"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: June 2023


It was a night when the game was on more as background than anything else, so as I pulled my pork shoulder out of the pressure cooker during the third inning, I didn’t really notice what was going on in Oakland. A bit later while dicing an onion I took off my glasses for a moment to wipe away some tears and  watched as Giancarlo Stanton pounded a home run deep into the stands in left and then punctuated the blast by spiking his bat into the turf, more in exasperation than celebration.

I shredded the pork, popped it under the broiler for a few minutes while I warmed some tortillas on the comal, then called the family for dinner. Still, I had no idea.

The Yankees built a rally in the fifth inning, but my family and I were sitting in the dinning room with our carnitas tacos, so I didn’t see the string of hits that led to all the scoring; I only knew that it was 7-0 and that the tacos were delicious.

Back in the kitchen to pack up leftovers for tomorrow, I peeked at the game and noticed that Domingo Germán was still on the mound. After he gave up 15 runs in 5.1 innings over his last two starts, this was at least as surprising as the offensive outburst, but, I told myself, these were the A’s — not just a bad team, but an historically bad team.

Not until Germán struck out Esteury Ruíz for the last out of the sixth did I realize what was going on. Kind of. The camera zoomed in on Germán as he strode off the mound, and my eye was drawn to the game summary that popped up onto the screen: Oakland 0 0 0. He was throwing a no-hitter?!?

I caught up with the rest of the baseball world when the game returned from commercial break and I heard Ryan Ruocco cast superstition aside and tell us that Germán had retired all eighteen batters he’d faced. Inexplicably, the pitcher who had once been so lost was pitching a perfect game.

For the next nine outs, I hung on every pitch. But here’s the thing — there was no drama aside from the constant references to Don Larsen and David Wells and David Cone (and Mike Mussina). There was nothing dramatic happening between the lines. Germán’s final three innings went like this:

0-1 fly out
1-2 strikeout
0-1 groundout

0-1 pop out
0-1 groundout
3-2 groundout (seven pitches, the only hint of apprehension)

1-2 groundout
0-0 fly out
0-0 groundout

Germán needed just 25 pitches to get those final nine outs, and seven of them were spent on one batter. When Ruíz swung at Germán’s first pitch with two outs in the ninth, the contact was good enough that I imagined a base hit between shortstop and third, but when the camera view switched, there was Josh Donaldson calmly taking the long hop.

Germán had quickly spun around after releasing his ninety-ninth and final pitch, likely fearing the same result I had, but now the ball held him like a magnet. As Donaldson fired across the infield, the ball pulled Germán, who now saw what was coming. The ball popped into Anthony Rizzo’s glove for the 27th and final out of the game, and Domingo Germán slowly spun between the mound and first base, the zero on his back suddenly significant. His arms stretched out in celebration for a brief moment until first his catcher, Kyle Higashioka, and then the rest of the team engulfed him. It was a moment.

Fifteen minutes later, after Meredith Marakovits had interviewed Germán and then Higgy, no one had left. In this moment no one was worried about Aaron Judge’s torn ligament or Josh Donaldson’s anemic bat or Carlos Rodón’s rehab assignment. It was the purest regular season celebration you’ll ever see, as every Yankee on the roster stood smiling on the Oakland Coliseum turf not wanting that moment to end. Germán and his catcher stood shoulder to shoulder and posed for a picture, and then their teammates filled in around them for another. After the last photo was snapped, Germán brought the game ball to his lips for a kiss and then pointed to the heavens.

It was perfect.

June Gloom

When people think of Southern California they imagine sunshine that never stops with just enough of a breeze to cool the sunbathers and gently lift the blond hair of the smiling women you pass on the street.

Honestly, it’s like that a lot of the time, but not in June. Now is the time when various atmospheric conditions combine to create a marine layer that creeps in overnight like a blanket, tucking in the coastal cities and hiding the sun until mid-morning or even early afternoon. June Gloom. It’s dismal and depressing. The perfect analogy for what’s been going on with the New York Yankees.

Everything was wonderful before the calendar turned to June. They boasted one of the top offenses in baseball in May, leading everyone in home runs and perched near the top in many offensive categories, and Aaron Judge was the runaway winner of the American League Player of the Month. He slashed .342/.474/.882 while hitting 12 home runs with 25 RBIs in just 21 games. The common line of thinking was that he was even better than he was in 2022.

