Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Robert Creamer, 1922-2012

Robert W. Creamer died 2 weeks ago -- unfortunately, I just found out.  He was born in Bronxville, Westchester County, New York, in 1922, and just made it past his 90th birthday when he passed away from cancer.

In 1984, he published Stengel: His Life and Times, a biography of Casey Stengel, a comical but decent-playing outfielder who became a comical but genius manager, winning 7 World Series and reaching 3 others with the Yankees from 1949 to 1960.

In the Washington Post Book World, Jonathan Yardley said the Stengel book was the second-best American sports biography.  The best was Babe: The Legend Comes to Life.  Creamer wrote that, too, publishing it in 1974, just in time for Babe Ruth's career record of 714 home runs to be approached and broken by Hank Aaron.

Although Leigh Montville's recent The Big Bam debunked a lot of legends about Ruth, and corrected a lot of mistakes that Creamer, not knowing they were tall tales rather than accurate facts, had reprinted, Creamer's Stengel bio is still the definitive work on the Ol' Perfesser.

In Ken Burns' 1994 miniseries Baseball, Creamer was one of the interviewees, and he said, "I think Stengel is, outside of Ruth, the most interesting man who's ever been involved with baseball."

I don't think so.  In fact, I would say that Ruth isn't even in the top 10 of most interesting baseball personalities.  I would put Branch Rickey on top, and I would also put the man who signed to integrate baseball, Jackie Robinson, ahead of Ruth and Stengel.

But Creamer did manage to examine the "clown" myth of Stengel, and show that, while an important part of his personality, it hid the fact that Casey was one of the sharpest minds in baseball history.

His manner of speech, both mocked and celebrated as "Stengelese," wasn't something that just happened.  It was a purposeful gimmick.  "Stengel hated dead air," Creamer explained.  Just like nature abhors a vacuum.  Casey would put in a lot of "Well, well... " and "You see... " before he could think of the point he wanted to make.  And then he'd go off, and do 15 minutes, running the gamut from today's game to some game he played back in 1917 that had only a tangential connection to today's game, but halfway through, the reporters forgot what they wanted to know about.  In other words, by making the sportswriters focus on what he was saying, he could take their minds off of mistakes -- on the field an off -- that his players were making.

Stengel was always seen as an old man, but he never lost his childlike enthusiasm.  Likewise, Ruth was an overgrown kid, always more comfortable around children than adults.  And yet, Creamer (and, later, so did Montville) helped to dispel the myth that the Babe was a simpleton.  More like a savant: What he knew, he knew very well.  He couldn't remember names to save his life, but he remembered batters' swings and pitchers' tendencies.  Come to think of it, Stengel also had trouble with names: He'd remember a name as something similar to a name he knew.  When he managed the Mets at the end of his career, he had a catcher named Chris Cannizzaro.  Casey called him "Canzoneri," thinking of Tony Canzoneri, a great boxer who won the bantamweight, featherweight and lightweight titles in the 1930s.

My favorite Creamer book is Baseball in '41: A Celebration of the Best Baseball Season Ever -- in the Year America Went to War.  There have been lots of books about baseball in 1941, but most of them focus on Joe DiMaggio's record 56-game hitting streak, or Ted Williams gunning for a .400 batting average and becoming, to this day, the last man to do it.  Creamer discusses those astonishing feats, but also the great National League Pennant race between two rising teams that would dominate the NL in the 1940s: The Brooklyn Dodgers, who were damn close to going out of business not long before, and the St. Louis Cardinals.  Creamer also focused on how World War II was affecting American life, including baseball, even before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor at the end of the calendar year.  He, himself, would soon enlist, and be wounded in combat.

He also wrote "as told to books" with Mickey Mantle (in 1964, while Mickey was still playing), Ralph Houk, broadcaster Red Barber and Hall of Fame umpire Jocko Conlan.

In 1954, Creamer would be hired on the founding staff of Sports Illustrated.  When the magazine celebrated its 30th Anniversary in 1984, there were only two names on its publication box that were there at the beginning: Those of Creamer and magazine founder Henry R. Luce (who also co-founded Time, and founded Life and Fortune).  Creamer left the next year, but still occasionally contributed.

When interviewed by Burns in 1994, he was asked what's so great about baseball.  "It's fun," he said.  He said something after that, but it was just details.  What else needs to be said? "It's fun."

So was Bob Creamer.

Yankees Are Arsenalesque in Loss to Orioles

Falling behind 5-2 in the top of the 7th.  At home.  To a team you should beat 9 times out of 10.  Clawing back to 5-4.  Getting the leadoff man to 2nd in the bottom of the 9th.  Having the tying run on 3rd and the winning run on 2nd.  And losing anyway.  Partly because of your manager's what-the-hell substitutions.

Last night, the Yankees reminded me an awful lot of recent Arsenal.

Baltimore Orioles 5, Yankees 4, in the opener of a 3-game series at Yankee Stadium II.  WP: Miguel Gonzalez (3-2) -- a 28-year-old Mexican who never got to the majors until this year, never even got to Triple-A until last year (where, at 3 different levels combined, was 0-7), and is the proverbial "pitcher the Yankees have never seen before" and can't beat.  SV: Jim Johnson (31).  LP: Freddy Garcia (4-5).

The Yankees hit 3 homers, but it wasn't enough: Raul Ibanez hit his 14th in the 5th, and in the 7th, back-to-back jacks by Eric Chavez, his 9th, and Ichiro Suzuki, his 5th, his first in a Yankee uniform, and the 100th of his career.

I guess it's appropriate that the Yankees reminded me of recent Arsenal.  After all, tonight is the night when the New York Red Bulls host Arsenal's arch-rival Tottenham Hotspur.

The Premier League's teams have not done well on their North American tours.  Spurs, using mostly their starting XI, could only manage draws against the Los Angeles Galaxy, who are the defending MLS Champions but are now midtable and couldn't call on Landon Donovan and David Beckham due to their selection for the MLS All-Star Game; and a mostly-reserve Liverpool side in Baltimore, a Liverpool team that barely scraped a draw against Toronto FC, the worst team in MLS this season, a team which probably would struggle in England's League One (3rd division).

Spurs will be without the Welsh chimp Gareth Bale: After begging out of "Team Great Britain" for the Olympics due to injury, he played for Spurs on this tour, and now he's hurt.  Serves the diving cheating simian bastard right.

Arsenal should have their big gun, the Arsenal legend, the man who always had Spurs for lunch (or, in this case, dinner): Thierry Henry.  Plus the Australian connection of Kenny Cooper and the newly acquired Everton man Tim Cahill.

Nine hours to go.  Beat The Scum!

Monday, July 30, 2012

How to Be a Met Fan in San Francisco

The Mets are about to arrive in to San Francisco to take on the Giants, who, from 1883 to 1957, were the New York franchise of the National League.

DISCLAIMER: I have never been to the Pacific Coast, so all of this information is secondhand at best, but much of it does come from the opposing teams' websites.  And, again, I should have done this sooner, so that, if you want to see the Mets out there this season, you'll have to fly out tonight or tomorrow morning.  Sorry, but real life intervened.


Before You Go. The San Francisco Bay Area has inconsistent weather. San Francisco, in particular, partly because it’s bounded by water on three sides, is the one city I know of that has baseball weather in football season and football weather in baseball season. Or, as Mark Twain, who worked for a San Francisco newspaper during the Civil War, put it, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Fortunately, the Giants' ballpark, while right on the Bay, doesn't have the same kind of whacked-out weather as their former home of Candlestick Park.

For this series, sfgate.com, the website of the San Francisco Chronicle, is predicting good weather: Low 70s in the afternoon, mid-50s at night, and no precipitation.  Granted, weather in the Bay Area can be weird: Mark Twain seemed to predict conditions at Candlestick Park by saying, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." It's the only city I know of that has football weather during baseball season, and baseball weather during football season.  But the Chronicle seems to be saying the weather will be good.


