"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory #8

By Repoz

Michael Burke: “That Irish Son of a Bitch” *

Alistair Mundy’s ascot, that’s what it was…Alistair Mundy’s dandy ascot. After all these years I’ve finally been able to pinpoint former Yankee president/owner Michael Burke’s rediculi éclat de mode sense. (Then again it might have been that unfashionable Old Spice/turtlewreck sweater connection of his, so who knows!)

Now, while this discovery might not be as nootropic-poppin’ as finding out that multi-flasking Clu Gulager was in the 60′s kookifried outré folk group Miriam or that Ron Asheton of the Stooges was seriously tight with origi-Stooge, Larry Fine, and traded zany hair-pulling sound effects at the Elisha Cooked Actor’s Home in L.A. with him (Asheton, I believe, was moonlighting at the time for the prestigious National Eye-Goink Monthly)…but it’ll do.

Years before beers started pouring like spit in a schoolyard, before a gangplank of stringy flesh had been constructed between Jonah Hex’s crevisious lips, before the sweet ravages of gutter-twang swept me off my cleats…there was Michael Burke. Punk hero.

Imagine, a Yankee team president hanging with us lowcon lowlifes. His dappy loafers sticking to the same gum globs, that were probably expungiated by a lifetime of Terrence Aloysius Mahoney vs Glimpy McClusky (unknowingly the model for the spiffy George Sherrill Flat Brim Society line of baseball caps yet to come!) chaw wars, as ours. Johnny Ramone was supposedly part of our roving Stadium gang of roar. Isn’t it odd, some sorta mystical pissmit, that with the 1974 closing of Yankee Stadium and their grubby unrestrooms, Johnny’s trained whiffology led him to the aroma shocktherapy of the CBGB’s bathroom by that September? (Hey, let’s just be happy he didn’t end up spoog-a-loo trough riffing at the notorious Zipper Lips Au-Go-Go Lounge in Jersey!).

But Mr. Burke, quite possibly (I haven’t finished researching Paul Krassner’s Realist site or Taylor Meade’s unreal sight, for that matter, yet) was the only former OSS intelligence officer, CIA agent, Hollywood cutting floor movie star, head of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, and CBS executive to speak out against the Vietnam War…which he did, when he read the names of war dead from the pulpit at NYC’s Trinity Church. For someone of Burke’s stature to take such a radical stand at the time, happened about as often as a fire in the Everglades, a moonlanding on the sun, or Charlie Chocks and Zestabs having a subhuman tug-o-war over the magical abra-cadaver pitchman services of Ray Oyler.

Now…

Did Mr. Burke go on to write “Steal This Yankee Yearbook”? No.
Did Mr. Burke take in members of the Tex Antoine Weather You Liked It Or Not Underground Organization? No.
Did Mr. Burke look to protest every time a game ended Chicago Seven (or Eight) Yankees – 0. No

Speaking of an independent’s day, here it was July 4th, 1969…A double dip with the tough Scheinchock/Klimblum led Cleveland Indians. 17,884 mourning fans in attendance…mourning yes, for you see, ex-Stone Brian Jones had died just the day before.

“He Anita Pallenberg.
We Aneeda Blomberg”

Became The Stadium cry!

In between games Mr. Burke was laying his usual solid craic from his dugout box, when four kids slowly walked down the then-unchained aisle and tossed a full pack of Chinatown’s finest under Mr. Burke’s seat. It made an explosive blamm-o of a sound not heard at The Stadium since Tony Kubek got a special invite to the Bill Virdon Laryngala Ball.

Naturally, the nearest burr-headed souse of usher stumblebummed into action, yelling at the top of his Yuenglings…”I’LL GET THOSE FUCKIN’ NIGGERS!”

But a shaken Mr. Burke (obviously still suffering from severe CSR’s thanks to the Hermann Göring Panzerkorps pulverizing 1943 fall tour of Salerno) said something that has stayed with me forever…”No, no. They’re only kids having some fun. Let them be.”

While Mike Burke could easily swing and swear to that whole aristocratic oath scene, try picturing a paislee MacPhail Jr. throwing them back at an Carnaby St. ascotillion…not a pretty thing. Well, at least Michael Burke was always dressed for his future dealings with the backstabbing George Steinbrenner.

For it takes a thief, Mr. Burke. It truly does take a thief…to know one.

* George Steinbrenner, about Michael Burke, 1973. Philip Bashe “Dog Days: The New York Yankees Fall From Grace and Return to Glory, 1964 – 1976″

Repoz blogs about baseball for Baseball Think Factory.

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