"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: June 2003

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ROCKIN ON THE RADIO I

ROCKIN ON THE RADIO

I made my radio debut over the weekend, interviewing Jim Bouton about his new book “Foul Ball” for Baseball Prospectus Radio (hosted by Will Carroll). The interview should be archieved on BP’s website by the middle of the week. I’ll keep you posted so you can download it and check out the latest words of wisdom from Bouton, one of baseball’s most irreverent and compelling characters.

I was anxious about appearing on the radio, but we taped the conversation on Friday, and thanks to the miracle of modern editing, I’m sure I came across okay (I haven’t heard the final version yet). Will gave me some great tips which calmed my nerves, and quite frankly, Bouton makes a living as a motivational speaker, so he wasn’t exactly difficult to talk to. We spoke for close to 45 minutes and I believe Will cut it down to 18 minutes for the radio. The rest of the interview will appear here at Bronx Banter in a few weeks, just around the time Bouton returns to the Stadium for Old Timer’s Day (July 19th).

SWEPT AWAY After the Yankees

SWEPT AWAY

After the Yankees polished off the D-Rays with a 4-3 win Thursday afternoon (Giambi, and Mondi homered, Mussina picked up the win, and Mariano had an rough ninth inning, but notched the save), they returned home and took care of the Mets in convincing fashion, taking all four games over the weekend and sweeping the season series. But before they left Tampa, Lou Pinella threw a good tirade at one of the laziest players in the league, Ben Grieve, who struck out looking to end the game:

Grieve took a third strike from Yankees closer Mariano Rivera; Piniella was upset that Grieve didn’t question the call by umpire Wally Bell. ”I asked [Grieve] if the ball was high, and he says, `I thought it was high,’ ” Piniella said. ”I said, `Then why didn’t you say something?’ and he says, `It doesn’t matter.’ I said, `Well, what the hell do you mean it doesn’t matter? It matters to me, and it matters to everybody else.’ Rivera’s a tough pitcher; I’m not expecting anything. [But] I’m expecting if you think the ball is high to tell the umpire it’s high instead of walking off to the damn dugout. And then getting a response like that after we busted our [expletive] out there for nine innings trying to win a baseball game — it does matter! It matters to me and it matters to a lot of damn people in this clubhouse. And when it matters to everybody, we’ll start winning more [expletive] baseball games around here.” Grieve insisted he never used those words. ”He keeps yelling at me and yelling at me, and I’m like, wait a minute, Lou,” Grieve said. ”I’m saying [Bell] doesn’t care. I’m not saying that I don’t care. It’s one thing if he’s mad at me because I don’t show emotion and I don’t argue. But those words, `It doesn’t matter,’ make me look bad. And that’s not what I said.” Long before Piniella came to town, Grieve was criticized for being too laidback. ”I know exactly why he’s mad,” Grieve said. ”He was so frustrated about losing. And if he does think that I don’t care, then he does have a right to yell. But I’m up in the cage during the game taking 200 swings. If I didn’t care, I’d be in the dugout laughing or joking around or whatever. I’m able to care without showing emotion, which is something that obviously most people don’t do.”

David Wells was less than sharp on Friday night, but he was able to hang on for the “w.” He had several cursing fits which were worth the price of admission. The most memorable play of the night was when Jose Reyes slapped a ground ball to center field for a single and then turned on the jets and made it to second before Hideki Matsui could get the throw in (more bad words from Boomer). To be fair, Matusi didn’t exactly pull a Reggie on the play, although Reyes did his best Mickey Rivers immitation.

I missed the first game of the Bronx-Queens double-header on Saturday, but was pleased to hear that Godziller hit a grand slam and drove in five runs. Clemens pounded the Mets and got the win. I was able to watch the major league debut of Brandon Claussen on Saturday night however, and was duly impressed. The kid needs to see a barber even worse than Matsui, but he was cool, and composed and pitched very well.

Giambi and Matsui put together several excellent at bats against Tom Glavine, taking the outside pitch the other way. It was a sight for sore eyes, especially with the likes of Raul Mondesi and Juan Rivera in the line-up (Soriano and Jeter lead off the game with homers to right). Later that night, I was thinking how much better the Yankees will be when Bernie and (knock on wood) Nick Johnson return. Even if Johnson isn’t 100%, he is patient and isn’t going to give away at-bats.

The Mets made a dramatic comeback against the Yankees bullpen, but fell just short, and lost 9-8. Giambi’s solo homer proved to be the winning run. Joe Torre brought in Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning. With one out and the bases juiced, Raul Gonzalez hit a bases-clearing double but was caught off second base in no-man’s land when the throw came back to the infield. Soriano chucked the ball to third, but the throw was low and Enrique Wilson made a beautiful pick to save an error—and perhaps a run—and then threw to second to get Gonzalez. End of threat. End of game.

Last night, Jeff Weaver made an early mistake to Jeromy Burnitz who hit a three-run bomb off of him in the first inning. But he didn’t fall apart. Instead Al Leiter–who is having his worst year as a Met–was tagged in the third inning for three homers (Giambi, Matsui, Posada), and that was all the Bombers needed for a 5-3 victory and a season sweep of the Metropolitans.

Thank God it’s over. The Yanks have won 15-17, and are now at the half-way point of their season (51-30). They play three games against the O’s starting tonight, and then face the Bosox for the big holiday showdown this weekend.

CAN YOU HANDLE THE TRUTH?

CAN YOU HANDLE THE TRUTH?

Tom Verducci makes an accurate point about the Yankees in his latest column:

I think the more the Yankees squirm, the more they sink into quicksand — Jeff Weaver, Raul Mondesi, Ruben Sierra, Juan Acevedo . . . hardly the pillars to restore the grinder’s mentality the Yankees have lost. I might fear the Yanks’ money — will they blow away Vladimir Guerrero with a huge offer when he becomes a free agent in the offseason? — but I don’t fear their future.