Getting There. It’s 2,918 miles from Citi Field to AT&T Park.  This is the longest regular roadtrip that either of the New York baseball teams has -- in fact, the only roadtrip in all of MLB that is longer is Seattle to Tampa Bay (or vice versa).  This will remain the case, unless some future Commissioner decides to create a World League of Baseball and the Tokyo-based Yomiyuri Giants come in. In other words, if you’re going, you’re flying.

You think I’m kidding? Even if you get someone to go with you, and you take turns, one drives while the other one sleeps, and you pack 2 days’ worth of food, and you use the side of the Interstate as a toilet, and you don’t get pulled over for speeding, you’ll still need over 2 full days. Each way.

But, if you really, really want to, well, you’re too late for this series. But in the future... Get onto Interstate 80 West in New Jersey, and – though incredibly long, it’s also incredibly simple – you’ll stay on I-80 for almost its entire length, which is 2,900 miles from Ridgefield Park, just beyond the New Jersey end of the George Washington Bridge, to the San Francisco end of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

Getting off I-80, you’ll need Exit 2C for Folsom Street.  Turn left on Folsom, right on The Embarcadero, bear right on King Street, left on 3rd Street, and left onto Willie Mays Plaza.  The official address for AT&T Park is 24 Willie Mays Plaza, in honor of Mays' uniform number.

Not counting rest stops, you should be in New Jersey for an hour and a half, Pennsylvania for 5:15, Ohio for 4 hours, Indiana for 2:30, Illinois for 2:45, Iowa for 5 hours, Nebraska for 7:45, Wyoming for 6:45, Utah for 3:15, Nevada for 6:45, and California for 3:30. That’s 49 hours, and with rest stops, and city traffic at each end, we’re talking 3 full days.

That’s still faster than Greyhound (70 hours, 40 minutes, changing buses 5 times, $470 round-trip, station at 200 Folsom Street at Main Street -- 13 blocks from the ballpark) and Amtrak (80 hours, 40 minutes, $332 each way). Flying can be relatively inexpensive if you order enough in advance -- but, as I said, not possible now.

The the closest stop on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) subway line is Montgomery Street, 20 blocks up 2nd Street from the ballpark.  However, the J and N streetcar lines stop outside the park, and the CalTrain terminal is just a block away.

Tickets.  The Giants, still basking in the glow of their 2010 World Championship, are battling it out with their ancient rivals, the Dodgers, for first place in the National League Western Division.  As a result, they are averaging 41,720 fans per home game -- a sellout.  So if you haven't gotten your tickets yet, you may be out of luck.  Again, this guide may help you for next season a lot more than for this season.

Like the Mets, the Giants use "dynamic pricing": The higher the profile of the opponent (and New York is among the highest), the higher the price.  Lower Boxes, if they can be had at all, are listed as $71.  But upper deck seats go no higher than $33.  Left field bleachers are $43, center field are $25, and the "Arcade" seats along that narrow right field barrier separating the field from the Bay are $41 -- and they don't provide quarters for the video games.  (Just kidding: There are no video games, it's not that kind of arcade.)

Going In.  Lots of small boats drop anchor in the section of San Francisco Bay known as McCovey Cove, beyond the right field wall.  This is a reasonable thing to do if you live nearby and own a boat, but if you hardly ever, or never will except for this trip, get to San Francisco, why would you go all the way there to see a game at AT&T Park, and now see a game in AT&T Park?

Most likely, you will enter on King Street/Willie Mays Plaza, at either 2nd street (left field corner) or 3rd street (home plate).  The stadium faces due east, away from San Francisco, so while you won't see the city's impressive skyline, you'll get a spectacular view of the Bay.

Food. San Francisco, due to being a waterfront city and a transportation and freight hub, has a reputation as one of America’s best food cities. The ballpark benefits from this.

The Giants' signature food item, going back to Candlestick, is Gilroy Garlic Fries, available all over the park. They the have regionally-themed California Cookout at 107 and 315, and the Cable Car Bar at 114, 143 and 318.  You can reactivate your New York appetite with Hebrew National hot dogs at 112.  The Giants also get cute: They have a stand just for clam chowder at Section 110, a Chinese stand called Edsel Ford Fong at 118, Japanese at Mashi's Sushi Bistro at 210, a Cognac Bar and Long Taters Baked Potato at 232, and a seafood stand called Crazy Crab'z in center field.

Like Boog Powell in Baltimore, Greg Luzinski in Philadelphia, Luis Tiant in Boston, Gorman Thomas in Milwaukee and Randy Jones in San Diego, the Giants have a barbecue stand with a legendary player's name on it.  In fact, they have two.  One is Orlando's Caribbean BBQ, at 142 and 315, and the other is McCovey's 44 BBQ, in center field.  Unlike most of those, the star in question does not tend the stand and shake hands with visitors: Orlando Cepeda entrusts the cooking and management to others, while a bad back and countless knee surgeries (seriously: he says he's lost count, but it's at least 12) have confined Willie McCovey to a wheelchair.  He's not unhealthy, but it's difficult for him to get around.  There's also Say Hey! Sausage Specialties, named for Mays' signature expression, at 127 and 320.

Team History Displays.  The Giants do not have their titles on display, but they do have baseball-shaped stanchions with their retired numbers, near the left field corner at the bottom of the upper deck.  From the San Francisco era, these include: Center fielder Mays (24, 1951-72), first basemen-outfielders McCovey (44, 1959-80) and Cepeda (30, 1958-66), pitchers Juan Marichal (27, 1960-73) and Gaylord Perry (36, 1962-71).  From the New York era, they are: Mays, first baseman Bill Terry (3, 1923-36, manager 1932-41), right fielder Mel Ott (4, 1926-45, manager 1941-48), pitcher Carl Hubbell (11, 1928-43), left fielder Monte Irvin (20, 1949-55), and two figures from the pre-uniform number era, whose "retired numbers" are the letters "NY" for "New York": Manager John McGraw (1902-32) and pitcher Christy Mathewson (1900-16).  All of these are Hall-of-Famers.  The Number 25 worn by father and son, Bobby Bonds (right field, 1969-74) and Barry Bonds (left field, 1993-2007), has been removed from circulation, but not retired.

McGraw, Mathewson, right fielder Ross Youngs (1917-26) and infielder Eddie Grant (1913-15), who was killed in combat in World War I, were honored with plaques or, in Grant's case, a monument on the field at the Polo Grounds.  Also so honored were a pair of football Giants killed in World War II, Al Blozis and Jack Lummus; and State Senator and Mayor Jimmy "Beau James" Walker.  (Why him? Well, he was deeply involved with New York sports, and was a friend of both McGraw and Babe Ruth; supposedly, it was a scolding from Walker at a postseason banquet in 1922 that got Ruth to curtail his carousing and get in shape, leading to the Yankees winning the 1923 World Series.  So if you're a Met fan, that's a better reason to hate Walker than his corruption and womanizing.)

After the last Giants game at the Polo Grounds, the plaque on Grant's monument was removed.  A photo taken of four Mets before their first game at the old stadium, shows the marble slab, but no plaque on it.  It's not certain what happened to the plaque; the most notable claim to it has been debunked.  Some people thought the Giants were under "The Curse of Captain Eddie," saying that, as long as Grant's plaque was not restored at the Giants' ballpark, they would not win another World Series.  A replica was put up at AT&T Park in 2006, and the Giants finally won their first post-New York World Series in 2010.  Make of that what you will.

Outside the King Street/Willie Mays Plaza (3rd base) side of the park are plaques honoring the members of the San Francisco Giants Wall of Fame.  It includes:

* Infielders: Jim Davenport, Jim Ray Hart, Johnnie LeMaster, Jack Clark, Chris Speier, Darrell Evans, Will Clark (no relation to Jack), Robby Thompson, Matt Williams, Jeff Kent, J.T. Snow and Rich Aurilia.

