"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

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Down in Front

Is it better to burn out or fade away? Good question. Well, here at the Banter, we have been more of the long, slow dissolve state of mind. The site is still up—thanks in large part to Will—and I can’t ever see it closing, really. At the same time, it’s clear to any of you who still stop by, that I have been an absentee landlord at best. Certainly, the Banter’s time as a hub for Yankeeness has long since past, though I am of course grateful that some of you longtime heads still come by to hang out.

I’ve been running Esquire’s digital archives for the past few years in addition to the curating work that began here and developed into gigs with Deadspin and The Daily Beast. Just a few weeks back I launched a new site, The Stacks Reader, which will house everything I have reprinted at various sites, and put it all under one roof. In many ways it is Banter 2.0. And I am in deep with it. But also in love.

I never imaged that this is where things would take me—archivist, curator—but here we are. All that said, I just don’t have a ton of time to devote to the Banter. I am not sure what this season is going to look like around here but I will do my best to keep posts coming up so you guys can kibbitz and schmooze and hang.

Oh, yeah, and: this should be a fun season, am I right?

Oh, No

Our guy, Oscar has passed away. Sad new.

The Inside Story of Inside Sports

Head on over to Don Van Natta’s Sunday Long Read (co-run by Jacob Feldman) and check out my long oral history of Inside Sports. Spent a few years putting this sucker together. Plenty of baseball stuff in there. Enjoy!

The A-Z Bar Tour

Back in the mid-’70s through the early ’80s, magazine editor John A. Walsh was the ringleader of the A-Z Bar tour, which is exactly what it sounds like, a bar crawl that ran the gamut of watering holes from A to Z. It began in San Francisco (Walsh was briefly the managing editor at Rolling Stone), moved to Washington D.C. (where he worked as an editor at the Post’s fabled Style section) and eventually landed in New York (Walsh was the original editor of Inside Sports).

Thought you might appreciate the rules n regulations:

[Photo Via: John A. Walsh]

 

Booooring

Hot Stove my eye. Well, at least there’s football…Oh, Hell, I can’t even type that without scoffing to myself.

That said, the Vikings win last week was some kind of fun, right? And if the Jaguars find a way to beat the Patriots today, that will be just fine, too.

Meanwhile, it’s been reading, movies, TV-show streaming, reading, and NBA action for me the past month or so, which is all well and good for hibernation, but once our boys hit spring training things will perk up, nu?

Step to the Left

Notorious Yankee-killer Evan Longoria gets shipped to San Francisco, a long ways away. Happy to see him gone from the AL East, but, as the saying goes, I’d grown accustomed to his face. He was a worthy adversary, and will be missed in a weird way. Of course, you all know the Yanks re-signed C.C. to a one-year, $10 million deal and that sounds about right. They also shipped away Chase Headley to save some dough and that sounds about right too. But I am also sorry to see him go because that Chase Headley’s a good egg.

Last summer, I spent a couple of days at the Stadium on assignment for Esquire poking around about Aaron Judge. I spoke to Judge, briefly, and to a few of his teammates: C.C. was standoffish, Didi was terse and odd, Aaron Hicks, then on the DL, was interesting and Brett Gardner was generous and helpful, and I’ll tell you this—Chase Headley was just such a good guy. No airs, no pretense, professional, but thoughtful, just a good guy. Gave me a lot of time, had some great observations. I’d never been his biggest fan just watching him but after meeting him I had no choice but to root for him for the rest of his career. Wish him luck.

[Photo Credit: Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports]

 

I Want Me a Chevy Truck with…Two Steering Wheels!

From an Albert Brooks routine describing a stoned redneck’s fantasy gift.

Well, the Yanks have Aaron Judge, emerging superstar and giant home run hitting/whiff machine in right field. But apparently they want the more expensive version as well, and reports have the Yanks agreeing to a trade with the Marlins to acquire Giancarlo Stanton. Physicals, approval, etc. still pending.

On the surface it is a head-scratcher. Then again, we don’t know what else is involved in the trade yet (word is Starlin Castro and prospects). And on another hand, this is a classic Yankee boffo move. They got more expensive, they got more powerful, they got more star power and that, my friends, is, and has always been, the Yankee way.

Step Up Front

Aaron Boone press conference today.

Yadda-Yadda-Yadda. 

That said, I am excited for Boonie. Why not, right?

