"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Howe Come (Bernie)?

The news of Steve Howe’s unpleasant death hovered over Friday night’s game, didn’t it? Michael Kay didn’t exactly go out of his way to say anything flattering about Howe, who was probably a real hard-on to a guy like Kay in the clubhouse. Or any repoter, for that matter. Joel Sherman was on Channel Nine later on and he too painted Howe as this hyper-active, amped-up nut. I’m sure this is was true–that Howe was what the Brits call the “c” word to the writers. But he was evidentally appreciated by some of his teammates, including none other than Gentle Ben, Bernie Williams. According to Filip Bondy in the Daily News:

He didn’t always tell people the truth, and that probably included himself. But Howe made memories in New York, was a real character with real character flaws. Bernie Williams talked yesterday about exactly that – how Howe was wacky in the clubhouse, dead serious on the mound.

“He’d do anything for his teammates,” Williams said. “He tried to keep us loose in the clubhouse. He was a prankster. He took me under his wing.”

It is hard to imagine how a wild personality like Howe would be something of a mentor for a steady, straight-arrow star like Williams. But Howe was like that. He could be extremely helpful, amiable. He also just happened to be in trouble, almost all the time.

Great to hear that Howe played the mentor to Bernie. That is a great pairing to imagine, right? I never really disliked Howe, who was an effective part of those Buck Showalter-Stick Michael rebuilding teams. Talk about a presence. Howe came across like one of those nutzo spaz performances by James Woods, or the guy Mel Gibson played in “Lethal Weapon.” But had more of a Jim Bouton-square face. He was uncomfortably wound-up. All sweaty and on-the-edge, ready to burst. I don’t think he was altogether unappealing, but man was he volatile. If he didn’t like you it must have been brutal. It’s nice to know he had an warm side. Howe is possibly hilarious from a distance, but if you found Howe amusing at all, it is because you enjoy laughing nervously. Or if you liked Howe it is also because you probably just sympathized with his kind of schlimazzel. But as troubled as he was, he left Yankee fans with compelling memories, on and off the field. It’s too bad that his story ended sadly, but it sure doesn’t come as a surprise.

My Man (and my Woman)

Emily was on jury duty for the last half of the week, just up the street from Yankee Stadium. At lunch, she’d stroll down 161rst street, from the Grand Concourse down to the Stadium and check out the shops on the street. When I got home last night she had a gift waiting. A Bernie Williams t-shirt—dark navy blue with the NY logo on the left breast in the front, and the number 51 and “Willams” on the back. I had a hunch she’d be up to something, but it was great when I saw it there on the bed. Actually, I thought it was going to be a Mariano shirt, cause I had been telling her how even though Mo is my favorite Yankee other than Bernie, I’ve never had a Mariano shirt. For no special reason either. I had a Bernie t-shirt for years when I lived in Brooklyn, probably from ’96 through 2000, something like that. I’ve still got an El Duque t-shirt, and a Reggie one and a Gator one too. I like the t-shirts better than the jerseys, cause they are lighter and just more comfortable to wear. Plus, I just love that Yankee navy blue.

Em thought said it was hard to find Mariano and Bernie shirts. Said there were tons of Damon and Jeter and A Rod, Matsui, Sheff, Cano and Johnson. Said there were tons of Tino Martinez shirts and jerseys too. But not so much Mo and definitely not a lot of Bernie. So she figured that since Mo will be around a little while longer, I should have Bernie’s shirt instead. How cool is she, yo?

So of couse, I was rocking my new shirt when Bernie belted that homer last night. That was sweet, especially because he looked overmatched in his other plate appearances. And Bernie knew it was gone the moment he hit it too, didn’t he? That was great to me. I don’t remember the count, but it was like 2-2 or something like that. Bernie was hitting from the right side, his natural side, got a fat pitch, hit it on the sweet spot of the bat and it took off to dead center. Bernie’s immediate reaction was a little gesture that said, “Good-bye.” He knew it was gone.

How many more times in his big league career will Bernie feel that terrific feeling again? You know, the sensation that most of us still dream about, that of hitting a major league pitch on the sweet spot and belting it for a home run. The better-than-sex-baseball-feeling of virility and power. Pros feel it all the time when they are young–heck look at Ty Wigginton and Johnny Gomes. Bernie’s only got a handful of those times left. First, how many more fat mistake pitches will he get? And then, how many of them will he manage to get a hold of? Hope I get to see all of ’em, cause Williams has had his share of monster hits for the Yanks over the years and it’d be a pleasure if he had a few more.

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