"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

This Must Be The Place

Home is where I want to be
Pick me up and turn me round
I feel numb – born with a weak heart
I guess I must be having fun
The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along
Feet on the ground
Head in the sky
It’s ok I know nothing’s wrong . . nothing

The Talking Heads

I just had to share this e-mail from longtime Banterite, Jon DeRosa:

On the night the Yankees lost the 2001 World Series, I was watching alone in my apartment on 90th St and 1st Ave, in a building that housed a “Checks Cashed” franchise in the ground floor. I couldn’t eat, though I made myself some Kraft Velveeta and Shells and poked at it. To this day, I can’t even think about Kraft Velveeta and Shells without tasting bile. For about an hour or two after the loss, I sat in stunned silence and absorbed the pain. My girlfriend (and now wife) is a pediatric oncology nurse and was working the night shift at the time so I was free to kick and scream a little bit – which I usually did anyway regardless of her whereabouts.

A comedian and former classmate Mike Birbiglia has a great joke about his tiny Manhattan apartment: he sees a mouse one night and asks, with pragmatic concern, “Where are you going to sleep?” This apartment was designed on those same specs, so even if I could summon the impetus, there was no place to move around and dispense the huge ocean of emotion that had collected in my guts. I went to the computer and began hammering out an email to all the Yankee fans in my distribution list. I don’t remember if I sat down with a theme in mind or if it just formed as I wrote, but what I came up with was not negative, was not bitter, was not even that sad.

I felt proud of a team running on fumes, pushing things to the brink. I felt loyalty to everyone, especially Mariano, whom we needed to be perfect, and for once, wasn’t. And I expressed my desire to see the same team back again next year, supremely confident they could become champions again. I wrote something like, “this won’t be the end or a period, merely a comma in a long line of championships.”

I never, ever, even once that night or in the following few years, considered they would not get that close again. I never thought about Mariano Rivera retiring or Derek Jeter declining. Inconceivable to me as I wrote, but since that night, Andy Pettitte went to the World Series – with ANOTHER team. I was so sure they would be back that the worst case scenario never occurred to me (and the worst case scenario always occurs to me, it’s in my genes): these young, core Yankees would never win a World Series together again. Cone was gone, O’Neill and Brosious were set to retire. Nobody even knew how old El Duque was. Tino was clearly going to be replaced by a big hitter – Giambi would have been signed right after the ALDS if it was allowed! But Bernie had time. Jeter, Mariano, Posada and Pettitte were young and had the majority of their careers left. They were the best; they were battle tested. They would be back and they would erase this awful feeling – it was not a matter of if, or even when, but how quickly? Mussina and Giambi and Soriano were not only superior players to the ones they had employed during the title years, but they were hungry and focused on winning their first ring – an infusion of new blood without disturbing the experienced spine of the team seemed like just the right approach.

Well, obviously, there is no need to re-hash the intervening years and catalogue the disappointments. On 2 or 3 separate occasions, the Yanks took the undisputed best team in baseball to the postseason and failed to return with a championship. In only one of those years did they advance as far as the World Series, and the ensuing 6 game defeat felt perhaps more like the end than that night in Arizona. They lost to such an inferior team in such an ordinary way. They would quickly (hastily?) allow Andy Pettitte to leave for Houston, and then before even a blink of an eye, Bernie diminished and retired and there were 3 left and they were fading too. Not in terms of talent and performance, but in terms of their position as THE stars at the center of the baseball universe.

After 2003, each year felt like opportunity lost and an approaching reaper edged ever closer. The worst case scenario that didn’t even take shape in my brain in 2001 was now hardening into reality. When they shut down Yankee Stadium last year, there wasn’t a parade. There wasn’t even one inning of baseball in October. How could that be anything but the definite and absolute end?

Yet, tonight, after 7 years of constant assault from the finally fully operational Boston Red Sox organization, half a roster of all stars and possible Hall of Famers come and gone, and the departing of the manager perhaps partially responsible and definitely present for the dynasty years, the Yankees have returned almost to where they were in 2001. They are not yet 3 outs away (and may not ever be, the pessimist gnawing on my brain stem reminds me), but they are 1 win away. They may be in a brand new home, but pitching tonight’s game is Andy Pettitte. He’ll be throwing the first pitch to Jorge Posada. Derek Jeter will be the first Yankee to bat, and I am hoping with every fiber of my being, Mariano Rivera will throw the last pitch.

I am not a fatalist. I don’t think the above circumstances give the Yankees any special advantage tonight or that they are destined to win in this fashion, and though likely, it’s possible that none of these 4 guys will even factor heavily in the outcome. But the fact that they could win this way, that they have improbably, at these advanced baseball ages of 35, 37, 38 and 39, formed the heart of yet another championship quality effort, is staggering me as I await tonight’s game.

