"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: September 2008

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There’s No Place Like Home

Brian Cashman has agreed to a three-year deal to stay with the Yankees.  Newsday has the scoop. 


He’s part of the Family and in the end, Cash didn’t want to leave New York.  Can you blame him?  After all, if you can make it here you can make it anywhere like the song says.  Leaving the big team in the big city and you end up something like Ray Liotta eating spaghetti with ketchup at the end of Good Fellas somewhere in Schnooksville, USA, right?  For better or worse, I’m happy that he’s staying…Money, Money…Cash Money.

Got to like the fact that Cash doesn’t mince around.  He gets right to it.

Postseason Previews

I had been planning to preview the various playoff series here at Banter, but I got a call from Sports Illustrated the other day asking me to pen a daily preview column for them on SI.com. So, starting today, you can find my previews of each day’s playoff action over on SI.com’s main baseball page. Today I discuss the heavy home-field advantage the White Sox will enjoy in tonight’s AL Central playoff. Tomorrow, I’ll have previews up for the three scheduled Division Series openers, and so forth on a daily basis. Giver ‘er a look-see and feel free to send me feedback via email (since there are no comments over there).

Gettin Ready for the Hot Stove

Man, I stumbled all over myself in this one. I nailed the first take and then botched the second one. Not that I had anything so revealing to say in the first place…I wish I knew what the Yanks’ll do this winter. One thing is for sure, it won’t be dull. Anyhow, that’s a wrap on the show for now. It’ll be back a couple of times a week during the Hot Stove League:

Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory #23

By Jay Jaffe

The first time Alex asked me to jot down a few thoughts regarding my favorite Yankee Stadium memory for the purposes of this space several months back, a veritable flood of recollections washed over me, things I’d witnessed firsthand at the majestic ballpark over the past 13 years, from the historic to the mundane. Having spent the past eight seasons documenting my time at the ballpark via my Futility Infielder website, I scarcely needed to review my notes except to pluck a few dates for a quick laundry list of memories to share.

But a funny thing happened on the way to delivering this piece, namely the most disheartening season the Yankees have had in a decade and a half. Not only have the cracks in the facade of the team’s roster and player development system been exposed — inevitabilities in the life cycle of even the most championship-laden franchises — but we fans have been struck with reminders of the current stadium’s gradual devolution into a less-than-hospitable venue. The ridiculous sunscreen flap atop the long-settled, none-too-accommodating umbrella and backpack bans, the heavy-handed security forces and the odious and completely un-American "God Bless America" fiasco all serve as reminders of the Steinbrenner family’s overzealous, misguided strategy to maintain the stadium in a post-September 11 world. Furthermore, with a cry of "wait ’til next year" the inevitable outcome of this season of discontent, we’re left to an uncomfortable reckoning with the new ballpark, the ugly back story of its fuzzy math and the gross inflation that will price many of us longtime fans out of the cherished ritual of regular attendance.

Suffice it to say that — for this fan at least — there’s been a mounting pile of baggage blocking the entrance to what the great writer Roger Angell termed "The Interior Stadium", the grand ballpark where each fan has a season ticket to relive the indelible, treasured memories of what we’ve witnessed. A mounting pile, but weighed against the some 130 games I’ve attended at the House That Ruth Built, not an insurmountable one. So having scaled Mount Samsonite, I’m ready to hand over my ticket and commence playing ball.

In the course of attending all of those games at Yankee Stadium II, I’ve come to appreciate the park’s spartan pleasures. I love the way contains the famous reminders of its old history — Monument Park, the white frieze, the flagpole in what used to be the center field patrolled by DiMaggio and Mantle, with the park’s original dimensions preserved by the wall behind it, the black batter’s eye where only the chosen few have reached with their towering blasts — and the portents of its own obsolescence, the narrow concourses, meager amenities, and fatal lack of luxury boxes. As limiting as that latter set is, it’s also been part of the park’s charm, at least to me. If you go to Yankee Stadium, you’re there to see a ballgame, nothing more and nothing less. No fountains, waterfalls, kiddie pools, mascots, slides, or other diversions. Compared to the modern mallparks, the center field public address system is much less intrusive, even when the hated "Cotton-Eyed Joe" blares. What follows here is not one favorite memory of Yankee Stadium, but a subjective top 10 whose glaring omissions might have me rethinking this list the moment after it’s published:

