"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: September 2009

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Can’t Win ’em All

No pie tonight. I’m not jokin.


Joba Chamberlain was lousy though the Royals didn’t kick his teeth in. They did enough against the Yanks though as they pulled out a 4-3 win. Mariano pitched a scoreless ninth. Derek Jeter hit his 18th homer of the year. Nick Swisher hit a two-run bomb and lost a ball in right allowing a run to score. The Yanks had runners on second and third with two out in the ninth but Ramiro Pena popped out to end it.

Truth is, I found it hard to concentrate on the game and I had it on all evening.

But it was cool in New York tonight and I’m already getting amped for next week when the games will matter and we’ll all be hootin’ and hollerin’.


Final regular season game at the Stadium tonight and life is free and easy for the Yanks until next week.

Nobody get hurt, will ya, hah?

Never Takin’ Shorts Cause Brooklyn’s the Borough


Tomorrow night, a Pos speaks in Brooklyn. And so does Larry Tye. Part of the Gelf magazine Varsity Letters series.  I’ll be there with Emma. Should be a good one.


Say Hey

say hey

Allen Barra, SI.com, an artist named Thom Ross, Willie Mays.

‘Nuff said.

News of the Day – 9/30/09

Today’s news is powered by P.J. Harvey:

Former major leaguer Chuck Knoblauch was charged with assaulting his common-law wife.

A judge set Knoblauch’s bond at $10,000 after he appeared in court Tuesday. According to a criminal complaint, Knoblauch’s wife told police he hit her in the face and choked her at their Houston home Friday.

I’m thrilled to announce that The Journal News has hired Chad Jennings of the Times-Tribune in Scranton and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees Blog to cover the Yankees. Chad starts on Oct. 7.

Chad covered the Triple-A Yankees with distinction and his blog was a must-read for Yankee fans who wanted to be up to date on the organization’s prospects. Chad has a knack for blogging and is a fine writer and reporter.

[My take: Thank you Pete for all your hard work and wonderful coverage!]

New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and the commissioners of the Big East and Big 12 will announce at a news conference Wednesday the formation of the Yankee Bowl, to be held at the new Yankee Stadium beginning with the 2010-11 postseason, according to sources with knowledge of the event.

The game, which will seek NCAA certification next spring, would reportedly pit the Big East’s fourth-place team against the Big 12’s No. 7 selection. Organizers plan to hold the first edition between Dec. 29, 2010 and Jan. 2, 2011.


What it is

I spent the evening flipping back-and-forth between the Yankees-Royals and the Tigers-Twins, listening to my wife concentrating (Is something burning?) and then cursing at her laptop as she attempted to book a flight on-line.  I watched more of the Yankees game but for the life of me I couldn’t tell you what happened.  It unfolded in a blur, with John Flaherty and Michael Kay rattling on about whatever they get paid to rattle on about.

AJ Burnett struck guys out and pitched well. The Royals starting pitcher had a French-sounding name, funny side burns, and was even better. Mark Teixiera hit a cheap dinger off a change-up that was high and outside. He hooked it to right field, it hit off the top of the wall and skipped into the seats like a flat rock thrown into a lake. Later, Phil Coke shanked a throw to second, blowing a sure double play, and then he didn’t go home when he had a play at the plate. Two runs scored. Oh, Nick Swisher hit a bomb to center field. The cameras showed Phil Hughes warming up in the bullpen. He has a pencil-thin mustache that makes him look a secret agent in an old British spy movie or a hick gas station attendant from the movie Tex.

Kyle Karnsworth, the man who disappointed us by never flexing his pinstriped muscles in a scrap while he played in New York, pitched the ninth inning. And Farnsworth being Farnsworth, things fell apart quickly and right on schedule:  He struck out the lead-off man (Brett Gardner), then gave up an infield hit (Francisco Cervelli), a pinch-hit single (Eric Hinske), and a game-tying sac fly to Robbie Cano, also pinch-hitting. Then Hinske stole second, the throw went into center field and Hinske lumbered on to third diving in safely. Johnny Damon was walked intentionally and Juan Miranda hit a line drive off of Farnsworth’s leg. The ball bounced toward the Yankee dugout, Farnsworth chased after it, and crossed Miranda, who was on his way to first. Hinske scored and the Yankees won 4-3.