* Outfielders: Mays, Cepeda, McCovey, both Bonds, Felipe Alou, Tito Fuentes, Jeffrey Leonard, Chili Davis, Kevin Mitchell and Marvin Benard.

* Catchers: Tom Haller, Dick Dietz, Bob Brenly and Kurt Manwaring.

* Pitchers: Marichal, Perry, Mike McCormick, Bobby Bolin, Stu Miller, Vida Blue (better known from across the Bay in Oakland), John Montefusco, Randy Moffitt (tennis legend Billie Jean King's brother), Greg Minton, Mike Krukow (now a broadcaster), Gary Lavelle, Jim Barr, Atlee Hammaker, Rick Reuschel, Rod Beck, Scott Garrelts, Jeff Brantley, Robb Nen, John Burkett, Kirk Reuter, Shawn Estes and Jason Schmidt.

There are five statues outside the park: Mays', at the front entrance; McCovey's, in the right field corner by the Cove; Cepeda's, at the corner of 2nd & King; Marichal's, at the Lefty O'Doul Gate at the right field corner; and one of a seal, in center field, honoring the former Pacific Coast League team, the San Francisco Seals.

The gate is named for Francis Joseph O'Doul, a San Francisco native who played with the Seals as a pitcher, but couldn't make it in the majors, pitching for the Yankees from 1919 to 1922 and the Red Sox in 1923, before heading back to the minors and reinventing himself as an outfielder.  He came back to the majors with the Giants in 1928, then starred with the Phillies, Dodgers, and back with the Giants, whom he helped win the 1933 World Series.  He won 2 batting titles, and played in the first All-Star Game in 1933.  His lifetime batting average is a smoking .349.  From 1937 to 1951, he managed the Seals, winning 4 straight Pennants, 1943-46.  In spite of his achievements, he has not been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York -- he should be.  He opened Lefty O'Doul's Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge, which I will describe in "After the Game," one of the all-time greatest sports bars & restaurants.  Legend has it that O'Doul invented -- no, not non-alcoholic beer -- the Bloody Mary.  (This is almost certainly untrue.) A bridge near AT&T Park is named the Lefty O'Doul Bridge.

The Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame (BASHOF) is unusual in that its exhibits are spread over several locations, including AT&T Park.  The ones honored there, on the walls of the Park's concourse, are: Mays, Marichal, McCovey, Cepeda and Blue -- even though Blue is better known with the A's.  This is flipped, as Frank Robinson and Bill Rigney, both of whom managed the Giants in San Francisco -- Robinson, the first black manager in each league, becoming so with the Giants; and Rigney, the manager at the time of the move -- were Oakland natives and are thus honored with plaques at the Oakland Coliseum.  Will Clark's plaque is at San Francisco International Airport.  Perry has been elected, but no plaque has yet been dedicated.

Stuff. The Giants have team stores at Willie Mays Plaza, at the Marina Gate at center field, and at Sections 28, 134 and 315.  They also have several Dugout Stores: At AT&T Park, at the Embarcadero, at Union Square, in Palo Alto, and in a few other places.

Having a fascinating (if occasionally controversial) history even if you only count the San Francisco years, the  Giants have had several books written about them, although they don’t always put the team in a good light.

Giant broadcasters Andrew Baggerly and Duane Kuiper (you may remember him as a weak-hitting second baseman for the Giants and Cleveland Indians) wrote A Band of Misfits: Tales of the 2010 San Francisco Giants.  Brian Murphy wrote a Golden Anniversary tribute, San Francisco Giants: 50 Years, in 2008.  Speaking of 50th anniversaries, the team's first Pennant in the Bay Area came 50 years ago, and there are 2 terrific books that detail the 1962 Giant-Dodger Pennant race, culminating in a Playoff that echoed the one across the country in 1951: Chasing October by David Plaut, and A Tale of Three Cities: The 1962 Baseball Season in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco by Steven Travers.  This book is also recommended for Met fans wanting to understand their team's beginnings.  (If you don't want to understand them, that's understandable.)

I have often remarked that, for fans who aren't old enough to remember it, the New York era of the Giants revolves around 2 games: Game 3 of the 1951 NL Playoff against the Dodgers, and Game 1 of the 1954 World Series.  In other words, we think of the New York Giants as having just 3 moments: Bobby Thomson's home run, Willie Mays' catch, and (if even this) Dusty Rhodes; walkoff pinch-hit homer.

The reason for this is twofold: The Giants' great moments before that seemed to stop with the 1937 Pennant (the 3rd they won in 5-year stretch), and you rarely see moments from before the Baby Boom era on television (except maybe on PBS and the History Channel); and no one ever wrote a Boys of Summer for the 1950s New York Giants, the way Roger Kahn did for the final years of the Brooklyn period of the Dodgers.  The Kahn Dodger book came out in 1972, as those Dodgers were in their late 40s and early 50s, and starting to die (within a year of its publication, both Gil Hodges and Jackie Robinson would fall to heart attacks).

There have been some good books about Willie Mays, and Leo Durocher published his self-serving if fascinating memoir Nice Guys Finish Last in 1975, but nobody published a loving, Kahnesque memoir about them.  And it's not like there weren't candidates: George Plimpton was a Giant fan, and so was Roger Angell, who has written beautifully about baseball, including a heartrending essay on the final Giants game at the Polo Grounds.  The best book about the New York Giants is The Giants of the Polo Grounds, by Noel Hynd -- and that didn't come out until 1988; by that point, the team had been gone for 30 years, most of the big names of the club were either approaching or past age 60 (or dead), and the Dodgers had "won the historical argument": No matter how good the 1951-54 Giants were, they were doomed, by the Yankee's dynastic achievements, the fawning over the 1941-56 Dodgers, and the historical significance of the Dodgers' Jackie Robinson, to be New York's 3rd team, even though they were the 1st team almost continuously from 1902 to 1937.  But I do recommend the Hynd book, if only to see just how good these guys were.

The Giants have a DVD collection for their 2010 World Championships, and just released a DVD of Matt Cain's recent perfect game.  They also have a DVD of the official highlight film of the one World Series they won between 1943 (the start of official World Series highlight films) and 2010: 1954, the one sparked by Game 1, with Mays' catch and Dusty Rhodes' walkoff pinch-hit homer.  As yet, there is Essential Games of the San Francisco Giants or Essential Games of Candlestick Park (or AT&T Park) DVD collection.

During the Game.  Giant fans have a rough reputation.  This is mainly due to the Pacific Coast's largest media center being Los Angeles, and full of Dodger fans, who hate the Giants.  Giant fans don't particularly like the Mets, but you're not Dodger fans.  Don't provoke them, and they almost certainly will not fight you.

The Barry Bonds era is over.  The cloud that hung over the facility that was born as Pacific Bell Park in 2000, became SBC Park and now AT&T Park -- the one that made Giant fans say, "We know he's cheating, but he's OUR cheat, and we have to defend him" -- is gone.  They happy-go-lucky team of 2010 totally changed the atmosphere.  No longer are they a franchise whose biggest active star is a suspected crook.  No longer are they a franchise that has never won a World Championship in its current city.  No longer are they a fan base that has to be jealous of the more successful (at least, in total) franchise across the Bay.  And no longer does the evil spirit of Candlestick infect them.  They are now survivors of what they call "torture" (which is different from Dick Cheney's definition -- or Keith Olbermann's).  If not quite the hippies that San Francisco became known for in the 1960s -- or the beatniks of the 1950s -- they do have the leftover cool that those groups gave the city.

Although the Raiders fans who show up for home games like to wear costumes ranging from biker gangs to sci-fi film villains – a guy in a Darth Vader mask was a regular in the Jimmy Carter years – and have been known to be the closest thing North American sports has to English-style football hooligans, you’ll probably be safe. Wearing Yankee gear to the game will probably not endanger your safety. True, A’s fans hate the Yankees, but you’ll probably get nothing more than a little bit of verbal abuse.