SWEATIN’ Red Sox or not,

SWEATIN’

Red Sox or not, I want to take a moment to bow down to Nomar Garciaparra, who is having a tremendous month. I hope he never leaves the Sox; they deserve a great player like him.

Also, I want to sweat one of other my personal favorites, Carlito Delgado.

Oh, and a reader just informed me that Luis Sojo won’t be allowed on the bench during the season. Bummer for us. At least we know he’ll be chillin’ in the clubhouse.

ISSUES For some reason, blogger

ISSUES

For some reason, blogger has cut off the first half of my post today. If you click on the link at the bottom of the article however, you can find the whole thing. I would take a minute to kvetch about blogger, but why bother?

It’s well over 90 degrees in New York and I’m going out to Shea tonight to catch the kids—A. Heilman vs. Dontrelle Willis. Hope it’s a good one.

A LITTLE OF THIS AND

A LITTLE OF THIS AND A LITTLE OF THAT

The Yankees made a minor trade yesterday afternoon with the Indians. The Bombers get outfielder Karim Garcia—who was with the team last spring—and right-handed reliever Dan Miceli. Mike Thurman, and your boy Charles Gipson-who’d a thunk it?—were designated for assignment.

(Picked off three fuggin times. Pack your bags jelly legs.)

Garcia has been hurt, but he’s a better outfielder than Juan Rivera, Bubba or Ruben Ruben. He is a lefty who can hit with a little bit of pop too. The line on Miceli this year is 3.79 ERA in 35.2 innings. He’s got 37 strikeouts.

Can’t be worse than wack-ass Al Reyes—or Juan Acevedo, right?

And would you believe there is more. In the feel-good maneuver of the year, the Yankees have brought back one of the most popular Yankees of recent times—both in the clubhouse and with the public—none other than uncle Luis Sojo. I kid you not. Santa Clause is coming to town. And he’ll be traveling with the team for the duration.

At least we know some common sense still exists in the Yankee command. I’m not suggesting that Sojo will make the Yankees a better team, but he makes them a significantly more enjoyable and likable team. Just being able to watch his fat ass on the bench every night for the rest of the summer is going to be one of those small pleasures that make life worth living.

Luis was interviewed on the Yankee pre-game show last night and was asked where he was when the Yankees contacted him?

“In Mexico.”

Sojo has been hired as a “special assignment instructor” but he’s really being brought back to be Jose Cardinal, the coach/liason to the Latin players. He is berry chappy to be back with the Jankees, babies. And let me speak for Yankee fans everywhere when I say we’re happy to have him back. Even if the ol’ mule won’t be able to pick out a bat and pinch hit anymore—and don’t discount that happening at some point either—Luis is the luck rabbit’s foot the Yankees have been missing this year. Jeter isn’t really the Bomber’s lucky charm, it’s his fairy godfather, Luis Sojo.

When you think about it, Sojo should have been treated like Lou Pinella, and should have moved directly from player to coach. Why wait? The Yankees haven’t had a coach that could relate to the Latin players in a minute, and Joe Torre was frank in his pre-game interview when he said that they hope he’ll have a big influence on Soriano. We already know that Jeter adores him, Posada loves him. I’m sure Mel, Zim, Torre, Willie and Maz love him too.

Sojo described how many of his old teammates jumped all over him with excitement when he showed up in Tampa yesterday. Forget Uncle Buck, this is uncle Luis. It was great watching Luis being interviewed too (I love his big head, which looks like it came right out of the pages of Mad Magazine). In interviews, Luis follows the standard jock-speak formula, but some of his line readings are priceless. He’s not a pushover and not a clown, just a naturally funny man. Sojo, like Tim Raines, is a cut-up, the guys who help relieve the tension in a clubhouse. Or spark a little fire.

Meanwhile the Bombers walked all over the Rays 8-5 last night as Tampa issued twelve walks. Andy Pettitte was less than spectacular but he got the win. It’s funny, but Pettitte is one of the rare players who has been with the Yankees for a long time that I’ve grown to like less and less as time goes on. I’m sure it will feel weird if and when he goes to another team, and maybe then I’ll look back on his time with the Yanks with fondness, but I can’t remember an instance like this where I feel less loyal to a longtime Yankee.

Jason Giambi was in the line up despite a bruised wrist and Derek Jeter is starting to swing the bat much better.

Bernie Williams took batting practice with the team before the game, but the news on Nick Johnson isn’t as encouraging. Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus had this to say in his UTK column yesterday:

The fracture news isn’t as good for Nick Johnson. Johnson is expected back around the All-Star break, but there are whispers that the bone scan done on Johnson had very troubling results. Some Yankees officials think that Johnson should be dealt as soon as he looks healthy, making brittle Nick someone else’s health problem. (For the record, if I’m a GM, I’ll take that risk and buy low.)

I can’t say I’m surprised about the Johnson news, but I feel badly for the guy. I hope he can stay healthy enough to enjoy a somewhat productive career.

AS GOOD AS IT GETS

AS GOOD AS IT GETS

One of the greatest joys of being a baseball fan is that every season brings something new and exciting. How many times do you say, “Wow, I’ve never seen that before,” or “That was the best _____ I’ve ever seen?” Well, it usually happens several times each year. A few weeks ago my cousin told me that D. Erstad made a catch against the Mets—I missed it—that was clearly “the greatest catch I’ve ever seen.” And just this week, Rob Neyer made the following observation:

I’ve watched it a dozen times, frame by frame, just to make sure. And after those dozen times, I remain confident that I’ve never seen a pitch quite like the curveball with which Mike MacDougal struck out Albert Pujols on Sunday in the bottom of the ninth.