Michael Kay shouted about “The Year of the Walk-Off,” his voice now horse.  This was the Yankees’ 15th “walk-off” win of the season.

Pie and smiles and the 102nd win of the year for New York.

Meanwhile, Tom Verducci has a profile on our man Mariano this week in Sports Illustrated. In fact, Rivera made the cover.


The piece is full of goodies:

“I have respect for Mariano like I have for my father,” says Boston designated hitter David Ortiz. “Why? He’s just different. If you talk to him at an All-Star Game, it’s like talking to somebody who just got called up. To him, everybody else is good. I don’t get it. To him everybody else is the best. It’s unbelievable. And he is the greatest.

“You know what? Sometimes in those times when he struggles, like when I watch him on TV, I feel bad for him. I seriously do. Good people, you want to do well.”

Told of this respect from his peers, especially from within the enemy clubhouse in Boston, Rivera is grateful, if slightly uncomfortable. “I don’t wait for people to give me respect,” Rivera says. “I always give them respect. Any player. Even a rookie, an old player, a veteran. I never try to show up anybody. I go to my business. I always take time for somebody who wants to talk to me. That’s my thing.

“It comes from back home. Family. My father was strict and always taught me no matter who it is, everybody is an uncle. To me, everybody was someone I respect like family. I grew up with that.”

…”My mental approach is simple: Get three outs. As quick as possible,” he says. “If I can throw three, four pitches, the better it is. I don’t care how I get you out. As long as I get you out. The quicker, the better. And that’s the only thing I have in mind.”

…”I love everything about pitching,” Rivera says. “Just being on the mound. Being on the mound and competing. There is nobody to come and save you. You have to get it done. There is no time to play around. It’s time to get it done and go home.

“I mean, this is what I do. This is what I was picked to do. There is no hitting. There is no running. When I’m here, on the mound … ahh, this is my world.”

Rivera knows himself, his place in the world, and seems to be perfectly suited to his job. Nice job by Verducci.

Finally, all of our best to Pete Abe who covered his last game for the Lo-Hud tonight. Good luck in Boston, Pete. And good news for us, as Chad Jennings will take over for Pete on the Yankee blog beat. Jennings has been terrific covering the minor leagues and he’s as good a cherce as we could have hoped for to replace Pete.

Yup, lots of winners in Yankeeland tonight.

Asleep at the Wheel

Me, not the Yanks that is.


Here’s the game thread, better late than never.

Go Go Yanks. (Is it October yet?)

Card Corner: Roberto Clemente


Derek Jeter has made news on three different fronts in 2009. First, his defensive range and overall fielding have improved significantly, a direct result of improved conditioning and agility drills. Second, he successfully pursued and then overtook the iconic Lou Gehrig for the franchise’s all-time lead in hits. And third, Jeter’s revitalized hitting has made him an outside candidate for American League MVP honors, a resurgence that figures to place him in the top ten of league balloting for the prestigious award.

Jeter deserves to make a few headlines in a fourth respect, as well. Very quietly, he has been named the Yankees’ nominee for another prestigious award—the Roberto Clemente Award. Named for the baseball hero who did so much work for underprivileged youth and lost his life attempting to airlift relief supplies to earthquake-ravaged Nicaragua, it is one of the few awards that make an effort at judging and measuring a player’s level of character. Given Jeter’s popularity in the clubhouse, his leadership as Yankee captain, his involvement in charitable works, and his generally exemplary off-the-field behavior, it should come as no surprise that Jeter has made the final cut of 30 candidates for the Clemente Award.

With Jeter and Clemente sharing so many common character attributes—loyalty, leadership, and reliability come to mind—it seems appropriate to put the spotlight on Clemente’s final Topps card, which came out over 35 years ago. It is a card that always stirs sadness, fond reflection, and moral debate in this writer’s mind.

At the time that Clemente died so horrifically and unexpectedly in a New Year’s Eve plane crash in 1972, the Topps Company had already produced his baseball card for the 1973 season. The tragically untimely passing of one of the game’s superstars placed Topps in an especially difficult quandary: should the company continue its original plan and issue a card for a venerable player who was deceased, or should it pull the card from distribution out of respect for the loss of a revered legend?