In 1984, the Giants used to have a weird-looking thing called the Crazy Crab, and it was perhaps the most hated mascot in baseball history.  It was abandoned after a year, and they wanted until 1997 to establish another mascot, Lou Seal (based on "Lucille," B.B. King's guitar, and the old San Francisco Seals).  Lou has proved much more popular.

The Giants don't have a special song played after “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at the 7th Inning Stretch, but in the middle of the 8th, they play "Lights" by Journey, and occasionally play that band's most famous song, "Don't Stop Believin'" -- lead singer Steve Perry is a big Giant fan, and was invited to participate in their 2010 World Series victory parade.

After the Game.  AT&T Park is in the China Basin section of town, and should be safe.  There are plenty of places in San Francisco to get a postgame meal, or even just a pint.  The aforementioned Lefty O'Doul's is at 333 Geary Street, corner of Powell Street, just 3 blocks from the Powell Street BART station and right on a cable car line.

There are two bars in the Lower Nob Hill neighborhood of San Francisco that are worth mentioning. Aces, at 998 Sutter Street & Hyde Street in San Francisco’s Lower Nob Hill neighborhood, is said to have a Yankee sign out front and a Yankee Fan as the main bartender; but if you're a fan of the football Giants, it's the home port of NFL Giants fans in the Bay Area. R Bar, at 1176 Sutter & Polk Street, is the local Jets fan hangout.

Sidelights. The San Francisco Bay Area, including the East Bay (which includes Oakland), has a very rich sports history. Here are some of the highlights, aside from the Giants' park:

* Seals Stadium. Home of the PCL’s San Francisco Seals from 1931 to 1957, the Mission Reds from 1931 to 1937, and the Giants in 1958 and ’59, it was the first home professional field of the DiMaggio brothers: First Vince, then Joe, and finally Dom all played for the Seals in the 1930s. The Seals won Pennants there in 1931, ’35, ’43, ’44, ’45, ’46 and ’57 (their last season; they also won 7 Pennants before the park opened, between 1909 and 1928). It seated just 18,500, expanded to 22,900 for the Giants, and was never going to be more than a stopgap facility until the Giants’ larger park could be built. It was demolished right after the 1959 season, and the site now has a Safeway grocery store. Bryant Street, 16th Street, Potrero Avenue and Alameda Street, in the Mission District. Hard to reach by public transport: The Number 10 bus goes down Townsend Street and Rhode Island Avenue until reaching 16th, but then it’s an 8-block walk. The Number 27 can be picked up at 5th & Harrison Streets, and will go right there.

* Candlestick Park. Home of the Giants from 1960 to 1999, the NFL 49ers since 1970, and the Raiders in the 1961 season, this may be the most-maligned sports facility in North American history. Its seaside location (Candlestick Point) has led to spectators being stricken by wind (a.k.a. The Hawk), cold, and even fog. It was open to the Bay until 1971, including the 1962 World Series between the Yankees and the Giants, and was then enclosed to expand it from 42,000 to 69,000 seats for the Niners. It also got artificial turf for the 1970 season, one of the first stadiums to have it – though, to the city’s credit, it was also the 1st NFL stadium and 2nd MLB stadium (after Comiskey Park in Chicago) to switch back to real grass.

The Giants only won 2 Pennants there, and never a World Series. But the 49ers have won 5 Super Bowls while playing there, with 3 of their 5 NFC Championship Games won as the home team. The NFL Giants did beat the 49ers in the 1990 NFC Championship Game, scoring no touchdowns but winning 15-13 thanks to 5 Matt Bahr field goals. The Beatles played their last “real concert” ever at the ‘Stick on August 29, 1966 – only 25,000 people came out, a total probably driven down by the stadium’s reputation and John Lennon’s comments about religion on that tour.

The Giants got out, and the 49ers are looking to do the same, having broken ground for a new stadium outside San Jose, hoping to open for the 2014 season. In the meantime, they’re still playing at Candlestick. Best way by public transport isn’t a good one: The KT light rail at 4th & King Streets, at the CalTrain terminal, to 3rd & Gilman Streets, and then it’s almost a mile’s walk down Jagerson Avenue. So unless you’re driving/renting a car, or you’re a sports history buff who HAS to see the place, I wouldn’t suggest making time for it.


* Emeryville Park. Also known as Oaks Park, this was the home of the Pacific Coast League’s Oakland Oaks from 1913 until 1955. The Oaks won Pennants there in 1927, ’48, ’50 and ’54. Most notable of these was the 1948 Pennant, won by a group of players who had nearly all played in the majors and were considered old, and were known as the Nine Old Men (a name often given to the U.S. Supreme Court). These old men included former Yankee 1st baseman Nick Etten, the previous year’s World Series hero Cookie Lavagetto of the Brooklyn Dodgers (an Oakland native), Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi (another Oakland native), and one very young player, a 20-year-old 2nd baseman from Berkeley named Billy Martin. Their manager? Casey Stengel. Impressed by Casey’s feat, and by his managing of the minor-league Milwaukee Brewers to a Pennant, Yankee owners Dan Topping and Del Webb hired Casey to manage in 1949. Casey told Billy that if he ever got the chance to bring him east, he would, and he was as good as his word.

Pixar Studios has built property on the site. 45th Street, San Pablo Avenue, Park Avenue and Watts Street, Emeryville, near the Amtrak station. Number 72 bus from Jack London Square.

* Oakland Coliseum complex.  The Raiders played at the Coliseum from 1966 to 1981, and again since 1995.  The A's have played there since 1968, although they are looking to get out.  The Warriors have played most of their home games since 1971 at the Oakland Coliseum Arena.  You don't have to know what those buildings are called now; they're "the Coliseum" and "the Coliseum Arena."

It's worth noting that Elvis Presley sang at the Coliseum Arena on November 10, 1970 and November 11, 1972. It’s also worth noting that the Warriors have put together a plan to leave the Arena and move into a new arena on the San Francisco waterfront, 4 blocks from the Giants’ ballpark, for the 2017-18 season, 47 years after they last played on that side of the Bay. It’ s just as well: The Warriors are one of the most underachieving franchises in professional sports. Despite great support from a metro area that loves its basketball, they’ve won only 1 NBA Title since leaving Philadelphia half a century ago, pulling off a famous upset of the Washington Bullets in 1975; and haven’t even reached the Conference Finals since then – and only did so twice before that, losing to the Boston Celtics in 1964 and to their Philly successors, the 76ers, in 1967.  Coliseum stop on BART.


* Kezar Stadium. The 49ers played here from their 1946 founding until 1970, the Raiders spent their inaugural 1960 season here, and previous pro teams in the city also played at this facility at the southeastern corner of Golden Gate Park, a mere 10-minute walk from the fabled corner of Haight & Ashbury Streets. High school football, including the annual City Championship played on Thanksgiving Day, used to be held here as well. Bob St. Clair, who played there in high school, college (University of San Francisco) and the NFL in a Hall of Fame career with the 49ers, has compared it to Chicago’s Wrigley Field as a “neighborhood stadium.” After the 49ers left, it became a major concert venue.

The original 60,000-seat structure was built in 1925, and was torn down in 1989 (before the earthquake, so there’s no way to know what the quake would have done to it), and was replaced in 1990 with a 9,000-seat stadium, much more suitable for high school sports. The original Kezar, named for one of the city’s pioneering families, had a cameo in the Clint Eastwood film Dirty Harry. Frederick & Stanyan Streets, Kezar Drive and Arguello Blvd. MUNI light rail N train.

* Frank Youell Field. This was another stopgap facility, used by the Raiders from 1962 to 1965, a 22,000-seat stadium that was named after an Oakland undertaker – perhaps fitting, although the Raiders didn’t yet have that image. Interestingly from a New York perspective, the first game here was between the Raiders and the forerunners of the Jets, the New York Titans. It was demolished in 1969. A new field of the same name was built on the site for Laney College. East 8th Street, 5th Avenue, East 10th Street and the Oakland Estuary. Lake Merritt BART station.

