My Grandma was from Queens, a Brooklyn Dodger fan from the 1930s to 1957, and a Met fan from 1962 to 2006. No, she didn't give up on the Mets, she got called up to the real major leagues, and now watches her favorite sports teams from the ultimate skybox.
She used to say, "It's not how good you are when you play good, it's how good you are when you play bad." In other words, can you find a way to win even when you struggle?
In football, she liked both the Giants and the Jets. She liked former Giant nemesis turned Jet coach Herman Edwards, the man who taught us all, "You play to win the game!" Grandma and Herm both understood: It doesn't matter if you're not at your best, you gotta try to win anyway.
This afternoon, at a damp, chilly but wonderful Yankee Stadium II, the Yankees opened their season against the Detroit Tigers, the franchise of Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, Al Kaline and Jack Morris.
Mike Mussina, a (hopefully) future Hall-of-Famer who pitched for the Yankees from 2001 to 2008, threw out the ceremonial first ball.
CC Sabathia, the Yankees' ace, was not sharp. He struggled in 4 of his 6 innings, but managed to get out of those jams without too much damage. Thanks to a home run in the 6th from Mark Teixeira, CC left with a 3-3 tie.
Apparently, Teix didn't get the, uh, message: Yankee first basemen are supposed to struggle to start the season. Don Mattingly always did, or so it seemed. So did Tino Martinez. So did Jason Giambi. And, in his first 2 seasons in Pinstripes, so has Teix. Not today, though: He hit a screamer down the right-field line, into the second deck.
I noticed that new catcher Russell Martin received the Number 55 worn by Hideki Matsui from 2003 to 2009. I guess it was too much to ask for it be even "unofficially retired." But he got a hit, stole a base and scored on a sacrifice fly in his Yankee and American League debut.
In the bottom of the 7th, the Tigers brought in ex-Yankee Phil Coke to relieve. As Doris Kearns Goodwin, a Brooklyn Dodger turned Boston Red Sox fan, likes to say, "There's always these omens in baseball." As a Yankee, Coke was not it. The only reason he's had the chances he's had is that he's a lefthander. When I saw he was coming in, I knew, "We got this one."
No sooner had I typed that on Facebook than Curtis Granderson, who was a concern due to an oblique strain, strained the hell out of a Coke pitch. This Coke had more plop than fizz, and if you're a Tiger fan, you were not saying, "Oh, what a relief it is." This one soared into the second deck in right as well, and unlike Teixeira's monster mash, there was no question that it would be fair. Granderson had a Coke and a smile.
That made it 4-3, Yankees. The Yanks scored another in the 7th and another in the 8th.
The Yankee bullpen pitched 3 perfect innings: The much-questioned Joba Chamberlain in the 7th, the newly-acquired Rafael Soriano in the 8th, the old standby Mariano Rivera in the 9th.
Final score, Yankees 6, Tigers 3. WP, Chamberlain, 1-0. LP, Coke, 0-1. Save, Rivera, 1. Attendance, 48,226, near a sellout, although, clearly, not everybody decided to brave the weather. A lot of the You Paid How Much?!? Seats were empty. And, as Yankee broadcaster Michael Kay would say, the time of the game, a slightly unmanageable 3 hours and 2 minutes. (I hate it when the Michael Kay Threshold of 3 hours is crossed: If the Yankees won, then, obviously, the game was manageable!)
With the Yankees being the only American League Eastern Division team to play today, they are 1-0, and the other teams in the Division are 0-0. Therefore, the Yankees' Magic Number is 161: Any number of Yankee wins and losses by any of the other AL East teams adding up to 161, and the Yankees win the Division.
Is it arrogant to post the Magic Number at the end of Opening Day? Or is it just silly? As my 3-year-old niece Rachel, already a bigger Yankee Fan than I was at that age, would say, "That's silly! Silly Uncle Michael!"
(Disclaimer: Although I use the name "Uncle Mike" online, within the family, I'm officially "Uncle Michael." Just like my parents are no longer "Mom" and "Dad," they're now "Nana" and "Pop-Pop.")
Day off tomorrow, then the Yanks and Tigers have a 4:00 start on Saturday. A Fox Game of the Week? Oy, bring back the NBC Game of the Week and ABC Monday Night Baseball!
Oh, and check out the link to today's Last Angry Fan. Sacrificing chickens? Like Dennis Haysbert as Pedro Cerrano in Major League?
At least they didn't try to steal Jobu's rum. "Is very bad to steal Jobu's rum. Is very bad."
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