After some internal debate and discussion, Topps opted to publish the card, which had been assigned No. 50 in the series. Topps certainly had precedence on its side, having issued a 1964 “In Memoriam” card for Ken Hubbs after the young Chicago Cubs second baseman who died while piloting his own plane. On a subjective note, I have to say that I heartily endorsed the decision. As one of the few Topps card that depicts Clemente in action, it’s an inherently aesthetic card. Clemente’s beloved status also mandated the publication of the card. As a player so revered, his fans deserved to have one last memento of Clemente. On all fronts, this seemed like the right decision by the folks at Topps.

Rookie cards usually carry the highest value on the open market, but for me, the final regular issue card carries far more sentimental appeal. That is especially the case with Clemente. Rather than fade into obscurity, the final card of Clemente has become the most attractive of all the Clemente cards that Topps had ever produced. The card displays the typically dignified grace of Clemente as he stands rather regally in the right-handed batter’s box. Ever determined, he eyes an unknown New York Mets pitcher in anticipation of swinging at the next pitch. The card also features Mets catcher Jerry Grote (wearing No. 15), who was regarded as one of the game’s finest defensive catchers in the early 1970s.

Amidst all of its classic elements, a common misconception about the card persists. Some fans assume that it shows Clemente during his historic at-bat on September 30, 1972, when he collected his 3,000th and final major league hit against the Mets’ Jon Matlack. Although the Mets did indeed provide the opposition that day, that game was played at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium; the background on the front of the card and the home pinstriped Mets uniform worn by Grote indicate that the Mets’ spring training site likely provided the setting for the card’s photograph.

This card will always serve as a reminder to me of what Clemente looked like on the playing field. That reminder is important because I only saw Clemente for a couple of years at the end of his career, a by-product of my extreme youthfulness at the time. But now I am reminded of Clemente a little more whenever I watch Derek Jeter take the field.

Bruce Markusen has written two books centered on the life and times of Roberto Clemente.

Diamond Dog

jim carroll

Jim Carroll, a classic New York figure–troubled and talented–passed away on September 11th. I missed it until I saw this fine appreciation by Alex Williams in Sunday’s New York Times.

I read The Basketball Diaries years ago and remember liking it very much, especially the parts about the Upper West Side back when it was a rough and tumble neighbhorhood.

News of the Day – 9/29/09

Today’s news is powered by interviews and footage of “My Morning Jacket” (A very cool band. Their last album “Evil Urges” was at the top of many reviewers’ “Best Of” lists last year):

The official rule gives the team with the best record one hour to make its choice after either clinching the top spot or learning its first-round opponent — whichever comes later. Because the Yankees clinched the AL’s best record before the ALDS matchups were finalized, they should have several days to discuss their options before they must choose.

. . . Seemingly, the most compelling arguments are for the longer series, which would allow the Yankees to rest their bullpen and — perhaps more important — use only three starters, all on regular rest. Though Joba Chamberlain is now stretched out long enough to start games in the postseason, he has no doubt been erratic over the past two months, and the Yankees may be better served to use him out of the bullpen in the ALDS.

The longer series would allow them to do just that, as well as carry an extra bench player without needing to overuse Mariano Rivera or Phil Hughes out of the bullpen.

As the Yankees celebrated clinching the American League East title after their 4-2 win over the Boston Red Sox on Sunday, several players discussed the difference that the three free agents made in 2009. Sabathia leads the American League with 19 wins, Teixeira has 38 homers and a league best 120 runs batted in and Burnett won 12 games.

“It starts with the Steinbrenners,” said Johnny Damon. “They knew that we needed to go get a guy like C.C., to bring another guy like A.J. along and then, after that, we were able to get Teix. So those are three of the top free agents from last year’s class and we were able to bring them in. And we could see the difference of where we’re at.”