* Cow Palace. The more familiar name of the Grand National Livestock Pavilion, this big barn just south of the City Line in Daly City has hosted just about everything, from livestock shows and rodeos to the 1956 and 1964 Republican National Conventions. (Yes, the Republicans came here, not the “hippie” Democrats, although they did hold their 1984 Convention downtown at the George Moscone Convention Center.) The ’64 Convention is where New York’s Governor Nelson Rockefeller refused to be booed off the podium when he dared to speak out against the John Birch Society – the Tea Party idiots of their time – and when Senator Barry Goldwater was nominated, telling them, “I would remind you, my fellow Republicans, that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And I would remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” (Personally, I think that extremism in the defense of liberty is no defense of liberty.)

Built in 1941, it is one of the oldest former NBA and NHL sites, having hosted the NBA’s Warriors (then calling themselves the San Francisco Warriors) from 1962 to ’71, the NHL’s San Jose Sharks from 1991 to ’93 until their current arena could open, and several minor-league hockey teams. The 1960 NCAA Final Four was held here, culminating in Ohio State, led by Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek (with future coaching legend Bobby Knight as the 6th man) beating local heroes and defending National Champions California, led by Darrell Imhoff.

The Beatles played here on August 19, 1964 and August 31, 1965, and Elvis sang here on November 13, 1970 and November 28 & 29, 1976. It was the site of Neil Young’s 1978 concert that produced the live album Live Rust and the concert film Rust Never Sleeps, and the 1986 Conspiracy of Hope benefit with Joan Baez, Lou Reed, Sting and U2. The acoustics of the place, and the loss of such legendary venues as the Fillmore West and the Winterland Ballroom, make it the Bay Area’s holiest active rock and roll site. 2600 Geneva Avenue at Santos Street, in Daly City. 8X bus.

In addition to the preceding, Elvis sang at the Auditorium Arena (now the Kaiser Convention Center, near the Laney College campus in Oakland) early in his career, on June 3, 1956 and again on October 27, 1957; and the San Francisco Civic Auditorium (now the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, 99 Grove Street at Polk Street) on October 26, 1957.

* HP Pavilion at San Jose. Formerly the San Jose Arena, this building has hosted the NHL’s San Jose Sharks since 1993. If you’re a fan of the TV show The West Wing, this was the convention center where the ticket of Matt Santos and Leo McGarry was nominated. 525 W. Santa Clara Street at Autumn Street, across from the Amtrak & CalTrain station.

* New 49ers stadium. They’ve already broken ground at 4701 Great America Parkway at Old Glory Lane in Santa Clara, next to California’s Great America park, outside San Jose. They’re hoping to open it for the 2014 season. ACE (Altamont Commuter Express) to Great America-Santa Clara. * Stanford Stadium. The home field of Stanford University in Palo Alto, down the Peninsula from San Francisco. Originally built in 1921, it was home to many great quarterbacks, from early 49ers signal-caller Frankie Albert to 1971 Heisman winner Jim Plunkett to John Elway. It hosted Super Bowl XIX in 1985, won by the 49ers over the Miami Dolphins – one of only two Super Bowls that ended up having had a team that could have been called a home team. (The other was XIV, the Los Angeles Rams losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Rose Bowl.) It also hosted San Francisco’s games of the 1994 World Cup, and the soccer games of the 1984 Olympics, even though most of the events of those Olympics were down the coast in Los Angeles. The original 85,000-seat structure was demolished and replaced with a new 50,000-seat stadium in 2006. Arboretum Road & Galvez Street. Caltrain to Palo Alto.

* California Memorial Stadium. Home of Stanford’s arch-rivals, the University of California, at its main campus in Berkeley in the East Bay. (The school is generally known as “Cal” for sports, and “Berkeley” for most other purposes.) Its location in the Berkeley Hills makes it one of the nicest settings in college football. But it’s also, quite literally, on the Hayward Fault, a branch of the San Andreas Fault, so if “The Big One” had hit during a Cal home game, 72,000 people would have been screwed. With this in mind, the University is renovating the stadium, making it ready for 63,000 fans this fall. In the meantime, Cal shared AT&T Park with the baseball Giants. The old stadium hosted one NFL game, and it was a very notable one: Due to a scheduling conflict with the A’s, the Raiders played a 1973 game there with the Miami Dolphins, and ended the Dolphins’ winning streak that included the entire 1972 season and Super Bowl VII. 76 Canyon Road, Berkeley. Downtown Berkeley stop on BART. (Remember, until the fall, it’s still being renovated, so it could be messy.)

The Fillmore Auditorium was at Fillmore Street and Geary Boulevard, and it still stands and hosts live music. Bus 38L. Winterland Ballroom, home of the final concerts of The Band (filmed as The Last Waltz) and the Sex Pistols, was around the corner from the Fillmore at Post & Steiner Streets. And the legendary corner of Haight & Ashbury Streets can be reached via the 30 Bus, taking it to Haight and Masonic Avenue and walking 1 block west.

San Francisco, like New York, has a Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), at 151 3rd Street, downtown. The California Palace of the Legion of Honor is probably the city’s most famous museum, in Lincoln Park at the northwestern corner of the city, near the Presidio and the Golden Gate Bridge. (Any of you who are Trekkies, the Presidio is a now-closed military base that, in the Star Trek Universe, is the seat of Starfleet Command and Starfleet Academy.) And don’t forget to take a ride on one of them cable cars I’ve been hearing so dang much about.

Oakland isn’t much of a museum city, especially compared with San Francisco across the Bay. But the Oakland Museum of California (10th & Oak, Lake Merritt BART) and the Chabot Space & Science Center (10000 Skyline Blvd., not accessible by BART) may be worth a look.

*

So, if you can afford it, go on out and join your fellow Met Fans in going coast-to-coast, and enjoy the City By the Bay.  Even if you don't accept the connection with the former New York franchise of the National League.

Soggy Sox Beat Yankees

Nothing feels yuckier than soggy socks, soaked by rain.

We got a lot of that this weekend.

On Friday night, the Yankees got home runs from Raul Ibanez (his 13th), Russell Martin (his 11th), and Curtis Granderson (his 28th), and a good start from Phil Hughes.  Yankees 10, Red Sox 3.

WP: Hughes (10-8).  LP: Aaron Cook (2-4).

*

But Saturday was another story.  I was actually at this game, and was it ever an adventure.  It was a Fox Saturday Game of the Week, so it was scheduled for a 4:05 start.  It had been drizzling most of the day, but shortly before first pitch, the sky burst, and for an hour and a half the rain came down in buckets.  Had it been scheduled for the usual home Saturday time of 1:05, most likely they would have gotten most of it in.

I knew there was no way the game would be postponed.  A sellout? No way the Steinbrenner brothers would allow a postponement.  A Yankees-Red Sox game possibly extending into prime time? No way Fox would allow a postponement.

The game started 2 hours late, and it must've messed up CC Sabathia's rhythm.  He allowed 3 runs in the top of the 1st.  The Yankees eventually fell behind 6-1.  The visiting Chowdaheads were whooping it up like the vermin they are.

But the Yanks got CC off the hook, culminating in Mark Teixeira hitting a game-tying home run off Sox reliever Vicente Padilla, who had plunked Teix earlier this month at Fenway Park and questioned his courage.  Teix's trot around the bases was almost Strawberryian in its slowness, and you needed a wide-angle lens to take a picture of his smile.

However, right before that, Curtis Granderson hit 2 long drives down the right field line.  On the first one, I tried the "Fenway Twist," waving my arms like Carlton Fisk in the 1975 World Series.  It didn't work.  I guess it only works for the Sox.  Or to left field.  Granderson struck out, and then Teix hit his game-tying homer.