I am going to watch tonight in my apartment, probably alone, though my wife might make it through 2 innings or so. My 2 sons will be asleep (or at least in bed) by the time the first pitch thrown. Like the Yankees, I live in a new place, a different part of town now, in a slightly bigger living room, with more roaming space and more things to break in frustration and anger – though I’ve acquired enough discipline to only attack the soft, silent couch cushions. But tonight I will be at peace (nervous, anxious, impossible for my wife to deal with, possibly immeasurably disappointed or elated, but at peace).

The Yankees have returned to the place I needed them to be. They have given themselves the chance to be world champions. I thought these 4 players would never be in this position again, and tonight, it’s largely up to them to determine their own fate. I aged along with the team. Thanks to my wife and sons, I have experienced higher highs than world series titles and thanks to life being what it is, I’ve experienced lower lows than blown game 7s or 3-0 leads, but with age comes the feeling that career paths, friendships, and relationships that were lost are never coming back. And that once that decay sets in, it forms an irreversible death spiral. But that doesn’t have to be true does it? Because here they are again – and it’s up to them.

I want it for them. I want it for me. I want it for them for me, if that makes any sense. But most of all, I want it for us as one collective thing, the group of players and fans that have been together from these guys’ debuts and who will be there to see their numbers retired. If we get beat, we get beat together, and that’s the only way to get beat. If we win, we win together, and that’s pretty frigging amazing.

Let’s Go, Yank-ees.

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1 tocho   ~  Nov 4, 2009 1:30 pm

wow, did I write that? I don't remember, but it does express my exact feelings right now.


2 monkeypants   ~  Nov 4, 2009 1:45 pm

[0] and the ensuing 6 game defeat felt perhaps more like the end than that night in Arizona.

I agree entirely. I never bought into the "night the Yankee dynnasty ended" stuff in 2001 (though in retrospect, that's the way it turned out. I always felt like there was much more continuity than discontinuity between 2001 and 2003. Had they won in in 2003 , people would be talking about the 1996-2003 teams as one of the greatest overall dynasties, like the 50s Yankees, etc, not two separate teams.

3 Alex Belth   ~  Nov 4, 2009 1:48 pm

It was a device for Buster Olney to sell his book. Not a bad device but just that, a device.

4 Rich   ~  Nov 4, 2009 1:59 pm

I think the dynasty ended in 2004.

5 Yankee Mama   ~  Nov 4, 2009 2:15 pm

Ok. New Rule: No tugging at the heart strings after I apply make-up. That was touching. I like the idea of the collective and the Banter represents that well. We're together 365 days, aren't we? Post season, off season, spring training. It's a full time job to be a fan.

I want it for them for me. I understand completely.

[4] I agree. 2004 was the true shift.

6 Just Fair   ~  Nov 4, 2009 2:16 pm

[0] Amen, brother. That was nice.

7 Shaun P.   ~  Nov 4, 2009 2:17 pm

I'm on board [2] that 2003 was "the end" of the "dynasty".

[3] Yes, but like many things with some truth to them, that get spread to a large audience, the device becomes reality to most - and its only when you think about it a bit, and push on it, that you discover its not reality after all.

[0] Absolutely brilliant.

All Serious long, my wife has asked me if I wanted to go to a very nice sports bar near us with some friends (none are Yankees fans, all are baseball fans) to watch a game of the Serious. I've told her no each time, and when she asks why not, my best response has been, "I'd rather watch the game at home." I think I'll print this out and have her read it tonight. Its exactly why I want to watch this game - why I've wanted to watch all of these games - at home.

8 wcyankee   ~  Nov 4, 2009 2:23 pm

[5] Sans applying make-up, I whole heartedly agree. Not so much the new rule part, but it being touching.

Being from Southern California, people don't undertsand WHY I am a Yankees fan. There is this hatred that exists that defies any logic to me. I guess it is what it is, but I still pains me when people give me a look of disgust, like I just kicked their mother.

I tell people that if they ever watched me WATCH a Yankee PS game, they might understand why I am who I am and why I feel the way I do about the Bombers. They taunt me and laugh in my face, "Ha, ha the STPUID Yankees are going to lose!" It tears me apart and they don't understand why. "Relax, it's just a joke. Don't be so sensitive. Sheesh."

"I want it for them for me" damn near brings me to tears...because it is so true. Damn, I'm choked up.