Fall Training

Before Robinson Cano’s seventh-inning grand slam blew it open, Monday’ night’s 8-2 Yankee win over the Royals was a nice little ballgame. Chad Gaudin walked Mitch Maier to start the game, then retired eight straight before Maier came back around and pulled a ball just inside the right-field line the first Royals hit of the game. The Yankees broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth on a double by Cano and singles by Jorge Posada and Eric Hinske, who made his first start at third base as a Yankee amid a bench-heavy, post-clincher lineup that included Ramiro Peña at shorstop, Juan Miranda at first base, Francisco Cervelli behind the plate (Posada was the DH), and Shelley Duncan in right field.

Mark Teahen got the Royals on the board by leading off the fifth with a game-tying opposite-field solo shot of Gaudin. Cervelli led off the fifth with a single, but was thrown out at second when Ramiro Peña failed to hold up his end of a hit-and-run (he got the sign, but missed the pitch). Peña then went from goat to hero on the next pitch, which he got under and lifted to the front row in right field for a Yankee Stadium homer, the first tater of Peña’s young career.

In a game that otherwise meant very little, the Yankee dugout’s reaction to Peña’s homer was the highlight. As soon as the bench began to celebrate, Alex Rodriguez jumped into action to organize the popular silent treatment often given to rookies following their first career homer (you might remember the Phillies giving it to John Mayberry Jr. at the stadium earlier this year). Alex grabbed the celebrating Jeter by his hoodie and dragged him back to his perch behind the dugout screen, then waived the others back to their seats. Jeter and company instantly complied, sporting devilish grins as they took their places.

When Peña got to home plate, he received a dispassionate fist-bump from on-deck hitter Brett Gardner and from Melky Cabrera in the on-deck circle, but was ignored by his teammates as he entered the dugout. Joe Girardi couldn’t resist giving the rookie a high-five, but the others sat stone-faced as Peña put away his helmet and gloves. Then Jorge Posada clapped as if to cheer on Gardner, which was the signal for the team to swarm Peña. It was a great moment, captured beautifully by the YES cameras. I’m among those who believes that winning begets team chemistry, not the other way around, but it’s hard not to be impressed and enthused by the cohesiveness and amicability of this Yankee team. There seems to be genuine affection and good humor in that clubhouse, moreso even than on the business-like teams of the late-90s dynasty.

Peña’s homer gave the Yankees a brief 2-1 lead. The Royals answered back in the top of the sixth, tying the game on a Yuniesky Betancourt single, Billy Butler’s 51st double of the year, and a Mike Jacobs sac fly. The Yanks then returned serve again in the bottom of the sixth on a Posada double ultimately plated by a Shelly Duncan single. A Cervelli double in the seventh plated by a Peña single and Cano’s slam, all off Royals starter Luke Hochevar, put the game away in the seventh.

Gaudin turned in the best and deepest start of his Yankee career (6 2/3 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K) and now feels like a lock for the postseason roster. Damaso Marte, who retired Alex Gordon to finish the seventh for Gaudin, helped his cause as well, as did Freddy Guzman, who pinch-ran for Duncan in the sixth and stole second on the first pitch to Miranda. Cervelli and Peña combined to go 4-for-8, each with a single and an extra-base hit. Peña drove in two. Shelley Duncan drove in another after striking out and grounding into a double play and held Maier to a single on his hit down the line in the third with a strong throw to second. Hinske had an RBI single, but didn’t get a chance to field a grounder at third base (just three pop ups). All surely benefited from facing the lowly Royals, but given that these final six games are like a brief spring-training period for the postseason, it’s nice to see the borderline players making their cases. Speaking of which, David Robertson could return to action Tuesday night, and Jerry Hairston Jr. will take batting practice as both try to prove they’re healthy enough to make the ALDS roster.

Meanwhile, potential ALDS opponents the Twins and Tigers were rained out in Detroit, resulting in a Tuesday day/night double-header which could knot the division if the Twins pull off an unlikely sweep against Morristown, NJ’s Rick Porcello and Detroit ace Justin Verlander. Down in Atlanta, former Tiger Jair Jurrjens pitched the Braves to their seventh-straight win, bringing them within two games of the idle Rockies in the still-interesting NL Wild Card race.

Kansas City Royals II: Marking Time

The Yankees have already accomplished all of their goals for the 2009 regular season. By sweeping the Red Sox over the weekend, they clinched both the AL East title and the best record in the American League, the latter of which gives them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Their clinching win was also their 100th of the season; Joe Torre’s Dodgers rank second in the majors with 93 wins.