In the 9th inning, Granderson misplayed a fly ball by Pedro Ciriaco.  Grandy is having such a great year, so I can't hold it against him, but he picked a hell of a time to have a bad day -- really, a bad 10 minutes.  The gaffe allowed the game-winning run, and another scored in the inning.  The Yanks mounted no threat against former Yankee Alfredo Aceves in the bottom of the 9th.

Scum 8, Yanks 6.  WP: Andrew Miller (2-1).  SV: Aceves (22).  LP: Rafael Soriano (2-1), although he deserved a better fate.

*

Last night's ESPN Sunday Game of the Week was frustrating.  Felix Doubront got a 2-0 lead in the 2nd inning, and pretty much handcuffed the Yankees until Martin homered in the 7th.  Martin then came up again in the 8th, and singled home the tying run.  (He's still hitting only .189, but it was his 12th homer, and he has 29 RBIs.) Hiroki Kuroda pitched about as well as Doubront, and did not deserve the loss.

He didn't get the loss, and Dubront didn't get the win.  David Robertson came out to pitch the top of the 10th, and he made the ominous mistake of walking the leadoff man, Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  Will Middlebrooks singled him to 2nd.

Then came a bizarre sequence in which Sox manager Bobby Valentine and pitcher Josh "Super Punk" Beckett, who wasn't even in the game, were ejected by the umpires.  Upon being tossed, Valentine took out his chewing gum, and threw it into the crowd.

It would have been less disgusting if Beckett had thrown a fried chicken bone.

He missed the Sox' win.  Ryan Sweeney grounded into a forceout, eliminating Middlebrooks but getting Saltalamacchia to 3rd and himself to 1st.  And then Ciriaco, the "hero" the night before, hit a looper to right that new (and popular) acquisition Ichiro Suzuki, even with the speed he still has, couldn't get to.  Saltalamacchia scored.  Jacoby Ellsbury grounded into a double play, but the damage was done.  The Yankees couldn't score in the bottom of the 10th.

Scum 3, Yanks 2.  Scum take 2 out of 3 in The Bronx.

*

So here's how the American League Eastern Division stands on the morning of July 30: The Yankees lead the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays by 7 1/2 games each, 8 in the loss column.  The Toronto Blue Jays are 9 back, and the Sox are 9 1/2 back, 10 in the All-Important Loss Column.

Elimination numbers: Sox 51, Jays 52, Rays & O's 53.

The Orioles come to town for a 3-game series starting tonight -- weather permitting.

*


Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 18, on Friday night, August 17, at Yankee Stadium II.

Hours until the Red Bulls play Tottenham at Red Bull Arena: 33.  I won't call this preseason match a "friendly," because it's The Scum.  At least I won't have to watch Harry Redknapp twitching in shorts, like I did when they visited for the 2010 New York Football Challenge.

Days until AC Milan play Real Madrid at Yankee Stadium: 9, on Wednesday night, August 8.  I really would like to see this one, but will so many Italian-Americans in the Tri-State Area, and probably more of them being fans of Milan than of any other Italian club, this may be tough to get a ticket for.  But then, the Chelsea-PSG match only got around 38,000, so I may have a chance.


Days until the U.S. National Soccer Team plays again: 16, on Wednesday night, August 15, against arch-rival Mexico at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, a house of horrors for the Stars & Stripes, as we have never won there.  And as long as Jurgen Klinsmann is still the manager, I don't expect that to change, because he cannot pick a lineup! Sack him, Sunil Gulati!
Days until Arsenal play another competitive match (not counting preseason friendlies, which are already underway): 19, on Saturday, August 18, home to Sunderland, a.k.a. the Dirty Monkey Mackems.  A little under 3 weeks.  I had been under the impression that it would be the preceding Saturday.

Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby": 30, going down to Washington to face D.C. United on Wednesday night, August 29.  They travel to Foxboro to face the New England Revolution on Saturday, September 22, and to Chester to face the Union on Saturday, October 27.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 33, on Saturday September 1, at the Superdome in New Orleans against Tulane University. Not exactly a rivalry game, although Tulane was founded by a Princeton man. And thus, in a little over a month, will begin the Kyle Flood Era. Good luck... 

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 39, on Friday, September 7, home to South Brunswick.  Under 6 weeks. I'm glad it's a home game: It's always good to open the season at home, and South Brunswick is particularly tough to get to: Despite the distance, it's not close to public transportation. But that's the only thing I have against them: Though they are neighbors, they are not rivals. 
Days until the Devils play again: 74, opening the season on Friday night, October 12, away to the Washington Capitals.  Just 11 weeks.  The home opener is the next night, against the Boston Bruins.
Days until the Devils play another local rival: 79, on Wednesday night, October 17, the 3rd game of the season, the 2nd home game, at the Prudential Center, against the Rangers, the first meeting between the teams since Adam Henrique put The Scum in their place.  The first meeting with the Philadelphia Flyers will be on Thursday night, November 1.  I'd say the game will be at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly, but that's dependent on the arena's name not being changed... again.  The first meeting with the New York Islanders will be on Saturday night, November 17, at the Nassau Coliseum.  Barring a big change, there will be only 3 seasons left at the Coliseum -- and possibly only 18 more Devils-Islanders games, unless the Isles build a new arena, move to the Barclays Center, or somehow make the Playoffs in the next 3 seasons.
Days until the first Nets game in Brooklyn: 94, on Thursday, November 1, against the now actually crosstown Knicks.  A little over 3 months. 
Days until the 2012 President election: 99.  Just 14 weeks.  Register to vote... and on November 6, vote! 

Days until the next North London Derby: 108, on Saturday, November 17, at the Emirates Stadium.  The return fixture will be on Saturday, March 2, 2013, at White Hart Lane.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 115.  Under 4 months.  Come on you Boys in Green! Beat those Purple Bastards!
Days until Alex Rodriguez collects his 3,000th career hit: 396 (estimated around September 1, 2013).  This is taking his current injury into account.  A little over a year.
Days until Super Bowl XLVIII at the Meadowlands: 552 (February 2, 2014).  Less than 19 months. 

Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 700th career home run: 676 (estimated). 

Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 756th career home run to surpass all-time leader Hank Aaron: 1,516 (estimated). 

Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 763rd career home run to become as close to a "real" all-time leader as we are likely to have: 1,536 (estimated -- estimating 28 home runs a year, and he might get it early in the 2017 season, at age 41).

Friday, July 27, 2012

Yankees-Red Sox: The Defining Moments, Part III


October 26, 1996, Yankee Stadium, Bronx. The Yankees beat the Atlanta Braves 3-2, to win Game 6 and clinch the World Series, their first such win in 18 years. A moment in time by Red Sox standards, but interminable by ours. Wade Boggs, who'd come so close with the 1986 Red Sox, and signed with the Yankees prior to the 1993 season and became part of the restoration, 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.

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 his walkoff homer against the Red Sox, 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 Derek 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, will never be fully proven.  What we know for sure is this: 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. By 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, Boston. 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 Yankees shortstop Derek 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 and strikes out 5 of the 6 National League batters he faces.

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, winks. 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. The AL wins the game.

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 would build a new stadium across their street?

I paid a scalper $42 for a $24 obstructed-view seat. 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, Derek 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 about 34,000 people in Fenway, and about 10,000 of them were Yankee Fans. By the 7th inning stretch, there were about 15,000 people in Fenway, and about 10,000 of them were Yankee Fans. 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 Martinez. That's the only hit that Pedro allows, and he strikes out 17 batters, 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.

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 hits a home run to dead center field off Rod Beck. Yankees 4, Red Sox 3. The Yanks will take Game 2 as well.

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.

October 17, 1999, Fenway Park.  Game 4.  Admittedly, there were a couple of umpiring mistakes that helped the Yanks. 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. The next night, the Yanks clinched the Pennant, danced on the field at Fenway, and went on to win the World Series.

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 Bob Dylan's 60th birthday, 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 first 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."