And you can’t beat that with a stickball bat.

HAPPY BOITDAY REDUX I

HAPPY BOITDAY REDUX

I guess George will have to stifle it for at least one more day. The birthday surprises didn’t end with Marlon Anderson last night, as Juan Rivera did him one better by tying the game with a three-run job of his own in the ninth. And Mr. Maligned, Todd Zeile came through with the game-winning hit to boot. Ah, me of little faith. A reader wrote in a suggested that I might want to root against the Yankees more often.

Larry Mehnken (Replacement Level Yankees Blog) hit the nail on the head:

An individual game can be both great and awful; full of excitement and joy, but at the same time frustration and forboding. For the poor teams, the former is what matters, but for a team like the Yankees, that is trying to win a pennant, it is the latter. Tonight, the Yankees won, and they won in exciting fashion, but the win was due more to the quality of their opponent, not their play. They did all they could to lose, and had it not been for the ineptness of Tampa Bay’s pitching staff, they likely would have.

HAPPY BOITDAY Marlon Anderson

HAPPY BOITDAY

Marlon Anderson just hit a grand slam off of Al Reyes to give the D-Rays an 8-6 lead over the Yanks in the bottom of the seventh inninng. Good grief. This is the icing on the gravy of an absolutely putrid effort by the Yanks. Oh dip, Robin Ventura just made an error and now the Rays lead 9-6. The Yanks had a 4-1 lead, and a 6-2 lead. Giambi had to leave the game early but they haven’t said why yet. All I know is that I’m starting to get sick every time I see Todd Zeile out there, which is a shame because he’s always seemed like a good enough guy.

Jeff Weaver was not terrific, neither was Chris Hammond and the Yanks are getting thoroughly humiliated tonight. This is one of those games where I feel so disgusted with the team that I’m rooting against them.

The Yankees had plenty of chances to blow the game open early, but they squandered several chances (12 men left on base thus far) and have set up for another lecture from their manager. George is not going to like this at all, and it is highly likely that he’ll erupt on a backpage near you with the quickness.

LEONARD KOPPETT DEAD The

LEONARD KOPPETT DEAD

The legendary baseball writer, Leonard Koppett died of a heart attack in San Francisco on Sunday. He was 79. Koppett’s book, “The Thinking Fan’s Guide to Baseball,” is on the short list of indespensable baseball reference books. If you don’t own it, do yourself a favor and track it down when you have a chance. Gary Huckaby of Baseball Prospectus had a brief appreciation of Koppett yesterday, and I will be on the look out for more tributes in the next couple of days.

I’m in the midst of doing research for the “Curt Flood” biography I’m writing for Young Adults, and Koppett, who covered Flood’s suit against MLB for both The New York Times and The Sporting News was one of the handful of journalists who were even-handed towards Flood’s case. He was from the old-”Elements of Style”-school, and his writing was clear, succinct, and clean.

He will be missed.

DOBY MOURNED There was

DOBY MOURNED

There was a memorial service for Larry Doby yesterday in Monclair, New Jersey. Yogi Berra, Bill White, and Joe Morgan all showed up. Harvey Aaraton , of the Times was there too:

“Tell me, tell me,” the young son bearing his father’s famous name used to say. “I want to know about when you played.”

Larry Doby Sr. would not give in to the wishes of his star-struck child. It was not his way. “I do not live in the past,” he would tell Larry Doby Jr. “I live for tomorrow.”

…In the age of intrusiveness, Doby was never much interested in baring his soul up close and personal, not even at home, for family archives.

“I wanted him to sit down in front of the camera, him and my mother,” Doby Jr., 45, said. “They didn’t want to do that. My father would say, ‘It’s in the history books.’ ”

…”He would say things like, ‘Early Wynn, I knew if he was pitching I was O.K. because if they knocked me down, then two of their guys were going down,’ ” Doby Jr. said. “I believe that he and Jackie Robinson – to us it was always Mr. Robinson – would talk about the good guys and the bad guys, but to everyone else, it was only about the good guys.”

I’ve been critical of the lack of interest in Doby’s legacy by scholars and the baseball community in general, but perhaps it all started with the man himself. It seems as if Doby wasn’t interested in promoting or rehashing his playing career.

Fay Vincent had a column about Doby on Sunday, and mentioned that Doby was a man who didn’t harbor any bitterness. I don’t buy it. Sure, he probably mellowed over the years, but I just think he chose to keep his feelings to himself. Remember the quotation I found from Sports Illustrated circa 1968:

“You know those junkyards along the highways in Jersey? Well they have scrap heaps just like that for athletes—most of them black. Black athletes are cattle. They’re raised, fed, sold and killed…Baseball moved me toward the front of the bus, and it let me ride there as long as I could run. And then it told me to get off at the back door.”

RAYS ROLLS OVER YANKS

RAYS ROLLS OVER YANKS

In a rematch of their classic pitching duel last week, Roger Clemens and Victor Zambrano weren’t exactly great last night, but they weren’t awful either. Clemens pitched seven innings and was effective. If it wasn’t for a scrub named Damian Rolls, Rocket would have been okay. But Rolls had the game of this life, hitting his first two homers of the year—as well as a double—off Rocket. It was enough to beat the Yanks, 4-2 .

Lil’ Soriano golfed the first pitch of the game a long way for another lead off homer. Sori has his flashy home run follow through down pat by now. Move over Manny, Sori’s got plenty of mustard on his hot dog. A little too much mustard for my liking—especially when the ball doesn’t sail out of the park for a home run. This kid could have ten triples per season if he busted his fat ass out of the box like Jeter does.