10. My first trip to the ballpark back in 1996, an epic August afternoon where the Yankees and Mariners squared off in a slugfest that went 12 innings and lasted nearly five hours, finishing long after my brother, Bryan, and I had gone home. It was just my second trip to a big-league ballpark (Fenway had been my first back in 1989), and though there were "only" some 44,000 in attendance, the raucous crowd and grand scale of Yankee Stadium made for a sensory overload that overwhelmed me in the summer heat. This marked the beginning of a ritual Bryan and I developed of attending Yankees-Mariners games, one that lasted eight or years before he moved across the country… to Seattle.

9. The time my roommate, Issa, almost caught a foul ball at the Stadium in a game against the Mariners in 1999. Along with Bryan, he and I were sitting in the front row of the Tier Box on the third base side when switch-hitting David Segui came to bat. Batting left-handed, Segui fouled one off, and as I looked at the baseball spinning against the overcast sky, I judged a fly ball correctly for possibly the first time in my life. "That’s yours," I told Issa, who was on the aisle seat. He is a soccer player, with no baseball experience whatsoever. The ball indeed came right into his hands, but rather than cradling it, he lunged at it, knocking it over the railing. With a grimace and a shrug, he slumped back into his seat as what felt like the entire crowd of 41,000 fans showered him with boos.


Sun Rise, Sun Sets

Steven Goldman’s final column for the New York Sun is about Pedro Martinez and Mike Mussina:

Mussina reached the majors in 1991. Martinez received a cup of coffee the following year. Both excelled in their first full seasons, though Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, in his dotage, put Martinez in the bullpen for a season before trading him for Delino DeShields, one of the worst swaps of all time. Simultaneously, Mussina was going 18-5 with a 2.54 ERA for the 1992 Orioles, helping that franchise improve its record by 22 wins over the previous season. He finished fourth in the Cy Young voting that year.

Mussina quickly established himself as the rare control pitcher with good enough stuff to get more than his share of strikeouts. Although he never posted another ERA under 3.00 amid the rising offensive era in which he pitched, he did reel off another 10 seasons under 4.00, and had nine top-four finishes in the ERA category. Mussina never won a Cy Young award, but he was a top-10 vote-getter eight times. There were often pitchers who had more spectacular, dominating seasons than the cerebral hurler, but few matched him in year-in, year-out excellence.

…If both pitchers’ careers are indeed over, neither will have the 300 wins that lets the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters avoid thinking. This is a bad thing only insofar as when the writers start thinking, they generally come to the wrong conclusion. Three-hundred wins has little meaning where they are concerned, if it ever had meaning at all. One flared brighter than any pitcher, the other shone sharply and steadily. There is great value in these things regardless of numbers. Ironic that those who claim the least regard for statistics put the most faith in them.

It’s too bad that the Sun won’t last because they had a good arts section and a sharp, progressive sports page.


Wait Til Next Year

This is sixth season I’ve covered the Yankees here at Bronx Banter and the first time they’ve missed the playoffs, which only goes to underscore just how fortunate we’ve been.  However, just cause our boys won’t be playing ball in October, doesn’t mean that we’re going anywhere.  Like Earl Weaver once said, "This ain’t football, we do this everyday."  That goes for the post-season as well.  So you’ll be getting more from the gang–Cliff, Bruce, Emma and Will–throughout the cold winter months.


I do want to take a moment out to thank everyone who rolls through here on a regular or semi-regular basis.  Thanks for coming back.  We sure appreciate it.

You Gotta Have Heart

My boy Joey La P was at Shea last year when Tom Glavine got waxed and the Mets missed the playoffs.  He was back at Shea this weekend–on Friday night and, of course, yesterday.  He called to tell me about it from his stoop in Brooklyn.  He had just locked himself out of his apartment and his super wasn’t home.

Gotta feel for the Mets fans today. 

From Grantland Rice:

When the one Great Scorer comes/To mark against your name/ He writes not whether you won or lost/But how you played the game.