September 2, 2001, Fenway Park. Mike Mussina comes within one strike of pitching a perfect game, but Carl Everett's 9th-inning, two-out, two-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 first game since the 9/11 attacks.  They play the Tampa Bay Rays, and win, 7-2.  A holds up a banner of solidarity: "TODAY, WE (HEART) NY." The Yankees also play their first game following the resumption of play, in Chicago against the White Sox, and win, 11-3.

December 26, 2002, Fenway Park. The Yankees sign Cuban pitcher Jose Contreras, and new Sox president Larry Lucchino calls the Yankees "the Evil Empire." Oh, really? The term 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 Star Wars, including one fan who made a T-shirt with Darth Vader's helmet, saying, "May the Curse be with you."

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. 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.

Clemens pitches to Manny Ramirez, and the pitch is head-high... but over the plate. Manny points at Clemens and comes toward him, still holding the bat. The benches clear again, and Yankee coach Don Zimmer -- manager of the Sox in 1978, but also a 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. 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 a 24-hour reprieve. Probably 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, lefty, and Posada, a switch-hitter but much better left than right, so the right thing to do is bring in a lefty, probably Alan Embree, to pitch Matsui lefty-on-lefty and turn Posada to his weaker right side.

But he leaves Pedro in. Matsui hits a ground-rule double, moving Bernie to third. Now Little has got to take Pedro out, and bring in Embree to face Posada. 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.

Bottom of the 11th, and Tim Wakefield, who had beaten the Yanks in Games 1 and 4 of the series, opens the inning by throwing a 69 MPH knuckleball to Aaron Boone. Boom. Yankees 6, Red Sox 5. Boone takes his place alongside Bucky Dent and Bill Buckner.

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, 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 third 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 two. One is backup catcher Doug Mirabelli. The other is Nomar, apparently injured but not on the Disabled List. Once, Nomar, Jeter and A-Rod were debated as to who was the best shortstop in baseball. Now, Jeter is making a diving play that saves the game, A-Rod is playing third and moving to short after Jeter gets hurt, 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.

July 24, 2004, Fenway Park. Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo -- white people should not 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. Pedro loses again, and in a postgame press conference, 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 made up a T-shirt showing Darth Vader wearing a Yankee jersey, and saying, as if to Luke Skywalker, "Pedro, I am your father!"

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 Arroyo in relief of suspected steroid user Curt Schilling (who had said, "I'm not sure I can think of any scenario more enjoyable than making 55,000 Yankee Fans shut up"), Game 7 is a diaster from the outset, as proven steroid user Ortiz homers again. Red Sox 10, Yankees 3.

The Red Sox become the first 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 did it again in this game, off Keith Foulke.  Yankees 4, Red Sox 3.  The Yankees could have used one of these 6 months earlier.

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 was ejected from the game for interfering with play and 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.

August 18, 19, 20 & 21, 2006, Fenway Park. The Yankees complete a 5-game sweep at the little green pinball machine in Kenmore Square. The scores are 12-4, 14-11, 13-5, 8-5 and 2-1. The Yankees 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 City. 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 four consecutive home runs off Yankee pitcher Chase Wright, powering a comeback from a three-run deficit and completing a three 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, 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. Manny is later proven a steroid user, and the other 3 have also been suspected.

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 30, 2009, Fenway Park.  Ten 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, Bronx. A-Rod ends a 0-0 standstill after 15 innings with a two-run home run off Junichi Tazawa. Two days later, former Sox hero Johnny 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 three-game sweep of the Red Sox with a 4-2 victory, clinching their first 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 Jonathan Papelbon.  Yankees 11, Red Sox 9.

As of July 27, 2012, the Yankees have hit 212 walkoff home runs, counting the postseason.  28 of these, including the postseason walkoffs by Bernie Williams in 1999 and Aaron Boone in 2003, have been against the Red Sox.

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 first place in the AL East.  But the Sox go into a tailspin, the Yankees take 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 & 21, 2012, Fenway Park.  The Sox celebrate the ballpark's 100th Anniversary -- the first Major League Baseball stadium to reach a centennial -- by playing on the exact anniversary and playing the exact same opponent.  But they didn't get the same result, as the Yankees hit 5 home runs: 2 by Nick Swisher, and 1 each by Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, and 1 by Alex Rodriguez, as Sox fans chanted, "Steroids!" while cheering David Ortiz.  Yankees 6, Red Sox 2.

The next day, the Yankees came from 9-0 down to beat the Sox 15-9, including 7 runs in the 7th inning and 7 more in the 8th.  Swisher homered again, and Mark Teixeira hit 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 27, 2012, Yankee Stadium II.  Due to a quirk in the schedule, this is the first series of the season between the teams in New York.  Play ball, and...

BEAT THE SCUM!

Yankees-Red Sox: The Defining Moments, Part II


April 7, 1970, Yankee Stadium, Bronx. This was Opening Day, and, at first glance, it might not have any more significance than that. But it was the first Yankee game of my lifetime. It didn't end so well for the Good Guys, as only 21,379 came out to the big ballyard to see Mel Stottlemyre give up an RBI double to opposing pitcher Gary Peters. Red Sox 4, Yankees 3.

The Yanks did finish 2nd with 93 wins, far ahead of the Sox, but the Baltimore Orioles ran away with the Division and won the World Series.

September 15, 1970, Yankee Stadium.  Curt Blefary's time with the Yankees wasn't as good as his preceding time with the Orioles, but he did hit this pinch-hit walkoff homer against the Sox, against Mike Nagy. Yankees 3, Red Sox 2.

March 22, 1972, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  The Yankees and Red Sox complete what remains the biggest trade between the teams since Harry Frazee's selloff in the late 1910s and early 1920s.  The Sox sent wacky relief pitcher Albert "Sparky" Lyle to the Yankees, in exchange for Danny Cater and a player to be named later, who turns out to be Mario Guerrero.  The Sox didn't know how to handle Lyle, and their reasoning for obtaining Cater was that he hit well at Fenway Park, so why not let him play there 81 times a year?

It didn't work, as Cater's batting average dropped from .276 in 1971 to .237.  Guerrero was never more than the stereotypical "good-field-no-hit" middle infielder.  Sparky, in 1972, set an American League record (though it was broken a year later) with 35 saves, and set the standard for Yankee relievers that was followed by Goose Gossage, Dave Righetti, John Wetteland and Mariano Rivera.

April 6, 1973, Fenway Park, Boston.  Opening Day.  Ron Blomberg bats for the Yankees, and becomes the first official player to come to bat as a designated hitter.  He drew a walk.  It didn't help: The Red Sox won, 15-5.

August 1, 1973, Fenway Park. In 1972, the Yanks and Sox were both still in the Pennant race as late as August for the first time since 1953.  But it would not be the first time since 1951 that both were still in it as late as September. That would have to wait until 1974.

On this day, with the game tied 2-2 in the top of the 9th, Yankee catcher Thurman Munson led off with a double and was sacrificed to third. With Gene Michael at the plate, manager Ralph Houk ordered a suicide squeeze. (You see, Houk was a smart man, and he knew "Stick" Michael couldn't hit a beach ball with a telephone pole.) Michael missed the pitch anyway, and Munson, a dead duck at home, tried the only thing that might have saved him, to dislodge Sox catcher Carlton Fisk from the ball, only to have Fisk flip Munson aside. The two catchers already didn't like each other, and they went at it, clearing the benches. A rivalry was reborn, and the Sox won this battle. Red Sox 3, Yankees 2.

Neither team won the Division (the Orioles did). In 1974, the Yanks and Sox would chase each other into September as the top 2 teams. Then the Orioles got into the act again, and smacked the Sox, who collapsed to 3rd place. The O's then swept a doubleheader at Shea Stadium (the Yanks had to play '74 and '75 at the Flushing Toilet while The Stadium was being renovated) in late September to take the Division. The Sox did win the Pennant in '75, and then...