The Yankees are trying to keep the talented Soriano focused:

Torre and Soriano have been having frequent talks on a variety of topics, such as undisciplined at-bats, lack of concentration in the field and admiring fly balls he hits to see whether they are headed over the fence. These have been issues for Soriano for three years, and even as he has become one of the most dynamic players in baseball they remain issues.

…Reggie Jackson has been brought in to counsel Soriano about patience at the plate and, sources say, to deliver some subtle messages about lifestyle. There is concern that Soriano is partying too much.

“He takes criticism very well,” Torre said. “He understands where it’s coming from. We’re looking out for what’s best for him. We want him to make sure he is the kind of player he has the chance to be. … He needs to get the most out of [his ability].”

Speaking of mustard, how about Reggie is teaching Soriano patience at the plate? [Insert punchline here.]

Meanwhile, Bernie Williams joined the team for stretching yesterday. It sure was good to see him. According to the Times:


“Whenever I’m ready, I’ll know,” said Williams, who has been working out in Tampa, Fla. “The knee’s going to tell me, but I’m not going to push it.”

The Blue Jays stomped on the O’s, and Carlos Delgado had four RBI, giving him 80 for the season?!?!? Oh yeah, Vernon Wells now has 72 RBI himself. Tim Wakefield and the Sox beat the Tigers, and now the Yanks lead Toronto by one and the Sox by two.

WALK ON BY I

WALK ON BY

I went to the Mets-Yankees game last night with my girl and some of my closest friends. It’s the second Subway Serious game I’ve attended; I was at the Stadium when Clemens plunked Yazzie a couple of years back. We bundled up, and sat out in the left field bleachers. It was rainy and muddy, but fortunately for us, the rain stopped by the 5th or 6th inning and we didn’t get drenched. (Most New Yorkers are so water logged right now, our thoughts are soggy.) The fans were in fairly good spirits, but it wasn’t a playoff atmosphere despite the sellout crowd.

The game was close, familiar, yet agonizing for the Mets faithful. Where have we seen this before? It’s bad enough they have to deal with getting invaded with a militia of Yankee fans, but when Armando Benetiz came on to close the game in the ninth, there were more groans than cheers from the home crowd. They could sense something bad was going to happen. For his part, Benetiz—who may have been auditioning for the Bombers—didn’t disapoint as he walked the bases full and then walked pinch-hiter Jorge Posada on a 3-2 pitch with two outs, to blow the Mets one-run lead.

The Yankees took the lead in the 11th when G. Lloyd walked Charles Gipson on a full count pitch, and didn’t look back (Gipson, hero for a moment, reverted to form by getting picked off later in the inning—his third time this year by my count). Tom Glavine and David Wells started and both pitched resonably well. Glavine was struck with a liner off the bat of Derek Jeter and although he was pitching effectively left the game after only 66 pitches.

We didn’t get home until well after 1 am, but fortunately for us, it was worth losing the sleep. Many of the Mets fans cleared out after Benetiz blew the lead and the game went to extra innings. Perhaps they got a decent night’s sleep. Then again, maybe not.

For the lowdown on the everything Metropolitans, check Steve Keane’s Eddie Kranepool Society.

FRIDAY NIGHT AT THE

FRIDAY NIGHT AT THE FIGHTS; METS KO’D BY YANKS

Subway Serious 2003

The other day I saw that Jon Weisman over at Dodger Thoughts ran a play-by-play column of a Dodgers game and thought it was pretty cool. I stayed in last night on the count of I had to come in to work early this morning (Saturday), and gave it a try myself. While it required more concentration than I anticipated, here is the play-by-play of last night’s soggy Mets-Yankees game.

Steve Trachsel vs. Andy Pettitte.

Top of the First

Trashcan ahead of Sori 0-2. The count evens at 2. Soriano hit s a ground ball to Wiggie at third, 5-3. One out.

Jeter lines the first pitch (fastball) to right center, and it hangs long enough for Jeromy Burnitz get to it without a problem. Shinjo backs up the play nicely.

Giambi gets ahead, 2-0 and then he fouls off a fastball. Trashcan misses on two straight pitches and Giambi walks. Where have we seen this before?

Posada is so scrubby in the clean up roll. “You don’t see many catchers who are clean up hitters,” garbles Kiner. (Just wait until Bernie and Nicky get back.) Trashcan falls behind, 2-0. Fastball, inside corner for a strike, then Posada hits a grounder to Alomar’s left, but it isn’t hard, and Alomar makes the play easily, 4-3.

Bottom 1

Robbie, batting from the ride side, throws his bat out and snaps a double down the right field line. Now, we haven’t seen that in a while. Could this be a sign for the Mets?

Pettitte comes back and makes a couple of tough pitches to get Wiggenton looking for the first out of the inning.

Holy cow, Ruben Sierra is in left?!? Man, I can’t wait until Bernie gets back.

Jeromy Burnitz. On the 1-1 count, and Burnitz times a curveball, waits on hit and takes a good cut. But he just missed the pitch and fouls it back. Another big swing, another foul. Fastball inside corner, and Burnitz is down looking for out number two.

Here comes Cliff. I notice the umpire starting to woof off the TV audio and suddenly the cameras cut to the Mets dugout and Jeromy Burnitz comes into focus. All I caught the ump saying is, “That’s right. That’s right. That’ right. Get outta here.” (Later they played more of tape as the ump also said to Burnitz, “I see ya. I see ya Jimmy. That’s right “) Jimmy gets tossed. Burnitz comes out of the dugout, and Seo makes a mild attempt at holding Burnitz back. He goes nutty, comes back out on the field and pleads his case. The ump needs to chill out, what the hell is he so jumpy about? Throwing a guy out this early is pretty lame.

