Unlike the New Jersey Devils and the East Brunswick High School basketball team, there is one thing the New York Yankees, for all their achievements and distinctions, have never done, and never will do: Win on my birthday.
Of course, Baseball Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig has already mussed up the schedule so much that the World Series now extends past Halloween, and sometimes even Election Day. What's next? Thanksgiving is for football, not baseball. I've seen Santa Claus hats, and even full costumes, at NFL, NBA and NHL games, but in baseball? Only on cold, snowy Opening Days. On such an occasion, it's a joke.
But I'm old enough to remember when the World Series ending in mid-October was an annual occurrence. In fact, from 1912 to 1984, the Series never ended later than October 22 (except for the strike year of 1981). In 1932 and 1954, it ended on October 2! But even in the age of Divisional play and the League Championship Series (1969-present -- my entire lifetime, plus a few weeks), it wasn't until the LCS was extended to a best-4-out-of-7 that the World Series became a late-October event. From 1969 to 1984, the Series ended on the 14th once, the 15th once, the 16th 3 times, the 17th 3 times, the 18th once, the 20th once, the 21st 3 times and the 22nd twice (and, in that strike year, the 28th once).
But since 1985, it's been as follows: The 20th twice, the 21st once, the 23rd once, the 24th once, the 25th twice, the 26th 4 times, the 27th 7 times, the 28th 3 times, the 29th once, November 1st once, and November 4th twice. One of those, it was 2001, and the season was pushed back a week because of the 9/11 attacks. But in 2009, not to grouse too much because the Yankees did win it, but that was the date that Selig intended Game 6 of the World Series to be.
Or, to put it another way, taking out anomalies -- 1911, on October 26 due to rain; 1918, on September 11 due to World War I cutting the regular season short; and the aforementioned 1981 and 2001...
* From 1903 to 1971, the average ending date for the World Series was October 11.
* From 1972 to 1984, it was October 19.
* From 1985 to 2010, it was October 26. More than 2 weeks later than the average from the beginning of my lifetime.
"World Series meant you had to wear a sweater. We used to call it World Series Weather."
-- Billy Crystal, talking about the World Series in the 1950s (average ending date, October 7).
A sweater. Not a jacket. Not a winter coat. Certainly not a scarf.
On November 4, 2009, when the Yankees won the World Series, it was also a UEFA Champions League matchday. Arsenal won that day, beating the defending Dutch champions, AZ Alkmaar. There were about half a million people watching the Series on the big screen in Times Square. Most of them were wearing Yankee caps. Most of us were wearing heavy fall jackets or even winter coats. Some of us were wearing scarves. I'm guessing I was the only one wearing both a Yankee cap and an Arsenal scarf.
No, the Yankees will never win on my birthday. So, today, I did the next best thing: I took the tour of the new Yankee Stadium.
I miss the old one so much, but the new one really is magnificent.
We got to see Monument Park, the Yankee Museum and the press box. They didn't let us in the clubhouse or the dugouts, though, as the place is set up for the Pinstripe Bowl on December 30, between Syracuse and Kansas State. The dugouts have to be covered up, so the players don't run into them by mistake. And the clubhouse is closed off because, since a football team (especially a college football team) has a lot more players on it than a baseball team, there's too many added lockers in the clubhouse. Still, the tour was fantastic. And there were even a couple of Arsenal fans from London there.
They were glad to be here, and not in the British Isles, which got pounded by a winter storm this morning. Pretty much the entire island on which England, Wales and Scotland rest, "from Land's End to John o' Groats," as they say, saw its "football matches" cancelled. Only 2 Premier League games were played, neither of which was Arsenal hosting the despicable thugs of Stoke City. Arsenal have probably, at some point, won on my birthday, but I'm not aware of the details. I really, really wanted them to win today. Alas, Old Man Winter had other ideas.
What the hell. After all I've been through, getting to be, uh, "Tom Seaver years old" is a win. And while my legs hurt like the dickens today -- either I really am getting older, or those subway station steps are getting steeper -- I do still have my health. The annual horrible cough that arrives every November and sticks around all the way to New Year's was mostly gone by Thanksgiving.
No, unlike Lou Gehrig, I will not claim, "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth." But, like Roy Campanella (who, sadly, is no longer such), I can say, "It's good to be alive."
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