. It wasn't: 1991 and '92 were both bad years, though not as bad as '89 and '90. But the building blocks were in place: George Steinbrenner had been suspended for 2 years, former good-field-no-hit infielder Gene Michael was running the show as general manager, and the Yankees were making good trades and draft choices, including, the following June, a shortstop from Kalamazoo Central High School in Michigan, a former New Jerseyan named Derek Jeter.

This Mel Hall homer is also cited by some as the beginning of Yankee broadcaster John Sterling's closing call of, "Ballgame over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeee Yankees win!" I'm not so sure. Granted, I was watching this one on WPIX-Channel 11 with Phil Rizzuto, Bobby Murcer and Tom Seaver, rather than listening to Sterling and Joe Angel on 77 WABC.  But even as late as Jim Leyritz's 1995 Playoff walkoff against Seattle, his "Theeeeeeee... " was still just a "The... " without much elongation.

September 14, 1991, Yankee Stadium. This was my 1st live Yanks-Sox game, included among an attendance of 45,758. This was a 4-game series, and the Sox won 3 of them. Not this one: Yankees 3, Red Sox 1. And, yes, Sox fans were every bit as obnoxious as you might expect, especially since they were still in the race (they'd be caught at the death by those pesky Blue Jays) and the Yanks were awful, having just begun their climb back from the abyss of last place the season before.

December 15, 1992, Yankee Stadium. Having been allowed to leave via free agency by the Sox, Boggs signs with the Yankees. It was weird seeing him in Pinstripes, but I got used to it, because he could still hit for average, began to hit with power (taking advantage of the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium), and his fielding, already good, got better.

October 26, 1996, Yankee Stadium. The Yankees beat the Atlanta Braves 3-2, to win Game 6 and clinch the World Series, their 1st such win in 18 years. A moment in time by Red Sox standards, but interminable by ours.

Boggs, who'd come so close with the 1986 Red Sox, got on a policeman's horse and rode around the field in the celebration. Rubbing it in? He may not have thought so, but we sure did.

As Denis Leary, a native of Worcester, Massachusetts, a big Sox fan, but also with connections to New York through his comedy career and his TV series The Job and Rescue Me (about policemen and firemen, respectively), put it: "If you had told my father in 1986 that, within 10 years, Wade Boggs would be celebrating winning a World Series with the Yankees while riding on the back of a police horse, his head would have blown up."

May 24, 1997, Yankee Stadium. Charlie Hayes is best remembered by Yankee Fans for catching the last out of the 1996 World Series. Almost forgotten is this game the following spring, in which he hit a walkoff homer against John Wasdin -- or "Wayback Wasdin," as some Sox fans called him. Yankees 4, Red Sox 2.

February 18, 1999, Yankee Stadium. Although the rivalry was amped up a little bit by the Yankees signing Boggs, Boggs riding that horse, and the arrivals in Boston of Pedro Martinez and Nomar Garciaparra -- the latter forging a rivalry-within-the-rivalry with Yankee shortstop Jeter -- and the Sox had made the Playoffs the season before, this is the day the rivalry really gets going again.

On this day, the Yankees trade pitchers David Wells and Graeme Lloyd, and infielder Homer Bush, to the Toronto Blue Jays for Roger Clemens, whom the Red Sox had cast aside 2 years earlier. Then-Sox general manager Dan Duquette saw Clemens not getting enough run support to get a plus-.500 record, and gaining weight, and said he was "in the twilight of his career."

Whether Duquette blew it big-time, or Clemens really was in the twilight of his career and turned that around with performance-enhancing drugs, may never be fully proven. What we know for sure is this: One way or another, Clemens got back into shape, had 2 great years with the Jays, and became a Yankee Legend, albeit one most of us on the Light Side of The Force are not comfortable with.

In contrast, Sox fans have treated Clemens as their "Darth Vader," forgetting just which side is good and which side is evil.

July 13, 1999, Fenway Park. The Major League Baseball All-Star Game is held at the ancient home of the Sox. Yankee manager Joe Torre is manager for the American League team. Nomar Garciaparra of the Red Sox starts for the American League at shortstop, and receives a standing ovation from the fans after Jeter comes in to replace him after they embrace.