Picture by Bags

Boone Over Bam Bam in the Boogie Down Bronx

Aaron Boone will be the new Yankee skipper. Yanks hope the neophyte can be a New Age Joe Torre and lead this young team to big time success. On the surface, Boone doesn’t exit me, but then again, a) he doesn’t need to be exiting to be good, and b), what the hell do I know? Wishing him the best of luck regardless now that he’s got the gig.

And away we go…

Just Hanging Out

Aw, man, my apologies for being remiss in this space of late. Hope all is well and that your Thanksgiving was plentiful.

So interesting that the Yanks don’t have a skipper yet. Can’t wait to see who it’ll be. Been a still off-season so far. That won’t last forever. Hey, you hear that Aaron Judge had surgery on his left shoulder—maybe that accounts for his second half swoon. If so it makes what he did even more impressive.

In the meantime, hope you guys are watching something cool, or reading something interesting, and listening to something incredible. And, of course, eating something tasty and finding a way to laugh.

One More Night?

We interrupt another day of madness with some relief in a minor note. A baseball game means nothing in the big picture but as a momentary diversion it will do. The Dodgers will try to find someway to get to the Great Verlander, or at least survive him and beat up on the bullpen, as they try to force a seventh and deciding game. If they do manage to win it wouldn’t it be fitting if Justin Turner—the Great Pumpkin—played hero?

My money goes on Verlander and the visiting ’Stros to close them out but here’s hoping it goes the distance.

Never mind the craziness:

Let’s Go Base-ball!

Picture by Bags

Say it Ain’t So

According to reports, the Yankees have decided not to bring Joe Girardi back as manager next year. I am sad to see him go but also think it’s a fine time for a new blood as well. With a team this talented maybe it will be a Buck Showalter-to-Joe Torre kind of transition for the new guy. Whoever they pick, I hope he has a feel for the players, a good sense of humor, and stamina. Seems like a dream gig to me, for the right guy.

In the meanwhile, here’s to Joe G, an upstanding Yankee player and a damn good Yankee manager, better than most in my eyes. Sure he was a tight-ass and sometimes overly stern or proud but I never begrudged him for that, too much. Maybe he was a phony in a righteous kind of way, I don’t know. He worked hard, cared a lot, and he could be funny. And was also a big softy, too—remember how emotional he got during Alex Rodriguez’s departure?

He survived a Fred Merkle-level blunder this October that could have regrettably stained an otherwise stellar career. He won a Whirled Serious title, he more than successfully followed-up the toughest act in show business, Joe Torre, and then ushered the team through the decline of the Jeter, Mariano, A Rod, Texieira years, to the future, which is now.

Curious to hear more as it comes out. I’m sure it’s a tough call for him. He was a good company man. He represented the Yankees well. And that’s not nothing.

What He Said

Hank says Believe and that is good to hear because I have been sulking around since the middle of last night’s game. The Wife and I went out for a hike in nature today and it was lovely to see all the photosynthesis and all but didn’t really help. I still felt the knot in my stomach, and kept imagining all the ways things will fall apart tonight.

But Hank says Believe. And lucky for us—win or lose—I know the Yankee players Believe.

So never mind the gloom:

LET’S GO YANK-EEES!

Take it to the Bridge

Yanks one win away from a date with the Dodgers in the Whirled Serious. Man, would that be sweet or what?

Lot of work to do before they get there.

We’ll be here—as always—root-root-rootin’ out boys on.

Never mind those Houston Astros:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

 

Strictly Business

The Yanks wrapped up a successful 3-game stretch at home by beating the Astros 5-0. They are one game away from the Whirled Serious as the proceedings return to Houston.

Masahiro Tanaka pitched seven scoreless innings. He got some luck. The Astros, pressing, missed a few pitches—mistakes that they could only foul off, fly balls that they just got under—and the Yanks banked their good fortune. They finally got Dallas Keuchel to make a few mistakes and the Bombers got key hits from Judge, Bird, Didi, and Sanchez (who later provided the icing on the gravy with a resounding solo home run).

We’re past the pinch-me stage. One win away from the Serious raises the expectations. Still, it will not be easy.

But how proud are you of these guys, or what?

Thumbs Down Emoji

When my cousin texted on Monday asking if I wanted to go to Game 4 with him and his wife it didn’t take long to respond—Yes! They live in Houston, season ticket holders for the Texans, and are the kind of dedicated sports fans who love rooting their teams on but don’t lose sleep when they lose. They wore Astros hats and orange jackets last night while I sported a crumbling El Duque Yankee T-shirt over a long sleeve shirt just so I wasn’t associated too closely with the enemy.