Even before Sunday’s clincher, the Yankees had shifted their attention from a singular focus on winning each game they played to longer-range considerations regarding postseason readiness. One could even argue that their focus began to shift when they began skipping Joba Chamberlain’s starts in August.

This week’s final regular season home series against the last-place Royals is thus a curiosity at best for those interested in the Yankees’ post-season roster construction and two teams’ marginal bench players and relievers (the Yankees’ lineup tonight omits Jeter, Teixeira, Rodriguez, Swisher, and Matsui in favor of Ramiro Peña, Juan Miranda, Eric Hinske at the hot corner, and Francisco Cervelli). At worst it’s a complete and utter waste of time that serves no purpose other than to expose the Yankees to a potentially disastrous injury.

Due to some curious scheduling, the Yankees last faced the Royals in the second series of the season way back on April 10-12 (Yankees took 2 of 3 in K.C.), and now face them for the second and final time this season in the season’s penultimate series. In between the Yankees have emerged as the major league’s best team while the Royals primary accomplishment has been avoiding being the worst.

The Royals had made steady improvements under new general manager Dayton Moore over the last three seasons, but 2009 has seen them stagnate then regress. Zack Greinke and Billy Butler have had long-awaited break-out seasons at ages 25 and 23, respectively, Greinke being the obvious choice for AL Cy Young and Butler ranking among the league leaders in extra-base hits, but that is the sum total of the positives. In my Royals preview in April I listed the team’s assets as:

. . . two front-of-the-rotation starters in 25-year-old Zack Greinke and Gil Meche, 30; one of the best closers in baseball in Joakim Soria, who will turn 25 next month; two top hitting prospects who are already in the major league lineup in 25-year-old third baseman Alex Gordon and soon-to-be-23-year-old DH Billy Butler; and two of the game’s top minor league prospects in first baseman Eric Hosmer and third baseman Mike Moustakas, ranked numbers 18 and 21, respectively, by Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin Goldstein.

Beyond Greinke and Butler, Meche had a brutal season (6-10, 5.09 ERA, and all of his peripherals heading in the wrong direction) and was shut down after 23 starts with shoulder inflammation, Gordon hit the DL in mid-April with a torn hip labrum, missed three months, and was so bad after returning that the team demoted him just two weeks before rosters expanded (since returning he’s slugged just .392). Moustakas hit .250/.297/.431 in High-A ball. Hosmer hit .241/.334/.361 in a season split between A-ball and High-A. Soria, a closer on a team that never wins, had a typically strong season save for the month he spent on the DL with a rotator cuff injury. The light at the end of the Royals’ tunnel is dimming.

The Yankees missed Greinke in April and will miss him again this week, instead catching Luke Hochevar, former Brave Anthony Lerew, and former Ranger Robinson Tejada. Shying away from the likely contract demands of the superior players available, the Royals made Hochevar the top overall pick in the 2006 draft. At age 25, has a 5.75 ERA in 46 major league starts, though he did turn in a quality start against the Yankees last June. Hochevar also made his major league debut against the Yankees in September 2007.

Hochevar will face Chad Gaudin, who could sew up his spot as the long-man on the Yankees’ postseason roster with a good outing tonight against a terrible offense (4.24 R/G, second-worst in the AL).


Hurry Up and Wait

Phase One, In Which Doris Gets Her Oats

One down, three to go:

Book Excerpt: Spooner


We’re proud to present the following excerpt from Pete Dexter’s new book–his seventh novel–Spooner. This section picks up the story when Spooner is in high school. We just got through Spooner’s adventures on the football team where a sadistic coach named Tinker terrorized a fat kid, Lemonkatz. Spooner’s mother, Lily, is furious with the coach, as she is with many things in life, especially those things that are Republican. Then, young Spooner turns to baseball.

From Spooner:

By Pete Dexter.