Later in the game, when he came to bat, Jeter gave Garciaparra a tribute by mimicking his batting stance. Pedro starts for the AL, strikes out 5 of the 6 National League batters he faces, and ends up as the winning pitcher. The AL wins, 4-1.
Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Jeter, at Yankee Stadium

Before the game, nominees for the MLB All-Century Team are introduced. The legends wear the current caps of their teams, not necessarily the caps their teams wore in their own time. One of the nominees is Reggie Jackson, former recipient of "Reggie Sucks!" chants from the Fenway stands, and he gets a nice cheer. Hearing this, he looks at the TV camera, wearing his Yankee cap, and winks.
Fenway Park, during pregame ceremonies for the 1999 All-Star Game

There was only one person among the nominees who was booed: Clemens. He wore not the cap of the team that made him famous, the Sox, but of the team for whom he played at the moment, the Yanks. Tremendous booing. Heck, even Rickey Henderson got cheered. (Barry Bonds, not yet known as a steroid cheat, was not in attendance, as he was not named to the NL All-Star Team that year, although he was an All-Century Team nominee.)

July 30, 1999, Fenway Park. I was there for this one. The Sox had recently published their plans for New Fenway Park, to be built across the street, and I figured this might be my last chance to see a Yanks-Sox game at Fenway in the heat of a Pennant race. Who knew at the time that, 10 years later, Fenway would still stand, and it would be the Yankees who had built a new stadium across their
street?

I paid a scalper $42 for a $24 obstructed-view seat -- $61 for a $35 seat in today's money. It was worth every penny. On the 2nd pitch of the game, Chuck Knoblauch hit a home run over the Green Monster. On the 5th pitch of the game, Jeter hit a home run to dead center field. The victimized Sox pitcher was Mark Portugal, who had been a fair pitcher with the Houston Astros, but was now washed up, would retire after the season, and literally fell off the mound a few pitches later.

The Yanks left the 1st inning ahead 2-0, and while the Sox did tie it up, the Yanks unloaded the lumber afterward. Yankees 13, Red Sox 3. Joe Torre let Hideki Irabu pitch a complete game. No, I'm not kidding: Torre let a pitcher go the distance, and Hideki I-rob-you, no less.

At the start of the game, there were 33,777 paying customers in Fenway, and about 10,000 of them were Yankee Fans. By the 7th inning stretch, there were about 15,000 people there, and about 10,000 of them were chanting, "Let's go, Yankees!" A great night. I even ran into a guy who played football at my high school, who was by this point going to Boston College. And he was also a Yankee Fan. What were the odds?

September 10, 1999, Yankee Stadium. Chili Davis hits a home run off Pedro. That's the only hit that Pedro allows, and he strikes out 17 batters, which, through the 2016 season, remains the most ever fanned by a Yankee opponent. Had Andy Pettitte not allowed a home run to Trot Nixon, Pedro would have pitched a one-hitter and struck out 17 Yankees, and lost. Instead... Red Sox 3, Yankees 1.

Pedro begins to achieve godlike status among Sox fans, a status achieved since World War II only by Ted Williams, Tony Conigliaro, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk and Nomar. But the Yankees win the American League Eastern Division, while the Sox get the Wild Card.

The part that bothered me in this game was the fans in the bleachers, holding up Dominican flags and banners with Pedro's name on it. I don't care if you're also Dominican: Pedro plays for the enemy. When you come to Yankee Stadium, you are Yankee Fans, and your nationality gets put away. I'm Polish, but I never cheered for the Red Sox just because they had Carl Yastrzemski; and even if I would have, I certainly would have put that on hold against the Yankees.

October 13, 1999, Yankee Stadium. Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. Because the Boston Tie Party of 1978 is officially counted as a regular-season game, this is the first "real" postseason game between the Pinstripes and The Scum. Sox fans are sure that their deliverance from the Yankees and the Curse of the Bambino are finally at hand.

Not tonight: Bernie Williams -- who later says that Yogi Berra told him, "We've been playing these guys for 80 years. They can't beat us" -- leads off the bottom of the 10th inning, hits a home run to dead center field off Rod Beck. Yankees 4, Red Sox 3. The Yanks will take Game 2 as well.
Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Paul O'Neill

October 16, 1999, Fenway Park. Game 3. Pedro pitches superbly, while the Sox batter Clemens. As Clemens walks off the mound after getting knocked out of the box, a fan holds up a sign saying, "Roger, thanks for the memories -- especially this one!" One side of Fenway chants, "Where is Roger?" The other side chants, "In the shower!" Red Sox 13, Yankees 1. Sox fans are delirious, and are now sure they will beat the Yanks and go all the way.

But, as Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, the man who popularized the phrase "Curse of the Bambino," pointed out, the point was not to beat Clemens, but to win the series. And the Sox still trail it, 2 games to 1. The Yankees don't lose again until April 5, 2000.

October 17, 1999, Fenway Park. Game 4. Admittedly, there were a couple of umpiring mistakes that worked in the Yanks' favor. But it's still 3-2 Yanks in the 9th, and poor fielding leads to a Ricky Ledee grand slam off Beck. Sox fans, furious at the umpiring, throw garbage onto the field.

Since then, the description of Boston as "the Athens of America" gets this response from me: "Bullshit." While there were many fans who had stood by the Sox through all the torment, this was a limited few who had come to the team through Pedro and Nomar, and were more likely to get blitzed than the ones who did so in '78, and they were animals. Of course, these are the ones who get noticed, the kind that got stereotyped as the "Red Sox fans" we have come to know, lampooned on Saturday Night Live by Jimmy Fallon (before he moved on to the U.S. version of Fever Pitch).

Anyway, Yankees 9, Red Sox 2.

October 18, 1999, Fenway Park. Jeter and Jorge Posada hit home runs, Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez pitches superbly, and the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 6-1, and clinch the Pennant, and dance on the field at Fenway. They go on to win the World Series.

May 28, 2000, Yankee Stadium. Roger vs. Pedro again. This one remains scoreless into the 9th, before Trot Nixon hits a home run off Roger, and the Sox win, 2-0.

April 22, 2001, Yankee Stadium. David Justice bangs his gavel off Derek Lowe, hitting a walkoff homer to give the Yanks a 4-3 win.

May 24, 2001, Yankee Stadium. On the 60th birthday of Bob Dylan -- a man who once wrote a song about Catfish Hunter, and another song titled "Seven Curses" (but it had nothing to do with baseball) -- Pedro is getting ready to pitch against the Yankees. "I don't believe in curses," Pedro says. "Wake up the damn Bambino, and have me face him. Maybe I'll drill him in the ass."

But the Yankees beat him. Yankees 2, Red Sox 1. The Yanks move into 1st place, Pedro gets hurt in his next start, and doesn't win another game for the rest of the season.

You don't believe in curses? You mock Babe Ruth -- a better pitcher than you were, Pedro? What a fool. As Dylan might have said, "They'll stone you just like they said they would." Then again, Pedro has since joined the Sultan of Swat in the Hall of Fame.

September 2, 2001, Fenway Park. Mike Mussina comes within 1 strike of pitching a perfect game, but Carl Everett's 9th-inning, 2-out, 2-strike single is the only baserunner allowed by Mussina. By an amazing coincidence, David Cone, the last Yankee pitcher to throw a perfect game in 1999, had started the game for the Red Sox. Yankees 1, Red Sox 0.

September 18, 2001, Fenway Park. The Sox play their 1st game since the 9/11 attacks. They play the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and win, 7-2. A fan at Fenway holds up a banner of solidarity, which would have been unimaginable 8 days earlier (and on most days since September 2001): "TODAY, WE NY."

The Yankees also play their 1st game following the resumption of play, in Chicago against the White Sox, and win, 11-3.

December 20, 2001, Fenway Park. The JRY Trust, named for Jean Yawkey, sells the Sox to New England Sports Ventures, the company now named Fenway Sports Group, run by John W. Henry. This ends 79 years of Yawkey family-connected ownership of the Sox. (Tom and Jean never had any children to take over for them; Jean inherited the team when Tom died in 1976, and John Harrington had run the club through the Trust since Jean's death in 1992.)

The Henry group, including former Florida Marlins owner Henry, former Baltimore Orioles and San Diego Padres president Larry Lucchino, and the youngest general manager in the game at the time, Theo Epstein, change the culture around the club.

The fans, having already changed into the Chowdaheads that they became at the dawn of the Nomar-Pedro era, don't change, but they sure embrace this change.

December 26, 2002, Fenway Park. The Yankees sign Cuban pitcher Jose Contreras, and new Sox president Larry Lucchino, in a fit of petulance, calls the Yankees "the Evil Empire."

Oh, really? Putting aside the question of which team is actually more evil... The term "Evil Empire" had been used by President Ronald Reagan -- who knew more about baseball than he did about economics or foreign affairs -- to describe the Soviet Union. Excuse me, Larry, but how do you square the image of the heavily capitalist Yankees with Communism and its prohibition of private property?


Some Yankee Fans, however, connect the word "Empire" with the villains of the Star Wars film franchise, including one fan who made a T-shirt with Darth Vader's helmet, saying, "May the Curse be with you."

Part V, the finale, is ahead.