Scorecard in my lap.

Funny how games are always harder to follow when you are there. There was that strange sequence of events with Aaron Judge in the fourth—and later, was that fan interference on his double, and if so what did that mean? We didn’t have TV screens near us so it was all unclear. All we could tell was that there was some low comedy—a ground ball slowly rolling up the third baseline, sure to stay fair, that kicked foul at just the last minute and was snatched by Todd Frazier, and a pair of bumbling errors by Starlin Castro. Later on, of course, Chase Headley slipped on a banana peel rounding first and turned excitement into peril into relief when he recovered and reached second safely with a deft tag.

The Astros struck first with a bases clearing double after the Yanks had loaded them on a couple of walks and an error. They added another on Castro’s second Benny Hill move. And so my cousins were feeling good, their boys up 4-0.

Now, I am not an In-Your-Face kind of rooter. Not unless provoked I suppose. So it wasn’t as if there was any trash talking going on. But a rowdy Yankee crowd was quieted. It was the simmering quiet of angry New Yorkers.

And while we saw some other Astros fans they were not a noisy bunch.

Once Aaron Judge hit a moonshot to start the seventh, the crowd woke up, and you can say it didn’t relent until after the final out, well past the moment when the Yanks scored six unanswered runs to win the game and even the series. (Final Score: Yanks 6, Astros 4.)

All I know is that it was loud. The Stadium didn’t shake the way Yankee Stadium II did—where the thrill was mixed with terror—but it was impressive. I didn’t let out one yell, I stayed calm—jumping and clapping on the inside—didn’t want to be rude to my cousins. Instead I took great satisfaction looking out over the Stadium and seeing everyone stand and waves their arms and yell and scream. My cousins left with two outs in the 9th but I stayed and after the last out put my fist out to fans passing by, enjoying the hard thump of hearty congratulations.

I stayed and listened to Sinatra and everyone sing to Sinatra on repeat. I sung a little myself.

So many big at bats, but was most thrilled for Gary Sanchez and Judge for coming through in the heat of the moment.

Today gives that sombitch Keuchel who just owns the Yanks. He’s got a beatin’ coming to him one of these days. Hopefully, that time is now. Those Astros are bound to up jump the boogie and score a bunch of runs sometime soon, too. Let’s hope that ain’t today.

Never mind the shadows:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Up Jump the Boogie

What do you need to know about a 2-1 playoff loss other than it was a kick in the cubes? Second straight 2-1 game, this time, a walk-off, with none other than Jose Altuve—who else?—scoring the winning run. Justin Verlander did his teammate Keuchel one better and stuck it up the Yankees’ ass for 9 innings. During Game 1, I winced the few times the Yankees’ missed their pitch but in Game 2 Verlander just flat threw it past guys all day long—Didi, Judge, Sanchez. The pitches were in the zone, fat part of the plate, but they just had too much zip and the Yankees could not catch up. His breaking stuff just as good and Verlander wasn’t going to take his first L in Houston on this night: 9 innings, 5 hits, a walk, and 13 strikeouts.

Frustrating, no doubt. A play here, a play there, but it was not to be.

And so the Yanks return home and turn to old reliable C.C. Sabathia once again. I keep expecting him to pitch his age and just get ripped, and perhaps the Astros offense will go off on him, but we certainly won’t be surprised if C.C. pitches well either. He sure could use some help from the bats.

Never mind the stakes:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Picture by Bags

It’s Not a Series Until the Home Team Loses a Game

Here’s hoping that’s today. Like to see our boys get off the mat and score a mess o runs—Mr. Judge, Mr. Sanchez, we’re looking to you.

Never mind the orange:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

ALCS Game One

Masahiro on the hill against the dread Dallas Keuchel down in Houston tonight. Matt Holliday gets the nod at DH.

Dude, Yanks in the ALCS. How cool is this?

Never mind the beefsteak:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Picture by Bags

Ladies and Gentleman, Boys and Girls, Dying Time’s Here

Luis Severino wasn’t brilliant but he was damn good and you know the rest as the Yanks tied up the series a few nights ago with a 7-3 win. The new new Yankee Stadium is said to have none of the claustrophobic atmosphere of Yankee Stadium II but for two nights it was loud, baby. Great job by the rattle-your-jewelry playoff swells as well as the hardcore regulars in attendance.

Tonight gives all the marbles out in Cleveland. While I expect the Indians to win it is hard to count our boys out. Let’s hope the give ‘em Hell.

Never mind the waiting:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Picture by Bags

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