But on June 3rd he crashed into the fence at Dodger Stadium and the Yankee offense crashed along with him. Twenty days into this gloomiest of months, the Yankees currently rank dead last in batting average, on base percentage, and OPS. Dead. Last. Looking at the June numbers for the players expected to take up the slack in Judge’s absence, things look even gloomier…

Player June Statistics
Stanton .122/.234/.293  2 HRs, 2 RBIs
Rizzo .083/.185/.104  0 HRs, 4 RBIs
Donaldson* .162/.256/.568  5 HRs, 7 RBIs
Torres .204/.278/.429  3 HRs, 5 RBIs
Volpe .167/.222/.310  3 RBIs, 2 SBs
Bader Zero games played.
* Josh Donaldson, inexplicably, has six home runs on the season and two singles. That’s it.

Ah, but there’s some good news. Harrison Bader returns from the injured list and will presumably start in center field against the Mariners tonight, and we’ll hear all about the added length he’ll bring the lineup. That’s obviously a good thing, but nothing will get better until the other guys listed above begin to do something. Anything.

Maybe tonight’s the night. We can hope, right?

Say Goodbye to Hollywood

When Mookie Betts stepped to the plate in the bottom of the first inning on Friday night, the Dodger Stadium scoreboard boasted an ominous stat — the one-time Boston Red Sox superstar and current Dodger icon had hit 40 leadoff home runs in his career, twenty of those with the Dodgers. I’ve never been a pessimistic fan, but a negative voice in my head suggested that number forty-one might be coming up. Two pitches later it was 1-0, Dodgers. Ten batters later it was 6-0, and before everyone had gotten to their seats the game was essentially over.

There are lots of Yankee fans in Southern California, and there’s good and bad to that. I’ve gone to see the Yankees play the Angels when Anaheim felt more like the West West Bronx, and nothing could be more fun. But the downside is that when the Yankees only make a few appearances out here, the interest is high and the ticket prices are higher. When they’re playing a team with an actual fan base that appreciates the history as much as they appreciate their own team, the prices are higher still. There were moments last week when I wondered if I might have preferred to save my money and watch the games on TV.

Thankfully, though, my son insisted we go to at least one of the three games, so I pulled on my Jeter jersey, he wore his 99, and we were off. I paid almost three hundred dollars for two reserve seats (high, but almost directly behind the plate) and it took us about two hours from our driveway to the stadium, but it was completely worth it.

Many will see this as blasphemous, but Dodger Stadium — the structure — isn’t that special. It lacks the history of Fenway and the charm of Wrigley (the only two stadiums built earlier), and it doesn’t have the unique architectural design seen in the post-Camden Yards parks. Dodger Stadium is beautiful mainly because of where it sits, high atop a bluff overlooking the Los Angeles skyline with sight lines looking beyond the foothills and into the Southern California mountains. Baseball’s early ballparks were either wedged into cities that wouldn’t give another inch or built in such a way that the urban symbiotic sprawl eventually made it difficult to find the divide between town and team, but that isn’t the case here. In the most L.A. kind of way, Dodger Stadium is aloof but welcoming, modern but classic. Even if it doesn’t feel old, even if it’s symmetrical, Dodger Stadium is forever the jewel of Los Angeles.

So how could we not go?

After that nightmarish first inning, I was beginning to wonder. Given his first two starts, I had been excited to see Luís Severino pitch. As awful as his final line looks (4 IP, 9 hits, 7 runs, 3 HRs), it almost wasn’t that bad. The Betts home run was one thing, but Sevy was undone by six consecutive hits later in the inning — five singles and another home run. A couple of those base hits were rockets, but there was bloop and a ground ball and a check swing thrown in as well.

No one wearing pinstripes would take solace from what I’m about to write, but it’s true — after that first inning, the Yankees outscored the Dodgers the rest of the way, thanks to home runs from improbable sources. Just hours removed from the injured list, Josh Donaldson went deep twice, and Giancarlo Stanton hit one of his own. It wasn’t enough to make the game interesting at any point, but it certainly was enough to make me dream about a potent Yankee offense. Maybe.

Oh, and there was also Clayton Kershaw. I’m not sure what the national narrative is on Kershaw nowadays, but he has to be the most under-appreciated first ballot Hall of Famer in history. In a city that loves to elevate heroes, Kershaw has been the forgotten superstar. If there’s one thing more certain than his eventual enshrinement in Cooperstown, it’s the response you’ll get if you voice that opinion to a group of Dodger fans. Invariably, one of them will say, “Yeah, but he can’t win in October.” I don’t care much about the Dodgers one way or the other, but it’s maddening to me.

Watching Kershaw on Friday night was a pleasure, even if it was at the expense of the Yanks. He never looked overpowering the way he once was, but he was always in control. Sure, he yielded two home runs, but neither one mattered. When he walked off the mound following a perfect seventh inning, the fans sent him off with polite applause. It was his league-leading seventh win of the season and the 204th of his career.

All in all it was a fun night at the ballpark, mainly because any night at the ballpark watching baseball with your son is nothing but fun.

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