9 Raf   ~  Nov 4, 2009 2:29 pm

I never bought into the “night the Yankee dynnasty ended” stuff in 2001

Neither did I, especially since the playoff run lasted another 6 years, and they made the World Series again a couple of years later, and were a game away in 2004.

10 Alex Belth   ~  Nov 4, 2009 2:33 pm

Yeah, we are a 365 crew. If the Yanks win, or if they lose, we'll be here.

That's how we roll.

11 Raf   ~  Nov 4, 2009 2:36 pm

There is this hatred that exists that defies any logic to me.

No, the logic is there

12 wcyankee   ~  Nov 4, 2009 2:40 pm

[11] I stand corrected. I've always asked people for a reason WHY they "hate" the Yankees. 100% of the time, I get "I don't know, I just do."

13 Yankee Fan in Boston   ~  Nov 4, 2009 2:47 pm

[0] Hell yes.

Watching the "core four" all contribute on a consistent basis this year has been amazing.

Now they are 27 outs away from #27.

I am already pacing.

14 Raf   ~  Nov 4, 2009 2:49 pm

[11] To build on that, the California teams and their fans know that no matter what they do, they will NEVER be the Yankees (this sentiment can be extended to the rest of the leagues and their teams). They will never be as successful, they will never have the fanbase, they will never have their resources. Whether they like it or not, the Yankees are the big dogs of the league. And they hate that. We are the beauty queens, we are the star athlete, we are the thing that everyone wants but cannot have. We are arrogant, but humble. We spend, but we give back. We're die hard fans here who live and die with our ballclub. I'd be willing to wager that no matter where I go in this world, I will be able to find the interlocking NY quicker than I can find an interlocking LA.

The Yankees are the only team in MLB that have had an extended period of success. We have had players who were larger than life. Legends of the game. It is hard to believe that players like Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle ever existed if you look at their numbers.

Granted, guys like Stengel, DiMaggio, Williams and others got their start in California but the fact remains that they became big stars when they went east. I am fully aware that MLB got a late start in CA, but even so it took two NY teams to get them going.

15 Raf   ~  Nov 4, 2009 2:51 pm

Remember, the Red Sox have a *Nation* where the Yankees have a UNIVERSE

16 wcyankee   ~  Nov 4, 2009 2:57 pm

I work just up the freeway, 'bout 5-7 mins from Angel stadium (at a university) and I am always amazed at how many NYY hats I see on people's heads. Granted it's a university and to them its just a style thing. Most could give a crap about the actual ball club or game of baseball.

Agreed [15] I never really looked at it that way. Nice.

17 51cq24   ~  Nov 4, 2009 3:03 pm

if i were andy i would shake things up a bit by throwing a few more sinkers than usual, particularly to the righties and utley.

cano gets the big hit tonight.

but we all know it will come down to mo vs utley.

18 Greg G   ~  Nov 4, 2009 3:10 pm

That was a beautiful piece. Thanks for sharing Al! TheYanks World Series teams and postseasons have all been points in my life where I remember what the team did and what was going on in my life at the time. In 1999 so many of the Yanks lost fathers and mine died the week Wells was traded for Clemens before that season. I remember Paul O'Neill's father died during the World Series and he played the game that night. It was like the life I led was creeping into the place where I escaped.

In 2001 when the city was still reeling in the aftermath of 9/11 the city needed the Yanks to win, and they came up just short, but in the most dramatic fashion. I was disappointed that they didn't win, but so proud of their efforts. I didn't feel like they lost, but that the Dbacks won.

Over the past several years as the Yankees have not made if very far into the postseason and missed it last year. I never took it for granted how difficult it is to get where they are now. (1 game from being WS Champs).

When you identify with a team there is a feeling of sharing in their success and when they lose and people know you are a fan they make fun of you or console you. I live in LA and everyone knows I bleed Yankee pinstripes by my ever present Yankee hat.

The Yanks have been around for some of the best moments of my life and worst moments. They have given me a much needed distraction, and they have raised my spirits more than they have dampened them.

You get to know a team and the personalities. I love at the end of games to see the players after a win, (not when they are being interviewed and giving canned boring comments). Throughout the game they have their game face on, but after they are like 12 year old kids.

Win or lose as Yankee fans we have had more than our fair share of success. My friend is a Cub fan and I can only imagine the misery he goes through.

After the season is over (coming soon) there is always this feeling of emptiness. I especially felt it in 98 when they swept the Padres. It was over too soon, and I just wanted to savor it more. You want them to dispatch their rival as soon as possible, but in between games, I just can't wait to see them play again.

This has been an amazing season, and maybe AJ and Coke did us a favor the other night, by letting us enjoy it a little longer.