Floyd walks. 3-1. Pitch down the plate, called a ball.

Phillips. Breaking ball, low. Fastball, low and outside. Fastball, swung on and missed, 1-2. Fastball outside, ball 3. Outside ball four.

The bases are loaded.

Strike one, outside corner. Cutter low, swung on a missed, strike two. Wilson taps the next pitch to third. Ventura steps in, fields the ball, and makes a strong throw to first to end the inning.

Top of the second

Godzilla grounds out weakly to the right side.

Ruben laces a fastball into right. Joe McEwing, the new right fielder stumbles and then slips in right field. McEwing still all but had the ball hit him in the mitt, and he dropped it. Sierra cruises into second for a double. And Ruben’s cruising days are long over.

Trashcan gets ahead of Robin Ventura 1-2. On the 2-2 pitch, Ventura taps one of the right side. Phillips moves to his left to make the play, but Alomar calls him off and Phillips, on his knees, freezes. Good rookie. Alomar fields and tosses to Trashcan covering first for the out.

They walk Mondesi to get to Andy. One the 1-0 pitch Andy Pettitte takes one of the fattest swings I’ve seen in a while. Funny as hell. Way to go big fella, eat them Wheaties! He pops the next pitch up to Cliff Floyd in left to end in the inning.

Bottom 2

Pettitte falls being Shinji, 2-0. Shinji singles past Ventura, runner on first.

The kid. Reyes. Squares to bunt, curveball called strike one. Andy goes to first, and Shinjo gets back, but it’s closer than it should be. Reyes breaks his bat as the ball dribbles foul down the third base line. The head of the bat lands past Jeter in left field. Shinjo bounces off first as Pettitte throws a cutter low for ball one. Reyes slaps a high fastball foul. Another cutter, this one bounces in the dirt, 2-2. Reyes lines the next pitch into center, right at Matsui for the first out. Hit the ball pretty well. Gary Petitis stops Reyes for a word as he returns to the dugout, and we caught a partially blocked glance at the kid’s bright smile. He’s happy when he’s making outs.

Trashcan bunts Shinjo over to third for out number two. Andy bare hands the tapper for the out.

Pettitte’s 1-1 pitch is another cutter that bounces in the dirt. Alomar looks a little more confident. He takes a good swing at the next pitch and fouls off an outside fastball. On the next pitch Alomar waves at an inside breaking ball, a weak hack. Andy powers one by Alomar, who goes down swinging.

Top of the third

Sori hits the second pitch of the fame to the back wall of bullpen wall in left field. He absolutely creamolished it. Piazza worthy.

Then Jeter hits a high fastball a long way to center. Way back and out. The winds, blowing to left apparently, didn’t hurt Jeter there. Boy, that feels good. Yankees, 2-0.

And here comes the big guy. Trashcan falls behind 2-0. Strike. Breaking ball misses, ball three. Outside fastball, Giambi takes a big cut and swings through it. Then he fouls off an inside fastball. 2-2. Slices another fastball foul. Giambi stays alive fouling a breaking ball down low, off. Fastball grounded foul. Fastball up in the zone, fouled off. Giambi taking bit cuts and why not. So he fouls another pitch off. This time to the left side. He takes the next pitch, inside for ball four.

Posada pops the 1-2 pitch up to Reyes for the first out of the inning.

Matsui looks at a strike on the outside corner. Then looks at a strike on the inside corner. A lot of looking. He waves at the next pitch, a splitter outside and tailing. Two outs.

Trashcan looks better against the lefties. But he falls behind Ruben Sierra 3-1. Fastball, right down Broadway, and guess what? Sierra is old and he swings right through for strike two. Sierra pops the next pitch foul, off the third base side. Wiggenton has a beat on it and makes the cash, but Reyes eagerly knocks into him anyhow, hitting Wiggie in the face with his glove, and falling into him, as the two hit the wall. Wiggie is a tough, broad kid, and the diminutive Reyes gets up grinning.

I wonder if this isn’t the most important game he’s ever played, it could be the most rewarding. It’s the You-made-it game. The crowd is excitable and so is he. His enthusiasm is contagious.

Bottom 3

Wiggenton grounds out to Jeter.

McEwing inside-outs a fastball to the right side, and Giambi dives to his left and makes the play. Gets up and records the out.

It starts to rain in Queens. What did you expect?

Floyd lines a 1-2 pitch past Jeter into left for a single. It was a good pitch, tailing away, but Floyd was able to use his long arms to reach it. If he tried to pull it, he would be Hideki Matsui grounding out to second.

It is raining harder now. Here come the umbrellas.

Andy misses his spots against Phillips and is even over-throwing. But the count goes full before Phillips swings and misses at a cutter in the dirt.

Top of the Fourth

Ventura pounds an outside fastball to the wall in left center for a double.

Mondesi skies the first pitch to Shinjo in center field. Ventura tags from second and Shinji throws him out by fifteen feet. That play was even funnier than Pettitte’s swing.

Pettitte taps out to first.

Bottom 4

Vance Wilson pops out to second.

Ventura fields a slow hopper by Shinjo nicely and throws him out at first.

Curveball strike to Reyes. Reyes fouls the next pitch off the top of his left foot. The kid’s ankles look like matchsticks. Emergency swing, another tapper foul. Fastball, high and outside, check swing foul. High fastball, cut on and missed strike three. The pitcher will lead off the fifth.

Top 5

Sori swings at a breaking ball and fouls it off. It was not a strike. Fastball low, for a ball. Fastball outside and Soriano slams it to deep right center. McEwing and Shinjo leap for it at the wall, and Shinjo robs Sori of a homer. Got up pretty high, and snatched it. Just a few yards to the right of the 396 sign. Highlight reel stuff. That’ll make the paper in Tokyo tomorrow. Shinjo’s orange sweatbands make it even sweeter. It looks like he had a beat on it all the way.