And John Lardner’s response:
Right or wrong is all the same
When baby needs new shoes.
It isn’t how you play the game.
It’s whether you win or lose.

Cashin’ Checks

The status of Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman will reportedly be determined shortly.  So?  You think he stays or goes?  And, do you think he should stay or go?  I think he’ll stay and I’d be happy if he does.

Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory #22

By Will Weiss

Lasting Yankee Stadium Memories (Part One of Two): The Games

It is safe to say that most, if not all, of us who enter professions in sports media do so because at the very core, we’re fans. For those of us who grew up Yankee fans, covering the team and seeing games from the Yankee Stadium Press Area was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

In Part I of my portion of the Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory series here at Bronx Banter, I’d like to focus on the games that I was a part of during my five years at YES, both as an on-site reporter and an editor.

There are some honorable mention games, like July 7, 2003, when Pedro and Moose dueled and Curtis Pride won the game in the ninth. There was a September day-night doubleheader in which Mike Mussina pitched the first game in front of what seemed like 17 people. But after being asked to make a list of my favorite Yankee Stadium games in my tenure at YES, the games described below were the most memorable.

April 5, 2002: Yankees 4, Devil Rays 0

It was the Yankees’ 2002 home opener, complete with all the usual pageantry, pomp and circumstance. There was an air of anticipation and a sense of purpose among the fans, given the way the team had lost the World Series to the Diamondbacks a few short months before. But this was a different Yankee team. Jason Giambi had been signed in the offseason, as had Robin Ventura and David Wells. Gone was Paul O’Neill; Shane Spencer and John Vander Wal were platooning in right field, while Rondell White was patrolling left.

I was having my own issues. I didn’t have a seat or a phone line in the press box, but somehow finagled my way into the YES booth and sat right behind Michael Kay and Jim Kaat. Suzyn Waldman sat to my immediate left, fidgeting with everything from the phone to her makeup bag. Ten minutes of observing her nerves on display went a long way towards calming my own.

I’ll never forget the view, the relief of having a seat, and the feeling of being able to walk on the field at Yankee Stadium before the game. From that point on, YESNetwork.com writers sat in the booth.

As for the game, it was about 50 degrees and windy. The Yankees made two errors and left 11 men on base. The star was Andy Pettitte, who threw six shutout innings to pave the way for the first of 52 home wins that season.

May 17: 2002: Yankees 13, Twins 12 (14 innings)

After six weeks of struggling in front of the Stadium crowd, this was the game in which Jason Giambi "earned his pinstripes."

The Yankees and Twins combined for 25 runs, 40 hits, 3 errors, 10 walks, 27 strikeouts, and the Yankees hit 6 home runs. Bernie Williams’ shot into the upper deck in left off Eddie Guardado tied the game at 9-9 and sent the game into extras. Both teams had chances but no one converted until the 14th, when the Twins posted three against Sterling Hitchcock.

In the middle of the 14th, as the Twins summoned Mike Trombley to the mound, Jim Kaat looked at the Yankees’ upcoming lineup – Shane Spencer, Alfonso Soriano, and Derek Jeter — and said to broadcast partner Ken Singleton, "Trombley’s on the mound. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the first three guys get on base and Bernie end it with a grand slam." Spencer singled, Soriano flied out, Jeter singled and Bernie walked. The grand slam came one spot in the order behind Bernie. It was a classic finish, with his towering fly ball landing in the right-center field bleachers, and the rain pouring down as Giambi’s teammates mauled him at home plate.

This game would not have made my list had Kaat not predicted the ending. Before I headed down to the clubhouse, I asked him if he was clairvoyant. He just smiled at me and said, "I knew they’d get to Trombley – I was just one batter off."


Twenty & Out

The Yankees ended the season on a good note, at least — I’m going to pretend the second game of the double header, started by the inimitable Sidney Ponson, isn’t happening; humor me — beating the Red Sox 6-2 and earning Mike Mussina his long-deferred 20-win season. It’s a statistical acheivement that I think we can all agree is an arbitrary and ineffective way of measuring a pitcher’s worth… but still pretty damn sweet. A few weeks ago I didn’t think he was going to pull it off, and I’m very glad I was wrong.