19 wcyankee   ~  Nov 4, 2009 3:18 pm

[18] "When you identify with a team there is a feeling of sharing in their success and when they lose and people know you are a fan they make fun of you or console you." Absolutely correct. Well said.

20 rbj   ~  Nov 4, 2009 3:33 pm

[0] What you said.

And I hope I'm not jinxing things, but tonight just feels like a W.

21 Hank Waddles   ~  Nov 4, 2009 3:43 pm

Alex: I love the Talking Heads, and that's certainly one of my favorites of theirs.

Jon: Amen. A-fucking-men.

22 thelarmis   ~  Nov 4, 2009 3:48 pm

i'll catch up with you all around 9pm. can't wait!!!



GO TODD DREW!!!!!!!!!!!!!

23 jkay   ~  Nov 4, 2009 3:51 pm

tonight I'm gonna party like its 1999.


24 Yankee Fan in Boston   ~  Nov 4, 2009 4:00 pm

[23] brilliant.

25 jfd001   ~  Nov 4, 2009 4:01 pm

Friggin' beautiful!

26 Evil Empire   ~  Nov 4, 2009 4:21 pm

[0] Al, that's a great summary of how I'm feeling too.  I guess ALL Yankees fans are feeling that today.  We're all feeling the nervous knots of energy building in our stomachs as we work our way to game time, trying to ignore the clock while the Sun slinks down.  Personally, I hope this game comes without doubt, without tension, and without drama (other than the MVP).  Just pound the daylights out of Pedro and win easily as the offense explodes.  I don't know if I can take too many tight ones.  But as I look out at the brown leaves gathering just outside my window, I know that, win or lose, we're all going to miss baseball pretty soon, as we fire up to the stoves and think about Adolis Chapman, Bay or Holliday (or neither), and whether to resign Johnny or Hideki (or neither). 

[2] It took me 6 years to read that book, after I had finally "accepted" the dynasty was over.  But I must say that the gap between the 1996-2003 dynasty (and I do think Buster was off a couple of years) and what we may be headed into, has been far less bumpy than the dark era of 1979-1994 when the Yankees never won a title and only made the post-season twice (and not at all after 1981). 

[12] WC, the simple fact is that people who aren't Yankees fans hate the Yankees because of their success.  MLB has re-written the rules over and over again to stop the Yankees from dominating, but even so we've won 6 titles since the 70's, which is more than most teams have won in their entire existence.  In fact, since 1977 the Yanks have won 3 times as many world series as the Phillies.  There's a reason why everyone in the SEC roots against Alabama too.  It's called success.  Personally, I think you should embrace it. 

You want all the neutrals pulling for Boston against the Yankees; otherwise the dominance may have slipped away. 

[22] thelarmis -- I agree with you, GO TODD DREW!  The thing about him was that we could lose these next two and he would still find hope on a subway car in the form of a mother talking to her child or a kid holding his first mitt with the tag still on it.  Todd had all of the optimism I long to have.  I really hope he can see the game while Mel Allen and Phil Rizzuto call it for him!

27 wcyankee   ~  Nov 4, 2009 4:32 pm

[26] I DO embrace it. Maybe that's why I'm so utterly beside myself when the the mere utterance of "Yankees" draws the ire of so many. I can appreciate greatness while at the same time cringe all the same. I highly dislike the USC Trojans, but am a fan of Pete Carroll. I'm not a fan of the Angels, but can appreciate the success Mike Scioscia has brought them. Tom Brady makes me ill, but I don't doubt how good he is. I suppose the appreciation of greatness is lost on some people.

28 mrm1970   ~  Nov 4, 2009 4:40 pm

Love those DeRosas.

29 Raf   ~  Nov 4, 2009 5:35 pm

I suppose the appreciation of greatness is lost on some people.


I know there is not a lot of love for Pedro, but I can appreciate all that he has done, and marvel at the level he was pitching.

And the "mango tree" comment was one of the coolest things I've ever heard an athlete mention. Because he's right, and it gives a bit of perspective to the man and from where he came.

30 rufuswashere   ~  Nov 4, 2009 6:43 pm

Beautiful post.

Re: 2001, I can still remember so vividly that Rivera throw to 2nd on the bunt that went into center field ... seemed inevitable after that throw that we were cooked. That we lost on a bloop was the comeuppance for those extraordinary late inning heroics from Scott B and Tino M.

Let's get this thing over with tonight, boys, I don't think the ol' ticker can handle another close one.

31 Marek   ~  Nov 4, 2009 8:32 pm

[0] Mo didn't fail. Jeter was out of position. If he's in the usual shortstop spot, he catches Gonzalez's flare.

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