Jeter grounds out to second.

Traschel comes back and strikes out Giambi. The crowd is back in it. Will the Mets rally?

Bottom of the Fifth

The rain is steady, but it isn’t too hard.

Trachsel looks at a ball, and then fouls off four straight pitches before looking at a curve. Traschel grabs his bat and starts to walk back to the dugout. Soriano steps in to take the round the horn throw, but the umpire does not signal strike three. Now, that’s the funniest play of the night. Two more pitches then he strikes out swinging.

Robbie bunts the first pitch foul, takes a ball, and then hits another foul to the left side. Alomar then grounds one past Ventura in the hole. Jeter fields but can’t get the ball out of his glove cleanly, double bumps and throws on a hop, late to first. Alomar slides safely, head first into the bag. A good throw gets Alomar easily.

Wiggenton smokes a fastball over Sierra’s head in left for a double. Alomar to third. Now the crowd is alive.

Here is Super Joe. Swings at a pitch low and out of the zone for strike one. He taps the next pitch to Ventura. Alomar stays put. Ventura’s throw is wide, but Giambi steps to his left, makes the catch and then tags Alomar-Olay!—for the out.

Floyd looks at a ball and then takes a lumberjack, jimmy jack cut and fouls the next pitch off. What a hack. That was the prettiest swing of the night. Curve ball gets Floyd leaning, and is called for strike two. Looked inside from here. Floyd taps the next pitch foul, and then pops out to Robin in foul territory. It looks like Ventura got showered with some beer from the stands.

So far, the Mets are all wet, but the game is still close, even if it doesn’t feel close.

Top 6

It’s now raining hard enough for them to call play.

Posada leads off. Taps one back to the mound on a check swing, and Traschel makes a solid one-handed play.

Matsui looks at a fastball high, then a forkball, low. More looking. He fouls the next pitch off, and then takes another splitter low for a ball. Trashcan paints the outside corner for strike two and then loses Matsui, on a fastball high and outside.

Sierra strikes out. Trachsel is overly concerned with Matsui leading off first.

Ventura swings through an off-speed pitch that hung up in the zone. Fastball low for a ball.

The rain is tapering off again and Traschel throws to first.

Then Traschel throws three straight balls and walks Ventura.

Mondesi grounds the first pitch to Wiggenton who steps on third for the last out.

Bottom of the Sixth

Jason Phillips grounds out to Soriano.

Vance Wilson takes a big cut at the 2-1 pitch and fouls it back. The Mets can’t get one to go. He then takes Pettitte’s 100th pitch of the night outside for a ball, before lining out to Mondesi in right.

Shinji works a full count and goes down swinging.

Top 7

Pettitte pop one to short center field. Reyes goes out, Shinji, calling him off, races in. Reyes dips out of the way at the last moment, but he blocks Shinji’s view momentarily and the center fielder makes the catch with his mitt facing towards the sky. Shinji gives the kid a knowing look, and smiles.

Soriano strikes out on a breaking ball in the dirt.

Jeter taps the 2-2 pitch to Wiggie at third, who double clutches for a split second; Jeter beats the throw.

Giambi and Traschel battle again, with the pitcher overly concerned with Jeter at first. On the 2-2 pitch, Jeter runs, as Trashcan paints the inside corner with a fastball and strikes out Giambi. Jason feels like he’s due. He’s had some good swings and has seen a lot of pitches: 5 in his first at bat, then 12 the next time, followed by 5 and 6.

Bottom of the Seventh

Reyes hits the ball sharply on one hop to Ventura, who is playing in on the grass at third. One out.

Jay Bell pinch hits for Traschel and whiffs.

Alomar grounds out weakly to Soriano.

Top 8

Our old friend, ‘Fat face’ David Weathers comes on to pitch for the Mets, and walks Posada to lead off the inning.

He falls behind Godzilla 2-0, and with Posada running, Matsui bounces a grounder up the middle for a single. First and third, no out.

That’s it for Weathers. How about another ex-Yankee? G. Lloyd, the lefty enters the game to face Sierra. Ruben grounds a double over the third base bag, Posada scores. Yanks 3-0. Charles Gipson comes in to pinch run for Sierra.

Ventura strikes out, and the Mets walk Mondesi to load the bases.

Bubba Trammell pinch hits for Pettitte and pops out.

Soriano whiffs.

Bottom of Eighth

Chris Hammonds comes in to pitch for the Yanks, and quickly strikes Wiggie out.

Super Joe grounds out to Jeter and then Cliff Floyd pops out to Giambi.

Top 9

Jeter leads off against Armando Benetiz and smacks a ground ball up the middle that ricochets off Benetiz’s leg. Jeter promptly steals second. Giambi works the count even at 2-2. On the 33rd pitch of the evening to Giambi, the slugger crushes on into the mezzanine section in right field. Oh man, did he ever pelt that one. You could feel it brewing all night. What a bomb.

Posada walks. Matsui taps out to Alomar. Gipson does the same. Posada is now on third. Ventura grounds out to third.

Bottom of the Ninth

Jason Anderson now on for the Yanks. Jason Phillips singles to right; Vance Wilson singles to left. That’s it for Anderson. Enter Mariano. Tony Clark is the pinch hitter and he goes down looking on three pitches.

Jose Reyes shatters his bat and his a slow grounder to Soriano, who goes to second for the force. Runners at the corners.

Timo Perez, pinch hitting grounds out to Ventura to end the game.

Yanks 5, Mets 0.

