I stayed late at work last night and then strolled down to Murray Hill to see an old friend. Actually, he’s a former boss. I loaned him a book years ago and recently was overcome with the urge to get it back. I followed the Cubs game on Gameday and was thoroughly upset for my labelmates Ruz, Will and Alex C when those not-so-lovable losers found a way to sperl a gem by Mark Prior. It was a pleasant autumn evening in New York, not quite chilly yet, but cool enough to need a jacket. I hadn’t been in Murray Hill for a minute, and there a lot more restaurants and bars along 3rd avenue in the 30′s than I remembered. Almost each one of them had a series of big-screen televisions, all showing the Yankees-Twins game. (As I passed by, the Twins were up 1-0.)
I hadn’t seem my erstwhile employer in a few years and was taken aback when he greeted me at the door. He was wearing a t-shirt and jeans and wore a light green bandana on his head. His head was shaved. The reason this was striking is because he usually sports a head of big hair. “Nice doo,” I told him. “Yeah, well, it’s a long story.” “Jesus. You have cancer.” “Yeah. I think I’m in the clear now, but it was a bad summer. Yeah, a really bad summer.” This coming from a guy who doesn’t ever complain. “God, are you really pissed?” “Yeah, I’m filled with rage.”
He invited me in and he found my book, “The Faulkner-Cowley Letters.” We chatted for about twenty minutes, catching up. He was as aimable as always. He isn’t the sort of guy to delve into his personal problems, so our conversation was light. How is so-and-so, what are you working on, my brother has a kid, that kind of thing. He looked good all considering. And though he isn’t so much of a baseball fan, yet I could hear the game on the TV in the other room. His ten-year old kid was in his pjs getting ready to watch the debate. I left hungry, but pleased that I finally had my book back. I passed by the bars and the score was now 2-0, Twins.
By the time I got home the lead had changed hands several times. Emily was sitting on the couch sorting through some bills. I had time to take my jacket off and then Godziller Matsui tied the game with his 31rst dinger of the season. I settled in, watched the home plate ump upset both teams with questionable strike calls and finished a quick dinner. After Matsui walked with one-out in the bottom of the ninth I turned to Em and said, “Wouldn’t it be fitting if Bernie ended it right here?”
Then he did just that, smacking a line-drive homer over the left-centerfield fence. Alex Rodriguez and Kenny Lofton were the first teammates to grab him as he approached home plate. Derek Jeter was next. The team celebrated, having clinched the American League East once again. Williams’ homer set the team record for long balls in a season by a Yankee team (241). It was the 100th win of the year for New York. I thought that it would have been cool to be walking past those bars down in Murray Hill, just to feel the excitement in the air. But truth be told, I was content right where I was: at home, with my girl, where I’ve been all season.
While the Yanks swept the Twins, Minnie will be a formidable foe should the two teams meet up again next week. The Yankees won’t sleep on them, not with Santana pitching, not with their bullpen. Still, it last night was a good night in the Bronx. The team celebrated in a tempered manner. They weren’t business-like or morose; they were smiling and happy. Emily enjoyed watching the locker room interviews. I am too spoiled by the team’s success to get too excited about a division-clinching celebration. To be honest, I also started thinking about my friend having cancer. Our conversation was so casual, so typical, that it was easy for me to forget the seriousness of his condition, even if his diagnosis looked good.
I woke up in the middle of the night and thought about him for a good while. Then I tried to distract myself with the Yankees, the memory of Bernie rounding the bases. It’s been another terrific year for us Yankee fans, no matter how much we worry about how the team is lacking, no matter what happens in the playoffs. As the fans celebrated the win, the YES cameras showed a woman in the stands who held up a hand-written sign which read, “Thanks Yanks.”
Amen to that.