May 20, 1976, Yankee Stadium. Bottom of the 6th. Lou Piniella comes around to score, but Fisk gets the ball.  Sweet Lou barrels into Pudge, but it's no use, he's out. Fisk shoves Piniella, and here we go again. This one was even nastier than the brawls of '67 at The Stadium and '73 at Fenway.

The combatants are separated, but Sox reliever Bill Lee -- who may have hated the Yankees more than any Red Sock ever, at least until the Roid Sox of 2003-present -- starts yelling at Yank 3rd baseman Graig Nettles, claiming that Nettles had hurt his shoulder. Spewing obscenities like a typical drunken lout Sox fan, "the Spaceman" (may Sam Tyler, wherever he is, forgive me) calls Nettles out. Lee was a pretty good pitcher up until this point, but this may have been the effect of drugs on his brain.  (Lee has frequently expressed his liking of marijuana.) If you call Graig Nettles out, he's going to clobber you. He did. Yeah, it was a sucker punch, but then, Lee was a sucker.

The Sox won the game, 8-2, but lost the fight, only split that 4-game series, and were well back of the Yankees, who went on to win the Pennant. 

Sox fans like to say that Nettles ruined Lee, a great pitcher until then, but who never recovered. Actually, Lee was only a pretty good pitcher until then, and Lee did recover -- after yet another brilliant Sox trade, sending Lee to the Montreal Expos for Stan Papi.

July 25, 1976, Yankee Stadium.  Chris Chambliss turns a 5-3 Sox lead in the bottom of the 9th into a 6-5 Yankee win with a home run off Tom House -- known today as a pitching coach and as the man who, standing in the Atlanta Braves' bullpen, caught the ball Hank Aaron hit for his 715th career home run.  This was foreshadowing of the Pennant-winning walkoff Chambliss would hit against the Kansas City Royals less than 3 months later. 

June 18, 1977, Fenway Park. Jim Rice was a great power hitter, but was also slow as molasses. Yet Reggie Jackson misplays his looper, and Rice ends up on second base. Billy Martin pulls Reggie out of the game in mid-inning, and they end up shouting at each other in the dugout. Billy says something that ticks Reggie off, and Reggie tells Billy that all the alcohol he's has been ingesting has been getting into his brain.

How many Yankee catching legends turned coaches does it take to restrain Billy Martin? Two, apparently: Yogi Berra and Elston Howard. And the whole country sees this on the NBC Game of the Week. Red Sox 10, Yankees 4.

The Sox finish a series sweep the next day, and it takes several players, including Captain Thurman Munson and even Reggie himself -- who knows that Billy getting fired would be the worst thing for him, public-relations-wise -- to talk Yankee owner George Steinbrenner out of firing Billy.

June 24, 1977, Yankee Stadium. The Yanks need a win over these bastards. Bad. They trail in the bottom of the 9th. But Roy White, the senior Yankee at this point, knocks one out to send it to extra innings. In the bottom of the 11th, Reggie gets his first real chance to prove his clutch bona fides in New York, and singles home Nettles with the winning run. Yankees 6, Red Sox 5. This begins a Yank sweep, and the race is back on.

September 14, 1977, Yankee Stadium. The Yanks already won last night, and the Sox need this one badly if they want to win the Division.  This was the only way to make the Playoffs from 1969 to 1993 -- no Wild Cards.

Going into the bottom of the 9th, Ed Figueroa and Reggie Cleveland are both pitching shutouts. (Yes, kids, they both went the whole way.) Munson opens the inning with a single up the middle, and Reggie cranks one. Yankees 2, Red Sox 0. The Sox win the next night, but as soon as the ball left Reggie's bat on this night, the American League Eastern Division race was effectively over. After a very nasty year, Reggie had won over his teammates and the New York fans. I understand he did some hitting in the postseason, too.

This was Reggie's 2nd walkoff homer for the Yankees.  He wuold make it 4, but this was the only one against the Sox.

June 27, 1978, Yankee Stadium.  The Sox are flying. The Yanks are reeling and hurting.  The Yanks need a win, very badly.  Graig Nettles gives it to them, hitting a 2-run shot off Dick Drago to win it in the bottom of the 9th.  Ynakees 6, Red Sox 4.

July 4, 1978, Fenway Park. The Sox are still flying. The Yanks are still reeling and hurting. The Sox won last night.  The Yanks are desperate. And the game is rained out. This turns out to be tremendously important, as the game is rescheduled for September 7, the beginning of what will now be a 4-game series, instead of a 3-gamer.

This was also the day after NewsChannel 4's Dr. Frank Field predicted beautiful weather for the 4th of July, claiming it would be perfect for the beach, the boardwalk, and fireworks, and the rain that soaked New England also soaked the New York Tri-State Area. The only fireworks that day were on the NBC switchboard, from furious viewers, and Field shows up for the 6:00 news with a noose around his neck. It was meant as a joke. I think.

I was 8 years old, and so upset over the postponement of the fireworks at Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. Little did I know how much this would end up benefiting the Yankees...

September 7, 8, 9 and 10, 1978, Fenway Park. The Yanks got healthy and got hot, and had turned a 14-game deficit on July 20 into a 4-game deficit. (Little-known fact: The Sox actually led the AL East by 9 1/2 games at the time, ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers. The Orioles were 11 games back, and the Yanks were in 4th. So, while the Yankees gained 14 games, technically, the Sox "only" blew a 9 1/2-game lead.) Now it was the Sox were hurting and slumping, and their bench was to be tested. As the kids are saying these days, "Epic fail."

The first game was played on the night that Who drummer Keith Moon died from a drug overdose. Some Sox fans began to wish they could join him. Willie Randolph got 3 hits before Butch Hobson, the Sox' badly injured third baseman and Number 9 hitter, even came to bat. Yankees 15, Red Sox 3. The second game was a near-repeat performance, as Mickey Rivers got 3 hits before Hobson, elbow chips and all, could reach the plate. Yankees 13, Red Sox 2.

The 3rd game was another NBC Game of the Week, and it was each team's ace, Ron Guidry (having the greatest season any Yankee pitcher had ever had) against Dennis Eckersley (having the greatest season any Sox pitcher had between Jim Lonborg in '67 and Roger Clemens in '86). Sox fans were confident that all they had to do was take these last two games, and the Yanks would have wasted all those runs and hits for nothing. But the Yanks smacked the Eck around. Yankees 7, Red Sox 0. Someone wrote, "This is the first time a first-place team has been eliminated from the race." The next day, the Sox came close, getting the tying run to the plate late, but... Yankees 7, Red Sox 4.

Tied for first.  The defining image of the series is of Sox Captain and legend Carl Yastrzemski leaning against the scoreboard at the base of the Green Monster, head bowed, as if to say, "Please... I'll do anything you say... Just don't hurt us anymore... " (Sadly, I can't find a copy of that photo to put here.) An urban legend said that someone got on top of a bar somewhere in New England, and said, "The sons of bitches killed our grandfathers, they killed our fathers, and now they've come for us."

Except it wasn't over. In 1904 and 1949, it took 154 games to decide a Yanks-Sox race.  In 1977, it took 161 out of the 162 games.  This time, it would require a Game 163...

October 2, 1978, Fenway Park. I like to call it the Boston Tie Party. Red Sox fans like to call it something else. This game had so many twists and turns, and, with the possible exception of the 1951 Dodger-Giant Playoff (the Bobby Thomson Game), it has probably had more books written about it than any single game in the history of baseball. What can I say about this game that hasn't already been said? Nothing, so I'll simply say, "Bucky Blessed Dent." Destiny 5, Red Sox 4 -- that's what the headline in the Boston Herald-American said. Well, of course: "DESTINY" ends with "NY." The Yanks went on to win the World Series again.

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 40,000 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.

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 defending AL East Champions (and would barely be nipped by the Toronto Blue Jays at the end this time), while the Yankees had finished last the year before. Only 32,369 come out for this Memorial Day matinee between the two 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 first 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. My first live Yanks-Sox game. 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.

Part III to come.