Is anyone still awake? Well, the Mets felt as if they were sleeping for the last half of the game too.

Mike Mussina goes against Tom Glavine, weather-permitting, today at 1.

ARE YOU SERIOUS? Another

ARE YOU SERIOUS?

Another year, another Subway Serious. The Yanks open a three-game set at Shea tonight, but what with all the rain we’ve been getting here in New York, it’s hard to figure if they’ll get all of the games in (we could be looking at some day-at-Shea, night-in-the-BX-double headers next weekend). What we do know is that Jeff Weaver won’t be pitching tomorrow because yesterday’s game was called off. That sure was curious because it rained a whole lot more last Friday when Rocket Clemens pitched against the Cards. What gives? Lee Sinins hits the nail on the head when he writes:

Yesterday’s Devil Rays-Yankees game was called, not because of rain, but due to the Yankees not wanting to play.

There was minimal rain, which stopped right after the game was called. I live about 45 or so minutes from Yankee Stadium and the weather here is always the same as it is there. I went out around the time when the game was called and I actually got wetter the previous day when I accidentally spilled some water on my socks while I was bringing it to the microwave to make coffee. While the Yankees claim the weather reports said the weather was going to be really bad during the afternoon, (1) the team is not known for getting bad weather reports and (2) the Yankees have proudly boasted of having a state of art drainage system that they claim means games only have to be called in the most extreme situations.

So, why was the game called? The Yankees didn’t want Jeff Weaver to have to pitch against the Mets. By calling yesterday’s game, Andy Pettitte (who’s having a terrible season himself) gets moved into today’s start and Weaver gets to be skipped.

This isn’t the first time the Yankees have done this, so it would be silly for us to assume they aren’t going to go it again in the future.

For pulling a stunt like this, yesterday’s game should have been forfeited to the Devil Rays.

Jeff Weaver might get to pitch this weekend after all, because Antonio Osuna has been placed on the DL again with a strained groin. Andy Pettitte will pitch tonight against Steve Traschel. (Excited yet?) Mike Mussina squares off against Tom Glavine tomorrow and Mr. Seo goes against Boomer on Sunday night. Once again, the pressure is squarely on the Yankees because they are the better team. The Mets? They really having nothing to lose. Yankee fans get to worry about losing to a last place team and getting abused for it, while Mets fans may expect to lose and take the abuse that they are all too familiar with. However if the Mets take two-of-three, let alone a sweep the Yanks, many Mets fans will act like their team has won the World Serious. The last thing Joe Torre wants to deal with losing to the Mets and facing his Boss.

What really marks the ‘rivalry’ this year is just how many faces have changed for the Metroplitans.

It’s hard for me to get up for these games. Like most Yankee fans I just don’t want the Bombers to lose the series (no team has ever swept a series). But I don’t derive any special pleasure when the Yanks beat the Mets, nor do I get up for talking trash with Mets fans. I just hope it’s over as quickly and painlessly as possible. Who knows, maybe we’ll get a couple of good games out of it. Maybe Reyes or Soriano will do something exciting. But I’m expecting a whole lot of rain, and a whole lot of mud.

On that upbeat note, I hope everybody has a great weekend.

REMEMBERING DOBY Bill Madden

REMEMBERING DOBY

Bill Madden , Dave Anderson and Terry Pluto all have appreciations of Larry Doby in the papers this morning. The New York guys note Doby’s friendship with Yogi Berra:

“I lost my pal,” Berra said, his eyes watery. “I knew this was coming, but even so, you’re never ready for it. I’d call him and he’d say he didn’t feel like talking, so I knew then it was bad.”

…”Other than (Indians second baseman) Joe Gordon, who befriended me right away, I felt very alone,” Doby said. “Nobody really talked to me. The guy who probably talked to me most back then was Yogi, every time I’d go to bat against the Yankees. I thought that was real nice, but after awhile I got tired of him asking me how my family was when I was trying to concentrate up there.”

“I know at least one time I didn’t interrupt his concentration,” Berra recalled now with a smile. “The time he hit that homer to center field in the old Yankee Stadium. He was the first guy to ever hit one there.”

Actually, according to research, the homer Doby hit over the 430-foot sign in the old Yankee Stadium off the Yankees’ Bob Porterfield in May of 1949 was the second recorded to have hit that spot. Lou Gehrig also hit one there off Grover Cleveland Alexander in the 1928 World Series.

“All I know,” said Berra, “is that I called the pitch and it was the wrong one.”

Compared with Jackie Robinson, Doby is often seen as reserved, and shy, but that didn’t mean he didn’t have feelings—even bitterness, about the racism he and the other black and latin players endured in baseball. Here is a quote that I found from a 1968 Sports Illustrated article about race and sports:

“You know those junkyards along the highways in Jersey? Well they have scrap heaps just like that for athletes—most of them black. Black athletes are cattle. They’re raised, fed, sold and killed…Baseball moved me toward the front of the bus, and it let me ride there as long as I could run. And then it told me to get off at the back door.”

MOVIN ON UP Ed

MOVIN ON UP

Ed Cossette’s Bambino’s Curse blog has been promoted to the big leagues. Ed’s blog is now being hosted by Fox, which means that Ed is officially bonafide (although anyone who has read BC already knows that). It couldn’t happen to a better, or more deserving guy, and that’s the triple truth (Ruth).

BETTER THAN EVER? Joe

BETTER THAN EVER?

Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus is one of my favorite baseball writers, and not just because he roots for the Yankees, or because he was born in the Bronx, and raised in Manhattan. Sheehan is an even-handed yet forceful and convincing writer and he’s one of several reasons why Prospectus is worth the price of admission. Yesterday, Joe had a terrific piece on pitchers’ workloads that is definitive and should not be missed. Plus, it’s free, so everyone can check it out.