The Red Sox never mounted a sustained threat against Mussina, who allowed two walks — he didn’t allow even three in a single game this year –and three hits in six innings, using just 73 pitches. He left the game then, surprisingly, with a three-run lead, courtesy of a Xavier Nady fly ball that had bounced off the top of the wall by the Pesky Pole and into the stands for a home run. Mussina explained afterwards that his elbow was still sore from the comebacker it took in his last start; I figured that was probably the case, because otherwise you’d have expected him to lunge at Joe Girardi with a bat sometime during the eighth inning, when Joba Chamberlain, Brian Bruney, and Damaso Marte allowed two runs and looked like they might be about to collectively blow it. No jury would’ve convicted him.

But Mariano Rivera came to the rescue (of course), entering the game with the tying run on base and, calcified shoulder and all, nailing down a win for Mussina for the 49th time. And Mussina wasn’t sweating it, at that point: "I knew with Mo in the game, it was going to be all right." Me, I still half expected Carl Everett to pop out of the Fenway shadows and ruin everything. Instead, the Yankees tacked on three insurance runs off Jonathan Papelbon in the top of the ninth, and whatever else fell apart this season, at least this one thing went right.

After eight years with the Yankees, Mussina says he’ll take some time now to decide if he wants to keep pitching. Personally I’d be happy to see him back, but at the same time, it’s very rare for an athlete to walk away at the absolute top of their game; if Moose pulled it off, I’d have a ton of respect for that decision.

UPDATE: So the Yanks went ahead and played the second game of the doubleheader, despite my protestations, and it was actually somewhat dramatic — as dramatic as a meaningless late-September Spring Training game can be, anyway. All the scrubs were in, and Sidney Ponson pitched very well, I suspect just to spite me.

The Yankees were down 3-2 with two outs in the ninth when Robinson Cano drove in the tying run. But Jose Veras couldn’t stave off the Sox in the tenth; he loaded the bases, someone named Jonathan Van Every singled home Alex Cora, and the Sox won 4-3. I say we all just agree to consider Mussina’s win the end of the 2008 season and leave it at that.

Let’s Go Moose

You Gotta Believe. That’s the order of the day for the Mets who get to play an enormous game in the season finale at Shea. Talk about tension. For Yankee fans, there ain’t much at stake, but You Gotta Believe Moose can win 20 games for the first time in his career. Personally, I don’t think he’ll do it. Something will happen. He’ll pitch great but lose 2-1, or get bombed early or pitch well and have a 5-0 lead only to have the game called in the fourth inning. Something always happens. But even if he doesn’t get the win, Moose has been one of the best things about the Yanks this year and he gets props over here.

Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory #21

By Pete Caldera

We’ve talked and talked, and asked and asked about Yankee Stadium memories for months. What will you recall most? What will you take? And then Derek Jeter reminded us of an underrated – and unforgettable – treasure.

It’s the view.

From the batter’s box, for a thousand games, Jeter tapped home plate and stared straight toward the black batter’s eye – a perfect hitter’s backdrop. And from the front row of the press box, I was lucky to take in the whole panorama from behind home plate.

You couldn’t always see what was going on in the corners, but any member of the BBWAA was granted one of the best seats in the old house. The dugouts, the mound, the infield, the on-deck circle were all right in front of you. The battles in the stands – for foul balls, or for disputes – were in clear view. Occasionally, some daredevil drunk would even drop out of his box seat and land on the netting in front of us (happened twice).

The Bronx County Courthouse on a clear day. The moon rising from left field on a clear night. It was all right there. And then, of course, there was that grand, green field – and I’ll count myself forever fortunate to have witnessed some precious moments on that celebrated turf.

I was there for David Wells perfect game, on a cloudy May afternoon. Remember that backhand stab by Chuck Knoblauch, of all people?

Saw an unassisted triple play by Randy Velarde.

Saw David Cone’s perfect game, and remember telling a friend during a rain delay (33 minutes) that it was too bad – Cone’s slider was unhittable. He could no-hit the Expos.

Saw Mussina save the day in Game 7, the night Pedro was left to battle through the 8th inning, and couldn’t. Then, Aaron Boone. And bedlam.

Saw Pedro come within a Chili Davis homer of perfection, still the greatest pitched game I ever witnessed.

Saw the Red Sox win the pennant. Saw plenty of brawls – like the night Strawberry seemed to take on the entire Orioles team in the visiting dugout. Saw Jeter in the hole, whirling and throwing. And saw hundreds of his 2,000-plus hits. And saw go for that pop up, in fair territory, against Boston, knowing that his only landing area was full-speed into the stands.

Saw A-Rod make the Stadium small with those colossal home runs, and wished I could’ve seen Joe D. swing for the deeper fences – the original dimensions.

Saw the first Subway Series game, and the first Mets-Yankees World Series game. Saw Joe Torre do that slow walk to the mound. Saw DiMaggio wave from a convertible. Saw the Florida Marlins celebrate, and heard them too, in the silence. Saw the All-Star Game that never ended.

I witnessed all that from the press box, mostly from Seat 12, behind a red plate with ‘The Record’ in white lettering.

The Yankees are giving the writers those plates. And from where that plate once stood, I’ll never forget the view.

Pete Caldera covers baseball for The Bergan Record.

The Final Day (Maybe)

The Phillies clinched the NL East by beating the Nationals yesterday, but there are still two unclaimed playoff spots heading into the final day of the season.

In the National League, the Mets tied the Brewers for the Wild Card lead yesterday when Johan Santana started on three-day’s rest for the first time in his career and shutout the Marlins on three hits. Mets turn to Oliver Perez for today’s finale, which could also prove to be Shea Stadium’s final game, while the Brewers send ace CC Sabathia to the mound against the Cubs and Angel Guzman. If both teams win (or lose), they’ll have a one-game playoff for the Wild Card at Shea on Monday.

The In the AL, the Twins hold a 1/2 game lead over the White Sox in the Central after both teams lost yesterday. If both team’s win (or lose) the White Sox will have to make up a game against the Tigers at home on Monday. If they win that, they’ll force a one-game playoff with the Twins in Minnesota on Tuesday. If they Sox to the Tigers, they’ll hand the Twins the division. If the Chisox win and the Twins lose today, Chicago will still have to play the Tigers on Monday, but would win the division if they beat Detroit and would still have the Tuesday playoff against the Twins if they lost. If the Twins win today and the White Sox lose, the Twins will win the division in the traditional manner.

Here’s the relevant for schedule today:

1:10 Fla @ NYM (Scott Olsen v Oliver Perez)
2:05 CHC @ Mil (Angel Guzman v CC Sabathia)
2:05 Cle @ CHW (Brian Bullington v Mark Buehrle)
2:05 KCR @ Min (Brandon Duckworth v Scott Baker)

Amazingly, none of these games is being televised nationally.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

A Bronx Cheer for Paul Newman:


The game in Boston today was warshed out.  They’ll play two tomorrow.


Moose goes against Dice K in the first game.

Here’s Mud in Yer Eye

It’s Sir Sid vs. Dice K in the rain today at Fenway.


Only two more left.  The only thing I care about it is Moose winning tomorrow. 

Man, I wonder what’s gunna happen with the Mets and the Brewers…Ted Lilly vs Ben Sheets today.  Santana on the hill for the Mets in the New York rain on three days rest.  Holy crud this is good.  Glad I don’t really have a rooting interest or I’d be on the verge of a nervous breakdown.   

A Legend

He was one of the great movie stars of them all.


Newman was a guy that both men and women loved.  I loved him because he was a pretty boy star and a serious actor.  He did all of those big, splashy star vehicles and then stretched himself in smaller, character-driven movies.  He wasn’t always great, wasn’t always right for a part, but he made the effort, he put himself out there.  "Cool Hand Luke," "The Verdict," "Slapshot," "The Color of Money" are just a few of my favorite Newman movies.  

He lived a long, good life.  Did a lot of wonderful things with his name.

He will be missed.  He should be celebrated.



