I arrived at Yankee Stadium at 9:30 on Saturday morning and left shortly after 4. The Yankees were trailing the Blue Jays 3-2 at the time. I took a gypsy cab back to my apartment, took a shower, and hung out with Emily for about a half-an-hour. I saw the Yankees score four runs in the bottom of the sixth, highlighted by Alex Rodriguez’s two-run, bases loaded double. Then I saw them give it back in the top of the seventh as the Jays hit pay dirt with a flurry of bloop hits. Kyle Farnsworth was looming. I was Audi 5000.
I was off to a cocktail party that kicked off the Jose Feliciano/Bernie Williams concert at the Utopia Loews Paradise Theater on the Grand Concourse. In truth, I was going to see Ray Negron and the short play he was putting on to start the show. Negron is a special advisor to George Steinbrenner who wrote a children’s book last year, “The Boy of Steel.” He recruited Cathy Moriarty, Jose Guzman, Michael Kay, Scott Clark and Darryl Strawberry to appear in the show. Ray has been a bat boy, Reggie Jackson’s gopher, an actor, an agent–he’s just about done everything, and he’s hustled a career for himself in the game. He takes sick kids on his own personal Stadium tour, he translates for the young Spanish ballplayers with little Enlgish, like Melky Cabrera. Ray seems to know everybody and he’s always on the move.
I waited twenty minutes for the wack-ass BX 1 bus, called Em and said, “Did he give up any runs yet?” “Yes, two.” Farnsworth! I figured as much. I couldn’t wait any longer so I hopped in another gypsy cab. My driver didn’t speak a lick of English but he had the game on. I tried to discern what was happening but couldn’t make out who was up or what was going on. So the driver changed the station to WABC where NY Post columnist Joel Sherman was sitting in for S. Waldman. Just as we arrived on the Grand Concourse, Melky Cabrera slapped a two-out, two-run single to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth. Cabrera had entered the game in a 3-38 slump.
Fifteen minutes later, I was sitting in the balcony of the Upotia paradise talking to a woman who used to come to theater as a kid. The Loews Paradise is a lavish, ornate throwback to the grand old movie houses that existed when my dad was a kid in New York. It’s the Bronx’s answer to Radio City Music Hall. I can safely say I’ve never seen anything like it. I truly felt as if I was in another era.
A kid working the door suddenly announced, “A Rod got a double, he’s on second with two out, Matsui is up.” Moments later he shook his head and removed his earphones. Matsui made the third out.
I walked upstairs, marvelling at the old relic of a building, and overheard Darryl Strawberry talking to reporters. I called my wife. “What’s going on?” “One man out, one man on, Karstens is pitching.” I asked her to announce the at-bat to me. Which she did happily, but without much flair. I had to keep reminding her to tell me what was happening. “Oh, those pesky Blue Jays,” she said. I agreed that Blue Jays are indeed a pain in the neck. Then my wife started telling me a story she read in the new National Geographic about how woodpeckers don’t get headaches. There were now two outs and I patiently listened to Emily’s anecdote and then asked what it had to do with the game. “Oh, well, we were talking about how nasty Blue Jays are and that got me to thinking about the Cardinals, and birds, and then woodpeckers.”
Right, honey. What’s happening? “He got the third out.”
“I love you, I’ll call you back.”
When I did call again, less than ten minutes later, I was standing outside of the theater, with a good-sized crowd of people. It was hot and unseasonably humid. “They won,” my wife said. “Melkowitz got the winning hit.”
Yanks 12, Jays 11. Gametime: five hours.
I got off the phone and a few minutes later saw Ray rushing to his car. It was almost 8 o’clock. “Ray, where are you going?” I called out. “I have to go down and translate for Melky.” Ten minutes before his show and he’s got to go to work. (Ray was back in less than twenty minutes. “Three questions, that’s all,” he told me later.)
Melky also had an assist to end the top of the 10th inning. A banner day for the Yankee center fielder. Oh, and with four hits (two doubles), and three RBI, it was a nice afternoon for Alex Rodriguez too. Matsui and Posada each had three hits, Derek Jeter added two. After losing a close one on Friday night, this was an enormous win for the Yankees. It was a strange game, with a lot of lead changes, another long game. But a necessary win for the Yankees, what with McGowan and Burnett pitching the next two days. Even better, the Tigers lost tonight, cutting the Yankees’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot down to three, which as everybody knows, is the magic number.