Don’t sleep, it’s a real treat.

HEY AL… There is

HEY AL…

There is a good write up on Alfonso Soriano and Albert Pujols over at The New York Yankees Report . In case anyone thought that Sori is in the same league as Albert, think twice, man. Soriano is a treat to watch, and a real marvel, but Pujols is nothing short of great. I linked several articles on Pujols the other day which appeared on ESPN. Here is what some of Albert’s teammates have to say about him:

Matt Morris: “In Boston the other day, a lefty goes 3-0 on him, three pitches that weren’t even close. The fourth pitch is a ball, too, up and way away, and he crushes it the other way. It’s just unbelievable what he does. His body isn’t moving all over. He makes his adjustment, throws his hands at the pitch and slams it with a real short stroke.”

Hitting coach Mitchell Page: “His mind is way above his ability. Guys might have all the tools in the world, but they don’t have the mind this guy has. He helps me out, with the other players. The guy has three years in the big leagues and he’s saying things that people listen to. If it was Rod Carew after 15-20 years, that’s one thing. But when Albert talks, people listen.”

Scott Rolen: “The pitcher usually controls the at-bat, and the hitter has to make the adjustments. But Albert controls the at-bat. The pitcher has to find a way to get him out, to trick him. You can’t just come in and then go away, ’cause he’s gonna hammer it. You can’t go up and down, ’cause he’s gonna hammer it. You’d better throw three good pitches.”

…During a 13-game homestand from May 26-June 8 he went 26-for-57 (.456). Near the end of that stretch was a bases-clearing double against Orioles closer Jorge Julio that won the game 8-6. “It was a 97-, 98-mile-an-hour fastball on the inside corner, and he smokes it down the line,” Rolen said. “He shouldn’t be able to do that with that pitch. But he pulled his hands in with an incredible knowledge of where the bat head was. He has so much confidence in his swing and his approach at the plate, he had the confidence to stay with the ball and rope it like that.”

WHO KNEW NUMBER TWO?

WHO KNEW NUMBER TWO?

Larry Doby, the first African American in the 20th century to play in the American League, passed away yesterday at his home in New Jersey. He was 78. Doby was signed by Bill Veeck to play for the Indians just three months after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the National League. Doby was a major contributor to the Indians last championship season (1948) and went on to enjoy a career that would eventually get him elected to the Hall of Fame. Doby was also the second black manager in the big leagues (hired by Veeck once again).

Unfortunately, Doby’s is most remembered for being number two. The second guy. Who cares about second place? This is particularly upsetting when you consider the fact that Doby had to face the same brutal racism that Robinson encountered:

Before Doby’s election to the Hall, Willie Mays said: “Don’t forget Larry Doby. From what I hear, Jackie had Pee Wee Reese and Gil Hodges and Ralph Branca, but Larry didn’t have anybody.”

…”There’s something in the Bible that says you should forgive and forget,” Doby told the New York Post in 1999. “Well, you might forgive. But boy, it is tough to forget.”

…”The only difference was that Jackie Robinson got all the publicity,” Doby later said. “You didn’t hear much about what I was going through because the media didn’t want to repeat the same story.”

There was, of course, a lot that separated Robinson and Doby. Doby, was younger when he came to the majors, and was a withdrawn and sensitive guy, while Robinson was a tour de force, a dynamo. But what is inexplicable—even inexcusable—is how the press and the public have slighted Doby over the years. Earlier this year, I spoke with the filmmaker Ken Burns about Doby:

Bronx Banter: Jackie Robinson was a fitting choice as the hero of the “Baseball” series. Without taking anything away from his greatness, what about Larry Doby? He was the first black player in the American League. I don’t mean to single you out on this, but how come Doby has been so over looked, even neglected, by history?

KB: That’s one of those situations where when you are not the first, you get forgotten. It’s the John Adams syndrome. So maybe it’s going to take somebody of David McCollough’s caliber to rescue the Larry Doby’s of the world. The guys who end up in second.

BB: Nice guys finish last, right?

KB: That doesn’t make him any less courageous or any less heroic, it’s just that we focused our attention on the heroism and courage of Jackie Robinson, and that’s what we endow with all the symbolic importance that Jackie Robinson has for us.

BB: So it was more of an aesthetic choice rather than just saying, ‘Oh, Doby’s story just isn’t all that interesting.’

KB: It’s just a question of first, it’s not even a question of aesthetics. It’s just Jackie was first, and Jackie also happened to display this incredible courage and heroics and really wore it. And Doby, of course, had to go through much of the same thing, it’s just because our attention was on Jackie, we didn’t have the time to do Doby as well.

Here is a comment from a fan named Philippe that I came across in the Baseball Primer Clutch Hits chat room:

I’d just want to shed some light on the little-known role played by the Montreal Expos in bringing Larry Doby back to the limelight. After his major league career ended, Doby went to Japan for a couple of seasons and then was out of baseball altogether, although the Johnson administration did give him a job on the National Council on Physical Fitness. His main source of income was a liquor store he operated in in New Jersey, however.

The Expos hired Doby shortly after they were granted an expansion franchise in 1968. He was at first a scout and minor league instructor, but in 1971 he became the full-time hitting coach, staying until the end of the 1973 season. He coached in Cleveland in 1974 then was brought back to Montreal to be Karl Kuehl’s bench coach in 1976 (not something to gloat about in your resume), which led to his hiring by the White Sox when the Expos cleaned house after Kuehl’s firing.

And of course, one major league player, catcher Larry Doby Johnson, is named after him.

Rest in peace, Larry Doby. You have left good memories everywhere you have been.

Amen to that.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver