By Glenn Stout
It was a nothing game.
September 24, 1992. A Thursday night. The Yankees in fourth place and the Tigers in sixth, neither of them close to the Blue Jays, or, apparently, with any chance of ever getting close to the Blue Jays or anyone else atop the division for at least a few more years. A young Scott Kamienicki vs. an aging Frank Tanana, one-time hard thrower whose fastball had come and gone and left behind a pile of guts and guile.
We were down from Boston, my girlfriend and I. She’d recently moved back in with me after getting a grad degree from Columbia and living and working in Mount Vernon for a few years, and we had some business to take care of in the city.
It had already been a funny day. Taking a bus somewhere downtown I’d seen Liza Minelli poking around outside some antique bathroom fixture store. Down by City Hall I’d used of one of those high tech public bathrooms that had cost 50 cents and gave itself a shower afterwards, like something from the Jetsons. Then I saw Rudy Giuliani walking down the street.
We went to the game – a nice early fall night. Only about 12,000 people were in the Stadium, so we had pretty good seats, probably the best seats I’d ever had for a major league game anywhere at that point – the main boxes, not too high up, almost dead on a line with the left field foul line. We might have paid twelve dollars a ticket, which also would have been the most I’d ever spent on a baseball ticket at the time.
I saw Nicolas Cage. He had better seats, right behind the plate, but still 20 or 30 rows up.
There wasn’t a whole lot of care on display on the field that night. Mattingly played hard, as always, and cracked a couple of doubles, and this new kid in center field, Bernie Williams, had a good night. But almost everyone else one either team – Charlie Hayes, Rob Deer, Tartabull – was packing it in; you could tell.
Seventh inning. Yankees ahead 4-0. Tanana throwing changeups off changeups and the occasional big sloppy curve – nothing much over eighty miles an hour. The crowd was already starting to file out.
Leading off, Gerald Williams. Rookie. I remember liking Gerald more than Bernie at first. He moved like a ballplayer, while Bernie moved like an antelope still wet from birth.
Gerald Williams hadn’t done much so far – a fly out, a strikeout. But now Tanana, thirty-nine years old and in his nineteenth year of major league baseball, gave him a pitch.
Williams didn’t miss it. I’ll never forget the trajectory – almost straight down the line, a little hook to it like a golf shot, that one bright spot against the black going smaller…
And Gerald Williams watching it, and walking, slow toward first before, barely, breaking into a trot. His first major league home run.
I was watching him saunter toward first when I heard someone yelling, not just to get someone’s attention, but REALLY yelling, I mean angry “I’m gonna ruin your face” kind of mad.
It was Frank Tanana. Pissed. Chewing Williams’ ass out every step he took all around the bases for standing there and showing him up. And Williams did speed up – not much – just enough to let Tanana know he heard but at the same time not so much to let him think he had been intimidated. And Tanana kept yelling.
Baseball-Reference tells me that Pat Kelly followed with a walk and Bernie Williams, this time running like an adult antelope, tripled, knocking out Tanana, and the Yankees went on to win 10-1, but to be honest, I don’t really remember much else about the game.
But I’ve got a great excuse. You see, when I was down by City Hall earlier that day, my girlfriend and I had applied for a wedding license. We went back the next day and got married in a ceremony that took precisely 27 seconds.
Or about as long as it took Gerald Williams to run around the bases.