Chapter Twenty-Five

Later that year Spooner began his career in organized baseball. The coach of the baseball team was Evelyn Tinker, who in addition to being held almost blameless in the Lemonkatz boy’s injury was now rumored to be collecting sixty bucks a week for the newspaper column, this in spite of Lily’s public campaign to have him fired, and being as Spooner was not old enough yet to have voted for Richard Nixon, this joining of Tinker’s team constituted the single most disloyal thing a child of Lily Whitlowe Ottosson’s had ever done.

How could he?

The question hung in the air at 308 Shabbona Drive, unspoken, like another dead father.

The answer—not that the answer mattered—was that Spooner had stopped at the baseball diamond on the way to the shopping center after school, and watched through the fence as Russell Hodge pitched four innings of a practice game against Crete-Monee, striking out twelve of the thirteen batters he faced. It was a tiny school, Crete-Monee, six hundred students, kindergarten through twelfth grade, and two of the players were only thirteen years old. The smallest one—who wore number thirteen, and was the only batter Russell Hodge did not strike out—was plunked between the shoulder blades as he turned away from an inside fastball, and cried.

Half a dozen times Spooner started to leave but couldn’t, waitingaround to see one more pitch, and in the end hung on the wire fence more than an hour, leaving diamond-shaped imprints on the underside of his forearms, wrists to elbows, taking the measure of Russell Hodge’s throws.

It came to him as he watched that Russell Hodge pitched in much the way he played linebacker, which is to say blind with rage. But it was more difficult in baseball, a game that had very little maiming, to sustain a murderous rage than it was in football, even for Russell Hodge, and after an inning or two Spooner thought he saw him working to conjure it up, sucking from the air every bit of resentment he could find. Giving Russell Hodge his due, even in a practice game against little Crete-Monee, he brought himself again and again to a state just short of foaming at the mouth—furious at the batter, at his own catcher, the umpire, who, behind the mask and protective vest was only Mr. Kopex the math teacher, furious even at the ball itself—and by the end appeared to have lost all his stuff.



Bronx Banter Interview: Arnold Hano Part II

For Part One of this Interview, click here:


Bronx Banter:  A Day in the Bleachers. I just read this book for the first time, I want to say about six months ago. I think one of my favorite things about it – obviously I knew about the game, and I knew about The Catch and the other things that come to mind – but I think one of my favorite things was your description of the atmosphere of the game. Looking back fifty years ago, what was it like seeing a game in the Polo Grounds in the ’40s or ’50s?

Arnold Hano:  Well, what it was like seeing a game in the bleachers was the camaraderie. [Showing the covers of three different editions of the book.] When the book first came out, it was a book for fans, about fans. And then the next edition, it’s Willie Mays and fans. And then the next edition it’s just The Catch. But the cover of the first one is truer. This is truly what the book is about.

BB:  Right, right, definitely. It almost seemed like the book was about the fans, and, by the way, Willie Mays made a nice catch.

AH:  That catch, which I spent a lot of time on, took up nine pages in a hundred and sixty page book. And I don’t know if you know about the $700 edition of the book…

BB:  Yes, I read something about that. There was a limited print, and you had signed them all.

AH:  Four hundred copies.

BB:  The other thing, too, about this book is that now, that device that you used, using the game kind of as a prism through which to illuminate either a season or an era or a career, that’s a fairly common device now. But then, I don’t think so, is that right?

AH:  You’re telling me about devices. I wrote a book. I wrote a book about a day, and this is the day.

BB:  What I love about this book is that you’re writing the book and you’re telling what’s happening on the field, and Vic Wertz comes up to bat, and then suddenly you have a two-page segue on Vic Wertz.

AH:  Or on home runs hit by other people for long distances.

BB:  Exactly, exactly.

AH:  Well, I had to fill some space!

BB:  I think that now that’s pretty common. A lot of people use that.

AH:  Part of what E.L. Doctorow said yesterday on television is that writers don’t really realize what it is they’ve written. Critics tell them what they’ve written, but he said, “The result is I never read critics. They tell me things about the book…”

BB:  That perhaps aren’t there, or aren’t intended to be there.

AH:  So when you ask me about a device, I don’t know from the device in this case. I wrote a book about a day, and I filled it in with background stuff. I had to establish myself as writing a book with some reason, so I established myself as somebody who’d seen all these other things. And to that degree, I was an historian of this… thing. But that’s getting beyond where I wanted to go with it. I think of this as a nice little book. Other people think it was something else, but I think it was a nice little book.

