Monday, September 28, 2009

Yankees Clinch with Me in Williamsburg!

Ballgame over. American League Eastern Division over. Yankees win. The Yankees win.

A little subdued, you ask? Three reasons.

A. It was the Division Title. True, we haven't won it in three years, and it was against The Scum, but it was only the Division Title. Let teams that hardly ever win (say, Tampa Bay last year) celebrate Division Titles. We are Yankee Fans, and we want it all. After all, we won the Division in 2004, 2005 and 2006, and it did not result in a Pennant, much less a World Series.

B. We know, in particular, that there's a very good chance that we could play the Red Sox again in the ALCS. So the biggest reckoning of all could very well still be to come. But after starting the season 0-8 against them, to finish 9-9 is quite the accomplishment.

And C., I was 355 miles from home, and 390 miles from Yankee Stadium II, in Williamsburg, Virginia. Not to be confused with Williamsburg, Brooklyn, just 11 miles from The House That George Built.

Williamsburg, Virginia. Which means I was not just 390 miles away, I was also about 230 years away. Fortunately, there's no baseball who's been waiting that long to win a World Series. Not even the Chicago Cubs have been waiting that long. Now that would be a hexed team: The Curse of Lord Dunmore!

Funny thing: One of the Colonial Williamsburg re-enactors was telling us about the great victory the Continental Army had at Saratoga. (That's 182 miles from Yankee Stadium, but Fenway Park is still further, 199 miles.) He mentioned the big hero of the battle was General Benedict Arnold.

Now, we know the end of the story, but since he's playing a Town Crier from the fall of 1777, he has to act as though he doesn't. And when he asked for three cheers -- "Hip, hip, huzzah!" -- for Arnold, he didn't get them. So he mentioned that Arnold is from Connecticut, making him "one of those crazy New Englanders!" Ha! But he mentioned that New England bore the brunt of the early fighting, and so they should be respected.

(I looked it up: Although cricket has been played in southern England since the late 16th Century, there wasn't a World Cup of it until 1975, so, no, Sir Reginald Jackson did not collect three "centuries" in cricket's World Cup in 1777.)

Later in the day, the city was taken by the British. And a re-enactor playing Arnold rode in front of the Capitol, and was thoroughly booed. He ordered that the Grand Union Flag (with the familiar 13 alternating red and white stripes but a British Union Jack in the canton) be hauled down from the pole, and the actual British flag raised.

The Yanks and Sox -- and the Giants game and the Jets game, which was going on at the same time because it was Yom Kippur and Jewish Jet fans needed to be home by sundown -- were all going on at this point, and I was anxiously awaiting word from the 21st Century. It was like the musical 1776 mixed with The Bronx Is Burning mixed with The Twilight Zone. Finally, with a break in the Revolutionary action, I could wait no longer, and I flipped open the phone, accessed the Internet, and got the score: Yankees 4, Red Sox 2. Final.

4-2! We beat The Scum, 4-2! We beat The Scum, 4-2! We beat The Scum, 4-2! Also, Two-nil, and they fucked it up!

And as a result of enjoying this magnificent victory in The Bronx, I missed the announcement of the far more important victory at Yorktown, with a George Washington portrayer telling us. Rats, I chose Mariano Rivera (who, while he is most welcome in America, was, last I checked, still a citizen of Panama, not just a native of that land), over The Father of Our Country.

Ben Franklin would have laughed at my twisted sense of priorities. Maybe Thomas Jefferson would have. George Washington would not. (Then again, living so close to the city that would bear his name, he's probably more concerned that the Redskins ended the Detroit Lions' 19-game losing streak!)

However, before I left the historic area, I looked back at the flagpole above the old colonial Capitol building, I saw a proper, if not current, American flag: It had the proper striping, and the canton was a blue field with alternating rows of 3 and 2 stars, adding up to 13. It was October 1781, and while the war was not officially concluded, there would be no more major battles, and even Yogi Berra would have had to admit that it was over.

Shortly before I left town, I stopped in the Visitors Center gift shop. They were selling baseballs with the signatures of the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Now, I'm sure that, as the leading American scientists of their time, Franklin and Jefferson could explain the mechanics of baseball (why a ball curves, why some ballparks favor certain kinds of hitters and why some favor pitchers), but they probably never saw a game -- although there is a surviving journal of Washington stating that soldiers played a forerunner game called "base" at Valley Forge. But there ain't no baseballs signed by the Founding Fathers!

Still, the gentleman at the register informed me that Bill Barker, who portrays Jefferson at Williamsburg and similar places (and looks every bit as much like him as Ralph Archbold of Philadelphia looks like Franklin), has signed some of the balls with the familiar "Th Jefferson" signature.


I first visited Colonial Williamsburg in 1981. The night we arrived, May 15, it was just after 11 PM, and we watched the local evening news. It was weird to see a sports broadcast with no local Major League Baseball team, no major league sports team period. Washington (RFK Stadium, anyway) is 158 miles away from the historic district. Baltimore (the site of Memorial Stadium), 197 miles. Charlotte, doesn't matter, since that city didn't have any big-league teams until the Hornets arrived in 1988.

But there was a big story on the sports report that night: Len Barker of the Cleveland Indians pitched a perfect game against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Indians winning 3-0. It was the first perfect game pitched in my lifetime. Not since Catfish Hunter pitched one for Oakland in 1968 had one been tossed at the big-league level. So Barker's perfecto was a big deal.

In this weekend's papers, the big deal was college football. William & Mary had a big conference showdown with the University of Delaware, winning 30-20. Virginia Tech, ranked 9th in the nation, hosted Number 11 Miami in Blacksburg, and smothered 'em, 31-7. The University of Virginia? They had the week off.

Still W&M is Division I-AA, or whatever they're calling it these days -- Bowl Championship Subdivision or whatever. The Cavs are 127 miles away in Charlottesville, the Hokies 270 miles away in Blacksburg. So even that is far from the college equivalent of the big leagues. Unless you want to count the basketball programs at Old Dominion in Norfolk, 44 miles away. Did I ever mention that I love Google Maps? Or maps in general? (Has nothing to do with my initials being MAP.)

No, if you're looking for big-league sports, the Hampton Roads area in Southeastern Virginia is not the place for you. But...

Ladies and gentlemen, if you are ever fortunate enough to have the chance to visit Williamsburg, by all means, go.

On second thought, by one means, go: Amtrak. The schedules aren't especially favorable, but it's better to spend the extra money for an additional night in a hotel than to ride back by Greyhound. Having to change buses in Richmond, get off the bus again in Washington, then ride straight up to Port Authority is hard enough when the bus isn't full. When it is... trust me, Amtrak is better, and it's actually less expensive to ride it through Washington to Williamsburg than to ride it just to Washington.


So, while I was in Colonial Williamsburg, the Yankees clinched the Division with a sweep of The Scum.

Speaking of teams that are known as The Scum, my ticket for Devils vs. Rangers on October 5 arrived. Let's get ready to rumble!

And Rutgers vs. Maryland will be discussed in a subsequent post.

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