Yankee Stadium Memory #20

By Will Carroll

I am not sad to see it go. I really have no connection to Yankee Stadium and have only been to a handful of games there. I went once, back in the 80s when the team was just a shell of it’s previous self and New York seemed much more like what “The Warriors” made it out to be than it really is. Yankee Stadium and Times Square were similar in that they were places everyone said you had to go, but once you were there, you really didn’t want to stay. Kodak moment and move on before something bad happened. Like Steve Balboni.

The Stadium has two things going for it – history and the entrance. While it’s nice on the outside, somehow it doesn’t have the same flavor as walking up to Wrigley or Fenway; it’s more like old Comiskey where you went to a game, then got back on the train and got out of there. Once inside though, once you make it through the crush of the crowd and come out those narrow tunnels and pow, you see the green grass, those arches, you see YANKEE STADIUM in all it’s game day glory and you get it for a second.

When I covered a game there, I walked out of the dugout and it was nearly the same, just a different angle. I wondered if Jason Giambi gasped like I did when he walked out on the field. I watched Joe Torre and wondered if that’s where Billy Martin sat and answered questions. But it’s a different bench. The grass is not the same that Babe Ruth walked on and isn’t the same as what David Cone walked on. Time marches, right?

Time can also stand still. I have a tendency to wander at ballparks, rather than staying in the tight little area where press is expected. While the beat guys did their job on that May afternoon, I walked out to the monuments. I looked where the old fence line used to be. I touched the plaque of my father’s hero, Mickey Mantle, and realized that I remembered Mantle for the stories of skirtchasing, drinking, and his numbers while my father got to see him play.

The Stadium is like its players, more than just concrete, more than just numbers, more than dates in a book, more than grass and dirt. It’s a box of memories, open at the top so that the best float up.

Will Carroll writes about baseball injuries for Baseball Prospectus.

Splish Splash

Wow, think the Yanks will save any runs for Moose on Sunday? They pasted the Sox in Fenway last night to the tune of 19-8. Welp, it’s better than losing, right?

Boston Red Sox VI: It’s All Over But The Shouting Edition

The Yankees can hand the AL East to the Rays by beating the Red Sox at Fenway tonight, and Joe Girardi has all of his starters in the lineup behind Alfredo Aceves to get the job done. As the Wild Card, the Red Sox would draw the Angels in the ALDS. Boston went 1-8 against the Halos this season.

Aceves has posted a 1.42 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP in his three previous major league starts, all Yankee wins, and pitched at least six full innings in each without once reaching 90 pitches. Given that, he could get away with a stinker tonight and still enter spring training in the mix for the 2009 rotation. After facing Boston tonight, he’ll have faced three contenders in his four starts (also the Angels and White Sox). If he has another good outing, he might just go from being “in the mix” to being penciled in.

The Sox are slowly getting back up to health for the postseason. Mike Lowell, J.D. Drew, Sean Casey, Josh Beckett, and David Aardsma have all come off the DL in recent weeks, though Lowell and Drew are both still nursing their injuries (a torn hip labrum that will require offseason surgery and a stiff lower back, respectively). They’ll continue to be careful with their players, particularly given the rain that’s expected on the east coast this weekend, but will likely also want to get Lowell and Drew enough swings to feel comfortable heading in to the ALDS. Indeed, Lowell will DH tonight (with David Ortiz playing first base in presumptuous preparation for the World Series), while Drew continues to rest.

Speaking of that rain, there’s a chance it could wash out Mike Mussina’s opportunity to try for his 20th win of the season on Sunday, as there would be no need to play that game if the Rays clinch the division tonight or tomorrow. That said, the rain is expected to taper off come Sunday, and the Red Sox have rescheduled the retiring of Johnny Pesky’s number (6) until Sunday based on that forecast. Even if tonight or tomorrow’s game gets rained out and thus outright canceled, Moose will still go on Sunday, though given his history of near misses (including a memorable one in Fenway in 2001), one could imagine any number of Sunday scenarios that would bring Mussina thisclose to number 20 but leave him stuck at 19 for the third time in his career.

Oh, and if this series feels weird, it’s because the last time the Yankees faced a playoff-bound Red Sox team after being eliminated from the postseason themselves was September 21 to 23, 1990. The last time the Yankees faced a playoff-bound Red Sox team at Fenway Park after being eliminated from the postseason themselves was October 2 to 5, 1986.


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