BB:  Well, like I said, I don’t know if this was your intention as you wrote it – and it doesn’t sound like you had big intentions – but what I got from it is, I know about that catch, and I knew about that before I picked up the book. But your description of the fans in the bleachers, of what it was like on the field, in the stadium, that’s what I got out of it.

AH:  When I used to go to ballgames, of course, you don’t do this anymore, I used to go very early so I could watch fielding practice. And until a few years ago, I did not know they had suspended fielding practice. I bet the players’ union has done that because they don’t want somebody to break a finger.

BB:  Sometimes you hear people complain about that. You’ll be watching a game and someone will throw to the wrong base and someone will say, “Oh, well, they don’t have fielding practice anymore, and the only time they do that is in spring training…”

AH:  Although when you see a guy like Omar Vizquel pull a backdoor double play. Do you know about that at all? Kenny Lofton was at bat when he was with the Dodgers. Men on first and second and I think there was nobody out. They sent the runners and Lofton hit a one-bouncer to second base. Well, Lofton is about as fast going down from the plate to first base as almost anybody. So when Ray Durham fed Vizquel for the force play, Vizquel had Lofton in his sights, and he knew that he was not gonna throw out Lofton. So he whirled and he threw to third. The guy who had been on second base was playing his first game in the major leagues. He rounded third and goes two or three steps and there’s Pedro Felíz with the ball. The most embarrassed baserunner in the history of baseball – who was sent back to the minors that night! A backdoor double play! It was a 4-6-5 double play. I had never seen it before, and apparently he’s done it more than once. And apparently before that play, a few days before, he had reminded Felíz that this was something he might do. Television followed Vizquel off the field at the end of the half inning, and as he reached the first baseline he broke into laughter. He was so pleased and charmed with what he had just done. It was just a great moment. Now there’s somebody who didn’t need fielding practice.


Oh Andy, Well You Came And You Gave Without Taking…

With one 4-2 win this afternoon, the Yankees clinched their division, wrapped up home field advantage, swept the Red Sox at home, and did their part for the struggling champagne industry. Good thing it stopped raining.

Andy Pettitte was on on the mound today and had one of those now-familiar starts wherein he doesn’t seem to have particularly good stuff or control, but still pitches resourcefully enough to keep things in hand. With the Sox putting together a double, two walks and a single in the first (including a comebacker off Pettitte’s leg), and loading the bases with no one out in the third, it’s impressive that Boston only scored one run in each of those innings. Pettitte righted himself and bore down after that, throwing very well in his last few innings, and leaving after six innings with the Yankees trailing the Sox 2-1.

Meanwhile, I don’t know how Paul Byrd does it – repeatedly over the last few years he’s completely baffled the Yankees’ hitters, despite the undeniable fact that he’s Paul Byrd. On a typical day Paul Byrd couldn’t baffle my labrador retriever. But he did it again this afternoon, shutting out the Yanks for five and two thirds, except for one Melky Cabrera laser shot into the right field stands. But in the sixth, Teixeira and A-Rod managed two-out singles off him, and when Terry Francona brought in Takashi Saito, the Yankees broke through: Hideki Matsui knocked in both runners with a little dunker into right field to make it 3-2. Later in the game, Teixeira’s homer provided a little bit more insurance.

In other encouraging news, Brian Bruney looked great today, locking down five outs in the seventh and eighth. This really hasn’t been Bruney’s year, and I can’t say I have much confidence when he trots out to the mound, to put it diplomatically – but when he’s right, Bruney can be very very good, and if he somehow does get things figured out in time for the playoffs, well, that’d be a hell of a bullpen.

Mariano pitched the ninth, and things did not go entirely smoothly, but eventually he fielded a little grounder to the mound and threw to Teixeira for the much-anticipated last out. Everyone started high-fiving, and hugging — and I can report that in addition to his other good qualities Andy Pettitte seems to be a really excellent hugger, warm and confident and full-bodied, not one of those stiff back-patter types — and breaking out the Division Champion hats and shirts, and then spraying booze all over each other.

I’m always a sucker for a champagne celebration, and this one was fun to watch, but not quite all-out – because the Yankees want to keep the focus on their playoff goals, and maybe also because winning the division has been nearly a foregone conclusion for weeks now. I think every single player interviewed followed the script: this is great, BUT… we’ve got a great team, BUT… well, we’re really happy we met the first of our goals.

And that makes sense – for the Yankees, it’s not really an honor just to be nominated. Everyone expects more from them, so why go nuts? But personally, particularly after last year reminded me just how much it sucks when neither the Yankees or Mets get to the postseason, I’m happy just to have October baseball in New York – yes, even if that only means watching the Yankees get swept by the Tigers in the ALDS. I was entertained all the way through the season this year, and maybe that’s not all I ask, but it’s all I need.

Damp Day for a Celebration

Looks like they will try to get the game in today.


Nevermind clinching the division at home against the Red Sox, the hope here is that should they play, nobody gets hoit.

Ya hoid?

One Love

Today’s game recap is brought to you in bits and pieces by the number one.

The number of hits given up by CC Sabathia… So this is what $161 million looks like.  Actually, we’ve been seeing this kind of dominance since the all-star break, but Saturday was special for CC.  Yes, the division is all but clinched, and the overall best record seems in the bag, but when you send your stud to the mound in the last week of September against your biggest rival and potential ALCS opponent and he shuts them down, you have to feel pretty good.  Sabathia set down the first eleven hitters he faced and didn’t allow a hit until the fifth.  He was so flat-out dominant (one hit, two walks, eight Ks) that even though the game was scoreless until the bottom of the sixth, it never once looked like the Yankees might lose this game.

The number of times Boston pitchers retired the Yankees in order… While Sabathia was slicing and dicing his way through the Red Sox, Daisuke Matsuzaka was walking a tightrope all afternoon.  The Yankees put runners in scoring position in each of the first four innings, but they failed to plate any of them.  So when they loaded the bases with no one out in the fifth and Rodríguez, Matsui, and Swisher due up, the dam looked ready to burst.  But then A-Rod dribbled a ball about six feet in front of the plate, Matsui popped one up about six feet behind it, Swish fouled out down the line in left, and the inning was over.  No need to fret, though.  Robby Canó led off the sixth by lining a ball that skipped off the top of the left field wall, giving Sabathia a 1-0 lead.  It was all CC would need.

The number of innings pitched by Phil Hughes… Can I tell you how much I love Phil Hughes?  He relieved Sabathia in the eighth, and after Mark Teixeira helped him out with a phenomenal play, diving to the line to rob J.D. Drew of sure double leading off the inning, Hughes did what he does, striking out Casey Kotchman and Josh Reddick to deliver the game to Mo.

The number of base hits the Yankees had with runners in scoring position… When Billy Wagner — yes, Billy Wagner — struck out Derek Jeter with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the eighth, the Yankees were 0-13 with RISP, and it looked like they might let another golden opportunity slip through their fingers.  But Johnny Damon worked the count full, then blooped a single into right, just over Pedroia and just in front of Drew, good enough for two runs and a 3-0 lead.

The number of wild pitches thrown by Mariano Rivera… Mo started off the ninth by inducing Jacoby Ellsbury to tap back to the mound and fanning Pedroia on three pitches, but then things got a bit interesting.  Victor Martinez singled to right, took second on defensive indifference, and then third on Rivera’s wild pitch.  (I note this because I couldn’t remember this happening very often.  Turns out it hasn’t.  It was only the twelfth of his career, and he actually had a four-year stretch (2003-2006) without a WP.)  Rivera plunked Kevin Youkilis a couple pitches later, but recovered to strike out Lowell to end the game.


The number of hits Robinson Canó needs to get to 200… Canó’s homer was his 199th hit of the season.

The number of regular season games left with the Red Sox… The series stands at 9-8 Sox.  A win on Sunday would earn the Yankees a split of the season series, something which looked impossible at the all-star break.

The magic number…

And finally, because you knew it was coming, a little love from the islands.

I’ll be Slayin’ ‘Em Fast Doin’ This, That, and the Third

We know from the Magic Number:

CC goes today (sweet); Game on Fox (frown).

Say Werd:

Got to have soul!

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